Quin Conroy crawled his fingers along a roll of dusty bottles. “Here’s the rose petals,” he remarked.
Glenda Ní Caoimh, his apprentice, frowned as she watched her master choose the bottle. She lowered her head and brought her hands together, interlacing the fingers. She took several deep breaths, letting her hands and arms move with the motion of her chest.
“Master Conroy.” Her head was still lowered, and she had closed her eyes a moment before speaking.
“Yes, Glenda,” Master Conroy replied. He allowed himself to smile but not enough to interrupt his student’s train of thought, who had looked up, opening her mouth to speak but was hesitating.
“Are you sure you picked the right bottle?” she asked finally.
“I believe so,” Master Conroy answered. “The recipe calls for rose petals.”
“Yes, it does,” Glenda acknowledged, “but not pink ones. Red rose petals.” She bit her bottom lip softly and brought her hands behind her back.
Master Conroy gazed at the bottle for a moment. Keeping his head in the same position, he shifted his gaze to his apprentice a couple of times, each time returning to the bottle after only a second or two.
“It should work since pink roses come from the red variety,” he asserted.
“They also come from the white kind,” Glenda replied, raising her eyebrows. “The potency that red petals are known for will be diluted by the white.”
Master Conroy released the smile that he had kept contained since Glenda first spoke. Laughing a little, he said, “You are most correct. Accuracy is the most important aspect of being an alchemist.”
“Yes, Master,” Glenda responded, accepting the praise with a slow bow of the head.
“You are most fortunate,” Master Conroy continued, “for my last three apprentices did not last that long.” Glenda frowned, and he explained, “The potency of red rose petals should be known by my apprentice, and if you had not known that, you would not have returned tomorrow.”
Turning his attention back to his bottles, he declared with a slight flair in his voice, “Rose petals of any color are not needed for today’s elixir, though.”
He put the pink rose petals back in their place and picked up a bottle filled half way with a clear liquid. When he brought the bottle up to the light shining in from a nearby window, the liquid became cloudy with a hint of green.
“Off we go.” He picked up the bag he had just deposited the bottle into and left, Glenda keeping in step right behind him.
A few minutes later they arrived at their destination, a house that looked like all of the other houses of the village. The village was small, though; everyone knew everyone else.
Master Conroy knocked on the door, and a few moments later, Mr. Alan answered, inviting the two alchemists in as soon as he saw them.
“He’s in here,” he said, ushering his guests into the bedroom.
Master Conroy opened his bag and retrieved the bottle of clear liquid and a wooden cup. He poured a small amount of the liquid into the cup and handed it to the boy who was sitting against the head rest. The boy sniffed the liquid and frowned, scrunching his nose.
“This smells bad,” the boy protested. “Don’t you have something else?”
“Very well,” Master Conroy replied. He brought out another bottle and another cup. “This one should do the trick.”
The boy smelled the second one and smiled. He drank the contents in one gulp. His smile, though, disappeared. He began coughing and did not stop for nearly a minute. When he finally stopped, he looked up at Master Conroy, a look of horror on his face.
“That bad taste you have in your mouth,” Master Conroy explained, “will be there for at least three days. It matters not what you eat or drink. Bread, milk, water. Doesn’t matter.”
“Master Conroy,” the father said. “Why did you give him that?”
“He indicated that he did not want the one that smelled bad,” Master Conroy answered. He took the cup of the smelly liquid that the boy turned down and drank its contents. “It may smell bad, but it tastes like spicy fruit.”
“Will it cure him, though?” the father asked.
“He will be well by the morning.”