A Shipment of Candy Arrives in Lewisburg
First published in 42.72 PSSC, A Shipment of Candy Arrives in Lewisburg is a grim short story written by noted Eurani author, Anagle Egha Emädi, which explores the complex relationship between the Bassarid political and economic spheres of influence, and which is notable as what many regard as a rebuke of the Bassarid Empress. Many observers, to this end, draw parallels between the Empress and the story's character, known as the Investor Agent's Wife. Such observers also draw parallels between the Investor Agent and the Bassarid government as a whole, and the Candy Merchant and the various brokerages and companies affiliated with the Port of Vines. The story, with this said, also draws attention to concerns regarding the rapid expansion of the Noctic-Rabrev trade in central Keltia.
A Shipment of Candy Arrives in Lewisburg
“The orange ones are, well, chocolate.”
“And the green ones are...”
The Investor Agent eyed the Candy Merchant.
The two men laughed. In the other room, the Investor Agent’s wife rolled her eyes. The Candy Merchant pulled two more jars from his sack. The investor uncorked and sniffed the contents of each one in turn as it was handed to him.
“Three jars?” asked the investor.
The Candy Merchant took a moment to secure his candy sack, tying it with golden rope.
“It’s a long road,” replied the Candy Merchant, glancing up as he thought for a moment about adding an additional statement, and there was a tense pause, interrupted all at once by a knock at the door. No one paid this knock at the door any mind. None moved to answer it.
“Indeed it is,” said the Investor Agent. He picked up the second jar and again sniffed its contents. He then poured some of its contents onto a nearby table, so that they could be illuminated by the dim, fiery orange glow emitted by his favored antique lamp. Candy canes. And he turned once more to the Candy Merchant, who remained seated.
“There was a flood – this was all we could retrieve,” blurted the Candy Merchant uneasily. His uneasiness was noted by the Investor Agent’s wife, who had entered the room and taken a seat by the fireplace which remained unlit due to it being unseasonably warm for this time of year.
The Investor Agent sighed, and sniffed and poured out the contents of the jar which he had sniffed at first, such that they too were now illuminated by the orange glow of the antique lamp. Watermelon chews. Exactly as ordered. Then he picked up the final jar and again poured its contents onto the illuminated table. Chocolate, neatly wrapped, and rock candy, mixed together haphazardly.
“Chocolate and rock candy,” laughed the Investor Agent. His wife merely peered at the candy. “That must have been some flood!”
“South of the swamps,” the Candy Merchant thought for a moment that he may have interrupted the Investor Agent, but then he decided that it didn’t really matter one way or the other whether he did or not cause offense, and that he didn’t really care even a little bit for the investor.. And so it didn’t really matter if he lied. “Just inside of elf country. But we didn’t actually encounter any elves, or vampires for that matter. Nothing. Just terrible weather. Floods”
“Floods,” added the Investor Agent, and he took a seat in a chair next to his wife who remained seated at the unlit fireplace. The Candy Merchant still hadn’t moved at all. Instead, he remained seated. At some point he had returned his hood to his head. It hadn’t been a conscious act, and he now regretted it, but was still to nervous to remove it again. “Dare I ask?”
The Investor Agent’s wife looked hopefully at the Candy Merchant, and he tried nervously to avoid her gaze.
“We lost two jars,” the Candy Merchant lied. “and we had to retrieve both of them. One of them we found in fine condition. No damage to it, and its contents well preserved. The second one we found in worse condition. Most of its contents were spoiled. And so we salvaged what we could, mixing jars if we had to. This is what we ended up with. And to be honest, it was mostly the guards who did most of the finding and salvaging.”
The Investor Agent said nothing, and sitting beside him at the unlit fireplace his wife was also silent.
“They’ve gone off to the docks, as it so happens,” the Candy Merchant continued. When no one else laughed, he repeated himself. “off to the docks.”
“It sounds as if they’ve earned it,” said the Investor Agent without a hint of humor, and he rose to face the fireplace. “It is considerate of your one guard to remain with you. He is still outside, is he not?”
“He is,” replied the Candy Merchant. “As always.”
“Good,” said the Investor Agent assuredly. “alas, I myself am lacking in guards. As it is that time of year, all but only a few of my guards have fallen ill.”
“I see,” the Candy Merchant shifted in his seat. Currently, he considered standing up, but decided against doing so. Instead, he remained seated, and considered for a moment that in fact, since arriving, he had not seen any guards at all.
“You see?” replied the Investor Agent. “You mixed the chocolate and the rock candy.”
“We tried to salvage what we could,” retorted the Candy Merchant. “We can sell at a lower rate. We can negotiate a new rate for everything, if you want to do that. Let me tell you, though, that this lime candy was made with real lime. You’re not going get that anywhere else. We did our best. We salvaged what we could. And we have it here, ready to sell.”
The Investor Agent appeared to think for a moment.
“You mixed the chocolate and the rock candy,” he said. As he said this, his eyes drifted to his wife, who had now silently floated over to the candy on the table illuminated by the antique lamp, and now appeared to be sorting through it. “It’s a matter of principal.”
“The chocolate is wrapped,” the Candy Merchant answered sharply.
“And fine wrapping it is,” said the Investor Agent’s wife as she began to unwrap a piece of chocolate which she had dug from a small pile of yellow rock candy. Both men turned to look at her, expecting her to comment further. When she said nothing else, the Investor Agent turned his attention back to the Candy Merchant, and the Candy Merchant turned his attention to the floor. None spoke for some time.
“Is the chocolate any good?” asked the Investor Agent of his wife, finally breaking the silence.
“Pretty good,” she responded.
“What other kinds of candy do we have?” the Investor Agent inquired. “Rock candy and watermelon candy? Candy canes? Or was it lime candy?”
“I don’t know,” replied the Investor Agent’s wife. “That’s what it looks like.”
“It was watermelon, wasn’t it?” asked the Investor Agent of the Candy Merchant. “I seem to recall that you mentioned it might be lime.”
The Candy Merchant fidgeted nervously in his seat. He wished that he weren’t seated. He could feel himself sweating in the heat of the unlit fire, under the heavy hood which now caused his head to roast, which he had never meant to slip over his ears.
“I must have misspoken,” laughed the Candy Merchant, trying his best to stifle his nerves. “It is watermelon.”
“That’s what I was hoping for,” said the Investor Agent, now himself floating over to the piles of candy on the table illuminated by the antique lamp. “Watermelon is my favorite.”
And from a wrapper wholly distinct from the fine wrapper which protected the chocolate, he unwrapped what he believed to be a watermelon chew. And as he did, his heart was filled with a fervent, hopeful lust for the sweetest glimpse of watermelon. But all at once his hope and lust were shattered as his taste buds beheld not the sweetness and youth of watermelon, but the aged sourness of lime. And he turned to the Candy Merchant in despair.
“This candy tastes like lime.”
With all of his fury, the Candy Merchant seized upon the Investor Agent, stabbing him in the throat, and killing him immediately. Seizing upon the momentary opportunity gained as the Candy Merchant sought to retrieve himself off of the body of the Investor Agent, the Investor Agent's wife grabbed from the table the antique lamp – spilling onto the floor the piles of candy as she did so. Using this lamp, she bashed in the skull of the bloodthirsty Candy Merchant. And in the midst of this new darkness, the Investor Agent’s wife dropped to her hands and knees, so as to better lap up the intermingling blood and brains of the two fresh corpses now sprawled at her feet.