Found- Part Three
Read: Part One
Read: Part Two
War had a way of making people do things they wouldn’t normally do. The Magical Cleansings, as the King called them, were no different. Gentle healers bypassed wounded soldiers and ailing villagers. Fairies watched as the forests burned and nature destroyed. Witches and Sorcerers brought deliberate harm without regard to their three-fold law. Magic itself was a neutral force. While it could be used to destroy and bring harm, it was not meant to be used that way. There were rules. If one chose a dark path, it had to be a decision made early in a magical life.
Magic was a force, and it had to know which way they would use it. You couldn’t just start casting spells and making potions because you wanted to. Magic chose who was worthy. And it was the chosen’s responsibility to use it correctly. Not adhering to those rules caused problems. An Affliction resulted from an abrupt change in a magical code or a willing suppression of magic. And I was forced to do both.
I was Afflicted. And it was bad.
My wounds had become irritated with the force of my cries. Calum helped me move from the table to his bed. When I first awoke in his cottage, he seemed cold, detached. I tried to be the same. But we knew each other now. There was a shift in the air between us, a new power that wasn’t there before. The charge was palpable. It swirled around us, full of life and promise. It gave me warmth but also left me questioning. It was Magic. I knew that Calum felt it too.
Calum went back to his cauldron and consulted a large, dusty tome. I rested and watched him. His movements were practiced and graceful. Every turn of the page was purposeful. Each ingredient was considered before being added to the cauldron. The firelight flickered across his face. It made him look imposing, but I knew better. I’d seen past that wall. The firelight wouldn’t fool me anymore. The room was gravid with our emotions. What did we do with that now?
“Calum,” I rasped.
“Mmm,” he didn’t look up.
“How is it that you aren’t Afflicted?”
“I was. I may very well still be. But I’ve managed to make a potion that manages it.”
“Are you making one for me?” Calum sighed. He looked up at me with sadness. It’s too late for you. That’s what his eyes said to me. “Don’t lie to me.”
“It doesn’t look good. Your Affliction goes deeper than magical wrongs. There is something more. Your defenses were down for a moment, and I was able to See you. The damage is profound. It goes beyond you.” There was a sense of finality to his voice. I hated the way he danced around it. Say it, Calum. Tell me I’m going to die.
“What does that mean?” I laid my head back on the bed and stared at the ceiling. The weathered wood was heavy with secrets. It knew all of Calum’s secrets and guarded them. It saw Calum’s friend die. Would it see me die too? “Am I going to die here?”
“No Nox, you won’t die here. I can make you a potion that can suppress your symptoms. I can help you get strong again. But I’m not a Healer. Your Affliction requires more healing than I can provide.” The cauldron bubbled, taking back Calum’s attention. Hot and sticky anger began to simmer within me. It fizzed and popped, threatening to spill over.
“And what good will that do for me?”
“It will keep you alive. It seems to be all I can do for you.”
“Manage my symptoms? Make me strong again? Why? You can’t heal me. Just so that you can redeem yourself from not being able to save your village and your friend? Is that why you want to keep me alive?” I regretted the words as soon as they left my mouth. Calum winced and turned away.
“Don’t strain yourself,” he said, looking at the cauldron.
“I’m sorry… I didn’t mean it.” He still didn’t turn back to me or say anything. “Please, Calum. I’m sorry.”
“I know it came from anger. But that doesn’t make it hurt any less.” His voice was small. “You aren’t a replacement for those I’ve lost. Those souls are my cross to bear.”
“I can get you strong enough to travel. And in those travels, I hope you can find a Healer,” he looked at me, and the story of sorrow in his eyes had gone. His eyes were stone. Emotion, gone. I had hurt him. “You will suffer in those travels. From what I saw when I found you, your Affliction will try to kill you. The pain you feel, alone, will make you want to end it. When that happens, take a sip of the potion I give you. I don’t know how often it’ll happen or what will trigger it. You’ll learn that on your own. Now rest.” He turned away from me and was out of my sight.
He left me alone with the bubbling cauldron, the dancing shadows, and the weathered wood ceiling that knew my soul better than I did. Was that it? Had I lost him? The first person to show me kindness, and I threw his secrets right back at him? I couldn’t let him leave like this. I pulled myself up from the bed. Stop! My body screamed. I ignored the protests of my weakness. I summoned my remnants of strength and followed him, grabbing at anything I could reach.
“Calum, please,” I called. “Please don’t go. I’m sorry!” I stumbled through the room. “Calum!” I fell into the table next to the cauldron, knocking it over. I laid on the ground, covered with dried herbs, stones, and books. Shards of glass from the jars hung in the air like raindrops. “I’m sorry,” my voice thick with tears. “Please don’t abandon me.” I was alone on a cold floor, crying from loss of affection. My body ached with fresh wounds, but my heart hurt more. Please don’t leave me. I’m sorry.