Adette Price Undercover Witch Chapter 29: Tarn the Shopkeeper?

 

 

Bodies pushed and jostled against each other. Adette allowed herself to be lead through the crowd. Lana talked on and on about several things: the people in town, who would give the best price, and who to stay away from entirely. Adette tried to take it all in as best she could, but the whole idea of being lead around the village square by a girl who wanted nothing more than to be friends was making her feel a bit strange.

In school, she’d had friends, but they’d long since graduated and moved on to better things. More than once, Lana would look her way only to realize that Adette was only half paying attention. Something about the day was putting her into a strange sort of state that she couldn’t quite shake.

“Addy!” Lana stopped them both short. Her arm slithered free of Adette’s. Both hands were placed firmly on her hips, and the look she had on her face said that Adette had definitely done something wrong.

“I’m sorry Lana. This is all just so much to take in.” Lana’s angry face softened slightly.

“I keep forgetting how new you are. Alright, maybe we should take a break.”

“Miss Adette,” a gruff voice interjected. Lana turned and the surprise on her face was plain.

“Mr. Zinner, what a nice surprise.” Adette said with a smile. She reached out and shook the older man’s hand. He in turn did the same.

“I’ve something I owe you, miss.” One gnarled hand took hold of one of Adette’s smaller ones. He turned it over so that her hand was palm up and placed one silver coin into the center.

“I thought you might like it.”

“I’ve not felt so good in ages.” Ms. Zinner flexed his hands and watched them with wonder.

“I’d be more than happy to make another batch,” Adette said. “For a small fee of course.”

“Of course.”

“I’ll bring it round tomorrow. I’ll need to make a fresh batch. Would you like this one to be bigger than last time?”

“I would like that very much.” Mr. Zinner smiled the first genuine smile Adette had seen.

“Then I will certainly see you tomorrow.” Mr. Zinner tipped his black bowler hat and disappeared back into the crowd.

“What on earth did you do to Mr. Zinner?” Lana’s mouth and eyes were wide with shock. Adette shrugged and took Lana’s arm once again.

“I made him some tea is all. I think it might have helped his joints a bit.” Lana shook her head. She nearly tripped over the skirt of another woman before she’d stop staring at Adette.

“That must have been some tea. Mr. Zinner is the town grouch. I’ve never seen him so much as talk to anyone and especially never someone from out of town.”

“Sometimes I really wonder how much of a friend you are Lana. You keep accusing me of being some strange deviant all on account of my out of town status.” Lana slapped Adette lightly on the shoulder.

“You know I don’t mean it like that. I just mean that he’s notoriously mean to everyone. He especially doesn’t seem to like women, but you he’ll talk to. He even seemed to like you a little.” Adette shrugged. She wasn’t about to give up anything else. She had a secret to keep after all.

“What stalls should I be buying from?” Lana stared for a moment longer before taking the bait. Adette nearly sighed with relief but managed to hold the urge off.

“Well, what do you want to buy first?” Lana continued to walk. She was slowly sweeping from side to side. She nodded occasionally at the shop keepers she knew.

“I’d like to buy some herb and vegetable seeds. I need a few more things for my greenhouse. I’d also like some fresh vegetables for cooking, but the herbs should probably come first.” Lana nodded and began to steer them toward a stall whose owner she knew.

“This is the man to see about herbs and seeds. He’s even known to get some unusual ones in from time to time.” Adette nodded and stepped toward the stall. There was a good assortment of things, but nothing that she wasn’t familiar with. In the end, Adette felt a bit disappointed. She’d be able to get all of the things she needed, but there wouldn’t be much hope for the rarer essentials. She supposed she’d make do with what she’d found so far.

“I’ll take these and these,” she said as she set the items she’d chosen onto the counter.

“That will be one silver miss.” Adette’s head shot up. She knew that voice. The face that stared back was smirking knowingly. Adette extended her hand across the makeshift counter and dropped the one silver piece into the waiting hand of Tarn.

437 – Describe your absolute least favorite thing to do. Why is it so terrible?

Grading papers is the worst. It’s not the number or even sometimes the content. When it comes to projects, we spend weeks writing and editing only for me to take them and have to read them. I read all hundred and thirty or so. I get how much work they’ve put into writing them, well how much work some of them have put in, but man, reading them takes forever.

Imagine coaxing over a hundred people into putting forth a lot of effort. Getting them to exert themselves takes effort. You repeat things over and over only for people to forget things, sometimes forget to do them at all. You give suggestions. You argue with some people just to get to do it at all after which they basically do the bare minimum or worse.

