Times were stellar for Rojgar the Apothecary. The Black Death was in full swing, though of course the trending malady was nothing more than a Plague of Justinian rebranded for the post-Imperial era. It was true that he had lost two sons to that terrible pox, but he reasoned that two was about the average forfeiture of offspring that one could expect when living in the Middle Ages. Naturally, Rojgar didn’t know that he was living in the Middle Ages, but only that he was a creature of modernity; as pure a specimen of his time as one was likely to find in all the known world.
Hemlock was in this season, as was arsenic. Essence of Trundleflower was popular as well, although that was just a combination of hemlock and arsenic that Rojgar put into a blue-tinted bottle and marked up considerably. Rojgar liked to think that he wasn’t selling a product, he was selling an experience. Specifically, the experience of dying before one’s body devoured itself from the inside in a pustulant orgy of fluidic expulsions that lasted for days. Perhaps, then, what he was selling was the lack of an experience? Worth a consideration. He could always pivot if it seemed like that approach resonated more with potential customers.
The current calamity, while objectively taxing, was not without its benefits. Sourcing his ingredients, once such an expensive and time-consuming ordeal fraught with competition, was now as easy as strolling through the numerous untended herb gardens or walking through the door of a late rival’s unguarded storeroom. Most of them, like Rojgar, had identified the market shifts and had stocked up accordingly, but in time were likely as not to dip into their own supply for personal consumption. There was no sense in letting their surplus go to waste, Rojgar had reasoned. Besides, the influx of discounted product had increased his margins considerably.
Rojgar had once had his integrity questioned by a local bishop who, once stricken, had taken to denying God, the Bible, and the whole mess.
“How can I know that your tinctures are anything more than a dropper full of lake water garnished with a pinch of hollyberry?” he had asked. “By the time I realize that I have not died, I might be too far along to return here and demand satisfaction.”
“Excellency,” Rojgar had cried while the bishop shuddered at the reminder of his station, “whyfor should I cheat you? I am at your service! Finally, at long last and through great tribulation, I am at the service of all. All of your life you have looked to Heaven for a savior, and yet in your last hour you are here, for you see now that it was I all along. No, Excellency, a savior does not cheat his customers, lest through his sullied reputation he unwittingly turn aside the souls he endeavors to save.”
The bishop purchased Essence of Trundleflower and returned home to die.