About this Story
Two sisters look to steal treasure from a potion maker while she's away from home, while evading her monstrous pet.
Two sisters look to steal treasure from a potion maker while she's away from home, while evading her monstrous pet.
“I’m not going in there.”
Breesil stood as firm as a tree with her arms crossed, her face taut with defiance. Beams of moonlight filtered through the leaves behind her.
“The potion maker is going to be gone all night,” Adelra began. “Tonight is our best shot.”
“She may be gone but her monstrous guard is still here,” squeaked her sister. “Just imagining its sharp teeth and claws…” she trailed off, hugging herself with a shiver.
Adelra looked down at the potion maker’s pink roofed home in the shadow of the tree she and Breesil were huddled in.
Smoke puffed out from the chimney in the shape of stars and firelight flickered out through heart shaped windows. It looked nothing like the run-down, haunted house it used to be, before the potion maker settled in and sent the spirits packing.
A shadow moved across the light.
While potion maker’s guard was indeed terrifying with its green eyes that seemed to glow in the dark, inside was a treasure trove waiting to be enjoyed.
Others had gone in before Adelra and Breesil to try their luck. And each time they fled with their tails between their legs. But she and her sister were more agile than most. They would succeed.
Turning back to her trembling younger sister, Adelra grabbed Breesil’s shoulders, mustering as confident a voice as possible. “We’ll carry more between the both of us. I’ll keep you safe, manita. I always do.”
Breesil’s big black eyes shook. Then she steeled herself and gave a firm nod. “Okay.”
They climbed in through the study window. The potion maker had a habit of leaving it ajar, “to let out the potion smells” Adelra had heard. Even so, a potent mix of scents saturated her lungs and she wrinkled her burning nose.
Don’t sneeze, she willed. Don’t sneeze. Who knew how good the monster’s hearing was.
Thankfully the itch in her nostrils receded. Her sister followed close behind Adelra as they crossed the room packed with jars of colorful liquids, and a variety of plants, fresh and dry. Tall bookshelves lined one wall and the plush carpet was soft on Adelra’s feet.
She peeked out the open door into the hallway. She was about to step out when a large, black-furred creature emerged from the adjacent room.
Adelra shot back into the study, heart racing. The monster looked much bigger than it had outside.
She pushed her sister to hide behind the bookshelves just as the floorboards creaked beneath the weight of the feline beast as it entered the study.
Adelra hoped it couldn’t hear the drumming in her chest or smell her fear. This wasn’t the first monstrous guard she and her sister had encountered. They’d outrun dragons, both of the fire and ice breathing kind, and evaded the sharp beaks of griffins in the past. They could certainly outsmart this one too. At least, Adelra hoped.
A purr echoed loud in the room, sending chills down her spine. She hugged Breesil to her chest, afraid her more cowardly sister would release even the tiniest squeak.
Adelra perked up her ears, waiting for what felt like hours before the monster purred once more followed by groaning floorboards as it retreated into the hallway, continuing its patrol.
Adelra sighed. Then she gave her sister an encouraging smile and whispered, “Let’s go."
Thankfully they were both much lighter than the potion maker’s guard so when they entered the hallway the boards didn’t give away their presence. Though they’d never been inside before, Breesil was gifted at figuring out a home’s layout from the outside. So, Adelra let her lead the way to the end of the hall then down a flight of stairs while she occasionally glanced back to make sure the monster hadn’t spotted them.
Turning the corner, Adelra almost ran into Breesil who’d paused at a fork. Her sister frowned, eyes closed, trying to remember the layout from the outside. Adelra glanced behind them. Though it was all clear she had the urge to tell her sister to hurry up and just choose a direction, but she thought better of it. No use in making Breesil more nervous than she already was. And if she chose incorrectly because of Adelra's impatience, it’d only cause them more trouble.
Finally, Breesil’s ears perked up. “This way.”
Two doors later, they entered the kitchen where on the counter sat the treasure they sought.
From beneath a glass container the plate of cheese beckoned Adelra.
Was it her imagination or maybe her hunger that made it appear like it was glowing? Eh, who cared.
With quick, sure steps Adelra and Breesil climbed up the wood table in the middle of the room, then jumped to the counter. They gathered to one side of the glass cover, the final barrier to enjoying their delicious meal.
Adelra tried to hoist the lid up on her own but it was too heavy. She attempted once more to no avail.
