Spaces between Mirrors

Submitted into Contest #158 in response to: Write about a character with questionable morals.... view prompt


Adventure Fantasy Mystery

Jack - known to his admirers and his mother as ‘Szal’ - sat on the applecrate in his cluttered little apartment above a lonely bookshop and leaned in to his large, ornate mirror. The young vulpine mage tried to look beyond the edges - to the left, and then to the right - his blue eyes scanning for any sign of his benefactor. 

“The Museum of Transgressions is real, master!” He said to the mirror, a little too excitedly, “And, on top of that, I obtained the compass that will lead us there.”

If Jack successfully stole the robes of Savareth the Maimed, his ticket to Vulane and his new life would be guaranteed. He looked down at the parchment he had received:

“Dearest S.,

How goes it? The boat leaves in two months. If you have obtained the item, your ticket is as good as signed. I have other news for you when you step aboard that will warm your heart. 

  • Sel”

A twinge of fear emerged out of Szal’s heart: What if that boat sailed without him? Would he be trapped in New Nottingham forever? Szal’s heart raced as he grabbed a few pieces of parchment outlining parts of his plan, attached his false tail, and ran out the door. It was dark and raining, which Jack enjoyed.

He spotted two large and well-armed hares and a mouse on a side street harrassing some kind of weasel-sized predator, so he avoided it.

‘I’ll avenge you, too,’ he said to himself as he flitted away, clutching his Reynardian pendant.

There was a predator pub in the Cuts that he had arranged to meet his friends at: “The Wooden Box.” He had been a customer there in the daytime, but he knew a whole different kind of group would gather there at this time of night.

The building itself was certainly shaped like its namesake. The foundation of the public house dipped slightly into the Cynure river - the river that the less fortunate creatures of the Cuts used as drinking, fishing, and waste water. He grabbed his false tail, said a short fastening spell, and wandered in. He tried to be somewhat nonchalant, but not too much so. He knew what kind of reputation foxes had in these parts. 

‘Partly the fault of my father, but no matter,’ he said reassuringly to himself.

He opened the door to the poorly lit establishment and waves of unwashed citizen hit his sensitive nose. He adjusted his overwashed blue coat and scanned the room. As it was meant for predators, the lights were kept extremely low: Partly to deter prey animals, and partly to secure the anonymity of the patrons.

The clinking of silverware and glasses and the occasional rough laugh did not disguise the fact that this was not a place of pleasure as Jack’s parents’ bath house had been: This was a place of escape for the downtrodden.

The lute player - wherever they were located - strangled out a somewhat lively tune as Jack searched for his party. Having satisfied himself that they hadn’t arrived, he took a seat at the bar next to a wolf that didn’t look too diseased. He wore a tattered brown waistcoat that Jack could tell used to have military medals attached.

“Where’d you pull in from?” The wolf asked as he sipped from his gargantuan cup. Szal appreciated the friendly contact.

“Oh, my apologies: I’m not a sailor, my good man. How about yourself?”

“Vulane,” the wolf said flatly, then stared down at the feline bartender that happened to be passing by. He quickly stepped away, but Szal was interested.

“Oh... And how is it this time of year?”

Vulane, as far as Szal knew, was a lush port city with a large natural bay thousands of miles from the strife of New Nottingham.


Szal looked up into his new companion’s face. It was large to be sure, but it also had a weariness in it.

“You’re a rather large fellow, if I may say - What’s been giving you trouble over there?”

The wolf looked down at his weasel-y, foxy conversation companion and sneered. Jack instinctively whined, pulled back, swiveled his ears, and drank from his cup. “There’s a vixen over there. Dark fur. Violet eyes. There’s the College of Elements: Always fightin’. Lots of ghosts and ghoulies at night. Unnatural.”

At that moment Jack heard the creak of the pub’s door open and could see the outline of his two rat friends.

“Have a good night, sir: Perhaps we shall meet again.”

The wolf belched. “Not likely.”

Any creature that preferred the urban waste and corruption of New Nottingham to the fresh and exciting Vulane was a creature that lacked imagination in Szal’s mind.

Legac and Couzon were large black sewer rats: Brother-escapees from the continent. There was a time, not too long ago, when New Nottingham would have been a good place to escape to.

“Bonjour,” Jack said, raising his paw. The two brothers, strapped with climbing gear from whatever their latest heist was, walked over to him.

“Mon dieu, do not draw attention to yourself here,” Couzon cautioned through barred fangs. He was shorter than the fox, but no less commanding... or so he thought.

“It is probably a little too late for that, my friends!” Jack said heartily, drawing attention to his relative finery. As far as Jack had known, the softer someone spoke, the more others would lean in to hear you. Some of the other patrons looked at him, while others ignored him. He took note of those that ignored.

Legac growled - as far as a rat can. “<These damn forest-dwellers>,” he whispered in Continental to his brother, “<Soft and charming at the table, invisible at the battle>.” Jack heard and understood the comment and began calculating his chance of surviving an attack by both of them if he displeased them too much: it didn’t look favorable. He only weighed 70 pounds and was only slightly taller than them... ‘Oh well, Couzon is reasonable.’

