Chapter 2:

☆An Unfortunate Allergy☆

Magic Makes my Life Less Lonely!

A dumbfounded look spread across my face, causing the mysterious man to squint his eyes and tilt his head curiously.

“I-I’m sorry, but you don’t have an appointment!” I finally choked out.

“Appointment? Oh… And how would one go about making one?” he questioned, rubbing his chin.

“W-Well, there’s a sign up sheet posted each day and…” I stopped talking. It was quite late in the evening. I wonder if he travelled a long way to get here?

“Ah, I see. My apologies, I was not aware.” He flashed a sad smile, revealing two prominent front teeth. They looked quite sharp! He seemed friendly enough, though, kinda cute even. I mean, if he’d come all this way...I guess I could make an exception.

“No, no, it’s ok! Umm...I can make a spot for you right now.” I opened the door wider and stepped to the side, gesturing him in.

“Thank you, I greatly appreciate it.” He stood for a moment, putting his hands on his hips as if awaiting something. We lingered for a moment longer until I felt the need to say something.

“...Would you like to come inside,” I asked awkwardly?

“I’d be glad to! Thank you very much,” he replied, finally stepping into the cottage. Heh, how formal! Needing an invitation to come inside? I smirked a bit to myself as I closed the door behind me.

“Please, have a seat anywhere you’d like!” I exclaimed. Although I smiled, I felt a bit uneasy about the whole situation. He decided to take a seat on the loveseat next to Cushion.

“Oh!” Cushion exclaimed after this mysterious man sat against it. The gentleman looked behind him in curiosity.

“A talking...pillow?”

“Oh, sorry! That’s Cushion! I forgot to bring it back to bed.”

“I see. Hello little Cushion! My apologies if I sat on you.”

“How do you do?” it responded.

“That’s... How adorable!” he said with a grin, flashing those pointed teeth again. "Do all your pillows talk?"

"No, just Cushion!" I said before I suddenly heard a little commotion coming from another room. Was it Tooth?

“Elio, could I have a word with you? Please?” I heard Tooth say.

“Uh...can it wait a moment? I have a client, Tooth!”

“No. Now!!” Tooth said nervously. I’d never heard it so frantic!

“I’m so sorry, friend needs to speak with me. This will only take a second.”

“Please, take your time. I’m the one who showed up unexpectedly.” He was so polite… I quickly hurried over Tooth to see what was so important.

“Elio, what are you doing? That’s a VAMPIRE,” it hissed at me.

“A vampire?” I asked in a low volume, so as not to alarm my guest.

“YES! Did you see his TEETH?!” Tooth said in what was barely a whisper.

“I mean, Tooth, c’mon...we mustn’t make fun of others’ appearances!”

“I’m telling you he’s a VAMP—!!”

“Is...everything ok?” I heard the gentleman inquire softly behind me. I turned to respond, and was surprised to see him standing so close. How did he move so quietly? I gulped.

“Y-Yes! Of course. Sorry, uh, my friend was just needing some attention.”

“Ah, no worries” he said while looking around, then at me with a raised eyebrow. I'd be confused too if I didn't know that my comb could talk!

“Right,” I cleared my throat nervously, “So...what can I do for you, Mr…?”

“Alkan. My name is...Alkan.”

“And I’m Elio! Nice to meet you officially, heh…” I rubbed the back of my head awkwardly. “So, how can I help?”

“I had heard of a talented wizard near Windbloom and, err...thought you might be able to assist me. It is somewhat of a silly issue, I admit...” As he spoke, he looked nervously towards the floor.

“Oh, it’s ok! I promise I won’t judge. Part of my service is to ensure a judgement free space for all requests.” He seemed to appreciate that.

“In that case… I have taken a liking to cooking recently, you see. I am still a beginner, but with more practice I hope to make delicious creations.”

“Cooking certainly sounds like a great thing to try!”

“ not cook?”

“Not particularly, no. I have to be reminded to eat. Quite often actually!” I laughed awkwardly...better bring it back to the issue at hand. “But yes, what can my magic help you with, Alkan?”

