Donovan Allman hated Dillish wine, but he couldn’t deny its effects. It made him lively, happy, personable, in a way no other drink seemed to. He imagined for his new life as a shop keep, he’d have to get used to its rich, spicy taste.
When the time came, he theatrically downed one final glass, got up from his seat behind the counter, and made his way to the front door in long, dramatic strides. “Paz,” Donovan said, and the door threw itself open, and stayed that way. Lastly, he hung a sign that attached to the bottom of the chrysanthemums. It read, written in chalk: “Open.”
And they were.
It wasn’t like Donovan imagined it. On the elevator ride up to Skymoore, he imagined what it might be like to place the open sign for the first time. He thought there might be a crowd of fifteen, maybe twenty, maybe more, murmuring curiously about what exactly his shop would have waiting for them. He dreamed there might be a hundred, hardly able to contain their excitement to get inside.
Instead, he opened the door only to the view of Mount Paylor, as disappointing as it was magnificent. He walked back behind the counter, and he waited.
“Someone will come soon,” Karessa said ten minutes later.
“It’s nice to just have the door open!” Nestor said. “The fresh air. The cool breeze of a spring afternoon. The omnipresent spirit of the late Mrs. Grantham. It really sets the mood.”
A few minutes later, Nestor had pulled out a game of chess, at which he beat Karessa in five moves. He beat Donovan in seven. Then Donovan played against Karessa, and it was boring. The best part was the five minutes they spent arguing whether the Bishop’s Dance – which allowed bishops to switch places with any rook once per game – was a well-established rule or one Karessa just made up. Results were inconclusive.
Mercifully, a customer arrived.
She was a small, elderly human woman with sagging skin and smile fighting against a droopy face. “Is this the new store?” she asked as she entered. “The magic shop?”
“Yes!” Donovan said, welcoming her in and knocking over half the chess pieces. “Welcome to Odd & Ends, Skymoore’s first and only magic shop. My name is Donovan Allman, I’m the owner. This is Nestor Pinkly, the magic part. And this is Karessa Plunderton, head of advertising.”
“Oh, did she put those cute little notes on the kittens down on Proffer Road? My sister adopted one and kept the note on because she fancied it so much.”
“Anyhow, my grandson is very interested in magic. Wants to be one of those street performers. I think it’s an awful life but my daughter is such an enabler. ‘New-age parenting,’ I suppose. Do you have a deck of cards? Perhaps an outfit?”
“Oh, no,” Donovan stuttered. “It’s not that kind of magic shop. It’s like…okay, yes, we have a deck of cards, but they shuffle themselves, and you can summon a card just by speaking its name.”
The woman’s brow furrowed. “Well that’s kind of against the point, isn’t it? What is this, magic tricks for the lazy?”
“Not that kind of magic,” Karessa reiterated. “Magic as in…you know, sorcery.” Nestor closed and opened his palm, producing a silent firework as punctuation.
Donovan led the woman to a display which contained bowls and other kitchen supplies. “These pots and pans, for instance, clean themselves when they’re done. It’s really quite handy.”
The woman eyed Donovan curiously. “But I can just wash my own dishes.”
“Right, but now you don’t have to!”
“Why should they have to do all the work?”
Donovan frowned. “It’s just an example. We have a vase that will keep its contents watered, a blanket that’s always just the right temperature, ink that becomes any color you desire…”
“Yes, but how will this help my nephew do magic tricks?”
“I’m not talking about your nephew!” Donovan snapped. He slapped his hand over his mouth. “I’m sorry, miss, I just mean to say-”
“You there. Halfling,” the woman said. “Could you direct me to a store where I can buy a normal deck of cards? Perhaps somewhere where they aren’t so rude to customers.”
“Oh. Um. Yes, ma’am,” Karessa said. She questioned Donovan with a glance.
“Yes, Karessa. Take her. I’m sorry, miss…?” She ignored Donovan and followed Karessa outside.
The customers were far and few between, and each experience was similar to the first. In the day’s twenty-first hour, when the Pale Moon hung high and full above Skymoore, and the Warm Moon was beginning to sink beneath the clouds, Donovan at last decided to close up shop.
“Take note, Karessa,” he was saying as he made his way outside, “the crowd most likely to read notes attached to small animals is not the store’s primary demographic.”
“Duly noted, boss,” she said dryly. “What about large animals?”
Donovan was preparing to quip in response when he nearly bumped into Mayor Dew, who was standing outside the store. More accurately, Donovan nearly bumped into the tall, angular elf who held a pot containing Mayor Dew’s soil. Mayor Dew was, of course, smiling.
