“It must undo this,” the creature snapped, gesturing at my wrist. I blinked, apparently having gone into a sort of waking trance as I watched the gold spin out. The room was nearly bare of straw, now. “Quickly!” it snapped its teeth together, flexing its claws impatiently near my wrist. “One cannot be slowed by its dullness, too much at stake! Yes yes!”
I gave myself a little shake and slipped the straw bracelet back over my wrist, then began to pick it apart.
“Faster!” the creature hissed. “No time for mortal slowness!” but it did not rip the straw from me, as I half expected, not until the last twist was undone, when it did snatch and become a blure once more. I glanced down the length of the now echoing structure, to where a row of windows revealed a rapidly lightening sky.
Suddenly the creature was before me again, glowing eyes narrowed.
“What,” it said, but it wasn’t so much a question as a statement. “What, what,” it muttered, bobbing up and down, and swaying ever-so-slightly. “What has it done? How has it done it?” The creature began to pace around my skirts on all fours, sinuous as a cat.
“Shake them!” it demanded. “It must shakes its wretched skirts!” I did so, feeling nauseated. It knew! Somehow, the creature knew I’d held back.
“Where where where,” it hissed, then the long pointed tongue came out, and it began to snuffle around me.
“Stop that!” I squeaked, but it did not. Instead it gave a triumphant bark and began to scrabble at my shoe. I tripped and fell, terrified of its sharp claws and sharper teeth, not caring what the rough stone floor might do to my skirts as I scrambled backwards.
“Yes yes!” It laughed, and quick as a snake snatched the straw from my shoe. It gave it a small twist between its fingers, and suddenly it was holding a short thread of gold.
“Yes yes,” it repeated, grinning at me. “It was clever, so clever. It knew to ask one’s name, knew to leave a loophole. Yes yes, one appreciates a clever challenger, one does.”
The latch on the door clicked, and the creature tossed the twisp of gold at me, then spun into itself as it had the first night.
“One will see it again, yes yes,”
The words were a gloating whisper echoing in my ears, and I shivered at the promise. Relieved as I was that the creature had been pleased rather than angry at my attempted deception, I couldn’t help but worry if, perhaps, that didn’t herald worse to come. After all, who appreciated a trick more than a trickster?