“I have discovered I have a rather unfortunate allergy to a key ingredient in most dishes,” he frowned.

“Oh dear! What ingredient would that be?”

“Garlic,” he muttered with a disappointed sigh.

“Well I can certainly see how that might be a problem. I may not know much about cooking, but I know enough to realize garlic is super important in so many dishes.”

“Indeed! Even with the smallest bite, the result is...unpleasant. If only I could partake in that earthy treasure, my cooking abilities would transcend! Elio...could you please assist me in creating a garlic that I could enjoy?” He grinned again, sheepishly, but his passion was almost infectious. My mind raced for a moment as I thought about how I could solve his problem.

“It might take a bit, but I’m sure I could work something out,” I replied confidently.

“Brilliant, I sincerely appreciate your attentiveness to this matter,” he said excitedly, flashing his fangs once again with a big smile.

“’s no problem.” I tried to be polite, but the sight of the fangs made me feel a bit nervous.

“When should I return to gather the garlic?” he said, practically gliding to the door.

“T-Tomorrow? Is that ok?” I asked.

“That sounds perfect, see you tomorrow evening!” He bowed and smiled one last time, the corners of his lips upturned as he left the cottage and closed the door behind him. I stood in silence, replaying in my head everything that had just happened. I could see my friends animate back to life around the room and exchange glances with one another, then stare at me.

“...I told you!!” Tooth broke the silence.

“Wha?!” I jumped!

“He’s a vampire!”

“Goodness Tooth! That's just ridiculous, he’s not a vampire!” I shook my head adamantly.

“Yes, I agree with Tooth, that fellow is most definitely a creature of the night!” Tick interjected.

“Normally, I’d disagree with Tick’s judgement here...and I’m not about to change that. I agree with Tooth.” Tock said, winding up its twin on the wall.

“If you agree with Tooth, and I agree with Tooth, we agree with each other!” Tick pointed out.

“No,” was all Tock said in response, and that was all it took for the two to break out into an argument.

“I don’t know if he is a vampire...but he was well-dressed!” Cushion added sleepily.

“Yes, I’ve got to agree with you there.” I blushed lightly.

“He is very fit.” Cushion elaborated.

“Yes, he was...” I trailed off. I felt myself blush even more. I could always count on Cushion to admire the handsome clients with me. Tooth, on the other hand, was always one-track minded.

“True and true, but he’s still a vampire!” Tooth continued. “He even admitted it himself! That man said he’s allergic to garlic. Clearly a vampire!”

“Oh Tooth, people can be allergic to many things!” I protested.

“Yes but...Elio, please be careful,” Tooth whined. I felt bad, it was clearly concerned for my safety. I went over and gave it a little comforting tickle.

“I will Tooth, don’t worry.”

“Perhaps I can be of assistance,” a voice called from the corner of the living room. “I have all the knowledge and secrets held within that you could ever need!”

“Who said that?” Tooth questioned. A stack of boxes suddenly shook about, knocking some books off the bookshelf behind it. I went over and moved a few of the boxes until the voice’s owner was revealed.

“Carton? Wow, you’ve been so quiet lately I almost forgot you were here,” I said, a little embarrassed at the fact. Carton was...somewhat of an accident. I meant to enchant one of the books inside, but I kind of missed... I certainly didn’t mind having more friends, though!

“If you fancy information about Vampires, take a gander at my contents,” the cardboard box proclaimed confidently!

“’re full of nothing but hot air,” Cushion argued across the room through a long yawn.

“You’re one to talk! What are you? Ninety percent air, ten percent downy feathers? Puffball!” the box barked back defensively.

“At least I’m comfy…” Cushion said as it puffed up and sulked.

“Now, now you two, we’re all friends here. Carton, I thought I emptied you out ages ago, right after moving in,” I pointed out.

“Not everything! There are still some books,” Carton contradicted triumphantly.

“Well let’s see…” I leaned over and opened its lid. Inside were a small pile of books I must have forgotten about. They probably should be on the shelves with the others, but I kind of just neglected to do that since unpacking eight or so months ago.

