Monster Mash Blog Hop 2016: Wicked Good

Monster Mash Blog Hop 2016: Wicked Good

-London / 1810-

 

In the aftermath of the skirmish, a slender footman ducked into a street tent the color of cow dung. He bowed and addressed the figure hunched in the stifling darkness. “My good sir-”

Beneath the unkempt hair, the twisted mouth parted. “Now there’s a name I’ve not been called.”

“Tis the one my lady gave when she bid me bring you this,” the footman said, opening his battered hand to reveal an ebony feather with a scarlet ribbon tied about the shaft.

The figure snatched the feather and retreated.

The footman peered into the gloom. “She sends a message, sir. Something wicked this way comes.”

“Then I shall be wickeder.”

“But she said you were good.”

“Depends.”

“On what?”

“The cause and the cost.”

“The cost?”

“Nothing good comes without a price. Remember that, boy.”

“What do you mean?”

“Duty. Love. Power. Sometimes we pay with silver. Sometimes with sweat. But there is always a price for achieving what we desire, what we dream of, what we long for.”

“I tried to save my lady from capture.”

“A worthy cause.”

“I fought her captors but they overcame me and now she is shackled and I am bloodied.”

“The trick, boy, is to know when to be good, when to be wicked, and when to be wicked good.”

“Then she is doomed, sir, for I am neither wicked nor good.”

“But you are strong, for you survived the beating,” said the man, grasping the footman’s wrist.

The boy flinched.

“And wise, for you carried out your lady’s instructions,” he said, using his fingernails to pierce the soft underside of the boy’s forearm.

The boy closed his eyes against the pain.

“And perceptive,” he said, dipping the tip of the feather into each of the punctures in the boy’s skin, “for here you are, hoping I am more than a charlatan.”

“She said -”

“She’s mistaken, of course. I am as wicked as doubt is unforgiving and love is unfathomable.”

“But -”

“But I gave my word long ago,” he said, removing the red ribbon from the feather and using it to tie back his hair, “and I may be many unpleasant things, boy, but I am not a man who breaks his word. What sort of man are you?”

The footman trembled but his gaze remained steady. “I do not know.”

“Let us find out.” The man yanked a piece of awning off the tent, tore it into three rectangles, and laid them on a warped bench. He spit on each piece, tapped them with the bloody shaft of the feather, and nodded to the boy.

The footman crouched and turned over the first card. It bore the red outline of a ring. The second, a heart. The third, a bird.

“The ring symbolizes fidelity. The heart, integrity. The bird, power.”

“What do they mean?”

“A weighty future awaits you if you’re willing to pay the cost.”

“I’ll pay whatever is necessary to aid my lady.”

For the first time, the man smiled. “As did I.”

“I don’t understand.”

“Duty. Love. Power. There’s always a price. The trick, boy, is in knowing how to negotiate the payment.”

“My lady is in peril.”

“My future was forfeit the moment I lay eyes on your lady and I’ve been paying for it ever since.”

The footman tossed the cards into the air. “You are wasting precious time with these riddles.”

“What I am doing,” said the man, waving his hand and turning the cards into feathers, “is making myself known to you. I paid in advance for the vengeance I’m about to unleash. Fifteen years I’ve lived on the street, cold and hungry, existing without using my power. How will you pay for yours?”

The feathers settled on the footman’s shoulders and when he spoke, it was with a new voice. “I haven’t the time to be cautious or patient. I’ll pay here and now with my blood and bones.”

“Well spoken.”

The outlook is grim.”

“Then we shall be grimmer.”

“The enemy are many.”

“Then we shall be more,” said the man, throwing back his head and uttering a caw.

The tent filled with feathers, the feathers became birds, and the tent, the man, and the footman were absorbed into the flock of malevolent crows.

As the flock descended on the harbor, a crow with a red ribbon tied to one talon turned to the slender crow beside him and screeched, “Are you ready to be wicked, boy?”

“Wicked good,” the young crow shrieked, landing on the skull of an enemy warrior and plucking out his eyeballs.