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Read an Excerpt from Potion Master:
The blue liquid is shimmering like its magic is trying to get out. One of my better cocktail recipes, I would say. The Siren, I call it, in honor of Evie. Even though she is not one of those long-extinct creatures, her voice bewitches her crowd all the same. Her tales captivate the audience with their rhythm and poesy.
“Hey! Will you give me my drink or not?” the patron shouts over the buzz of the crowded room.
Keeping hold of the glass, I swiftly glide it over the wooden bar toward him. “I don’t know, Carl. Maybe a little more respect and a smile now and then could do miracles for your shitty personality and help you get what you want.” I look the bastard straight in the eye, drink the shot myself, and take the money he had put on the bar top to pay for it. The liquid goes down like the charm that it is, giving me a boost of strength and energy in its wake.
Carl seizes my gloved forearm, “Listen, girl, I know that you’re new here, but when I ask—”
His touch is gone in an instant. A big, burly man hauls Carl by the collar of his shirt toward the pub’s door. Albert’s gray-brown ponytail sways in time with Carl’s feet off the ground as he carries Carl out the door. If I didn’t hate being manhandled by drunk pieces of shit so much, I would be laughing at the sight.
Albert grunts as he throws Carl on his ass out in the street. “Take the rest of the night to cool off,” Albert says, his voice deceptively calm. “The next time you touch one of my employees, you will lose your hand. Is that understood?”
Carl has the good sense to shut his mouth and skitter off. The patrons all shout in triumph and merrily raise their glasses to Albert. When he turns from the door, Albert’s green eyes find me. His face is all red under his thick beard. I nod my head once to show him that I am okay and can handle myself. It’s not my first rodeo, after all.
I don’t have much time to dwell on what happened, though. The Drunken Sailor is packed tonight. Every sticky table and disparate chair is in use. A small crowd has already gathered before the stage in the corner where my best friend will perform tonight, sipping their drinks. The decor is no different than any other Irish pub in Québec City. The only noticeable distinction really is the customers themselves—the vast majority of them have magical abilities or ties to the magical world.
My long black hair annoys me tonight, so I quickly tie it up in a messy bun before filling another pint of my first batch of beer to give to Albert as he passes behind me in the bar area. Then I go back to the steady flow of orders coming in. I am very proud of my first brew. It’s a white ale with faint notes of lavender and rosemary. The balanced taste of the herbs makes for a bittersweet lightness that, contrary to popular belief, doesn’t taste like perfume.
Being potion master and lead brewer are both my pride and my passion in life. It also allows me to work anywhere, in any magical establishment I want, since there are a lot of people that seem to either want to get drunk or out of a hangover—or another predicament—at some point. My healing balms and potions are particularly good if I do say so myself.
Healing is my specialty, after all, and I was well taught. Diane. A sharp pang of grief makes my eyes water at the reminder of my mentor’s passing. They say that home is where the heart is. Well, it feels like my home vanished with her last breath. Throughout the years, she’d always been there for me—be it to kick me in the butt for acting stupid or to help me regain my footing after yet another failed attempt at making something of my life. Her passing is too fresh for me to be able to recall the good memories of her with fondness or a smile. I am still at the anger stage, where every fiber of my being wants to cry hysterically and punch a wall about it, hating death, hating myself for not being able to heal her. I wipe furiously at my eyes and wrestle my mind into a better headspace.
I was lucky to get this job. The Drunken Sailor is one of the best breweries in the province, and its owner is allowing me carte blanche to do with the product creation as I please. All the equipment is state of the art despite the pub’s building being more than a century old—and looking it.
Perfect work arrangements, awesome new apartment, my best friend nearby—it’s all I need, really. This time, I will plant roots. This time, I won’t bolt at the very first mild inconvenience—I can’t. I have no one left to catch me from a fall. I am here to stay, and I mean it.
At the table by the door, four casters are playing at levitating objects in the air while arm wrestling. The first to either lose the strength contest or lose their concentration and drop their object pays for the next round of alcohol. A stupid game if you ask me, but still fun to watch and good for the tip.
Evie pokes her head out from the kitchen door with a mouthful of I don’t even want to know what. “Hey, Ry! I’m on in a couple of minutes,” she says while finishing chewing. “Do you need anything before I get up there?” She motions toward the stage with her head. The movement makes her silver dress sparkle in the dim light, contrasting nicely with the soft coffee of her skin. She recently buzzed her hair close to her head, which accentuates the graceful curve of her neck.
Her hazel eyes drift to the liquid I am currently mixing. She looks fascinated and with good reason. As soon as I sprinkle my last ingredient into the potion—dried hibiscus flowers—red fire seems to emanate from it, although it’s not hot to the touch. Passion is a difficult thing to capture, and it’s always mesmerizing when it’s encapsulated successfully. It’s easily the most expensive thing we sell here. Only one swig is needed to fuel your inspirations and fantasies, allowing you to create at will. Although it cannot put ideas into your head, it will allow you to birth your ideas into the world. Well, until it wears off, that is. I pour the liquid into a small vial and hand it over to the young woman who ordered it.
“I’m fine,” I tell Evie over my shoulder. “I don’t need you mothering me.” I wink at my best friend and turn back to the clientele at the bar. I hear her huff and puff before letting the kitchen door swing behind her. Not a minute later, she swaggers onto the stage, her generous hips swaying as she walks. The usual auditory chaos of the pub falls to whispers.
We’ve always been complete opposites, Evie and I. Where my best friend shines bright on stage, I prefer the darkness at the back of the room. She is all heat and sensuality, while I am all frost and contrast. My moonlight skin, she calls it. Which is a nice way of saying that I am ghostly pale.
As soon as Evie opens her mouth to sing, the crowd starts to sway in time with the rhythm of her voice. The ones closest to the stage are completely enthralled by her story of epic love. They smile and huddle closer together, not aware that they are moving. The casters abandon their game to stare in fascination. As far away as I am, I only feel a small wave of fullness and happiness, but it’s still very nice. I have not experienced the brush of love for a very long time.
I pour the next beer directly onto my gloved hand, which then splashes onto my black tank top and jeans. I curse and shake my head slightly. I must have been more affected by her singing than I thought. Taking off my gloves and wiping them on a dish towel, I smile to myself. I have not been exposed to her kind of powers for some time now. I’ve lost part of the endurance I had built for it.
When I finally succeed at mostly drying my clothes, I throw the rag in the sink and lift my head to take the next order, but most of the patrons have now moved from the bar to the tables closer to the stage, listening quietly.
Most, but not all.