Timeless - Part Three

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic
This is the conclusion of my sappy fantasy story.(Image created by Kim Traynor)

Submitted: December 10, 2014

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Submitted: December 10, 2014

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Chapter Eight

Tinthorn stopped peeling paint once the blank spot became noticeably large.  Still waiting impatiently, he started stomping his foot to pass the time.  Fernico loved to draw these things out, to cherish every drop of sadness spilling from the parasites’ faces.

“Next,” Fernico’s voice called out.

“Finally,” Tinthorn grumbled as he entered the office. 

The woman leaving looked surprisingly happy.  The only time joy ever left that office was when it was nestled on the homeowner’s face.  Tinthorn didn’t bother to sit down. 

“Sir, that ratty wizard has taken one of my men.  I need you to sign an arrest warrant.”

“And why would I do that?” Fernico asked.  Tinthorn’s hands dropped.  He stuttered for a moment, and then bothered thinking of something to say.

“Well I need my men to collect the taxes sir.  Your taxes.”

“Tinthorn did you know that money is made of metal?  Just little bits of metal.”

“Yes sir… they’re valuable though.”

“I can’t, for the life of me, figure out why I thought so…  It just seems to take up space now… and I think I remember someone saying gold was technically toxic.  I must go check.  Off with you now, you’re fired,” Fernico said casually, waving Tinthorn away with his hand.  He stood up from the desk and walked out of the room.  Tinthorn heard him shooing the rest of the line out of the mansion.

“He’s cast a spell on his brain,” Tinthorn muttered.  His rage was a snarling beast with nothing to do now but nip at his own ankles.  He kicked the desk.

After freeing the town from greed, Dogwood took the rest of the day’s light examining the clock hand.  It had been a bit rash to wield it but he couldn’t stand to see the chains that bound his neighbors.  The hand showed him what a tangle the human mind was and how all its colors bled together to make the soul weary.

Cogwick stuck his head out of a window frame on one of the motion machine’s tiny towers.

“Dogwood.  She’ll be here any minute.”

“What?  Oh thank you Cogwick.  Good night.” 

Cogwick retreated into the machinery for the night.  Dogwood stood up and positioned himself in front of his bed.  The hand would be very useful in a few moments.  His love would appear to him in her magical form, the form that allowed her to see him even though they lived oceans apart, and beckon him into bed.  Then he could use the hand’s power to prove her significance.  He would see the bond of love connecting them and know, for sure, she wasn’t an illusion; she was a flesh and blood person who had found a way to visit the soul mate she’d never actually met.

He lit a candle.  The deep purple of sunset gave way to clean, white moon beams.  He stared at the bed, scanning the air for the first signs of her astral form.

The mist faded into existence.  It swirled as it had every night for months now, pulling her to him across the distance and the loneliness.  Her head appeared.  Like a falling curtain, the rest of her body followed.  Her smile, teeth as white as frost, greeted him.  Dogwood didn’t know if magic gave her face features or if those were the ones she was born with.  Her hair was thin, dark, and luminous while her eyes refused to open all the way.  She looked both alert and half-asleep.  Maybe that’s how people on the other side of the world look, he thought.  An old story of thin-eyed people coming ashore in strange boats tiptoed in his memory.

The spell’s moratorium on words prevented her from speaking to him, but her gestures said it all.  She wanted him to join her.  They could hold each other once again.  She’d found the magic to make it real.  Their names were still hidden to each other but their souls were not.  His element was wood, as was hers.

Dogwood thought about Darter’s watery heart with the branch wound in.  A stalactite of emptiness broke through the ceiling of his spirit.  She was here, but she wasn’t.  She was moonlight.

She looked at him questioningly, worry pressing on her lips as impossible words.  She looked about to whimper.  Why are you not joining me? Her eyes asked.

Dogwood gripped the hand tightly between his.  He concentrated, staring at his radiant mate and waiting for the bond to appear between them.  The ticking magic of the hand shook his arms, but nothing appeared.

