Timeless - Part One

Reads: 159  | Likes: 0  | Shelves: 0  | Comments: 1

More Details
Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic
Dogwood is a dumpster-diving magician who repairs magical doodads discarded by the wealthy. One day, a strange man comes to town and says he's on the run... from his wife! Fair warning- this story gets pretty sappy at the end. (Image created by Kim Traynor)

Submitted: December 10, 2014

A A A | A A A

Submitted: December 10, 2014



The saddle topped the newest gross of garbage funneled out of Fernico’s mansion like a flake of chocolate grated onto red velvet cake.  Dogwood reached down and pulled the red chunks of a destroyed carpet off it.  When held up in the day’s dying light, the saddle’s rare markings betrayed its true purpose.  The ordinary brown leather gave way to a pewter rim imprinted with inward facing blue triangles, designed to trap a certain type of magic like bear trap teeth.  A ghost saddle, he thought.  Should fetch at least four gold and six silver.

Dogwood glanced over the dumpster’s lip to see if anyone watched his harvest.  With the coast clear, he dove back into the refuse.  It always amazed him, the kinds of things the rich discarded.  For years he’d eked out a living as the town of Windgate’s resident magician.  Curse removal, common enchantments, and public potions only brought in about five silver a week though.  The richest folks in town, who resided in a row of mansions acting like a gold dam that kept the townspeople below free from a flood of wealth, got all their magic from imported sources.  They didn’t need his backyard skills, freeing them up to insult any of his magic they walked across as ‘filth’.  The joke’s on them now, Dogwood thought as he sifted through more trash.

“You can’t outrun taxes!” someone shouted from down the lane.  Used to having those comments aimed at him, Dogwood wondered how they’d spotted him from behind the mansion’s walls.  He tucked the saddle under his arm and leaned over the dumpster’s edge to see into the lane.  A middle-aged but fit man with a black goatee ran towards him, with the spirit of flight, rather than attack, flickering in his eyes.  Three more figures gave chase.  He recognized their gawky strides and squawking voices, realizing that if the black-haired man had angered them he’d most likely done nothing wrong.  As the distance between everyone closed, Dogwood pulled the saddle out and stared at it.  Four and a half gold down the drain.  He sighed.

“Hey, bearded friend! Catch,” Dogwood shouted before tossing the saddle to him.  He didn’t notice Dogwood quickly enough and was knocked to the ground by the saddle.  His head shot up in confusion and spun as he wondered why tax collectors would choose to throw saddles if not paid. 

“Get up!  Put it between your legs,” Dogwood ordered.  The man stood, but his confusion and fear of looking foolish prevented his following the second half of the advice.  Dogwood stole another glance at the pursuers, a mere thirty feet away now.  “I’m trying to help,” he yelled, “put it between your legs, pull up, and say ‘cevala fantomo’!” 

Realizing that looking foolish was marginally better than paying five bronze ingots to tax collectors who’d offer a fierce beating as a receipt, the bearded man stuck the saddle where instructed, pulled up gently enough to spare his ornamentation from harm, and repeated the words with the wing beat of air left in his lungs.

The saddle’s triangles started to glow a foggy purple.  Hoof prints appeared in the dirt as an invisible beast charged toward the saddle.  It lifted the bearded man violently onto its back as its corporeal form filled in.  It was a black stallion with purple eyes and mane that didn’t stay still long enough for anyone to be frightened of it; it took off soundlessly and charged through the tax collectors’ bodies without knocking them down.  The bearded man and his surprise steed sped into the distance.

The collectors, three odious scavengers named Tinthorn, Rye, and Blenny, stopped to catch their breath.  Blenny pointed at Dogwood and said between gasps, “So now you’re helping others cheat debt?”

“Of course not.  I tried hitting him with the saddle but he caught it.  How could I know it was magic?” Dogwood replied with a smirk.

“You know you owe us two silver ingots for everything you dig out of there with your filthy claws,” Rye warned.  Dogwood held up his empty hands. 

“Didn’t find anything today boys.  I’ve been wondering though… I keep giving ‘the town’ my silver, but I keep seeing you with new boots and fancy haircuts.  Why is that?”