“Huh, you’re right. I don’t really see a need to unpack these right now....”

“Nonsense! I’m sure there must be a book useful to you. Please take a look,” the box insisted!

“...Alright, let’s see if there’s anything about Vampires then.” I rummaged through, quickly inspecting each book. Hmm...a recipe book about pudding...a random novel called “My Life as a Magical Boy With a Pair of Pixie Boots!” I was gifted… Oh! “Creatures of The Night Brought To Light!”. That sounds...promising? I grabbed it and began to flip through its pages.

“Find something useful?” Carton prodded hopefully.

“Actually yes, I think so.” Squinting at the table of contents, I located “Vampire” and flipped to the corresponding page.

“Vampires...beings that sustain themselves off the blood of mortal creatures.” I could feel everyone’s eyes staring at me, their attention fixated on what I was reading. “...They have sharp pointed fangs, hate the sunlight, and prefer to come out at night or during overcast days...”

“Check!” Tooth yelled. I rolled my eyes and sighed.

“They cannot enter the homes of humans without a direct invitation…”

“Check!!” Tooth yelled again.

“...To ward them off, use garli—”

“...Check.” Cushion beat Tooth to the punch.

“I told you! I told you,” Tooth screamed excitedly while jumping around, “he’s a vampire!”

“This doesn’t prove anything,” I argued. I closed the book and walked away. “Anyways, he’s a client now. I have to fulfill his request!”

“Elio! He’s going to try to suck your blood! If you enchant that garlic, it might make him immune to i—”

“Not immune, just...not allergic to!” I corrected, while yawning. They really were paranoid about all this. Yeah there are some funny coincidences, but vampires aren’t real...right?


“Enough Tooth! He’s not a vampire. He’s not waiting to suck my blood. He’s not hiding in the house somewhere in wait—”


Suddenly we all heard a small noise come from the corner of the room near Carton.

“Oh my! Err, what was that?” Carton shifted its eyes around, trying to find the source of the sound.

“What indeed…” I said. It couldn’ that’s silly! There’s no such thing as vampires. I walked back to Carton and looked through the rest of its contents until I stumbled upon a particularly special book I’d misplaced.

“Oh my goodness! Novella!! Is this where you’ve been all this time?” I gasped, gazing upon the pretty blue book with large eyes and long eyelashes. My favorite book of stories and tall tales, enchanted to read to me!

“What?!” I heard Tick and Tock scream simultaneously, interrupting their bickering.

“Novella’s back?” Tooth exclaimed with excitement!

“Welcome back...!” Cushion said before passing out.

‘Oh, uh, must have fallen in somehow. Silly thing…” Carton mumbled to itself.

Novella was by far the quietest of all the things I had enchanted. It had very little interest in conversation. In fact...I’m not convinced the enchantment made it truly capable of true conversation, rather than just creative reciting of the stories kept in its pages.

“Longing makes the heart grow stronger,” it recited eloquently.

“It’s so good to have you back with us too!” I smiled down at Novella. A thought popped into my head, one that would get everyone off this silly vampire nonsense.

“Novella, it’s just about time for bed… Would you mind telling me a story?”

It smiled in return as I clutched it and grabbed Tooth and Cushion. I walked towards the stairs leading up to the bedroom waving at the twin clocks on the wall, and to Carton.

“Good night, everyone!”

“Goodnight!” Tick responded

“Yes, sleep well!” Tock chimed in.

“Sweet dreams. I’m so glad I could be of service!” Carton said, waving one of its cardboard flaps. 

I smiled at them all and made my way into the bedroom. I sat Tooth down on my peach-colored vanity table, its favorite spot in the whole cottage.Cushion was placed gently at the head of the bed.
“What story are we in the mood for? Now that we have our master storyteller back, I think something calming to fall asleep to.”

“I love a good story…” Cushion responded, half asleep.

“Can it be a fairy tale? I love those,” the little comb piped up.

