Prologue: Caveat Emptor, Scene III (Daphne)

It was here, nestled in shadows of a span of silk as thick as a minibus, where three tents had their backs, that Daphne asked the little cutting the question. It was an important question, and there was a promise there as well. To help you grow...

"...three pieces of silver and a piece of a holy man's heart..." The seller was saying, a small, crude-bodied goblin with ears too large and eyes too bright. "Most esteemed sir, I accept this. The seed of your desires, esteemed sir, are here."

"Good. Dinnae I tell you, Rey, that Master Bodkin was an honest man?" The speaker was a wolf, or he had the soul of a wolf, big and brawny and brutal, with dark, grey fur within a leather coat, a rifle slung around his back. He tipped his hat to the goblin, and it was a top hat, black and silky, and grinned. "A deal then."


"Is it Song? Or Lieu? Or Xi? Or Tang?" The middle-aged man said, his eyes wide and terrified, as the small Asian woman held him up above the floor, her taloned hand around his neck. She was a beautiful woman, like a fine China doll, and just as cold and heartless, her frosty soul cloaked in a luxurious coat of foxfur. "Or Deng? Or Jiu? Or Xiao? Or Fang?"

"Not a one of them is right, ducky." The wolf in the top hat said, watching the golden pocket-watch in his hand. He snapped it shut, and pulled a cruel-looking flintlock pistol from his belt, placing the muzzle against the terrified man's heart. "And the witching hour's past, and you've not guessed her name, for it's not Rumpelstiltskin, I be telling you that. So our little reprieve is over and done with, and the Client wants the kid. Where. Is. He?"

"I... don't know." Thomas Pike said, and though he fair fainted from fear, his voice held firm. "I don't know."

"Ducky, twas the wrong answer you give." The wolf said, with a darkling grin. "The child be healed, the first gift you got in congratulations be given up, and twas the kid that came back first. His poor luck, but no need for
you to be dying for it."

"I really... really... don't know." Tom Pike said.

" don't." The wolf said when the fox nodded softly. He pulled the trigger on the gun. "Let's go Rey."

And then the seed faded from sight, into the man's heart. It left no wound to mark its entry, but it spread and did so swiftly, and as it did, Daphne saw the man's last thoughts flash across his mind. A woman's face, and that of a boy, and the one thought,
Are they safe?.

This was information that the wolf and fox sought, as did the two men whom Daphne had met, that Tom Pike had hidden at the cost of his own life. Information that men would pay gold or shed blood for.

Daphne continuing cooing over the cutting for a minute or two after the visions had stopped. It was, after all, a useful plant. She'd thought about transplanting it with some root hormone anyway. The promise was a sort of moot point.

So. The Venatores were involved. She'd heard of them, now and again. And she was never really eager to meet them; Daphne was lucky enough not to have run into them in all her time as 'Alchemist' for the Autumn court.

She wondered too, now, where were the mother and child? Stowed away in the Hedge? She'd have to think on a course of action, one that wouldn't compromise everything she'd already worked for...


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