The four friends sat in the pale moonlight beside a flickering fire. The youngest of them was just short of thirty, the others led by four or five. They had long met in this clearing by the marshes, surrounded on all sides by woods. As the darkness grew heavier, their thoughts turned inward to the Marsh Fiend of Vetiver and Thyme. She travelled alone like a ghost far from home luring travelers to her side. And once they had seen her and gazed quietly at her while she smiled her forlorn smile.
“Clumsy, you are,” the old Tutor said, looking at the woman before him.
She bowed down her head like a wounded deer, the shame creeping up her neck
Like a phantom of heat engulfing her head until she sank down before him.
There before them lay the shattered remains of the crystal goblet of Cardis.
It sat on the shelf like a glowering menace, dusty with age and disuse and fine cobwebs like a gauzy shroud. Even buried as it was behind apothecary jars and pestles, it was still the first thing the visitors to the six hundred-year-old museum wanted to touch.
I had just settled down for a nice little nap
On my commodious couch before afternoon tea
When Raymond burst through in an extraordinary flap
And upset my prescribed-for-detectives routine.
“What is that peculiar smell?” Roger asked.
“Smell? What smell?” Brenda sniffed. “Perhaps you mean ‘scent’, dear, like perfume maybe?”
She moved closer, flirtatiously, but Roger took no notice. He was too busy sniffing the breeze.
“No, no. It’s definitely odiferous. Sort of a mix between the last rotting bit of carrion and the stinky Stapelia* your Aunt Irma insists on rolling in just before she comes to visit.”