Magic's Madness

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Magic's Madness

Post by Lillie on Thu Feb 09, 2012 1:30 pm

Chapter one

“Do you have any cabbages?” I asked a man standing behind a stall which held a clearly displayed assortment of meats. It was market day and I was being followed. The stall keeper gave me a suspicious look, and then promptly forgot about me as a small boy tried to run away with one of his strings of sausage.
I glanced behind me, and saw the pale white form of my pursuer. It seemed a shadow that drifted instead of walking, always closer, gaining on me every time I looked away. All I wanted was to run, run to the safety of the castle. I would only be sent back again for the cabbages, and I could not tell anyone I was seeing …things. Seeing things was suspicious. I hurried away from the meats stall, going as fast as possible without running. When I was out of range of the meat stall’s stench, I glanced back at where I had last seen the ghostly form of my pursuer. Fast as I had been going, the distance between us had decreased. I glanced about wildly. Where could I go? That was when I spotted cabbages; they were sitting innocently on a stall directly behind the shadowy form I was fleeing. When I say directly behind it, I mean directly: I saw the cabbages through the stomach of the specter. The shape drifted closer, and passed clean through the bustling crowd, coming straight for me. I stood transfixed. I needed those cabbaged!
All day I had been shopping, and this was the first time I had seen cabbages. The vision drifted nearer, passing through more people, unheeded by all but me. I told myself that I had as little to do with it as anyone else, fastened my gaze on the cabbage stall, and told myself to walk straight there, even if that meant going through the drifting apparition. I told myself it was of no consequence even if it was real, which it could not be. It was not tangible. It was not really here at all. I told myself that it was pure coincidence that it was drifting towards me. I told myself that it could not harm me, that I did not believe in it. I told myself many things, none of which worked. I must flee. I needed those cabbages. It was coming closer while I hovered in indecision. Closer, closer, reaching out a hand... I turned and ran. I would get it to come away, and then run back when it had gone. Yes. That was what I was doing. A perfectly logical solution.
I collided with someone who hadn’t been there a moment before. The spun and slapped me across the cheek, pushing me back into his stall, which was full of cabbages. This was not possible!
“Watch where yer goin’!” he managed to insert his scowl into his voice. “Ye mute, witch girl?” he glowered down at me, unaware of the shadow which was at that very second gliding through his midsection.
“N-no sir,” I managed. “I will be more careful next time.”
The stall keeper grunted, and turned away, satisfied with his intimidation. I was flat against the stall. I could not back up. The ghostly thing was close enough to touch me now, which it did. Even as another marketgoer walked through it, I felt its fingers close on my arm. It was real.
It would have been more fitting if its fingers had been cold, if they had sent chills up my spine. Instead those fingers were warm, and comforting, seeking to reassure me that it meant me no harm…yet. I wanted to shiver, wanted to be revolted, wanted to be scared, wanted to shun it, wanted to flee! Instead I stood there, and I asked it calmly, “What are you?”
It answered just as calmly, if not even more so, and with gentle reassurance in its tone, “I am a prophet. Margret, I have come to tell you your destiny.”
I did manage a shiver then, but it was only half hearted. “My destiny?” I asked, trying to be wary but only feeling eager. I had a destiny? Destinies were for important people, like royalty. The prophet smiled and took my hand.
“Come away from all this with me,” it said, gesturing to the market. “And I will explain.”
“Not until I get some cabbages,” I shook my head and pulled away, determined not to leave the cabbage stall without cabbages after all the time I had spent looking for them. Destinies were wonderful things, mythical, magical. Cabbages were practical. Besides, from what I knew destinies had a way of finding you whether you wanted them to or not. Cabbages not so much.
The prophet looked annoyed.
“I come to tell you your destiny and you worry about cabbages?” it said, losing its comforting tone.
“I have been looking for these cabbages all day, I will have you know,” I said.
The prophet sighed, closed its eyes for a moment, rearranged its face into a sublime, patient expression, and said, “Hurry about the cabbages for your destiny comes quickly.”
