Thursday, 9 May 2013

Dirty Goggles: The Apothecary's Art

This is probably the most difficult contest I've been part of...Steampunk and Dieselpunk...I'm a huge steampunk fan, but writing it's another matter altogether. It has, though, been lots of fun!
This is for the Dirty Goggles Blog Hop, put together by Ruth, Jenn, and Steven.

The Apothecary's Art
Steampunk
698 Words
Lisa Shambrook
@LastKrystallos
Safe Content


The Apothecary’s Art

Razor-sharp claws hung just shy of his eye and a bead of sweat slipped down his cheek as his brass-topped cane clattered to the floor. The dragon hovered, its leather wings beating a rhythm of their own and armoured spines glinting down its shimmering, metal back. It clicked and whirred and glanced at the watching girl.
“Could you call it off…please?” Anxiety rippled in the stranger’s voice and Elspeth smiled.
“Why are you in my shop?” she asked.
“Looking for you…” he replied as the clockwork dragon flapped its wings and dipped closer. 
“After closing?” Elspeth stared at his long, dark hair, and the top hat now lying abandoned on the dusty floor. He struggled to maintain his awkward position, pressed against the medicine cabinet, and she knew beneath his floor-length coat lurked fear. “Who are you?” 
“Reuben,” he replied. 
“Reuben?” she repeated, then waved her hand. “Zircon…down.”
The dragon flicked its mechanical tail, and fluttered backwards, spitting sparks. 
Gas lamps flickered and the shadows of a hundred bottles danced on the papered walls. Elspeth watched, running edgy fingers up and down her buckled corset, as Reuben righted himself. He stepped closer and she moved out of the penumbra and into the light. 
Zircon whirred and circled the man, spilling sparks, showering him with diamonds in the dark. 
“I want something from behind the counter…I need a potion…” he said.
 “What sort of potion?” 
He smiled and Elspeth’s breath caught somewhere between her head and her heart. 
“Something to whisk her off her feet, to make her dance in the moonlight, to lift her higher than an airship, something to light her soul with the romance of a thousand lanterns…” he enthused, “Something that stops time in her heart…”
Elspeth’s own soul danced as his voice swelled with yearning. 
“A love potion,” she whispered and he nodded. 
“An elixir of adoration.” He closed his eyes, lost in his dream.
Elspeth smoothed her skirts and moved behind her counter.  She began to lift one bottle, then another. “You’ll need a thornless rose, and balsam and a touch of elm…” she twirled and flit, her skirts and petticoats wrapping around her legs as she moved.  “…and a pinch of dill…” She glanced at Reuben and tried to ignore the somersault in her chest. “We’ll need forget-me-not and heliotrope, and…” she grinned, “ivy…and a touch of cardamom…” she stole a look at him and smiled. “Come with me…” 
Reuben followed as her laced-up boots glided across the floor. He sat on an old brocade sofa, ducking to avoid fluttering clockwork butterflies. She wound up an inch of candle and lit the wick, polished brass instruments and set wheels and cogs in motion.
She lit burners and began to grind tendrils and petals, pounding them into a dark, brooding dust. She poured a drop of oil and stepped back.  “And a touch of desire …” she murmured adding a pinch of spice. She bit her bottom lip and slowly raised her eyes to meet his smile.
The room bubbled with the sweet fragrance of love.
Reuben glanced at the pocket watch in his coat as Elspeth distilled the finished liquid.  
She fixed her dark eyes on his and strode across the room, a vial of elixir in her hand. “This scent…” She wafted the potion beneath his nose and whispered, “…is intoxicating.”
He nodded, nervous, as her ebony curls tickled his ear, or was it her breath?
Her dragon, perched upon her shoulder, suddenly flapped its wings puffing a fountain of sparks. Reuben jumped and Elspeth’s hand flustered. Glistening love potion sprinkled across his face and shirt.
“Don’t worry, it’s fine…” Elspeth’s fingers loosened his collar and her hand curled around the back of his neck. “It won’t hurt, not one little bit!”
She wiped a drop off his bristled cheek and ran her finger across his lip, awakening want in his eyes, and finally his ardent, willing lips sought hers.