The look in her eyes deepened, as if she was seeing him burn to death.  I’ve been her constant, Dogwood thought, no wonder she’s upset.  For months I’ve been the same as sunrise, inevitable.  I’m not coming this time.  I’m sorry my love… but it isn’t real.  Something about it isn’t real. Dogwood started sobbing but refused to let his hands move.  He waited and waited for the line of love to draw itself between them.  Nothing.  He whipped his head around, sprinkling tears on the bedding, to find the bond.  His back was clear.  Nothing attached to his arms, knees, or chest.  He felt like he was wheeling through the emptiness of space, literally nothing tying him to anything else.

She opened her mouth in a silent howl.  Tears began streaking across her face as well.  She only knew that something was coming between them.  Dogwood knew it was doubt.  Whatever enchantment she had used, it only worked if they both believed in the bond.  He could feel his certainty slipping away like blood from a severed artery.

She started to fade.  Dogwood shouted and flung the hand away.  He tried to grab for her hand but when their fingers touched hers dissolved around him into white smoke. She retracted her handless arm and wept, each tear pulling trails of her form with it.  The last thing he saw was her eyes.  The pupils sparkled once and then vanished, leaving his bed emptier than it had ever been.

Dogwood sobbed into his pillow.  Cogwick watched silently, having been roused by his friend’s shouts.  He dared not say anything for he knew there was no moment more fragile, more vulnerable to perversion by anger.  Anything that interrupted his sorrow would become the thing that destroyed the love of his life.  So he observed.  Cogwick’s world never stopped moving but Dogwood’s was stiller than a pearl in a fossil shell.  His loss was concrete, more so than she had ever been in his arms.

The clock hand stuck out of the wall, Dogwood’s toss having lodged it in the wood.

Chapter Nine

Darter had been nervously wandering around the two hallways on the inn’s second floor for hours.  His wife was so close now that it woke him from sleep.  He didn’t want to go banging on Dogwood’s door like a maniac.  He could wait until morning; she wouldn’t be here quite that soon.  Still, he could feel her arms around his waist and smell her breath.

It was getting increasingly difficult to wander nervously though.  The halls were filling with people.  The bar was downstairs but it seemed to be running out of room.  Each stair leading up to Darter’s floor supported two or three people.  Some of them were shouting back down the stairs while the ones far from the action grumbled to each other.  What’s the whole town got to discuss at five in the morning? Darter thought.

When he rounded the corner the next time he found he couldn’t go through the crowd.  Someone, already annoyed at being so far from the shouting, stared at him.  Darter was, after all, the only one in bed clothes.

“Sir could I trouble you to tell me what’s interrupted my sleep?” Darter asked, pretending it wasn’t Everglade that woke him.

“It’s that lousy blueblood Fernico.  Someone told me he’s gone and thrown away all his money,” the man responded with vitriol.

“It’s his right to throw it away isn’t it?” Darter asked.

“Not when he employs three quarters of everyone in town it isn’t.  He just threw it out.  I heard a bunch of gypsies grabbed it up from the trash and rode out of town an hour later.  I’m due to be paid tomorrow and I can’t go another two weeks without silver.” The man replied.  A new voice rose from the bottom of the stairs.  It was so much louder than the rest that it sent everyone into a hush.  Darter could hear it plainly.

“It’s not his fault.  I know what’s wrong with him!  It’s that magic-flinging worm Dogwood.  He trapped one of my men in his house earlier today and when he came out there was something wrong with his head.  He didn’t even care he’d been locked up in a box for hours.  You think it’s a coincidence that on the same day Fernico suddenly decides to topple a throne of gold?  Dogwood hexed him!” Tinthorn announced to the crowd as he paced across the bar, sliding half-empty glasses out of the way with his feet.

“Dogwood’s work keeps us alive!” someone shouted.

“Yeah, without that magic rabbit bait he cooked up my family would be naught but bones right now.  Why would he make Fernico bankrupt everybody?” another face in the crowd asked.  Tinthorn sneered.

“His hex made Fernico put most of the town’s gold in a dumpster.  Who in our town spends the most time looking through dumpsters?”  Everyone went quiet.  Darter backed away from the stairs and headed towards his room.  Just what I needed, he thought. An angry mob after my employee.

