Following is the third in a series of cuttings from my short stories book,Tales of the TREVEL.

Contagen -part 1    {4 years later}

In her private chambers the newly advanced Oracle of Atlantis curled deep into the feathers of her luxurious bed.  She was dreaming.  Her body twitched gently and a smile began to curl about her lips.  This was not the violent dreams she’d had of late so her private Aids relaxed slightly with hope that for once she would have good news when she awoke.

Many levels lower around the winding roadways of the Great White Circle City of Atlantis in Underland Trevel, and chucked into the dirty wall on the lowest level, was a house of ill-repute.  Mama Gwellard ran a hostel for the sale of all things in human trafficking.  Such operations were obviously illegal, but as the home was located in one of the five lowest levels of the outer rings, legality was somewhat flexible in accordance with whomever held the office of Mayor, and as the current Mayor had a taste for youth, Mama Gwellard flaunted her wares in the sunlight.

The Madam was a rickety red-headed woman whose only weakness was the flavourful aroma of a sweet leaf.  This morning she was brushing the hair of her latest acquisition on the doorstep, awaiting the appearance of the local Tobacconist.

Her nose twitched in the breeze.  Breathing deep, her eyes lifted toward the archway joining the walls of the city roadway where a wisp of smoke floated along the topside of the arch and slid down the rough steps hewn in the rocky wall. From the shadow of this lowest of levels, among the dark muck of refuse, used bodies, and loss of energy, Fhell seeped out of the sweet smoke that constantly lingered about him.

“Fhell!” Mama Gwellard croaked in delight.

The tobacconist touched his hat in mild acknowledgement,

“Ma’am, I see you have some new spoils.”

Mama Gwellard grinned in toothless pride and spun the little girl around in front of him to tempted his interests, she coaxed,

“This watery one is especially fresh, straight from the country.”

Fhell hid his revolt with a customary sneer of disdain,

“Can’t be more than 10 years that one?”

“Ooh, you have a good eye, Fhell, my dear.” Mama crooned, “She’s just nine and three-quartes this last week.”

Fhell growled quietly.  He lifted his leather hat and scratched his sweaty sideburns,

“How much?”

The little girl began crying beneath the scraggly strands of brunette hair.  Fhell ignored her.

“Stop the water works, spout.”  Mama shook the skinny thing. Then standing to deal, she put her game face on and suggested, “how about you let me have a couple cigarillos of this season’s leaf and you can have her for the whole day.”

Fhell replaced his hat and leaned slightly forward, towering over the red-headed hag,

“How about I allow you to continue purchasing every season’s leaf for the rest of the year, and you give me the girl for keeps.”

Mama Gwellard cackled at the jest, until she realized just how serious the man was.

“You can’t be real?”  She gasped in horror.

Fhell placed his hand firmly on the shoulder of the little spout still flushing her face with effervescent tears and warned the crinkled old lady,

“If you ever want to taste my leaf again, you’ll forget this little one exists.”

Mama Gwellard backed down immediately as she knew that this talented Plant Energist had a hidden energy that boiled quietly behind the smooth, smoky exterior.  She had already met the burning Fire Energist that seared within once before, and didn’t care to fan that flame again.

With a final glare, Fhell turned and steered the tiny form of shivering tears through the street, up the archway steps, across the top of the roadway and into the gate that cornered off his private garden at the back of his second level street shop.

Little spout sniffled as her fear subsided slightly.  The garden smelled so sweet.  There were all sorts of big leafy plants in rows of thick lush soil and along the edge, a waterwheel churned clear droplets into a little pond that leaked a slippery creek meandering around the fenced in walls.

Spout wiped her face with a dirty lace sleeve and chanced a peek at the rough man who still guided her into the back door of a low thatched kitchen.  He moved his eyeballs down to meet hers and raised an eyebrow.  She couldn’t tell if he was being comical or terrifying.  A smile twitched her lips and he snorted in a,

“Humphff.”

He picked her up and deposited her on the kitchen table.  A plate of cheese and grapes was dumped on her knees and a glass of thick red juice steamed chilly from the coldsafe by her side.  Spout devoured it all with barely a second breath.

With juice stained lips she asked,

“What do you want to do with me?”

Fhell’s heart exploded in agony and disgust.  Why should one, so young, already know that a man might want to do anything with her?

Outwardly, Fhell just growled and said,

“I just need a young water Energist to keep my garden fresh.”  He nodded out the open back door.  “You think you can do that?”

Spout’s eyes brightened and she ran out into the garden and began playing with the waterwheel, splashing rainbows around her head as an angel might wear a halo.

Fhell smoked his pipe in the doorway quietly enjoying the sunshine.

A voice called over the fence to him,

“Well that’s the most wretched little fairy I’ve ever seen.”  Mason, the owner and proprietor of the neighbouring pub smiled at his friend and offered him a mug of cold brew.

Fhell took the jug and passed Mason a cigar of his latest leaf,

“Saved her from Gwellard.” He mumbled.

“Nice.”  The proprietor of The Rusty Rabbit Tavern had long black hair that wavered in the small breeze. He asked, “V’you spoken to Grimm yet?”

“Nah, still waiting for him to decide on the theme.”  Fhell took a swallow of the thick brew and coughed slightly.  “New batch?”

Mason’s eye’s twinkled, “I like experimenting on you.”

Fhell nodded, “Everybody does.”

The grubby rainbow fairy in the garden ran up and asked with eyes too big to be ignored,

“You don’t have many flowers in your garden, Mister, may I grow some?”

Fhell scowled,

“Can’t smoke flowers, kid.”

“Please?”

Fhell cleared his throat ignoring the quiet chuckles of Mason,

“Just keep ‘em out of my tobacco gardens.”

“Thanx Mista.” Spout smiled big and ran off toward the fence edging, but stopping mid-skip, she spun back and threw a quick hug at the leg of the scowling man, said matter-of-factly,

“At home, I was called Crik, ‘cos that’s where I played the most.” Then she ran back to tickle daisies out of the damp dust.

Mason patted Fhell’s smoky arm and consoled him,

“That cold, thorny heart of yours is totally screwed.”

Fhell sighed in resignation, then leaned back against the sunny wall for a good smoke under his hat tilted forward just enough for him to keep an eye on the tiny girl making daisy chains in the rainbows.

Mason chuckled to himself as he returned to his own kitchen at the back of the Tavern.

. . . continue . . .

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