“Donovan Allman! Time seems to have gotten away from me today, but I told myself I absolutely had to visit your store before the day was done. A magic shop! Here in Skymoore! Now, I’m not keeping anybody up, am I?”
“Of course not,” Donovan said, welcoming them inside. “Mayor Dew, Karessa Plunderton and Nestor Pinkly. Karessa and Nestor, I presume you know the mayor. And this is…?” he gestured to the mayor’s elven helper.
“Oh that’s Relland,” Mayor Dew said. “He doesn’t have a tongue. Just the way I like my assistants, if I’m being totally honest.” The Mayor’s statement was accompanied by a laugh that was no doubt meant to be wholesome, but ended up sounding more sinister than anything. “Well, that’s neither here nor there. This is a lovely shop you have here. Very quaint.”
Nestor and Donovan gave the mayor the tour, and he seemed to approve very much. He hmm’d and ahh’d at most all the trinkets and belts and necklaces Nestor showed off. “Well, what do you recommend for a guy my size?” the mayor asked once they were finished.
“We have clothes that fit anyone, regardless of size,” Karessa offered. Mayor Dew seemed to consider this.
“What about something to help you write?” Donovan asked.
Mayor Gendry Dew lit up at this. “An excellent idea, Mr. Allman! Dictation is all well and good, and scribes are great, but well…you saw some of the pitfalls today, yes?”
“I know just the thing!” Nestor said. He produced a perfectly normal-sized quill to the mayor, who looked skeptical, but interested. “It will write anything you tell it to! Just speak the command word, which we’ll include with your receipt, to activate it!”
The mayor’s smile widened, which seemed to stretch his face entirely taught. “This is just wonderful! Isn’t it wonderful, Relland?” The elf nodded numbly. “I’ll take three!”
Karessa rang the mayor up without a hitch. Relland sat the mayor on the counter as he dug through his coinpurse, and deposited a few coins into her waiting hand. The mayor wished them a good night, and promised to spread the word. And that was that.
Donovan sighed heavily as he slumped into his chair.
“Well, at least it can only go uphill from here,” Karessa said.
“What” Nestor asked as he returned from removing the “open” sign. “It was wonderful! We made a sale! And think of how happy those quills will make him.”
Donovan forced a smile. “Thank you for the perspective, Nestor.” He shook the gnome’s hand. “Thank you for getting into this wild adventure with a stranger. I hope we do not wind up the poorer for it.”
“Do I still get paid if we go bankrupt?” Karessa asked.
“I wouldn’t worry about that at all!” Nestor said. “I saw how much money Donovan deposited. We won’t run out any time soon?”
“So it’s true then? Donovan really is fabulously wealthy? I didn’t want to be rude and ask, but there were rumors in school that the son of a prince was moving into Skymoore.”
Donovan shook his head, amused. “I’m afraid I’ve no claim to royalty,” he said. “But yes, our funds will hold for the foreseeable future. I’m just a worrier by nature.”
“A cautious leader is a wise leader,” Karessa said. “I think some famous warlord said that. Laftun K’runongon, or something?”
“Oh, he was in this mornings’ Match Your Warlord to their Favorite Shade of Blue!” Nestor said excitedly. “I got a hundred percent!”
Donovan stood suddenly. “If you two don’t mind, I’ve had a long day. Nestor, I will see you tomorrow morning. Karessa, after school. Thank the both of you for your work today, and in the days to come.”
Surprised by his sudden dismissal, the two wished Donovan a good evening and made their way out of the shop. Nestor spoke the closing word, and the door slammed shut.
Then there was quiet. The kind of quiet that forced one to reflect on thoughts they may not otherwise choose to reflect on. It was the kind of quiet Donovan came to Skymoore to avoid, and to which he was indomitably drawn.
He closed the blinds. He locked the door. And he reflected.
Donovan Allman had no idea how he would feel the first time he closed up his very own magic shop. Exhausted, perhaps. Relieved. Confident. Fulfilled. But Donovan did not feel any of those things. Instead, he mostly felt empty.
That emptiness gnawed away at his mind as he made his way to the back of the shop. Consumed him as he collapsed onto his bed, preparing for what he knew would be a sleepless night. He took his relief where could, however, and found some when he removed the sapphire ring he’d received in the temple of the Delish elves. That felt like a lifetime ago. Perhaps it was.
With the ring gone, he watched as the glamour faded, and the peach skin of his right hand gave way to the red of an endless sunburn. He felt lighter as the burden of secrecy was lifted from him. One burden of thousands, but he felt it all the same.
And so, feeling a little lighter than he had all day, The Suntouched stared up at his simple wooden ceiling, and wondered what exactly he’d gotten himself into this time.