This is for the Dirty Goggles Blog Hop, put together by Ruth, Jenn, and Steven.
The Apothecary's Art
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.