When planning the perfect heist, he’d considered every possibility and trap in the old apothecary. How to counter the hidden traps laid carefully in the creaky old shelves that cradled the many portions and brews. Cheating the cloaked spells that safeguarded the secrets of all the concoctions that could snatch his prize from his waiting hands. He’d even considered the old shopkeeper and brewmaster Altrunix, and had prepared a dagger for the old coin-pincher.
So when Pullonius entered the shop on the day he’d planned for the heist, the repetition and the planning helped keep his pulse down to a steady roar. While ransaking the store for all its gold and rare creations could have yielded him a fine bounty, he was only concerned with one prize. An old mixture, hidden in the back of a high shelf, and rarely glimpsed by living eyes.
“Ah, welcome welcome, young master! What fine creations can I interest you in today?” the hunched-over meister asked as he hobbled over to the store’s main countertop.
“I’m…well, I’m looking for something to improve my fate.” Pullonius responded, trying not to fixate on his target, which was now behind the old man.
Altrunix hummed sagely in his understanding. “Well now, that is no small request, my lad. How do you seek to make it better? Gulford’s Blend of a Thousand Warriors? Or, perhaps, Susanna’s Tears of the Longing Heart?”
“What about Zolfred’s Bile for Indomitable Will?” the young thief blurted out, naming the first exotic blend he could think of.
A request that Altrunix nodded at, only somewhat masking the surprise crinkling his wrinkles. “A very rare creation, young man. And an intense one to tame. Are you certain you seek something so potent?”
No, but you’d never sell what I want! Pullonius’ thoughts howled in response, though the customer thought better and controlled his tongue. “It’s for when I enlist in the Queen’s Knights. Can’t let their training regiment get the better of me, right?”
Thankfully, the potions-master accepted this answer with a knowing nod and started his slow lurch back up to the upper story. “Perhaps, but it’s not a vial that will last forever! So I suggest you find your courage before it wears thin…”
Pullonius waited until the old hermit was all the way up the stairs before pulling a small dropper from his belt and dripping a silvery liquid all along the lip of the store-master’s countertop. As he’d expected, the anti-spell gel he’d created sizzled and steamed against the incantations long since scrawled into the curving wooden planks of the counter, muting them for a scant few moments.
Only now did he risk a gaze at his ultimate prize, a dulled cerulean ichor continued in a spiderweb-cloaked beaker hidden on the highest shelf and out of casual glances. A potion spoken of only in whispers of fear or hesitation. A prize worth the gamble if even one of the rumors about it were true. It was for this task that Pullonius had crafted the Fanged Liberator, a small spring-loaded arrow hidden under his right wrist.
With a twitch of his hand, the dart shot forward, straight and true. As he’d heard from the whispers told only in taverns, the moment the arrow crossed the shelf’s threshold, ghastly claws sprang out to try and rend flesh from the bones of whatever poor shoplifter dared try pilfer the potent potion.
He only had the one dart, and when it started to veer too far ceiling-ward, Pullonius hissed in hushed frustration. But the angle worked in his favor when the projectile ‘tink’ed off the lip of the shelf and clicked around the neck of its target flawlessly. His heart shot up into his throat as he yanked the teather and pulled the potion into his palm. Once secured at his belt, the thief bolted for the door, which was shutting itself in his face. But the spell could only be as strong as the aged wood it had been cast on, so Pullonius lowered his shoulder and busted through the barrier in a mad charge.
His padded sprint-steps resonated off the alleyway stones like the moonlight above him. Only the cutting bellow of the enraged shopkeeper broke his stride toward freedom, “You’re dammed, fool! No one steals Deus Ex Machina and lives to tell the story!”
Another week, another great prompt from the Team Writer FB page to stir up some creative juices! And a chance to reference something I wrote ages ago. Because what is ‘Deus Ex Machina’ and how does it change from mind to mind?
I hope you all enjoy.