The Enchanted Apothecary
Marie summed up her new customer with one word. Danger. Intense dark eyes, chiseled expression, broad shoulders, visible muscles, and a fresh scar that ran from his temple into his cheek. His every step inspired caution, like being trapped with a nesting dragon or climbing a giant tree for a phoenix egg. Marie knew that type of danger—she’d done both.
Marie gripped her grandmother’s protection charm, which now hung around her neck, and made her way between the narrow aisles. After passing the eye of newt and snail slime, she greeted her customer. The man didn’t look like he needed magic to solve his problems, a warrior perhaps, not a mage. Marie sensed the energy in the room feeling for tendrils of magic like she did with all new customers. Nothing. He wasn’t her normal clientele.
Keeping a little distance between herself and her new customer, she went to work. “Can I help you?”
He seemed to try to smile, the corners of his mouth softening slightly. The words he spoke sounded almost rehearsed. “I’m looking for valerian root.”
Marie loved figuring out why a person visited her shop. For example, ogre hair for a baby at home, fairy tears for a lost loved one, and gnome wisdom teeth for those that needed to solve a puzzle. Valerian root mixed with a little magic could cause unconsciousness. Marie sensed the air again for magic. Still none. Without magic, the root was only a simple herb. “Can’t sleep?”
His eyes darted to meet Marie’s and then he diverted them to the jars of potions that lined the exterior wall. “It’s for my gnome problem.”
Marie shook her head. “Valerian root doesn’t work on gnomes. Lava ash will get rid of them.”
“Wouldn’t that upset them? You know how they can be. I just want to sleep through their antics.”
Marie nodded. Despite lava ash being a better solution for gnomes, she remembered her run in with an angry gnome – her eyebrows were finally back to normal. “It’s back here,” she said as she walked him to the back of her shop. She picked up a bundle of light brown roots. “This is it; you can chew a chunk of it right before bed or grind it to make a tea. I’d recommend adding honey and mint to the tea to cut the lingering taste.”
The man took the valerian root and wrinkled his nose. “Wow, it smells like dirty clothes. Does it taste awful?”
“Everyone has different preferences. It’s a little bitter, like goldenseal.” She let her eyes wander the shelves in her shop. “I’ve tried many of these items and I don’t think valerian root is that bad. Others that never tried these herbs may dislike it. It’s all perspective.”
The man picked up a griffin feather in the bin next to the root. He spun it causing the silver and gold streaks to reflect in the shop’s enchanted lights. “A griffin feather?”
Marie nodded. “How did you know?”
He touched the pink scar on his face. The scar didn’t make his face less handsome. “I ran into one lately. How can such nasty creatures have such beautiful feathers?” He put it down. “What’s that for?” He pointed to another bin.
“It’s a rock from the Hot Springs River up on Eternity Mountain, it brings luck.”
“You know what all these ingredients are for?” His eyes wondered the isles of herbs, magic ingredients, potions, and powders.
“How did you learn all of it?”
Marie’s memories rushed in like water over a dam: stirring potions in the kitchen upstairs, grand adventures collecting magic supplies, and of the woman who was always with her. “My grandmother taught me everything she knew of magic and herbs.” A tear crept its way to the surface.
“She sounds amazing.”
Marie nodded. “She was. She took me in when my parent’s died and never made me feel like a burden.” The tear she was holding escaped and trickled down her cheek. “I’m sorry. She died only a little while ago.” Marie wiped the tear away and put on a smile. “It will be four silvers for the root.”
The man shook his head, looked into her eyes and the rigid lines of his face softened. “I’m sorry,” he said as he handed over the silvers and pointed to the sign on the wall that said Maybelle’s Enchanted Apothecary, “Are you Maybelle?”
“No, Maybelle was my grandmother. I’m Marie.”
“Well, it was nice meeting you, Marie,” the man said. “I’m Connor.”
Thoughts of Connor kept Marie busy the rest of the day, a tough-looking man who took on a griffin but allowed gnomes to keep him up at night. It didn’t add up.
A few days passed and Connor returned to Marie’s shop. Another client kept Marie busy and she couldn’t get to him right away. Despite caring for her current customer, Marie noticed the way he stalked the isles and his careful movements. The softness she saw yesterday was gone.
