I sat in my shop, several doors down from the town square, and patiently enchanted a thimble so it would fill with whiskey -- or the owner's other beverage of choice -- when blown into just so. A fine way for a woman to sneak a wee sip or two while out and about, if it weren't for the fact that a fair number of the women in town already owned one, thereby reducing the whole sneakiness factor.
I picked up my personal thimble, blew, and quaffed the half-ounce of red wine it produced. Sneaky? No. But free? Yes, indeed. And free was one of my favorite attributes in a beverage, foodstuff, or entertainment. That's just how life goes when you're the second daughter of the town's Priestess of Mystical Clothing. You don't get to be the apprentice and heir to the title, but you do get to be Enchantress of Magical Trinkets. I'd say "it's a living", but it's not.
The bell above the door rang and I was roused from my thoughts, surprised to see Mayor Peverley walking through my door.
"Good afternoon," she said. Her fiery red hair looked brilliant even in the dim light of my shop.
"Mayor," I replied, standing. "What can I do for you?"
"My daughter is getting married to a boy from Lanckerton this weekend. To, in fact, their Mayor's son. And I want something to send home with his parents."
I must have looked taken aback because she laughed.
"Nothing nefarious, Dara. Something fun! Lanckerton doesn't have mystic craftspeople and a bauble from your shop seemed just the thing."
Perhaps this was the niche I was missing? Not that our fair town of Cremonle was high on the list of vacation spots. Our frigid winters, balmy summers, rainy springs, and blustery autumns saw to that. But still, some folks passed through. Take home a magic thimble to your wife, sir? A sure-flyer paper plane for the kids?
The Mayor perused my shelves as if she were selecting an item of great importance. She picked up a featherlight paperweight, capable of keeping in place a tall stack of papers but able to be lifted by even the feeblest of folk. She looked it over then set it back down, apparently unimpressed.
In the end she selected a pair of my darksight glasses. (I had made it very clear to my sister and mother years ago that I considered glasses, watches, jewelry, and the like to be trinkets and not clothing. I had failed to be as persuasive on the matter of hats or footwear.) While the Mayor of Lanckerton likely didn't need to find his way through a pigsty at night, like most folks he'd doubtless enjoy not having to light a candle to see his way through the house when all was dark and quiet.
I wrapped the glasses in a soft cloth and placed them in the nicest gift box I had on hand.
The mayor smiled. "Very nice, Dara." She handed me three gold pieces and turned to go. Before she left, she looked over her shoulder. "Come to the reception, dear. You'll get to see the gift presented and there's going to be quite a feast."
I accepted quickly. Too quickly, in fact, as I realized moments later that I didn't have a thing to wear.
I made sure my sister wasn't around when I went to my mother's store to inquire after a dress for the reception.
My mother arched an eyebrow at my request. "How did you end up on the guest list?" She shook her head. "Well, no matter. If you're going to be there, we certainly need to make sure your appearance speaks well of the family."
We tried one dress after another; not the magical garb, but the fancy clothes she also carried for those who had need of them. They were, in order: too green, too long, too low-cut, too long-sleeved, too short-sleeved, too frilly, too shiny, too black, too short . . .
I shrugged into a pale-blue dress, simple and comfortable. I saw my mother working up toward some objection and cut her off.
"I like this one," I said. "How much?"
She sighed. "You can't afford it. Just don't make a mess of it."
I wanted to argue, to say that I didn't need her charity. But she was right, and I knew it, and she knew I knew it.
I didn't expect any customers the day of the wedding, but I opened my shop anyway. Partly out of habit, partly so I could craft a few new items for the shelves, but mostly to keep me from sitting around worrying that I'd make a fool of myself at the reception.
I wasn't terribly successful at not worrying and it only got worse as the day wore on. Shortly after taking a break for my meager lunch, I managed to drop a hairpin I was enchanting so it would keep its owner's hairdo tidy in any weather down into the dusty crevice behind my workbench. I dug through my tool drawer for a couple of minutes, probably looking at every item in it at least twice, before finding my pair of stretchnose pliers. I bent over the counter, the thought of having the pliers as well flashing through my mind momentarily. But the metal stretched and twisted toward the dropped hairpin and soon it was back in my hand. The tool drawer was still open, but I nudged it shut with my foot and dropped the pliers into my bag. The way this day was going, I'd probably need them again.
