Janet grabbed her logbook ready to inspect one of the new stores under her watch. Ever since her big coup last year in finding a slaver and freeing hundreds of trapped fairies and other magical beings she was on a fast track up the career ladder. She was now regional director for the Western Provinces. Instead of doing inspections and answering emergency call outs for the Pacific Northwest she had added Central and Southern California, Utah, Montana, Wyoming, Nevada, Arizona, Colorado and New Mexico to her territory and was now supervising the local inspection crew. Today she was doing a spot inspection on a small magic store in New Mexico, she would do a cold inspection and then compare her notes to her employee's notes to make sure nothing was being missed or hidden.
So far she had been pleased with her crew. Everyone seemed to really know their stuff. It was a tricky territory but she was enjoying herself. New challenges for sure, but nothing she hadn't been able to handle yet. Southern California was mostly making sure the New Age fad chasers didn't accidentally stumble upon real magic they weren't prepared to deal with. It had happened once a few years ago, a Los Angeles store owner was trying to invent the next big mystical thing and accidentally conjured an incubus. He had posed as a producer for 6 months before being found and sent back to his realm.
The Southwestern states were a little harder to work. Magic there was mixed in to the culture in a way it wasn't in her other territories. She was working on a theory that the more Catholic a region was the more actual magic practitioners you would find. The crossovers between the two areas were too numerous to be a coincidence. Incense, lighting candles, saying words of power in an ancient language...and on and on. Though both sides would be horrified at the comparison.
She took her centering breath and opened the store door bracing for that hit of incense and was greeted with...
Well this was a nice change of pace, the smell was quite pleasant. Sage and something else she couldn't quite place. But very subtle. Nice. There was a woman at the counter helping a customer and a young girl at the back of the store shelving books but other than that it was just her in the store. That was good, it helped her to focus.
"...and don't you bring any of those demon cookies in to my shop ever again!"
Janet's head snapped around to get a good look at the woman the proprietress had been speaking too but all she caught was the back of her head as she left the store. She would make a note after her inspection was finished and come back to it later. Looking over the shelves there was the normal mix of trinkets and crystals. A few extra things nodded to the Native American heritage of this area. Kiva shaped incense burners. Kachina dolls of varying fashion. More turquoise than any other stone.
"I assume you really want to see the back of the store?"
"The back of the store, where we keep the real items. You won't find anything worthy of the council's attention out here, though by all means keep scanning."
"You know who I am?"
"Of course. You are Silvia's new boss. My name is Delores, this is my shop, as you know."
"Did she tell you to expect me?"
Delores smiled at Janet and cocked her head to the side, "How could she have done that when you didn't tell her yourself? Come, let's go to the back so you can spend more time where you need to be. You can review the front room before you leave. Celia, hija? Watch the counter for me please, we will be in the back if you need me."
"She's a good girl, you are going to want to watch her, I think she could have a very promising career as a seer." The younger girl ducked her head in modesty and Janet could see both the pleased grin on her face and the blush creeping up her cheeks.
Walking through the curtains separating the front and back rooms Janet felt a press of power she wasn't expecting to find in a small tourist attraction magic shop. The smell from the front room grew stronger for a second and then faded away. "Sage and?"
"Piñon. The sage is due to the large volume of people we have coming and going, consider it a constant cleaner running in the background. The piñon is for calmness. So everything in the store is always clean and calm. The best for clear heads. I enhance it at the doorway between the fun and the work."
Janet looked around the space they were now in. Shelves of books, locked cabinets with jars of potions inside, spice racks with more ingredients than she had ever seen outside of headquarters. The magic was thick enough in this room she could feel it crawling over her skin. Coating her in a layer of warmth.
"You might want to re-shield yourself. I should have warned you, I guess. This room can have the effect of a warm fire on a cold day. If I left you alone you might just curl up in that corner over there with Syar and go to sleep."
Janet looked to the corner and was greeted with a slow yellow eyed blink from the largest cat she had ever seen.
"We think he might be part puma. But we aren't sure if it's that or he's just fat." Delores laughed a full throated deep almost sensual laugh. Syar made a chirping meow at her and rolled over to go back to sleep which just made Delores laugh even harder.
Janet wasn't sure where to start in this room. Everything radiated real magic. She decided that the only way to approach it was by using a focusing spell. She would quickly scan over everything and anything that warranted special attention would spark. There were a few books on the shelves that called to her for a deeper look. They held spells with real power. Though nothing illegal. One of the books was set on a shelf by itself. Janet reached for it and it moved away from her. She reached again and it slid away again. Delores smiled, "You have to sneak up on it from the side. It's why we have it all alone. It kept knocking all of the other books off the shelf. It belonged to a very reclusive witch and took on her personality. It's actually a very handy book once you get it in your hands. But all things being equal it just wants to be left alone."
Janet pretended she was looking at the books on the shelf below and casually reached up to grab the lone book. Once she had it in her hand it held very still, not trying to get away again. "Go ahead, think of a spell you might want." Janet could only think that she wasn't prepared to find a book with a personality in a small shop in a tourist town.
The book quivered in her hands and then opened to a spell for increasing awareness, then quickly turned to a page on a draught that would help you be open to new experiences. Then finally flipped to a page on a medicinal herb that would lower your sense of superiority. Delores saw the last one and laughed again, "It's a very helpful book, you see, the woman that owned it and wrote most of the spells in it was very knowledgeable. But she had no patience for pretension. Don't feel badly though, every time the book gives a series of spells it ends on that one. It's not you, it's well....it."
Delores produced a key to potions cabinet and unlocked it for inspection.
Janet focused again and was rewarded with a blazing spark toward a bottle on the second shelf.
Reaching toward the bottle she turned on Delores, "Is this blood magic?"