27: The Bath

Timidly, Edmund stepped out of his socks, and into the deep alabaster tub. Unsure of where or how to stand, he turned to face the wall with the horribly open-mouthed beasts, trying not to look at the glint in their bronze eyes as they stared down at him. Something was simmering behind the wall, sloshing and splashing like a thick stew. Mrs. Kippling nodded, a grim smile on her face, as she stepped around the tub and reached for a brass wheel.

“If you’re ready, I’d cover my face, master Edmund,” she said, gesturing to the bronze visage of a cawing raven high up on the wall. “You don’t want to get this near your eye.”

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Edmund’s hands flew up to his face as he heard the wheel squeak. A blast of ice-cold water, strong enough to peel paint from a ship’s hull, smacked Edmund in the chest, pushing him towards the ground. His limbs jerked about helplessly as he desperately tried to keep his face covered and his body upright. He twisted about in the blast, trying to escape, but the two strong hands of Mrs. Kippling came from nowhere and gripped his shoulders, keeping him set directly in the middle of the torrent. He could feel his skin starting to peel from the strength of the water, when Mrs. Kippling grabbed his hair and forced his face under.

For a moment, all he could feel was the powerful drubbing on his head. It felt like the raven was trying to burrow into him, cracking his skull like an egg so it could feast on his yolk-like brain.

Just when he was sure he was about to die, Mrs. Kippling’s hands pulled his head up and spun him about. Now the water was at his back, pounding away at his spine and trying to snap it in two. Edmund had read in Dr. Prissarium’s Practicum that if the spine ever broke, you would never move again; you would become a rag-doll, limp and useless.

Then, as suddenly as it had come, the horrible torrent of water vanished leaving a sucking sound echoing in Edmund’s ears. He risked peeking through his fingers to see the water in the tub swirling away through a small hole in the bottom he had not noticed before.

“There!” Mrs. Kippling let go of Edmund, brushing her wet hands through her hair. “Much better.”

Edmund glanced down at himself. Surprisingly, he was still all there; he saw no welts, nor cuts. His skin was a bit pinker than usual, but not much else. The raven must have sprayed some strange type of elixir, or perhaps a solution of water mixed with a healing tincture.

“Now,” said Mrs. Kippling, as she reached for the wheel under a growling demon’s face. “On to the soap!”

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