| COURSE TWO: FANTASY STEAMPUNK
Author: Wyatt Earp
Date: 05-25-12 15:46
"Bring me my heart's desire."
I, Wyatt S. Earp, Bounty Hunter, and once upon a time Warlock, studied the creature before me. I had no idea of her age. Her face was lined and creased, but her eyes were ice chips from the far north, so deep and blue it hurt to look into them. Her lips were cracked and dry. A small piece of skin, thin and transparent, dry as parchment paper, clung with tenacity to her upper lip. Her appearance could be from advanced age or maybe she just got left out in the sun too long. It was hard to tell around here. People tended to look old fast, and mistreated Sulkies older faster.
"Your heart's desire? May I ask what it is?"
"If you want the thing that you desire most, Bounty Hunter, than you know already what I crave."
Ah, so that was how it was going to be. What I craved was that the hag was out of my bathtub and back where she belonged, but she refused to budge. She said she wouldn't survive the trip in her current condition. Only one thing in the world could restore her enough that she could travel. I was fed up enough with her and all her kind that I was tempted on leaving her there in that dry tub, all the water sucked dry by her insatiable need, until she simply perished, but Sulkies got a way of getting what they want from a man, even dried up ones that looked no more juicy than an old prune.
Getting her what she wanted wasn't going to be easy, but as soon as I thought upon the matter a mite, I realized what it was. An outpost town in the Dust was the one place I would not find this object of desire. To get it the natural way I would have to travel many weeks from here, and ascend the Northern Mountains, or even head to Quila for that was a city that had everything that the heart could desire. But I didn't have weeks, not even days, and if I was lucky I might have until nightfall.
It would have to be the unnatural way, and it wasn't one that I would relish. It called upon my skills as a Warlock, a profession I had been ejected from. To perform the spell I required I would be breaking the law, but hell, what's the law in a place like Sepulchre? Half of our good citizens were renegades and fugitives.
There wasn't a lot of water left in Sepulchre. The river was over a mile away, and the town itself was going through an extended dry spell. Water had to be put in barrels and brought from the river by wagon. That was my first task. It took the greater part of what was left of the afternoon. Once I had the Sulkie's tub filled again, she sighed with pleasure, and I could begin my spell. I had to work fast because she was already starting to absorb the water, the level dropping visibly as I stripped naked, slathered my body with oil of tundra salamander (that was going to cost a pretty ducket to replace), and began the incantation. At first I stumbled over the words, my memory not what it once was, but finally the air crackled with the energy, and the water started disappearing faster, but this time not by agency of the Sulky but rather pulled into water vapor by my words. The temperature in the room dropped. I shivered but forged on, increasing the tempo with each beat, until the I could see the Sulkie's breath as a cloud, a fog around her, and then finally it happened:
In this bare room in Sepulchre with its single bed with a brass bed frame, and the one lonely picture hanging crooked from a nail on the wail, while outside the day burned like a hellish inferno, it began to snow. As each separate freezing ember crystallized in air only to melt on the Sulkie's upturned face she began to laugh. She raised her hands in salutation to the snow, and then cried out:
"Clever ape, you made me snow!"
I watched as her fleshed filled back with precious youth and life, as she went from prune to plum. Once she was nubile in form I quickly dressed myself, threw a blanket around her and carried her outside. I had to get her down to the river fast, before the sun and the dry desert air once more, stripped her of her moisture. The snow had acted as a restorative, but it would not last much longer than the trip to the river would take.
At the bank of the Donate River she slipped from my arms as slippery as a fish, and disappearing into the water didn't even thank me. The last I saw of her was the head of a seal as she breached the surface, a plume of water sprayed from its nostrils, and then it vanished under the water with a flick of a flipper.