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Disputed Delivery

Alter Reiss is a scientific editor and field archaeologist. He lives in Jerusalem with his wife Naomi and their son Uriel, and enjoys good books and bad movies. This is his second story in Daily Science Fiction.

4 Springsolm, 2347
Mercedrin & Hart, Specialty Importers, The Old Market, Tenrial
Dear Sirs,
Earlier this year I had the pleasure of submitting to you an order, for which I have a pressing need.
While I cannot complain of any lack of promptness on your part, there seems to have been an unfortunate confusion in regards to my order; instead of 350 square feet of basilisk hide, your firm's agents delivered eight adult basilisks to my workshop on Lesser Iron Street. After petrifying one of my most productive apprentices, the basilisks escaped into the Merchants Quarter of Zand, leading to a good deal of trouble with my neighbors.
At no time did I solicit the delivery of livestock of this sort, and they have caused considerable trouble and distress. As such, I must ask that your firm reimburse me for the damages caused by these basilisks, and that you either return the funds I have advanced in payment for the hides, or send me the 350 square feet of basilisk hide that I require.
Sycorax the Dread
24 Springsolm, 2347
Mercedrin & Hart, Specialty Importers, The Old Market, Tenrial
Dear Sirs,
While I cannot produce our prior correspondence, my files having been turned to stone during the basilisks' escape, I am entirely certain that I requested basilisk hide, rather than live basilisks. Furthermore, while I understand that capturing and shipping live basilisks is a difficult and dangerous enterprise, it is not one which I demanded of your firm, and as such, it is not one for which I feel any obligation to pay.
As far as returning the basilisks or their hide to you, I am afraid that I cannot oblige you. Three of the basilisks remain at large in the sewers of Zand, much to the distress of the municipal authorities, and the remainder were destroyed soon after their delivery to my address. The manner in which they were disposed of did not leave their hides in a condition fit for any use. For this reason, I cannot confirm that had I skinned the basilisks sent to my address, my needs would have been met. It does not matter either way; they, and their hides, are gone.
I am not an unreasonable woman, and I realize that you have suffered great losses in this affair. But this was your mistake, and I have no intention of paying you the money that you believe is in arrears.
Sycorax the Dread
7 Osverit, 2347
Mercedrin & Hart, Specialty Importers, The Old Market, Tenrial
Dear Sirs,
I will admit to some surprise at receiving notice that you had initiated legal proceedings against me. It is self-evident that I am the injured party, and I am sure that any court of law would see it in the same way, even the High Court of Tenrial, where, as you point out, the Supreme Magistrate is Revendria Hart, uncle to the Mr. Hart of your firm.
However, this business has taken too much of my time and attention already, so I have decided to see if a settlement can be reached. At the time when I placed my order, basilisk hide was valued at 457 Tenrial sequins to the square foot. I advanced 50,000 sequins before the delivery, leaving a balance of 109,950 sequins which you believe are still owed.
At the moment, dragon hide is valued at 974 sequins to the square foot. I have taken the liberty of sending no fewer than 5,000 square feet of dragon hide to you, leaving a balance of 4,760,050 sequins which you now owe me. The smoke rising from Tenrial is visible as far as Zand, and indicates that the delivery has been successfully completed. If this sum is not paid, I shall have to assume that the arrangement is not to your liking, and will look into other methods by which you might be recompensed.
Sycorax the Dread
The End
This story was first published on Monday, July 9th, 2012

Author Comments

A few years back, we saw that a local grocery store was selling quail. Unfortunately, when we ordered some, we did not get the meat product we had hoped to get, and instead had a small flock of birds we were not at all prepared to deal with. It took a while for this story to percolate, but that's where it came from.

- Alter S. Reiss
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