(c) Nin Harris 2009
Every now and then, some of the braver or naughtier children from Mykologosia break into the grounds of Domus Exsulis. Their city-state was set up, after all, in defiance of The Guardian’s rule. Now, with her retirement and with one of their own as the Caretaker of Yrejveree, how could they not be even more tempted? Not all the lamias in bedchambers, nor the bogles playing cricket on the lawn or the fighting djinn could keep them away. Not the threat of a wild wolf, somewhere in the rose garden or a histrionic Lady who claimed to have once been a Princess. Not all the towering lavender Mishgalens in the world could keep them away. Particularly not the main, towering lavender Mishgalen who roamed the grounds, looking for intruders. He was rather fond of children, if truth be told, and always felt rather hurt when they ran, screaming away from him. Not the tykes and ruffians of the city-state, however. They knew he was an easy mark, knew he would have access to sweets and all manner of treats in the kitchens of the sprawling Manse.
Watch them now as they come tumbling into my kitchen. Watch him sheepishly grin at me as I frown. We’ve been through this several times over the past decade or so. Nothing has changed, really. We may have a new boss, but children will still think of this as the Forbidden Manse. They will still see it as a challenge. They will trip through the polished wooden floors of the main hallway, ooh and aah over the woodcarvings and the shimmer of light reflected off expensive lanterns. They may gape and giggle at some of the paintings. And then, inevitably, the Mishgalen will lead them here, where the smell of spices and baking bread can melt the heart of even the most recalcitrant wizard. And there are sweets of course. Not even the Guardian could have stopped this if she wanted to, but she wouldn’t have. She would have been in the kitchen, and they would not have even known she was there. She would have rolled up her sleeves, made a batch of cookies, another batch of butterscotch, and yet another of coconut candy. Pity she’s dead now, isn’t it?
Or is she, really? Perhaps she’s one of the kitchen helpers over there, perhaps she’s making lamingtons right now as she pretends to glare at the children. Who can tell? Not I! I may have the run of these kitchens, as is befitting a Chief Kitchen Witch, but I can scarcely tell which being wanders in and which wanders out of them. Too many ghosts. Too many sprites. Too many memories of Kitchens past. Only a Witch could work in such conditions. And even I have my moments. I tell the Caretaker he doesn’t pay me enough, and he laughs. I threaten to leave, and he laughs. The next day a cask of some expensive and hard-to-get herb or condiment will magically appear outside my bedroom door. And I am convinced to work for yet another month. But this may yet change. My sweetheart returns from Ferahia next month and he tells me of a new situation vacant there. They are rebuilding the old city which was claimed by the waves. And I’d like to get away from Yrejveree, if truth be told. Things aren’t the same on the Isle anymore. Not with the Guardian gone and the Wild Hunt running unchecked. Not with maddened dragons in the sky, daily roaring with anger because their Queen has disappeared into the woods of Nemorosum Somnium.
No, this is not a good time to be on this Isle.