Not mine, unfortunately. Written for Spook_Me 2010. Hope you
The Moonlit City
The city was beautifully laid out against the mountain, with great houses higher up the hill for a view of the valley and the room to spread greenhouses and conservatories to gather sun- and moonlight. Neat streets with medians of trimmed green grass and young trees ran down from those front doors to tidy shops, glass-fronted to show off wares and canopied to guard shoppers from inclement weather. Windows and flower boxes on the upper stories of the shops hinted at residences within.
The road continued down from the shops to an open area paved with cobblestones and surrounded by open topped box-stalls, a large fountain in the very center encircled by the road, and the occasional bench to sit on or large urn for flowers.
But there were no flowers in the boxes, no wares in the shops. No pennants flew from the spires, and the apple trees were too young and spaced much too far apart. Fountains waited empty and gleaming without so much as a bit of bird dropping. The market square apparently didn't realize that horses and oxen hauled goods and then wanted water after. And a moth that chased the moon's reflection into a window vanished behind suddenly closed shutters.
Nanny Ogg might have had a brandy or five after delivering the Watkin twins, but that just meant she was singing as she flew along. It would take a great deal more brandy, or even a fair bit of scumble*, to make her miss a brand new city spreading downhill from that circle of stones.
She slowed down and swung wide for a better look; the bats dodged around her sudden change of direction with complaining squeaks.
Nanny hovered there, a round woman riding a sturdy broomstick with a thick leather strap in case of sudden acceleration and a big black leather bag behind her loaded with everything she needed for a delivery and no few things she hoped never to need at a birthing, and stared down at the start of a city that hadn't been there last month.
While she watched, the winding road sprouted another yard of cobblestones. As the road's border expanded past another house-width, more stones began to surface through the ground, pushing upward in a broadening line as the A-frame roof surfaced first.
Nanny craned her head to look more closely. Not tiles, just a slate roof carved with lines that looked like tiling. Ah. She'd have to take a closer look at the fountains. And one of the gentry houses -- "Gentry," Nanny snorted in what she thought was a whisper -- if she could manage without flying directly over any of it.
Nanny swung the broom left and made a leisurely widdershins circle around the city sprouting like a mushroom. "Well. You're a downright pretty mushroom," she muttered, and dug into her capacious knickers-leg for the emergency flask of whisky she kept there. It took her three tries to find it, in between the c-shaped flask of brandy (empty; one of the daughters-in-law would refill it), the faintly textured glass flask of dwarven moonshine, a string of garlic sausages, and a humorously shaped rattle she'd been meaning to give her newest grandchild.
Half the flask went down her throat. The other half she saved for the ride home and tucked it back in the other knickers leg to find it a little faster next time. She leaned downward, skimming closer to the city to confirm the details she hadn't seen.
Sure enough, the fountains were decorated with flowers that didn't actually exist. They were generalized flower shapes that thought iris blossoms grew on daisy stems with roseish leaves. The roofs weren't tiled or metal covered, just patterned to look like it. They'd shed rain even better for being one piece, but they were still wrong. And there were no statues anywhere: no garden gnomes (Nanny thought proudly of the ones around her pool, including the anatomically correct bugger widdling into the pond), no 'cute' rabbits, or ridiculously plump cherubs, not even so much as a green man peeking out from under an eave.
The trees were growing to fit the medians as she watched, the windows sparkling more in the moonlight as the mica spread to proper size and thinned accordingly. Sparkling in the moonlight and with more than moonlight: octarine glinted off every tile-line, every window pane, each spire and fountain basin. Including the basin that snapped shut around an insufficiently cautious bat.
"As if I didn't know you were magical? Or who planted you? And me on a yew broom instead of ash," Nanny muttered, "with no iron on me but tools I'll be needing inside a week." She shut up abruptly about who, exactly, was due when or where, as it'd be no kindness to any parents to have their names or business spoken here.
Nanny swung wide around the circle, both because it pushed at her and because she was much, much smarter than to risk sliding into a door already open in one direction. Her hand patted absently at her knickers again -- she thought better when drinking -- before a slow smile curled her lips. Slow and malevolent, nothing like her usual bright grin; for a brief moment she felt like Esme on a nasty day~.
- = - = -
Nanny came back on a broomstick wobbling from the balance and of a cask over her shoulder and her carry bag loaded with every nail in Jason's smithy. She'd take the nails back if she didn't need them tonight. The cask's contents were going to be a complete loss, blast it.
Nanny checked the spigot on the cask again, resisted the urge to tap a bit of it for herself, and flew cautiously around the circle of stones without trying to count them. Why bother with that one shy bugger wandering in and out of reality and the exhibitionist pretending there was three or four of him? (Or more. Or less.)
She paused just past the circle, just above the city, to sit there and just admire it. Lovely, really. Of course, so was a just-distilled bottle of scumble, which was less dangerous than this was. Nanny turned the cask around so the tap was on the bristle end of the broom, then she opened the tiniest tap she owned and set off around the city at the broom equivalent of a lazy saunter.
The grass didn't sizzle under the stream of droplets. The city did, however. Sizzled, and shrank back into the ground, and retreated back up the hillside as she kept going in a steady, hubward-wise circle.
Paving stones hid. Fountains slid sheepishly back under soil. Windows shrank in the disappearing houses like eyes closing in hopes that if they didn't look, Nanny wouldn't be there.
By the time she got back to the top of her circuit, the standing stones were almost steady (although still not countable). Nanny studied the ground by the standing stones, her eyes bright and a little malicious. "Ah-ah. I see you there." She neatly dropped a nail onto the 'pebble' that looked entirely like a leading corner of a paving stone.
It vanished with a crack of snapping stone and shriek like a file down rusted iron.
Nanny nodded. "Good. Don't try this again. Next time, I'll bring Esme to deal with you instead. Or I'll hire the NacMacFeegle, which'd cost me less alcohol. Just a little more aggravation on both our parts."
The stones shimmered a little, which Nanny put down more to Aaoograha hoa^ than to the whisky she'd had to keep her warm.
The city was gone, though, and the nail would keep it from sprouting again tomorrow night. And one nail was easily marked and avoided. Good. Marking an entire half-grown city worth of ground with nails would waste a lot of good iron and lead to a lot of poulticing of people and sheep. (Goats would just eat the nails, of course. Goats were foolish like that, at least with small nails.)
Damn shame to have had to spill an entire keg of gin# to get rid of the city, though!
~ -- Contrary to rumor, not all of Granny's days are nasty. And don't go trying to make them nasty, either, thank you kindly. Back
^ -- Trollish for "She who must be avoided" (trans. G. Ogg); i.e., Granny. Back
# There are a lot of things the Gentry, or Lords and Ladies, or Fair Folk (or, if you must be crass and annoy them, the fairies) don't like. Cold iron (and steel), ash wood, rowan berries, and juniper berries. Gin? Is made from juniper berries. Back
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Stories: Aidan: Series
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