“The town treats her servants well,” Tinthorn sneered.  “Get off Fernico’s property.  That’s a fine of three bronze for trespassing.”

With a flourish, Dogwood vaulted himself out of the dumpster and dug three ingots out of his pocket.  Never one for fancy dress, Dogwood’s outfit was less reminiscent of a magician and more like a traveling minstrel’s.  His puffy sleeves were rolled up past his elbows so they wouldn’t pick up the odors of rot and waste he sifted through each day.  Rye recoiled from Dogwood’s outstretched hand, not wanting to take the smelly blocks of metal.  He grabbed them quickly and dropped them with a clank into a large sack he carried over his shoulder.  Rye’s posture was already suffering under the weight of others’ treasures.  Soon he would be a useless hunchback, counting money in a dark vault somewhere for Fernico.

“Evening gentlemen,” Dogwood said as he set off for his home.  Every step away from the trio was one towards happiness.

Windgate was a lovely place if one ignored the majority of its inhabitants.  Dogwood savored what he could see as the light faded.  All the houses were lifted off the ground by five foot tall wooden stilts.  That way, when it rained and water ran down the mountain, Windgate’s people could soak their feet in the gentle current without thoughts of their floors rotting away. 

Dogwood looked up.  Bisecting the row of mansions was a light-tipped needle that shot up above all the buildings and trees.  The Raven’s Nest clock tower.  A large torch, lit at all hours of darkness, illuminated the clock’s face.  The men who owned the town wanted everyone to remember that a fresh day of work was always rapidly approaching.  Huge birds with midnight feathers roosted on its ornate precipices, cawing and fighting over the bugs drawn to the clock’s light.  The second hand seemed to follow Dogwood as he walked under the tower.  He noticed little sparkles along its side and wondered why so much detail had gone into the hands.  They weren’t wooden or forged in some pig iron trough.  They were a fine black metal with a razor’s shine, as if the hands sliced through every moment to free the next one.

When he finally paid attention to what the clock was actually saying Dogwood picked up the pace.  She would arrive soon.  To leave her alone for even a moment would be like stealing bits of the floor from beneath her feet.

Dogwood’s house was just as unassuming as the rest, but those who understood magic would sense its numerous alterations.  It was surrounded by a variety of fencing charms and warning spells.  Each time the trio of collectors came by and stole or harassed, he would struggle to find a new one to keep them out.  As he passed through the doorway a ‘clean screen’ spell pulled the smell of garbage off him and sent it up into the air.

He was greeted by the scents of his home: patina, mint from a small plant on the windowsill, and a host of potion ingredient traces.  He breathed deeply.

 “I’m home Cogwick,” he said, and looked over at a golden device on his mantle.  It was composed of several small gold windmills that turned with a clock-like tick.  A group of faucets surrounded them, pouring the same water into the device’s base that had been pouring for eight hundred years.

In the corner of the device’s base, far from the city-like collection of windmills and spouts, there was a tiny polished outhouse.  Its door swung open and a bronze figure, barely a honeybee tall, stepped out.  Lacking any arms, the figure’s hands were attached to his body by way of flexible springs.  One of them stretched out and waved a hand at Dogwood.

“Evening sir,” the figure said with his voice magically filling the room.  “Did you find anything good?”

“Oh yes.  Fernico threw out a ghost saddle.  I guess his interest in riding is waning.  The fool didn’t even know its power.  Judging by the markings I would guess it was made by the people of the slate pyramids.  The spirit attached to it sure was fast.”

“Did it run so fast that you fell off?  It looks like it escaped you.”

“Our three friends were trying to rob a traveler.  I tossed him the saddle so he could escape.”

“Your kindness is inspiring sir.”

“Is it kindness that powers you Cogwick?  Or inspiration perhaps?”

“Nice guesses sir, but no.  You couldn’t power these mills with such transient things… You’d better get to bed sir.  She’ll be here any moment, ready to keep you powered for tomorrow.”

“Of course.  Goodnight Cogwick.”

“Sweet visitations sir,” Cogwick said as he returned to his outhouse and closed the door.

