“Read the sign, would you.” Will said with a tired sigh. “It clearly states that they are busy.”
The young man frowned at him, clearly annoyed at being told to leave.
“Then what are you doing here?”
“I’m here to tell people that can’t read the sign that they have to leave.”
The man’s frown deepened, to the point that Will was actually worried he might just attack him right then and there. To his relief however the man simply huffed loudly and turned to leave. Will drew a relieved breath. He should’ve just been polite, he couldn’t afford any trouble if he were to start something. At first he had been polite to everyone that came in, but who knew that the people of the northern district would all be so spoiled. He should’ve known from the fact that the woman even asked him that his help would be required. If a simple sign would’ve been enough, then she wouldn’t have thought to ask in the first place.
It had been five hours now, and Will had lost count of how many entitled asshats had come in through that door. Each and every one of them more entitled than the last, and they all seemed to blame him for the fact that the alchemists were busy. Plus his back was starting to hurt again. He simply couldn’t make himself care enough to be polite to these people anymore.
He tensed as another person came through the door. They took one look at Will then ignored him and approached the counter. Will straightened and was about to speak, but to his surprise and delight, the man simply read the sign, sighed softly, and turned around. He gave will a quick glance and a nod before disappearing back out the front door. Will was amazed. That man just restored Will’s faith in the human population. People here could be sensible adults, freaking amazing.
A horrible stench came and attacked his nose causing him to gag. He heaved and almost threw up all over the floor, but his experience with bad odor from the harbour saved him. He could see a faint trickle of black smoke seeping in through the gaps of the inner door, and he shivered. What in the name of Abeni were they doing in there!?
His eyes were starting to water, and Will seriously considered just going home, or at least waiting outside, when the smoke suddenly began to retract. It went the way it had come, through the cracks in the door, and it took the pungent odor with it. Will gaped, but his surprise was soon interrupted by an excited woman’s shout. He couldn’t make out the words, but they sounded happy.
I guess she succeeded. He thought. That was good. She would be less likely to just throw him out if she was happy.
The door opened soon afterward and the woman stepped out into the room. She was still wearing the same clothes except she had removed her mask. Instead she was wearing an excited smile that removed almost all of the intimidating aura she had been wearing before. As she saw him, the smile faded into a small frown.
“Did you really wait here this whole time?” she asked. She didn’t sound at all dismissive anymore. In fact if anything she sounded ashamed. All of a sudden she was just another person.
“I did.” Will said with a nod. “And if I may make a small suggestion, it would probably be better if you just locked the front door.” He made a small grimace, as he recalled all the terrible things he’d been called when the annoyed would be patrons of this woman had turned to leave. As he spoke, a glimmer appeared in the woman’s eyes. She hurriedly took out a small piece of paper and scribbled down a note.
“...locking the door. Of course. That concept might be applied to the Legacy Ink as well, if thought of in that way…”
Will didn’t know what to do in this situation. The woman seemed to have completely forgotten him again. Fortunately it only lasted for a moment before she looked up again.
“Thank you. That was helpful.” she said. “I hope they weren’t too rude to you?”
“No, you don’t need to worry.” Will said quickly, he didn’t want to make a big deal out of it. Plus the woman seemed honestly regretful. That gave Will pause. Perhaps she wasn’t haughty or dismissive at all. Perhaps she was just really invested in her craft, and easily forgot herself. At least as she was now she didn’t seem to care about his clothing and apparent pennilessness at all.
“That’s good that they didn’t.” The woman said. “They can be quite rude, even to master… Some people I don’t even…” She paused and changed what she was going to say.
“You came with business, I presume.”
“I did.” Will took out the bottle from his pocket. “I happened across this a few weeks ago. I’d like it identified. What is the price for that?”
The woman opened her mouth to answer, then closed it again. She seemed to consider several options before she finally decided on one of them.
“I can do a simple identification myself.” she said. “And the price can be you watching the door earlier.”
“Thank you, miss.” Will said excitedly. He hadn’t expected that at all. He had been prepared to offer to split the value of the potion with the woman in return for her services. If the potion was worth enough, then it would still have been enough for Will’s needs. As for if the potion was a fake, he had let go of that thought this morning. He no longer had the luxury of avoiding those kinds of risks. He would’ve dealt with that bridge when he came to it. Now it seemed he didn’t even need to worry. A free identification! He couldn’t have asked for anything more.
“It shouldn’t take long.” the woman said. “You can continue to wait here if you like, or come back in an hour or so.”
“I’ll wait.” Will said.
