To read the previous adventures of Sabine, click here. *** “Thank you, thank you.” Snakeoil’s voice was deep, gruff, and tinged with the peasant brogue of the lowlands. “Are you all ready for a miracle?”
To read the previous adventures of Sabine, click here.
“Thank you, thank you.” Snakeoil’s voice was deep, gruff, and tinged with the peasant brogue of the lowlands. “Are you all ready for a miracle?”
Everyone in the crowd cheered, save for Sabine, but Snakeoil folded his arms in dissatisfaction.
“What was that? Did someone put a curse of silence on you? Come on!”
The crowd cheered harder, louder, and longer. Under her breath, Sabine pondered, “They aren’t taking any of this seriously, are they?” When Dahkhal didn’t respond, she glared down at her left hand. “You awake in there?”
Eh? Sorry. I’m just trying to figure out where I’ve heard that voice before.
Snakeoil nodded in satisfaction “For the past weeks, a pestilence like something out of the twenty-seven hells has washed across our fair realm,” he said. “And I don’t know about you, but I don’t much approve of being washed!”
The assembly cheered in the affirmative as Sabine stuffed a fresh handful of cloves into the beak of her mask.
Take the glove off, let me get a good look at him.
“So, being the dedicated alchemist that I am, I spent many moons laboring over a magnificent cure.” He paused, pulled a flask from his belt, and took a quick pull. “I sustained myself with a diet of nothing but verminous oceanic spiders and a thin gruel made from soured milk fat.”
As the crowd gasped in horror at the prospect of lobsters in butter sauce, Sabine pulled off her left glove and raised it. After a few seconds of scrutiny, Dahkhal said, Oh gods’, it’s this guy.
“Wait,” Sabine said. “You know him? Should I?”
No, no. He was an outworker, called himself Sheepliver back then. I bought potions from him for years before he was arrested on a royal warrant as an associate of mine. Your parents probably released him when you wiped their memories and no one could remember why they locked him up in the first place.
Snakeoil clutched the right side of his snakeskin vest. “And I’ve got it right here! Snakeoil’s own foolproof, top class, homegrown, woodfired, nectarine-flavored panacea. And I only had to kill one witch to get it!” The alchemist threw open his vest and revealed dozens of tiny vials of florescent orange liquid. “For just a few week’s wages, I’ll add years to your life! You can’t afford not to buy my fine products. So, let’s get a line goin’ here. No need to push and shove, but you’ll once again be able to!”
And with the promise of full-contact rudeness restored to them, the crowd abandoned their distancing and crammed close as they could to the platform. Dahkhal, meanwhile, let out a grave, Oh hell, that explains everything.
Sabine asked, “What?”
That isn’t a cure at all, he’s selling Inflicta Eternia.
“Inflicta— what now?”
That potion is no cure, except maybe in the most awful, twisted sense of the term. Torturers would apply it to sick or infirm prisoners to keep them from dying before they could reveal their secrets. It keeps the heart beating, but any injuries, illnesses, or whatever else, will stick around. They probably administered it to him all the time in the royal dungeons, and now it’s going to make a damned mess of everyone, everywhere!
Sabine recoiled. “Wait a minute, so it just keeps people alive without any chance of getting better? That’s horrible, what kinds of monsters would do something like that?”
Dahkhal was about to point out the irony of her statement, when a shrill, falsetto voice squealed from behind the stage. “Master Snakeoil, Master Snakeoil!”
The alchemist rushed behind his curtain and returned with his puppet. “What is it, Homie?”
“There is a wicked slanderer in your audience, someone determined to spread lies.”
Sabine cast an uneasy look down at Dahkhal’s ring, but could think of no way the madman could have known.
Snakeoil snarled in disgust. “Can you identify them?”
“It was that one!” The puppet pointed an accusatory wooden hand out at the audience. And if Sabine had been in the rush up to the sale, it was unlikely she would have been picked out. But indeed, she stood by herself.
Sabine raised both hands in open defense. “Wait a second, I said no such thing.”
Homie raised his wooden hands to his mouth and gasped. “That isn’t the same voice it spoke in a moment ago, it must be a shapeshifter!”
You can’t be serious. Dahkhal shook his tiny jellyfish head. That thing is an actual homunculus? And it’s apparently on the same telepathic wavelength as I am.
“I hear you, monster!” Homie raised his fists. “He didn’t even believe I was a real homunculus, the bigot! If you mock me, you mock my boss.”
“Damn right!.” With his free hand, Snakeoil drew a sinister, curved dagger. “You mock my business partner and you mock these good people just looking for hope in hopeless times. Well, turns out shapeshifter gallbladders are a necessary ingredient in my panacea. Fight me!”
Sabine tried to step away, but Snakeoil’s words had incensed the crowd, who moved to surround her. All around came cries of, “Knave! Slanderer!” and, “What’s your answer then?” and, “Leave Homie alone, you marionette bigot!”
“I didn’t insult anyone!” Sabine’s shouts grew desperate as she was forced toward the stage. “Hey, come on, people. Whatever happened to one spear length, huh?”
“I’m gonna make another batch of cure out of you, Witch.” Snakeoil pointed at her with the dagger. “This town will be rid of two curses today.”
To Be Continued…