Láile sighed as she stepped behind the curtains, still holding the flask Marwan had just brought back to her shop complaining of its impotence. “Another day, another unhappy customer,” she muttered.
For all the modest success the she’d had in opening her very own potion shop, the witchling had struggled to make a name for herself in the wider world she’d thought herself prepared for. Of the three specialty potions she made besides the usual healing and strength potions, only the one in her flask had seen any sort of significant sales: her “Best Body Potion”.
Láile had developed the Best Body Potion during her studies, seeking a potion that would change the quaffer’s body in whatever way they most desired. Given the relative popularity of the potion among her fellow witchlings, Láile had been certain that it would be a hit in her new home of Vindell, too. And to be fair, from the amount of Best Body Potion Láile had brewed since moving to Vindell, one could easily have been mistaken in thinking it had indeed been a popular potion, even among the local merchant class...
Yet for months now it seemed that just about every other customer that had left the store with a vial of Best Body Potion had come back to the store complaining about how the potion hadn’t worked in some way, shape, or form. Whichever well-dressed man it was (and it seemed like it was inevitably a well-heeled man) would always claim that it hadn’t worked, or that something had changed that wasn’t intended, or that some other heinous thing had resulted from the potion. And so Láile had found herself brewing potion after potion to make up for the sudden increase in failures, trying to make up for its ostensible flaws.
But Láile could never figure out what was wrong with her potions. She’d tried using widow’s-heart fresh from the market instead of the bottle of the dried stuff she’d been using since before she’d left for Vindell. She’d tried directing her invocations towards the local syncretic deities instead of the classical deities she’d relied on for her earlier batches of potions. She’d even tried simmering the potion for a whole day longer than recommended to help ensure its strength! Every time she tested a new batch, Láile inevitably found her potion to be stronger than ever. But no matter what tweaks Láile made to her recipe, the complaints would eventually begin to pile up, as would the demands for refunds and compensation.
Eventually the issue had come to the notice of the head of the weekly market in Vindell, one Marwan Presbil, who came to Láile’s store to investigate the claims himself. And sure enough, Marwan had just returned with the remainder of the potion Láile held in the flask in her hand, claiming that the Best Body Potion had done nothing to improve the whiteness of his teeth as he’d desired.
As Láile placed the flask over her hearth, she racked her brain for any last tweak she could make to ensure that this time it would actually work. The last thing she needed was the head of the weekly market speaking poorly of her potions. That might drive her out of business entirely!
Taking care to stir the mixture carefully over the hearth, Láile soon removed it to study the reduced mixture. It seemed to be condensing to the right thickness, and its magical aura seemed spot on for what Láile expected out of her Best Body Potion. All she could do is re-dilute the concentrate with fresh mountain spring water and hope for the best. Láile picked up a sealed bottle of spring water she had recently collected during a trip north into the Vinmar Mountains and carefully decanted it into the undiluted Best Body Potion.
Allowing the last of it to drip into the potion, she set the empty bottle on the table next to her and sighed as she closed her eyes, letting her guard finally fall.
“Oh Cetra, you most sublime goddess of commerce, bless this working and save my shop...”
The unexpected chime of the front door suddenly reminded Láile that she still had a shop to run. Rushing back to the counter, she arrived just in time to see a lanky, almost ethereal woman close the door behind herself. As Láile watched the woman approach the counter, she found herself entranced by the woman’s appearance, her eyes an emerald green, her hair pulled back into a dark brown ponytail billowing down the woman’s back, shimmering with hints of an almost unnatural dark violet color as it bobbed back and forth behind her.
“Hey there, I hear you’ve got some potions for sale?” came the sultry, otherworldly voice of the woman now standing in front of Láile. “Some friends of mine suggested that I check out your stock. Would you mind showing me what you have?”
Láile was taken aback by the woman in front of her. The woman’s facial features, while sharp, were tied together into an altogether pleasing arrangement by a modest, angular nose and a pair of softly piercing eyes that seemed to look deep into Láile’s... No wait, this was a customer!
