The Old Cup

Photo of a dusty wooden chalice, with the caption: "A very old, very dusty, wooden cup."

The Old Cup

Short story by Iris Carden

Orsinius Wishlet was sweeping the hairdressing salon floor, when he heard the ding of the bell that said the door had been opened.

Without looking up from his task he said, “Ariana is finished for the day, but I can make you an appointment for tomorrow if you like.”

“I don’t need an appointment,” a frighteningly familiar voice answered.

Looking up, he saw someone he really did not want to see.

Lady Justice looked down at him.

“Your Ladyship,” he stammered as he bowed, his bald head gleaming with anxious sweat, and his grey beard brushing the floor.

While he was looking at the floor, the bell dinged again, and the strong smell of magic told him before he looked up that his next visitor was Merlin.

Orsinius stood up straight again, just as his employer walked out of the back room saying, “Everything’s in the steralizer, and the coffee maker’s cleaned up, so when you’re done sweeping we can call it a day.”

She stopped short, and gulped as she looked at the visitors. Lady Justice she had encountered before, but then the tall imposing woman had large wings and was carrying a sword.

“I had heard about this, but I really didn’t believe it,” Lady Justice said. “Orsinius Wishlet doing a normal human job. So you really did give up your life of crime?”

Orsinius bowed again. “Yes, My Lady,” he said. “You said you were growing tired of wisps committing thefts, so I gave up being a thief. But I did not know how to live without stealing, so my friend Ariana gave me this job and taught me how to use money to buy food.”

Lady Justice looked at the human woman. “You’ve done this wisp a great service,” she said.

Ariana found her voice, “Orsinius did me a great service by saving my life, or at least by getting you to come and save my life. And I don’t think it was very fair to expect him to give up stealing when he didn’t know how to get a job or even how to shop for food or anything.”

Suddenly, Ariana remembered the razor-sharp scimitar had used to exact justice against her sister, and decided it was better to stop talking.

Lady Justice laughed. “You’re absolutely right,” she said. “I should not have expected so much of Orsinius without giving him some instruction or help in how to live a crime-free life. In my defence, however, I didn’t actually expect any such thing. I believed he would just go on as normal. I’ve given his cousin numerous such warnings without any effect.”

“Well,” said Ariana quietly, “Orsinius is just a good person, is all. I can’t say anything about his cousin. I don’t know him.” Ariana tried to stop her eyes from staring at Lady Justice’s shoulders, but was unable to do so.

“It’s a glamour,” Lady Justice told her. “A spell. I use it to prevent people seeing my wings most of the time. Wings attract too much of the wrong type of attention.

The tall, white-haired man who had been standing behind Lady Justice stepped forward and offered his hand for her to shake, “Hello Miss Sutton. I’m Merlin, and I would like to thank you for your assistance to Mr Wishlet. Discovering the magical world can be quite intimidating to humans, and it was brave of you to offer to help.”

“Merlin… as in…”

Merlin nodded.

Ariana found herself unable to think or speak for a moment or two. She was holding the proffered hand, forgetting to let go.

Merlin, ignoring that a dumbstruck human was standing like a statue holding his hand, turned his attention to Orsinius. “Mr Wishlet, I have heard about the recent incident with your cousin. I know that Excalibur itself has affirmed its allegiance to you. You are exactly who I believed you to be. And because of that, I have another, equally important task for you.”

“Excallibur?” Ariana said faintly, as she finally managed to let go of the wizard’s hand.

From a fold of his robes, Merlin extracted a very old, very dusty, wooden cup.

“This doesn’t look like much,” Merlin said, “but it is vitally important that it doesn’t fall into the wrong hands. I believe the chosen guardian of Excallibur is the best person to be responsible for it.”

Orsinius accepted the cup, cautiously. It smelled strongly of something like magic, but not the same as any magic he had smelled before.

“We thank you for your great service,” Merlin said, and then turned to leave.

“Wait!” Orsinius said. “I have to ask you something. You once said who I was wasn’t who I would be. And now humans can see me. Am I becoming something else?”

The wizard turned back to face him, “Mr Wishlet, humans could always see you. You were just very good at hiding from them, especially with the extensive use you made of the interim. As for who you are becoming, that is about your character, your destiny, not your species. And you are well on the way to becoming who you will be. Your destiny is far more important than that of any wisp before you, or likely after you.”

Merlin turned again and opened the door, then instead of walking through it, simply vanished, leaving the door to swing closed again and the bell to ding. His voice, seemingly left behind, said, “I do like your doorbell, Miss Sutton.”

Lady Justice said, “Actually, I do need an appointment to have my hair done, and one for my daughter as well, but I think this has all been a bit overwhelming for both of you, so I’ll phone about it tomorrow.”

She left, using the door in the normal manner.

Orsinius and Ariana both stood looking at the cup.

Things started to click together in Ariana’s mind.

“Merlin.. Excalibur… You know what this cup is, don’t you Orsinius?

Orsinius’ mind hadn’t quite worked through the links yet. He shook his overlarge head.

“It’s a wooden cup, like a carpenter might have. Merlin had it. Merlin was part of King Arthur’s court. You have Excallibur, King Arthur’s sword. You know what all of King Arthur’s court was always looking for? A cup! A cup that had been owned by a carpenter. Orsinius, you’re holding the Holy Grail.”

Orsinius almost dropped the cup.

“What am I supposed to do with this?” he said quietly.

“What did you do with Excallibur?”

“I hid it in my burrow, with my most precious things.”

“I guess you put the Grail there too.”

“Then what?”

“Then we go to the library and learn everything we can about these things Merlin has you looking after.”

Orsinius nodded. His previous experience with libraries had only been to steal books, and he had no idea how to actually find information from one, but he realised Ariana would know how.


When I wrote Lost and Found, I didn’t even consider that Orsinius Wishlet would get a second story, but I like the character so much, that I keep coming back to him. As more stories have occurred to me, his situation has become stranger and stranger (and he started out pretty strange.)

Orsinius Wishlet Stories

Lost and Found was originally a one-off story, until the day I had the idea for A Wish Come True. After that, Orsinius and the world built around him just kept coming back to me.


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By Iris Carden

Iris Carden is an Australian indie author, mother, grandmother, and chronic illness patient. On good days, she writes. Because of the unpredictability of her health, she writes on an indie basis, not trying to meet deadlines. She lives on a disability support pension now, but her ultimate dream is to earn her own living from her writing.

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