“Thanks for patronage,” Marie said as she handed Lady Claire her love elixir.
Claire laughed, “Of course, you’re the only magic supply shop this side of the Sleeping Giant River, but even if you weren’t I’d come to your shop anyway.” Claire winked at Marie, turned to leave, and appeared to notice Connor. She turned back and whispered. “I’ve seen him around town. He just moved here and rumor is he’s up to no good.”
“What type of no good?”
“I don’t know, but I’ve heard chatter about how he lives alone in the old wizard’s house on the hill. I’ve also heard he has an odd schedule, leaving home at all hours of the day with different weapons and devices. Nobody ever visits him. Why do you think he left his last . . . ?”
Claire stopped speaking as Connor approached the counter with a scowl on his face. She turned away and called back to Marie, “Thanks for the potion. I’ll see you another day.” She left the shop, taking the long way around to avoid Connor.
Marie pushed Claire’s words from her mind and focused on Connor. He set dried petals of blood rose on the counter in front of her. “For your lady?” She asked. Blood rose balanced out pregnancy hormones.
“No, I don’t have a lady,” Connor said, fidgeting with the petals on the counter. “They’re for a friend.”
Twice now, Marie initially failed to identify his intentions. Was she losing her touch? “I wanted to apologize for my emotions last time you were here. I should’ve been more professional.”
Connor’s shoulders drooped and his intense eyes again captured hers. “Don’t worry, it brought back some of my memories too.”
Marie took his two silvers. “How are your gnomes?”
He hesitated. “It’s like they aren’t even there. The valerian root is working.”
A few days later, Connor returned to Marie’s shop. He paced by the door a little before Marie made her way to the front of the shop. “Any recommendation for a headache?”
“Willow bark will do the trick. It’s right over here,” she said as she walked him to a corner of the shop noticing the bark bin was almost empty. She always had harvested it from the forest on the edge of town with her grandmother. Since her grandmother died, she couldn’t get herself to gather more. She scanned the rest of her shop, many item’s inventory was running low. When she turned to face Connor, she noticed something on his worn leather jacket. She pointed at the spot, “You have blood on your coat.” A shiver ran up her spine as she thought of blood magic. She had a tragic encounter with it in the past that her parents didn’t survive.
He stepped away from Marie as he looked down on it. “Oh, I worked this morning. I didn’t realize I got it on myself.”
Marie stepped back, “What kind of work do you do?”
“I hunt for the nobles. I’m sure running an enchanted apothecary is more interesting.”
Hunting would explain the blood, but she took another step away from him as she thought about his question. “I disagree, but getting the supplies had always been an adventure.” Visions of her grandmother came back again, but she managed her emotions this time.
Marie’s stomach quivered when the man visited her shop for the fourth time. The only customers she had that visited this often were powerful mages. Connor came to the counter this time with meteor dust, potent stuff. What did he want with this? It never worked alone, only with other herbs and magic supplies to ground a spell.
“What are you using this for?” She said motioning to the powder.
“I’m just running errands for another friend.” Connor looked away. Was he lying to her?
I shouldn’t question him. She always figured her customers out, but this man was different. What was going on?
That night, Marie opened her grandmother’s formula book. Meteor powder, willow bark, blood rose petals, and valerian root. Dark magic. She felt the hair lift on the back of her neck as she realized her hunches about him were correct. What was this man planning? Blood, a phoenix talon, and a little glacial ice water to bind and finish the formula and he would have the power to control the weather, specifically the ability to call a tornado. He had blood, it was on his coat last time she saw him. A phoenix talon he could easily have – the scar on his face was testimony. He would be back to her shop soon – she had the glacial ice water he needed to finish the spell.
Marie didn’t want to support dark magic. Her goals were always to help people, not harm them. Marie went to work mixing up a truth powder and baking it into a batch of biscuits. Her chest tightened as she thought of deceiving someone, but she had to do something. Her grandmother taught her that some magic, such as truth powders, could be good or evil, separated only by intention. Marie was certain her intentions were good.
When Connor returned to her shop a few days later, Marie felt her palms begin to sweat and her heart race. She searched for her bravery and handed him a biscuit. “I baked these for my customers today, please have one.”
“Thanks,” he said, taking a biscuit. He truly smiled, the first time since she met him. His tough exterior melted and Marie shifted her body and turned away from him. What if she was wrong?
