The Fairy Godmother’s carriage rolled to a stop deep inside the forest.
“We canna be at Drullian’s house already,” Irk grumbled.
He drew a pistol from beneath his vest and motioned his boss away from the door. There was a knock at the door followed by a woman’s voice that called,
“Is the Fairy Godmother, Aryssa Thornhart, inside the vehicle?”
Aryssa smiled at the familiar voice.
“She is.” She called out.
“Then come out and be welcome!”
Aryssa alighted the carriage and grasped the hands of her friend, Mother Goose. The elegant Black woman stood half a head taller than she with flowers sprouting from vines that were weaved into her braids. Her long filmy green robes fluttered in the breeze. Her eyelids were dusted a shimmery green that complimented her amber eyes. Her full lips were dark like wine and pulled into a smile as she regarded the Fairy Godmother.
“Aryssa, how does the day find you?”
“Exuberant as always, Madam Goose. Yourself?”
Her smile faded a little. “I wish I could say the same.”
Mother Goose gestured toward a quaint little cottage whose front door and steps were slathered in blood. Nearby, a police officer was taking statements from a tearful Mama Bear wrapped in a shroud, her cub clinging to her skirts and trembling. At the far corner of the house was a bundle of cloth that indicated the covering of a body on the ground. The prison wagon sat further down the road where it held a large male bear in chains. A familiar-looking Imp spoke to him as a rather annoyed looking policeman quickly approached.
Irk and Aryssa exchanged glances and, as the Imp made a rude gesture and left the area, the Dwarf gave her a quick nod before strolling away. The Fairy Godmother turned her attention back to Rowena.
“What happened here?”
“A home invasion gone wrong by the sound of it. The family returned to find the young woman inside. They say she attacked and Papa had to defend the family but something isn’t right. Given some time I am sure I will get the full story from them.”
Aryssa could already hear arguing by the time her carriage reached Szac Drullian’s cookie-cutter cottage. She closed her eyes and groaned. Irk’s gruff, no-nonsense demeanor was a godsend at times but also tended to make matters more difficult at others. She knocked on the gingerbread door. When the arguing continued she simply walked in. The interior was as charming and immaculate as the outside, which surprised the Fairy Godmother. That is until she placed a hand on a nearby table. The powerful aura of Beryl Fairy magic permeated the entire structure and Aryssa knew then that Merrypuff, known for her obsession with cleanliness and a wicked sweet tooth, had been there and made her mark.
In the far corner of the room, Szac Drullian sat behind a large table, gripping a mug in his claws and glaring at the older Dwarf whose beefy hands were planted on either side of him as he hovered over the Imp.
“Am I interrupting?” Aryssa asked.
“Call off your dog, Godmother. I don’t appreciate being threatened in my own home.” The spindly Imp sneered.
“Stand down, Irk,” Aryssa warned with a sigh.
“No way, he’s about to crack!”
“Irk, you know this is not how we do things.”
“Yeah, you’re not in the Constabulary anymore.”
“If only I were,” Irk responded, squeezing his fist in his other hand until the knuckles popped.
A glimpse of worry crossed Drullian’s face as he swallowed and Aryssa smiled knowing her companion was indeed getting to him. She placed a hand on the Dwarf’s shoulder and said,
“Be a dear and make us some tea.”
“Tea?” Irk snorted but after a moment wandered into the kitchen.
“You have a lovely home, here,” Aryssa said, watching as Drullian visibly relaxed then stiffened.
“What, I can’t have a nice home?”
“Being a bachelor I must say it is most unusual to find the place so sweet and clean. Your cousin is very thorough.”
“My cou-” Drullian smiled at her. “You’re not playing fair, Godmother.”
Aryssa smiled back. “What kind of Fairy Godmother would I be if I didn’t notice the little things?”
“And you are a very good Fairy Godmother, aren’t you?”
“I can find you a nice mate any time you wish, you know.”
Drullian threw his head back and laughed. “No thanks, not me. I’m not some doe-eyed human too pathetic to solve his own problems.”
“Well, if humans had your talents I would certainly be out of a job. Cinderella could’ve just spun a dress and shoes of gold and gone to the ball herself.”
“Ah, but where would she get a horse and carriage? No, even if they could do what I do, humans wouldn’t know how to handle such power.”
“No, they probably wouldn’t. They especially wouldn’t be as creative with it as you have. I must say you do fine work.”
Drullian frowned. “When have you ever seen my work?”
“At the Constabulary. I must say that spindle is genius. It has everyone convinced it’s made of actual gold!”
Drullian leapt to his feet. “I told that big ox and I’ll tell you, that spindle has nothing to do with me!”
Aryssa smiled. “Do you know of another who can produce a gold weave strong enough to pierce the flesh?”
“You’re crazy, no thread is strong enough to do that. My weaves are as soft as a kitten’s tummy. You couldn’t inflict so much as a mild headache throwing one at somebody let alone kill with it!”
Aryssa crossed her arms over her chest with a look of bemusement. Drullian growled and stormed over to a chest beside a large fireplace where two rocking chairs sat. After rummaging around inside the chest for a moment he drew several pieces of cloth and two dolls. He returned to the table and threw everything down onto it.
“Tell me, how do you kill anyone with these?”
Aryssa caressed the glittering materials that were softer than anything she’d ever felt. No gown she’d ever produced came close to the loveliness of these garments. She picked up a soft gold-colored ballerina and a golden ball that she was able to squash easily in her grasp.
“These are so beautiful!”
“Hay itself is soft, to begin with. The process of spinning it into gold makes it softer still.” The Imp flushed with pleasure as he watched Aryssa admire his work.
“Did you make anything like this for Merrypuff?”
Szac nodded. “A spindle for her pet cat, Brumhilda. I thought the shape was a bit strange but then so is her cat.”
Aryssa chuckled. Rumor had it Brumhilda was actually an evil witch sentenced to life as a cat centuries ago by the Department of Divine Justice for crimes against the realm. Aryssa never did detect that sort of magic herself though admittedly she hadn’t much-crossed paths with either Merrypuff or Brumhilda over time.
Irk trudged out of the kitchen, clad in a flowered apron, and slammed a tray of tea and cookies down on to the table.
“Has he tellt ye howfur he managed to be seen with that bit of crumpet on his arm at the ball yet?”
“Why? Do you need any tips?” Drullian snarled.
“Thanks but I get plenty of crumpet on my own. Better lookin’ an’ all,” Irk sniffed.
Aryssa stared up at the ceiling. “Such intelligent conversation.”
Drullian glanced at the cookies on the tray and jumped up again. “Hey, who said you could tear holes in my walls, gem jockey?”
Aryssa gasped as the Dwarf grew purple with rage. Irk grabbed Drullian by the throat with a snarl and slammed him through the wall before pulling him back through the hole he’d made, and throwing him to the floor. Aryssa stepped between them as the Dwarf advanced again and said,
“Thank you so much for the tea, Irk. Why don’t you bring some out to the driver?”
Irk blinked, a range of emotions from hurt to betrayal flitted across his face. He glared at Aryssa like it was she who’d uttered the slur against his people. He snatched a cup off the tray and, holding Imp’s gaze, took a big bite out of a cookie and stormed out. Aryssa sighed. She would have to think up a way to make it up to Irk for insulting him.