“Malluma,” Dogwood whispered.  The lanterns in the house shut themselves off.  He approached the bed and sat on it gingerly, pulling the covers off and watching the pillows.  Somewhere, a world away, she was closing her eyes.  Somewhere, her mind slipped into a dream, freefalling through realms of formless magic, and landing in love.

A white mist precipitated in the cabin.  Slow spirals of it stretched into lazy cyclone shapes, and joined their tails together.  Dogwood reached out and felt the mist slip through his fingers, like the cool air that borders a campfire’s warmth.  The tail of the mist burrowed under the blankets and laid its other end on the pillow.  The entire shape sublimated into a sleepy female figure.  Her skin, only a magic representation of the real thing, was whiter than the snow on resting dove’s wings.  She opened her eyes, to dream of being with her love.

Chapter Two

Darter would have to thank that garbage-coated man, assuming the demonic horse he rode didn’t gallop to Hell with him onboard.  After bouncing violently on the beast’s back for a while, he managed to gain control.  His initial attempts to steer the horse failed because his heels went right through its sides.  How to indicate direction? He thought.  Either Windgate is more exotic than I thought… or this beast is magic.  What are the blasted charm words for direction?  Everglade would kill me if she knew I couldn’t remember the basics.  Let’s see… left… left is…

“Maldekstra!” He declared into the phantom horse’s ear.  The beast turned.  Darter set it back on course for Windgate.  It was a long shot, but maybe that dumpster diver could help him.  After all, what he needed was another escape plan, one infinitely cleverer than a ghostly steed.

Tinthorn’s stein smashed onto the table with a clang.  His anger translated into an angry wave of foam that spilled over the stein’s rim and drenched his fingers.  He stuck out his tongue and licked his hand to clean it. 

“I’ve had it with that Dimwood!” he howled.

“I think it’s Dogwood,” Blenny said.

“I know you blasted idiot, I was making a joke.”

The trio of tax collectors busied themselves with free drinks.  The bartender was beginning to realize that trading tax breaks for free ambrosia wouldn’t work if each one of them drank like sewer drains.  Everyone had vacated the bar, afraid to be fined, leered at, or both.

“Just think of all the stuff he’s probably got in his place,” Rye commented.  “Since Fernico doubled the magic tax we could get a silver for everything he’s got.  Bankrupt that lousy charmer, you know?”

“Well then you go ahead and go in Rye,” Tinthorn said.  “And when one of his security spells ties your fingers in a shipman’s knot you can’t come crying to me.”  Tinthorn contemplated something for a moment.  He wiped his sticky hand on Rye’s shoulder before patting it like the two were brothers.  “I’ve got it.  I’ve only ever sent one of you in there.  Rye got that rash shaped like a hornet...”

“Stung something nasty,” Rye added.

“And Blenny his next spell did… what was it?”

“This boot picked itself up off the floor and started kicking me… you know… in the rump, until I was out the door.”

“Mhmm,” Tinthorn pondered.  “That’s it.  Both of you can go tomorrow.  One of you will walk in first, trigger the traps, and make it safe for who goes next.  Then when you get in you take inventory of his magic doohickeys, and confiscate anything that looks particularly fun.”

“But...” said Blenny.

“Who goes first?” Rye finished.

Tinthorn pulled on the leather cord to his sack.  His hand dug around and made a metallic clatter that grated on the bartender’s ears.  To the trio it sounded like music.  He pulled out one bronze ingot and one silver; then he closed each of his hands around one.  He stuck his hands behind his back and shuffled them back and forth before re-presenting his closed fists.

“Bronze goes first.  Now pick.”

A knock on the door jarred Dogwood from slumber.  At first he thought his love had fallen out of bed and hit her head on the floor but, of course, she was gone already.  Her sleeping form had dissipated with the mist as soon as the first ray of sunlight came through.

He uprooted himself from bed and struggled to free his leg from a clinging sheet.  After kicking it away, he smoothed down his brown hair and tossed on a moderately clean green tunic.  Dogwood glanced through the peephole on his front door to make sure it wasn’t Tinthorn’s gang.  He knew that was unlikely, since bad intentions would have triggered his security spells.  He pulled the door open.

