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III. They reel me back in



So I work the evening shift, make ten more jugs of potion blank, then I work the morning shift and the afternoon shift, make ten more jugs and refine fourteen vials of our best-selling cheapo love potion, make a bunch of sales, and then I work the evening shift and make up some more love potion. And the next morning, I get up and have some porridge, because Mom has a vat of oats but hasn’t been bothered to buy bread lately, get to my morning class (Magical Algebra) ten minutes late, do my homework in class, come home, have some porridge and tea, and go back to work.

I make some charms for bracelets. I have one I designed myself. It’s based around a blessing for travelers. It’s kind of this bell-shaped thing with a spell written on it, in the Kneghet, one of the old scripts no one uses anymore for, you know, giving directions or anything that would actually be useful for travelers. I make three of these, one in the morning and two in the afternoon, and by dinner time, I’ve sold two of them. You know, to travelers. People who are going somewhere else. Not people like me.

I cook up some love charms. I’m really just using the oven to cook down some of the potion, which will start to stink if you don’t sell it in a few days. The aroma gets me a little high, but I keep the store open. I get up late in the morning, Mom’s just going out but she makes some time for me to make sure I get properly nagged and groused at, then I’m free all day to, you know, slave over a cauldron and try and sell people love potions. I manage to remember to go to my Glyphs class at the fifth hour of the afternoon. Homework. Of course.

I make some dinner. I whip up a pie from some flour and three eggs and some dried meat. I bake it up in the wood oven where I was cooking up love charms last night. The ingredients are rather different in the two recipes, but I’ll tell you, that was an interesting pie. Mom comes home and she’s thrilled that I’ve sold stuff (she pockets the cash) and that I’ve made dinner. She wolfs down a piece, grabs another for “a friend,” and heads out for the night. I have the night to myself, but after another piece of that pie, myself is feeling pretty good about myself, if you know what I mean. Must clean the oven out after making that charm next time. Or not.

I admit I’m a tad slow to get up in the morning this time. I miss Magical Algebra completely. The damn pigeons on the roof earn their keep, though: I whip up an egg thing with my tea. I’m left alone again: the tea merchant comes by midmorning, she finds me in a tea-induced euphoria, and since I’ve just sold four more love charms, I buy a big bag of her best. Mom comes in just after and makes some tea. It’s very nice. Mom grouses about the fact that there’s no new cash in the till; I grouse that as soon as there’s cash, we need to buy some more ingredients. So I can make more charms and potions. So we can have more cash.

Constable stops in, I make myself scarce, they wander off somewhere—he’s superstitious, or maybe he’s just sensitive to the smell of the place, whatever, having him not around reduces the amount of time I spend puking. I finish my egg thing for lunch, have some more tea, manage to get some work done in the afternoon in spite of all the time I spend peeing. I put in an appearance in my History of Magic class. Insmoor is three hundred years old next year. Those orc attacks used to be much worse. Really? Then home just in time to miss a sale.

I do sell some stuff in the evening, but when Mom stumbles home she’s tired and grouchy and she dozes off in her chair. I put her to bed, then me. She’s up and out in the middle of the morning with whole paragraphs of nagging, whining and grousing that I needn’t go into. Once she’s gone, I make another sale, a necklace I made with some healing stones: rose quartz sells well, jade probably actually works, hematite—oh, who can resist hematite? I talk it up to a middle-aged lady and sell it for four. Whole. Gold. Florins. Amazing. It cost me ten shillings tops to make. So I go out and buy some more ingredients, and everything’s going like clockwork till Mom happens home about the fourth hour of the afternoon. It’s November, so yeah, that’s closing on sunset. We get in a hissy fight, I pocket the profits and leave her four silver shillings, and I’m out the door. I can’t even remember how many days it’s been since I had a minute off.

I head for the Rose. A shilling there buys a mug of stew with plenty of beef, a big slice of hot bread with butter and honey, and a mug of ale they keep refilling. I’m having a nice shop talk with the lady who makes the ale and the old dude who makes the stew—apparently the beef was a friend of his, and we’re honoring his memory. Good friend, I say. We toast.

Speaking of friends, who waltzes in just when I’m on my fourth or fifth mug of ale but Fenric and Janet.