“Huh?” Láile asked, her train of thought now interrupted. “Oh yes. Of course! I’d be happy to show you around!”
Stepping out from behind the counter, Láile led the woman to the far wall where a number of flasks containing liquids of assorted colors were set out on a series of shelves.
“Over here, we have your standard fare. We’ve got all of the usual simple restoratives and salves, from heat resist creams to healing potions... All the stock you’d expect a potion shop to carry, really!”
The woman looked over the shelves and nodded thoughtfully. “This all looks fine and good, but surely you have some specialty items?”
“Well... I do, but...” Láile stopped short, suddenly reminded of what she’d been doing just before the woman had come to the shop. How could she promote her Best Body Potion if she wasn’t even sure it was actually working? Well... There was always that other potion, but she doubted that the woman would be all that interested in that one...
The woman looked at Láile somewhat quizzically. “But...?”
It was worth a shot.
“If you happen to own a sizable estate or farm, we do carry our Happy Harvest Potion, though I imagine that might not be up your alley...”
The woman laughed a strangely light laugh that seemed to steady Láile’s nerves. “Nonsense! I’d love to hear about it!”
“Well...” Láile walked over and picked up a flask on the next wall over. “It’s been designed to be applied to your crop seeds before you sow them. If you do that at the right time, it should guarantee excellent yields...”
“Really!” The woman seemed... delighted? Láile could hardly believe it. “How does it work?”
“Well, I can’t really give away trade secrets, ma’am, but... If you give it a smell, you can clearly tell that it’s built on top of a standard harvest potion, but with some extra twists...”
Láile offered the flask to the woman to inspect, only to flinch as the front door suddenly slammed open.
“WITCHLING!” The booming voice of Marwan echoed from the front of the store.
If the woman had heard it though, she did not react, simply opening the stopper and taking a short whiff of the Happy Harvest Potion. “Oh, this smells like a marvelous blend. What do you call it?”
As Marwan’s footsteps stomped closer, Láile found herself growing nervous. “Th-the Happy Harvest P-potion, ma’am...”
Coming upon the strange woman from behind, Marwan threw out his arm and brusquely pushed her aside to face Láile directly.
“Would you mind?” the woman asked, a hint of annoyance in her voice. “I’m trying to hear her explain how this potion works...”
Marwan gave off a loud, imperious harrumph, barely taking note of the woman out of the corner of his eye. “That potion probably works as well as her so-called ‘specialty’ did for me. It’s not worth a moment of your time. Now WITCHLING!”
He turned back to face Láile, whose face was now pointed directly at the floor. “Witchling! Do you have that extra potion dose you said you would make for me?”
“I... I’m sorry ma’am,” Láile eeped, “you... you’ll have to excuse me for a second. I need to take care of something real fast. It shouldn’t be more than a moment...”
Láile scurried to the back room to grab the flask she had re-diluted only minutes before. Upon her return, she set the flask down gently in front of Marwan, who had followed Láile to the counter.
“With... With any luck sir, this should do it. I double checked it myself.” Láile was barely able to pick her eyes off the floor.
Marwan grabbed the flask in one hand and proceeded to give it a good, hard glance.
“This looks just like the stuff you sold me earlier! Are you sure this will work? I hope this isn’t a trick...” said Marwan, venom dripping.
Clunk! The woman slammed a gold coin on the edge of the counter.
“How much did that ‘specialty’ cost you?” she asked.
Marwan looked the woman up and down with suspicion. “Two pieces of silver. Why?”
“I’ll pay you this entire gold coin as a refund on her behalf if you leave this woman’s shop in peace.”
Marwan eyed the flask and gold coin in succession. “And you would have it this way, witchling?” he asked, staring deep into Láile’s eyes.
Láile nodded meekly.
“Fine. Have it your way. It’s a deal.” Marwan set the flask down and took the proffered coin before preparing to leave.
“Hmph. You bring shame onto the very idea of commerce. May Holy Cetra bring you into disrepute!” Marwan spat as he stomped towards the front door.
