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The Wicker Case

Phaedra stood in a deep forest, the hood of her cloak pushed back away from her head, her hair a black river against the pale gray wool.  In the pale light of the forest she was strangely luminous, her face lifted up toward a gnarled old oak tree, red lips parted in song. 

Phaedra almost never sang inside the city.  The effect of her voice on those around her was too noticeable to those rare few who, for whatever reason, did not fall under the usual trance.  But here in the deep green of the woods, where she had no fear of discovery and so could sing as she wished, the birds had fallen silent and gathered in the trees above her, listening intently to the sound of her music and a few deer had come close as well, their dark eyes curious. 

She paid them no heed, but continued on, watching the tree intently until she saw it, the faintest glimmer, a hint of bells on the wind.  After only a moment’s hesitation it came closer, its gauzy wings and pale light yellow with curiosity.  She held her hands up, cupping them, her song becoming gentle, loving.  The sort of song a mother sings to the child that is her secret favorite.  It landed in her hands, staring up at her in wonder.  She smiled benevolently down at it, never missing a beat, her fingers curling up around it as she started to walk.  

She was barefoot, which was vexing, and she had to keep singing constantly, hold the same soothing tunes, no matter what she stepped on or in, which was not easy.  But she managed it, carrying the creature all the way to the road where an odd wicker case was waiting and, next to it, a small metal cage.   She clenched her hand around the pixie and forced it into the iron cage.  

The small thing let out a bird’s-cry of pain, fluttering around the tiny space, thin whisps of smoke rising wherever it touched the bars until it collapsed, shivering and crying at the bottom, already in the throes of slow, painful death.  She lifted the wicker case one hand and the cage in the other and started down the road, toward the small town of Bump. 

It was time to go home. 

***

“Darling!”  Phaedra dropped her bag and the little cage carelessly, pulling Mr. Underby close for a long, lingering, moment. 

When they broke apart he immediately reached for the case, opening it up and smiling at the contents before snapping it shut again.  Then he turned and considered the little cage and its twisted, unmoving, contents, “What’s that for?” 

“A gift.”  She rummaged behind the bar, pulling an old cigar box from it.  Carefully she extracted the freshly expired thing, wrapping it in her handkercheif and laying it in the cigar box.  Then she wrapped the box in paper and tied it with ribbon and addressed it in a spidery hand with a smile.  

He leaned over her shoulder curiously and, upon reading the card, laughed, “Brilliant.”

“Aren’t I always?”  She hurried to the street, waving down a messenger and passing him the usual sum, “Please see to it that this is delivered to Mayor Tenk, it’s vital that he get it as soon as possible.” The messenger took the box and dashed off down the street. 

She watched him go with a smile, then turned and descended the stairs, “The work would be easier to do with Pip.” 

“We don’t have Pip,”  Underby said, there was a hint of reproach, as if he blamed her in some way for this circumstance. He gave the wicker case a shake, it let out a faint tinkling sound, almost as though it were filled with small bells, “But we do have this now.  What a marvelous creature you are, my darling.”

She sneered, “Whatever would you do without me?”

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14 Comments

  1. Grendel Footman Grendel Footman October 16, 2010

    hmm, Phaedra wouldn’t happen to offer her services for hire?

     

    *sees new life for the fey- batteries project*

    • Phaedra Underby Phaedra Underby October 16, 2010

      What a charming idea, Mr. Footman, I should be glad to discuss it with you. 

  2. LoPxie Artful LoPxie Artful October 16, 2010

    *suddenly stops playing in the street, sensing something is terribly wrong…*

  3. Fono Heninga Fono Heninga October 17, 2010

    ((Goodness. That’s wonderfully horrible. Nice writing!))

  4. Mr Tenk Mr Tenk October 17, 2010

    Tenk offers the candy jar to the messenger before sending him out, putting the package next to  the stack of unanswered messages. After his work is finished, he lights his pipe and carefully  unwraps the package as is his wont. his face darkens with rage as recognition dawns…

    Grendel Footman! he swore, gritting his teeth together.

    Tenk clips his wrench on his belt and calls for the elevator. First, an inspection of Footman Industries. Then, to break into the undgerground passage near the Imperial Theater where the other little corpses were kept…

  5. Cadmus Lupindo Cadmus Lupindo October 17, 2010

    *Laughs so hard tears flow from his eyes*

    That Underby is one lucky fellow. I thought for sure the gift was going to be for Mara. I would love to see her face apron receiving such a gift.
    Ha ha ha!

  6. Tepic Harlequin Tepic Harlequin October 17, 2010

    c’n remember Mr Footman trying to get his fey batteries going before, don’t think he could hear em screaming, an i wandered through his place when he left it open once, saw em poor little mites…..  he’s a nice bloke mostly, but him an me near fell out over that un!

    ((wonderful, dark writing, and most intruiging, the pixie went in the iron cage, so what ended up in the wicker basket? hmmm…… ))

  7. Zaida Gearbox Zaida Gearbox October 17, 2010

    But why would anyone want to hurt a pixie?  Dey so cute!

  8. Rusty Bones Rusty Bones October 20, 2010

    Hehe, with piskies? Knew a fella once used will o’wisps. Try that, if’n ya can catch the buggers. Though they tended ta blow up his machines when he lost his temper. Foul mouthed brat, he was.

  9. Grendel Footman Grendel Footman October 21, 2010

    well I originally tried it with pictsies , but they always trashed the lab in a drunken rage

  10. Mr Tenk Mr Tenk October 27, 2010

    Tenk surveyed Footman’s lab, finding the usual equipment there, but nothing that resembled the battery jars he recalled from his youth. Perhaps he had a hidden laboratory elsewhere, or perhaps someone else was attempting to recreate the technology. That someone would still be using it was unthinkable.

    He tucked the little box under his arm and made his way to the sewers, pried loose the stones that would let him slip into the inquisitor’s passage and listened that no one was about. He trimmed his lantern to give more light, then brought out the little corpse to compare it with the others that were there, mounted like so many butterflies. It did not match any in the collection. Curious. Tenk shrugged and found an empty place put the husk of the sprite with the others. Then he turned to check on what else he had hidden there, where no one would ever think to look.

    He lifted the shroud from a man about his own size. Pocket was still as ever, but breathing shallowly. Tenk thought he looked paler than the last time he had seen him, but it was hard to tell in the lamplight. Underby has said that Pocket was fading, that Tenk would be able to see him long after others could not, but he would fade away entirely soon after. Tenk wondered. Another of Underby’s lies, or a fact from his research? Tenk kept his hand on the sleeping man for a while, thinking. He was cool to the touch, not warm as his own skin. Perhaps he was fading. He talked to Pocket softly for a while, hoping for a response, but none came. He was safe here, yes, but would he survive in this place?

    Tenk lowered his lamp and slipped out the hole he had made, then replaced the stones so that no one would find his secret access, and returned to his business on the streets.

  11. Mr Underby Mr Underby October 27, 2010

    Whistling a brisk tune, Underby kicked a wicker cage in his back room as he walked toward the Bucket of Blood. “I’ll teach them for stealing my prize.” he hissed low, through clenched teeth, hardly aware he was speaking at all.

  12. Grendel Footman Grendel Footman October 27, 2010

    Grendel looks around the scuffmarks at the lab “well, must of had visitors”

    brings the crate down to the other lab

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