It was early afternoon and sunlight streamed in through the windows. The shop was clean, the boss was busy brewing up more stock and there wasn’t really much to do at Blucini’s Magic Mart of Things & Stuff, Misc. Inv. etc.
They never did get around to hanging up the new sign yet. Mostly because her friend couldn’t decide on a better name. Nina had insisted on precision of language and, so, Blucini was agonizing about getting it right.
Frell could probably come up with ten better ideas of what to call the store, but the Terrenmedan dwarf feline insisted that she could come up with it herself and she didn’t need any help, thank you very much.
Wasn’t her problem anyway.
Frell hung out at the counter, minding the door because she had no other business today and nowhere else to be. The shop saw enough foot traffic that her partial armor and sword was advertisement enough. Plus, it deterred any would-be thieves.
The bell above the shop door tinkled as it opened. Frell looked over casually. Her eyes widened at the uncommon sight: some kind of colorful underwater slug slithered inside. Definitely not something she usually saw on land here.
A muffled yell came from the backroom.
“Hey, can you tell them it’ll be about seventh of a turn? My gloves are covered in curse solution right now!”
“Yeah, whatever. If you didn’t hear her, it’ll be just a shake,” the frog rolled her eyes up toward the bowed ceiling. She wasn’t even getting paid for this. Then, as an afterthought, “please wait here.”
The slug wrung eir hands. “I heard. I can wait.”
E slid back and forth across the wooden floor, examining the potion bottles impatiently. E would pick one up, peer at it intensely, swirl it around, then set it back down. Eventually, the customer sat down in one of the chairs covered with a throw blanket and began to leaf through a tome at random from the sidetable.
Blucini came out, wiping her palms on her apron, and offered her paw to the sea slug to shake.
“I’m awful sorry about the wait.”
E did not look like it was fine at all. The slug looked tense and nervous. Eir eyes kept darting around.
“What can I help you with today?”
“I’ve tried everyone else!” the slug blurted out. “No one else had what I needed or anything that might help me.”
The cat raised her eyebrows skeptically. She looked unimpressed.
“So I’m your last choice?”
looked from Blucini and then at Frell.
“You have a problem with tactfulness here.”
“Well, since I’m the last place you’ve visited, I don’t suppose you have many other options.” The slug’s face hardened at the implication. Blucini reversed course and tried to amend her tone to be softer. “what seems to be the problem?”
“I can’t see in color anymore. It’s really not minor for me, it’s how I hunt and eat. So I need this fixed quickly.”
“Oh, that’s new. Can you tell me more about how it happened?”
“The curse expanded into my home, I’m not sure what else to say. I’m not the expert. Aren’t you supposed to be the expert?”
Frell laughed loudly, then tried to cover it up with a sudden cough into her hand.
“A little more information to go off of helps. Wait here.”
The cat disappeared into the stockroom then came back with a bottle, a flask, and a spoon. She poured a little bit into the spoon.”
The slug’s eyebrows lifted and her rhinophores quivered. “No cost?”
Eir eyebrows knitted together, but she took the spoon as offered. Everyone waited.
“I mean, everything has a green tint now but I guess it’s better than my whole world being greyed out.”
Blucini sighed. “This might be complicated. Can you tell me exactly what region of the bay you live in?”
“Do you have a map?”
“Of course,” Blucini said and a large map was supplied and unrolled. Pieces of colored tape stuck to the linen marked different regions and shaky lines had been drawn bisecting it into an irregular grid. “by the way, what should I call you?”
“My name is Zoya.”
Zoya leaned over and pointed at a spot on the chart.
“Right about here.”
“Ah. That’s an intersection of these two regions. One is blindness and the other is a shadow transmutation or other darkness alterations. When there is overlap in curses, sometimes the results are unexpected. You’re actually really lucky you received a low dose where you’re at. I think it’s because of the natural immunity a lot of fish and sea creatures seem to have.”
Frell looked shocked at her sudden knowledgability behind her, but Blucini wasn’t facing her.
“So can you help me?” E asked again.
The cat rubbed her chin thoughtfully. “Maybe? Like I said, the combination of curses leads to unpredictable consequences. So any cure I make will end up equally unpredictable. It’s more art than science. Not an easy case.”
Zoya looked crestfallen. “So this could take a while?”
“I have to head back to the ocean soon… I can’t stay out too long. So you think there is hope for me?”
Frell hid a smile behind her hand. Like she’d ever turn away a willing customer.
“Oh, absolutely. Do you have a scrystone with you?”
Frell covered her face with her palm. Any respect she had for the cat’s intuition melted away like butter in the sun.
“Scrying pools don’t work underwater.”
Blucini looked embarrassed. “I forgot.”
Zoya sighed. “I’ll be back tomorrow. Should I bring payment?”
A complex mix of emotions crossed the cat’s face – desperation, followed by a temperance and then pity. “No, that’s only necessary on a successful delivery. I have a reputation to maintain, after all!”
Frell was incredulous at that, but she just turned to face the wall so Zoya didn’t see.
The sea slug left, and the day ended without any other paying clients.
Frell banged open the cash register and pretended to count the runecoins in the drawer. It was the same amount as the morning. “Wow, a grand total of zero dollars. We are doing so well.”
She snapped. “Could you not be a sludgeonion for once? It’s getting really old! Zoya was right, you’re really lousy at being polite.”
The frog swelled up defensively, straightening her shoulders. “She meant you too!”
“Just… go. I don’t need your help anymore.” A pause. “ – today.”
Frell closed the drawer with a snap, the door firmly, bristled at the cheerful bell and walked out briskly onto the street. Out of sight, her shoulders dropped and she let out the air she was holding in her lungs. Her hands were shaking.
It’s like I sabotage everything I touch…