Of Witches and Toadies
Agatha wasn't a witch. Mostly. Sure, she did some minor divination on the weekends-- never on the Sabbath, of course-- and she sold the occasional Ecrivain's Special during the week. But that wasn't witching. Not really.
Being a proper witch was more than just a job— it was a lifestyle. She did rather enjoy the art of Special brewing, but she had no interest in joining a coven, or owning a familiar. And while she was mostly certain that making a pact with devil was just a rumor to frighten folk, she lacked a strong desire to find out for sure.
So it was with no small amount of surprise that she answered the knocking at the door of her hat shop to find a deputy inquisitor from the Church of the Almighty Toad King.
"Can I help you, your grace?" she asked, her voice innocent and saccharine.
The man looked at heavy-lidded and half closed eyes.His mouth drooped and the corners and pulled is already saggy cheeks down that much more. Never before had Agatha seen a Toady more physically resembling the name.
"Yes," he said, the word coming out almost as a sigh. He stepped forward bumping the door, and Agatha, out of his way.
Agatha didn't quite fall, thanks in part to a nearby display of bowlers, but she took a moment to collect herself lest her mouth get her hauled off for blaspheming a church official. This one certainly did not get the job because of his personality.
"I'm sorry, your grace, but I'm not open for another hour yet. Still have some tidying up to do," she said, glancing at the hats scattered all over the floor from breaking her fall.
The man didn't say anything but looked around the room with indifference. He shrugged a leather sack off his shoulder and sat it on the floor. Languidly, he reached in with both hands he fumbled around with the contents.
Anger, like a newborn baby exiting the womb, began to kick and scream within Agatha. It was bad enough that he had barged in the way that he had. Now he was ignoring her completely. And she still didn't even know why he was there.
"I'm trying to be polite, your grace, but unless you're going to tell me what exactly it is you're doing here, I'm going to need you to kindly bug—" The words stuck in her throat as soon as he removed the object from the bag.
"I take it from your reaction that you know what this is?" The inquisitor lifted the odorous snuffleator to his face and strapped on a pair of thick goggles attached to a leather mask with an elongated snout. A small, brass box covered in tiny crystal flecks rested on each cheek.
Agatha nodded, "I do. What I don't understand is why you have it in my shop."
He flicked a switch on one of the brass boxes. Fans whirred to life and the snout lifted and curled into a loose "S" shape. The crystal flecks began to shine, undulating through the colors of the rainbow.
"I have it on good authority that you are in possession of certain caffeine containing agents." Agatha doubted he could have sounded more bored if he tried.
"Sir, this is hat shop. There is nothing illegal about hats. The worst thing you'll find here is mercury and that'll make you mad as a hatter if you're not careful. Which I always am, of course." She opened her eyes as wide as she could and a toothy grin.
He regarded her for a moment before a single word shuffled from his mouth. "Indeed."
Turning from her he moved toward the back of the shop. With each step he turned his head slowly from side to side. Loud sniffing, interrupted by an occasional snort, came from the snuffleator. Agatha wasn't quite sure if the machine itself made the noises or if it was amplifying the inquisitor.
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Lords & Ladies of the M'Verse: An Ooorah AnthologyScience Fiction
Each of the 100 stories featured herein will be set within a Universe of the writer's creation, all being a part of a larger, shared Multiverse. Writers have free reign to tell the story they wanna' tell and providing...