* * *

She cradled his heart, vibrating and pulsating with pleasure, and gently placed it inside a small leather chest with a dozen others. Gears and cogs whirred as the trunk locked. She dropped the ornate key back into her bosom and smiled.


26 comments:

  1. Oh, this is breathtaking, Lisa!! Mesmerizing with that delightfully dark twist at the end!! Thank you for entering the hop!! xoxo

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    1. Thanks for putting this hop together...it's been a learning curve, but fun! Really enjoyed writing, and rewriting...and rewriting again!

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  2. I'm floored! Wow.. and you were having problems??!! Bah, humbug this was an absolutely sheer shimmering delightful dance of love and deceit. I never saw the true end coming. Just wow, let me get off the floor and close my gaping mouth. LOVED IT! Brilliant, Lisa.

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    1. You set the standard for steampunk so high with your DFQWBS piece! I was stumped, then you mentioned a clockwork dragon...that was all I needed! Thanks Stacy.

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  3. Lisa you have excelled yourself.. That is truly amazing and now I have even less idea where to start...xx

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    1. Thanks Rosalind, this one floored me for ages...hope you get to write one!

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  4. Have you been waiting to overwhelm us with your steampunk writing talent?! Really, Lisa, this is a wow! You nailed the atmosphere, the storyline, the structure. This piece is beautifully written.

    Really loved it!

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    1. Lovely compliments Jo-Anne, so happy you enjoyed it!

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  5. OH! Love this. Excellent tale! And beautiful details. Thanks for entering!!!

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    1. Glad you enjoyed it, can't wait to read the other entries!

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  6. o.O OHHH. The poor guy was in love and I never saw the ending coming. Love that name, Elspeth. Seriously, fantastic and a little twisted which makes it perfect. Very well done.

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    1. Her name just seemed to go so well with the steampunk thing, it's pretty and slightly mysterious! Loving this blog hop Steven!

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  7. Lisa, this might have been a challenge for you to write, but I think it's one of your very best pieces! It is beautifully written. Really, really beautifully written. The story is solid, strong, and fascinating. There's a plotline here that I'd love to see you explore in a longer story. The character development is fantastic. And the imagery...ahhhh your imagery is AMAZING!! I would have happy read a piece by you where nothing happened but these strings of beautiful words. But you succeeded in creating a piece where a lot happened in very few words. I want more. I don't often feel this from reading a flash piece, but I was seriously pulled into this piece and want more. Congratulations!!

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    1. That's a gorgeous comment Sophie, I have a predisposition toward imagery, and really enjoyed researching the flowers and herbs for her love potion, she chose each one for a reason!

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  8. Can't believe you struggled with this, it's soooo good. The imagery is brilliant and it flows so well. Could practically smell the concoction she brewed, and the ending - brilliant.

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    1. Thanks Laura, I'm so glad you got a story in too. I didn't think it was my comfort zone, but once Stacy mentioned a clockwork dragon, I felt much more comfortable!

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  9. This is stunning! There is absolutely no sign of struggle. You have such a natural ability for any genre you choose to write about. This is such a flowing, descriptive piece and the ending is jaw dropping. Well done chicken. xxx

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    1. Aw thank you, really enjoyed writing this one! x

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  10. Don't tell me you can't write Steampunk. This was a LOT of fun to read.

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  11. Oooh, nice finish. Loved the clockwork dragon. Great atmosphere. :)

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    1. I love my dragons, clockwork and otherwise, thanks J :)

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  12. Very nicely done with the combination of steampunk and fantasy elements swirled together. It made for a very captivating read with a most unexpected ending. I've read enough of your flash pieces to know you were quite capable of knocking this one out of the park. You certainly proved me right on that account. Bravo!

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    1. Thank you so much Jeff! I rewrote this one about five times!

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  13. Delightfully wicked ending! Gorgeous imagery - well done!

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