Found- Part Twenty Two
Parts One through Twenty One can be read here.
Swirls of thick, dark sludge fell off my skin as I showered that morning. It began oozing out of me right as the sun lit the sky, suffocating my skin. Dasha was at my door seconds after I woke up.
Her frantic knocking could have woken up all of Haven’s End. She gasped when she saw the slime on my skin, but didn’t allow herself to stop. She ripped me from my bed and threw me into the washroom room. Her voice shook with her panicked energy, as she told me she laid my staff and clothes out for me, and that breakfast would be ready for me downstairs.
I marveled at the feel of my body. I was buoyant with the absence of overwhelming pain. Outside pain, or promise of torment, I didn’t know who I was. I thought I would float away on a breeze, or that I could lift The Willow over my head. This was not my body, it couldn’t be. And yet, when I commanded it to move, it did. Aside from a dull stab that pulled the length of my left leg, my body had forgotten pain.
I still held myself with stiffness, anticipating pain with every movement. Everything was faster than it ever was. I dressed with ease and relied less on my staff for walking. Though because of the ghost ache in my left leg, I still limped.
The Willow was full of clamoring, hungry people ready to start their day. Every chair was full, and Dasha moved about at a frenetic pace, doing her best to keep up with orders, requests, and conversation. She waved me over to a small table close to the bar.
“You look well this morning,” she commented, heaping mountain high piles for food onto my plate. “It’s like you’re a different person!”
“Mmhmm,” I replied through mouthfuls of food.
“It would seem Cyrus knows what he’s doing after all.” Though her voice was as bright as usual, I’m sure I didn’t imagine the grimace in her face as she uttered her ex-lover’s name.
“It would seem that way.”
“What does he have you doing after you eat?”
“I’m supposed to go see him,” I answered. The patrons of The Willow had either put yesterday’s events behind them or were too enthralled in their own worlds to heed mine any mind. Whichever it was, I was pleased. But Dasha had not. She stood behind the bar, her hands wringing a dish towel. She smiled at me, but her eyes told a story of worry.
“I really do feel better.”
She had every reason to treat me the way she did. I looked away from Dasha, afraid my eyes would give away my secrets.
“Have you seen her this morning?” I asked in shame.
“No, but she usually doesn’t come in until lunchtime. You’ll have a chance to talk to her.”
“I’m not too sure she wants to talk to me.” Dasha placed her hand on my shoulder. I looked up at her and I saw a touch of melancholy scar her customary joy.
“She’ll come around. She’s a sensitive soul, and she’s been destroyed by her loss. Give her time and space. Love wages war in our hearts. Sometimes we win, and sometimes we lose.”
“I don’t know anything about love, Dasha. I don’t know what it means to love someone.” Liar.
“That makes me very sad. I hope you find that here.”
A large lump formed in my throat, and my face flushed with heat. I looked away from her because I couldn’t stand the warmth radiating from her eyes. She was too pure for this world. She who had been saved by a fairy and a unicorn, joy in human form. I have to kill him. I have to kill him so that Dasha always has a reason to smile.
Dasha went back to attend to the other patrons. I went back to my room to collect the potion for Cyrus. Jovial conversation was still in the air as I pushed myself out of the door of The Willow.
I was greeted by warm air and the sweet scent of wildflowers. There were happy people, going about their business, some lingered under the shade of Arion’s Tree. Birds sang, cats climbed, dogs played. A breeze ruffled through my hair. Leaves danced through the courtyard. For the first time, I was able to focus on the simple beauties of the world.
That won’t last long, I thought. You still have a mission. I couldn’t forget. This world wouldn’t stay safe as long as Maynard lived. Once Cyrus Healed me, and my Magic was strong, I would leave Haven’s End.
The apothecary was at the end of a shady street. It was nestled behind an overgrown garden, hiding behind a thick cover oy creeping ivy. I entered and could feel the change in the atmosphere. The air crackled and fizzed with wild energy. There were several cauldrons of all sizes strewn about. Some on fires, bubbling over with vivid colorful liquids. Others on tables, filled with thin plumes of smoke. The walls were lined with shelves, stuffed to the overflowing with herbs, crystals, books, and vials. A symphony of noises, smells, and colors swelled all around me. I found their crescendo at the center of the room. Cyrus stood beside an enormous cauldron perched on a roaring fire. He tended to the contents within with all the detached attention of someone who knew exactly what he was doing.
“Aren’t you afraid the fire will burn everything down?” I asked in lieu of a greeting.
“The flame is enchanted,” he answered. Cyrus looked me up and down. “Looks like you followed the instructions well. That’s good. How do you feel?”
“Amazing. I’ve never not been in pain.”
Cyrus made face at that.
“I see you’re still leaning on your staff a bit. Do you have any lingering discomfort?”
“There’s a dull ache on my left side when I put pressure on it.”
“Ah yes,” he lamented, coming over to me. “I had anticipated there would be something left over. You were in the worst condition I’ve ever treated. The Curse and Affliction will make it so that you can never be fully healed.”
“I know where the Affliction comes from. But what about the Curse?”
“What about it?”
“How can it be lifted?”
“I can’t lift something if I don’t know what it is. But not to worry. I can try to decipher it. For now, let me see those potions of yours.”
I handed him the vials of potion Calum had made for me. He brought them close to his face and twirled the contents. He popped the bottle open and sniffed it.
“Hmm. I’m not too sure what this is. I’ll need more time with it.”
“Okay. What’s in this large cauldron?” I asked, no longer able to contain my curiosity.
Cyrus’s shoulders slumped with years of heavy weariness.
“It’s a sleeping potion. Like you, the people here come from horrible lives. Many of them are terrorized at night by memories. This potion gives them a deep, dreamless sleep. It’s the potion people ask for the most. So, I make it in generous batches so that there is always some available.”
Even more reason to get out of here and find Magic’s champions.
“I can send you back with some if you wish.”
“No thank you.”
“I have a proposition for you.” He turned to face me; a fire lit in his eyes.
“I need help around here. And you need a job and to strengthen your Magic. I can teach you about Magic if you stay here and help me.”
That surprised me.
“Here? With you?”
“I have a small cottage behind the apothecary. It’s got plenty of room.”
“And what could I possibly learn from you? I’m not a Healer.”
“The Earth is the source of all Magic, and that is where potions come from. If you can understand Healing and potion-making, you’ll have better control over your Magic. I know there’s something more to you, Nox. Something you’re not telling me. Something you’re not telling anyone.”
“What makes you say that?”
“I’ve Healed everyone in this village. I’ve felt every dark corner, every hurt they’ve had. But all their turmoil combined doesn’t begin to match yours. This isn’t some happenstance, you being here. This is fate at work. I know it.”