Floyd bounded into the shop with all the enthusiasm of a golden retriever after a ball. A moment later, Edna pushed through the door with a sigh. Adorably cozy, from the racks of books to the charming display of knickknacks, it was the exact sort of place Floyd liked to rummage through.

She rubbed her right temple as Floyd started babbling happily to himself. “Here. I’m sure I’ll find what I need here. This place just oozes magic and wonderment.”

“Uh-huh,” she said, leaning back against a bookshelf, almost knocking over the diminutive creatures that had fluttered in behind her. Luckily they had lots of experience dodging her.

“Think he’ll see us this time Pilliwibble?” one sprite said to his companion.

Pilliwibble looked at the two humans. “I don’t get why he keeps doing this. All he has to do is turn around and actually try to see us. Is that so hard Jumblekin?”

Jumblekin shook his head. “He got so close in Sedona that one time. Who knew he’d come all the way to England? Still, it’s nice to travel isn’t it?”

Pilliwibble poked Jumblekin. The shop girl stared right at the two of them. They waved their hands and started juggling tiny items that had been put out on display on the table behind them. Floyd saw none of this, as his nose was buried in a thick tome he found on the shelf. Edna looked out the window towards the clothing boutique across the street, equally as removed from the spectacle.

Without taking her eyes off the two sprites, the shop girl motioned for her manager. She came over took a look at the scene and said, “Oh we get this sort of thing every now and again. Sally dear, just grab a bit of creamer and a scone and set them out by the doll house display. We can at least make them comfortable.”

“What about the sprites?” Sally whispered. They had moved on from juggling to waltzing with some of the antique dolls.

The manager chuckled. “That’s who I was telling you to make comfortable! A snack would settle them right down and keep them out of mischief. I’ll talk to the other two.”

She strode over to Floyd and Edna, “Can I help you with anything?”

Sally went to the back room, poured a bit of creamer into a bowl and then brought it and a blueberry scone out to the doll house as instructed. The sprites flew right over as soon as Sally set them out. Not knowing anything better to say she asked, “So how are you liking England so far? You’re from America, yeah?”

“We love it! Everyone is so friendly,” said Pilliwibble.

“This scone is amazing,” said Jumblekin. “Wish they’d put out a quality spread like this sometime.”

“You mean they don’t?” Sally asked.

Pilliwibble snorted. “They mean well. Well, at least Floyd does. He ‘thinks’ he sees us all the time and tries to put something every now and again…”

“Remember the stale saltines?” said Jumblekin.

“Ugh, don’t remind me. Anyway, he tries and she usually throws things out or eats them herself before we can get to them.”

“Doesn’t he notice?” she said.

“Nope. That has to be the least observant human on the planet. It’s like he knows we’re there but then he isn’t sure. He goes to all these places, reads all these books trying to learn the secret to something or another and just as he’s beginning to be sure all those things he’s read about might be real – bam – something scares him off until the next time he goes looking again.”

“That’s sad,” Sally said.

“Isn’t it though?” Jumblekin said. “My heart is going to break from lack of attention, but a kiss from a pretty girl might make it better.” He blinked large violet eyes at Sally.

“You’ll have to excuse Jumblekin. All the food is making him forget his manners,” said Pilliwibble. “Anyway, we should be going. By the way Floyd is slouching I can tell he’s either seen or heard something to discourage him again. He’ll be heading off wherever Edna wants now.”

Jumblekin said, “I hope it’s Madame Tussauds! I’ve always wanted to see that!”

“The upside to all Floyd’s searching is we get to travel a lot. We’ve stowed away on his baggage at least 17 times now,” said Pilliwibble.

After thanking Sally for the food, the two sprites flitted out behind Floyd and Edna. The manager asked her, “Did you enjoy chatting with our American guests?”

“It’s just so strange. How can someone want so much to see something yet completely look over exactly what it is they want to see?” Sally said.

“Who knows? But on the plus side I managed to sell the little fairy figurine that’s been sitting here for months.”

“The one that looks like it could have been a brother to the sprites that were just here?”

“The very one.”

This story was inspired by the picture prompt at Magpie Tales

In Filth

The auctioneer cleared his throat. His assistant scurried forward with a mug filled with rare pu-ehr tea, precisely at the temperature he requested. He was going to need the warmth now that the minor day bidding was done. The first of the featured items had generated a buzz of interest.

“My worthy guests, we are ready to begin the afternoon with the first of our featured items.” He nodded and two assistants, far burlier than the tea bearer, wheeled in a large bathtub. Several appreciative “oohs” came from the crowd. He smiled, feeling invigorated by the energy in the room.

