The midday sun beat down on the Market, thronged with People. The pathways between the stalls were crammed with bodies, occasionally parting in order to make way for the passages of sedan chairs. This particular mode of transportation resembled a box with curtained widows and side doors, and was carried on poles by two bearers. Sedan chairs were more commonly used during the 17th and 18th centuries, and while Alfred knew about them from books, he had never seen one in actual use before. Whoever rode in these vehicles were obviously persons of great rank, for upon their appearance the crowd would instantly melt away to make room for them.
Rounding a corner Alfred and Robin were confronted with the sights and heavenly scents of the food, vegetable, and fresh flowers section of the Fairy Market. That it was harvest time was in evidence everywhere, and stalls spilled over with fatly ripened produce of all sorts. Luscious, ruddy-red apples set Alfred's mouth watering, as did the enormous baskets of glistening berries. Behind the vegetable stall a small man dressed in dark green cap and jerkin bowed, and offered Alfred a sample. Alfred moved quickly on when the fairy gentleman smiled, revealing row upon row of glittering, pointy teeth. In the next booth the attendant was selling shaved ices in small silver bowls that changed color as they were consumed. Alfred saw two fairy children greedily eating these, and sticking their tongues at one another, laughed merrily to see their tongues change color as well.
Under a brilliantly colored tent that was striped gold, green, and violet sat fairy women of surpassing beauty, absorbed in the task of weaving floral wreathes for one another's hair. At the entrance of the tent were two spiral topiary forms, covered in tiny buds. Alfred drew closer to look, as the buds appeared to be on the point of blooming, but instead the buds turned into butterflies, blue, buttery yellow, and crimson, and flew away.
Through the crush of the throng came yet another sedan chair. Robin, who was feeling rather out of circulation, craned his neck to see who rode inside. It was a fairly opulent vehicle, even by sedan chair standards, the surface covered with all manner of scrollwork and filigree. A lady's hand trailed from the window, her sleeve dripping with rose tinted lace. A large, sparkling jewel flashed on her finger before the hand was drawn back inside, and the lady's face momentarily peered out of the window. It was a beautiful face but cold and calculating and Robin knew it well. "By Oak, Ash, and Thorn," swore the hobgoblin quietly, "what on earth is Mab doing here?"
Image copyright Julia Jeffrey
Text copyright Chandra Peltier