On the Eighth Day of Christmas my Crazy Muse sent to me…

Welcome back to the twelve days of Christmas, fantasy style. So far, we’ve had a god with a secret, two changeling cats, three fearless hunters, four lightning birds, five gold rings, six members of the Battalion, and seven of the Elite. If you’re just joining the story, a small estate within the mortal realm has collapsed. All twelve days relate to the rescue effort.

On the Eighth Day of Christmas my Crazy Muse sent to me…Eight greedy goblins.

Maddison stepped through the portal, and emerged on the other side at the foot of Durin Mountain – home to the dwarves.

She usually avoided their domain. They were a little sensitive – something about her lack of respect. Whatever. So she’d made a mistake and destroyed a priceless weapon. It was time to move on.

Right now, she was on a mission, a mission that included a visit to one of the most manipulative creatures she knew – Levi Levingsworth. He’d made his home at the outer edges of the mountain, the crafty goblin having made a deal for the privilege.

She was about to make a deal, and though not exactly the devil, Levi could be a sneaky son of a bitch. He ran a trading centre of sorts, and gathered merchandise from across the Enchanted realm to entice customers into his lair.

Maddison entered the treasure trove of trickery, senses on full alert for the little minefields she knew were awaiting her. Levi’s kids.

She felt the subtle shift in the air at her back, and almost smiled. The mini manipulators were trying to sneak up on her.

Glancing around the store, at the explosion of colours that dazzled the eye, she waited for the attack. Her hair shot out, winding around a small ankle and securing tight. Then her braid lifted the bundle up into the air, presenting Maddison with a wriggling goblin who was laughing so hard she felt the vibration all the way to her roots.

“Romi,” she said, eyes twinkling. “You almost had me that time.”

His eyes widened, probably because she knew which little terror she held in her grip. Romi was one of three, and each of Levi’s boys were identical. The girls, too. Levi had two sets of triplets.

She didn’t have to wonder where the others were hiding for long. The brood sprang out of their hiding places and charged, their small bodies crashing into hers in a tangle of limbs.

Maddison laughed, and spent a few minutes listening to their excited chatter. They were sweet, and charming. At least on the surface. It was, like the interior of the store, an illusion.

“That’s enough,” Levi said, stepping into view. “I can take it from here.”

The children scarpered. All except Romi, who was still suspended in the air by his ankle. Facing his father, Maddison hid her smile when the boy began to giggle.

“You have something in your hair,” Levi said, playing along.

“I do?” She twirled as her hair unravelled from Romi’s ankle and caught him as he fell. “Well, would you look at that.”

Romi continued to wriggle, brown eyes shining, until she put him down. He darted a glance at his father and then followed after his siblings. Maddison heard the soft lyrical sound of his mother’s voice somewhere close, but Pearl didn’t reveal herself.

“What brings you to our humble store?” Levi asked.

She turned to see the sly grin on his face. It was the only thing that gave away the nature of his beast. His appearance was deceptively benign. With his mousy coloured hair, and soft brown eyes, he could have passed for human.

Maddison didn’t have time to play his games, so she got straight to the point. “I’m here to purchase your particular brand of concealment magic.” She refrained from calling it pixie dust, because she knew how much it pissed him off. Besides, the powder came from another branch of the fay family.

Levi plucked a sturdy green bottle from a shelf, a shelf that hadn’t been there moments ago. No, that wasn’t accurate. It had been there, she just couldn’t see it.

“And what are you willing to pay for this precious gift?”

She fought the urge to roll her eyes. Why couldn’t they barter in cold hard cash like the rest of the sharks who ripped people off for a living. Cynical much? “Why don’t you tell me the price, and I’ll tell you if I’m willing to pay it.”

Levi pretended to consider, though she knew he had been turning over the options in his head the second she stepped in. “For this,” he held up the bottle. “I would need a quarter of dorlac.”

That was it? He wanted a few ounces of the prickly plant that grew on the outer edges of Firmani. Sure, it was dangerous. She’d have to battle a tribe of Lechens to get to it. But that’s what she had Riley for – the wolf ate danger for breakfast.

Holding back the smile, because Levi might be manipulative, but he didn’t know her at all, Maddison took the bottle. “Deal. But you wait until after my current mission, and a quarter is all you’ll get. Nothing more.”

He nodded, and it was just a little too eager. Something more was going on here, and she knew she’d stepped into the middle of it. But she didn’t have time to dig right now. She would find out what kind of deal she’d made soon enough.

Thanks for stopping by.

Mel

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