Jun 03, 2020 12:35 PM
serg in fallen london
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"Well, that much is good. Come in, come in-"

He leads him back to the sitting room. "Are you here about the tooth, then?"

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"Let's say I'm at least strongly considering it."

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"Well, I don't know off the top of my head where you might find one, you understand - but I know who might. A Morbid Under-Secretary, at the Palace, collects the fangs of various beasts, and I've heard tell he's been crowing about how he's going to have a Vake-tooth soon. I'd suggest that you pay him a visit."

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"I can do that! By the way, what if anything do mandrakes eat? I like mine and I want to take good care of him."

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"I'm pleased to hear it. They'll eat just about anything - don't give him anything that had blood in it, though, or he'll go wild. And don't try giving him ten bottles of wine again, it's only good the once. And, here-"

He hands his visitor a second jar, filled with thick black mud. "For him to sleep in. I forgot to give this to you last time."

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"Oh good!" He accepts the jar. "Thank you."

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"You're quite welcome. I wish you the best of luck."

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"You too!"

And off he goes. He tries to think of some food he has encountered that definitely never had any blood in it, rules out meat pies and sausages and skewered rat, isn't sure either way about the Rubbery Lumps, and finally ends up feeding the mandrake bits of broken-off pie crust double-checked for lack of filling.

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The mandrake appreciates the bits of pie crust very very much. It gulps them down, then yawns hugely and crawls into the pot of mud to sleep.

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"What a sweet little creature," he says, setting its pot down safe and sound next to his bed. "Pets have names, don't they? I think I'll call you Edward."

And that is perhaps enough things for today.

In the morning - well, actually, in the morning he should first of all apologize to the Widow for ruining the clothes she let him borrow.

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She waves it off. "You certainly lead a dangerous life, but I'm hardly doing anything with those old things, it's no trouble at all for me. I darned and bleached your other suit, it's hanging in the closet. I'll see if I can salvage the one you've got on or if it goes to the Relickers."

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"Thanks."

He changes clothes, has a meat pie for breakfast, feeds his mandrake the crusts, and shows up at the Singer's place to drop it off for its next lesson.

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She opens the door and smiles when she sees him. "Here to drop off your friend?"

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"That I am!" He presents her with a clean jar of well-fed mandrake. "Enjoy!"

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She opens the jar and decants the mandrake onto a divan. "Hello, little fellow."

Then, she considers her guest. "You could stay here while he learns, if you'd rather not tempt the Vake. I'm sure you're safer with the mandrake in your pocket... even if it doesn't mean you're safe, per se."

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"You're probably right," he says, with a slightly surprised smile. "Thanks."

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She lets him in. There's overstuffed couches and chaises-lounge, and a couple of rather nice sculptures, but other than that the room is largely undecorated apart from a grand piano and a painting hanging on the wall depicting a Surface sunset.

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Pretty!!! He gazes delightedly at the painting as he finds somewhere to sit.

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The Sardonic Music-Hall Singer sits at the piano and begins the lesson. First she gauges how much of the previous lesson stuck with Edward. Satisfied with his retention, she begins teaching him a cantata.

Her method is gentle, but firm. If Edward stops imitating her, she turns from the piano and frowns exaggeratedly at him; when he finishes a line without mistakes, she beams and feeds him a button mushroom. By this method she guides him through two cantatas and La Donna è Mobile.

"That one's always been a favorite of mine," she confides once Edward has learned it and can sing it without error. "Being a fickle woman myself."

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He giggles.

"I like how you teach him," he says. "Seems like you're both having fun."

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"Well, thank you. It's important, you know, that everyone have fun. When you teach children, especially, and a mandrake is really very much like a child. That's what my mother always told me, at least."

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"Told you which? Or both? I guess it makes sense that I'm not the first person to come through here looking for someone to teach a mandrake to sing."

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"You're certainly not; how'd you think I knew it was the Vake that attacked you? My mother taught hunters' mandrakes, as did her mother. That old bat's been around a long time."

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"There can't be that many giant man-eating bats in the world, can there? I thought you might have just heard of it somewhere. But this makes sense too."

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"Mostly I just knew you had a mandrake."

She resumes teaching Edward for the remainder of the lesson time. She's got him singing, but she wants to improve his intonation - it's no good if he's singing operetta like it's a funeral march, or vice versa.

Finally the end of the lesson arrives, as marked by the bells of St. Dunstan's Cathedral. "Alright, little man," she says to the plant, "we're done for now."

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