“Novella, could you please tell us a bedtime fairy tale?” It smiled, and probably would’ve nodded had it been able to! I placed it on my nightstand and changed into my pyjamas. They were extremely soft and cool to the touch, perfect for snuggling up under the covers! I crawled under the fluffy blankets on my bed and I laid my head upon Cushion. Once I was situated, Novella began...

“Once upon a time in a far off land…”

Novella’s voice was so soft and soothing, the others drifted off to sleep almost immediately. I laid there tossing and turning for a bit, trying to get comfortable. While Novella continued its story, I quietly slipped out of bed, since it was probably going to be one of those evenings... Novella wasn’t phased by my movement, it knew I never slept easily. I snuck downstairs, out the door and into the cool night air. Some people had precious metals and gemstones, but these moments to myself where I could be alone with my thoughts were my treasures. In the garden I sat in my favorite butterfly chair and stared up at the beautiful night sky. The crescent moon shone down brightly while the stars twinkled and danced around it. In the forest behind me, the frogs croaked the dusk away peacefully.

A colorful grasshopper chirped loudly on the butterfly table next to me. I examined it and smiled, its large black eyes were pretty cute! I pet it gently with my index finger, it closed its eyes in comfort and its chirping changed into a sweet melody. It sang to me as I sat there for what seemed like hours, ruminating in the rays of the moonlight. Hardworking Rosetta and her glowing garden. Irina and her secret lover. The taste of garlic. Tick and Tock’s constant arguing. Alkan...vampires… I felt a cold shiver run down my spine. Wizards exist. Magic exists. So conceivably...vampires could exist? Even if they did...should I really be scared? 

“That’s a vampire!” Tooth’s voice echoed in my head. I thought back to the man who appeared at my doorstep. Well dressed, polite, a little pale. That could describe anyone back in the Crystalis court, and while many of them were out for blood, they certainly weren’t vampires! And his teeth weren’t that pointy! Not really…


I jumped at the sound! Something in the forest was moving about and I was not going to wait to find out what. I quickly ran back into the cottage and locked the door behind me.

“All this overthinking has gotten me worked up…” I sighed. I checked the clocks on the wall. When they were asleep the time between them grew even further apart, but I guessed it was around one in the morning. Definitely bedtime! I quietly returned to my bedroom to find Novella, who was done reading and had fallen asleep as well. I slipped back into the covers and rested my head on Cushion.

“Mmmm...nighty night...Elio…”

“Goodnight, Cushion.”

───── ⋆⋅☆⋅⋆ ─────


“Wha—?!” I jumped up, shaken from a dream. There was a banshee-like scream ringing through the entire cottage. My heart was beating extremely fast. Poor Cushion was startled as well, with tears welling up in its eyes. I hopped out of bed and tiptoed my way to my bedroom door, checking on Tooth on the way. The little comb was quivering nervously.

“W-W-What do you think it is?” Tooth asked with an anxious stutter.

“Shhh...I’m not sure,” I whispered back.

“What if it’s the vampire again?” it said with a shaky voice.

“Not this again, Tooth! Anyways, it's morning. Do vampires come out in the morning?”

“No but-”

“Stay quiet and let me check it out.”

I opened the door just a sliver so I could peek out into the hall and stairs. Nothing seemed out of place, so carefully slipped through and out of my room. I quietly crept down the stairs towards the direction of the sound… If it was an intruder of some kind, I definitely didn’t want to alert them to my presence! Or maybe it was someone in trouble? I channeled magic to my hands to ready a spell when I suddenly—!

“AHHHHHHHH—, good morning, Elio! Care for a cuppa?” My kettle hopped off a hot burner and onto a trivet, trailing billows of steam behind it.

“Brew! My goodness, you’re supposed to whistle, not scream!” I scolded the hot kettle.

“I couldn’t resist! It’s hard to whistle when your behind is being scalded!”

“Could you just tone it down a little? You gave everyone quite a scare!” I huffed in frustration.
“Sorry!” Brew said with a smile, and began to whistle sweetly.

“Thank you. It’s ok, everyone. Brew’s just back to being an early bird!” I yelled up the stairs. 