“Thank you for your help,” Darter said and held out the ghost saddle.  Dogwood took it and tossed it onto the bed.

“You shouldn’t have come back,” he said, “If they see you they’ll double the tax and chase you again.”

“Well I hope you’ll let me in then.  The name’s Darter by the way.”  Dogwood held out his hand to usher Darter inside.  He took a quick glance outside, trying to spot the rat like faces of Rye or Blenny.  Nothing.  He closed the door.

“So why would you bother coming to this trash heap twice?” He asked Darter, who had just sat down and started to look about at the cabin’s many oddities.

“Trash heap?  Well the people don’t seem the friendliest but the architecture is lovely.”

“I think you’ll find ‘trash heap’ is less of an insult than I made it sound.  My question stands though.”

“Ahh,” Darter said.  “I’m on the run… and I’m looking for a magician that can help me out.  I can pay handsomely.  When you tossed me such a wondrous thing I figured you must know something of magic.”

“I know the rubbish of magic,” Dogwood explained. “I know what people throw away and disregard.  I practice with the little things and cobble together what I can from secondhand skills and rarely successful experiments.  If you need magical help, I may not be the best source.”

“Is there a better source in this town?” Darter asked.

“Frankly, no,” Dogwood replied.

“Then you’re my source Mr… I’m sorry I didn’t catch the name.”


“Mr. Dogwood… I need you to help me escape… my wife.” 

There was an awkward pause.  Dogwood experienced a pang of regret at opening his door.  He wasn’t exactly Merlin but he had too much dignity to mix love potions or erase memories of a spouse’s infidelity.

“Maybe you’d better start at the beginning,” Dogwood said.

“Very well.  We met as teenagers.  Things were fine until she told me of bonding…”

Chapter Three

The tent was one of many, a button of purple on a festive dress laid across the meadows.  The carnival of magic was in the town of Lynxtree for its annual visit.  Townsfolk flooded between rows of tents looking to buy exotic foodstuffs and enchanted trinkets.

The tent flew a flag emblazoned with a yellow heart.  A white wooden gate at its entrance flap welcomed in nervous couples and then magically collapsed into a fence, so only one couple could enter at a time.  It was imperative that no one but the partners and the shaman lay their eyes on the tent’s purpose, for the public seeing it would defeat its whole point.  The force of one pair of eyes could collapse the magic like a bridge built from dandelion fluff.  The gate opened once again.

A teenage Darter looked towards it.  Worry was written across his face.  His partner, a mousy but beautiful girl with hazelnut hair, confident eyes, and a round face, grabbed his hand.  She was gorgeous in an unearthly way separate from her appearance, like stained glass tree roots or a blanket of autumn leaves that reflected light and absorbed harsh sounds.

“I don’t know about this Everglade,” Darter confessed.

“Of course you do my love,” Everglade assured.

The two walked, hand in hand, into the tent.  Its interior was dark, lit only by a diameter of multicolored candles that spilled light on the cloth walls.  The only sound was the gentle breeze outside collapsing weakly on the tent’s fabric.  A figure emerged, the love shaman, wrapped in a cloak of the same shade of purple surrounding them.  Aged hands with immaculately clean nails pulled the hood away. 

The shaman was an elderly man with a cotton beard and two foamy splashes of white hair above his ears.  His eyes radiated kindness and enthusiasm, like a wandering rabbit ready to start its thousandth family.  Darter was still unsettled though, for the cloak blended with the wall and gave him the impression a floating severed head would be performing the ceremony.

“Ahh.  Come in young ones.  Please take seats opposite each other, around the dish.  I will take your old lives and blend a new one filled with joy,” the shaman said.

The two took their seats on thick cushions.  Between them was a large marble dish, its rim divided up into two circles with multiple sections and pictographs.

“Everglade?” Darter whispered, “Remind me why I’m sure.”

“Because you love me.  Try and deny it,” she challenged.

Darter took a momentary dive into the well of his soul.  A projection of himself swam in its shallow waters, enjoying the freedom of movement, the splashing, and the open space.  Below that, in the depths, Everglade’s voice called to him.  He felt the warmth of her affection pulling him down.  He wanted to be on his own, but the core of him wanted her more.

