What Merlyn didn’t realize was that when he’d asked Alferian to give his staff a tune-up last week, the Druid had given the job to his apprentice, Azrienoch, and being an apprentice, the young man had been a little over enthusiastic when he gave the staff a final buff with a paste wax made from lavender extract and penguin guano. And so when Merlyn cast a circle around the Foggy Duck Pub in preparation for his balancing spell, the circle in fact extended far beyond the pub, encompassing the entire Foggy Downs District of London. Merlyn started to chant. …
* * *
The wand and staff business was traditionally slow during this time of year, and the Merlyn job had simply not paid enough to make ends meet. And so Alferian and Azrienoch had answered an ad in The Pagan Press looking for temporary help in setting up a new shoe business. They hadn’t been surprised to see that Beith was their new temporary employer, but they were stunned at the amount of work she was demanding of them.
When the tinkling bell above the front door announced the arrival of the store’s first customer, Beith reluctantly allowed Alferian and Azrienoch to take a break while she ran to try and make a sale. Exhausted, Alferian and Azrienoch collapsed onto the floor to watch.
“Seleeeene! Oh, this is so grand! You’re my first customer,” trilled Beith as the administrator stood looking around with interest.
“Hi Beith,” said Selene. “I saw the story in The Pagan Press and I decided to come over because I’ve been needing a new pair of shoes to match my pumpkin medallion.”
“Selene, you’ve come to the right place! Things are in a bit of a turmoil right now – you just can’t get good help these days – but there’s never a bad day to buy shoes, and I’m sure I can find just what you’re looking for!”
“How about those?” asked Selene, pointing to a pair of orange, stiletto-heeled pumps with white lace accents.
“Those?” said Beith. “Oh, well, I really don’t think so, but, well, okay we can try them I suppose. She brought the shoes over and helped Selene into them. The administrator got up and walked around, admiring them in a mirror that Beith held.
“I like them! I’ll take them,” said Selene. “What’s the matter, Beith? You don’t look so good.”
“Well, it’s just that I sort of had my eye on that pair for myself,” said Beith, “ But …”
“No, that’s all right,” said Selene. “Why don’t you show me some of your other inventory? How about that pair over there?” The administrator pointed at a pair of thigh-high lace-up boots made from a bright orange patent leather.”
“Those over there?” said Beith. “Well I’m just not sure that it’s you, but, well, okay …”
After doing up all the laces, Selene strutted around the store. “Yes, these will do fine, and look how they match the medallion just perfectly! I’ll take them! Beith? Beith ...?”
“Well Selene, I don’t know what to say, but I’d best tell you the truth. I saw that pair when they came in, and I just have to have them, and I’d written out a tag to say ‘Not For Sale,’ but in the confusion I hadn’t put it on them yet.”
“Can you believe this?” said Azrienoch to Alferian as they sat watching.
“Yes, I can,” answered Alferian.
“Well, how about this, Beith,” said Selene. “You tell me what pair I can have.”
“Oh, Selene, I have just the pair for you! It must have been a mix-up from the warehouse, because this pair, although lovely, can’t really be said to be impractical, as they only have two-inch heels. They’re made from faux alligator hide, and dyed with orange dye to give this interesting tiger stripe pattern, and as you can see, the heels have rhinestones, and they also have cashmere insoles!”
Selene eased into the shoes and walked around. “They’re fine. A little boring maybe, but fine. I’ll take them, if you’re sure you’ll let me have them.”
“Well yes, I’ll let you have them,” said Beith, tearing up. “But it’s just so sad, so hard to say goodbye; I hope you understand.” Beith got down on her knees in front of Selene, looked at the shoes, and began to croon:
Hush little babies
Don’t you cry
Mama’s gonna sing you a lullaby.
If this lady makes you walk
I’m gonna …”
Just then the bell over the door jingled again and Alferian and Azrienoch, their mouths agape, watched as two men walked inside, one of them wearing a turtle on his back.
“Hello, my name is Emrys, and I’m here from The Pagan Press, and I’d like to interview the owner of this store,” said Emrys. He took Greymore off his back and put him on the floor. “And these are my two friends, Greymore and Forestmonk.”
“Yes, I’m the store owner!” said Beith, getting to her feet. “Welcome, and yes, I’d love to do an interview, but first, excuse me, Alferian, could you please come give Selene’s new shoes the free gyroscopic spin balancing? The machine’s right over there.”
“Oh Beith, I don’t think that’s necessary, these only have two-inch heels,” said Selene.
“No Selene, this is for their benefit, not yours,” Beith said, indicating the shoes.
The administrator saw that it was futile to resist, so she gave the new shoes to Alferian, who took them and placed them on the Gyroscopic Spin Balancer. He flipped a switch; the machine started to hum and whir.
“Hey Greymore,” said Forestmonk. “I got a bad feelin’ about this. Let’s go."
The cleric’s “bad feelin’” could probably be attributed to the fact that he sensed Merlyn’s balancing spell, which by now had extended to include Beith’s Impractical Shoe Emporium. And when the shoe-balancing machine, with its load of faux alligator hide shoes, started to spin in the opposite direction, a vortex in the time-space continuum was quickly established, and everyone in the store, along with Merlyn back at the Foggy Duck Pub, were sucked up into the swirling wind.
* * *
Inside Lady Nimue’s kitchen, Crow, EarthWard, Kat Lady and Moon Cloud continued their questioning while LadyMoonChaser snapped pictures.
Suddenly there was a loud splash from outside the window.
“That sounds like something just fell into my alligator pit,” said Lady Nimue.
Everyone ran outside …