“Who’s the cub?” Maizie glanced at the small werewolf child making her way towards the front door of the herb shop.
Fiona stood up with a sigh. “I’ve got a good idea who. Break’s over.” She and Mazie grabbed their drinks and headed back to the shop.
Her storefront was painted green, and ivy carpeted the outside of the shop. To the left of the shop was a metal stairway leading up to the apartment she rented; behind the shop was her herb garden, where she grew most of the herbs that she sold.
Fiona paused in the doorway to take a deep breath. The scent of a thousand herbs and flowers and roots swirled through the air, comforting, like the smell of family. She could distinguish every smell like a bloodhound, and knew the story of every plant in the little shop.
Inside was comfortable clutter, with shelves full of jars and paper bags and little bins, from floor to ceiling. The store was empty of debutantes now; Renoir, her faerie clerk, was nibbling a cupcake while restocking empty cubbies. He was reed thin and delicate of feature, and he had spiky blond hair tipped with pink; today he wore shiny striped pink and blue leggings and a matching shiny pink t-shirt.
They found the werewolf child in the back, eyes on the floor, hands stuffed in her pockets, shuffling quickly towards the door. Fiona recognized her. Her name was Mala; she was the daughter of a local prostitute.
Maizie stepped in front of her. “Hand it over,” she said sternly. The girl tried to dodge past her; Maizie reached out, grabbed her by the collar, and held her up dangling in the air.
“Let me go! Let me go!” she howled, legs kicking.
“Why, I never!” Renoir glared disapprovingly. “Girl, I am so sorry,” he added to Fiona. “My back was turned.”
“Hand it over!” Maizie snapped. Reluctantly, the girl pulled her hands out her pockets, with a gnarled brown root in one of them. Fiona grabbed it from her, and Maizie put her down. She slunk towards the front door, face bunched up hard as she struggled not to cry. Renoir stood with his hands on his slim hips, tapping his foot and scowling at Mala like a disapproving schoolmarm.
“Get back here,” Fiona yelled. The girl froze in place, hopelessness washing over her little puckered face.
Fiona held up the root. “This causes hairlessness. Is that what you were looking for?”
The cub gasped. “No! My mother has mange! She has it bad. She said I needed to get Capillo Rememdum.”
“Well, you got Levis Rememdum. It cures excessive hairiness. Can’t you read? Oh,” she added as the child scraped her foot on the floor and bit her lower lip. Of course not. Mala’s mother was too busy entertaining clients to pay attention to her child’s education. It was highly unlikely that Mala had ever set foot in a classroom.
Fiona dropped the root back in its bin, then pulled out a root from the bin next to it and handed it to the child. “This is what you need. It must be chopped up into little bits and then boiled in a gallon of water for one hour. Then she needs to use let the water cool, then drink one cup of it, morning and night, for the next three days. Got it?”
“I can’t pay,” the cub said sullenly.
“Obviously, or you wouldn’t be stealing from me. You owe me one. And next time just ask me, before you end up stealing herbs that cause giant boils to pop up all over your body.” With a look of alarm, the cub dashed out of the store, herb clutched in her grubby little fist.