Oh the joys of the midwinter hiring fair. I banged my feet for what seemed to be the hundredth time and tried not to breathe on my hands. I was trying to give a good impression for my prospective employers. The man nodded as he leafed through my references. They were good I knew they were; right from the time I was a scullery maid in the late Duke Cantor’s household.
I had reached the top of the tree in my profession I was a housekeeper; though I could do every job up from scullery maid if I had to, even turn my hand to being a lady’s maid. I had the last few years specialised in being housekeeper to a number of Dowager’s, ruling over small households of two maids at most and a groom/butler. It suited me down to the ground.
The death of my last Dowager had left me in somewhat of a pickle to say the least. Her son had turned all her staff out without notice and tearing up her will, or rather producing a later one. After all I had done for him and his mother over the years I was annoyed to say the least. I was not without funds, then. That was four months ago. And being rather picky about my employers I had not yet found one suitable or rather they had not found me suitable. I have a slight handicap you see. It was the same handicap that had been so helpful to his Worship Squire Fulmaston and his late mother.
So here I was at the hiring fair, seeking employment like I did when I was just a girl. The man sighed and peered at me; his wife did the same and gave a small shriek.
“Your eyes….” She almost whimpered.
“Yes,” I said, “this one is green I pointed to the left and this one brown I pointed to the right…” It was blown; the young couple would not hire me now.
“I had though there had been a mistake on the dates of a couple of your references, but” The man huffed. You thought I had faked them, I thought.
“They are correct.” I answered
“I see.” The man replied and pushed the papers back into my hands and almost stumbled as his wife pulled him away.
“Gods, did he think I would dance naked in the moonlight and fry up his offspring.” I muttered under my breath.
“Most likely hoping the first and wanting the second, obnoxious brats you are best out of there.” A voice said. I frowned and looked for the owner of the voice as it added. “Let’s have a look at them there references?” I looked down and there was a man who barely topped two foot.
“Errr here, but I am…” I felt I was somewhat too large at five foot 6 inches to be housekeeper to one of the mountain folk.
“Hiring for me boss, he needs a decent woman round the place, place is a blooming mess, you will have to do anything and, bend down.” He said.
“Pardon?” I said sharply.
“Want to see the eyes.”
“Oh,” That’s it I thought inching my thick cloak tighter as I bent down, wouldn’t do for it to fall open. I had a habit of overflowing my bodice and I was wearing my best one, which was a bit on the tight side.
“Got the blood in you?” He asked squinting at first my left then the right.
“Yes…” I answered.
“Good, you is hired.”
October 31st, 2003, 03:20 PM
It’s pitch black. I’m coming down the spiral staircase ‘cause that’s the only one that climbs to the windmills and I’ve been trying to sort the mess of things we’ve made. You’ll say I’m too familiar, can’t see the forest, need to be able to find some point of objectivity and all I can reply is that I’m navigating these stairs pretty damn well. Remember? I said it was pitch black.
Of course, as a cat, you probably expect me to do that sort of thing. Even more so when you realize I’m a familiar figure in the castle. Literally.
Tonight I’m a cat but I can be pretty familiar as a dog or a fly (don’t care for that role; reduced mental capacity you know) or a gorilla. Nothing to get excited about, a familiar must have a chameleon personality, be able to blend into the background, let the wizard take the spotlight. Tonight, I’m a black cat. All anyone can see descending the stairs are the whites of my eyes. Hope they don’t feel obligated to shoot. The little guy should be back soon bringing another housekeeper. Probably won’t be telling this new one the place is more a zoo than a house. Whichever description finds its way to aptness, the place needs a keeper. That’s for certain. Hope this next one has a sense of humor equal to her sense of scheduling. Housekeeping is scheduling, that’s all. Everything done at the proper time. Do it too soon; you must do it over. Do it too late it becomes more work than it should and throws everything else off schedule.
Prime example. Lack of housekeeper these last few days means no one has been feeding the familiar. Fixing my own dinner is not what I get paid for.
Wait a minute. Do I get paid?
Okay, wrong metaphor. Fixing my own food is not why they keep me around here. That’s better. Sounds accurate as well.
Arriving at the first floor above the six basements, I can hear the dwarf and the new victim…er, the new housekeeper coming up the walk chatting over how many wizards live in the tower – depends on when and what part of the tower you’re in -, what exactly are her duties with respect to each – try to civilize their behavior – and will she require magical assistance?
She can learn the answer to that one on her own.