He got dressed as fast as possible, ignoring the waves of shouting and forcing his mind to garble the words so he wouldn’t understand them.  He pulled on his socks so tightly that they snapped against the skin.  He wouldn’t be able to just wade through the crowd beneath him.  Surely the tax collectors would be there and they wouldn’t be happy to see him again.

Darter opened the window.  It was only the second floor.  He’d jumped further than that without breaking any bones.  He’d made it out of a third story one when the minutes before his wedding had given him cold feet.  She had eventually caught up to him.  They had married.  She would catch up again. Unless he could…

He leapt out of the window, leaving most of his belongings and Dogwood’s egg chamber behind.  They had to use the hand now, before the mob tore them both to shreds.

“Someone’s coming,” Cogwick said as he glanced out the window. It was the first thing he dared to say since she had dissipated the night before.  Dogwood was still crying.  His body had not run out of tears despite how moist the bed sheet had gotten as he wiped it across his eyes.  Each moment he thought they would dry out his eyes just clenched tighter and squeezed more droplets out.  The sadness may have been as infinite as Cogwick’s home if there were no interruptions.

“Who is it?” Dogwood sniveled. 

“It looks like Darter.  He’s limping.  Best get up now Dogwood.  Sadness passes time without stopping it.  People still need your help.”

Dogwood stood up and furiously wiped a blanket across his face.  It irritated his skin and turned it red, making the signature patches of sobbing under his eyes less obvious.  He breathed deeply and went to pull the clock hand out of the wall.  His hands recoiled for a moment.  He was afraid to touch it, to see her again.  Perhaps her spell had bonded her to the hand.  Maybe all he would see when touching it was the web of morose madness he had now wrapped himself in.  He pictured the two of them cocooned like spider’s prey, wriggling helplessly.  There was an alarmed knock on the door.  Dogwood wrenched the hand free and went to answer.  Darter spilled into the house and flopped to the floor so he could grip his leg and hiss with pain.

“What happened?” Dogwood asked.

“I’ll tell you what happened.  Everyone and their torch-wielding mother thinks you’re stealing the town’s gold with brain-chaining spells!  There’s no way I left more than five minutes before they boiled over.  They’re coming to get you.”

“What!?  Why would they think that?”

“That tax thug.  Some man mentioned Fernico threw out all his money and then Tinthorn brought up how you know magic and like to rifle through old smelly things.”

“He threw it out?  He wasn’t supposed to do that… I just wanted him to stop hoarding it… I did it for everyone.”

“Yeah that’s what I… wait.  You actually did this?”

“I used the hand to sever his love for money.  I hoped it would spread the town’s wealth.”

“You idiot!  All you’ve spread is a wealth of anger.  Quickly, use the hand to sever my wife’s bond before we run out of time.”

Dogwood concentrated.  A dense whirl of red thorny ropes was wrapped around his body.  So much anger, Dogwood thought, I just wanted to help.  He cut one of the ropes and was startled by the hissing steam that came out.  He swung wildly, cutting as many as he could in an attempt to slash an emotional loophole into the situation.  New ropes grew to replace them.  The slashed ones repaired themselves quickly and squeezed more tightly around him.  They’re a mob.  Every time one of them is calmed down he’s automatically flared up again by those around him.  There’s too much anger to stop.

“Did you do it?” Darter asked franticly, unaware Dogwood’s efforts weren’t focused on him.

“No, help me escape and then I’ll free you from her.”

“What!  Why?  I don’t have time for that!”

“I’m sorry, but I need all the help I can get.”  The sounds of a running, shouting glob of rage reached their ears.  It came through the open door like death through an arrow wound.

Chapter Ten

They fled Dogwood’s house on the ghost saddle, making for the tree line at the edge of the village.  The initial path was blocked by a section of the mob wielding crossbows.  Their second path ended in failure when Dogwood ran headlong into one of his own enchantments that he’d sold to a farmer wanting to protect his cattle.  Several bulls made of grass and wood rose out of the ground and chased them back into the town’s borders.  The beasts surrounded them at an old hay-filled barn.  One of them rammed the ghost horse; the shock of magic smashing into magic destroyed them both.  Dogwood and Darter barely made it inside. 

