coin bucket

The postal service had been through again. Marrionetta could tell. She had been staring out the window of The Emerald House, having a morning drool of lever boy stimulus when she noticed her former friends and fellow circus workers gathering outside the mess hall in recognizable excitement.

That’s not true, she thought. She had never been friends with anyone here at the circus. Just workers dancing elbow to elbow for coin and peanut oil. So it was only her coworkers who were gathered around the mess hall with recognizable excitement. Had she ever had friends? Even before this?

Even if they weren’t really her friends, she noticed each of them and their unique little habits. Ungulen with his enormous striding legs. Goren Hargus rolling around like a cheese wheel. That little dancer girl, Violet, with her clunky elephants. Marrionetta noticed that Violet had a strong pivot to her. Always turning abruptly. Always turning the other cheek, perhaps? There was still no sign of Drutherstone, she noticed. He must still be away on circus business. It occurred to her that he might be angry about what she and Lorelei were doing with the shift employ and the circus guests. Furious, really. She wondered what he might say or do once he found out. Maybe Drutherstone would know how to chase the doctor away. She certainly didn’t know how.

She clawed at an itch inside her nose.

The other performance mastheads cycled through the mess hall to retrieve their packages and letters. Marrionetta was never tempted by the mail. There was never anything for her so she had long ago ceased to be curious. Her endocrine nod was in full swing anyway so very little could tempt her beyond the threshold of her chosen prison.

Through the window, however, she noticed someone clambering up the hill towards The Emerald House. It was a lever boy, one of the older ones. Ossip, maybe? She couldn’t remember all their stupid names. Marrionetta froze when she realized he was heading straight for the house. Panic spun directly up her spine.

Maybe-Ossip knocked on the door of The Emerald House. Marrionetta darted into the fireplace. She wanted desperately for him to go away. She didn’t think Lorelei would murder someone first thing in the morning but she couldn’t put it past him either. She was on a good high and wanted to keep it that way. She couldn’t take another butchering session today. Once he started in, he would never shut up.

The interloper began knocking. Thud. Thud. Thud. “Hullo? Mister Doctor?” Thud. Thud. Thud.

“Fester someone else’s biscuits you shrimping pine needle!” Marrionetta found herself screaming through the door. She coughed after she spoke. Then she wondered how long it had been since she had used her voice.

“Miss Mary?” came the teenaged voice from the other side of the door. “Mister Doctor says I’s should bring this to him on the right by right. Can you take it from me? It’s a bog load.”

Marrionetta realized for the first time all morning that Lorelei wasn’t actually in the house. A few moments puffed by in relative calm. She felt herself breathing. She stood up from the fireplace and answered the door.

Ossip — or whoever he was — definitely found it odd that Marrionetta was covered head to toe with ash and was also drooling down her chin. His eyes showed this to her and she decided not to care. He handed over the extremely heavy package and then box toed his way back down the hill to complete his other circus chores.

Marrionetta worked the cantankerous package inside the house and onto a table. She read the label.

For Swift Delivery To: Herr Doktor Sinvarius Lorelei
At current residence within or adjacent to Drutherstone’s Circus (in entity, LLC, or as such)
Coronet Crown on Gibletson
Empire of Drexx

Do not attempt to return to sender. Do not forward. In the event of package unclaimed in excess of 10 days, package contents to be destroyed as postal agent sees fit.

There was no return address.

A very real threat told her she should leave the package there and climb back inside the fireplace to shore off the rest of her lever boy juice. But she hesitated. Something prickled in the bottom of Marrionetta’s wooden spine. An old feeling. One that had suited her purposes for centuries long before the pull of Lorelei and his infernal, joy-making machines. The feeling was funny, curious, and good. It was mischief. She opened the package.

Inside she found a tin bucket with a lid. She opened the lid to discover that the bucket was full to brimming with silver coins. All of them were stamped with an imperial insignia she could not place.

So, she thought, this is how he affords all that Visigoth veal.

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