Entering the great door, the dwarf calls for light, gets six candles powered for his effort. Woman can now measure her surroundings. I wait till her eyes get around to sorting me from the background then change into a gryphon, eighteen feet high, two foot beak, enormous talons scratching like chalk across the floor..
Okay, maybe she’ll do after all. Back to cat size and ask in a normally huffy voice when I can expect to be fed?
October 31st, 2003, 04:25 PM
The dwarf was not very forthcoming to my questions.
"Wizards," I asked, "How many, sex, age, bad habits, tempers?"
The answer I got was "Number; depends on when and what part of the tower you’re in. Sex: yes errrr both, one, depends. Age; don't ask. Bad habits; they are Wizards. Tempers; short, long, bad good take your pick..."
"Hmmm... " I replied as we entered the coal black base of the tower. "What are my duties to each?"
"Try to civilize their behavior " The dwarf muttered. I blinked, who was he kidding I wasn't a nursemaid.
I drew breath as he called for lights and six candles burst into flame and hover around his head, then I ask. "will I require magical assistance. " I would rather do things myself in my own way, but I better ask I thought, don't want to upset anyone. The Dwarf doesn't answer he is looking at the gryphon filling the cavernous hall. Only it is rather fuzzy round the edges, bad illusion, something or someone hasn't been fed of late. I give a small giggle.
My thoughts are confirmed, the gryphon vanishes and in it's place is a black cat asking shortly about its food.
"Don't know, but if you like sausage rolls." I pull out the one I had bought for my lunch at the market and offer it to the 'cat' "This will tide you over still I see what sort of mess the kitchen is in."
"It's not in a mess," the Dwarf snaps, "Well not much of a one."
The cat snorts.
"lead on Macduff.." I say..
"Name's Burt, not Macduff, "The dwarf huffs as we take the fourth door on the right and enter the hell that once was a kitchen.
November 2nd, 2003, 09:42 AM
Thirty-seven hours trying to pass from one dimension to another. Thirty-seven hours! The Book of Zed says it should take no more than 24 on the first attempt. What does that say about me? That I’m stupid? Incompetent? A woman?
Doesn’t say any of those things. Says that I missed something in the instructions and was too hard headed to go back and look; that’s what it says. My stubbornness is going to be death of me someday.
Oh, ho, what’s this? A new person in the household rummaging around the kitchen as if she owns the place. Feeding sausage to Kyote will spoil that one for certain. Who needs a spoiled familiar getting more familiar than usual?
The dwarf is with her so I can’t do my usual number. Let’s see. Hmmmm. This ought to work.
Wow! Look at those mismatched eyes eyeing me up and down. What’s the matter missy, never looked into a mirror before?
“Which one is this?” she asks the dwarf, as if he could tell.
“That’s Spider Woman. She’s actually somewhere in her low one hundreds and not bad looking when she’s acting normal. Probably thinks this is a good joke or a decent test or some other stupid wizardly thing.” I am going to have to talk to the dwarf. I may be the youngest around here but I still deserve some respect.
New person is puzzled: “A female wizard? Wouldn’t she be a witch?”
“Yes, she is,” the dwarf says smiling his evil little grin at me, “but that’s just her personality. Trade-wise, she’s a wizard.”
“Several years as a rock biter would do you no harm and might prove to be an invaluable education for you, squirt.”
“Ah, yes, it might,” the dwarf agrees. “However, according to the by-laws of this place you need a quorum present to make such a decision. I only observe you at the moment.”
“Some day, dwarf, I’ll summon a quorum.”
“Someday, Spider, I’ll deserve that quorum.”
No point trading nonsense with the little guy. It’s wasted effort. Maybe herself will be more fun.
“You act as if you’ve seriously considered entering our employment. Do you do nails?”
November 2nd, 2003, 12:42 PM
"Nails as in iron, for hob boot's hammering into wood and other things, no. Nails as in finger and toe nails, trimming broken ones, in-growing ones and long ones, no. Nails as in repairing the damage done by finger or toe nails, no... Your nails iron or otherwise are your responsibility. I am a house keeper and I intend to keep house." I replied to the elegant black spider hanging from a strand above my head. "And I would hope that in future you will clean your web up after you."
I took a poker from by the fire and twirled it in the first of the webs hanging from the ceiling, walls and other places once it had a good momentum going I let it go, it ripped round the room, spinning at a great rate of knots, gathering all the loose webs up. The Spider cut her thread and dropped to the floor, becoming, just an as elegant woman as she was spider. She huffed and sat on a stool by the cold fire.
"How are you doing that?" The dwarf asked, though he knew of course I had mismatched eyes.
