“Morning and evening
Maids heard the goblins cry:
'Come buy our orchard fruits,
Come buy, come buy'”
February 21st, 2007
"So good of you to join me, Apothecary." The crow-faced woman said, a sardonic smile creasing her hook-nosed face as Daphne entered the underground, so far from the sun and fresh air above. She dipped her long, black-nailed fingers into a jar of honeyed nuts and crunched them in her mouth. "I'll try not to keep you too long."
The crow-faced woman (she was not literally crow-faced, though there were feathers in her hair and her eyes were beady-black) was named Cordelia Corbin among the mortals, and went by the name of Rook in the Autumnal Court. Tall for a woman, just a hair under six feet, and strangely angular, a slim, androgynous creature that was all sharp elbows and cutting cheekbones. Her boyish figure was swathed in a stained, off-white labcoat as she swooped silently among the dead.
For Rook, you see, was the assistant medical examiner of Guy's Hospital, that great, imposing edifice that loomed over South London. One of the largest hospitals in the world, a teaching hospital, where thousands of employees labored every day to heal tens of thousands of patients. Sometimes, however, the patient could not be helped. Some wounds too grievous, some sicknesses too malign. And in those cases, the corpse, covered by a sheet like a latter-day burial shroud, would be trundled on into the elevator and down deep below the ground. There in the mortuary, the medical examiners would look it over and sign it off, and if there was something peculiar about the body, Rook made certain that it went to her, and only to her.
"This sorry soul came floating down the river Styx to me." Rook said, pulling out the long drawer from the wall, upon which lay a shrouded form. "According to the report, he dropped dead in the middle of the street. Just a routine heart attack, except..."
Rook pulled back the shroud, her air that of a magician unveiling some great trick. Lying on the slab was a middle-aged man, caucasian, a little overweight, a little flabby, but otherwise normal (aside from being dead). And yet, not quite. He had been cut open, rather precisely, by Rook's surgical scalpels, and so Daphne could see into his chest. There, blooming quite prettily, in the place where there should have been a stilled heart, was a red, many-petalled flower.
"...to have a heart attack, one first needs to have a heart." Rook said dryly. She turned her attentions towards Daphne, her beady-black eyes reflecting the dim light of the medical examiner's chambers. "Quite naturally, I thought of you, dear Apothecary, when this mystery showed up."