I nodded, and turned to the stall keeper who had slapped me. “I want ten of you best cabbages,” I said shortly.
The cabbage stall keeper turned to me and replaced his scowl. “That’s new nerve, even for ye, witchy,” he remarked. He selected five half rotten ones. “I’ll give ye these fer yer baskest.”
I had always been referred to as ‘witch’, and no one would ever give me a reason other than that I had been ‘born from the devil.’ It could be something my parents had done, but I could not remember anything about them. Then again, I did have a pet sparrow named Oak. I had left him at the palace with Meggi, the cook. I hoped she would keep him confined because people were sure to have heard about him, and want him dead because they thought he was my familiar, and the only thing that kept them from doing away with me at any given moment was the thought that they had to kill us both at once to do any good, and the fact that they could not catch him. That and Meggi. She was the closest thing to family I had, and the only one who defended me. Meggi never once called me witch, though she could not stop others from doing so, and she would never tell me why they did. Meggi would always stand up for me. The day I found the sparrow was no different.
I was carrying the morning dish water out of the kitchen and across the courtyard to the river where I would dump it. I was halfway there before I noticed movement on the ground: a sparrow, flapping his wing feebly in a doomed attempt to fly away. I set the dish water on the ground, and went to see what his trouble was. Ignorant as I was, I could still tell that his wing was broken. I knelt down beside him, and reached out to pick him up. He made a pitiful attempt to hop away, terrified. I made comforting little trills, hoping that that was not sparrow for danger, and gently caught him. He froze, was perfectly still except for his heart which beat a frantic rhythm against my finger. I stood, cradling the injured bird to my heart which was not beating much slower than the sparrow’s. I turned and walked back toward the kitchen, careful to move smoothly. I was almost there when I was brought up short. Hue, the boy who emptied the chamber pots, was standing in my way.
“The witch has caught a bird and broken its wing!” he announced. I could feel the heads turning. The palace staff would never miss an opportunity to watch me being tormented, and Hue never failed to provide the opportunity. I changed my grip on the sparrow, so that I cupped it out of his view, and tried to step around him. He moved in front of me.
“Give it here,” Hue commanded. I shrank back a little and half turned, shielding the sparrow with my body. That was when I decided to call that sparrow Oak. Hue reached out and grabbed my arm, tried to pry my fingers from around Oak. That was when Meggi came out of the kitchen to see what was happening. She shooed Hue away, and helped me heal Oak. He healed well, and came to fly again, though he was slower than other sparrows. I was delighted; I had a friend besides Meggi.
I wished that Meggi could have come to the square with me. I would have felt a lot safer, but she was too busy in the kitchen.
I looked the stall keeper in the eye steadily and said, “Those are not your best cabbages, and my basket is not available for trade.”
“M’ best cabbages aint available fer trade with ye, and yer not the best girl ether, witch child,” the cabbage stall keeper leered. “Yer quite fiery, aint ye?”
Evidently this stall keeper was in agreement with those who said the best remedy for a witch was a burning. Of me.
“What I am has nothing to do with it as the cabbages are not for me,” I said. “Cabbage is one of the king’s favorite foods, and the palace has run out.”
“Ye ‘spect me te believe this tale,” he scoffed.
“Do you have a good reason not to?” I retorted, and immediately wished I had kept my tongue. Answering a question with a question was considered ‘witchy.’ The last thing I needed right now. The stall keepers eyes narrowed, and he withdrew the cabbages he had extended.
He took a step back and turned protectively toward his cabbages. Then, all of a sudden, he turned back. His eyes were glazed. In his outstretched hand he offered me ten of his best cabbages.
I got a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach, and glanced at the prophet; he was staring intently at the stall keeper with a look of concentration and satisfaction on his face.
“No! Do not make him do it. Stop that!” I said, I wanted the cabbages, but not like this. This would only make the stories about me worse. Worse than worse. True. He ignored me.