“I can’t deny it.”

“Let us begin,” the shaman chimed and clapped his hands.  He took a seat at one side of the dish and waved his hands about: first in front of Darter, then Everglade, then over the dish, then through that cycle twice more.  “Ligilo eki,” he murmured, bringing the dish to life.  The inner circle slowly spun clockwise with the outer one going in reverse.  “Join hands.”

Darter and everglade reached across the dish and clasped each other’s hands.  Darter shooed away the sound of shackles clanking shut that interrupted his concentration.

The circles slowed and stopped.  The symbol in front of Darter was a roaring wave while Everglade’s was a mighty tree in full bloom.

The shaman cleared his throat for the standard explanation.  He had recently started the lengthy speeches after having been run out of a few towns for bonding children who their parents considered too young.  Love is ageless, he would explain.  They rarely listened.

“Young lady.  Your soul is of the element wood: nurturing and strong, but also inflexible and slow to heal.  You are complemented, nourished, by your young man,” he gestured towards Darter, “who is of the element water: adaptable and inspiring, but also tempestuous and selfish.  Only souls of complementary or parallel structure may be bonded.  Wood to wood or water.  Fire matches to fire or metal, which gives fire direction and purpose.  For metal bonded to wood would chop it to splinters, and fire bonded to water would be extinguished.  Now you will reveal your spirits to each other and feel your love cemented, feel the ageless bond that won’t weather.  Animo ligilo ligno akvo.”

The incantation snuffed out the candles and lit the dish with a sourceless light.  Darter felt himself moving forward, but nothing in the room shifted.  A circular spot on his shirt grew dark and clung to his skin.  He challenged himself greatly, trying to look down at his sternum to see the damp circle growing.  Soon the edge of a sphere poked through the fabric at the patch’s center.  It effortlessly hovered out of Darter’s chest and orbited the edge of the dish.  An endless circle of tides, the watery orb made sounds like the beach and, somehow simultaneously, the quiet of the ocean floor and the plinking of rain on dried clay.  Darter watched his own soul circle and tried not to think about the shaman, who could reach into the miniature world he and Everglade were sharing and destroy it all.  A simple slap could turn his whole being into a moist spot on the tent wall.

Everglade watched the watery moon with fascination.  Part of her wanted to wrap it in glass and wear it as a pendant.  Other, more mature parts, reminded her that what was about to happen was much more complex and meaningful.  It wasn’t jewelry, or a water sprite, it was human essence.  It was the love of her life, abridged as much as possible until only the core remained.  Then, one final quivering part of her remembered that hers was forthcoming as well.

They all three watched as a wooden sphere emerged from Everglade.  It was laced with moss in continent-like shapes.  It creaked gently like an old door and smelled like acorns.  It joined Darter’s sphere, following the edge of the dish.  The two slowed down and entered the dish’s diameter.  Under the full influence of the magic, the two spheres now circled each other and descended.  When they struck the surface of the dish a note rang out, like all the bells and flutes in a marriage orchestra ringing and singing at once.  The note was the only thing that left the tent during the ceremony.  Other couples standing outside, enjoying festival food and the laughter of their children, heard the note and smiled at each other knowingly.

The spheres lost their solidity and spread across the dish.  The two substances twisted around each other in fluid veins, dancing and spinning in small whirlpools.  Eventually the puddle’s motion slowed and it split down the middle.  Most of the water pulled itself towards Darter while the wood crawled towards Everglade like an affectionate pup.  The spheres reformed and lifted into the air.

Everglade’s wooden little planet was now given life by a thin river running down its side.  It broke into infinitely small tributaries and mixed Darter’s energy with her own.  Darter’s ocean world had a thick vine tangling around it, acting like a stem for some transparent water-filled fruit. 

Darter’s awe once again gave way to anxiety as his sphere approached its origin point.  Once it was in there was no stopping it.  Everglade would be with him always, her opinions whispered behind his own.  When she felt sadness he would feel it like a storm cloud over his heart.  The sphere drew closer.  Was this a good idea?  It was love yes… but whoever said that was a good idea?  Closer.  Darter looked to his partner.  She was smiling.  Doubt was as dead to her as dragon bones.  His muscles relaxed.  If she is certain, so am I.  As close as can be.

