Found – Part Five
I stared at him. A numbness began to spread through me. It started at my feet, filling my soul with ice. It dulled all my senses, and I was trapped with my thoughts. Cursed. And Afflicted. I should have known. Being Afflicted guaranteed a difficult life. As Calum said, it could be managed with potions and the help of a good Healer. An Afflicted being had the chance of living a long life. A slim chance… but a chance nonetheless.
Curses were different. They involved very precise and advanced Magic. A Curse was a deliberate attack, and the caster had to have an intended target and intentional result. And that result wasn’t going to be a pleasant one for the proposed recipient. You have to mean it. You have to want them to hurt. You have to know they deserve it. His voice floated in my thoughts. It was a ghost that haunted my mind that no ritual could ever purge me of. It was the first Magic he tried to teach me. It was the first of many times that I refused him, and the first of many times I’d known his ire.
Some magical debris smacked me across the head, delivering me from my dark flashbacks. Oh, right. There was still the matter of this mess to deal with. Calum was also probably waiting for some kind of reaction.
“How do we fix this mess?” I said to him. His eyes went wide.
“You heard what I said, didn’t you?” His eyes held confusion and irritation.
“Yes. I think it’ll be easier to discuss all that once we’ve dealt with whatever it is I did.”
“I suppose you’re right,” he answered in defeat. He rose and attempted to reach for one of his destroyed books. Again, it rejected his hand by shrouding itself in a dark mist. He considered that for a moment, his hand stroking his long, matted beard. “Perhaps if you touched them?” He said more to the book than to me.
“Could it really be that simple?”
“The answers we seek usually are. You’ll find in life, dear boy, that if you search too hard, you’ll miss what it is you are searching for. The same it is with Magic. It’s a complex force indeed, but only if you make it so.”
“I don’t understand.”
Calum crossed the room over to me and helped me up.
“Can you stand?”
“Maybe if I had something to lean on?” I still felt weak.
“Of course.” He propped me up against a wall and pondered for a moment. “I suppose if we’re to get you well enough to travel, we should start now. Hold this.” He pulled a small but sturdy twig from his robes.
“A twig? How is a twig going to get me strong again?”
“Just hold it,” he said, thrusting the twig into my hand. “Honestly, must you question everything?” he muttered. “Hold the twig out in front of you.”
I did as he asked. My body shook from the effort of it.
Calum held me up with one hand, and with the other, he pulled a small jar from his robes.
“What do you have an entire apothecary in there?” He ignored me.
“You’re going to turn that twig into a walking staff.” He said, struggling to open the jar while holding it.
“I’m going to what now?”
“We need to get both your body and your Magic strong again. It’s the only way you’re going to survive.”
“I haven’t used Magic in so long. What if it triggers another episode?”
“We have to try. You can’t be afraid to use Magic forever.”
I nodded. For so long, fear had dominated my life. It’s how he raised me, how he molded me. If I was ever to be free of him, I had to let go of fear. I wasn’t alone anymore.
“Okay. What do I have to do?” I tried to straighten myself up against the wall and Calum’s grasp. I hissed through the pain.
“You’re a sorcerer. You should know what to do.”
“What’s in the jar?”
“In the event that I need to subdue you again, I have a stunning spell ready,” he said, his tone somber.
I nodded. Of course, he thought of that. I’d already made a mess of his home. Somewhere he hid in peace for years before I came along.
“All right then. Turn the twig into a walking staff…” I said to myself. Calum said I should know what to do. He’d said that sometimes the answers we wanted were right in front of us, that we didn’t need to search too hard. I stared at the twig. I took a deep breath, closed my eyes, and did something I hadn’t done in a long time.
The warmth began deep in my stomach. It spread like golden wildfire through my blood. It was slow at first, taking its time to reacquaint itself in its old home, but it was tenderer than I remembered. It was gentle—as if it were asking permission. It made its way around my broken body, seeing the damage but not stopping to acknowledge it. It was a delicious sort of torment, as this force invaded my body, reclaiming its old spaces. This body that had once been ablaze with darkness was now alight with Magic. I opened my eyes to see a gilded light glow beneath my skin; then it fell away like a winter sunset against the snow. I’d done it. I’d summoned Magic. That wasn’t the task, though. There was still the matter of turning this twig into a walking staff. Now that Magic had entered my body, I had to let it know what I wanted it to do.
“Close your eyes again. Feel the twig in your hand, and See the walking staff in your mind. Know its every curve. Hear the wood hit the ground as you walk,” Calum said, his voice low.
The twig felt insignificant in my hand. Even in my weakened state, it could snap it in half. That won’t do, I thought. This twig needed to be stronger if it was going to survive in this world. I saw a large handsome staff, dark wood that climbed upward like several tangled vines. The vines entwined together at the top with a dull glow coming from the knotted center. It was heavy, and resounded a satisfying thunk as it hit the ground, and left holes in the forest floor. Its height reached my shoulder so that I might put my whole weight into it should I need to.
“Open your eyes,” Calum whispered.
I opened my eyes, and the twig was gone. In its place, was the staff I’d envisioned. Very real, and very mine.
“Wow,” I breathed. “I’ve never done this kind of Magic before.”
“I find that odd. I sense a great deal of power in you, and this is a very simple spell.”