“No good,” she admitted. “We’ll need to lift it together. I’ll go in, break off parts, then we’ll grab them with our tails.”
For a moment it looked like Breesil had lost her nerve and Adelra worried she’d ask to leave. Instead Breesil nodded. “Okay. But don’t eat some without me.”
Adelra clicked her tongue. “Who do you think I am? You?”
Once inside, Adelra got to work, tearing chunks off with her hands. Despite her earlier resolve, it took all her willpower to resist the sweet pungent scent and not try a little crumb or even lick her fingers as she worked. So close she realized that the cheese did indeed emit an odd faint glow. After she gathered four or five pieces, Breesil tapped on the glass, reminding Adelra not to get greedy.
Pushing them to the edge, she got ready to lift the glass when at the kitchen entrance behind her sister, the monstrous cat’s green eyes glowed with rage.
“Run!” Adelra screamed to Breesil, pounding on the glass.
Her sister leapt to safety just as the black furred beast jumped onto the counter. Adelra was so relieved when Breesil got to the top of the cabinets she forgot she was the one still trapped beneath the glass.
The potion maker’s beast glared down at Adelra, the end of its fluffy tail twitching.
Adelra swallowed hard but stood straight. She wouldn’t be intimidated. She had to distract the guard so Breesil could escape.
The cat’s gaze softened with curiosity. “You’re new ones,” she said, her voice neutral.
Adelra wasn’t sure how to respond, so she didn’t.
“I’ll admit I’m impressed,” continued the feline. “Despite your size, you two have gotten the farthest.”
Not far enough, lamented Adelra.
The cat laid down on the counter with an air of superiority, clearly at ease. “Though trying to steal from my girl hasn’t done you much good now has it, thief?”
Adelra resented the accusation. Even if it was true. It wasn’t like she and her sister enjoyed living off the earnings of others. She’d work if someone would hire her. But people either feared mice, experimented on them, or tried to eat them.
“I’d rather be a thief than a house pet!” Adelra shot back. “All you do is laze about. What do you know about survival? When have you ever had to fight for your meal?”
The feline blinked, surprised, then smirked. “You’ve got heart for a coward; I’ll give you that.”
Adelra’s blood boiled. “I’m no coward!”
She risked a glance to the wood cabinets where Breesil watched, her black eyes wider than ever. Adelra racked her brain for a way out.
When inspiration struck she tilted her chin in a show of confidence. “And if I weren’t stuck in here, I’d prove it to you.”
“Oh?” asked the cat, not bothering to hide her smug amusement. She closed her eyes to think and Adelra thought her plan to provoke her worked, until the black furred beast unveiled her green gaze again. “Perhaps if it was just you, I’d amuse myself with your challenge. But I haven’t forgotten about the one hiding above the cabinets.”
Adelra froze as the cat stood.
“I think I’ll get rid of your friend first before having you for dessert.” The wicked glint in her bright green eyes and the way she licked her lips sent Adelra’s heart into turmoil.
“Don’t hurt my sister!” she screamed, pounding the glass. “Eat me if you want but let her go, please! This was my idea; she didn’t want any part of it.”
To both Adelra’s and the cat’s surprise Breesil jumped down between them, arms spread. “We’ve been cursed so unless you want to die a slow and painful death, you’ll let us both go.”
Good thinking, manita! Adelra thought proudly.
“In that case, I can just kill you without eating you,” the cat countered unfazed, dashing Adelra’s hope.
Breesil backed into the glass. “I…I guess you could.”
“Just run, manita!” Adelra urged.
“No!” cried her sister, turning to Adelra. “I won’t let you die alone.”
Adelra wanted to argue, to tell Breesil to save herself, but the truth was she was glad to be with her in the end. Facing death wasn’t so scary at her sister’s side. If only this stupid glass wasn’t in between them.
“Hey house pet,” called Adelra. “If you’re going to kill us, at least let us die together. I don’t want to be stuck in here watching you kill my sister.”
As before the black cat blinked, momentarily stunned, before laughing. “You’re pretty smart for a mouse.”
Adelra clenched her fists, embarrassed. While she did mean every word, it was also a last-ditch attempt at escaping.
The cat opened her mouth to speak when a sound in the hallway drew her attention away from them. She walked to the edge of the counter, purring and wagging her tail.