The barn was flimsy, the wood a sickly white-gray color.  Everything inside splintered as badly as the hay.

Dogwood pulled the barn doors shut just as two horns made of heartwood crashed through.  They pulled back, allowing the trapped men to look through the holes.  They saw the glinting weapon tips carried by the townsfolk.  Dogwood imagined one of those glints had to be Tinthorn’s bear trap smile.

“Can’t you just turn this charm off?” Darter asked, choking back fear.

“No, customers prefer foolproof ones.” 

The sounds of the populace reached them again.  The mob paid no attention to the enchanted bulls and welcomed them into the storm of rage.  Hatchets smacked into the walls.  Shovels clanged against the door hinges.  The whole building creaked and wobbled like a diseased stork unsteady on its feet.

Again, Dogwood tried to cut through the tangles of anger.  He spun in circles; the sound of emotional tendrils snapping filled his ears.  Alas, they just reformed as the mob’s cries stoked the negative emotions.

The end of a hoe broke through one of the walls and wiggled menacingly.  Dogwood kicked it back and held his hand up to the hole in the wall.

“Fermi Hiato!” he shouted.  A puff of white smoke shot out of his hand and sealed the hole with what looked like foggy glass.  The hoe reared its dull head again and broke through like the spell was nothing.

“That’s not working,” Darter wailed.

“What do you want?” Dogwood asked, “I’m not some warrior, I sell magic knick knacks!”  He tried in vain to seal some more holes that appeared in the building’s front.  Darter busied himself by stacking hay bails in front of the doors.  He did his best to bottle his fear and funnel that energy into his muscles.  He half-groaned and half-sobbed each time he set a bail down.  Either Everglade would arrive or he would be strung up by an entire town.  They both sounded insufferable.

Dogwood prepared for the end.  He held the magic hand up in a striking position.  He might be able to take out two or three people before they overran him.  That was if one of his charmed bulls didn’t just rush in and gore him first.  He wrung his hands, resulting in a drop of sweat that travelled down his sleeve and onto his chest.  It slid over his heartbeat.  For a moment he could picture her, pure and bubbling with happiness.  The two of them were alive in that drop of water, sliding across the harsh exterior of the world and enjoying the time they had.  Why did it get ruined? He wondered. She was so perfect.

The world’s harsh exterior, at least the section surrounding the barn, softened.  The charm animating the bulls died away in the presence of much stronger magic.  They collapsed into piles of dried grass.  The shouting started to die off in waves that approached the barn.

“Oh no,” Darter said.  He whipped around.  “She’s here!” 

All of the tools that had punctured the barn’s weak skin retracted.  Dogwood lowered the magic hand and shoved his eye into one of the holes.  The farmers, laborers, cooks, and smiths of Windgate all looked away from their original target.  Dogwood watched one of them drop a scythe in the grass.  He saw their fingers unclench.

A carriage pulled up.  Everyone in the crowd took a few steps backward to make room for the vehicle.  Dogwood had never seen anything like it.  Must be built for city travel, he thought.  Few things were more out of place than that carriage in Windgate.  With its odd color and expensive trim it looked like a gilded blueberry on wheels.  Two pairs of massive white horses pulled it up to the barn’s entrance.  The woman driving reined them into a stop.  Every living thing within a hundred feet watched her as she stepped off.

“It’s Everglade!” Darter shouted as he grabbed Dogwood’s shoulders and shook violently.  “You’ve got to do it now before she gets in here!  Do it!  Cut the bond!”

Dogwood felt the effects of her magic.  She was infused with such power that it made his spine shiver while his muscles felt like dripping butter.  The simple fact of her presence choked all the tension out of the environment.  He tried to picture the anger that had wrapped him like an irate python moments before.  It had vanished.  Darter smacked him across the face to rouse him. 

“Stop her man!  Cut the bond!”

