Lantern Leaf Press

Voyages Into The Fantastic

Excerpt from The Mirror Knife

Hello, all! Here is one of my favorite scenes from The Mirror Knife. This particular scene involves Burgundy taking her pixie and current client (a tiny, hunted fairy named Fly) to a faery black market to try to uncover some information.

—–

   I opened my eyes to see the familiar rows of booths, tents, and haggling fairies. A tall female fairy on guard duty glided forward and looked me straight in the eye. “Can I help you?” she asked. She stood as tall as me, and her voice was husky and clearly suspicious. Her gaze travelled to my shoulder. “Two visitors?”

   “Three. Surfaeillance business,” I replied. Silence rippled out from where I was standing. Then the talk began again, but in hushed tones.

   The fairy arched a perfect eyebrow. “Really?” The slender vine in her dark curls wound tighter, obviously disappointed that it didn’t get to attack an intruder. She turned away in a rustle of gypsy skirts and vanished into a shrub.

   “Hang on,” I said, poking at the bush. “Where’s Saunders hanging out these days?”

   The branches rustled and the fairy peered out at me, her brown eyes turning green. “Why?” she asked.

   “Because.”

   She sniffed. “Third tent from the end. Red curtains.” The leaves swished shut in my face.

   Fairies. I plunged into the sea of tents, hoping to keep my sense of direction. The interiors of the booths glittered with glass jars, amber-colored lamps, and all sorts of human-made junk. One fellow was even trying to sell broken washing machines.

   “I am thinking this was a bad idea,” Fly said in my ear. I felt a little hand tug on my hair. “Maybe you should wait here, and I will go find the. . . it.”

   Well, that was new. “You want to risk getting caught again?” I said, turning a corner. I could see the red tent now, at the end of the row. Fly seemed to be getting more and more agitated. I slowed down. “You’ll be fine,” I said. Few fairy criminals would be stupid enough to try anything in the Market, but it paid to be on the safe side. “If you see anything suspicious, let me know. Got it?”

   Fly whimpered a response as we reached the tent. I slid one hand into my coat pocket and stepped up to the counter.

   A fat, cream-colored kobold looked up from his worktable and peered at me through a magnifying glass.

   “Saunders.” I stared down at the pudgy faery. “Had your license renewed lately?”

   The magnifying glass popped out of his eye and fell to the table with a clink. “Burgundy. . . Miss Graves. . . I, um. . . Yes, I did.” He snatched the glass off the table and managed to nudge two jars out of my line of sight. “See?” He picked up a plastic card. Two more jars vanished.

   I waved the license aside. It was probably fake, but as long as he gave me the information I wanted, I could stand letting some other agent catch him. “Are you expecting a shipment today?” I asked. “Maybe some faery honey, and. . . what do you call that spongy grey stuff?” I leaned an elbow on the counter and watched him squirm. “I might need to buy some,” I added. “Visiting diplomats and such.”

   Relief flooded over the kobold’s face, and his nose turned a happy pink.

   Before he could reply, I jerked a thumb toward Fly and asked the million-dollar question. “Remember her?”

   The pink drained away like a flood. Fly swooped down to the counter in a flurry of gold dust. She landed hard. “Where is it?” she snapped. Her eyes were turning luminous and, unless it was my imagination, some of her teeth looked distinctly pointed.

   “I don’t know what you mean,” he stammered. He cleared his throat. “I. . .” He passed the glass from hand to hand, nervously turning it over between his fingers. Then his nerve failed. “Can we speak in private?” he muttered, blinking up at me, cautious and hopeful at the same time.

   I leaned in closer and stared down at him. “You don’t have a whole lot of choice.” I could see we were approaching a standoff. “And I’d talk fast if I were you. Fly’s already been kidnapped once today, by this guy.” I slapped the photograph down on the counter.

   Saunders turned so white I thought he was going to faint. Even his craggy ears looked translucent.

   “Now you can help us and get some credit,” I continued, “or you can be stubborn and get three years again for. . .” I reached over the counter and picked up one of the hidden jars. “Do I make myself clear?”

   He swallowed hard.

   Fly flicked her wings in a cocky blend of confidence and smirk.

   The little kobold licked his lips nervously and stared back at Fly. “Does she know—” he began.

   A shadow fell across the counter. A human-sized, male shadow.

   I jerked my gun out of my pocket, whirled around, and found myself face to face with Myron.

   His usually sleepy eyes opened wide behind his hipster glasses. “Don’t shoot,” he said, raising his hands. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to sneak up on you.”

    I lowered the gun. “Lucky for you it was set to fairy.” My heart began slowing down again. “What are you doing here?”

   “Looking for you.” He slid his hands into his jeans pockets and shrugged. “Your pixie said I’d find you here.” Behind him, Graham hurried up to us, checking something off on his interminable list.

   I glanced around the market, but couldn’t spot the familiar pinpoint of light. “Since when do you speak pixie?” And when did he leave?

   Graham pulled a handkerchief from his pocket and dabbed at his temples. “He found a translator.” He returned the kerchief and straightened his grey suit coat. “I thought you were going to take Myron out to pick up Stubel.”

   An outraged squeal came from behind me.

   “Hold that thought,” I said, turning back toward Saunders. The kobold had vanished. Fly was knocking jars right and left and throwing shreds of receipt paper across the tent. Now I’m the idiot. The little sneak had taken advantage of my back being turned. “Fly, calm down. We’ll find him.”

   She hefted a little vial over her head and aimed for the tent pole. I snatched the glass out of her grasp before she could break it. “Relax,” I ordered. Fly kicked at my hand and launched herself off the table. “Seriously, calm down.”

   “He took it and ran,” she hissed, zooming around the inside of the tent. “We have to find it!”

   I turned to the other agents. “Spread out and look for a nervous kobold,” I said. “We’ll talk about Stubel later.”

   Myron hesitated. “What does a kobold look like?”

   Fly launched into a biting description which, fortunately, wasn’t in English, and darted out into the crowded walkway.

   I shouldered past the other agents. “Point out anybody under knee-height that hides when you walk by.” I gave Graham a quick look. “You haven’t given him type training yet?”

  “It’s next on the list,” he said.

  We hurried through the avenues, trying to keep up with the outraged fairy. The crowds were thick, but even when I couldn’t see her, I could hear her.

   As we rounded the corner of a tent dealing in spices, Myron caught up with me. “Is she always that loud?” he asked. A new burst of name-calling had erupted, and it was a pip. Some of the marsh folk actually blushed.

   “I’ll take loud over quiet any day,” I said. I took a quick peek beneath a tablecloth. Nothing but the usual stash of human coins and soda bottles. “It’s the quiet ones you have to watch.”

   As if on cue, Graham said something I couldn’t hear and disappeared in another direction.

   I turned to Myron. “What was that?” He had almost begun answering when I saw Fly swooping above the roof of another tent. “Fly, get back here!” She dove over the far end, shrieking and scolding.

   I think she found our kobold. I pushed past a shopping lady fairy, gave a tree spirit a wide berth, and glanced back at Myron. “Come on. Field training.”

   He stood there, hands in his pockets, eyeing me through his wide lenses. “For real this time?” he asked.

   “We’re in the middle of the field,” I said, over the noise coming from behind the tent. “No time like right now.”

   Myron grinned. Then I saw the grass move behind him.

   Hold on. I stared at a pair of little glowing eyes. Gutter. A chill swept over me. “Mayday,” I muttered, drawing my gun.

   Myron’s grin vanished. “What now?”

   Fly’s tirade suddenly cut off.

   I raced around the tent and darted into the wide main avenue of the market. “Fly?” The she-fairy was gone. “Fly?” A group of brownies hurried past, talking amongst themselves and giving us strange looks. Two human-sized fairies stood in front of a shop, haggling over the price of a bucket of mushrooms. Either Fly had given us the slip, or someone had grabbed her.

   Myron appeared beside me and, for a moment, his eyes didn’t look so sleepy.

   “If you have a weapon,” I murmured, “get it out and start looking.”

   The heavy sunlight surrounding us flickered, as if a mist had slipped across the cloudless sky. The hair on the back of my neck stood up. If I’d been wearing my crystal, I had a feeling it would have been buzzing like crazy.

   “Burgundy?” Myron asked.

   Right in front of me the light rippled again. Whizzzzz. Thunk! A knife blade sliced through the hem of my coat and stabbed down into the ground.

1 Comment

  1. I love this book! Sharing!

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