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ShikakuZetsumei t1_j4m429z wrote

Isobel Grove let out a soft sigh as she stirred the murky substance in the cauldron. The room was dark, but too much light would spoil some of her more valuable ingredients. One hand reached up to brush away a strand of stringy, gray hair.

What a fate, reduced to brewing basic potions for that accursed kingdom.

Acrid fumes drifted up from the turgid surface of the cauldron, tickling her nose. They curled through the air before drifting out from a vent near the ceiling. After a few more minutes of simmering, she added some diced ginseng roots and the smell abated. Her seat creaked as she sat back with a sigh.

I’m getting too old to play their games as well.

She dozed in her seat as the potion simmered to completion. The amount of wood she had used would cause the temperature to drop at precisely the right time. She was old and, at this point, could probably make a stamina restoration elixir in her sleep. Several hours later, a knock on her door caused her eyelids to flutter open.

“Grandma? I’m back. Are you still busy with work? It’s almost dinnertime. I made some stew.”

Isobel stretched, feeling her old bones pop. “Thank you, Elias, I’ll be up as soon as I finish here.”

The stairs creaked as Elias ascended the basement steps. She scooped the potion into the waiting bottles and stoppered them. With a wave of her hand, the cauldron hissed, and the residue began to dissipate. She left her basement lab and made her way to the kitchen of her woodland cottage.

“I thought you’d finally had enough of me and left.” She let out a chuckle as she closed the door to the stairwell.

A young man with cropped, white hair stood near a woodfire stove. A savory scent filled the air, banishing the stench of her lab.

He turned with a wry grin on his face. “Where would I go? This is the only place I get treated with some semblance of civility.”

Isobel let out a cackle of laughter and sat down at the table. A moment later, Elias placed a bowl of stew and a plate of bread before her. Once he served himself as well, they began to eat.

Partway into the meal, Elias spoke. “I stopped by Everspire on the way back from the hunt to pick up some nails and pitch. Our roof is leaking again.”

Isobel paused, spoon partway to her mouth. “Did you remember your disguise?”

Elias rolled his eyes and replied in a dull voice, “Yes, grandma.”

“Good. You know that kingdom is wary of your hair color.”

“I know. You’ve been telling me that for over twenty years now.”

The mood dropped as Elias pushed his stew around in his bowl.

Finally, he said, “I still think it’s ridiculous that they would try to arrest me just for my hair.”

Isobel huffed. “The Queens of Everspire have always been a bit too superstitious. They seemed pretty relieved when you turned out to be their firstborn.”

Elias scowled. “Deal with a payment and a prophecy, huh?”

She shrugged in response. “Prophecies come true in the strangest ways. Their kingdom will fall, one way or another. It might end up being some random person with white hair that just happens to be present during the battle.”

Elias’s gaze grew thoughtful. “The situation in the kingdom seems to have gotten worse in recent months. A lot of merchants are starting to avoid the city because of their discrimination.”

“We both knew the day would come when your parents gave you up to cheat my payment.” Isobel set down her spoon. “Be honest with me, Elias. Would you rather have grown up in that place knowing what you know now? Even as royalty, you would’ve been barely better than a servant.”

He snorted. “I doubt I’d know half the skills I know now if I stayed there.”

They finished their dinner, and he brought her a mug of herbal tea. She watched him as he cleaned the dishes.

“You know, I received word a few days ago that certain groups are beginning to mobilize. They could use a strong fighter. Maybe even a leader.”

Elias’s hands paused and his shoulders tensed. “I don’t want to lead. I just want a fair price for common goods.”

“You could get back at your mothers for what they did.”

With a shake of his head, he said “I don’t have parents, grandma” before getting back to cleaning.

“Just keep it in mind. My contacts told me it’s a sizeable group. Seems like people from all walks of life are sick of the stranglehold Everspire has over the economy. Men and women, elves and lizardfolk. They even have a dwarven clan helping with their weaponry.”

He made a noise of disbelief. “The elves are getting involved? They never get involved in anything.”

“It’s what I’ve heard.”

After a pause, Elias finally said, “I’ll think about it.”


I like the idea of a story where the witch isn't deceiving the hero...

If you're interested in my works, the archive of my various writing responses can be found in my writing portfolio, link through my profile. There's also an original story, The Crossroads.

Thanks for reading.