The Pirate Apprentice, Chapter 5: Mrs. Apothecary explains

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There, she’s asleep now. Please let her stay that way. The poor dear has earned at least that much. You can question her in the morning.

That’s a good dear.

For now, let me tell you what I know.

She is a lucky girl, though I am sure she might disagree with me on that. She had a miserable time in this day just past because everyone had forgotten her birthday, what with the events of the day before and all.

Of course it’s relevant, both the murder of the previous day and her birthday. She is still a child. You should never forget a child’s birthday. It’s poor form. And then to top it all with someone trying to murder her in her bed. Hardly a worthwhile birthday gift for anyone, if you ask me. Though it’s not really clear from the circumstances whether he was targeting her, her mother, or both.

So then …

After helping me clean shop yesterday evening she went home still clutching the broom she had been using, as if it were a magick talisman that needed her protection. It seemed to give her comfort and I really didn’t want to take it away from her. Or maybe she just wanted to use it to sweep her room. Who am I to say?

Anyway, it would be a simple enough task to stop by the next morning and pick it up again. I didn’t see any need to worry.

It would appear that I had not been paying attention. Distraction is an easy thing when you are trying to balance the day’s books after a busy day dealing with difficult customers who succeeded in spilling more than they bought. Before she arrived, I had been casting protective wards left, right, and center just to keep all the spilled reagents from starting to interact of their own accord.

The broom she had been using was not a broom at all, but an emergency blade we keep hidden in the shop in case of a robbery attempt. Not that we have ever had any real trouble, but it pays to be safe. I cast a few spells on it so it will go unnoticed by anyone not actively studying it and so that it works wonderfully in its role as a broom. Many people just assume I made it to show what a homebody I am, casting mundane, domestic spells on what should be an ugly, unworkable broom just because I can.

But it did save her life, and that’s the important thing now, isn’t it?

Of course you can keep it as evidence. Just give the receipt to my husband so he doesn’t forget to retrieve it someday. The blade is a bit of a family heirloom. It always finds its way home eventually.

Just don’t get careless with the glyphs. Some of them still work. Though, perhaps, I would be more worried about the ones that no longer quite work the way they should.

Yes, of course, the front door to their place has, or should have, quite a few wards on it. After all, her uncle is a man of note, does have enemies, and takes very good care of her. I am quite disconcerted that they all feel to be undisturbed and fully in place. I would be much more comfortable to find they had been disabled, not bypassed. They should stop evil intent of most any stripe from ever stepping across that threshold. And he does appear to have entered her room from this one, not through the window in the room, small and also well warded.

As you can see, we were still in the midst of things when you arrived. I haven’t had time to investigate how the assassin managed to get past the wards. Though he was clearly a man of some money. Petty thieves don’t tend to commit crimes with large coin purses tucked into their silk belts.

That would be most disappointing. I cast those wards myself. They were good enough that it should have taken a wyrd from the imperial guard to get around them, if I do say so myself. I would be saddened to find they had been bypassed by some two-bit wyrd selling illicit enchantments to criminals down some back alley somewhere.

Yes, if you could search him for any talismans or tools that could be used to cancel a ward that would be much appreciated. My husband already discovered a life locket on—

Yes, I am well aware of their illegality and am as shocked as you are. It is still around his neck, quite thoroughly disarmed. He won’t be coming back from the dead any time soon.

How?

Could you show him your pistol dear?

No bullets, just a sharp blast of concentrated magickal energy that will disrupt any life force for a short distance. It’s quite the antique.

Yes, it seems your cadet has been studying his history. It is indeed a weapon made to take down pirates from a war long ago. Much more efficient than burning the corpses to be sure they don’t have some life left in them yet.

No, it’s not illegal. Admittedly, it’s not really legal either. It is so old a weapon that people have probably long forgotten the need to pass any laws on it. My husband is fond of it because it reflects the will of the wielder and will not kill unless the person shooting it really wants their target dead. It’s amazing how few people in the world really want to take if that far.

No, I think my husband would prefer you not keep that one as evidence. It’s not really something that can be replaced. And you know full well some fool tinker in the office would insist on trying to take it apart to find out how it works.

Foolish really, the knowledge needed for the enchantments to cast such a weapon faded into history long ago, and there’s little in the mechanism to give away anything about their nature. Besides, there are still people who would be very interested in seeing such a weapon destroyed. More importantly, because of its disrupting force, the knot that tied the poor soul who died to create that life locket is unbound and she’s now free to move on. I will make some prayers to the gods for her later.

How do I know she was a woman? I heard her unspoken whisper of joyful release as she faded. It’s not like she was invisible to the world. You really should work on seeing with all your senses, not just your eyes and ears.

Of course you can. We all have some wyrd in us. It’s just a matter of degrees.

It’s probably best not to ask. It is not a pleasant death to have your life force ripped out of your body and squeezed into a small talisman. She was far too young and had too much of life ahead of her to be torn so cruelly from the word into such a tiny and painful cage. I have my suspicions on who helped him with the less than cheerful rituals to craft that locket, but, if you will forgive my presumption, I would prefer to discuss it with one of the higher ranking wyrds from the palace.

Professional courtesy—I may have to accuse one of our own—and your own safety. There is a great deal of power involved in such a rite. It was not the work of a two-bit wyrd selling favors down in the back room of some tavern. Besides, we don’t need to cause a commotion with false accusations should I be wrong, do we? I know full well how gossip works in this city, and I know you do too. And I would suggest you point out to the young cadet there that I am old enough to be his mother many times over, so he can stop staring. Otherwise he may spend the rest of the day seeing nothing but flashing lights on insides of his eyeballs. Yes, it is sheer and still sticky with drying blood, but I didn’t have time to change it. Some things are more important than modesty.

Kirilyn’s his commanding officer? Perfect. She will enjoy not letting him live down his gawking until he grows up a little. I will be sure to have a talk with her personally. Oh, do calm down. I was young once myself. I forgive you. Now you just need to get Kirilyn to forgive you too.

What? No, I am most certainly not laughing. But back to the business at hand.

I am guessing the would-be assassin is the brother of the person who was killed here the day before. They certainly look related and were a notorious pair. One can only assume he knew her uncle was out and came by to settle the score against her or her mom. Perhaps because he knew as much about the killer as the rest of us do so far, so decided to go for an easier target.

Not man enough to face a real enemy indeed!

I am quite certain that no one else will try anything with both of them out of the way. Anyone you might happen to call a friend of theirs was in all likelihood someone who owed them a debt or two that they are no longer around to collect on. But, just to be safe, my husband and I will spend the night, though I would certainly like to freshen up a bit first. Tomorrow I will fully rework all the wards and get a friend who works at the treasury to throw in a few of his own.

Oh, you know him? Yes, he is a wonderful old man. Did you know that when he isn’t casting wards and keeping the empire’s coffers safe he creates animated toys for children’s parties.

At your daughter’s birthday party? That’s just splendid! I’m sure she was overjoyed.

Oh, and I should point out that we did find this note under some things on the table over there telling her to stay at our place for the night.

But, of course. If her mother had stopped by to inform me, the poor child would have been well provisioned for her safety while over at our place. I would have seen to it personally.

No need to worry about that. Our residence, like the shop, is somewhat of a strong house. The wards there are quite robust and a few are rather aggressive.

Yes, it is probably best that you don’t ask. Suffice to say they are not the sorts of wards we normally cast on someone’s residence for fear that one mistake would leave them victim to their own wards. But they are important for our line of business. We don’t want people stealing chemicals and reagents that can be used for poisons, drugs and other dire things now, do we? We do stock many things that could be quite dangerous in the wrong hands. Safety, common courtesy, and the amount of paperwork that would be involved dictate that it be as well defended as a small armory. In some ways that is precisely what the shop is.

Be careful with that! It’s well coated with azure fire. Even getting it on your skin could be lethal. It is not a pleasant death, nor a particularly quick one, and I cannot promise my healing skills are up to curing its curse. I would get a good, thick, lined leather bag to put it in and then get a palace wyrd to suspend it in a nice, stable stasis box. You will be wanting someone to see if they can trace the signature of the venom to its maker.

Indeed. She is very fortunate that he was too drunk to be able to successfully stab a lake behemoth that had just swallowed him whole. It is certainly a fate I would wish upon him. Or at least to have nicked himself with his own blade. That would be all the more just.

There you are! Shame on you for going off to chase rats on a night when she needed you so desperately! Now, now, you can stop growling at a corpse. It is no longer a threat to anyone.

Yes, she is safe in Ornery’s bed, no thanks to you. You should go in there right now and apologize. Well, I do suppose apologies can wait until morning, but she could use the comfort of her first officer by her side.

Oh, don’t look at me like that. How were you to know? Now be a good puppy and go join your little mistress while I finish talking to these nice gentlemen.


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