To Cordelia’s relief, the sprites had taken their leave overnight, and she found herself alone again in the morning. She reported in for her first day of work at the Hex Shop in much better spirits.
The place hadn’t opened yet, so she figured the woman in the bright yellow dress had to be her new co-worker.
“Hi, I’m not sure if they told you I’d be coming, but I’m due to start today,” she launched into an awkward introduction.
“You must be Cordelia,” The young woman put her out of her misery. “I’m Grace. Nice to meet you. Now let’s see what we could have you do for the day…”
Grace stepped behind the counter, searching through the shelves. “I’ve got a couple of potion orders to sort out today, so maybe you could work the till? Have you worked as a cashier before?”
Cordelia felt completely useless. She had briefly worked as a glass collector at Pepper’s Pub back in Gibbs Hill, but with the sprites around, it was only a matter of time till she ended up fired. After that, most of the people in the village didn’t want to be around her, let alone hire her.
“I can’t say that I have,” she admitted, embarrassed.
“You’ll be fine.” Grace reassured her. “Come over here, I’ll show you the basics.”
Cordelia came closer and observed anxiously.
“Don’t worry too much if you can’t get your head around it straight away. Most people don’t come in ready to buy anyway,” Grace told her encouragingly. “We get plenty of window-shoppers, as much as Darrel doesn’t like it.”
Cordelia nodded. The other woman smiled.
“Tell you what, have a look around at what’s in stock, and when customers start showing up, just greet them and ask them what they need.” She instructed Cordelia. “If you’re not sure if we have what they’re looking for, or if they’re ready to buy, I can take it from there.”
And with that, Grace pulled out a wooden spoon that was almost as tall as she was, and proceeded to mix some type of concussion in the large cauldron.
Cordelia was just grateful that her task for the day was easy. At least, it sounded easy in theory. As soon as the store opened up for the day, the room quickly filled with people. She hadn’t expected so many customers first thing in the morning.
Luckily, Grace seemed to singlehandedly greet most of them, even cracking inside jokes with some, all the while stirring… well, whatever she was brewing in there.
Not that Cordelia didn’t make her own attempts to assist the customers, but once they got past the initial ‘how may I help you’s, helping them find what they were looking for wasn’t as straightforward as she had hoped.
“So, you’re after, uh, valerian root and… baconite,” Cordelia repeating, scribbling on her pad. “Let me just write that down… baconite as in pork?”
Grace burst out laughing from across the room, quickly making her way over.
She finally managed to stop giggling. “Ah, that’s hilarious. My colleague is a bit of a goofball,” she leaned in towards the customer conspicuously. “Don’t you worry, I’ll get both of those for you right away…”
Eventually, Grace got Cordelia to take inventory instead of helping customers. Just take stock of what we’ve sold so that we can get a new order in, she’d told her.
There was only a small problem – Cordelia had no idea what most of the items that needed replacing there. She managed to identify some of the herbs, but that was about it. At one point, she could swear she found a magic wand.
Sure, the portal to the other realm was here in Glimmerbrook, but were spellcasters all over the village too? It sure seemed like it…
Either way, she managed to make it through the day. She went over to Grace over at the till.
“Here is the list of items that need restocking… but there were a few I wasn’t too sure about,” Cordelia admitted earnestly. “So you might want to double check… I’m sorry I’m such a disaster. I’ll learn what things are, I swear…”
“Hey, it’s only your first day,” Grace said brightly, closing the till. “And we’ve made a good profit today. The Charms will be pleased. Listen, before you go, there’s one last thing…”
To Cordelia’s horror, Grace reached inside the fish bowl sitting on the counter, grabbed the goldfish in it with her bare hand, and added it to the cauldron.
A cloud of black smoke emitted from the cauldron, and the concoction turned a golden hue. Grace looked pleased, scooping a large serving into a vial.
She walked back over to Cordelia. “In the interest of you getting familiar with the stock, can you just sample this potion for me?”
Cordelia gagged. She considered her options. She managed to mess up practically every task Grace had given her during the day. Could she really say no? She’d wind up getting herself fired, this time without the sprites’ interference.
She took a deep breath, and downed the bottle.
It didn’t taste half as bad as she’d feared. It was actually almost kind of… pleasant.
Grace gave her an odd look. “Hmm. I guess I was wrong after all. I was starting to think Darrel hired a human, but I guess even he’s not out of his mind like that…”
“Um… I am a human.” Cordelia was confused.
“But that’s impossible!” Grace shook her head. “I just gave you the potion of magical aura, and you have… well, magical aura. That means you must be a spellcaster, like me.”
Of course Grace was a spellcaster. She might all but wear a wizard hat at this point… After the day in the store, Cordelia would be far more surprised if Grace had told her this was a completely ordinary shop.
Cordelia also realised what Grace was referencing. A yellow glow surrounded her face.
“Ah. Right. I think I might now why that is.” It dawned on her. “I… it’s sort of a long story, but I did travel to the magic realm recently, and um, one of the sages transferred some motes into me.”
“Well that makes more sense now,” Grace nodded. Cordelia almost laughed, what she’d just recounted made the least sense out of anything she’d ever said out loud in her life… but of course, to Grace, that cleared things up.
“I suppose as far as humans go, you’re no ordinary one.” To Cordelia’s relief, Grace was smiling. “I did have an inkling you don’t come from a magical background when I saw you struggle finding the simplest of ingredients…”
“Well, I now know baconite isn’t actually made out of bacon,” Cordelia said feebly.
Grace laughed softly. “Exactly. You don’t necessarily have to be a spellcaster to work in a spellcaster shop, it just means you have a lot more to learn than a spellcaster would. But I’ll teach you. Now, get yourself home and I’ll finish up with the restocking list.”
“I could help you… or watch, more likely,” Cordelia corrected herself. “To start learning, I mean.”
“That sounds like a plan.”
Grace walked Cordelia through the items they had sold. She didn’t go into explaining what each of them did, but perhaps Cordelia didn’t need to know. At least knowing what on earth the customer was requesting would be a good start…
When they were done, Grace even allowed Cordelia to help with bottling up the rest of the potion of magical aura.
As Cordelia filled the vial, she noticed a bright green flicker above the cauldron. She looked up.
It was a sprite.
They’d returned. They still seemed pleased, judging by their colour. Cordelia wasn’t sure if it was thanks to the motes inside her, Dandelion’s theory about being happy, or the simple fact that the store was filled with pretty crystals.
Either way, she decided against making a scene in the middle of the shop. Her and Grace were getting all so well, and she was determined not to make them ruin yet another job for her. At least they weren’t packing at her now that they seemed satisfied…
She said goodbye to Grace while she was in the other room – she wasn’t sure if much like Dandelion, grace as a spellcaster would see the sprites as well, but she did not feel like explaining what they were. She made her exit swiftly.
The sprites fluttered around her as she walked back to her tent through the woods. Now that she was out of the shop, she allowed herself to let out a deep sigh.
She was still stuck with them. At least for now.