The stall keeper held out the cabbages to me and said, “For your basket.”
“No. I need my basket, and I have money which I will use to trade with him once you release him,” I told the prophet. I was not trading with a bewitched trader. It was not right. He could not make me.
The stall keeper froze. The prophet turned his gaze to me. I found out just how wrong I was. My determination to not trade with the stall keeper when he was under a spell vanished, and the knowledge that I would do it took its place. I fought against it, trying to throw it off, but it was as if my will had been incased in steel, sealed off from the rest of me. I looked out through my eyes, helpless, as my body emptied my basket, and then traded it for the cabbages. I could not carry all of the things I had put in the basket without it, so the prophet picked up half of it and walked me out of the market. No one was in front of me. It was a wonder he could carry things at all. He was half invisible. Not at all visible to anyone else. But the goods he was carrying were completely visible. To everyone. I realized why no one was in front of me: I had finally done it, something magical. I had proved that I was a witch.
Everyone was in front of me. They were all around me. I could see in their eyes a fire like the one they intended to burn me in. They closed in.
The prophet did not halt, nor did he allow me to. We both walked on. On and up. We were walking on air. Only, it didn’t feel like I was walking on air. It was like I had been walking on the earth, which I had been, and the earth had suddenly been moved away. I was walking in that instant before one realizes that there is no longer anything to walk on. Except that that instant continued because there was something for me to walk on.
I walked up above the heads of the townspeople. They had stopped moving and were gaping up at me. I looked down at them for a second, then accelerated away, falling sideways. We flew into the wood, zigzagging around trees at dizzying speed. The prophet landed us in a tree. It was a good vantage point. I could see the path leading away to the town and into the field between the wood and the palace.
“People can be so worrisome, sometimes,” said the prophet, unaffected by the hostilities. He levitated the goods up to a higher tree branch which formed a convenient basketlike shape. They disappeared.
“Illusion bubble,” said the prophet. “ And now to business. You will kill a man named Argan with a rock.”
“I will not kill anyone!” I interjected, finally free to do what I would.
The prophet raised a hand. “Please do not interrupt, it will only make things more difficult,” he said with stern calmness.
“You are one to talk of difficult!” I shot back, exasperated.
“Why can’t anyone ever just listen?” sighed the prophet. “You will listen now.”
I did.
“You will kill Argan with this stone,” the prophet went on, holding up a small gray stone, neither jagged nor smooth. The kind of stone you kicked along the road without looking at it. “Because he is evil. He is giving a bad name to magic. You will restore its good name when you kill Argan with this stone. You cannot kill him with it by using it in some violent action against him, but will do so by touching it to him after you have gotten seven people with budding magic to touch it, knowing what and why they do, and doing it of their own free will. The first of these people is you.”
The prophet held the stone out to me but I did not take it.
“I have no magic,” I objected. Then the stone was in my hand, and the prophet had disappeared leaving me looking at a prophet shaped splotch of nothing saying, “And how is killing someone supposed to restore a good name?”
I stared at the nothing. I had never seen any(for lack of a better word)thing even remotely like it before, but I could not really see it; there was nothing to see, I could not see through it either; there was nothing to see through.
I came to my senses and looked back towards the town. Already, people were coming up the path.
“Kill the witch!” The cry echoed from their many voices. In order to kill me they believed they would have to kill Oak as well. Oak was with Meggi in the palace.
I could not get him, warn her, for already the people were below me, already some were running out into the field. Already Meggi would know.
People began to poor out of the palace as well. They knew I had not entered there, so the wood between was the most logical place to search. They all came, nobles and servants alike. It was as good a reason for a holiday as any. I saw that Meggi came too. She was carrying Oak. No. I would not believe that they had gotten to her. She must be along to protect Oak. Yes. That was it. She was protecting Oak.
They fanned out all over the wood and searched. Small children began to climb trees under the excuse of looking for me. I knew that all they really wanted was to be allowed to climb, but that did nothing to change the fact that they would find me. