Misha was tired. He got up from the desk and went over to the dresser. On top of the dresser was a bowl, and a pitcher of water. Misha looked into the mirror that hung over the dresser. A fox looked back at him. After all these years Misha had grown to love being a Fox-morph, but sometimes he was still surprised to see a red fox in the mirror. Misha poured some water into the bowl, and splashed some onto his face to refresh himself. After 20 days in the north scouting and hunting lutins he now had to write up everything he had found. He had been writing since dawn and he was only half done. Phil had wanted it as soon as possible. He hated writing these reports, but they were important. A lot of things were going on, that Lord Thomas had to know. Nasoj was banding the various lutin tribes into another army. What he would do with it was obvious. The idea of Nasoj besieging the keep again didn't make Misha happy. He hated writing reports, no matter how important the information was. A quiet knock on the door came as a relief, his hand was sore.
"Come In" he said.
The door opened and and a four-foot tall rat came in carrying a small box. He recognized him immediately as Matthias of the Writers Guild. "Hello Charles, what brings you here?" Misha asked. "I asked William the jeweler if he could fix this, and he suggested I talk to you" Matthias said quietly, putting the box down on the desk. The box was of some dark wood, very well made and obviously expensive.
"I bought this for Lady Kimberly but it won't work" Charles said, opening the box. Misha chuckled, "Me and Will are old friends. What is it you need fixed. It must be something special if he can't fix it" Charles carefully removed the object from its box and placed it on the desk. It was a porcelain figurine mounted on a box of the same wood as the box it was taken from. The figurine was of a man and a woman in a close embrace.
"What does it do?" Misha asked.
"When you wind it up, music plays, and the figures dance" Charles replied .
"Whats wrong with it?"
"When I wound it up, it worked for a moment then stopped" Charles said in a worried voice.
"Did the music stop too?" Misha asked examining it. Charles just nodded.
"Lets take it into the other room and see what we can do" Misha said. Misha carefully picked it up, and walked toward the fireplace. Next to the fireplace was another door, and they passed through it to the room beyond.
The first room had been as Charles expected, a bed, a table and chairs, some cabinets, and a roll top desk. This room was different, a long workbench ran along one wall, shelves and cabinets lined the other walls and a large stuffed chair sat by the fireplace. The furniture didn't surprise Matthias. The contents did.
On the closest shelf was a foot long model of a catapult, sitting next to a model of a ballista. To crew the war machines were a dozen figures made to the same scale. The figures were all very detailed and finely painted. Matthias recognized one figure as being Misha, and another as Lord Thomas. On another shelf was a model of a cargo galley. Next to it was war galley, complete with its crew. "Did you make all of these?" Charles asked pointing to the models. "Yup, When I was 20, I had to make a working model of a catapult. It was so much fun that I've been making models ever since" was Misha's answer.
By this time Misha had placed the music box on the workbench and was examining it closely. The figurine had a metal rod coming out of its base that ran down into the box. Misha examined this rod for a moment. "Need some light" he mumbled. Misha opened a draw under the workbench and removed a small pouch, from it he took a small smooth stone, and held it up at eye level. "NENA TOFSHU" he said in a loud voice. The stone began to glow with a bright, white light that lit up the whole room. It was so bright that they both had to shut their eyes. "Wow, too bright" Misha said "NENA TALA". The glow diminished till it was tolerable. "Sorry about that Charles". Matthias rubbed his eyes to get the spots to disappear "What is that?" Misha placed the stone on the bench before answering "I had a mage make it for me a few years ago. I needed something better than candles and lamps for my close work". Misha returned to studying the figurine. After a few moments he found what he was looking for. A few turns with a small screwdriver and the figurine came free of the rod. Misha placed a clean rag on the bench and carefully placed the figurine on it. He turned the box over and removed the 4 screws holding the box together. Misha turned the box right side up and removed the lid. The lid was placed to the side, it was the base that interested Misha. Misha looked around at Matthias who had been quiet for a long time and found him standing in the middle of the room, his arms at his sides looking very subdued. "You can come over and watch if you want Charles" Misha said "I don't bite, besides I've already had lunch" he finished with a chuckle."You can use that stool over there. I prefer to stand" Misha said pointing to a tall stool at the other end of the bench. The top of the bench was just a little shorter than he was, and Matthias needed the stool to see what was happening. The base of the box was filled with all sorts of brass gears and wheels, which Misha was closely examining. "Can you fix it, I want to give it as an Easter present"? Matthias asked.
"These things are pretty delicate and somebody probably dropped it, and jarred something out of alignment" misha answered not taking his eyes off the box. He started carefully removing parts and laying them on the bench. After several minutes of work Misha spoke "This might take a while Charles, if you want to come back". "How long?"Matthias responded. Misha shrugged "About an hour, maybe more". "I don't mind waiting" Matthias answered. "Do you want some wine, I have some?" Matthias's ears perked at the mention of wine "Wine?" "Its in the chest in the other room next to the window. Try the cheese, its good" Misha suggested. Matthias found the chest with no problem and opened it. Inside he found 5 bottles of wine, a wheel of cheese, 2 loaves of bread and an entire salami. There was also knives, forks and several glasses. A small haversack held enough trail rations to feed a person for a week. He grabbed a bottle of wine with a good vintage, 2 glasses and returned to the workbench.
