Found- Part Thirty-Three
Before I could open my mouth to argue with them, echoes of shouts and commotion came to us.
“What’s going on?” Cyrus mused.
“Cyrus!” a voice called. “Are you there? Please! There’s an emergency!”
The three of us rushed back through the brush, scrambling over roots and rocks, trying to get back to the apothecary. Dasha and Cyrus were further ahead of me.
“Are you all right? Do you need one of us to linger behind?” Dasha offered. I lumbered behind them, using my staff to keep from falling over.
“No, go ahead. I’ll keep up.”
We came to the apothecary, where a small crowd had gathered.
“There you are!” An older man pushed through the crowd.
“Papa?” Dasha rushed to him; her voice quaked with sudden panic. “What’s wrong? Are you all right? Are you injured?” she asked as her frantic hands examined him.
“I’m fine, my little dewdrop.” He pinched her cheek with quick affection. “But we need Cyrus to come to Arion’s Tree now. Something is wrong.”
The crowd dispersed. Cyrus ran ahead of them. Dasha and her father were close behind. There was a frenetic energy that rubbed raw against my nerves. It made my skin crawl with painful chills, as though I was being slashed with shards of ice.
It seemed everyone in Haven’s End had gathered around the tree. I failed to understand the alarm. There was a great tree before me, with beautiful golden and scarlet leaves glimmering in the sun. But everyone around me was in various states of distress. Some cried, some shouted, some fell to their knees in inconsolable despair.
“No,” Cyrus whispered as he looked up at the tree.
“This can’t be,” Dasha mirrored his fear.
“When did this happen?” Cyrus asked.
“It must have been overnight. The tree was fine last night. During my walk this morning, I noticed the change. Is there anything you can do?” Dasha’s father asked.
“I don’t understand,” I said to no one. Arion’s Tree was the heart of Haven’s End. Its enchantment is what guided those that needed sanctuary to its gates and kept them safe. If something was wrong with it, fear and gloom would be an appropriate response. But all I saw before me was a beautiful tree.
“The leaves are changing,” Cyrus said, still looking up. “Nox,” he turned to face me. “All Magic is borrowed, surely you know this.” I nodded. “Enchantments, Spells, Curses, all forms of Magic die and go back to earth once the wielder passes on. Should that person become weakened or ill, the Magic does as well. This tree has been lush and green for as long as it has been here.”
“Throughout even the harshest winters, this tree has been lush and green,” Dasha’s father added.
“And now the leaves are changing,” I said as the realization began to sink in.
“I trust you understand now, lad, what is happening here.”
“The Enchantment is dying,” I whispered. Calum. Cold dread gripped my chest. No.
“Can you do something?” Dasha’s father asked.
“No, Wilbur. I cannot. My Magic isn’t strong enough for an Enchantment like this. My gift is with potions and Healing.”
The people became wild with fresh panic. Frenzied hollers and cries echoed throughout the square. Some called to others to prepare to leave, while others insisted the tree be protected. All the while, I saw an old man’s face in my mind. Someone I had abandoned to die alone, and now I’d put all these people in danger.
“Our only hope is to find the man who re-enchanted the tree when Arion passed. I will make preparations and go before sunset,” Cyrus declared. People cheered for him. He sent them off with instructions to dispose of anything Magical they had in their possession.
“Bring everything to The Willow!” Wilbur added. Everyone ran to prepare for their worst nightmare. I was dizzy with terror. People whirled around me, and I lost sight of Dasha and Cyrus. The edges of my vision began to blur when I felt a pair of foreign hands grip my shoulders. Every one of my senses recoiled, but I was too weakened to fight.
“Easy there.” It was Wilbur, Dasha’s father. A familiar warmth emanated from him. Dasha’s honey-colored eyes stared at me within a new face. His skin was dark and rich, like the earth after the rain. “You must be that new boy that my dewdrop has been making such a fuss about.”
“Yes, sir,” I whispered. He straightened me up and placed one hand on my back.
“Well, come on then. You know that girl of mine is going to want to follow that Healer into whatever venture this is. I’d feel a lot better about it if you were there.” You really shouldn’t.
“Sir?” I asked in confusion. He began to lead me towards the apothecary. I hobbled beside him.
“My Dasha was blessed with something ever since that fairy saved her. If she thinks someone is good, then they are. She’s told me a lot about you. She said you’ve been through quite the ordeal, but that beneath it all, there’s a good person.” He smiled, and I couldn’t help but smile back.
“I’m not so sure about that.”
“She said you’d say that. But come on now. No time to waste.” We quickened our pace towards the apothecary. When we arrived, Dasha and Cyrus were in a heated argument.
“You’re being unreasonable!” Dasha yelled.
“And you’re being ridiculous! You are not coming! I won’t allow it.”
“I don’t need your permission to do anything! Like it or not, I am coming with you so tell me what I need to gather!”
Their exchange went back and forth before Wilbur cleared his throat. They stopped and looked towards Cyrus’s pale face flushed red. Dasha hid her face in her hands.
“Sorry to interrupt this lover’s quarrel—”
“Papa!” Dasha whined. He walked up to her and placed an affectionate kiss on her forehead.
“Be safe, my dear.”
“Wilbur, you can’t possibly allow her to go!” Cyrus argued.
“I learned a long time ago that Dasha is going to do what she wants to do. Especially when it comes to you.” With that, he walked off. Dasha’s sun-kissed face glowed pink with embarrassment. Before the moment lingered any longer, I spoke.
“I… I know how to find him.”
“Who?” Cyrus said, a ghost of a satisfied smile on his face.
“Calum. The one you’re looking for. I know where he is.”
Cyrus gave me a knowing look.
“That potion you had. It was him.”
“Yes,” was all I could muster. Calum’s words rang in my mind. I was also angry because bringing people so close to our location could be dangerous. The truth is, my anger was a mask to hide my sorrow… because he seemed so ready to give up, so ready to leave me… The people of Haven’s End are innocent. They are only guilty of trying to make a life in the madness. It’s the true reason I didn’t stay. I couldn’t face them because of how much I wanted to hate them. Could I be counted among those now? Among the people he wanted to hate? I had betrayed his trust and abandoned him out of my own fear.
Cyrus instructed us to meet at the gates in one hour. In that time, I worked on a spell to guide us back to Calum’s home. My journey to Haven’s End was a desperate plea for safety. The spell I used then relied on the enchantment that protected the town. Now I needed something to counteract that. I needed to retrace my steps and face my mistakes.
Dasha was waiting for us when Cyrus and I arrived at the gates. The town was desolate as we walked through. The concentrated Magic from within The Willow reverberated at an overwhelming capacity.
“You feel that?” Cyrus asked, his voice rough and grim. “It can feel our fear, and it’s reacting.”
“Magic. It can feel us, and it’s afraid too.”
Dasha waved us over.
“Ready?” We walked beyond the gates and listened as they groaned behind us. The sound was mournful, as though they too knew that something was wrong.
I stood in front of them and focused my intent into the light of my staff. Instead of using leaves, I chose a stone. I held in my free hand and watched as it became bathed in amber light.
“Bring me back to him,” I whispered. The stone grew warm and weightless in my hand. It hovered for a few moments before shattering into millions of tiny lights. They rose high in the sky and then settled into the ground, carving a trail that led deep in the woods.
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