Continued from Friday.

Fruben gathered up the bundle of ritual ingredients and gestured emphatically to the promissory note the old man was still examining. He stared impatiently around the room as the shopkeeper sniffed the note experimentally.

“Everything in order?” Fruben quaked with contempt for the old man.

The shop itself was small and cramped, not unlike its keeper. Musty herbs and old, exotic spices from distant lands mixed with things soaked in unguents or brined. In his years studying under the master, Fruben had worked with all manner of strange reagents, many of which he recognized on the shelves. Some of them still, he’d rather have remained ignorant of — particularly entrails. Fruben loathed working with entrails.

The shopkeeper peered at the promissory note from a few different angles, as though expecting it to vanish if viewed in the proper light. Fruben occasionally wished he had the moral flexibility, let alone the imagination, to pull off such a prank. He’d just have to make due with honesty and the considerable resources his master had bequeathed to him. He had the feeling that if his mentor were still alive, he’d be the type to swindle a hard-working apothecary out of its hard-won wares. It was just a feeling he had.

Fruben heard a croak, which turned out to be the old man’s voice: “This isn’t enough.”