"Now..." I said taking off my coat and putting down my bag from which I removed my large white apron. "To work"
Both Dwarf and Spider scuttled towards the steps out of the kitchen. The Familiar however, settled on the hearth and cleaned the pastry crumbs from the sausage roll off his fur.
Fire first I thought, and went to the large black range, looking up the chimney. "Bats, birds and any creature in that form or any form for that matter hiding up here for what every reason, you have three minutes to remove yourself before the cleaning there of and the lighting of a new fire."
I took out of my bag a small handful of white-headed dandelions and blew them up the chimney they spun and swept, taking the soot out into the afternoon sky with them. Now for the ashes. I went to the small water pump and pumped, the device gurgled, spat and heaved up just enough water for the job. That will have to be fixed I thought and looked at the familiar, saying “You like fresh water?”
“Of course….” He replied…
“Then get familiar with the workings of that pump.” I said. The dwarf laughed and I shot him a look with my mismatched eyes. “You sir can get some practice in with your axe. I need some fire wood.” The dwarf jumped and Spider slapped her thigh with amusement. “As for you, can you spin me a bag big enough to catch the ashes when they rise?” She looked at me and the look was enough. I had challenged her skill the net began to take shape, so I poured the water on the ashes. Blowing hard as I did. The ash rose, hit the water became solid and fell into the net.
I took the ends of the net and tied up the ashes and removed them outside, just as the dwarf came back with a goodly pile of logs.
Next I need a fire, or rather.... there in the corner of my eye I saw what I needed, a two inch dragon
November 3rd, 2003, 08:44 AM
When you are a miserable two inches its very difficult to be upbeat about your lot as a dragon. Sure, you can start fires but so what? No one will know it was you who started it.
A normal size dragon, say fifty feet or so, they know he’s been around starting fires. Can’t miss the bastard. Me? Like a gnat or mosquito, can buzz around all I want and folk will just brush me away like a common firefly.
Someday, I’m going to be a 50-foot monster. Someday I’m going to sneak into old Wood Burner’s lab and find the potion or the spell he used on me. Someday, but not today.
At my size flying around takes an awful lot of energy, like a hummingbird. If I want to flit about then I must commit myself to eating constantly. When I eat constantly, I get indigestion expelling gas from both ends. The problem is when I expel gas, it flames. Gives me a sore throat and a sore sphincter.
So, here she comes with that look in her eye. She’s going to pour something down my throat, make me belch, just to start her damned fire. If I was 50 foot she wouldn’t even be thinking about it.
You just wait. Someday I’m going to be 50 feet and payback, as they say, is a bitch. Well, I’m already a bitch but it hasn’t done me much good. But, my day will come.
November 3rd, 2003, 02:36 PM
I watched the two inch dragon flit about. It did not look very happy. Totally out of its environment, these wizards I sighed. I noticed a small tinder box on the shelf above the range it was some four inches long and three wide and some one and a half deep. It was ideal.
I pulled out the remains of the lint and flint and rooted again in my bag pulling out my purse. I carefully placed a number of gold and silver coins on the bottom of the box and held it up to the dragon. “Here a nice place for you to rest, I will place it above the range so the warmth of the fire will warm the gold for you. I don’t ask a lot, merely that you help me light this fire and after that, if it goes out assist me again. You can rest and bathe in the heat on your gold in between meals just like you should.”
The dragon cocked an eye at me and breathed hard on the wood in the firebox of the range, then settled down on the coins, rubbing its scales and sighing.
“Well I never..” The Dwarf muttered,
“No you didn’t did you?” I answer as I put the box down and wandered over to see how the familiar is doing with the water, I wanted some to put to heat. The flow from the pump had become a bit clearer and powerful. “Good, but if you want tea… “I say. The water gushed, a pure stream into the sink. I smiled and filled a large pan, setting it to boil.
I ignored my audience as I went into high gear, becoming a blur sweeping and scrubbing floors, tables, washing down everything that stood still including Spider, who screamed and scuttled off out of the kitchen.
I gave the kitchen table a final wipe and set the kettle to boil. “Right, a cup of my tea don’t you think before I brave your pantry…”
November 3rd, 2003, 03:39 PM
Arrh, listen at that Burt talking to her nibs, telling her to be all kind of careful in the pantry, as if I would harm the little biddy. Some castles come equipped with your moat monsters; this tower has the Pantry Poltergeist, the cupboard cutup, the storage stork. There’s a kind of valuables hidden away in this old pantry and the wizards don’t want everybody and their brothers and sisters and aunts and cousins rumbling around lest they stumble on it. Fact is, it was me that rid of us the last three housekeepers.
