Rain splashes down upon the worn stones of the courtyard, and you desperately seek a place to shelter. You sight a stone archway, covered in vines, and step inside. Behind it, a small tunnel leads to a wooden door with a hand-lettered sign that simply reads, "Open."
The rain shows no signs of abating, so you open the door and step inside. A bell rings above your head as you enter, and immediately you are engulfed with the fragrances of perfume, spices, warm wood, and polished leather. You find yourself in a small shop, only a single room but absolutely stuffed with items. Every wall is crammed with shelves and hooks. Tables sit in the center, covered with more trinkets and toys than you can take in at a glance.
No shopkeeper greets you, so you take it upon yourself to browse. The table nearest the door has an eclectic selection of self-care items, handmade soaps, natural creams, and personal fragrances. You pick up one of the bars of soap. It smells of juniper and flower petals, sweet and refreshing. Already tempted to buy, you set it down, wanting to see what else you can find before you commit.
You walk past a shelf of shimmering crystals and agates. Polished rocks and semi-precious stones drip from gold and silver chains, and a pewter dragon holds an amethyst egg within his claws. You have always loved dragons, and are surprised to find how reasonable the price on the paper tag about his neck is. Perhaps you will bring him home.
Towards the back of the shop, a single window lets in the faint light of a gray day. Before it stand glass bottles, vases, and jars in a myriad of colors, casting a faint rainbow of light upon the shop floor. In this light sleeps a large orange cat with white tips on his nose and white socks on his feet. He rises to greet you, arching his back and rubbing against a display of colorful, handwoven scarves and wraps before twining his way between your ankles then hopping onto a collection of thick, woolen blankets to continue his nap.
In the corner, a full suit of armor holds a mighty sword. You aren't sure if it is for sell or just a part of the décor. The metal looks older, aged, with some dents that might be from actual battle. You wish you could ask it what it has seen, who wore it and during what conflicts or eras. A chess set beside the armor has pieces that mirror the style and you examine this for several minutes.
The next display offers local delicacies. Bottles of berry wine, jarred preserves, and even candy. Teacups and various blends of tea to fill them with tempt you with the promise of a perfect cup of comfort. You stop to read a few labels before moving on.
You brush your fingers across the creased spines of antique books. A few are newer, detailing the history of the castle and lands around you. There is even a collection of local recipes. However, many of the volumes are of a bygone, forgotten age, poetry and novels, promising adventure and beauty. On top of the bookshelf, a collection of inkwells and quill pens lead you to imagine that some of these books were written with such methods before being put to print.
You hear a meow and turn around. The cat now sits on a high shelf behind you, next to a selection of what appears to be stationary and postcards. He paws at one, and it flutters to the ground. Catching it mid-air, you turn the paper over in your hand. It's faded and yellowed about the edges with a black-and-white photo of the castle you've been exploring on the front. You turn it over and find, written in a spidery hand,
"Meet me then."
You pause. What could this mean? The bell to the door rings, but when you look up, no one has entered and you did not think there was anyone in the shop with you, not that you ever saw, anyway. You eye the cat. He licks his paws before hopping down and going to wait at the door.
You open the door for him and notice the rain has stopped. You step outside, and immediately feel a difference in the air. Magic crackles about you and as you re-enter the courtyard, you notice the remnants of the modern world have been swept away. Instead of cars in the parking lot beyond the gate, you see horses and carriages. The people strolling by wear old-timey clothes and you hear no traffic in the distance.
You glance down at the cat who seems to smile before nodding to the shop. Through the door you can see the shop as it is in modern times, so you know you have a way back home.
Well, if you're here, you might as well explore. You leave the doorway and start your journey, excited for what you may find.
Castle Gift Shop is part of our new Dark Academia Collection.