Broommates: The Best Defense

Part 14 of the serial Broommates. Start from the beginning or read the previous episode or click the “Broommates” link at the top of the page to see the full list.

* * * * *

Anthony was helping Booker shovel the remains of the botched group dinner into separate plastic containers when Miranda stepped into the kitchen, rubbing her eyes. She watched them in silence, trying not to fidget, but finally gave up and began to wash the dishes they stacked on the counter.

“Thanks,” Anthony said.

“Don’t mention it,” Miranda replied.

“Fine, I won’t.”

Miranda stopped to give him a dirty look but saw his smirk and rolled her eyes instead.

“How’s Kitty?” Booker asked, timidly laying another plate on the stack.

Miranda shrugged. “Fine. She’ll sleep until noon. Beatrice and Parker are up there with her.”

“Speaking of strange and foreboding prophecies,” Anthony said, “does Kitty do that often?”

“We weren’t talking about–” Miranda started to protest, then remembered what Kitty had said about not trusting each other. “No. She’s only done it twice before since I’ve known her.” Third time’s the charm, she thought. There’s an omen in that. Her reflection in the dark window over the sink stared back at her with furrowed brow.

“I don’t suppose she’s told you anything else that might help us understand what she said?”

She shook her head. “I’m in the dark, too.”

Anthony grinned and grabbed a newly cleaned dish out of the drainer, drying it off with a towel. “You know the old saying: better to light a flamethrower than curse the darkness.”

“What are you proposing?” Miranda asked, mentally holding her breath for fear that Anthony would drop the dish.

“How about a bit of detective work, Nancy Drew?” He grabbed another dish. “We know who’s behind the cockatrice, sure. But how did he get it in here?”

“Good point. Oh, give it here,” she said, reaching for the bowl he was fumbling. It slipped through her fingers and shattered into jagged white pieces on the wood floor.

“Did I say Nancy Drew?” Anthony snickered. “I meant Inspector Butterfingers.”

“I’ll get the broom,” Booker murmured.

Miranda stared down at the broken bowl, soap dripping from her fingers into the sink. A thought was trying to get her attention but it was like a friend at a baseball game waving on the other side of the stadium. White shards, cracked and broken. Some slightly curved, like… like…

“Eggshell,” she said. “Booker, you said the cockatrice was a baby?”

Booker nodded as he swept the broken ceramic bits into a dustpan. “They grow pretty fast in the right conditions, but it was a juvenile, yeah.”

“So where is its egg?”

Anthony ruffled Miranda’s hair and she glared at him. “We’ll make a proper sleuth of you, yet. I’ll get Parker, he’s a whiz at dowsing.”

* * * * *

Parker stood in Miranda’s room, simultaneously trying to look for the cockatrice in her closet and not actually look at it. He was half succeeding.

“It’s perfectly safe, I told you,” Miranda said. “Do you want me to get it?”

“I thought you’d never ask,” Parker muttered. “Be my guest.”

Miranda stepped over to where the lizard-bird had assembled its nest of old socks and stolen clothes. “Gods, you little– I loved that shirt!” It turned a baleful eye to her and hissed. She hissed back, examining the area around the nest until she found what she was seeking.

“Here you go,” she said, handing it to Parker. “One cockatrice feather, fresh from the source.”

Armed with the feather, a regular chicken egg and a dowsing rod, Parker sat in the magic circle down in the basement and attuned himself to the energies of the house.

“How’s he going to find it standing in there?” Miranda whispered to Anthony.

“He’s spirit dowsing, it’s faster.”

“Oh, astral projection, hmm?” Miranda was impressed but did her best to hide it. Parker’s eyes rolled back into his head and his breaths grew shallow and far between.

Within minutes, he was back in his body. “The damn thing ate most of the shell when it hatched,” he said. “But there are a few bits left. Behind the hot water heater upstairs.”

Anthony and Miranda raced each other up, with Anthony’s long legs winning. He threw open the doors to the closet and sure enough, there were the eggshell pieces. They were more leathery than brittle but otherwise looked like a chicken’s.

“Now we can get to the real fun,” he said.

Miranda grinned and thumped his shoulder. “Come on, then. Don’t want to keep our mystery guest waiting.”

* * * * *

Tiny Wort was having a devil of a morning and no mistake. He’d been digging around for grubs happy as you please down by the lake when a great damn swan had chased him off, honking and hissing and flapping its wings like one of Below’s own Furies. Most other animals he would have given a kickin’ and had done, but swans is swans and here it was coming up on midday and he was still starving. He’d about resigned himself to digging around in the bigjobs’ garbage when he saw it.

Hot and fresh and inexplicably left on a plate in the middle of the grass: a loaf of bread that smelled of rosemary and butter and ye gods but it was going in his mouth toot sweet. Part of his brain wondered whether he shouldn’t be checking the teeth on this particular gift horse but the rest of him was zipping straight as an arrow toward yeasty ecstasy. He’d already grabbed two fistfuls before he felt the sizzle of a magic circle closing behind him, trapping him inside.

