Friday, February 17, 2012

The Curse Garden (Part 3 of 3)


Kit braced herself for the moment when the cheerful woman approaching got a good look at her face and realized who she was. She took a deep trembling breath. If these two wouldn’t help her, she didn’t know what she’d do.

The priest sensed her unease and sought to reassure her. “Do not worry, young lady. Rachel is a good-hearted woman.”

Rachel frowned as she reached them, running a brief eye over Kit before turning to the priest. “Father Malcolm? Who are you speaking to?”

A cold, hard realization settled into the pit of Kit’s stomach. A just penance, she thought. She had wished to be noticed, to be beautiful and lively, and now she was nothing. A thin voice that only the blind could hear.

“I’m sorry,” she whispered to the priest as she stared at the confused expression on the woman’s face. “I have to go.” She turned and ran back toward the town square where she hoped to find the healer. The priest shouted after her, but this time she was glad to be unseen.

***

Kit stared in horror at the empty shop windows. Dust settled in the corners of the glass, spiders had made their homes beneath the door knob and the rusted sign dangled precariously from its hinges. The healer was gone, and the space she’d occupied just days before left no hint that she’d ever been there at all.

Kit twisted the knob, knocking the cobwebs free, and pushed open the door. Inside was just as abandoned and empty as the fa├žade. No jars lined the cracked walls, and no smells drifted in the stale air. Kit made her way to the back of the shop, sweeping under the blue black curtain.

Sitting alone on the back wall sat a glass jar. Empty, it seemed, until Kit drew nearer. The jar was dusty, old, like everything else in the healer’s shop. Inside it laid a handful of dirt and a note on faded parchment. Kit twisted off the top and pulled out the paper.

Buried secrets in the garden lie
Like silent curses that were meant to hide
An evil growing deep within

The rest of the note had been eaten away by the dirt in the bottom of the jar. Frustration pricked her skin and made her face burn hot. Kit threw the jar and watched it shatter into pieces on the floor. She knew where she had to go, but with only half a cryptic note, Kit didn’t know what she’d find there.

***

Father Malcom thought Kit to be a lost soul, and it was close enough to the truth that she felt she ought not to correct him. He fed her, gave her a room for the night, and then packed her satchel with enough salt pork, bread, cheese, and apples to last nearly a week, before he sent her on her way. Two days swift travel, for now she knew the way, and Kit arrived at the garden.

Nothing seemed amiss; the same neat rows of flowers, and the same heavy scent of roses. Kit walked between the rows allowing her fingers to graze the petals of the largest blooms, careful not to prick her finger. She didn’t know exactly what she was looking for, but her feet shuffled along the path as if they knew the way.

Deeper into the garden she walked, until the rows of flowers gave way to open green bordered by stone gargoyles with menacing smiles. “Guardians.” Kit pinched her lip between her teeth. The word had slipped out without thought. She pulled her hands close to her sides and continued on past them, afraid to touch them for fear of what magic they held.

Kit neared the end of the garden, where a tall row of hedges carefully trimmed into the shapes of animals, like wolves and bears, made a barrier against the forest beyond. In the center of the hedge wall sat two gargoyle statues with a space big enough for a third in between them. This, Kit knew, was where she needed to go.

She knelt between the statues and pulled the rose bud from her satchel. She dug a small hole with the blade of her knife, and buried the rose.

Buried secrets in the garden lie

The air shifted and the scent of roses overpowered her, turning from heavenly sweet into something bitter and rotten.  The hedges began to move as if they might come alive and swallow her.

Inside her, Kit could feel it growing. The evil she’d tried to dispel was stirring, writhing like some great leviathan, coiling around her soul, ready to claim her.

One must never, ever do magic on themselves.

It started first in her toes, becoming solid, grounding her in the soil between the smiling gargoyles. It moved up her legs, forcing her into a crouch. Her skin hardened, grayed, like stone.

She’d wanted to be more, and in turn she was made less. This was righting the wrong that she had done. This was claiming her punishment for disobeying the laws of magic. This was her final penance. 

****************

Thanks for reading! As always, we hope you've enjoyed. Next week we take a break, and the following week we'll come back with something extra special for our readers! Stay tuned!

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