We’d dried off in the sun and were only slightly damp by the time we made it to the adventurer’s guild. It looked like any other building here, it didn’t have a grand doorway or monster skulls on the walls; it was just another unassuming small stone house on the street.
Inside was much the same, I could have mistaken it for a post office if it wasn’t for the sign. A few people were inside looking at a notice board and others were queuing up at the 2 counters available.
Aron was already walking over to the notice board. Following him curiously, I had a look; it was divided into 3 sections with the most posters stuck to the section ‘Inside Village’ and a bit less were in ‘Outside Village’, with only a few in the ‘Combat’ section.
Aron was scanning the section for requests inside the village so I wondered over to the combat section to have look, but it was mostly things like ‘protection needed for a journey to xyz’ or ‘village guards are hiring’, no cool monster slaying quests, but then again why would a village this small need to slay monsters. Most of the people here were peaceful farmers and crafters, if monsters came, either the [Guards] took care of it or well, I didn’t really want to think of the alternative.
Stepping back to Aron I saw he’d picked out a request “What did you pick?” I asked peering over his shoulder.
“Just to help out with a farmer’s animals while they’re repairing stuff.”
“Ah ok” I nodded looking at the request; it paid 6 coppers per hour for cleaning out pig stys and feeding them. I wrinkled my snout, it wasn’t difficult or dangerous work, but I didn’t really want spend my time clearing out pig shit unless I didn’t have another option. Though maybe I was just accustomed to city life, it clearly didn’t seem to bother Aron.
“Well I’m taking this one, I’d say you can come with me, but its only work for one person, sorry” he looked a bit guilty but I was a bit relieved I didn’t have to muck out a pig sty.
“Its ok, I’ll have look around” he grinned and trotted over to join the queue, presumably to sign up for his request.
I scanning the section for ‘Inside village’, Aron had been right, the majority of new notices pinned up were related to repair and cleaning up after the Orc attack. I sighed, I’d been hoping for something cool, this was the adventurer’s guild after all, but it was mostly chores or people hiring for permanent positions, which I couldn’t exactly apply for as a 9 year old.
Disappointed I flicked through them, lifting the edges of pinned posts, hoping that I’d missed something. Frowning, I found an older one that offered 10 coppers per hour for assisting with gardening and alchemy. The notice was a worn at the edges unlike the new ones hung up after the Orc attack, but it paid slightly better than most of the other jobs. Pulling it off the wall I noticed small writing at the bottom: free healing potions for any injuries received during work hours.
“Ah ugh, don’t take that one” Aron appeared at my shoulder looking a bit anxiously at the request in my hand. His was rolled up and tucked in his pocket and he looked ready to go having finished at the counter.
“Why?” I asked apprehensively, the free healing potions remark at the bottom had been a bit ominous.
He sighed, “Aunt Summer is an alchemist and when she says assist with alchemy, she means she’s going to test new potions and stuff out on you. It’s an on-going request and the upper class has a dare at the end of the school year to see who can be her assistant for the longest. One year this girl was hiccupping soap bubbles for a week and a guy had purple sweat and tears for 2 days” his lips twitching in a smile.
“Well that doesn’t sound like it requires healing potions” I said cautiously, that sounded more like she was pranking the teenagers.
“Yeah I mean those were funny, but if she doesn’t like you, you’ll be shitting liquid fire for a few days”
“Ah” I said hesitantly, staring at Aron’s serious face, I wasn’t sure if he meant literal liquid fire or burning diarrhea “So does anyone take the request other than teenagers when they finish school?”
“Um not that I know of, adults avoid her, but maybe some kids do it on dares, but not usually, you’re not thinking of actually going are you?”
“Well she offers free healing potions so-“
“That she made” he stated seriously “I know it pays better, but if you’re just looking to make some money, there’s better ways to do it”
I paused and looked down at the poster in my hands, I wasn’t exactly in need of money or saving up like Aron, money was always useful to have and I would need it eventually, but it wasn’t my driving goal right now. I’d mostly followed Aron here because I wanted to see the adventurer’s guild and now I didn’t really want to leave and do nothing until the dinner rush at the Inn.
“I need to get going but good luck” Aron gave me a half hug from the side and ran off before I could do more than wave good-bye.
I contemplated the notice I held; at least it wasn’t going to be heavy manual labour or boring, besides, the things Aron had mentioned didn’t sound terrible, just annoying and unpleasant, but not outright dangerous. If I hated it I could quit, I wouldn’t be the first.
Mind made up I went to stand at the back of the queue; I fidgeted as I reread the notice in case I’d missed anything since it lacked any requirements. Some of the notices had required certain Classes or Skills etc. but there was nothing here, just the brief job description.
