A cookie by any other name …
To eat or not to eat … that is the question.
Whether ’tis nobler in the tummy to consume
Bacon gummi worms,
Or to swim in sea of chocolate,
And by chomping down? To taste: to munch.
She pondered the prospect.
Cookies do deliver us our services.
And with those services we may find
the Monster of Lag and other odd things;
for every entity gets hungry.
And so on occasion
one disappears from Fairelands
as the odd things eat to their fill.
To munch: perchance to chomp;
aye, there’s the tummy rub.
For in that wallow of glutton
who can tell what scrumptious tidbit may be o’erlooked?
And having pondered the cookie …
she took a thoughtful bite.
(Image provided by author)
And So I Came to San Mora …
By Saffia Widdershins
They don’t tell you about the smell.
Perhaps for those unfortunate enough to scrape out an existence here, the smell doesn’t matter so much as other things – like bloody and painful death, starvation, filthy water, or attacks by the undead.
And I assume that the undead don’t care about the smell anyway.
Humans told me that the stench wore off. “You git used to it,” the old bargee captain told me when he dropped me off. My boots landing on the shore had sunk into the pale brown earth and released some noxious gas – as though I had landed on a grave dug too near the surface and released the fetid contents. I had gagged – and he bared his rotten brown stumps of teeth at me in what I decided to assume was a grin.
He was aware of my race, if not my status. This was no Dangarnon, where to reveal fae blood meant coming to a very nasty end. No, in San Mora, there was an equality of misery. If you were alive, you were available to be exploited. If you were undead – then you were to be finished off.
And I was alive … and under orders from the Bard Queen. Lankin was to be found … and retrieved.
I slung my pack over my back and nodded to the bargee who was already casting off. He’d got me here safely, and not charged me more than three times what was reasonable. He’d even given me tips on places to stay – although I was not planning on sticking around too long. All that made him an ally in my book.
The map of the city that was attached to the wall seemed out of date. It portrayed a city more prosperous … before whatever Doom had fallen on it. I wondered if the Bard Queen would ever send those who could lift the Doom – or if its current role fulfilled some part of an overall strategy too arcane for someone of my paygrade. But no matter. Heading into the City would bring me to the Square and there I might find some answers.
I already had some defensive Wards in place – but no-one else seemed to be taking the trouble, or, perhaps, had my abilities. The smell alone was reason enough to keep fae away. As I passed a heap of black garbage bags that bulged and writhed as if with a life of their own, I wondered about a ward to surround me with a more pleasant miasma. But that might prevent me being aware of some hidden danger. I trudged on.
The Square, when I reached it, was the wreck of some lost way of life. A small central park. What had once been high end stores and cafes all around it. Doubtless the statue in the centre had once been a noble citizen of the city. Now it was a gasmasked wraith who stretched out a hand in terrible warning.
There was still one van serving some sort of food and drink, a few people huddled around, sipping from chipped bowls and cups, their eyes darting nervously around, the weapons at their hips conspicuous.
I moved forward, matching my stride to the shuffle I had seen the residents favour. But the hard stare I got from the van proprietor told me that it was no use trying to blend with the crowd, even with my most distinctive features hidden.
“What’re you selling?” I asked, pitching my voice low.
“What’re you buying?” he said, and gestured towards a hand-written list of offerings, mostly crossed out – in some cases heavily.
“Tea,” I said. “I’ll take tea.”
It proved to be a pale green liquid with a scum of grease on the surface. Nestling in the depths were dark brown lumps that looked more like stones than organic matter. Cautiously, I took a sip and found it surprisingly acceptable. At some point, the liquid had had a nodding acquaintance with mint.
I slid a copper coin on the counter – the amount specified on the menu.
“It’s gone up,” he said. “Shortages.”
One of the other customers snickered behind me.
“How much?” I said levelly.
He hesitated, clearly torn between greed and apprehension, then said, “Three silver.”
Greed was winning.
I retrieved the copper coin and took a silver from my purse.
“I’ll give you one,” I said levelly. “But I may pay more for information.”
He hesitated, then swiped the silver under the counter.
“That’s expensive,” he said.
I nodded. “Good information is expensive. I understand.”
I was conscious of the patrons of the van were leaning in a little. Not threateningly, despite their weapons; they were more interested in seeing if this could be turned to their own advantages. But they might be able to help. I pitched my voice a little louder.
“I’m looking for a man,” I said.
Another snicker from the patrons, and a woman called out, “Ain’t we all, dearie?” I ignored her, and the laugh that followed.
“Tall,” I said. “Taller than me. Slender. Dark haired. He may have worn glasses but … one eye is purple. The other … usually green. But he can change that one.”
There was a pause as they all digested this.
“Fae, then,” said the van owner heavily.
I nodded. “Fae. And a fugitive.”
Another harsh laugh from the woman behind me. “We’re all fugitives here!”
“Not all of us.”
This was a voice I hadn’t heard before. Rich and mellow, an ironic note. I turned, still sipping my tea and saw a human man standing there. His clothes were as ragged and filthy as the rest of the people wore, rags wrapped round rags to keep out the cold, and he had three days growth of stubble on his chin, adding to the general grime that made his skin look ochre. His eyes were dark brown, and there were lines around them, [like someone who had stared too long and hard and couldn’t unsee it]
“Does that sound familiar to you?” I asked.
He smiled, and it underwrote the irony I’d heard in his voice. “Like Mako said, information is expensive. But you can have this for free. Yes, I’ve seen him.”
It was a lure, clearly, to get me to pay more. But there was also the ring of truth there. I glanced around the Square.
“Do you have somewhere where we can talk?”
His dark eyebrows lifted slightly – I was moving faster than he had expected. His gaze sharpened, and I judged he was assessing just how much of a threat I represented. I stood still, and smiled a little.
“Fae,” he said finally. “There’s such a thing as over-confidence.”
“There is,” I agreed, still smiling.
He hesitated, and then shrugged. “I know a place. Follow me.”
I slung my pack more securely and then placed my half-empty cup back on the counter. Two silver coins now rested in the transparent green liquid.
“Thanks,” I said. The Bard Queen likes her servants to respect the decencies.
The van owner and his patrons were still staring after us as we left the square.
“So,” said my new companion as we moved down the streets towards a wrecked underpass. “You’re looking for Lan?”
“Not the name I know him by,” I responded, but didn’t give his true name. “Lan will do. What do you know about him?”
“I know that he’s looking for you,” he said.
He gestured towards the wall under the underpass. It was covered with posters – Wanted posters, listing names and crimes and specifying rewards that would be given for capture. Many were old, the names and pictures ripped and faded. Some were more recent, and more crudely produced.
But one was pristine – produced with technologies of production that I would have judged to be impossible in San Mora. The reward that was offered was fabulous, and the face shown unmistakable.
It was my own face.