Selthia set the little potted plant on the counter and looked up into the eyes of the bear in an apron. Behind the giant carnivore were a myriad of plants on dusty shelves, their leaves and vines covering the old wooden walls and obscuring the dirty windows.
“Is that all, Razia?” The bear asked, her voice low but not threatening. It took Selthia a moment to realize she was being spoken to.
“O-Oh, yes, that’s all Honeytree,” she said courteously.
“That’ll be one copper.”
“I believe I can afford that,” the little dusk-colored vixen said with a mischievous grin on her muzzle. She pulled out her little sack and delicately placed two coppers on the counter.
Honeytree nodded. “How is the potion business going, little fox?”
Selthia put the plant in the crook of her arm. “Oh, I get by. Are you coming to our monthly get-together later?”
Selthia smiled, and just as she was out the door she leaned back in and winked, her long brush fluttering in the breeze as the wooden door lazily closed after her.
Selthia smiled. Spring was certainly in bloom: birds scattered from treetop to treetop. Sweet wind blew through the little town as the neighbors and other shopkeeps - mostly otters - tended to their little comings and goings: dusting, cleaning, tending to gardens... The cobblestone streets were covered in moss again and the air smelled of oak and wildflowers, and was filled with the sound of bees on their daily rounds. The little village was perfect, she thought.
They’d never find her here.
Presently, a few little otterettes scattered around Selthia’s feet.
“Hi, miss Razia!” one said. Selthia smiled at him, her little white fangs shining.
“Hello, Angarel,” she said softly. “What mischief are you up to today?” She stopped at the village well.
“Oh no, miss Razia, I’ve learned my lesson.”
Selthia chuckled. “Oh, I’ve forgiven you my sweet,” she said, scratching the little one’s furry chin. “Mischief is a delight...” She gently touched his little button nose. “...If you are never caught.”
Angarel giggled sweetly before his brother pushed him out of the way. “I want scritches too, miss fox!”
“Ooh! Of course!” She said, bending over and giving him some scritchy-scratches on his chin as well. After a few moments of the adoring eyes gazing up at her, she straightened her back and made her way back to her cottage on the outskirts in the woods. “Farewell, children!” They waved and then went back to their games.
The cobblestones merged with dirt, which then merged with the forest floor. Slowly the dappled sunlight dimmed and dimmed, fading into dark green light as the sun became lost in the trees. The little vixen felt completely hidden. She passed over the pond she had enchanted, stepping daintily on the stone bridge. The frogs ribbited as the exotic fish moved underneath: their scales reflecting light from other worlds.
Selthia arrived at her cottage: tucked into the side of a foothill, overgrown with plants and nature, the little chimney puffing billows of radiant purple smoke into the sky. She opened the little rotting wooden gate and patted her plant’s pot.
“You will do well here, will you not?” She asked it. “Far away from that stupid bear. She didn’t even know what she had!” She said to herself, giggling.
She set the pot next to its intended hole and drew a sigil in the air resembling a circle with a triangle inside, centered on the plant’s soil.
Her paws glowed as she scooped the plant out and placed it in its designated home in one easy motion. Her violet eyes flashed and she took a moment to relish in her cleverness: In four moons, that plant will be worth dozens of gold pieces, if not more.
Selthia went inside to her backroom, her cauldron bubbling. She checked under the cloth in the corner to see her scrying mirror: no new messages from the Traveller. She quickly covered it up and regained her calm composure.
She retrieved a bottle and scooped up a few ounces of the green liquid that had been simmering for months in her old cauldron and went back outside.
When she stepped onto her little pebblestone footpath, she turned to her little plant again. It reached up to her like a baby begging for milk.
“Here you are, my dear,” she said softly, bending over and giving the plant a healthy drink of her green elixir. That’s when her ear flicked. She stood up and looked down the path - her pond had alerted her to someone.
Slowly, her sensitive vulpine ears heard the footsteps of a careless creature, stepping on innocent vines and twigs. Then she heard clanking. Quickly, she ran inside and retrieved her wand and hid it in her little vest.
“Hello there!” She called as the shadow came into view. It was large, but had long ears: a hare. It was also covered in armor and was holding its side. It struggled a few steps more, then collapsed.
Selthia stood on her tippaws to get a better look. It was a hare, all right: in armor that had been scratched and burned: He must have run into Rz’thclatha or one of her children, she thought. She walked over, a little smile on her face.
“Are you all right?” She asked, kneeling. The hare had armor bearing the seven-pointed sign of the Sun God, Tyr.
“I-I couldn’t save them,” he said, rasping. Selthia tilted her head.
“No, no,” she said, her voice as smooth as velvet as she delicately held up the hare’s head, forcing him to stare into her healthy violet eyes.
“It was your god that could not save them.”
The paladin gaped and blinked, then coughed a little blood onto Selthia’s corset.