When I finally reached a counter I just handed the man the post, which he took without a word and started filling in a form. Handing the notice back to me he said “All done, I hope your bet is worth it” eyeing me before turning to the next customer.
Frowning I took the notice and left, the address on the back indicated a house not too far from the village square so I took off in that direction. Like everything in the village, it wasn’t far and I came to a stop in front of a cottage with a small overgrown greenhouse attached to it.
It looked normal enough so I stepped up to the white door and knocked. Tentatively I looked around, there was no response so I knocked louder. A door slammed somewhere inside and footsteps came closer until the front door was yanked open to reveal a short middle-aged woman with a few auburn strands escaping her neat bun.
She looked down at me even though she was only slightly taller than me and a bemused smile twitched at her lips “You’re here for the assistants position?”
“Yeah, I mean I wanted to check it out, I don’t actually have any experience with alchemy though I’ve done some gardening before-“
“Yes yes, not important” she waved me off, motioning for me to come in, blue green eyes watching me intently “It’s been a while since someone came, I get a bunch at the end of the year and never a drake before, I wonder how different drake physiology is hmm”
She grabbed my hand and started examining my claws “Not retractable hmm lizardfolk have retractable claws you know”
“Uh ok” I said, uncomfortable at having someone examine my hand so closely and irritated at being negatively compared to lizardfolk.
“Which is odd you know, since I don’t know of a lizard species that has retractable claws, but the world is a big place so who knows” she grinned and dropped my hand to look at my face “No crest or frills, only young though hmm” she muttered “Do you grow horns? Drakes don’t usually come this far into human territories, so I’m a bit unfamiliar with drakes I’m sorry to say”
“I er, I don’t think so” my pride a bit ruffled as she looked disappointed.
“Next time you shed, can I have sample? Lizardfolk get a bit iffy when I ask”
My eyes widened a fraction, I hadn’t thought about it, but reptiles shed their scales when they grew so chances were I’d end up doing that too, which wasn’t an entirely pleasant prospect to think about.
“Why do you need my shed scales?” I asked trying to think of a nice way to refuse.
“Just to see how they react to different substances, you know not everything can be tested on live subjects,” she said lightly.
“I see” I said, butterflies in my stomach urging me to get out of here, but she smiled broadly, eyes sparkling as she grabbed my wrist “Come, I’ll show you around, I do hope you last longer than the others”
She was unnervingly chipper when she said that and significantly stronger than I expected for a woman her size as she dragged me through the living room; it had to be strength stats.
“Uh sure” I replied as I followed her, mostly not by choice.
“So here’s the garden” she unlocked a door that led to the greenhouse. It was filled with rows of cubicles on shelves with engraved with glowing symbols, containing various plants. Each glass cubicle must have been a few feet across with a drain underneath with open pipes leading to a tank at the other end of the room.
“Now these enchantments let me keep the each plant at a different humidity and temperature.” she walked forward brushing the leaves of some plants “I don’t grow vegetables or anything, these aren’t for eating, they’re mostly herbs and plants useful for alchemy or with other special properties. You’ll help me take care of them, but of course you won’t be touching any of them until I know you can handle them”
I nodded watching the neatly potted plants as sunlight filtered through the glass ceiling. That must have been expensive; glass wasn’t a cheap commodity here. I followed her around as she gave some facts about a few plants until we came in a circle, ending by the door.
“Now onto alchemy, this is the part you’ll be the most useful with” she beamed and the butterflies in my stomach came back full force. I was nervous but also curious to see how potions were made, there had to be a degree of magic involved otherwise healing potions just couldn’t exist.
Going back into the house, I followed her up the stairs to the second floor and then to the attic, which like the greenhouse was locked. Unlocking the door, I peered into the attic, which was shockingly clean and tidy; it could almost have passed for a lab with its stone counters and numerous stacked flasks and beakers drying near the sink. Several slanted windows on the roof gave the attic an open airy feel as it was lit with sunlight even though there were strategically placed enchanted stones on the slanted walls.
I stood near the door unsure of what I was supposed to do as ms Summer walked of to a large cupboard, opening it to reveal numerous, neatly labelled boxes, containers and bottles with various substances inside. She pulled a few things out and started bustling around picking up measuring equipment and flasks. I was impressed by how precise everything was, I hadn’t thought that there would be glassware like that in this world since the Inn mostly had wooden cups and plates, but then again, maybe she was a bit richer, she did sell magic potions after all. That had to be lucrative business.
