|They stood together at the rail in the unrelenting sunlight, bracing themselves against the ship's movements as they gazed eagerly into the distance, anticipating their arrival after so long at sea. Lyyta was the taller of the two, slender and lithe with blonde hair and bronze skin. Lina had close-cropped ink-black hair which curled in a comma on her ivory forehead under the large straw hat.
The boats and buildings of the port became more distinct as the sloop jibed back and forth into the wind towards the shore. A cacophony of sound flowed across the whitecaps, mixing with the commands and responses of the sailing crew.
The two women seemed to wake out of a slumber as the ship gently kissed the weathered beams of the berthing dock. The crew scurried around, securing the sloop to the dock with lengths of thick hemp.
“Been long away, missus,” said Lina. “Looking forward to walking on solid earth again.”
“Yes it will be good to walk without swaying.” replied Lyyta. “Have you safely packed the herbs and fungus?”
“Yes Missus,” was the reply, as both found themselves unconsciously shedding the familiarities accepted on their voyage to adhere to the expected protocol of missus and servant once on shore.
Bodyguards and slaves emerged from within the bowels of the ship, burdened by the spoils of their journey. Lyyta and Lina preceded them across the walkway to the dock where more servants awaited them. Once on shore, Lyyta entered into a litter carried by six, while Lina joined the queue for the walk up the hill to the golden mansion at the center of the city.
Once at the mansion, Lyyta settled herself into her sumptuous quarters, surrounded by crates and sacks of the medicinal herbs and fungus acquired during their journey. Obtaining the fungus was a bonus, even with her years of experience as a herbalist and healer, such an item was foreign to her. She had spent many hours with the healer of that faraway land, learning about the fungus, its properties, capabilities and dosing requirements. She set to work, aware that she had just four days to prepare for the fair.
The day of the fair dawned sunny and bright, with a turquoise sky and white fluffy clouds. Lyyta and Lina escorted servants lugging crates filled with bags of herbs and vials of powders to the tent city. One small crate contained the fungus, carefully prepared as directed by the healer in the faraway land. Onlookers gawked at them, having heard about Lyyta and the fungus. There was a feeling of joyous abandon in the air, with revelers of all stations mingling together amidst the tents, cooking fires and demonstrations.
As her reputation had preceded her, Lyyta and her helpers were kept busy in their tent, selling the medicinal herbs and powders. In mid-afternoon, two men dressed in finery sent slaves into Lyyta's tent, clearing out all the commoners, before they entered with their servants in tow.
“Good afternoon lady,” said the taller of the two, bowing low towards Lyyta. “I am Lord Riger. We have heard talk of a magical fungus, can you tell us your price, if you please?”
“Yes, my Lord,” replied Lyyta, curtsying as she spoke. “The price is 100 rouples and as for its properties, one has only to ingest it whilst concentrating on personal characteristic you wish to change. However, you get one chance only, the magical property of the fungus only works once per person.”
“I am Lord Zarta, may I see the item?” asked the second Lord.
Lyyta opened a small crate and withdrew a vial, from which she poured out a small pile of dried fungus into a small dish.
“100 rouples? For this?” guffawed Lord Riger. “Not on your life!”
Lord Zarta looked on, bemused. “I will buy this item, if you please.”
“Very well,” said Lyyta, accepting a handful of gold coins. “Please concentrate on what you wish to change.”
Lyyta quickly added some aromatic oils and herbs to the dried fungus, making a greenish paste, which she passed to the Lord along with a primitive spoon for scooping the mixture out.
“Scoop all of the mixture on the spoon and swallow it all at once, while concentrating,” she directed.
Lord Zarta scooped up the mixture, closed his eyes and swallowed.
Immediately there was a flash of light and a large plume of smoke which, once cleared, now showed that Lord Zarta was the taller of the two. Unfortunately, his clothes were not affected by the spell and he looked rather comical with his breeches halfway to his knees and the sleeves of his tunic riding up above his wrists.
“Tall is it then? Okay, I shall have my dose now, please.” said Lord Riger, chuckling at Lord Zarta's appearance as he handed over payment to Lyyta.
Lyyta mixed up the concoction and handed the bowl to the now shorter Lord.
“Remember,” she said. “One swallow whilst concentrating.”
“Yes, remember, concentrate,” Lord Zarta interjected from his new height above his fellow Lord.
“Desist from bothering me, you are taller now but at least I am not a know it all,” growled Lord Riger to Lord Zarta as he swallowed.
This time, when the smoke cleared, Lord Riger looked the same as before. Or, did he?
“The eyes,” shrieked Lyyta. “Look into the eyes! He is not there!”
Lord Zarta looked into the eyes of his friend and quickly looked away, shuddering.
And so, Lord Riger was not a know it all, as he stated when he swallowed. In fact, his mind was a blank and would remain so, as affected by his one and only chance with the magical fungus.