Arc 716, 73rd trial of Ashan
Alex pushed open the old door, a stirring of excitement in her stomach. She had just made it back the previous day, but had no patience to take a day off, nor would her meager purse strings allow it. Since she had been required to hire Kydrel for the trip, paying him took a sizeable chunk out of her profit for the Eye of the Death Worm mission. Oh well, it got me this job, so it all worked out well in the end.
She peered inside, and saw Mr.Gardener busily working away at his workbench. She picked her way through the crowded shelves, her eyes glancing across the rows of jars. Those closest to the doors were mundane- common dried herbs or minerals, and powdered bone or teeth. The further back she went, the more exotic the labels became. Her eyes picked out names like Leechbane
or Night Scarf
. Like the last time she was here, she still didn't recognize most of the names, but her ignorance only spurred her on to learn more, to achieve perfection.
She cheerfully greeted him. "I'm ready to get to learning!"
She expected that it would be a steep learning curve- she had no formal education in medicine. She knew that the more she could learn, and the faster she could do that the sooner she could find the underworld here and actually have skills to break her own way into it.
He straightened at her voice, and looked up from his series of distillations to nod at her, holding up a finger. She settled in, content to watch him work for now. When it became clear that he was far from finished, she took a deep breath, and relaxed, her meditative trance settling over her. It still took her half a break to relax enough to get it, but had noticed that she was much faster than she remembered being.
A break later, he stood and approached her. Alex shook herself out of her trance, and rose to speak to him.
"Good to see you Alex."
He vigorously shook her hand, and gestured towards the room. "Shall I give you the grand tour?"
His voice held a hint of mockery as he spoke, though it didn't seem to be directed at her. She ignore it for the moment as he led her back towards the door.
"Here is the front door. The main area up here is the only place where civilians are allowed."
He led her around the shelves, attempting to explain his organizational system. "It's a bit odd at first, but it makes it much faster once you get used to it. You'll see."
His voice held the ring of confidence that hinted at the truth behind his words.
After he had pointed out where most of the stuff was located, he led her past the counter, and into the back. His workbench wrapped around the side and back of the room, and he quickly rattled off several of the jobs he was working on, pointing out the processes that were ongoing. What had originally appeared to be chaos to Alex was quickly revealed to be a closely balanced system, everything with a place and a role.
On the other side of the room, behind the counter, a terrarium stood covering the wall. Condensation obscured the walls, but Mr.Gardener skipped over it in his description. Alex stared at it in curiosity, but figured he'd tell her what it did soon or later.
They continued into his office in the back, and down into the lab beneath the shop. This is obviously the... shadier side of the business.
Alex thought as he pointed out several species of mushroom and algae, quickly rattling off their uses to her. She nodded along, and promptly forgot as soon as he moved on to the next one. He pointed out several jars, and she nodded knowingly at the Mind's Eye sitting in a new jar, already floating in a supply of amniotic fluid.
They returned to the upper floor as he explained what she'd be doing.
"I'm fairly confident that I can gauge your abilities, and from what I can tell this is the plan. For the first couple seasons I'll have you working as I would any younger apprentice. But since you have some experience, and are significantly older, I'll be giving you more responsibility, and expecting more from you. After that, you'll likely begin to take on jobs all by yourself, and we'll see how it goes from there. Sound good?"
His voice was even, and calming. He met her eyes as he talked to her, and Alex returned his gaze.
"Sounds good to me. Where am I going to start today then?"
"Well, where to begin..."