“Lot 117, a bathtub belonging to the most infamous of dictators, Adolf Hitler. As always we have our staff confirm every item we auction, but I can see some of our more discerning guests have already determined its authenticity. Included are the original fixtures, but any specialized services – installation, plumbing – are the responsibility of the buyer. We do offer those, but at a cost in addition to the price of the item. Let us start the bidding at 500,000.”

The auctioneer hid his surprise when a dybbuk nodded to make the opening bid; it didn’t matter what the customer did with the item so long as they were able to pay. Though he imagined the sledgehammer the dybbuk had at its side would be involved.

“500,000. Do I have 550,000?”

A red cap raised his card

“550,000. Would anyone care to go to 600,000?”

 With a soft hiss, a kappa countered with 600,000 only to be countered by a succubus.

“600,000. Do I have 650,000?” When no one responded right away he went on. “I don’t need to tell you what a special item we have here. Most of us felt the residual energy still pouring from it. A human, not only capable of the sheer malice and evil of any demon present here, but with a terrible efficiency that humbles us all. 650,000 might be fine for a simple collector’s item, but think of the energy still capable of being drawn from here! A tool of intimate cleansing belonging to a human yes, but a human whose diabolical reach touched so many more. And the hatred directed at him and all things his adds even more energy. This is not a simple conversation piece but a tool you can use for your own harvesting needs. 650,000 is too little. I know our astute customers would pay 700,000 and call it a bargain. Who shall offer that?”

The bidding went fast after that, the succubus claiming the tub at an even million. She walked up to her new toy, running a well-manicured hand along its length. “Oh yes,” she said. “A million is a bargain indeed. With all the energy this will help me claim I think I shall do quite well.”

Today's story was inspired by the picture prompt at Magpie Tales


Pennsylvania Colony, 1769

Gwydion’s fingers were beginning to get cold but they weren’t numb. He didn’t mind though. There were still plenty of hours left to him, still enough time to ramble before he actually had to get his chore done and go back to his uncle’s home. A small chill wasn’t enough to make him want to go back any sooner than he had to. The fall day was sunny, but the crisp wind held the first warning of the winter to come. He wondered if the winters here were like the ones in Wales.

He picked up a stick and began batting at some milkweed stalks, setting seedlings to flight. Gwydion watched them soar and wondered if they could fly back there – to his mother’s old garden, his father’s old forge. Maybe if he sang an old song they’d know which way to fly. He hit a few more plants, until the air was so thick with seeds that he could pretend he was in a snow storm and then started to sing.

“Do you see the angels smiling
As they see your rosy rest”

From behind him, another voice joined in.

“So that you must smile an answer
As you slumber on my breast?”

A small girl sat in the branches of a rowan tree, strawberry blonde curls as wild as the milkweed fluff dancing in the wind around them. Bare feet and legs stuck out beneath her flowing green shift.

Gwydion blinked a few moments before he spoke again. “Tylwyth Teg? A faerie? Here?”

The girl beamed. “Close, but you can’t be blamed for not knowing. Half actually, and that half is Ellyllon if you want to get it really right. The other half is Manitowuk. And I like that song. It’s pretty. My gran taught it to me when I visited her last summer. I can speak three different languages so far. My father says I have a gift for it. He is good friends with Unami chief and my mother was good friends with a Welsh prince. Do you know any chiefs or princes?"

Gwydion took a moment to figure out which one of the torrent of words to respond to.  “I’ve never met royalty, Indian or Welsh. My name is Gwydion Thomas. What’s yours?”

“Cordelia,” she replied. “And you’ve just met someone better than royalty. You met me! I was just on my way to sour some milk. Do you want to come with me?”

“My mother never said Ellyllon liked to make milk sour.”

“I don’t know for sure if we do, but I saw some other fae doing it when I went visiting and it looks like fun. What did your mother say about Ellylon?” she asked.

He reached into his bag, pulled out some bread, tore it in two and held out the larger half towards Cordelia. “She told me to share if I see one.”

“Your mother is smart,” Cordelia said, grabbing at the bread. She bit off a chunk of it. “And her bread is delicious!”

Gwydion turned away from her, kicking a rock. “My aunt made the bread. My mother’s bread was much better than hers.”

“Oh,” Cordelia said. She looked around and kicked one rock, another then another until Gwydion turned to look at her.

“You can kick rocks pretty far,” she said.

Gwydion smiled, “Yes, I’m pretty good at it.” He puffed out his chest, drew back his leg dramatically and kicked a nearby rock as hard as he could.

Cordelia nodded her approval. “Come on! Let’s go!” She said, grabbing his hand. “You’ll be perfect for helping me sour some milk. There’s a place just a bit down the road from here.”