Marie waited, but he didn’t take a bite. She felt the need to fill the silence with chitchat. “How’s the weather?” Marie realized what she said after it came out.
“I don’t worry too much about it. It will change if you wait long enough.”
Especially if you have the power to change it.
He took a bite of his biscuit. Marie waited for him to swallow before she asked her next question. “Did you really buy the meteor powder and blood rose petals for a friend?”
“No,” he said as his eyes jotted open wide. “I mean . . . No.” He covered his mouth with his hands.
“What aren’t you telling me?” Marie pushed forward. She had been in dangerous situations before and knew the only way to get through them is to not hesitate.
Connor mumbled something and quickly spun around and headed for the door.
“Stop,” Marie said using the little magic that she had to hold the door shut. A dark mage would overpower her magic, but she wanted no responsibility with whatever he was planning to do.
Marie walked up to him. “I won’t sell you anything else from my shop. I will do everything I can to stop whatever evil you’re planning.”
Connor looked confused as he removed his hand from over his mouth. “I’m not planning anything evil. Why do you believe that?”
Could a dark mage overcome her truth powder? Marie didn’t think so. She sensed the forces in the room again, but noticed no magic other than her own. She didn’t answer his question.
“The only evil I’m guilty of is coming up with reasons to visit your shop.” He looked down at his biscuit. “Truth powder?”
Marie nodded. He took another bite.
“It’s good,” he said. “The truth is I made excuses to see you. When I first met you I noticed your sadness from the loss of your grandmother and it spoke to me.” He took another bite of the biscuit.
Marie processed all this information; she didn’t expect what she heard. Was it true? In disbelief, she tested the air for his magic again, but realized he lacked magical powers. If he was magical, she should have sensed something already- he had visited her store five times now.
“I don’t have a gnome problem. Sometimes I can’t sleep because I lie in bed and images of my wife pop into my head and I can’t get them to go away. She died a while ago, but will always hold a spot in my life. The sadness you have over your grandmother – I’ve been there. I wanted to help make you feel better, but realized nothing anyone can do will take away your grief. Nothing could have taken away mine, other than time.”
This was true. She looked down at her basket of truth powder laced biscuits. “Wow, I don’t know what to say. Was it a coincidence you bought all the ingredients to call a tornado?”
“A tornado?” Connor laughed. “Why would I want that? It seems ridiculous.”
He was right and Marie felt the warmth of her blood fill her cheeks. A tornado was a crazy idea. “What about the blood rose petals, meteor powder, and willow bark?”
“The blood rose petals and meteor powder were inexpensive and the willow bark was just an excuse to talk to you. I didn’t know what you’d recommend. I didn’t have any other reason for those supplies.”
“The scar on your face from a griffin? The blood on your coat?”
“I told you, I hunt for the nobles who like exotic meat. The court wanted a griffin and it paid 250 silvers.”
Marie shook her head as the pieces fell into place. Trust her instinct, her grandmother said. Right now, her instinct was telling her she had been wrong.
Connor closed the space between himself and Marie. “You’re beautiful.” He forced his mouth shut. “Damn truth powder. Okay, here comes the truth. I like you. You appear to be an adventurous woman that I’d like to learn more about. Do you want to come with me up the road for a sandwich?” He popped the last bite of biscuit into his mouth. “Your biscuits made me hungry.”
Marie hesitated as she felt the rush of guilt. “I think I owe it to you,” Marie said looking away from Connor’s gaze. She picked out a biscuit and took a bite herself. Connor was right – they were good. “It’s only fair. I wouldn’t mind getting to know you better too. Honestly, since you first came into my shop, I’ve thought a lot about you.” She laughed at herself telling the truth. She put out the closed sign, grabbed her coat, and waved off the enchanted lights. “Maybe when we’re done, you’d come with me to the forest up the road? I need a few supplies for the shop.”
“It sounds like an adventure. How long will the truth powder last?”
“The rest of the day.”
“Well, it will be an interesting evening,” he said as they walked up the street.
Joy Schultz is a science fiction & fantasy writer living in Wisconsin with her husband, two children, and numerous pets. She has a Doctor of Pharmacy degree and currently enjoying a career as a veterinary pharmacist. To learn more visit her at: joynellschultz.wordpress.com