There’s a website that chops up your past Facebook statuses and makes a word salad of it. It’s called What Would I Say?
I tried it, and got “The Jabberwock, with her keys returned.” That’s an intriguing sentence. And led to this story, presented in three sections.
* * * * *
“The Jabberwock are lethal creatures, perfect for guardians of treasure. Vicious and cunning, there is no deadlier foe,” the shopkeeper said.
The sorcerer considered, staring thoughtfully around the magic shop. He’d browsed thoroughly before he came to the counter and summoned the shopkeeper to ask for his available hoard-guards. No sense in patronizing a poorly stocked shop, after all. So he’d seen all the crystals glimmering in the dim light, the murky potions swirling in glass stoppered jars, dry and yellowing bones, herbs hanging from the rafters, and odd objects lurking in shadowy corners, but he studied them all again.
“I don’t know,” he said finally. “Aren’t the Jabberwock a little… old-fashioned?”
“Jabberwock have never gone out of style, sir,” the shopkeeper said, a hint of wounded pride in his tone. “But if they don’t suit your needs… We have dragons, trolls, and ogres. And for the subtle shopper… sirens, basilisks, and banshees.”
“No, my treasure is flammable, no fire-breathers. And no one will respect me if I set a siren on my hoard. I suppose I’ll take a Jabberwock.”
“Excellent choice,” the shopkeeper pulled out a beautifully embossed silver flute from a drawer behind his counter. Carrying it, he walked over to the shop’s single window, a large, shuttered opening that dominated a wall of the store.
He threw the shutters wide, the late afternoon sun streaming inside in brilliant swathes. “You play it thus,” he said, and blew three notes, slow and steady, twisting to show the sorcerer his finger placement.
The last note faded, and silence fell.
It stretched, and the sorcerer glanced at the shopkeeper, who was gazing out the shop’s window, fingers folded around the flute. He seemed content to watch the trees, leaves ruffled in the wind, and wait.
So the sorcerer waited too.
After several long moments, something large made the trees toss as they were shoved aside, and a massive shadow loomed out of them before stepping into the light.
The sorcerer blinked, surprised and impressed despite himself. The Jabberwock towered above them, long neck carrying its head up high, baring its sharp teeth and deadly claws.
“This is Daisy,” the shopkeeper said. “Daisy, this is Magnus the Magnificent. He needs a guardian.”
The Jabberwock burbled, stomping closer and bending to study the sorcerer closely. She peered at him from one crimson eye, and then the other. Magnus expected the breath blowing hotly on his face to smell rank, of rotted meat and spoiled blood. But the Jabberwock’s breath smelled mostly like cut grass, with a hint of copper underneath.
Finally, she nodded, and settled down on the grass, wrapping her tail neatly around herself.
“Daisy will work for you,” the shopkeeper handed Magnus the silver flute. “Use this to summon her to the location of your treasure.”
The sorcerer took the flute, touching the holes in order to make sure he recalled the notes.
“And…” the shopkeeper paused. “Don’t forget to pay her. I’m not responsible for her actions if you don’t.”
Magnus stared at the mountain of muscle and sharp edges curled up outside the shop. “Yes, I don’t imagine I’ll be doing that, thank you.”
“Wise man,” the shopkeeper nodded. “Will you be wanting anything else today?”
The sorcerer shook his head, and settled into the process of bargaining for Daisy’s hiring fee. His heart wasn’t in it today, and he knew he overpaid by the smile brightening the shopkeeper’s eyes, though the other man’s expression remained blandly friendly. But Magnus had never seen a Jabberwock before, and he was more touched by the experience than he expected. He’d met dragons before, the young violent and stupid, the old wily and cruel, and he’d expected to see something similar in the Jabberwock’s burning bright red eyes.
But in Daisy’s eyes—and what a name for a monster!—he’d seen a wise and thoughtful consideration, a calm judgment.
Shaking off his thoughts, he exited the store, heading toward where he had left his construct horse. Crafted of metal and leather, the construct gleamed in the sun, light catching the bronze leaf and vine inlay on its neck, head, and legs. He checked the saddle attachments before mounting, legs resting comfortably on the leather covering the horse’s back.
He turned his horse’s head in the direction of the road, and pressed his heels to the buttons set under the leather. Moving in a precise, smooth walk, the construct followed his instructions, picking up the pace as he pressed his heels twice more, shifting to ground-eating gallop.
Behind him, he heard heavy footfalls, and glanced back to see the Jabberwock galumphing after him, running through the trees parallel to the road.
As he traveled, stopping for meals, other necessary breaks, and overnight at several inns, Magnus caught glimpses of her fine-scaled, mottled green and brown hide, gleaming dully in the light like snake skin, or of her bright ruby-red eyes winking in the light. And often he heard her, crashing through the undergrowth, or the sudden noisy eruption of frantic birds flinging themselves into the air as she passed.
* * *
Here’s the link to part two.