“So you had your souls bonded,” Dogwood commented.

“Yes, so you see the problem.”

“Mhmm,” Dogwood confirmed, “There’s a part of her in you and she senses the direction of that piece.  Given time she can find you anywhere.”

“Not only that, but I feel it when she gets closer.  It makes my flight all the more stressful.”

“Why flee the love of your life?” Cogwick asked.  He had silently emerged from his home during Darter’s account.

Darter jumped up.  It was surprise instead of fear that moved him though.  A second later he leaned in like a drinking stork and scrutinized the little bronze man.

“Incredible,” he muttered and reached a finger out to touch Cogwick, “Did you enchant this yourself?”

“No,” Dogwood said.  “I found him in the dump two miles south of here.  The water was barely flowing and some of the pieces were terribly bent and tarnished.  It would have been terrible if it had stopped moving.”

“Why is that?” Darter asked.

“The man who owned it, like most people here who have gold bars for brains, didn’t understand what it was.  He probably bought it at some roadside magic stand simply because it was expensive and then used it as a parchment weight until something shinier and more expensive caught his eye.  Then he threw it out.”

“I’d clean his clock if I had the chance,” Cogwick added.

“Brave Cogwick here, who doesn’t like to be touched….” Darter’s hand recoiled. “…is the mechanic for the device he lives in.  What you’re looking at is a perpetual motion machine.”

Darter turned to Dogwood and let a skeptical tiss sound escape his mouth’s corner.

“Those are impossible.  My lovely pursuer taught me that neither magic nor science can propel things infinitely.  Curses lie dormant until emotions trigger and power them.  Enchantments wear off.  Potions die with the animal or plant matter hosting them.  And you’re telling me you found the most revolutionary device ever in a heap of egg shells and bent nails?”

“Exactly,” Dogwood beamed.  “Although it doesn’t appear to be magic that powers it.  Cogwick keeps its parts from wearing out but he only has traces of establishing magic on him, nothing active.  Months of research has revealed nothing but exasperation.  No matter how old the tome or what dialect it’s in, the only word that greets my queries is ‘impossible’: an iron lock on my understanding.”

“So he’s resorted to guessing,” Cogwick said.

“Cogwick says he’ll tell me when I get it right,” Dogwood finished.  His recount of failure put a sour taste in his mouth, so he held up his hands like a sturdy flower and spun around, drawing attention to the other objects lining the wall.

“Cogwick and his home are the crown jewel of my collection.  The richest in Windgate have the money but I have the wealth.  All these things were thrown away by the crumbling upper crust who didn’t understand their true powers or histories.”

“So that’s why you were able to help me, you were looking for things to restore and sell.  I just thought Windgate had a remarkably kind homeless population,” Darter said.

“You won’t usually find even mild kindness here,” Dogwood cautioned, “The townsfolk work hard but they’re made callous by Fernico’s stingy salaries.”

“Fernico?” Darter asked.

“The richest of the rich.  The man can afford ocean caviar, way up in the mountains, that’s been magically sealed in glass jars.  And guess what?  He feeds it to his dog while we eat salted rabbit and shriveled potatoes.”

“Dogwood,” Cogwick interrupted.  “The man isn’t here for a social justice lecture.”

“Oh of course…. I get so caught up.  Tell us Darter… why are you fleeing your own wife?”

Darter spun the tale of the oppressed man.  Dogwood did his best to avoid picturing him as a whining teenager trying to escape his family’s cramped dinner table. 

Apparently his love for Everglade was so strong that it suppressed his sense of self.  After making love to her he felt like little more than a mosquito that had stolen a bit of life to fuel its own. 

Dogwood and Cogwick didn’t pretend to understand his urge to escape, his need to be a free roaming stallion, but Darter offered a handful of gold ingots for some magical assistance.  He shared the lead that had pulled him to Windgate… the tale of a powerful object which could sever emotional bonds like a sword through yarn.  If it was real, it could free him from his own smothering pathetic affection.