Then, they hand them all to you, or in my case, upload them all at me. It’s like a digital barrage. I figuratively drown in non-existent paper. Sometimes I have trouble getting myself to open the program, but if I don’t the number of ungraded things stares at me like a judgemental, motherly eye. Just finish me they seem to say. In my head, I throw the silent adult equivalent of a toddler’s temper tantrum.

When I do finally get to grading them, usually the first thing I’m greeted with is an inevitable barrage of mistakes that could have been fixed with spell check but for some reason hasn’t. How you make spelling errors in the age of spell check and the red squiggly line is beyond me, but every project there is always someone’s paper with prose that must have been littered with red. How lazy do you have to be not to right click and fix it? It literally fixes it for you.

One paper in and I’m reading most of everything. By paper five I’ve had to reread things several times because my brain has inevitably wandered mostly because I’ve managed to find three papers where the writer seriously thought I wouldn’t notice that doing zero thought or editing was totally cool.

It’s not cool! Reading writing that makes no sense is not cool and it doesn’t make you sound smart to massacre words.

Then, I see it. A child who’s work should be great. They always write beautifully, and, you know what, they did. Except, that I’m still reeling about the person who honestly thought that riting is a word that means to put words on paper. See. Spell check! So I know that I’m not really enjoying this story as much as I should.

Twenty papers later and I’m literally having to fight my brain to stay inside of my head. It’s not allowed to leave just because a student wrote a nonsense scene about a jerk throwing coffee at someone that for some reasons happens a page after this person also inexplicably does something that has to do with sports. By the way, the next page is equally as nonsensical and confusing, but he managed to fix some of the spelling so that’s at least something.

This is the point that I look at the clock and realize that I’ve already been at this for forty five minutes, and I’ve still got twenty more to go in just this class alone. I seriously consider slapping random grades for about twenty seconds before I click to the next one.

Oh good, they’ve forgotten that you had to double space. Never mind that it was written on the board, on the project paper, on the schedule, on every draft assignment, and on the final project, but that’s cool. You clearly didn’t need to read the stuff that told you how to get points. You clearly didn’t hear it the thousand times I said it in class or personally reminded you to fix it when I saw that you still hadn’t done it three days ago in class. I’ll just take those points back.

At this point, I’ve found a space on the wall that looks like a particularly inviting place to smash my forehead.

I know. I’ll grade my honor’s class. 

Wait the first paper is forty pages long and the first four are description of the way the light perfectly falls on this perfect guys face, and how said perfect guy doesn’t know that the main character exists because she’s just so terribly shy. Well, the idea’s good except why has her name changed and is this guy supposed to be nice or a jerk.

Where’d that dog come from and why is he wearing a hat?

Well their vocabulary is good and the story mostly makes sense so. Next!

#49 – Choose a villain from one of your favorite stories. Write about the world the way they see it. Give that person a chance to explain their actions.

“Murdered. She murdered her.” A single crystal goblet sailed across the room shattering into a thousand shimmering pieces against the stone wall.

“Yes, my lady.” Beneath the decorative blue and red uniform, the witch could see the monkey’s tail quivering. Good, he should be afraid.

“And you say they cheered.” One green hand closed into a tight fist at the witch’s side.

“They cheered and then gifted the house girl with the slippers.” The witch stopped and her head slowly turned toward the guard.

“Get out.” The order grated past her lips. The monkey began to move but not quickly enough.

“Get Out!” With his tail tucked protectively beneath his robes, the monkey sprinted the rest of the way.

“I’ll get you and your little dog too,” the witch said and meant it.

#265 – Rewrite a fairy tale from the point of view of one of the less important characters.

Even in Mei’s practiced hands, the tray shook. It took all of her concentration not to stare at the sharp, gleaming metal the door guards held before them. Their schooled faces showed nothing. Not the slightest thought flickered across their chiseled faces. Mei knew how quickly those blank faces could turn deadly.

On silent hinges, the massive red doors swung inward beckoning Mei in. She scuttled forward doing her best to keep the tray and its simple contents steady. At this late hour, all but the most dedicated watchers had left to get a few hours of much needed sleep.

Mei swallowed a gasp as she drew nearer the massive bed. At the center, the Emperor’s shrunken form seemed too small and shriveled for such a large place. His wrinkles had sunk further into his impossibly pale face. Mei settled her tray onto a finely carved table set beside the bed for just that purpose.

She lifted the lid from the tray and set it to the side being careful not to scratch the lacquer. Steam wafted into the flickering darkness.

“Soup, your Imperial Highness,” Mei said softly. Her voice floated away from her and got lost in the vastness of the space around her. The Emperor didn’t stir. All around him was splendor. Brightly colored silks hung high into the rafters fluttering occasionally in the hot summer breezes allowed in for the Emperor’s health.

