Crushed Goldleaf

Iskielo comes up to the front counter looking a bit wild about the eyes. “Miyara!”

Anything that excites or frightens a boy of his enthusiasm is immediately cause for concern. “Yes?”

He draws in close. Looks furtively both ways. Then hisses, “They ordered the crushed goldleaf tea.”

Oh dear. Crushed goldleaf is a lovely, innocuous name that presents an entirely opposite impression of how innocent any exposure to this ingredient truly is.

Which is to say, it’s one of the most dangerous ingredients in the store. Talmeri conceded to moving it to the back of the menu to not actively encourage customers, but she won’t remove it entirely until our current stock is gone. After all, Lorwyn and I can brew it safely.

I pinch the bridge of my nose. “You explained the risks?”

Iskielo shivers. “Yes. They won’t budge. Miyara, I—”

He swallows, and finally it’s clear that his agitation is not the favorable kind.

“Miyara, I’m sorry, but I am not going anywhere near that stuff.

My shoulders relax. “Good.”

Iskielo blinks. “Good? But, it’s my job to serve the customers—”

“It’s not your job to put yourself at risk of harm if you’re not certain you can handle a task safely,” I say. “I’m proud of you. Being aware of your limits and standing up for yourself isn’t easy.”

He rocks back on his feet, apparently stunned by this logic. Had he thought I’d force him to do it? I’m not sure whether I’ve mistakenly given him that impression or if I need to counteract Talmeri’s influence or his parents’. I’ll have to give that thought.

But, later.

“Did you tell them I would brew it?” I ask.

He hesitates and then says, “No, I just assured them it would be no trouble.”

“Then we have a learning moment after all,” I say. “Stand on the other end of the counter, please? Yes, that’s far enough from the influence. Do you know where the key is for this?”

“No,” Iskielo admits.

“Even better. Close your eyes.” He shouldn’t have access to this; I just wanted to make sure. Drawing a spell-code no one else is close enough to spy, I extract a vial from a locked case in the back of a shelf.

Crushed goldleaf looks quite like flecks of chipped gilt paint, a reddish gold that emanates a soft glow. Lorwyn created a solution that in the crushed form softens the effect to a safe level, but any mishandling—if a flake is separated from the solution, or if the balance in the water infused with red tea isn’t absolutely correct—and the solution’s balancing effects are entirely negated.

“You can look again. Now first,” I say to Iskielo as I prepare the materials, “never guarantee a customer something you can’t deliver. What would you have done if I weren’t here?”

“Panicked,” Iskielo answers promptly.

I roll my eyes. “Your options are to tell them ‘no’, gently but firmly, or to tell them you’re going to check and make sure it’s possible before promising them something you can’t deliver. By which I mean asking me or Lorwyn for help, not deciding to try it yourself and hope for the best.”

Lorwyn, because of her witchcraft, and I, because of my tea mastery, are the only two people here who should go anywhere near it.

Using a small tube with a bulb attached to the end, I carefully withdraw a single fleck from the vial. With the solution dissolved in tea, it will make a person feel powerful, full of confidence and executive function.

An error in brewing, or exposure to that error that involves breathing within a certain radius of the crushed goldleaf, results in a person who believes themselves invulnerable. They’ll jump off buildings believing they can fly.

“If a customer requests something you do not feel safe providing, and no one at the store does either, you apologize and say it’s not available today,” I continue. “Most customers will be content to wait a minute while you check, rather than being promised something and then having it not delivered. It speaks well of your solicitousness. And many are perfectly happy to change their order if it comes to that, too.”

“This table wouldn’t,” Iskielo says, watching my movements nervously.

I nod. “If they have a problem with that, they are welcome to bring their objections to me, or write me an angry note if I’m not present, and I’ll handle it. That’s one of the things a manager is for: so you can make those sorts my problem. Never put yourself in physical danger for their whims. Any questions?”

“Can you show me how to do this again later? I mean I know I shouldn’t make this—I do not want to do this now or possibly ever—but just so I can learn more about brewing? I think understanding this technique better would help me with some of the others, and… maybe make me less terrified of this one.”

Uncommon sense and with an interest in growth? It’s almost a whole new Iskielo.

Almost. “Your fear of this one is perfectly healthy, but I’d be happy to. In the meantime, however, you missed a required step in the process for this order.”

Iskielo looks stricken for a moment, then brightens. “Oh!”

I withdraw a form from beneath the counter. “While this steeps, have them sign the liability waiver.”

Our greatest defense isn’t always polite but firm customer service; sometimes it’s legalese.

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