I can see why he runs, Dogwood thought, she is powerful.  He did his best to ignore the calming waves of magic, like waves of rose petals washing over him, and focus on the right emotion.  He thought about love and pushed away the image of his ghostly beloved.

There it was, coming right through the middle of the barn doors and embedding itself in Darter’s heart.  It looked like a pipe of flexible ivory with spectacularly ornate carvings.  It shined a bright white that grew more intense as it approached Darter, almost obscuring him entirely at its end point.

“Cut it!” Darter yelled again. 

The hand practically sliced the air as Dogwood hoisted it over his head.  No time to regret what he was doing.  He was destroying love.  A sickly love that warranted study more than destruction.  Darter would never know if it was Everglade or the magic that so entranced him.  Down it came.  Dogwood tried not to picture his own heart, to accidentally sever anything that might be left of his nightly visitor.  Down it came.  Only an inch away now.

Dogwood was sure nothing had ever happened so fast as this.

The hand was impossible to stop.

It rushed with an unnatural magic.

It was beyond humanity.  The magic was a shadow that could strangle its owner.

It still wasn’t strong enough.

The hand stopped dead on the bond.  It didn’t even nick its carved surface.  The sound of the two colliding was like a brittle stick on the side of an iron bar.  Darter’s horrified expression delivered the message he was about to yell.

“Try again!” 

Dogwood reared back and struck a second time, with the same result.  The hand clanged uselessly against their love again and again.  He couldn’t sever the bond.  He brought it down one more time, as hard as he could, and yelped as it recoiled from the contact and shook his wrists painfully.  The hand fell to the hay-covered floor, looking entirely inert.  At that moment it was just another abandoned tool, like the cobweb covered pitchforks stacked in the corner.

“Why would you attack something so precious to me?”

Dogwood whirled around, his hands still rubbing each other to ease the pain.  Aside from his apparition, Dogwood had never seen a more beautiful woman.  Her expression was calmer than the air resting beneath a forest canopy.  Her cream-colored clothing wasn’t flecked by mud or grass stains.  She had somehow remained spotless during the journey here.  She was about five and a half feet tall, with every inch radiating a kind of unity, like a puzzle with pieces that would never again break apart.  Dogwood had never seen anyone look so… content.

“I,” Dogwood hesitated.  “I did it at your husband’s request ma’am.”

“No doubt he offered to pay handsomely as well,” she said without anger or accusation.  Then she shot off to the side and hugged Darter.  He hugged her back, as if a natural disaster had flung them apart instead of his perpetually cold feet.

“I missed you my love,” he sighed as he smelled her hair.

“Darter… Are you alright?” Dogwood asked.

“Yes, I’m fine.  Now that she’s here I can’t imagine how I keep making the same mistake.”

“You’ll make it again my sweet,” Everglade said.  She turned to Dogwood.  “I know we’re unorthodox, but we make it work.  My parent’s curse strains us sometimes… it makes him think he has no choice.  Then he runs.  Then I find him and we get to be happy for a while.”

Dogwood was concerned for his new friend, who looked too happy for someone scared witless moments ago.  Not like I can do anything, he thought.

“Well then I guess I’m glad it didn’t work.  Are you sure you’re alright with this Darter?”

“Yes,” he said, still hugging her tightly.  Everglade kissed him and then maneuvered out of his arms, smooth as fog.  She approached Dogwood and held out her hands, clearly asking to see the clock hand.  Dogwood picked it up, handed it over, and instantly felt glad to have its weight on someone else… except Everglade showed no caution.  Its tip wobbled as she tossed it between her hands.  She uttered an amused hmm sound while examining the intricate symbols.

“It’s a clock hand,” she said.  “This is probably the sixth or seventh most powerful thing I’ve seen.”  She held it up parallel to the ground and stared down its length into Dogwood’s eyes.  “You know why it didn’t work?”

Dogwood didn’t respond immediately.  He just stared down the hand’s black length and into Everglade’s face.  It looked like the kind of road that wouldn’t let you turn back.

“I’m sorry?  Oh, no.  I don’t.  Do you?” 