“I’m a kettle, not a bird, Elio!”

“It’s a figure of speech and far too early for me to explain it to you,” I said with a sigh, rubbing the temples of my head in annoyance.

“Oh dear, have some tea! That’ll make you feel much better!” Brew hopped towards the cupboard where I hid my tea. “Choose your favorite!”

I was still agitated, but I opened the cupboard and scanned my vast tea selection.

They were all lined up neatly in glass jars, labelled with a variety of different types of teas and blends. I rubbed my lower lip, contemplating my options. Did I want a bold tea? Perhaps something spiced? Too many choices… I caved and just went for my favorite blend in the end, the sweet and floral tones of the rose petal oolong. I returned to the counter and placed the jar next to Brew. The little kettle had already scooched a teacup over from the sink. With a deftness caused by my cranky morning mood, I scooped a few spoonfuls of the dried leaves and petals into a paper tea bag and dropped it into the cup.

“Rose oolong again?” Brew teased as it poured some water into the teacup. I didn’t respond...too early. The steam wafted up to my face, carrying the sweet scent of the roses and filling me with a familiar calm. I immediately felt my morning anxiety fade as the tension in my body from my jarring wakeup call melted away.

“Is that a smile I see?” Brew chuckled.

“Don’t push it! But...thank you for preparing yourself.”

“Of course! I figured you’d have an early morning!”

“Yeah…” my voice trailed off as I took a sip. Mmm, delightful! I left Brew in the kitchen while I went back upstairs to grab my other two friends from the bedroom.

“Tooth? Cushion? Did you want to get up or sleep more?”

“Not me...I want to sleep now that...the ghost is gone.” Cushion groggily responded.

“Silly, it was just Brew,” I clarified, but the pillow was so cozy it had already drifted back to sleep. “What about you, Tooth?”

Tooth practically leapt at me! I caught it with both my hands and looked down at its cheerful little face.

“Time to get up!” it exclaimed happily. “Gotta take care of business!”

“Oh yeah? What business?”

“Well, for starters there’s your hair! Such a mess! Then there’s the vamp-”

“No, no, not right now. Let me have my tea first…”I tried to reason.

“You really need to learn to multitask, Elio”

“...I’ll add it to the list,” I conceded, walking downstairs back to the kitchen. I grabbed my cup of tea as Brew sat by and smiled, clearly pleased with itself.

“Morning Tooth! Enjoy your tea, Elio! ” it chirped.

“Good morning Brew!”

“Thanks, Brew...I really do appreciate it. I just have the morning grumps sometimes,” I said, trying to smile.

“I know! Well, my job is done here I think! Nighty night,” it smirked before going still. I guess Brew just wanted to pop in for a second. All of my enchanted friends had a mind of their own, when they wanted to interact and when they didn’t. It could be a little surprising at times!

I sat at the table with Tooth while I sipped my tea. The little comb stared at me, fidgeting like it wanted to say something.

“Yes?” I asked.

“No it’s fine.”

“I know you want to say something, so say it.”

“Honestly it’s A-OK!”


We sat silently for a few moments, Tooth fidgeted about some more until it finally spoke again.

“You remember who’s coming today right?” Tooth asked as I leaned down on the table lazily. I blew on the tea lightly to cool it off a bit.

“Hmm, that is a good question actually... Oh no, I think I forgot to bring the signup sheet in last night!”

“Oh don’t worry about that! It’s Alkan today!” it said with a cheer.

“Goodness Tooth, you just won’t let it go will you?” I picked myself up and leaned back in my chair in frustration.

“I’m worried, Elio! He’s going to come back and suck your blood!”

“I know you’re concerned, and yes, maybe Alkan was a little bit odd, but I don’t think being overly formal and allergic to garlic is concrete proof a person is a VAMPIRE.”

“But his teeth! You saw his fangs, remember? Don’t pretend you didn’t!” Tooth was acting so erratic.

“And aren’t I a wizard?” I countered. “Don’t I have magic to protect me?” I could see on it’s little face it was thinking for a moment. “You don’t have to worry so much. I’ll be fine!”

