"Your grace, if I may?" She asked.
"You may stop talking. Or, I shall arrest you for obstructing an official investigation."
Visions of shoving the snuffleator's snout where the sun doesn't shine filled Agatha's mind. This man needed to go.
"Of course, your grace. I just thought I could save you some time by taking you my work room. Wouldn't be very bright of me to just leave stuff laying around out here, now would it?"
Again he regarded her for a moment. The goggles magnified his half-closed eyes, making them look like the drowsiest saucers she had ever seen.
"Lead the way," he said.
"Of course, your grace. Just let me grab the key. Can't have just anyone wandering into the workshop," said Agatha. She bounded over to wooden crate that served as a the sales counter. An ornate cash register with swirling brass inlays sat at none end. A few keystrokes and it opened with a bright chime. She removed a heavy iron key and told the inquisitor to follow her.
Agatha led him down a flight of stairs behind the sales counter. She turned the key and the lock opened with a hollow clunk.
"Here you are, your grace. The light switch is just to the left as you step inside." The door wailed like a wounded cat as she pushed it open. He nodded, the snout flailing ridiculously as he did, and she watched him fixedly as he stepped past.
Three lights popped to life revealing a heavy wooden table with a small, steam powered sewing machine at one end, and various measuring and cutting tools occupied the rest of the space. Several bolts of colorful cloth filled a shelf along the back wall. Half made hats hung from racks along the side walls and scraps littered the floor.
Again the inquisitor began walking and turning his head, sniffing and snuffling with each step.
"What is that?" He asked, pointing toward an open cabinet beneath one of the hat racks. Vials of liquid covering nearly every color imaginable filled the shelves.
"That's where I keep my dyes, of course," she said, stepping into the room and closing the door behind her.
"Why are there so many?"
"Because I like to have options! More options creates more room for creativity." She smiled and spread her arms wide before her.
He fumbled through the jars in the cabinet and Agatha winced.
"Please, do be careful. Some of those are quite expensive," she said. While he was busy, she shot a nervous glance toward the cloth filled shelf.
"Odd names for colors. Newt. Frog's breath. Unicorn tears. What are you really up to?" He turned to look over his shoulder and glared at her.
"I've already told you, your grace. I make hats. What's your nose telling you?"
The inquisitor sniffed long and loud right in front of the cabinet.
"Nothing," he said.
"See?" she said, and crossed her arms.
The man growled to himself and moved along the wall. Each step took him closer to the cabinet of cloth and Agatha felt tension begin to squeeze her chest, slowly and deliberately, like a python wearing down it's prey. It sent a thrill up her spine.
For nearly a full minute the inquisitor stared at the cabinet, almost willing for something out of place to appear before him. When nothing did, he began emptying it, sniffing fiercely as he did. Felts and wools flew over his shoulders as he simply batted bolts out of the way.
"You are going to pick that up when you're finished, yes?" She asked.
The man didn't answer.
Agatha's lips curled into a smirk and she stepped over to knee-high, tin box beside the workshop door. Kneeling down, she released a latch and gently opened the front.
"Rise and shine," she whispered into the box.
Grumbling a bit louder, the inquisitor stepped back from the cabinet. He started to go back to the dye cabinet but the hollow clunk of the lock snapped him out of his frustration. He turned around in time to see a little copper automaton climb on top of the sewing table. It's body was little more than a cylinder and the limbs were skeletal. The face, however, had been made to look like a little man with a monocle and his lips pursed like he was whistling.
"What is this?" Asked the inquisitor.
The little copper man replied with low pitched whistle and the inquisitor stumbled to the floor, a dart sticking from his neck.
Agatha moved to the table and picked the automaton up.
"Perfect answer as always, my friend. Now, back to your box," she said putting the machine back on the ground. Its little feet clanked sharply against the floor as it ran across the room.
Standing over the unconscious inquisitor, Agatha crossed her arms triumphantly. She had finally done it; she he had beaten the odorous snuffleator. No small feat, and one that would certainly make her side work as a witch much easier. She pushed the cloth cabinet to the side, revealing a loose stone in the wall. Sliding it out of place, she reached in and pulled out a small, hinged box. She flipped open the lid, revealing a dark, finely ground powder. Smiling, she inhaled the earthy aroma. The secret ingredient she put in every batch of Ecrivain's Special she brewed.
Looking down at the inquisitor, Agatha said, "If it makes you feel any better, you're not the first. Though, I do expect you'll be the last."
She put the coffee back in it's hiding place.
"Now, let's fix that memory of yours," said Agatha, and she began tracing runes on the inquisitor's forehead. Her fingertip glowed and a light steam drifted from the man's ears. She molded his memories so that he would remember finding nothing but high quality merchandise at very reasonable prices. For good measure she planted a couple of new bad memories in his mind as payback for his rudeness. When he woke up she would tell him he hit his head and send him on his way. In the meantime, she had hats to sell.
After all, Agatha wasn't a witch. Mostly.
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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...