Chapter 2: Immersed

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Tuvos, Day 14 of Rhexia, Blind Moons, Year 602

"Brilliantwort grows close to the ground in shady and forested areas. The foliage is complex, spongy, and bright green; cuttings may be steeped into a mild tea that fortifies the body's defences, helping to fight infections and colds." —Arcane Herbs and Their Uses, Vol. 1

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For the next few hours, only working class citizens and merchants in the settlement of Liminey came to the Wheel and Well for supplies; the little shop fairly hummed with the brisk custom. The nobility wouldn't begin arriving until a little later and when they did, Master Stacia and her apprentices would be busier than ever, for that type of customer was interested in a very different type of brew. And they usually wanted it made more quickly. And they were always slightly dissatisfied with the product.

Another customer approached the back counter, and Evin knew by her clothing that she was a domestic servant. The woman wore a floor-length burgundy kirtle with long sleeves, and a rough, white eborel apron over that. Her long hair was tied back into a tail. She ordered Energy, a less expensive but still useful brew that would bolster her reserves as she went about her day. Evin wondered which of the great houses the woman worked for—House Watkyn was likely.

The woman put a coin—a silver shin—on the counter and Stacia took it, kneeling in front of the wooden cash bucket stored just underneath. She fished out five copper eccats and put them in the customer's hands, then reached for a clean earthen mug.

"May I take it with me?" the woman asked quickly. "I'm short on time."

Stacia nodded to her kindly, saying, "Of course." She put the mug down on the counter and turned to take something from another shelf—but found it empty. She glanced about, exasperated.

Evin happened to be standing nearby, stoking the ovens beneath the cast-iron counterpiece with a bundle of freshly split carelwood.

"Evin," Stacia said sharply. "There's a box of new vials in the store room. Fetch it, please?"

Evin turned to go.

"The small-sized ones," Stacia added, and Evin nodded and departed.

The store room was strangely quiet after the relative din of the service area. Evin quickly scanned the pile of deliveries that had been left in the center of the floor. She found a set of crates filled with the little glass vials she sought, all neatly lined up; a wooden grid drilled full of holes saw to that. The merchandise was packed tightly with straw to protect against breakage, but several of them hadn't survived the journey from the blower anyway. It was a process the staff at Wheel and Well was forever attempting to refine. Evin selected one of the crates containing only undamaged vials and brought it back out to the floor.

As soon as she entered the busy main room again, the chatter of customers and clink of flatware resumed, and she felt her steps hasten as if in answer.

Stacia leaned over to peer into the crate Evin bore, inspecting the vials. "Thank you," she said absently, and slipped one of the vials from its sheath. It was a simple glass tube with a cork fitted into the top. She set it down before her.

This would be a quick brew. Stacia centered the earthen mug in front of herself and then carefully added two pinches of powdered gigella mushroom to it. The pile of brownish material seemed to blend in with the neutral colour of the vessel.

Gigella grew in forested areas—especially on tree trunks—at high altitudes, so it was often expensive to import. But it was unparalleled as a natural energy supplement.

Stacia handed the mug to Evin, who prepared to pour boiling water over the stuff.

The woman interjected, eyeing the steaming tea kettle behind the group of brewers. "It'll be awhile before I have a chance to drink it," she said. "How is the taste when it cools?"

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