“Yeah but—”

“What about Rosetta’s request? Why would she be working late at night when she is up before the sun rises?” I saw the cogs turning in Tooth’s mind, trying to come up with an explanation. “Why...maybe she’s a VAMPIRE too!” I teased the little comb, sticking my tongue out playfully.

“No!” Tooth protested.

“Well, maybe she is! We have the same amount of evidence for her as we do for Alkan!”

“You’re just not wanting to see it!” Tooth said in exasperation.

“Aw, Tooth...I’m just joking.” I could tell I was getting it riled up.

“We will see who’s right about this!!” Tooth sternly replied. “Just don’t turn your back on him!”

“Fine, fine,” I chuckled before taking another sip of my tea. “Now then, I’m going to grab the signup sheet before I forget.” I picked a fresh sheet from my desk and walked towards the door.

“I think you should have breakfast first.” Tooth asked.

“Signup sheet and then breakfast, ok? I’m not that hungry anyway.” As I spoke, my stomach let loose a loud grumble.

“Aha!! You ARE hungry! You say you never had an appetite in the mornings, but I finally caught you!” Tooth said triumphantly.

“Alright! You caught me. I just forget or get busy…”

“You have to take care of yourself, Elio! Now get over there and make yourself some eggs!”

“I will, just as soon as I get the signup sheet. I’ll be quick!”

“Ok, fine…” Tooth relented.

I quickly threw on my fuzzy slippers and robe and headed out the door...and was greeted by an awkward surprise.

───── ⋆⋅☆⋅⋆ ─────

“Oh hey Elio! Nice of you to come out and meet me! ” Waving from my gate was a beefy young guy wearing a white shirt and some overalls. He cast a wide grin in my direction while ruffling his shaggy hair.

“G-Good morning, Jasper! What, uh, what are you…” I trailed off in confusion. Jasper was one of my more recent regulars. He was an apprentice at the local blacksmith in Windbloom, and a really sweet guy. But this surprise morning meeting was throwing me off...oh dear.

“You’re, uh, really rocking that just-got-out-of-bed look!” he said jokingly. I looked down at my outfit and realized what I was wearing. Oh my, how embarrassing!

“Rough morning?” he asked.

“And evening… Are you here for an appointment?”

“You forgot your signup sheet again?”

“I forgot my signup sheet again…” I said with a sigh.

“Ah don’t sweat it! Here, have a doughnut.” My mouth watered as he swung open a box of delicious looking baked goods. This man is a saint! “I felt bad for making such an early appointment, but they’ve got a huge workload at the blacksmith today and she needed me there ASAP. Good thing the bakers get up even earlier than I have to!”

“No worries! Come on in.” I held the door open as he walked into the living room. “Oh wait!” I quickly ran up the path and switched the old signup sheet with a new one. I took a quick look at the sheet’s schedule, and saw a few names on the list. Plus, a hastily scribbled note at the bottom from none other than Irina. “He likes lilies.” It said in a hard-to-decipher scribble. I guess that means the perfume needed to attract Mr. Bartel’s attention would have to be made with the lilies from my garden! But, that would have to wait! I ran back inside before anyone else saw me in my robe and slammed the door behind me.

“Hi Jasper!” Tooth called out rather excitedly.

“Hey Tooth! How’ve you been?”

“Goooooooood!” Tooth said, almost flirtatiously. That little comb, I swear...He’d always had a soft spot for Jasper, and oftentimes tried to set us up.

“Give me one second, ok Jasper? I’m just going to head up and change.” I said as I climbed the stairs. My stomach rumbled again.

“No sweat, doesn’t matter to me! Sounds like you might need to eat something though.”

“That’s what I was telling him earlier! Elio, listen to the man!” Tooth pleaded.

“Well...if you don’t think it isn’t too unprofessional...ok!” I hurried back to the table and hopped into my chair across from Jasper. I quickly looked over the box of goodies and chose a glistening honey cruller that was calling my name.