A young woman with umber skin, lavender pigtails, and wearing a colorful dress entered the room.
The potion maker, realized Adelra.
“Veraldix, can you believe I forgot the—” She stopped when she noticed Adelra and Breesil. She adjusted her round gold framed glasses. “Oh! Did you finally make some friends?”
“Hardly,” answered Veraldix. “They’re just more thieves.”
The potion maker beamed. “But cute ones!”
Adelra gaped at the pair. The potion maker could understand the cat! How?
“Hola—” started the young woman, approaching Adelra and her sister, stopping when Breesil scurried to the other side of the glass cover. “Oh, it’s okay, little guy. You don’t have to be scared. I promise I won’t hurt you.”
“They’re females,” corrected Veraldix.
The young magic wielder scratched her cheek with a finger, chuckling sheepishly. “Oh, sorry.” Then she widened her eyes at Adelra, as if only just realizing she was stuck under the glass. She laughed. “What are you doing in there? Did you want a bite?”
Veraldix drew nearer. “Don’t even think about it, Gabi. You’ll only encourage their bad behavior.” She sat down, frowning up at the young woman. “Then they’ll spread the word and I’ll be the one left dealing with the miscreants while you’re gone.”
“Are you still upset about the window? I’m adding netting this weekend, don’t worry.”
Adelra pounded on the glass, upset to be left out of the conversation and hoping to appeal to the potion maker’s apparent kind heart. “House pet, tell her that if she lets us go, we won’t return.”
Veraldix turned her glare to Adelra. “As you clearly heard, my name is Veraldix, not house pet. And there’s no way I trust the word of a thief.”
“What did she say?” the young woman asked.
“Hm, that sounds suspicious. Wait a minute.”
As Gabi rummaged through a cabinet, Veraldix sighed as if knowing what the girl was up to. She returned with a small vial of turquoise liquid and beckoned Breesil closer. “This won’t hurt, I promise. It’ll let me understand you.”
Adelra put her hands against the glass, shaking her head. “It could be poison!”
No doubt to Gabi, Adelra’s words were no more than mere frantic squeaks. The potion maker turned to Veraldix and asked, “Will you explain it to them?”
The black cat looked away. “No.”
Gabi huffed and shook her head. “You’re impossible sometimes.” Turning back to Breesil, she smiled. “You can trust me. Here.” She dabbed a drop of the turquoise liquid on her finger and offered it to Breesil, who looked to her older sister.
Adelra pulled her brows together, pleading for her not to accept.
“You can trust me too,” the magic wielder said to Adelra. “I won’t hurt her.”
While Adelra detected no deceit in her gentle gaze, she still couldn’t trust a human. But before Adelra could stop her, Breesil drank the potion. She waited with bated breath for her sister to keel over.
Instead, Breesil hiccupped once, then smacked her lips. “Tastes like mint.”
Gabi giggled. “Yup. It gets rid of the iron taste.”
Adelra gaped. It worked.
The potion maker asked, “So what’s your story?”
Breesil took her tail in her hands as she spoke, “We’re sorry for trying to steal your food. If you let my sister and me go, we won’t return.”
“Oh, you’re sisters!” She looked between Adelra and Breesil. “I see the resemblance.”
Adelra heard Veraldix groan behind her.
“But,” added Gabi. “You’ll just steal from others, right?”
Breesil lowered her gaze. “Well, it’s the only way we can survive.”
Adelra’s blood boiled again. How dare this human make her sister feel guilty! She was going to speak when the potion maker said,
“How about this? You two can eat your fill, if you become my assistants. Deal?”
Both Adelra and Breesil perked up their ears. She was offering them a job?
Veraldix wasn’t too pleased. “Are you crazy, Gabriela?”
“You know I’ve been thinking about getting help. Who better to help me gather ingredients than two adorable mice.” As she said the last part she stroked Breesil’s head, who to Adelra’s surprise didn’t cower away. Did she actually trust a human?
Well, she didn’t. She was still trapped. Adelra knocked on the glass, irritated.
“Oh sorry!” Gabi said. She lifted the cover easily. “Here you g—”
Before she finished, Adelra pulled Breesil and dashed out the kitchen, down the hall, up the stairs and back to the study without pause.
They’d reached the windowsill when Breesil pulled her to a stop. “Wait, manita!”
Adelra looked behind them for Veraldix but was surprised to find they were alone. She’d expected the feline to be on their tails.
