Excerpt: Enchanted Soles
Three Nights by A.D. Truax
The toe-knob on Synder’s frayed sandals had endured its last day of wear. It snapped off as Synder shoved the sandal on to his foot, leaving him with one functional shoe on his right foot and a useless paddle-shaped flipper clutched in his hand.
“Synder, what’s happened?” called his mother, who always seemed to know when he’d broken or ruined something. Perhaps a talent that came with her gift of spellweaving, or simply a natural intuition about her son.
“Shoe broke,” Synder said, examining the one that hadn’t and then toeing it off. He could inspect their field well enough without his shoes. The day was warm and the dirt would be welcoming against his feet, given there weren’t too many biting insects or snakes about, or sharp rocks left in the empty field. Now that the autumn months had come, it was about time to plant the rabi crop—he had already seen many of his neighbors yoking their oxen and taking scratch ploughs to their fields. The monsoons had lasted later this year and Synder had held off in fear of swamping the new seeds, but now they had been two weeks without rain, and hopefully the field would be dry on top and damp and rich beneath.
“And you’re still going out to the field?” his mother demanded, looking up from the spellweaving she was embroidering into the high collar of a yellow sherwani.
“I can do it without shoes,” Synder said, tugging up the ankles of his salwar pants. No sense in dirtying those if he didn’t need to.
“Oh, no you won’t,” said his mother, setting aside her sewing and rising to her feet. “We’ve not been doing so badly, and I won’t have you going barefoot this winter. What if you step on a sharp rock or end up with ticks or mites burrowing into your skin, and then you won’t be able to work at all? Like Kamini’s son! No, no, you’ll be buying new shoes.”
“It’s really not necess—” Synder began, but his mother was already going for the plain wooden box she kept shoved behind a loose stone in the wall. It held the meager collection of coins they had not had to spend immediately upon earning. Synder sighed, as it was no use arguing once she went for that box. She wouldn’t take it out unless she meant it.
She came across the room with the box and jangled it at him, which sounded as though it had more coins in it than usual. Clearly they weren’t doing so badly. But his mother had been waking up earlier and sitting up later at night to do her sewing, so perhaps this was the result.
“Take!” she insisted, shaking the box more vigorously at Synder. When he still hesitated, she closed her fingers around a handful of coins and thrust them at him. “You’ll put shoes on your feet, or I’ll go and plough that field myself.”
Aelfwear by Katey Hawthorne
“Like the sign says, ma’am, we only have one size system,” I explained. “We don’t feel that our shoes fit the gender binary. But we can suggest something with a more femme aesthetic—or that looks well with wider or thinner widths, or whatever you like.”
She was an older woman, her hair dyed fashionably blue and piled high atop her head, no doubt styled by some overpriced stylist on the Avenue. “You think just because you’re in demand, you can do things special?”
“That’s exactly what we think, yes.” I wanted to say it meanly, but forced myself to retain the prim-and-proper Aelfryde persona I liked to present to the public. “We’ll get you fitted properly, never fear. Have you decided on enchantments, yet?”
Her face had gone several shades darker by the time I finished, but she bit down hard and—like they all did—nodded in agreement. “Glamour, I think.”
“Glamour enchantments are part of the basic package. Here’s the list.” I slid my finger across the countertop and the display lit up with the simplest options. “One is—”
“I need three,” she said without looking at the display. She had thought this through, then. They usually did.
“Here are the rates.” I swiped my finger over the counter again, changing up the display.
She looked, this time, and frowned at it. “A woman I spoke to online said she got three enchantments for far less than—”
“Our rates vary based on the means of our clients.” I shouldn’t have had to say it; everyone knew it before they came in. And yet, some of them still made me. At least one a day—and always the rich ones.
“How do you—?”
“Goblins,” I said.
“It’s an invasion of privacy.” She sniffed.
My prim-and-proper Aelfryde persona was getting harder and harder to maintain. “It was all in bold print on the waiver form you signed when you made your appointment.”
“Well, I didn’t know it’d be for that.”
I had to bite back a sigh. Here went the speech, again. “Our shoes aren’t just for the rich and famous or New Galdir elite. Anyone who makes the trip to Aelfwear gets our undivided attention and custom service—and shoes.”
“That is not equality.”
“It would be, if the rest of the world behaved the same way.”
“Communists.” She scoffed.
I glanced around the shop, Aelfwear’s home for two centuries, in one form or another, on some of the most coveted real estate on the Avenue. Expensive (but tasteful) crystal fixtures, cutting edge display technology for both customers and staff, beautiful leather couches, silver coffee service, and that wasn’t even getting into what the new mahogany flooring had run us.
Capitalist as fuck, in short, no matter our semi-socialist pricing policies. So I laughed.
“Fine,” she snapped.
I flipped back to the enchantments screen, and she began selecting.
“Sig will get you measured,” I told her, gesturing to my brother at the other end of the counter.
He waved and smirked. He loved to sass the bad ones. The idiot.
“When will they be ready?” she asked.
“Tomorrow morning at opening.”
She froze, eyebrows drawing in and down. “That’s very fast, even for elves.”
I just smiled. “We’re not like other elves.”