Found – Part Fifteen
Parts One through Fourteen can be found on my author’s page
The Willow towered over the other buildings in the Square. Most of the other structures were small, high for a taller person to be comfortable. A few of the others rose higher, to the full height of a tree. The Willow looked like it could touch the sky in comparison to them. Its shadow loomed over the Square, casting a cloak of protection. It was their castle. And inside, there was a cell waiting for me.
Mara shuffled ahead of me, offering a passing greeting to those who passed her. They would look at her with a questioning gaze when they saw me, and she would shake her head. We’ll talk later, she said without speaking.
“Mara,” I said, stopping at the door. Fear gripped at me, and my hand flew to my chest as if to stop my pounding heart from jumping out. She turned to face me, her sad smile still in place. But it faltered when she looked at me.
“What’s wrong?” she rushed to me and touched her hand to my face. The tenderness of her action startled me, and I recoiled from her touch. She retracted her hand as though I had struck her. “I’m sorry,” she looked down, her body heavy with shame. “You’re white as snow.”
“Don’t be sorry. But I don’t think I can go in there.” Anxiety held my heart in its grip. The water splashing in the fountain became louder and louder and took over my senses. The words fell out of my mouth without my control, spilling from my body like water from a fountain, “It’s a castle. I can’t be in another cell,” I whispered. Mara’s hand found my face again, and this time I did not shy away. I leaned into her touch and closed my eyes. The rushing waters in my heart calmed, and I was transported to the tranquil pond behind Calum’s home. Linnea’s Pond.
“Oh, Nox,” she said, her melancholy laced with a mother’s love. “I don’t know what your story is, but it seems that you’ve faced some horrors.” Her other hand touched my shoulder, and I looked into her eyes. For a moment, the sadness faded, and the eyes of a woman that had been strong for too long looked at me. There was a force in her gaze, a fierce protectiveness that spoke of her past. Who has she lost? Who has she failed to protect? What did she blame herself for?
“There are no castles and kings here. You aren’t trapped. This can be your home if you let it.”
“You don’t have to say anything. I know this is a lot. You’ve been dropped into a whole new life.” Mara stepped away from me. She removed her hands from my body. The warmth retreated from my body as though it realized it did not belong to me. And I found myself wanting it back. Bad. That’s bad, I thought. I’ve never craved anyone’s touch like that. Her maternal aura surrounded me and disarmed me. Some weapon you are.
“Thank you,” was the response I settled for.
“One you’ve rested, we’ll see about getting you to a Healer.” She turned back around and began to walk in.
As I crossed the threshold, the dread I felt dissipated. The Willow was not what I thought it would be. The first floor was a large tavern filled with tables and mismatched chairs. The tables were decorated with glass vases filled with bundles of dried lavender and white sage, various different sized candles. It bathed the the room in a warm, romantic glow. Animated chatter floated around the room. As Mara and I passed, it paused as the patrons watched us with curiosity. On the far side of the space, there was a bar with a vast assortment of beverages lined on shelves behind it. A few people were seated at the bar, and a woman was serving them.
“Good morning, Mara!” she called. “I see we have someone new with us? Come on down, lad! Let Dasha fix you up some dinner and a drink!”
The people seated in front of her turned to face me, but she drew my attention away from them. Her energy larger than life with a bright smile to match. She spoke with a laugh in her voice as though she held the world’s glee in her soul. Her eyes sparkled with her jovial spirit, and it permeated throughout the air. Her wheat-colored hair was pulled up in a disheveled knot on the top of her head. She was joy personified. I found myself smiling at her in spite of myself.
“After he gets some rest. His injuries need tending to,” Mara answered.
“I’ll send up some soup and a mug of tea.” Dasha’s smile still in place.
“Thank you,” I answered. Mara ushered me away. She led me upstairs to a hallway of doors.
It’s not a cell. It’s not a cell; I repeated to myself.
“Here is your room,” she said as she opened a door at the end of the hall.
Not a cell. Not a cell.
“It’s not much, but it’s comfortable.” Mara walked in and lit the lanterns.
The light revealed a room with modest furniture. There was a bed that dominated the room with a chair and a small table. But what drew my attention was a window. It looked out into the Square, and I could see Arion’s Tree. The fountain’s bubbling sounded like the flapping on fairy wings. The space was warm and cozy and bright. It was a cell. It was a room. It was my room.
“Go ahead and rest. I’ll bring up your soup and tea in a while.” Mara smiled her tearful smile. And left me in my room.
“This is bad,” I said aloud to myself. These people were so welcoming. They didn’t know me. They had no idea what havoc I could bring upon them. I had the potential to destroy their peaceful existence in this hidden sanctuary. I could be the one that led the wolf in among the lambs. I was Afflicted and Cursed, and any sort of intense emotions could trigger me, and I could harm these people. But they did not care about who I was or where I came from.
It warmed my heart but chilled my blood. I left Calum for this same reason. I came to care for him, but my presence caused him harm. If I were going to live in Haven’s End, I would have to keep myself distant from the people. I needed to heal, find Magic’s Champions, and guide them to victory. And do whatever I could to bring as little harm as possible.