Roscuro begins to enact his plot…

“May I detain you for a moment?”

Mig looked to her left and then to her right.

“Down here,” said Roscuro.

Mig looked at the floor.

“Gor,” she said, “but you’re a rat. ain’t you? and didn’t that old man just warn me of such? ‘Beware the rats,’ he said.” She held the tray up higher so that the light from the candle shone directly on Roscuro and the golden spoon on his head and the blood-red cloak around his neck.

“There is no need to panic, none at all,” said Roscuro. As he talked, he reached behind his back and, using the handle, he raised the soupspoon off his head, much in the same manner of a man lifting his hat to a lady.

“Gor,” said Mig, “a rat with manners.”

Mig was warned, but she isn’t really scared of the rats, and Roscuro is one of the few people that has shown her courtesy.

“My papa had some cloth much like yours, Mr. Rat,” said Mig. “Red like that. He traded me for it.”

“Ah,” said Roscuro, and he smiled a large, knowing smile. “Ah, did he really? That is a terrible story, a tragic story.”

Reader. if you will pardon me, we must pause for a moment to consider a great and unusual thing, a portentous thing. That great, unusual, portentous thing is this: Roscuro’s voice was pitched perfectly to make its way through the tortuous path of Mig’s broken-down, cauliflower ears. That is to say, dear reader, Miggery Sow heard, perfect and true, every single word the rat Roscuro uttered.

He speaks from a place of pain, and he recognizes hers, too.

“Allow me to introduce myself,” said Roscuro. “I am Chiaroscuro. Friends call me Roscuro. And your name is Miggery Sow. And it is true, is it not, that most people call you simply Mig?”

“Ain’t that the thing?” shouted Mig. “A rat who knows my name!”

Hardly anyone ever calls Mig by her name, especially those who believe her incompetent.

“Miss Miggery, there is no need to shout. None at all. As you can hear me, so I can hear you. We two are perfectly suited, each to the other.” Roscuro smiled again, displaying a mouthful of sharp yellow teeth. “‘Aspirations’, my dear, are those things that would make a serving girl wish to be a princess.”

“Gor,” agreed Mig, “a princess is exactly what I want to be.”

“There is, my dear, a way to make that happen. I believe that there is a way to make that dream come true.”

“You mean that I could be the Princess Pea?”

“Yes, Your Highness,” said Roscuro. And he swept the spoon off his head and bowed deeply at the waist. “Yes, your most royal Princess Pea.”

He’s the first person in her life that’s ever encouraged her hopes and dreams, so of course she doesn’t realize it’s too good to be true.

Mig held the tray with the one small candle burning bright, and she listened as the rat went on, speaking directly to the wish in her heart. So passionately did Roscuro speak and so intently did the serving girl listen that neither noticed as the napkin on the tray moved.

Nor did they hear the small mouselike noises of disbelief and outrage that issued from the napkin as Roscuro went on unfolding, step by step, his diabolical plan to bring the princess to the darkness.

Next time: Recalled to the light…

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