Those poor women worked themselves into such a state just to come through the door their hearts were overworked before the fingers touched the latch. Sure they needed vegetables and spices to fix the dinners the wizards demand. Certainly the wine library hangs on the back wall. Of course there’s a few tins of tea and tobacco and tenderizer. Indeed, preparing a dinner demands entry into the pantry.
I never hurt those women. I want that clear up front. Dropping jello on their heads did not hurt them; it was the banging of the heads afterwards as they tried to leap through the wall that hurt them. Blowing down the back of their necks did not hurt them; the reaching around to brush my breath away all the while twirling like this is a grand ballroom or something, banging off shelves and walls that hurt them. If they had just put up with my practical humorous warnings; they’d have been okay. Certainly the dwarf warned them as well but did they listen? Are they here? Then they didn’t listen.
She’s finishing her tea now. Best get myself ready.
November 4th, 2003, 06:27 AM
I listen to Bert talk about the pantry... interesting. I pick up the coal shovel.
"Ok," I say as I enter the darkened long windowless room. "Give it your best shot, but a word of warning I am going to tidy the shelves and get a lantern fixed in here. You got nowt in there I haven't seen before and even used. Take a good look at my eyes and you will see I spent my years as a toddler playing on the floor of such a kitchen."
A smoked ham sailed out, I swung the shovel, neatly clipping it and sending it spinning over Bert's head and landing neatly on the scrubbed kitchen table.
A torrent of root vegatables followed, left serve , right back hand, each was hit into touch on the table rolling up against the ham.
"Ok, that's dinner sorted, your aim is off by the way..." I laugh and reach for a lanten by the side of the pantry. "Dear dragon would you be so kind?" The little beastie flittered my way and blew on the lamp, blasting the oil into flame. "Thank you... " I said adding to Bert, "You got a dustbin, I want to get rid of the rubbish."
"Rubbish!" A voice bellowed from inside the pantry.
"Yes, Rubbish, this is a pantry isn't it... got to be old, out of date and stale stuff lurking in every corner." I position the bin by the enterence. "Don't you realise it's the reason for your bad manners, you are posioning your system living among that stuff..
"Errrr...." came an answer followed by a large sneeze....
"bless you... "I walked into the pantry and hung up the lantern. I felt a gust of air begin and ducked, letting the air blow the half rancid butter off the shelf and into the bin. I shifted down leaning to the side as a pile of mouldy dried fruit buzzed past like a swarm of bees, using the shovel to deflect them into the bin.
"We are going good" I laughed and continued until I reached the back of the pantry and stand looking at the large expanse of wine racks.
"The '45, " I ask the panting form by my side.
"Actually the high mountain '62 would be better with the smoked ham." The voice hissed.
"Hmmmm... thank you. how many bottles?"
"Take four, you are going to decant it and let it stand aren't you."
"Would you like to do that, you seem an expert.." I reply.
"Certainly..." Four bottles floated out of the rack towards a row of cut glass decanters....
November 4th, 2003, 07:21 AM
Sentience in a stove is not something ordinarily sought after but this is a wizards’ tower, you know. The Alchemist likes precise control of temperature when he is running his experiments so he infused some basic decision making skills into my iron. He tells me he wants 500 degrees C; he gets 500 degrees Celsius not 499.5 or 500.2 but 500 precisely. That’s on the inside. On the outside I keep my skin at a comfortable 120 C at all times.
When the Alchemist is working, the cooks must use the fire place for their cooking, the great kettles and the spit, the grill and the griddle handling all their heat transfer problems. Not as well as I could, of course, but well enough for the average cook. In fact, they get used to the fire place and forget I’m around.
Kind of hurts my feelings, though. The Alchemist has been on vacation the last 83 years so I sit here trying to keep myself amused. One day I sucked in all the ambient heat in the kitchen, turn the place into an ice box. When the cook went looking for what was wrong, she passed in front of me, I dropped the oven doors and that blast of hot air turned her hair so frizzly it looked like sheep skin.
Another time, a cook was in the midst of preparing her meal, running behind schedule - the wizards want their dinner on the table at precisely 6 o’clock - got flustered and left the pot of vegetables on me while she was working on the porridge. I pulled all the heat out of that pot, left her with cold, mushy gunk for vegetables that she had to throw out. She never did understand what had happened but figured it was one of the wizards playing games and stormed out of the tower. Haven’t seen her since.
So, this new one thinks she has things under control. Let’s see where she thinks she’ll be cooking and then it will be time to experiment.