The rest of the day crawled by. Finally, in the mid-afternoon I heard the church bells ringing. Of course it was then that an elderly man decided to come into my store and slowly examine every item I had for sale. I couldn't afford to turn away possible business but I still had to stop home and change into my borrowed dress and I could feel the minutes slipping by.
Finally he settled on a staydry notepad and pen set. I took his money, thanked him, and quickly grabbed my bag and locked up.
I made it to the reception before I could truly be termed "late" and got in line to congratulate the bride and groom. The dinner was everything the mayor had said it would be, the wine much better than what my thimble conjured up, and I didn't say anything that would embarrass me or my mother.
The mayor presented the gift she'd purchased from my store to her counterpart. The mayor of Lanckerton happily experimented with the darksight glasses and I noticed Mayor Peverley gesture in my direction. Perhaps a bit more business would be in the offing. I drank some more wine and let myself relax.
Then the screaming started.
At the head table, everyone was gathered around the groom. His eyes were bulging out, his face was darkening, and he had his hands clutched at his throat.
People were rushing about, trying to find a doctor or anyone who could help. My heart jumped, then, and I grabbed my bag and ran to the head table.
"I can help," I told Mayor Peverley. She looked unsure but stood back.
The groom's eyes were shut and I had to work to get his jaw open. I reached in with the stretchnose pliers I'd retrieved from my bag and urged them toward whatever was blocking his throat.
It felt slow, so slow, and I heard voices raising around me. I kept my focus on the pliers, willing them to seek out the obstruction. I realized I was holding my own breath and exhaled sharply. Just then, the pliers twitched and I tightened them around what they had found. A moment later, I was holding a very soggy, poorly-chewed piece of ham.
The groom sputtered and choked and drew in a great long breath. Everyone cheered. He was hustled away, his new wife and parents at his side. People were thanking me, congratulating me, calling me a hero. Glass after glass of wine was thrust toward me. I think even my mother might have smiled.
The next morning I decided the store could wait until late morning, maybe even mid-day, to open. When I got there, I found Lanckerton's mayor standing at my door, looking vaguely perplexed.
"Do you normally keep such hours?" he asked.
"Err... No. Sorry if I've kept you waiting."
He shook his head. "It's alright, I'm just glad I caught you. I wanted to thank you for what you did last night and to say that you seem to have quite a talent for creative thinking."
I thanked him, unlocked my door, and opened it. He followed me inside.
"I'm surprised someone with your skills isn't right on the square," he said, looking around my store with a furrowed brow.
I shrugged, not quite sure what to say. He was the first person to have ever questioned the arrangement, as far as I knew.
He leaned on my counter. "Lanckerton's not that different from Cremonle," he said. "We've got frigid winters and sweltering summers too. And our springs are even rainer than yours. But our autumns... Well, they're... Breezy. But not gusty." He smiled. "Have you ever thought of moving your business?"
"No." I knew that more words should be coming out of my mouth right then, but that single syllable was all I managed.
"I think you should consider it, Dara. There's a nice storefront available in our town square and I'm sure your merchandise would be well-received. Will you think it over?"
My mouth felt dry. "No," I said again, the word popping out abruptly.
Lanckerton's mayor looked disappointed.
More words tumbled then, finally bursting free from my brain. "I mean, no I won't think it over because I don't need to because of course I'd be happy to have a store in your town square!" I blushed, then. Effusiveness is not my style.
He smiled and told me to stop in to his office the minute I got into town. "I'll be sure to introduce you to plenty of folks who'll see to it that your shop gets off to a fine start."
And that's how Cremonle's Priestess of Mystical Clothing got back the right to sell enchanted glasses, watches, and jewelry, and Lanckerton got its first-ever Enchantress of Fine Magical Goods.
x x x
A cool quickie that just feels right for Thanksgiving. The Bride and groom ae thankful; the townspeople and Mayor are thankful, the leading lady protagonist is thankful. And anotherealm is thankful for this fun fiction from Michael Hanes. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! -GM