“My Magical education was…different.” I leaned my body weight into the staff and found that I was able to stand.
“Hmm. Either way, well done. Now, use it to make your way around the house and see about undoing this calamity. We’ve much to discuss.” Indeed, we did. I limped to the first book Calum tried to touch. It hovered before me, floating like it was underwater. I reached my shaky hand towards it, expecting it to refuse me. As my fingers brushed its surface, it went rigid. The dark mist that had emanated from it when Calum tried to touch it retreated back into my body. Cold, intense stabs ran along my spine, and the book fell to the floor. Enchanted no more.
“What does that mean?”
“Magic must always go back somewhere. That was yours, and so it went home. It seems that did the trick though. Come. Let’s finish, and I’ll figure out a way to sort out the mess once we’re done.” We continued throughout his home. Each time, the darkness finding its way “home,” sending icy shock waves through my body. I wondered why the darkness didn’t vanish. Why would darkness find a home in me? You know why. You know exactly why.
Before long, some semblance of order was restored to Calum’s home. I guided myself back to the bed and sank into its warm comfort. I set my new walking staff next to me on the mattress. I felt the need to keep it close. I watched Calum as he collected all of the destroyed items into a large sack.
“What a pity,” he mumbled as he came across something that may have once been valuable. He uttered similar laments as he discovered other destroyed items. These items were the symbols of his life. Each thing chosen with care, given a place of importance in his world. And then I came along and destroyed them. I had shattered his quiet existence with my presence. Would my damage bring damage to all those I came in contact with?
“I’ll mend those while you sleep. We have more pressing matters.” I was hoping he’d forgotten. Calum dragged a chair across the room and placed it in front of me. He sat with a heavy weariness. His body sank into the chair, and for a moment, he was not a sorcerer, but a tired old man in great need of rest.
“Do we have to?” I knew I sounded like a petulant child.
“If you want to live, then yes. You do know the difference between an Affliction and a Curse, don’t you?” he said, leaning forward towards me.
“I do,” I relented. “A Curse means someone has made a deliberate attack on me. Someone has meant to kill me.”
“Do you know who?” Gone was the tired old man. The sorcerer was back. His eyes twinkled with knowledge. His stare was unyielding as he studied my face. He was trying to use his gift of Sight again. But I knew he couldn’t See me unless I let my defenses drop. I looked away from him. This is not a conversation I wanted to have. “What aren’t you telling me?”
“I told you everything. Please Calum, I can’t go through this again.” I let my body fall against the mattress, my staff bouncing up from my sudden weight. I covered my face with my hands. It was a childish attempt at concealing myself from him. Perhaps if I couldn’t see him, he couldn’t See me.
“Nox, in what little you divulged I learned that you have suffered. But you’ve told me nothing. You know who Cursed you. I know you do.”
“Please,” I begged.
“You said someone slaughtered your family and endeavored to raise you as his own in the castle.”
“No one can hurt you here. You are safe in my care, Nox. I promise.” Calum’s hand touched my shoulder. I knew he believed that. He believed that I was safe. But I knew the truth.
“That’s not true. I’m not safe. I’ll never be safe.”
“Why would you say that?”
“I’m not safe. I’ll never be safe.” I wrapped my arms around my body to keep from falling apart.
“Why would you say that?” He stood and yelled at me.
“Because I’m not!” My body curled into itself more. I just want to disappear. “The first Magic I learned was how to cast Curses.” The words came on their own. My emotions took over, and I bared my tainted soul. “He wanted to make sure that I’d be able to fight his enemies when I was old enough. When I refused him, he… he would torture me. Both my body and my mind. He did… all manner of horrendous things to me. He did everything he could to make me as evil and twisted as he was. He made me do horrific things, and whenever I refused to do what he asked, he made me watch as he tortured the newest round of captured Magical beings. Do you know the sound fairies make when their wings are ripped off? Did you know they cry blood tears? Did you know that?” My own tears streamed thick and hot down my face.
“Nox…” Calum’s own eyes shone with unshed tears. “No one should have to have suffered so. Especially a child.”
“Except that I did. It’s why the darkness clings to me. It’s why I’m Afflicted. Over the years, I learned Magic from him and from the captives in the castle. I thought I’d grow strong enough to kill him. Then I could be free. We could all be free.” The fight deflated from me. I was reliving my defeat all over again. “I should have known he’d have some kind of protection. He is the King after all.”
“What?” Calum jumped up. “Did I hear that, right?”
“Yes. The King. He kidnapped me and killed my family. I tried to avenge them, but I couldn’t, and now he’s Cursed me on top of everything else he’s done to me.” I turned to face Calum, and I could see the realization dawn on his face. His eyes went wide with knowing, his mouth agape with shock. “Why are you looking at me like that?”
“Do you know who your family was?” Calum began to pace among the enchanted chaos in his home. He dodged floating books and crystals. His movements were frantic with a new epiphany. “Every Magical being knows of the First Book of Shadows, and the family that wrote it. And the prophecy found therein.”
“Magic’s champions will find their guide at the end of this line,” I recited. “That prophecy is the reason he killed my family.
“Nox. Why didn’t you tell me? You… You’re…”
I stood. I could feel Magic surge within me, strong and hot. I’d never said those words aloud before. There was a power I hadn’t known before.
“I am the last of the Grimoire Clan.”