Bitter 247

Britta left Sonny’s with Diana in tow, much to everyone’s relief. Even though most of the dung weed had been used to make the potion, there was enough left to keep the stink lingering.

It was a bit tricky carrying a full pot-pot with the contents sloshing around, so she had filled an empty health potion bottle with the orange liquid.

She had only kept the bottles after using them because she liked the shape. Good thing, too. If she planned to make more potions, she’d need a steady supply. She might even need to buy some. Where did you buy empty potion bottles? Another thing to ask the man they were going to see.

Diana tagged along without asking, but that was okay. Technically, the potion belonged to her, as per their agreement. And it didn’t hurt to have a bodyguard who could kill anyone who might give her trouble.

“Are we still being watched?” Britta asked her as they walked down the main street.

“Oh, yes. I can feel a whole gang of beady little eyes on us.” Diana looked around and breathed deeply. “They’re doing a great job of staying hidden, though. Must be thieves, I’d guess. Seen us putting together some kind of a concoction, as my wizard friends would say, and think they can swipe it when we aren’t looking.”

It was possible, but more likely it was the dwarves Britta had given the slip. If not them, one of the other groups keeping an eye on her.

“Is it far, where we’re going?” asked Diana.

“No. We’re here.” Britta pointed at the small kiosk squeezed improbably between two larger stores.

“There? Are you sure?”

“They sell potions. They must know more about them than anyone.”

“Yeah,” said Diana, “but he’s an NPC. They aren’t very talkative.”

Britta smiled to herself, but didn’t say anything. Diana might be right. Britta could never be sure if she’d get a normal response or not.

“Excuse me, could you help me?” Britta asked the man behind the small counter.

He had a turban on, clothes that had been colourful once but had now faded, and he was reading a newspaper. He ignored Britta and dramatically turned the page.

“They usually just stick to their assigned roles,” said Diana gently. Like she didn’t want to break the sad news to Britta that she was an idiot.

“Hey, I’ve got a mystery potion that needs identifying. Just have a quick look to see if it’s one you know.”

Another page was turned.

“Hello! Shop!”

The potion trader closed the newspaper and sighed. “Do I look like a bleeding charity? You want a potion identified, do it yourself. You’re an adventurer, aren’t you? Do some hocus pocus.”

“I’m not high enough level.”

“Then go and get some experience of the world. Fulfil your potential.” He peered over the counter at her. “I assume you have some.”

“How much? To identify it. Name your price.”

He rolled his tongue across his yellow front teeth. “One gold piece.”

“What? That’s outr—”

A gold coin dropped onto the counter and rattled around. The trader watched it until it stopped. Then he reached for it.

“Uh-uh,” said Diana, who had dropped the coin, and now had a dagger out with the tip resting on the coin. “Only if you can identify it.”

“Of course I can. What do you take me for?”

Britta gave Diana a look, hoping dearly that the result would be worth the gold, and took out the potion. She placed it on the counter. It was even more orange out in daylight. It looked a bit like Fanta. Carrot-flavoured Fanta.

“What the hell is that?” said the potion trader. Not a good sign.

“That’s what you’re supposed to tell us,” said Britta.

He picked up the bottle. He tilted it and held it up to allow a sunbeam to strike at an angle. Then he unstoppered it and took a sniff. “Smells like carrots.”

“The man’s a fool,” said Diana. She reached for the coin.

“Wait, wait. I’ll buy it from you.” He looked at the gold coin. He’d already set the starting bid, and was regretting it.

“Two gold.”

“What are you going to do with it?” Britta asked.

“Research. You never know, might be of some use. We’re always on the look out for minor advances.” He was doing his best to downplay the discovery of a brand new potion, but he was sweating under his turban, and finding it hard to control his breathing.

“I’ll sell it to you,” said Britta. “For a thousand gold.” She had no intention of selling it, but she wanted to see how much he’d be willing to pay.

The trader sat down on his stool and let out a long breath. “Where am I supposed to get a thousand gold just like that?”

“Wait,” said Britta incredulously, “you’d pay me a thousand for this?”

The trader realised his mistake. “What? No, no. I’m just saying. Small talk, that’s all. Of course I wouldn’t actually… I mean, for that little… Haha, ridiculous. The thought of it. Hahaha.”

“I’d like to speak to the manager,” said Britta.

“Manager? Get out of it. I was only doing you a favour. What am I going to do with a bottle of carrot juice?”

The trader laughed some more, like it was all a big joke. Diana leaned in, grabbed him by the collar and lifted him off the ground. The trader didn’t feel like laughing anymore.

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