They found a booth a little ways away in the back with a view to the river at Jack’s pleading. The windows had not been washed recently. His friends sat in the seats, squishing as they did so - soaking wet. Jack looked at the river flowing by. It was quiet, cold, and blue - his three favorite attributes. He straightened up and decided to try and calm his friends with some gossip.

“I suppose you’ve heard of these new things that the well-to-do are using, les amis? ‘Banks,’ they call them?”

The two brothers shared a glance between them, then turned back. ‘Capitalism’ was a new fad invented by a local raccoon intellectual that was slowly changing how thievery was done. In fact, it changed how many things were done.

Jack continued: “In the past, thievery ensured that money went from the wealthy to the poor. Now, things have changed.”

Couzon bit into the deermeat ankle he ordered, grinned, and cocked his head: “Do you have something else to say about banks, or are you just - how you say, ‘pondering’?”

“Ha, no. When we rob from banks, we shall do it from within. For now, I want to continue our partnership with another robbery from a more mundane source.”

Legac gripped the meat in his paw: “Just tell us what the job is, fox.”

Jack continued as though Legac said nothing. “--And these new wonderous inventions: stock markets! After this job, we can pursue robbing those too, whatever they happen to be. The raccoons are very clever, I dare say.” He bent down to sniff his salmon and nibbled on it delicately.

Legac grabbed Jack’s long ear, pulled it over to his side of the table, and whispered loudly into it: “Quel. Est. Le. Travail?” then released him, causing the fox to flump back into his seat. After adjusting his headfur and coat, Jack leaned forward: “I’m sorry, I do not understand you, Legac.”

Legac restrained himself after a stern look from his older brother. “What is the job?”

Jack took a breath and began to tell them what he needed to infiltrate the Tyrian Museum of Transgressions. He had a feeling that his friends didn’t care about which God they upset.

They had heard of it or, rather, they had heard of the “Forbidden District,” forbidden by the Tyrian church at least. The Reynardian church was quite a bit more lax on terms like ‘forbidden.’

After the meeting was over, Couzon noted to himself that Jack did not blink once.

“Couzon,” Jack said as the trio was about to pay their tabs, “Would you be interested in joining me for a little party tomorrow night at my abode? You know how to get there?”

“Am I not invited?” Legac interjected.

Jack straightened his hair: “Legac, it’s a more intellectual affair.”

Being grabbed twice in one night was too much, but Legac was fast: “Are you saying I’m stupid?”

Finally, Jack growled. His paws burned blue around Legac’s grip, causing him to drop him to the floor: “I’m not-- gah! I’m not saying that, Legac. This is a spiritual meeting. Persons from several faiths are meeting at my abode: You can come if you behave!”

Legac nursed his burning paw. “No, merci.”

Couzon helped Jack to his feet. “No promises, Jack.”

Jack himself got what he needed, along with some guarantees from the rat brothers. The commotion lasted less than three seconds and caused absolutely no stir as far as he could see. He then took another look around the pub. One of the creatures that ignored him earlier was sitting alone, wearing a deep gray cowel. Every once in a while, a snout would emerge and take a sip of ale. Something about the snout seemed off, but Szal couldn’t put his paw on it.

He slipped into the booth across from the mystery figure. “Hullo, there!” He said, merrily.

The snout upraised. “What? What do you want?”

“Oh, just curious.”

Szal stood and excused himself: He had started a little Reynardian church for himself, ‘and sermons do not write themselves.’

Jack strolled home, happier than when he left, and avoided the same street. Luckily, there was no motionless body there or anything so ghastly. He skittered home as fast as his little feet could carry him, knocked three times on the side door to Mrs. Vineweed’s Inn for the Weak and Weary and ran up the stairs to compose his sermon to Reynard, the vulpine God of Compromise. He penned the title as he thought of it: “The Spaces between Mirrors.”

He quickly hung his tail back on its post and felt a twinge, but tried to ignore it: He felt inspired this night, and refused to be distracted by thoughts of extreme violence.

August 10, 2022 19:51

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Zoe Pollock
12:54 Aug 26, 2022

Very interesting read and the dialogue flows really well. I did have to read the first paragraph a few times because the sentence structure is a bit clunky but other than that, great job!


Szal V
13:21 Aug 31, 2022

Thank you Zoe! That's not good about the intro, I'll clean it up when I get the chance :)


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Graham Kinross
04:03 Aug 14, 2022

If Zootopia had been a grimdark fantasy, or Redwall had aged up with the audience. “the softer someone spoke, the more others would lean in to hear you,” very true. Paraphrasing ‘he strains to hear a whisper, who refuses to hear a shout’? Will there be more of this? You should do more. You said you’d give opinions on other people’s writing on your profile, can you have a look at this one? It’s the first of a fantasy series I’ve been working on for a while. Thank you.


Szal V
17:26 Aug 14, 2022

Very glad you liked it, Graham! Yes, it's part of a larger story I put the review in your story, sir - hope it helps! If you'd like to review one of mine I can give you a suggestion


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