"Why all the food Misha?" he asked. Misha stopped long enough to pour wine for both of them before answering "Its a long story. Have you ever been in a city under siege?" Matthias stood a moment, without moving, staring fixated at the floor; then he gingerly shook his head no. Misha sipped his wine, put the glass down and went back to fixing the music box. He spoke as he worked "I was in the city of Makatore 18 years ago when it was besieged. I wound up as a catapult crewman. It wasn't so bad for the first 6 months." Misha took a drink before continuing in a quiet voice "After 6 months the food started to run out. I realized this when things started to disappear. The first thing to disappear was the livestock. The cattle first, then the sheep and goats. After them, the chickens, geese and ducks started to vanish. After the fowl the sparrows, pigeons and parrots disappeared, not all at once. Each day 1 or two would be missing from the City Park. By that time the horses, mules and donkeys had been eaten."
Misha stopped working and rubbed his eyes with the palm of his hands. "By the time the duke surrendered we were reduced to eating tree bark and grass" he said in an oddly detached voice. Misha stood there for a moment,"I lost a lot of good friends," he said in a barely audible Whisper. "Master Grimaldi found me, and had me nursed back to health. Grimaldi is one of the worlds greatest siege engineers, and he was impressed with the way we had handled the catapults". Misha seemed to brighten up and he chuckled a little. "You see Master Grimaldi was one of the besiegers, and our catapult destroyed several of his catapults, and towers. Ever since then I've always kept some food lying around. Just in case. I know its silly but I can't help it. If I don't, I get nervous, and irritable. I made those models for Master Grimaldi, to prove that I'd learned how to make real siege engines" Misha said and pointed at the model catapult. "Why are you a scout, if you trained to be a siege engineer?" Matthias asked "they get good money for their services". Misha nodded his head "Oh I got a lot of money. I also got Typhoid, cholera, dysentery, and the plague. The only thing worse than being besieged is being the besieger. At least inside a city you get a clean and dry bed. Outside your lucky to get a puptent in the mud. I also discovered that a siege engineers life was 50% back breaking work like digging and cutting, 25% mind numbing boredom, and 25% being sick, because you had bad water, or food, or because you got to close to someone else who had the bad water or food. So Misha the Destroyer, siege engineer quit and Misha Brightleaf, Adventurer started his career". Misha held up a gear and picking up a file started to work on one particular tooth. "Found the problem. A gear was out of line. Just a little clean up on this gear and I'll have it fixed" Misha said confidently.
The gear fixed, Misha began to put the parts back. Matthias started to look around at objects on the shelves. He saw wagons, chariots, sailing ships, even castles, all finely detailed, and painted. On one shelf rested a fine pendulum clock,that was quietly ticking away the hours. "Did you make this too?" he asked. Misha looked around and nodded "yes, you like it?" Matthias answered "Yes. I never knew you did such fine work". "You mean for an axe wielding, maniac, carnivore I'm pretty civilized," Misha said with a touch of humor in his voice. "Thats not what I said. I mean usually all you hear about is you and that axe," Matthias said. Misha stopped his work and turned to Matthias "I'm proud of Grandpa's axe. It's powerful, but its just a tool to achieve an end just like these pliers"he said holding up a pair of needle nose pliers. "All told I'm more proud of the work I've done with this tool," Misha said waving the pliers "than what I've done with that axe". Misha returned to his repairs. Matthias continued to admire the models. He spied a cross hanging over the door. "Misha, are you a Christian?" he asked with a little surprise. "Yup, that axe wasn't the only thing Great Grandpa brought back from adventuring" was Misha's answer. "I've never seen you at a mass" Matthias asked." That's not surprising, I'm Protestant" Misha said still working on the box. Misha had everything back in place and he put the top back on. As he was screwing it in place he answered "don't get me wrong Matthias, it doesn't matter to me what language a person prays in. For me religion is a personal thing, I pray in private". "Father Hough will be giving services.You're welcome to attend" Matthias offered. Misha gave a noncommittal shrug. He picked up the figurine and reattached it to the base. Misha picked up the winding key and inserted it into the box. He gave the key several turns, then he pushed the little lever next to it. The embracing figures began to twirlaround and tinkling music came from the box. "Great!" Matthias exclaimed with delight. They watched and listened until the spring ran down, the music ended, and the figures stopped dancing.
Picking it up Misha carried the music box into the other room, and carefully placed it into it's carrying box. He carefully placed some rags in the box as packing "Now be careful carrying it" he advised. "What do I owe you?" Matthias asked. Misha waved his hand in dismissal "Don't worry about it. You can buy me a drink in the Mule later". "Thank you for helping" Matthias said gratefully. "Thank you, for livening up my day Charles" Misha replied. Matthias picked up the box and Misha opened the door for him. "Charles. Tell you what I'll come to a service. I've been cooped up here alone too long" Misha said and patted Matthias on the shoulder. "God Bless, and good afternoon Misha" Matthias said as he walked down the hall. Misha stood for a moment with his hand on the door, and looked at the unfinished reports, "blee" he said sticking out his tongue and shaking his head. "I've been skulking around alone too long" he said and with that he closed the door and headed for the Deaf Mule and some company. The reports would wait.