Alice closed the door behind her once more leaving the young man waiting in the front room. She still felt quite guilty about before. She shouldn’t have just demanded that he work for them for free. After all he was a customer. Luckily he didn’t seem too offended. Instead he seemed quite excited about her identifying his potion for him. He did look like he must be enduring some hard times, and judging by his eagerness it had to be quite serious. She entered her personal study and closed the door. It wasn’t as large or nearly as well equipped as her master’s, but for a simple identification it would do fine. Besides her master would still be busy after their concoction, and she didn’t want to bother her. She put the bottle down on the workbench and quickly gathered what she’d need for a standard identification. A lead dripper from the cabinet by the door, some paper hardened with alchemical ink as well as some freshly made ink and a candle. She placed them all neatly next to the bottle and took a seat. She wondered what kind of potion it would be. She didn’t have large hopes that it would be very valuable. The bottle was right, but standard and quite cheap. But given the situation perhaps the potion was some soft of treasure the man wanted to sell off? In that case appearances could be deceiving… Well, she’d learn the truth soon anyway.
She uncorked the small brown bottle, and froze.
The Sense was something all alchemists had. It developed over time as they interacted more and more with the supernatural, so it was stronger the older you were. But even an apprentice like her could tell that this potion was alchemical. And incredibly potent. Alice had never felt it so clearly before in her life. Before she’d only been able to feel a faint connection with a potion, and often only during the actual brewing process. Only once before had she managed to sense from a bottled potion that it had alchemical properties. And that time was during a test, using a potion that she herself had made and was very familiar with. She gasped and forgot all about her prepared tools. Although she didn’t really need them anymore. All she could do was stare. The Sense almost seemed to condense into a physical smoke as it pulsed from the potion inside the bottle. After a while she closed her eyes and drew deep breaths, trying to calm her pounding heart. What in all unknown things was this? This had to be the work of a true master alchemist. How could that man have this? Had he stolen it from someone? This wasn’t something someone just happened upon. Nobody could be that lucky.
Thoughts tumbled through Alice’s mind, but no matter how she tried she couldn’t make sense of the situation. Her instincts were telling her completely opposite things at the same time. Firstly, she felt that the man wasn’t the kind of person who would steal an potion and try to sell it. If that was the case then why would he stick around and wait all day? Adding to that if it had been stolen shouldn’t the thief have some knowledge of what he took? That man didn’t seem to have any idea whatsoever what he had. If he did he would never take it out so casually like this. It was just asking for trouble…
But that left her with a new problem. If he didn’t steal it, how the hell did he get it? This potion was a true treasure. It was meant to be locked up in a vault, or studied by someone with the skills of her master. It wasn’t something you just picked up from the side of the road.
And him buying it was even less a possibility. Nobody would sell something like this. And even if they did it would be way too expensive for someone like the man out there.
She would never get anywhere like this, she realized. She needed to consult with her master first on what she should do. Besides, she wouldn’t be able to identify a potion like this herself.
She corked the bottle and felt a pang of sadness as the sensations of otherworldliness faded away. It was stronger than she was used to, but not so strong that she couldn’t resist it. She got up out of her chair and walked towards her master’s study.
“Enter.” A mature woman’s voice came from inside in response to Alice’s knock. Alice quickly opened and entered before closing the door behind her. The brewing was finished, but she didn’t want to disturb the air any more than she needed to.
Her master was sitting at her desk with her mask and apron still on. It would appear she hadn’t stopped for a second. Papers were scattered all around the desktop and her gloved fingers were holding what appeared to be a report on their completed concoction. Alice went and sat on a chair beside her. She wanted to speak up, but managed to stay silent as she also didn’t want to disturb her master as she worked. After a moment her master put down the parchment and turned to face her.
“Something on your mind Alice?” She asked.
“Yes, master.” Alice said. Her master frowned.
“I thought I told you to call me Jocelyn.” Alice froze with the bottle halfway out of her pocket and reddened slightly.
“Ah, yes. Sorry.” she said. “I came because of this.” She handed the bottle over.
“What is this then?” Jocelyn asked.
“It came from the man earlier, the one who rang the bell.” Alice said.
“He’s still here?” Jocelyn said with surprise. “Why?”
She must have noticed Alice shifting uncomfortably because her brows quickly furrowed into a frown and she asked: “Do you have any idea as to why he’s still here?”
Alice grimaced, but still explained what had happened. The Alice in her story was even more dismissive than she’d actually been. That Alice had been outright rude and quite bossy.
“I see.” Jocelyn said. She sighed. “I suppose it wasn’t so bad. But you need to be careful how you treat people. Even as an alchemist there are times when you can go too far.”
“Yes mast… Jocelyn.” Alice said. Then she added in an attempt to shift the topic: “He wanted that potion identified. I said I could do it myself, in return for him watching the door for us all day. But when I opened the bottle, I didn’t even need my tools. I could tell right away.”
“Oh?” that made Jocelyn perk up. “You felt it?” She smiled. “Good for you, child. You’re progressing faster than I thought.”
“It’s not me that’s progressed.” Alice said with a shake of her head. “It’s the potion. Open the bottle and you’ll see for yourself.”
Jocelyn did so, and her heart was instantly filled with shock.