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Nevin had read about half way through chapter two of The Lurid Tales of the Duke and his Bluestockinged Mistress, and was enjoying the story, when he paused, wrinkled his nose and sniffed the air.
What in Odinâ€™s name is that ghastly odor? That stink was not here when I came in. It smells like a zoo, he thought to himself. Worse even. More like a stable left unattended and not shoveled out for a whole summer!
He glanced around the room again; looking for some scrap of food the girl might have left out. Perhaps it had spoiled and was now rotting away. He saw nothing. He suspiciously eyed the potion bottle heâ€™d noticed when he first walked in.
It was still sitting in the middle of the table. He hadnâ€™t bothered to move it when he sat down to read because it wasnâ€™t in his way. Maybe itâ€™s some concoction sheâ€™s mixed, he thought? A potion sheâ€™s working on? What brew could she be blending that could possibly smell so bad?
The old man shrugged and leaned forward in his chair so that his head was directly above the bottle and inhaled deeply. ARRRGH!! Nevin jumped back, the chair, tumbling out from under him, The Lurid Tales of the Duke and his Bluestockinged Mistress flying out of his hand and skittering across the floor.
Odinâ€™s apples! What an awful stench! He dabbed at his eyes which had begun to water profusely, with his old handkerchief.
His first thought was to take the potion bottle outside and drain out whatever liquid was in it. Better yet, heâ€™d bury the whole business, bottle and all!
He approached the table and cautiously picked up the flask being careful to keep it at arms length and as far away from his nose as possible. He shook the bottle slightly. He hoped it wouldnâ€™t explode.
â€œPlease stop that!â€
Nevin froze, his hand tightly gripping the neck of the bottle. What little hair he had left atop his head was now standing straight up. His eyes began darting about the room attempting to locate the source of the tiny voice heâ€™d just heard. â€œAnd just what is it do you wish me to stop?â€ he asked tentatively, not yet quite sure what apparition he might be having this conversation with.
â€œThe bottle. Please stop shaking it!â€ the tiny voice said.
â€œAh, I see. And now please do tell me why should I stop?â€ he asked, while carefully examining the flask. He could see nothing unusual about it. He peeked inside, taking care to hold his breath while looked.
â€œWhen you shake the bottle I bounce around and itâ€™s hurting me!â€ the tiny voice replied.
The old man smiled and nodded to himself. Nevin was a wise old wizard who had seen many oddities in his travels. There was no puzzle he could not solve, no riddle he could not reason out. And now I have it, he thought to himself!
â€œCat? Is it you in the bottle?â€ he asked.
â€œYes uncle, itâ€™s me in the bottle.â€ the girl replied.
â€œAnd how did you manage that trick?â€ he asked.
â€œI tried to cast a healing spell into it. I must have made a hand gesture wrong and I wound up in here instead of the healing spell.â€
â€œAhh, your lefthandedness again?â€
â€œYes, my lefthandedness.â€
â€œAnd the odor? Where is that coming from?â€ the old man asked.
â€œKittyâ€™s in here with me. And . . . she made a mess.â€
â€œYour familiar? Why donâ€™t you un-summon it girl?â€
â€œI tried. The spell fizzled and she snapped at me!â€
Nevin sighed. â€œThere is no magic I can think of that will get you out of there. The only way I know of would be for me to break the flask.â€
â€œPlease do it uncle. And be quick about it! If you think the stench is bad out there, itâ€™s tenfold worse in here!â€
â€œHold fast to something girl!â€
The old wizard mouthed a small wordless prayer to Thor than gave the potion bottle a sharp rap against the side of the table . . .