“Well it’s not healthy, but it’s something.” Tooth chided.

“Oh hush! Anyway, what can I do for you today, Jasper? Did you want more of the orange blossom salve for your girlfriend?”

“That’d be great. I swear Elio, yours works better than anyone else’s!”

“Well of course it does,” I said proudly, “I infuse mine with a minor healing spell. Feels good, smells great and patches you up all in one!”

“Yeah, she-err-she really loves it!” he replied as he stretched his arms behind his head.

“Well, let me—oh my god this cruller’s so good—let me get started on the mixture and we can chat while I go.” I took another bite of my cruller and made my way over to my workstation. It was a simple recipe, a combination of oils, butters, orange blossom water, and of course a bit of magic! I grabbed the ingredients from the shelves and arranged them on the desk.

“Does she still want orange blossom? I can always change it up if she prefers something different.” I could see him thinking intently about this for a moment…

“Maybe… What other options are there?” he finally asked.

“Oh, oh! Lavender, like Rosetta’s seeds yesterday!” Tooth suggested, hopping about on the table.

“Do something sweet like strawberry!” Tick chimed in.

“No, something floral like hibiscus!” Tock countered.





“Oh good, the clocks are fighting again... Good morning to you both.” I replied, shaking my head in disbelief.

“Yummy...garlic…” Cushion's voice carried to us from upstairs.

“Garlic? That’s pretty inventive. I don’t think anyone would like to go around reeking of garlic all the time though!” Jasper laughed and slapped his knee.

“Don’t mind Cushion. I think it’s dreaming.” I tried to brush it off, but Tooth didn’t get the hint.

“Dreaming of vampires! Elio, tell him! Tell him about last night!” the comb said excitedly. I just rolled my eyes.

“Ooo, what happened? You said you had a bad night,” Jasper asked.

“Nothing… I had a new customer show up unannounced and they were a little different. Very nice, very polite. That’s all.”

“He's a vampire! He’s got fangs! And he’s allergic to garlic! And-”

“And we shouldn't be judging people.”

“And he’s got a comfy behind…” Cushion called again, its voice wafting down to us once more.

“A vampire? That’s pretty funny! You should ask if he sleeps in a coffin,” Jasper said, clearly jokingly, but Tooth didn’t get the humor.

“Good idea!” it exclaimed, “I’ll remember to ask that when he comes back!”

“You will do no such thing!” I chided. “Anyway! Scents! What would you like, Jasper?”

“I really like the orange blossom, so let’s stick with that.”

“I’m sure you do, but are you sure your girlfriend wouldn’t like a change?”

“Huh? Oh, she likes the orange one...yeah…” he answered strangely. Jasper’s face fell and he sank into his chair. Did I offend him? He stared at me a moment, twiddling his thumbs nervously.

“Everything ok, Jasper?” I asked.

“Yeah...” he said, looking down at his feet as he continued twiddling his thumbs. “I guess I should come clean about something. I don’t...have a girlfriend.”

“Oh no! What happened, Jasper?” Tooth piped up, sounding genuinely upset for him.

“Oh? I’m sorry Jasper...I didn’t realize you had broken up with—”

“N-no! That’s not it. There never WAS a girlfriend.” I was thoroughly confused. If not the girlfriend, who was I making the salve for?

“The stuff’s for me,” he said sheepishly. “Working at the blacksmith is really tough and takes a toll on my hands. They get all cracked and calloused, you know? Your lotion is the only thing that gets me through the day!”

“I’m glad it helps, but you didn’t have to fake a girlfriend for it. Why the rouse?” I asked.

“Yeah...I don’t know, I just didn’t want the guys down there to judge me.” Poor Jasper, he looked so down. Some people can be so mean for the silliest of things. Hmm...idea!

“I see. But I’m sure they use something for their hands too, don’t they?”

“Some I guess, like ointments and creams and stuff. But...nothing like you make.”

“Because of the aroma?” Tooth asked.

“Yeah! I mean, what’s wrong with being a guy who wants to smell good?”