Dogwood looked at the pile of gold.  There was probably something he could do…

Chapter Four

The chamber’s tall windows were veiled with purple curtains, turning the room an opulent, glutted violet.  The marble floor and support pillars gave the room a grand echo and masked its true purpose as a laboratory.  Its huge doors swung open and a group of four entered.  They were led by a wrinkly magician with surprisingly swift mannerisms.  His beard was braided into a giant rope tied in a hoop under his neck, looking like a coiled bullwhip. 

“This is the machine.  It was completed just hours ago.  I left only a little time for polishing before I sent for you,” he said, gesturing to a massive structure in the chamber’s center.  A couple in fine garments and silver ornamentation scrutinized the machine.  Between them, a little girl looked straight up, trying to see the device’s topmost point the way she had with the great trees when walking through the family’s personal park.  Only seven years old, everything loomed over her.  The magician was a tower, her parents were trees, and the sun was a lantern probably placed by the tallest being of all.

She was only marginally aware of the device’s purpose.

“It will make you prettier darling,” her mother had told her that morning.  “The other girls will be so jealous.”

Bathed in purple light, the machine’s glass section was like a bubble in a vast tub of violet dye.  Its overall shape, like an upside down wine glass, connected to a stone base and a gigantic silver faucet that opened into the glass. 

The young Everglade pulled free of her father’s hand and ran up to it.  She placed her palms and face up against the glass and blew on it, leaving distinctly mischievous and oily prints on its surface.

“Malfermi,” the magician said.  The device hissed and released puffs of mist.  The glass shape popped off the base and lifted high into the air, knocking Everglade onto her tailbone.  She stood up and rubbed her back, not paying attention to the white-robed servant girl who scuttled in.  She wore a white cloth over her lower face, for she carried a sack full of possibly toxic substances on her back.  The servant ascended a curve of glass stairs on the faucet to reach a basin on the device’s top. Into it she poured the sack.  Out came a landslide of dried seeds, brown salt crystals, and powdered bloods.  When the last pinch of it was in, the basin sealed itself with the startling sound of anvils tossed at each other.  The servant girl nearly fell backward off the stairs in shock.  Before leaving, she gave Everglade a worried look, as if saying: I wish I was your mother.

“Remind us again of the concoction’s intended effect,” Everglade’s father said.  He frowned, displeased by the echo of his own voice.

“The mixture wasn’t what I expected,” Everglade’s mother complained. “I was thinking it would look more like potpourri.”  The magician did his best to not roll his eyes at her remark.

“It is a mixture of coastal salts, local herbs with calming effects, and dried doe blood.  It’s been enchanted by myself and enhanced with supervisory charms from the head magician.  It will make your daughter… the talk of the town.”

“Very well,” Everglade’s father said.  “Sweetheart.  Step inside the glass for daddy.”

Everglade looked apprehensively from her father to the machine.  She tapped the glass with her finger and listened to its menacing ring, like starving chicks screaming at each other.  She was vaguely frightened of it, understanding the cold feeling in her throat more than the benign features of the device.  Her little shoes tapped as she stepped inside, head tilted up.

“Good luck darling,” her mother called, with all the pride of a queen watching her daughter’s coronation.

“Fermi,” the magician ordered.  The glass closed again, cutting Everglade off from the rest of the room.  She was very aware of the sound of her own breathing.  Her parents, whose heads appeared disproportionately large through the glass waved to her.  She was too scared to lift her own hand.  Everglade saw the hand prints she had made moments ago.  Suddenly, they seemed like a reflection.  They were all that was left of the old her, the natural her.

“Infuzi,” the magician said.  The top of the faucet hissed and spun.  A jet of gray smoke poured from the nozzle and sank to the device’s stand.  The heavy gas crawled around Everglade’s feet like lethargic eels and quickly covered her socks.  She screamed and cried.  The gas filled the round chamber until her parents could see nothing but the cloud.  It was so nice to have access to such magic.  To make your children match their class.

© Copyright 2018 Blaine Arcade. All rights reserved.

Add Your Comments:


More Fantasy Short Stories