“Yes.  Its magic isn’t difficult to identify.  I’m surprised my Darter didn’t figure it out.”  She looked over to her husband, who shrugged.

“I was distracted by thoughts of you,” he cooed as he wrapped his arms around her. She giggled.

“Whoever invented this gave you an awfully big clue.  It’s a clock hand that severs emotions.  Obviously its power is time.  As it passes we care less and less about what we obsessed over.  Wounds scab and heal in the mind as they do in the body… over time.”

“Oh,” Dogwood said, not quite understanding.  Her grasp of magic clearly eclipsed his.  Maybe I should read a book instead of digging through magic trash, he thought.  “So why doesn’t time affect you two?”

“Still don’t get it?  It doesn’t work on love,” she said.

“Why not?”  Dogwood’s question came out like a dog’s whine.  Everglade rolled her eyes, thinking about how dense men could be.

“Love is timeless.”

Dogwood’s mind instantly disagreed.  Fatigue crept over him but his mind was on fire.  No, he thought. No it’s not.  I’ve seen it dissolve.  It’s not timeless; it’s a bog of sadness that implodes, spewing putrid water and moldy remains.  It ends horribly.  Swiftly yet slowly.  He managed to confine these thoughts and respond in a mostly polite way.

“No, I’ve seen it end.  Fernico’s love for treasure… and the hand also… it took my love away.  Or… showed me it was never there.”  Everglade tilted her head, as if pouring Dogwood’s false words out through her ear.

“Well whatever connects someone to money can’t be real love.  As for you, what did your girl say about it?” she asked.  Dogwood winced at the phrase your girl.

“She couldn’t say anything.  She used magic to visit me because of the distance between us.  The hand showed me that nothing connected us… and that broke her spell.”

“Distance?” Everglade asked herself.  She thought for a moment, running her hand up and down Darter’s serene cheek.  Then she smiled and tossed the hand back to Dogwood.  He fumbled to catch it, his feet slipping in the hay.  “Windgate does seem a little behind the times, but I’m sure you know our world is round.”

Dogwood’s mind ached but he forced a conclusion.  Looking stupid in front of Everglade made him feel unusually inferior, like a rat that’s been nibbling some chef’s masterpiece.  He rubbed his head vigorously.  What does she mean?  What does…

With a fiery brilliant idea in his head, Dogwood lifted the clock hand and focused on the love he wished to see.  Nothing.  But the Earth is round, he thought.  That wasn’t her body.  It was just a spell.  The real her is on the world’s other side.  And the bond takes the quickest way to her.

He lifted his foot.  Sure enough, the same white bond he’d seen between Everglade and Darter poked out of the sole of his foot.  From there it traveled into the ground, through the world’s center, and to his love on the other side.  To her heart.  Dogwood lost his balance and fell backward.

“What have I done?” he moaned.  Their love was real, but he had shunned her from a world away.  She would never come back.

“Don’t give up before you’ve started,” Darter commanded, resolve strengthening his voice.  “Go find her!”

“So you’re leaving,” Cogwick said, not hiding his sadness.

“I’m afraid so my friend,” Dogwood said as he shoved clothing into a travelling bag.  “I can’t stand to think about her sadness.  I will find her.  We’ll be together and the sun will never set.”  He strapped the clock hand to the top of the pack.  “Everglade and Darter will be by in an hour or so to pick you up.  She’s a lovely woman who knows how to take care of magic like you.”

“Well then I wish you luck.  Just be careful with that hand,” Cogwick said.

“It’s just to point the way,” Dogwood responded.  “Oh, and I’ve finally figured out what keeps you running.”  He stopped packing for a moment, leaving a shirt’s sleeves hanging out of the bag.  He turned to Cogwick and leaned in very closely.

“Is she beautiful?” he asked.  The little hinges on Cogwick’s face squeaked as a mighty smile took over.

“Oh yes.  I’m sorry you never met… she’s very shy, likes to stay inside…  She’s so gorgeous.  I could look at her endlessly.”


© Copyright 2018 Blaine Arcade. All rights reserved.

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