“Nothing at all,” I said firmly, “in fact, when the time comes...I think your future girlfriend will really like that about you!”

“Exactly, dude! You get it!” He exclaimed happily, smacking the table.

I didn’t know how to respond to being called ‘dude’ but Jasper was so kind-hearted. I wanted to help him. As I mixed the ingredients together, a thought raced through my mind.

“Tell you what, how about I just triple the recipe. I won’t charge you extra, but you can take the extra bottles to your fellow blacksmiths as a gift.”

“Whoa. You’d do that?” Jasper’s jaw dropped.

“Why not? It’d be an opportunity to have them all try it. It might even net me some new customers if they like it as much as you do.” I smiled and reached for more ingredients. I measured them out, tripling the recipe, and poured everything into a large bowl.

“That’s a great idea, bro! They’d see it as great stuff if they tried it!”

“Exactly! I think they’d also enjoy the scent after using it awhile.”

“But...I can’t just give them as a gift to the guys… Don’t you think they’d think it’s a little weird?” He had a point. I swear, the fragile masculinity of it all... Not Jasper, he had a heart of gold, but some people...

“Why don’t you say it’s from Elio?” Tooth suggested.

“You’re a genius!” His eyes were lit up with stars, and the dark cloud that had sat heavily on his head had lifted.

“’s nothing…” the little comb said bashfully.

“I just want to help,” I replied. “You don’t have to be ashamed of liking whatever you like!”

“You’re right, bro.”

“So we’re sticking with the orange blossom? That way they all try the one you’ve been using?”

“Yup. Next time I might ask to try a new one, since the cat’s out of the bag.”

“Alright! I’d be delighted to customize the scent to your liking. We can figure it out together. It’ll be fun!” I turned away from mixing the lotion to smile at him.

“Sounds good.” He smiled back and nodded.

I poured a steady stream of orange blossom water into the mixture and stirred it in gently. Once it had fully incorporated, I poured it out equally into three jars. Now there was only one last thing to do.

“Smooth and soften, protective potion...heal the user of this lotion.”

As I recited the incantation, tiny green and blue sparkles began to dance vividly from my fingertips and into the three bottles. The sparks penetrated into the lotions before dissolving like pieces of sugar. I capped the bottles and handed them off to Jasper.

“Elio, you’re amazing! We’re so lucky to have a wizard like you so close to Windbloom. I mean, we never had one when I was a kid. I heard the stories from traders and stuff, but I never imagined a wizard would leave the city and come to the country. Why’d you come all the way out here anyway, if you don’t mind me asking?”

“Yeah, well…” I felt that nervous feeling in my stomach again. “Cities are too loud and busy for my taste. It’s much quieter in the countryside.”

“Maybe? I think the town can get a little boring at times. Hey, you’re always welcome to come hang with me and the guys if you get bored!” he said excitedly.

“Yeah maybe I'll take you up on that, sometime…” I appreciated the invitation, but...I was content staying in my cottage.

“Well, thanks for everything, Elio! I’ll let you know how the boys like it!” he said, putting the bottles in his bag. He pulled out three gold pieces from his coin purse and put them in my hand. “Oh, and since you’re doing me a favor, let me do one for you.” he said, slinging his pack over his shoulder.

“That’s not necessa-”

‘Nope, I insist. You say you’re having a little v-word problem?” V-word? Did he mean...vampire? “Well I remember somewhere they don’t like iron. I’m going to make you an iron knocker for your door.”

“Really that isn't ne—”

“Please? Think of it as helping me improve my smithing skills!” He did have a point..

“Ok then!” I said with a smile as I opened the door for him. He looked so happy, I couldn’t say no.

“Awesome! Well, I guess I’ll head to work now. Thanks a bunch Elio! Oh, and enjoy the doughnuts!” Jasper said with a friendly wave before stepping outside.

“Have a good day!” I smiled and waved back.

“Bye Jasper!” Tooth yelled out. “He’s so nice.” Tooth looked at me,

“Yes he is.”


“Yes, Tooth?”

“You’re still in your pyjamas...”