“Alright, drink this” she said shoving a test tube with an orange liquid sloshing around into my hand, as she picked up a notebook and flicked through to a new page and sat down on a stool watching me intently.
“Um, what does it do?” I dubiously looked into the test tube; it was a bit thicker than water and the unhealthy shade of orange contrasted sharply against the rich blue of my scales.
“Its just an insect repellent I’ve been tinkering with, I’ve gotten rid of most of the side effects, but I haven’t had anyone to test it on, but the chickens were fine”
“I’m not a chicken though” I said annoyed, wondering briefly how an insect repellent would affect my allied status with the ants.
“Well obviously, that why I need you to test it on”
“Have you tried it?”
She had the gall to look mildly insulted “Of course not, first rule of alchemy: never experiment on yourself. That’s a slippery road, also side effects can be so unpredictably unpleasant”
I looked down the test tube one more time, well how bad could it be?
“Oh, holy- wow” Aron coughed out holding his nose, eyes watering, “You smell worse than me and I spent the last hour covered in pig poop” he rasped out covering his nose and mouth with the bottom of his shirt “And what happened to your scales? You look diseased”
I glowered at him from my seat on the mattress, the blanket wrapped around me so only my face was visible. The tip of each of my scales had turned bright orange, fading into a rusty brown before resuming their previous beautiful blue, giving me a mottled appearance with blue and orange patchwork scales.
It was hideous and I was so outraged and horrified at having my stunning scales marred with this ugly orange I could barely breath when it first happened. I clenched my fists tighter into the blanket; I would make that beastly woman pay for what she’d done to my gorgeous exterior.
Ignoring the overpowering smell of sewage that I couldn’t seem to wash off, I was beyond livid that my scales had been reduced to this- this abominable form. I hadn’t even known I’d cared that much about my appearance, but after that foul woman had tarnished them I’d been livid, my beautiful gleaming sapphire scales reduced to this horrific orange rusty colour, it was a travesty and I would make her regret ever dabbling in alchemy.
“Are you going to wash or something?” Aron wheezed out.
I glared at him from under my makeshift blanket hood “I already did, nothing helps, that vile sadistic woman sullied my scales and I’m going to destroy her”
I growled out, eyes narrowed as I glared up at Aron.
“Right well, you can’t help in the Inn smelling like that so I’m going to clean up and er head downstairs, maybe you should open the window?” he said edging out the room trying not to cough “Also I know you’re angry and everything, and before you get to destroying and all that, I’m just going to say, I told you so” I threw a shoe at him and he yelped and laughed as he ducked out of the room.
I briefly got up to open the window, at some point I’d gotten used to the overpowering stench and my eyes no longer watered breathing it in. Counting to ten I tried to regulate my breathing before my anger boiled over, she’d violated my scales- I breathed in deeply, trying not to think of it, while I plotted her demise as my eyes burned holes into the wall.
“I brought you dinner” Aron mumbled as he pushed a plate towards me, startled I looked up and noticed it was dark outside as he rolling into his bed “At least the smells mostly gone now, don’t worry aunt Summer’s potion’s side effect usually wear of within a few days max”
He yawned as my eye twitched; a few days with this diseased appearance was a few days too long. I absolutely refused to be seen in public like this- “She’s your aunt?” I exclaimed sittign up looking at him in betrayal.
“What no, its just what everyone at school calls her, I don’t think she has any relatives here, she just turned up one day and moved in”
I calmed down a bit and lay down, a suspicious back story for a suspicious evil woman, ignoring that I had exactly the same background. And why orange, it was the worst colour, clashing hideously with my magnificent blue; she deserved to rot. I hadn’t had any particular feeling towards orange before, but now I actively loathed the colour.
I picked up my dinner and wordlessly ate it, revising and ditching numerous plans for revenge. I know she’d done it on purpose, all that bullshit about testing to see how it affects drakes, she knew, that heinous woman enjoyed doing this, she was probably cackling around a cauldron right now.
“You know I got 12 coppers today, in a few days I’ll have enough to get the lute” Aron happily rolled over so he was lying on his pillow, head propped on his arms. He clearly didn’t understand the mockery she’d made of me, but he didn’t have scales so how could he understand their importance. I flushed slightly, that was unfair of me; I hadn’t had scales until recently and I understood, was I racist against humans now? Lightly slapping the side of my face, I focused on Aron; I shouldn’t be so egotistical.
“I can help you some more with writing music if you want?” I offered and his eyes lit up “That would be great, I’ve been practicing, but I’m a bit confused about- wait let me show you” he jumped out of bed and ran to the desk drawer pulling out stacks of paper and bringing them over to me to review.