“Ain’t doin’ nothin’!” he squeaked, flitting about looking for an escape route. The heavy thud of human feet approached and he hid behind the bread, breathing in quick gasps.

“Come out, you,” a voice boomed. “We just want to talk.”

“Leave me ‘lone, ye bylen,” Tiny Wort squeaked. “Kans mil molleth warnas!”

“What did he say?” another voice asked, a woman’s.

“Not a clue. Listen, fairy, we want to ask you some questions.”

Bramm an gath, it was the magickers from yon big house. How had they found him? “I’m not a fairy, I’m a piskey. I ain’t sayin’ nothin’ less you promise to let me go after.”

Two human faces popped up behind him and he shrieked and flew straight up into the invisible roof of the magic circle, banging his head painfully.

“We’ll let you go for five questions answered truthfully,” the man said. “Deal?”

“One question,” Tiny Wort said. He may have been trapped but bargains was bargains.

“Three questions and you can keep the bread.”

His stomach answered for him. “Fine, ask yer questions.”

There was a brief conference between the humans. “How did you get that cockatrice egg into our house?”

Tiny Wort grinned. Right smart idea it had been. “Got m’self swallowed by yer pussycat, I did, egg an’ all.” He almost kept talking but remembered his mam’s counsel to only answer the question directly when dealing with oaths.

More whispers, then, “Why did you agree to do that?”

Oh, that was a bad one. He squirmed. “Promised to get me through to m’folks Below, he did. And he gave me a spool of ribbon.” He grinned again. “And it was fun sneakin’ around in the big house.”

The big man was about to say something when the woman, squinting at him, asked, “What’s your name, anyway?”

A-barth an pla, tebelvenyn!” Tiny Wort shrieked. “Jowles! Molleth Dyw dhe vab dha vamm!” Oh, she was a crafty one, but he might have been able to outcan her if not for his oath. He wore himself out swearing until he finally muttered, “Name’s Tiny Wort.” As soon as he answered, he felt the magic circle drop and he raced off, forgetting the bread entirely.

“A piskey, hmm?” Miranda mused. “Doing Grant’s dirty work for ribbon. I’ll never figure out those little blue bastards.”

“And you got his name,” Anthony said. “Clever.”

“Yes, we might need him later.” She shaded her eyes with a hand. “Think he’ll come back for the bread?”

“I’d bet money on it. Come on, let’s get back to the house.”

Miranda grinned. “Phase two?”

“Phase two.”

* * * * *

Part 15: Widening Gyre

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18 Responses to “Broommates: The Best Defense”

  1. Marisa Birns says:

    I saw that you were writing this all only a few hours ago. Wow. You are so good at this writing business!

    Love Tiny Wort and his piskey-ness 🙂

    Bring on Phase two!

  2. Wow, very cool. Very exciting. I love the tricky way they handle the crafty little piskey. Heh. Great stuff. Can’t wait for more!

  3. Gracie says:

    Ha, love it! Tiny Wort is just wonderful. Well done. Looking forward to the next one. 🙂

  4. @lil_monmon says:

    Hooray!! I love your pisky. Is that Gaelic or a phonetic accent Little Wort was speaking? It was fun to read aloud. My kids thought I’d gone nuts.

    (should warn you the flamethrower line is ©Terry’ Pratchett’s. The original phrase was ‘better to light a candle…’)

  5. Excellent job, especially for just finishing up this morning. 🙂 Looking forward to the next installment.

  6. Mari Juniper says:

    This gets better and better, and I have so much catching up to do!

    Loved Tiny Wort too. 🙂

  7. Another excellent installment. Loved how they solved the mystery of where the egg was, and how it got there. Looking forward to seeing what happens next.

  8. Valerie says:

    Thanks, all. I stole a bit from Pratchett for this–he is my hero! I’ll never be able to top the name “No’-As-Big-As-Medium-Sized-Jock-But-Bigger-than-Wee-Jock Jock” as long as I live. Monica, my pixie is more Cornish where his are more Glaswegian. Also, Tiny Wort’s been living in the States a while, so his accent wanders. 😉

  9. What a great installment, Valerie, loved it! Oh, and… Phase two? Can’t wait to read about it 🙂

  10. Sam says:

    Another wonderful episode. Tiny Wort is a great character, I hope we’ll be seeing more of him. 🙂

  11. Jen Bee says:

    Great stuff as always. Think Sunday is going to be a Broommates-catchup-day.

  12. SPCWriter says:

    Yo! Excellent!

  13. Pamila Payne says:

    Consistently great. Following gleefully.

  14. John Wiswell says:

    This keeps sprawling outward. You could keep spinning serial tales out of it for years if you liked…

  15. Valerie says:

    Glad you all liked it. I don’t know whether this will go on for YEARS but I am glad you think it could! Hopefully I will keep getting better as a writer and this story will grow along with me.

  16. I had some catching up to do, but I enjoyed every minute of it! Love how you’re bringing mythological creatures like the cockatrice in, and the hedgehog is adorable. 🙂


  17. Laura Eno says:

    Loved Tiny Wort and his piskyish ways!

  18. Xanto says:

    This chapter was interesting. Parker is my favourite guy! 😀

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