Photo by Jo Smoley.
The cottage was exactly as I remembered it. The stone walls crisscrossed with wooden beams, shutters framing the paneled windows. Madam Verna was old when I knew her as a child helping her tend the garden, yet the flowering plants and shrubs lining the path were neat and tidy as they were then.
Nearing the wooden front door, I stopped, not certain I was doing the right thing. I had left this life behind. A life of sorcery my family had embraced for eons. Feeling betrayed by my defiance, my family had disowned me and left for the hinterlands, where I would no longer be welcome. Only Madam Verna had supported me, her knowing smile reassuring me I was doing the right thing for me.
My life had been good, I married a mortal and we brought two children into the world. We were happy until my family intervened. One night when the moon was full, my brothers invaded my world, murdered my husband, Thomas and kidnapped my children. My oldest brother Nicon struck me with a sword, telling me no children of mine would be allowed to live in the mortal world.
I buried my husband and when I healed from the wounds inflicted by my brother, I left my life behind. Word of an uprising in the wizard world reached me, sent by Madam Verna I was certain. Now, I stood at her door ready to enter a life I had left behind.
The door opened before I could knock. Her wizened face exactly as I remembered, her eyes a startling shade of citron. Her silk garments the hue of midnight blue rustled as she led me into the tiny cottage, motioning for me to sit on the burgundy velvet settee. She did not speak, and I knew not to until she did. She lifted a tray holding a teapot and cups from the hearth and sat it before me.
In her deep raspy voice, she said, “Drink my child, then we talk.”
I did as I was told and when I had drunk my tea, she spoke again.
“In your tea was the elixir of power, I have returned the magical skills I took from you so many years ago. Your family has risen against Wizard Aton and our world. They were always evil but I knew you did not possess their malevolence. However, you must lead us against them.”
“I do not want to lead anyone. I only want my children.”
Her smile wry, wisdom beyond years flowing from her eyes, Madam Verna replied, “You have no choice. To protect the lives of your children and to ensure the continuation of our way of life, you must use your powers to destroy your family.” Her eyes darkened, her gaze intense, “I promise you, more than the lives of your children are at stake.”
Madam Verna stood, returning to the hearth to stir the fire. I gasped when the image of my husband appeared in the flames.
“What is this?” I implored.
“I received word of the attack on your family but was too late to prevent it. All I could do was protect your husband. He is in a place between life and death and only the destruction of the Sword of Thesia carried by your father will return his mortal life. Do this for Lili and Liam, and for Thomas.”
The elixir was working. My power of sorcery was nearly restored. I joined Madam Verna at the hearth, tears brimming as my husband’s image faded. To have my family returned to me, I would fight whatever evil lay in my path.
Madam Verna grasped my hand, “My child will you help us?’
Squeezing her hand, I whispered, “Yes, it is time for me to return.”
This short story was prompted by the photo provided by Writers Unite! Writers Unite! is an excellent writing group found on Facebook. No commercial use intended.