The only thing that seemed out of place was a bejeweled golden bird. It sat on a table all its own beside the Emperor’s bed. Mei eyed the metal creature warily, but it made no noise. In fact, it had made no noise in years. The fact that it sat there still held a testament to the bird’s sway over the Emperor.

Mei wished it’s real life counterpart still lived in the palace. The golden bird had been beautiful, but she’d never liked it better than the friend she’d brought to the palace all those years ago.  

The Emperor stirred and turned toward where she stood beside the table and tray.

“Pl…,” he muttered. His purplish lips smacked together drily.

“Your Highness?” Mei trembled. She should say nothing.

“Play!” he shouted. His body twisted. Covers pulled this way and that tangling around his frail arms and legs. “Why won’t you play? I want to hear your song?”

Mei flinched, terrified of the rage in the sleeping man’s voice. A hand gripped Mei’s shoulder. Her eyes went wide with fear.

“The Emperor will eat his soup when he wakes.” Mei stared silently, unable to speak, into the wild dark eyes of a courtier. His fingers tightened, digging into her shoulder. She allowed herself to be propelled toward the door. What could a kitchen maid say?

In seconds, she found herself thrust back into the hallway.  She walked as quickly as she could and still look proper. It would not do for even a servant to run.

Returning to the kitchen seemed to take an age, and even when she’d returned she was still unsure of how to do what she knew needed to be done.

“Did he eat?” the head cook barked from her chair beside the fire. A massive fan wavered back and forth in her calloused hands. Mei shook her head and kept moving across the floor. She’d have to be careful if she was going to make her way out of the forbidden city.

“That’s no answer!” the cook called after her, “What do you think you’re doing Mei.” Mei looked over her shoulder at the older woman whose face had gone nearly purple with rage at being ignored.

“I’m going to save the Emperor,” Mei said. The cooks face settled for just a moment before it split with gales of laughter. Mei turned and darted out into the night. The head cook didn’t have to believe her. She knew what she had to do.

 

 

“Friend!” Mei called into the perfumed night air. Branches wavered in the warm night time air. Leaves whispered against each other. It had taken hours of careful sneaking through the avenues of the palace before Mei had managed to escape into the city and then the countryside. Her feet ached, but beside her water tripped musically across rocks and fallen sticks.

“I know you are there,” Mei said softly. Her voice carried upward like it had in the vast bedchamber of the Emperor. “Nightingale, I know he wronged you, but he needs you now. He is dying.”

Mei stomped her sore feet and wandered further beside the brook she’d visited since she’d been little. Only the sound of the wind greeted her.

“If for him, then please come and sing for me, Nightingale.” Hot tears welled behind Mei’s eyes. If she was wrong, if she was found outside the palace, she’d pay dearly. She’d known, but she’d been so sure that she came anyway.

Tired and losing hope, Mei dropped herself down to a moss covered rock.

“Please,” she begged. Tears sprang from her eyes and tracked down her cheek.

A rustle beside her in the leaves pulled her head from her hands. Down in the leaves and pine needles, the form of a small nightingale hopped first from one foot to the other.

“Friend,” Mei cried.

“I came for you,” the Nightingale said in a voice like a music box.

“Fly. I will meet you there. Together, we will save him. If you will not sing for me, then sing for him.” The Nightingale threw itself into the air as an answer. Mei did her best to follow and retrace her steps through the forbidden city.

Night spread across a city holding its breath. Light outlined the palace walls stealing Mei’s breath when she most needed it. Still gasping she stopped just outside the palace kitchens. While she had run, the sun had wheeled closer to the horizon. To the east, the sky was brightening.

“Carry me, friend,” the Nightingale said simply. “We will go together.” Mei nodded and held out her hand. She entered the kitchen with the bird held before her as explanation. The cook looked up from the beginnings of breakfast but her words stopped in her mouth. All knew the bird and did not question.

Through hallway after hallway Mei went with her avian ambassador before her. Guards and courtiers, who normally would have shooed her away, watched with slack faces and wide eyes.

When she arrived at the door, Mei looked into the faces of the door guards and knew she’d been seen. The broad red doors swung inwards. Courtiers raised themselves from where they lay and began to protest.

Mei did not stop until she stood beside the Emperor’s bed. Out of respect for her friend, she picked up the golden copy and moved it away. The Nightingale hopped onto its rightful perch. Mei felt a cold prickle between her shoulder blades and turned. Unnoticed by the courtiers, a figure dressed like a fine noble but all in black stood watching on. His hair was a glossy black and his eyes seemed bottomless.

