Updated: Oct 8, 2022
The shadows were so deep now she had to weave a path through them, out of the tenements, and then quickly down the thoroughfare. The cold bit. She slipped into the council hall, relieved to find the welcome foyer empty, and down the winding passage to her office.
But the door wouldn’t open. Her key no longer fit in the lock.
Flower kicked the door and yelled in frustration. The echoes of her yell up and down the hall died into the gathering gloom, and met with only silence.
She rested her head on the door for a moment, taking deep, calming breaths. Think. She had to think, and fast. What had changed since yesterday? Hardly anyone even came into this building except for her, the Guild all worked out of the Precinct now.
Right. The Precinct. She’d just march herself down there and demand to know what in the Darkness they thought they were doing, locking the King’s Chief Representative Diplomat out of her own office.
Flower turned on her heel, retraced her steps, seized the single flaming torch burning by the door, and marched into the night. A dark street took her down to the Plaza, where she skirted the trickling fountain with its travesty of a statue – a Moon Trooper, for Mnemosyne’s sake – and headed for the precinct. She walked right in and hammered on the Superintendent’s door.
The door swung open. For the sake of politeness Flower put her torch into the sconce on the wall there, then strode in.
The Superintendent sat behind a desk piled with papers, writing with a quill that flowed across the desk. A red ink pot rested at hand. Blonde hair fell across her face, hiding it in shadow.
“I demand to know why I’ve been locked out of my office!”
The Superintendent didn’t answer right away. First, she picked up the silver mask lying face-down on the desk and put it on. Then she turned the familiar blank silver gaze to Flower. The one eye carved into the forehead seemed more startling than normal after having almost seen her face. “And you are?”
“You know perfectly well who I am,” Flower snapped, trying to recover her composure. It had not once, until now, occurred to her that Moon Troopers were people. Had the king brought in a contingent of Fire Elves?
“Name, please.” The voice turned a trifle chill.
“Flower of the Great North Island Beyond the Night-Flickered Sea. Chief Representative Diplomat of the King.”
“One moment.” The Superintendent rifled through a file of papers, glanced up, and then read the paper in her hand again. “You say your office is locked?”
“Do you not possess a key?”
“The lock has been changed,” Flower said through clenched teeth. “I was just there-”
“On what business?”
“On my own business, it’s my office!”
“On what business?”
“I went there to do my job, which while we’re on the subject, I’m finding exceedingly difficult. How do I represent the King as a diplomat when there’s nobody left in the city?” Flower leaned forward and planted both hands on the desk. “But I don’t suppose you’d know anything about that?”
“If you have a complaint, please submit it to the complaints department,” the Superintendent said.
“I did, three times. I don’t think you appreciate the gravity of this situation. There are thousands of muses missing, many thousands more fairies, and the Guild is doing nothing. You might as well be making it happen for all the good your presence is doing.”
A second of silence went by. A small part of Flower died a little inside, and whispered she should probably sit back down and live, but Flower never usually listened to that voice anyway. “I could go to the Shadow City Chronicle,” she said into the silence, “And blow this thing wide open. Is that what you want?”
“I think the material point, ma’am, is what do you want?” The Superintendent sounded bored now. “I’m a very busy woman.”
“I want to get into my office!”
“Very well, I’ll see if I can track down that key for you. We did have a lock replaced, but I can’t guarantee our tradespeople upgraded the correct door. Wait here please.” She rose to her feet in a sharp, military movement, left the room and closed the door behind her.
“Yeah, you probably made them all disappear,” Flower muttered. She leaned back in her chair. Then she tapped her fingers on the table. The prickles of the back of her neck became exceedingly annoying. She leaned forward and pulled over the paper the woman had been reading to distract herself.
Flower of the Great North Island Beyond the Night-Flickered Sea, it said, alongside an illustration that did her no favours at all. Then, in savage red letters, approved
for transport to containment centre, and a scrawl that might have been a signature...