All the best things come in sixes, maybe? I had a midnight flash of inspiration for more of these, so have some new character scribbles! (Standard disclaimer: very very loosely based on people at Rebellion, and not intended to be a comment on anyone at all!)
She spoke in strange tongues as she worked, littering her speech with odd syllables and unknown words. We were not sure where she had picked it up, for the language was none of the known spell-speeches, but her words often made her work go faster. None of us could replicate her effects, although our efforts caused her much amusement.
But the mystique was undone when one day a visitor laughed, and said something in the same tongue. The staccato reply made it clear that their input was not welcome, but they just laughed again.
“What did she say?” I asked them as we retreated from the sorceress muttering her alien spells to her machine.
“Oh, she is calling it a plate of… I don’t know the word. It is an insult.” The visitor shrugged. “It makes it work better.”
Hir wisdom was boundless, deep as the sea and old as the mountains; hir thoughts ran in ages and aeons, and disdained such human notions as “hours”.
Hir colleagues eventually reached a compromise on the concept of “months”, mostly by pointing out how inconvenient it would be if they passed away from old age in mid-conversation.
The story of the princes who turned into swans is not exactly inaccurate; but the stories don’t say what happened to the ordinary folk caught in the same circumstances. Those without a beautiful sister to make them sweaters with spells woven into the patterns (an ancient art in itself), or without a handy hero to see them dancing in worn-out shoes, or without anyone to remember that they were once human.
Some do remember, though. Both humans, and birds.
And so if the wildfowl on the river flock to his handfuls of bread more quickly and readily than they do anyone else, maybe it is because they alone understand his murmured words, and appreciate his remembering what they once were.
“That was a terrible joke!”
“Oh, really?” the selkie says in his broad accent, not at all offended. “Ah thought it was alreet. I’ll get mah skin.”
The machine had been built to write routine spells: put a script in one side, and get a functional spell out the other. The problem came when it somehow got infected with sarcasm, irony and an awareness of current affairs.
Everyone agreed that the resulting weekly newsletter was very good, and even won some awards; and the machine’s notably radical leanings didn’t seem to affect the reliability of the spells at all.
They kept a wary eye on the effects, though.
She was usually cheerful; round-cheeked and smiling between sips of coffee and bursts of work. But woe betide if you crossed her.
The burned holes in the roof had been patched, and the tail-smashed desks replaced: but nothing could quite erase the soot-stains in the corner, or the memory of the dragon raging in the middle of the office on the day the coffee machine had finally broken.
And whether it was repairable was rather a moot point, now that it was a charred and melted heap.