“No, not that one please. She’s my teacher and I know she’s been sick. I’ll give you the rest of my bread and my cheese if you don’t.”

“Really? Oh, all right then. Is there another place you’d rather go to?”

Gwydion handed over the bread and cheese. “How about Mr. Miller’s farm? He once told on me for climbing his apple trees.”

“Yes! Snitches should have their milk soured! Let’s go!”

When they got to Mr. Miller’s homestead Cordelia realized she didn’t remember exactly how the other Welsh fae had accomplished the trick of souring milk. Gwydion didn’t have any ideas either. The two decided to just play hide and go seek, after Cordelia promised not to use any fae glamour to cheat. They played until Gwydion saw that the sun had sunk down to brush the tree tops.

“I have to get back. I still need to pick some mushrooms up for my aunt.”

“Mushrooms! Those are my absolute favorite! I can help you find some good really ones,” Cordelia said.

“Sure I guess,” Gwydion said, walking back down the path. “But my aunt was really specific with what kind of mushrooms she wanted.”

He walked directly to the edge of a nearby woods, looking for the elm tree his aunt described. Gwydion found the patch of wrinkled, brown mushrooms and started to pick them.

“No, not those!” Cordelia said. “I can eat them of course, but they’d make you sick, probably even kill you. Here, I’ll take you to some that are really good.”

Gwydion frowned. “This is where my aunt told me to look and these are the mushrooms she told me to get. See?”

Cordelia crossed her arms. “Gwydion Thomas, are you going to believe a stinky human or a mushroom expert? Those are wrong. The cap is wrong and if you open them up they’re weird and cottony in the center.”

“Hey, I’m a stinky human! And anyway, my aunt’s going to be really mad if I bring her the wrong thing!”

“No she won’t. I know what the right thing is. They look kind of like these but are delicious and won’t kill you.” Cordelia stomped her foot. “It’s your choice. I’m telling you those are no good. If you die from them, I’ll make sure a ring of them grows on your grave just so people will know there’s where the silly boy who didn’t trust me lies.”

Gwydion looked at the patch one more time. “Alright, I’ll trust you.”

Victorious, Cordelia led Gwydion a bit deeper into the woods, near a dry creek. She pointed out a patch of mushrooms that looked similar to what his aunt had described, but the wrinkles were more like deep pits and the cap had a conical shape. He filled his bag with them and started off for home, with Cordelia skipping at his side. When they reached the saltbox house they said their goodbyes, promising to play together the next day.

Gwydion’s aunt boxed his ears as soon as she saw what he had brought him. He cried out and cowered down as she continued to rain blows upon him.

“Idiot boy! Wasn’t I very specific about which type of mushrooms I wanted you to bring me back? You’ll have no supper again tonight.”

After she was sure the boy was in his room, Mabli picked up one of the mushrooms. She cursed the boy’s uncanny luck. How did he manage to find these, especially when she had been so clear in describing the kind of mushroom she wanted? She’d have to find another way to get rid of him is all.

Mabli looked at the rest of them. These were quite beautiful morels and they would be perfect with the bit of grease left in the skillet from a meal she had cooked earlier in the day. It’d be a shame to waste it. The fire was still hot enough and the smell of the cooking food would be a good way to remind the boy of what he missed when he didn’t listen. She chopped up the mushrooms, went down to the root cellar, brought up an onion, chopped that up too and put them in the skillet.

As she ate the mushrooms she didn’t notice the small figure hiding in a busy corner of the kitchen also popping mushrooms into her mouth, with an equally satisfied smile. But Cordelia’s smile did not turn into a grimace the way Mabli’s did. Cordelia did not clutch her stomach, nor did she stagger from her sitting position, knock the plate of mushrooms to the floor and throw up nearby.

As Mabli started losing consciousness, she noticed Cordelia’s bare feet coming towards her. Cordelia crouched low, face to face with her, exaggeratedly popping one of the mushrooms Gwydion had gathered into her mouth. Mabli’s eye’s looked at the mushrooms that had spilled from the plate, noticing downy fluff in the center of a cut piece. Those were not morels. They were the ones she had taken pains to describe to the boy. As her face contorted in fear upon the realization, the faerie smiled and the words of an old lullaby were the last ones Mabli heard on this earth.

Slumber, slumber, naught can hurt you,
Nothing bring you harm or fright;
Slumber, darling, smiling sweetly
At those angels robed in white

Song Choice: Suo Gân, the lullaby used in the story. It first appeared in print decades
after the events in this story, but was a traditional lullaby before then

Image used with kind permission from the artist Vladimir Stankovic. The original print can be found in his Etsy shop, VladimirsArt.