“That was not very polite,” the vixen said, smiling. Selthia then drew a sigil in the air resembling a circle with a triangle inside, centered on the paladin’s chest.
A few hours later, night was falling. Honeytree put out her wooden “Closed” sign in the window of her little shop and closed the front door without bothering to lock it. The sky was turning from orange to purple, and the crickets were out. The children were still running about, and Honeytree had to avoid stepping on them. She waved at her neighbor Evenwit, the chipmunk.
“Going to Razia’s, eh?” She called over. Quickly, Evenwit skittered over to the bear.
“Y-yes,” she said - always a little high strung, the bear thought. The evening was soft and warm and pleasant, and the otters were outside smoking their leaves, watching the tendrils of smoke swirl into the air.
“I notice you’ve got another placard outside your shop, Evenwit,” Honeytree said. “Worshipping more gods, are ya?”
“Oh, heh, y-yes,” she said, rubbing her little paws together nervously. “I’ve been talking to Razia recently and I figured, w-why make enemies? I started worshipping R-Reynard recently, just to see if he’d accept me.”
They passed by the well, splitting up as they made their way around it. The sound of childrens’ playful giggling and crickets was thick as the dark woods beckoned.
“W-well, if you know any law-lawyers, I might be able to give them a boon.”
Honeytree laughed. Then another small creature scooted in beside them: Gracewhistle, the otter bookshop owner.
“Sorry I’m late, girls,” she said, adjusting her tiny - and adorable - glasses. “I wouldn’t miss Razia’s monthly tea date for the world!”
“Heh, n-no problem, Grace.”
“No problem at all, Gracey.”
The pond was glowing with fireflies dancing between the violet-eyed frogs. The night sky reflected into the pool and when Honeytree looked at it, it looked like giant fish were flying between the stars.
“I’ve been meaning to ask our dear vixen where she got these fish!” Gracewhistle said. “Nothing like this species lives around here, and yet here are dozens!”
There was a warm orange light glowing from Selthia’s cottage. Honeytree noticed the little plant that Razia had bought that morning, enjoying a prime spot near the doorway... except it was five times larger now and glowed with a faint purple light. Honetree shrugged: so long as her customers - especially the rich ones - were happy, she would be as well.
“Come in!” Selthia said, appearing at the door with a tray of steaming tea. All the females were delighted to see their friend again. “Come in!”
Gracewhistle couldn’t help but notice that Razia’s eyes were brighter and fur fluffier than usual.
The four creatures entered Selthia’s den and sat themselves down on the various pillows that had been strewn about. The fireflies and candles gave the cottage a warm, comfortable feel. Selthia sat delicately, her tail wrapped around her legs.
“Girls, this tea is special,” she said smiling. The bear, squirrel, and otter all took a sip of the red tinted sweet-tea and made a collective:
“Oh,” Gracewhistle exclaimed. “This is excellent, Razia! I’m detecting mandrake, gooseberry, thistle, Veilwinter honey - of course - and...”
“Yes, yes,” Evenwit said, always wanting to connect to her little group of friends. “There’s s-something else in there! It’s delight-delightful.”
Selthia merely smiled as the Veilwinter honey slowly wound its way around all of their minds. “There is a secret ingredient! Part of the plant that our dear Honeytree sold to me this very morn.”
The females ahh’d and nodded and sipped. Soon they were all relaxing more and more until Gracewhistle spoke up - nearly collapsed into her pillow as she gazed up into the enchanted ceiling of Selthia’s cottage. The constellations wheeled and danced in ancient patterns as the otter smiled and laughed.
“Heh,” she said, pointing - smacking her lips and letting the honey drip into her soul a little more. “The stars are wrong.”
Selthia, curled on her pillow, merely smiled.
The night and conversation swirled and wheeled and danced - just like the false constellations on Selthia’s ceiling - until they each found themselves waking up peacefully in their respective homes.
Honeytree yawned, stretching her enormous arms until her left claw slammed against her wall.
The bear roared and hissed, holding her paw. Slowly she sighed and looked into the shop beyond: still green, still still. She extracted herself from her cot and walked over to the closed sign, flipping it to open. The sun filtered through the trees, shedding calm, green light into the little shop.
Evenwit awoke back in her tree. She lifted her tail and bent out of her hole to see down to the shop floor. Judging that it was safe, she skittered down the bark to her open holy books. She did her prayers for Tyr and Statera but stopped when she saw the prayer for Reynard: It wasn’t a prayer, it was a story. She caught herself reading it all morning, even forgetting to open her prayer shop.
Gracewhistle swam up to her log and walked over to her shop. She rubbed her eyes and could still see Razia’s dusk-colored coat and big brush spinning. She opened the door and saw a book of astronomy open to a strange page. She stared at it and yawned, rubbing her eye.
“Curious,” the little otter said before returning the wayward tome to its shelf and flipping her store’s sign to ‘open’.