The Khajiit stopped in mid action; one of her hands cradled a small brown bowl filled with an unknown grayish-white powder and the other hand, which had a small palm-full of the powder, was on its way to her mouth, which was wide open. She darted her eyes to her housecarl who had an expression of extreme disgust on her face.
Lydia groaned and rubbed her temples. "What did we talk about?"
"Don't 'Lydia' me. What you're doing is disgusting." The Nord grabbed M'rasha's wrist, turning it so that the dust fell back into the bowl.
"It's not disgusting," M'rasha argued, wiping the rest of the dust back into the bowl, "I'm an alchemist. It's what we do!"
"What's going on over here?" They turned to see Mikael standing by their table, strumming a few chords on his lute. Lydia let out a sigh of relief and pointed to the bowl. "She's trying to eat that."
"What's wrong with that," Mikael asked.
"Ask her what the powder is."
He arched an eyebrow at the Khajiit. M'rasha shrugged and answered, "Vampire dust."
His strumming promptly ceased as he twisted his face, repulsed. "Ugh, really?"
"See," Lydia exclaimed triumphantly, "I told you!"
"And yet," M'rasha explained, moving the bowl of dust out of reach, "When you drink one of my health potions that contain imp stool and sabre cat eyes you're okay with it."
"Because when you make it, you don't taste the imp stool and cat eyes. And none of your potions include vampire dust," she turned to face the bard, "And that's not the first disgusting things she's eaten in the name of alchemy. Like Deathbell…"
"It only gave me stomach cramps," M'rasha retorted, "I use it for my slow poisons…"
"Goes better down with some snowberries. I use it to make damage Magicka potion. You love using those against the crazy mages we run into."
Lydia was undeterred and continued, "Void Salts…"
"They numb the tongue a little. Makes a nice poison."
"Falmer's Ear," Lydia stated, a smug grin appeared on her face when it looked like Mikael was going to be sick.
"Okay, they taste absolutely repulsive," the alchemist conceded before turning her head towards Lydia, "But at least we know that they're good for resisting the poison from the darts you keep setting off anytime we venture into a ruin."
M'rasha was about to go on about the numerous times her potions saved them from certain death when she spotted a friendly face in the tavern.
"Arcadia!" She waved the woman over. "Help me out here."
"What's wrong," the Imperial asked as she pulled up a chair.
"Please explain to these two," M'rasha motioned to the two Nords, "That for an alchemist tasting potential ingredients is as normal as…as…as a blacksmith who experiments with different ingots to create a blade."
Arcadia nodded. "She's right you know. That's how we find the difference between a poison and a potion. Perfectly natural."
"No," Lydia responded, "Snow in Skyrim is perfectly natural. Our hatred for the Thalmor is perfectly natural. You eating blisterwort and troll fat and then attacking me is lunacy."
M'rasha looked puzzled. "I don't remember that."
"Of course you don't remember that. Do you also remember me tying you to a chair while you screamed about Dragon Priests?"
M'rasha looked at the housecarl with a big grin on her face. "Nope!"
"Lydia, it's just something that we alchemists do," Arcadia explained, "And we eat them only once to assess its primary use. Besides how many healing or stamina potions do you use when you're out adventuring? And how many do you think are store-bought?"
She looked to the Khajiit for support only to find the seat she was occupying to be empty. "Where'd she go?"
The others looked around but saw no sign of Whiterun's Thane. Lydia figured M'rasha had become bored and gone home or went to the bar for another drink. That was until she felt something warm and wet slide along the side of her neck. She let out a small yelp as sharp teeth nipped at her neck. Her arm flew out and she punched the invisible thing in the shoulder knocking her out of her chair and onto the ground. M'rasha faded back into view, laughing at the red-faced housecarl.
"You're horrible." Lydia kicked the woman's leg. M'rasha repositioned her chair by the table and sat down, still chuckling. Mikael was stunned by the effects of the dust while Arcadia looked intrigued.
"So, vampire dust renders you invisible," Arcadia rubbed her chin, "Good to know."
M'rasha grabbed the bowl containing the powder, "If a palm-full was only 30 seconds, I wonder what the whole bowl will do."
Arcadia grabbed M'rasha goblet and raised it. "For alchemy!"
M'rasha took it from the Imperial. She then placed all of the dust in her mouth and drank the rest of the wine in her goblet. "For alchemy!"
And Lydia could only beat her head on the table as M'rasha faded away once again.