“Sing friend. It’s now or never,” Mei begged. The Nightingale considered the room before its throat bobbed and music poured from its tiny beak. The music, long missing from the Emperor’s palace, poured forth once more. It filled the grand room from floor to ceiling.

Mei smiled and let her eyes slide shut. She was reminded of a happy childhood and of her trek into the woods with the Emperor and his courtiers. She could see the branches and waving leaves. The sun seemed to show through the bars of the bird’s song.

When at last she opened her eyes, the man in black had moved away. A smile had split his impossible face. His chin dipped in a respectful nod toward the bird, and then it was like he’d never been there before. Mei smiled.

A gasp arose beside her. The Emperor, still tangled in blankets, sat with his eyes opened. They were fixed on the small, plain bird perched where the lovely jeweled copy had stood only moments before.

“How can I ever repay you?” he said and his eyes slid to where Mei stood.

Adette Price: Undercover Witch Chapter 28: Addy?

It has obviously been an unforgivably long time since last I posted an Adette chapter. I suppose that’s what happens when you move back and lose touch with the people driving you to publish things on a regular basis. Thankfully I have amassed nearly twice as many chapters as I have posted in the time since I’ve stopped posting. As of today, I’ll be back on my bi-weekly schedule until Adette is well and done. If all goes to plan, Adette will be the first novel length thing I’ll have actually finished.

No links today. All of the rest of the chapters will simply be on my blog now. Without any further ado, Chapter 28.

 

Chapter 28: Addy?

 

People bustled across the square in familiar clumps. A few vendors called out in vain attempts to get people to come and look at their wares. Market day in Swynton was the weekly social event everyone looked forward to. People spruced up their nicest things and took to the square both to shop and to be seen.

Adette too had her own basket tucked in the crook of her arm. She had braved the market several times since moving outside of Swynton, but today she felt on display. Her recent visits seemed to have taken some of the stigma away from her presence which meant that people felt more comfortable staring.

Finally the attention got the better of her. Adette took off across the well traveled grass towards the bustling bakery. She avoided the busy front step and went straight to the back of the building. Her fingers squeezed and loosened around the basket handle. Outside the back doorway, Adette swayed nervously back and forth on her feet. Lana had said to meet her here, but now she felt a bit creepy hanging around the back door to the bakery.

The back door burst open. Smells of bread and rolls rolled out of the back door in a humid wave. On its crest came Lana. She’d put on her best dress, but had missed a few splotches of flour on her face. Adette forgot her awkwardness completely and started to laugh. Lana stopped dead in front of the doorway.

“Where is it?” she demanded while she pulled the back door shut.

“Upper right cheek, just below the middle of your bottom lip, and your hairline just above your left temple,” Adette reported dutifully. Lana dug into a pocket hidden in the side of her skirt and produced a large, clean handkerchief. She began to rub vigorously at the various flour spots until she judged they had to be gone. Her hand lowered but the handkerchief didn’t disappear. Lana leveled a very meaningful look at Adette.

“You’ve gotten it all.” Lana nodded and thrust the handkerchief back into the pocket from which it had come.

“Good. I’m ready then. Have you bought anything yet?” Lana peered at Adette’s basket.

“No. I thought it would be best to wait for you. You’re more likely to know if people are being fair or not.” Lana smiled knowingly.

“That I am. You’ll not be cheated on your produce today, Adette.” The pair smirked and started back toward the square, which had grown busier still since Adette had come.

“Thank God. I suspect I’ve already lost some money,” Adette grumbled.

“That is how all small towns work you know. They have to have a bit of your money before they get to know you. Once they get to know you, they don’t feel right being anything less than fair. Let’s call it a newcomer’s tax. It’s good reason to stop being a mystery.”

“Well, then I suppose it’s a good thing I ran into you. Otherwise, I suspect I might have been taxed for a very long time.” Lana turned to look at Adette. She stopped and then burst into laughter.

“You might be right there, Adette. Hmm…” Lana paused staring at Adette. She stared long enough in silence that Adette began to grow nervous again. She’d just made up her mind to say something when Lana broke the silence again. “You know. Your name is a bit awkward to say. I think you need a nickname.”

Adette turned to stare forward. She wasn’t sure whether to feel complimented or insulted. No one, other than teachers or her few school friends, had bothered using her name, and they’d all been far too formal to think of using a nickname.

“How about Dette?” Adette turned and lifted an eyebrow. “I’ll take that as a no. Hmm…I know! I’m calling you Addy.”

“You really don’t need to…”

“Nope. I’ve already made up my mind,” Lana said with a smirk. “You’ll be Addy to me for as long as you’re my friend.”

“Well, thanks.” Adette hoped her hesitance didn’t show. She wasn’t one for nicknames.