As he flung the door open to depart, the strange, sultry voice of the woman sliced through the air with an almost unreal clarity. “Oh, sir... You might want to check your pants. Your fly’s down.”
Marwan stopped, glanced down, panicked, and stormed out in a huff, slamming the front door behind him.
Having watched it all unfold, the woman turned back towards the now beet-red face of Láile. “Hah! Did you see that? His dick was as big around as my forearm! I didn’t even think that was possible, except maybe the one time Tutunus held his bachelor party...”
Láile turned away from the woman, somewhat sheepishly. “Well, I... I guess maybe it worked for him after all. No reason it couldn’t work on that sort of thing, too...”
Láile trailed off as a realization came to her: Couldn’t the other people who claimed it wasn’t working be lying and hiding their own changes? It did seem like a possibility.... Maybe it would be worth trying to limit the next batch of Best Body Potion to be more of a “Best Face Potion”...
The woman suddenly interrupted Láile’s epiphany. “Anyway, I believe you were telling me about that crop potion of yours?”
Without even thinking, Láile found herself grabbing the woman’s hands firmly out of excitement.
“Oh! Yes! I think it’ll be lovely!”
Then, remembering herself just as suddenly, Láile let the woman’s hands go, slightly embarrassed by her absent-minded forwardness.
“Er right, sorry about that... I meant, ‘yes, let me show you!’ Sorry, I got a little caught up in having just figured something out...”
The strange woman pulled her hand back and looked at Láile with an unreadable, but clearly affected expression before quietly following the now-ebullient witchling back to the wall of potions she’d been hawking just before Marwan’s interruption.
“You’ll be happy to know that the Happy Harvest Potion is the product of years of work!” Láile continued, a weight now lifted from her shoulders. “When I was studying as an apprentice, I worked closely with farmers in the surrounding areas and studied which portents and omens were most related to poor harvests. My Happy Harvest Potion actually includes a number of additives designed to ward against such portents and omens and improve the overall quality of the local harvest after being tailored to the local environment...”
Placing the vial of Happy Harvest Potion that had been left out on a nearby table back on the wall, Láile moved to pick up another potion on the other side of the Best Body Potion display.
“Now this here...”
Just then, as Láile turned to look back at the woman to explain the virtues of her third specialty potion, she found herself face to face with the woman, Láile’s chin suddenly in the palm of the woman’s hand. Láile’s voice trailed off as she found herself entranced once more by the soft, but clearly delineated angles of the face in front of her.
“I have the feeling you’ll prove to be a good investment,” said the woman.
Investment? This woman? I... Láile could feel her thoughts grind to a halt, before her mouth let out an unexpected “So... pretty...”
The woman merely smiled gently. “Shall we go to the back room to... negotiate?”
The witchling Láile nodded fervently and quickly scurried to lock the front door before leading the woman to the back room, behind the counter.
“Ah, sorry for the mess,” she said, pushing the curtain aside and hurrying to pick up a few ingredients that were still strewn about her workspace. She then gestured for the woman to follow her up the stairs and through a door, leading to a small studio apartment that was informally attached to the shop area. Láile’s home.
In a show of hospitality, Láile excused herself to quickly fetch some refreshments for her guest. After filling a pair of water glasses in the kitchenette, Láile turned around to bring the water to her mysterious investor, only to be faced with the full force of that woman’s radiant beauty as she lay nude on her side in Láile’s very own bed on the opposite side of the room, admiring an empty shop flask in her hand.
“You know, adding this spring water from the Vinmar Mountains to that potion of yours was a great idea...” mused the strange woman.
“Wh... You... How?” sputtered Láile, unable to hide her growing confusion or the fact that she was finding herself turned on by this sudden turn of events.
The woman laughed, clearly amused by how flustered she had made Láile. “You invoked me, did you not? I simply came and helped you.”
The goddess of commerce who laid before the witchling smiled gently, saying nothing as she set the flask on the nightstand next to Láile’s bed. This done, she turned back to face her investment., slowly running her hand along side.
“None other! And now it’s time for you to fulfill your end of the deal...”