“We should stay, manita,” continued Breesil.
Adelra raised her brow at the unexpected words. She blinked, stunned.
“The potion maker seems like a good person. And I’d rather work and live here than keep stealing from dangerous places.”
“Don’t you think I want a home too? But I can’t trust her. She could be lying. For all you know she wants us to experiment her potions with.” Though remembering the young woman’s sincere gaze earlier, the words didn’t ring true even to Adelra.
“Then can’t you trust me?” Breesil asked. “I think…I’m sure we can believe her promise.”
For the first time in a long time, her sister’s big black eyes weren’t shadowed with the usual fear, but instead burned with a rare courageous fire, one that warmed Adelra’s heart as the chill wind brushed her brown fur.
She looked out to the night shrouded countryside resting on outskirts of the town with twinkling lights that shone on the streets she and her sister had grown up in. The streets where they’d dreamed of a home together. The streets they’d survived together.
Maybe she couldn’t trust a human, but she could certainly trust her sister.
Adelra turned back to Breesil, smiling. “Then let’s go.”
When they returned to the kitchen, they were surprised by the food on the table. There was an assortment of bread, fruits, and the still glowing cheese, that weren’t there before.
Gabi beamed at their entrance. “Welcome back! I wasn’t sure what you’d like, so I just put out what we have. Oh!” She took out the turquoise vial from her pocket and waved it. “Ready for this?” She knelt and dabbed a drop on her finger to offer to Adelra.
Adelra sniffed it, catching a hint of mint, before drinking. Like her sister she hiccupped then asked, “How’d you know we’d return?”
Gabi smiled warmly. Stroking Adelra’s head, she said, “You just seem like good mice.”
Her kind words and gesture burned away Adelra’s lingering doubts. She and Breesil were safe. When Gabi cupped her hands, Adelra jumped in with her sister without hesitation.
Gabi set them down on the table as Veraldix jumped up on the opposite end. “Looks like I win.” The young woman tapped her chin in thought. “Should I dress you in the princess gown or the jester outfit?”
Veraldix hissed. Though it wasn’t directed at them, Breesil still ducked behind Adelra. “Put a ridiculous hat on me, Gabriela and I’ll tear your favorite dress to pieces.”
“Don’t be a sore loser, Veraldix. A bet’s a bet.”
The cat gave another short hiss before drinking from a bowl of glowing milk.
“She won’t eat us will she?” asked Adelra, suddenly remembering the feline’s earlier threat.
Gabi laughed. “You have nothing to worry about. Veraldix here only eats fish. She’s rather picky.” She rubbed the cat’s head.
Veraldix in turn swiped her hand away. “I’m not picky. I have sophisticated taste.”
Gabi smiled then introduced herself, “I’m Gabriela by the way. You can call me Gabi. What are your names?”
When Adelra answered, Veraldix scoffed.
“Play nice, Veraldix,” said Gabi. “Starting today, Adelra and Breesil are your sisters.”
“Sis—” started Veraldix with horrified disgust. She made a noise as if choking on a hair ball.
Gabi chuckled before tearing off chunks of the glowing cheese to give to Adelra and Breesil. “Eat up, because tomorrow your training as my assistants begins. And I won’t go easy on you just because you’re cute.”
Adelra nodded as she took a bite. Her eyes shot open at the jolt of sweetness and energy. “What kind of cheese is this? It even glows.”
“It’s made with moonbeam milk,” answered Gabi. “Gives it a little extra something right?” She took off a piece and popped it into her mouth. “You know—"
A clock chime cut her off. Gasping, her eyes widened. “I still need to make my deliveries!” She rushed out of the kitchen.
Adelra heard her race up the stairs and then back down moments later. Back in the kitchen she kissed Veraldix’s head. Then unexpectedly she kissed Adelra’s and Breesil’s heads too.
Smiling she said, “Enjoy your meal, girls. See you later!” Then she was out the door.
Adelra stared after Gabi bewildered a few moments before turning back to the food. She noticed Veraldix watching her. “So, are there any rules we should know about now that we’re roomies?”
“Yeah, one,” warned Veraldix with an unwavering stare. “Never hurt my girl.”
Adelra and Breesil exchanged smiles. “We wouldn’t dream of it.”
Veraldix’s gaze softened, and she smirked. “Then welcome home. House pets.”