Linza had invited Grun and Tanyth over for dinner at her little apartment. She’d hardly been able to contain her excitement throughout the meal.
“I have presents for you two!” Linza dashed over to her desk and returned with four parcels, paper boxes tied with red string, just like at the estate bakery. Because they were boxes from the bakery. She’d thought it would be cute and on-theme (these were treats, after all) but also it meant that she didn’t have to spend any extra money. She was still trying to save all that she could towards her student loans.
There was a large one and a small one for each of them, and they both opened the large one first.
Their eyes widened with delight. Each package held a piece of carved stone. There was a thick bulb, a thin stem, and then an arced base.
“Is this what I think it is?” Grun asked.
“What do you think it is?” Linza said.
“I think it goes in my ass?” Grun said.
Linza laughed. “Yes, it goes in your ass.”
“Hell yeah, this looks amazing!” Grun turned over the plug in his hand.
Tanyth’s eyes were just as wide. “Linza, you shouldn’t have!”
“It’s really not a bother,” Linza said.
“But— your loans!”
Linza blinked. “What about them?”
“These are expensive!” Tanyth looked genuinely worried.
“They didn’t cost me anything, actually. It’s all cast-offs so it’s free.”
Now Tanyth looked confused. “Wait… you… you made these?”
Linza blushed. “Y-yeah. It was really no trouble.”
Mercifully, Tanyth opened the second and smaller gift before grilling her further, revealing a little stone blue bird while Grun unwrapped a jade boar.
The bird for Tanyth, since they were all about experience, variety, sensation. Like a bird, if they were not migrating, not flying from place to place, they would not be themselves.
The boar for Grun, who was headstrong, steadfast and reliable. He had helped her face her fears and make peace with them. And, of course, the cute little tusks.
She’d meant to say out loud why she’d picked each animal for them, but her voice escaped her as she saw the genuine wonder in their eyes.
“Linza, how did you make these?” Tanyth said.
“It’s just a bit of minor alchemy. I get these scraps from the stone cutters downtown—they usually make things for fancy buildings, rich people, y’know. And then I transmute them into wood, carve them, and then they revert to stone.”
Tanyth’s eyes were wide. “You’re a genius!”
Linza blushed. “Well, I hardly invented the idea. It actually started as a homework assignment, but it was carving wood to make precise iron gears for complex machine works. Once I started my art classes, I had the idea of doing something cute with it.”
Tanyth shook their head. “You’re still a genius. You’d have to be able to do alchemy and art to come up with something like this, and you are literally the only person I know who can do that.”
Linza opened her mouth to say, ‘but you don’t know very many people outside of sex workers’, but Grun raised his eyebrows at her with a look of mother-hen scolding and she paused. “I’m really glad you like them.”
“Seriously though, Linz,” Tanyth gently set the bird back in its box and picked up their plug. “These things are expensive because usually you have to get a stoneworker or a glassworker to commission them.”
“I’m sure somebody’s thought of this before,” Linza said.
“Then why are they so expensive?!” Tanyth said. “Let me tell you, the circle of people who are university-trained alchemists and the circle of people who make sex toys rarely overlap.”
Linza considered that. Tanyth seemed to be right. There were plenty of other magical users on staff, many of whom were formally trained, but they tended to be clerics, enchanters, and illusionists. Linza was here because of her illusion skills, but that hadn’t been her primary field of study. It did seem like a rare combination when Tanyth pointed it out.
An idea bubbled up from the back of Linza’s mind. “Well… these aren’t that difficult to make. You can do them even faster with a proper lathe. And I bet you could even… I’ve seen some clever things with making negatives and molds. Turn stone to iron, pour that around another stone carving, then you have a stone negative. Then you can take that negative, turn more stone to iron, melt that down, pour it into the mold, and so on.”
“How many do you think you could make like that?” Tanyth said.
Linza grabbed a quill and notebook from her desk and started jotting down numbers. She made a few broad guesses, but they’d be more than adequate for the exercise. Tanyth contributed the knowledge of how much dildos and plugs usually cost, plus a guess of what they could still charge for them if they added significant volume to the market.
Linza triple checked her math, sure that she’d made some mistake.
Because if her math was right, she’d be able to pay off her remaining loans in less than a year.
The madame was thrilled to hear of Linza’s idea and mobilized a whole network of connections and favors to start the wheels of a new enterprise in motion.
As Linza had hoped, the lathe easily produced any symmetrical shape. Bulbs and rippled shafts, plugs and dildos alike. The madame sourced a carpentry shop that was happy to help lathe as much transmuted wood as Linza could produce.
But they didn’t stop there. Linza’s whittling origins inspired her towards some more fanciful designs. She hand-carved knotted cocks and curling tentacles. Other artists at the estate joined in, contributing veiny shafts and flower buds.
That the material could be transmuted back to wood at any time opened up new possibilities for trial and error, fine-tuning without risk. Lots of testing was required. The result was a diverse range of imaginative and effective toys.
The madame stocked shops at the estate with the new toys, incorporated them into experiences, hosted a few giveaways, and soon there was more demand than they could keep up with. They could have charged more, even as much as had been the status quo before they opened the shop, but Linza and the madame agreed that it was important to both of them that the toys remain accessible to someone of middling budget. So, the wait list grew.
Other alchemists eventually caught wind and cashed in on the trend. But, it never cut much into the estate’s sales. Firstly, Linza had ensured that the estate had gotten to market first. But more than that, the competing products were just bland. They lacked imagination.
And Linza had imagination to spare.