the smuggler’s bible


After dinner she sits near the fire with a drink, stirring and stirring, waiting for the lavender powder to dissolve. Then a drip of honey. A sip to check the temperature.

The window faces west, out over the forest that chokes the low country between river and mountain. She imagines she can see goblin fires among the trees. Too far, of course. Must be the potion working. She sets the empty cup aside, leans back.

Nearly asleep when the wards trip out front. She hears a cough, and a soft knock. A voice stage whispers, “Oh, damn. Were those runes?”


“There’s still a spot for you at the university. Everyone there is very patient, as you well know. All you’ve gotta do is finish.”

“It’s not that easy.”

“Well, nobody suggests it’s a simple process, but you’ve done it once. Just go over your notes. Can’t you—I don’t know—tweak the formula?”

Helle leans back on the bench and closes her eyes. “When the magic is gone, it takes something else with it. Something important.”

“You sound pathetic.”

“I lost six years of work and sent an incompetent barbarian to get it back. I wish it only sounded pathetic.”


Helle puts her robe on the hook by the door and runs her hands across the leather strop hanging from the knob to discharge the last crackling sparks of energy.

“Rough day?”

“Gnolls broke the barrier on the reservoir. There was feedback. Discharge.” She wipes a palm across her cheek. “Blood.”

Cool hands lead her to a chair, drape a blanket over her.

“Once that barbarian comes back with your spell, the grunt shit will end.”

“That idiot?” Helle sighs and watches the moisture in her breath fog and dance slowly in front of the fire. “He’s probably dead already.”


The big mugs are on the top shelf. Helle grabs one—her favorite, red horses painted on the side—and pours in a measure of the scalding liquid from her cauldron.

“That’s the easy part,” she says.

“Now it gets harder?”

“For you at least. The spell you let loose took me eight years to get right. So, you’re going to drink this potion, then you’re going to go and get my magic back.”

Bloodtooth picks up the mug and tries to look valorous.

“What’s wrong with your face?”

“It’s courage,” he says.

“Pal, you better save that for later.”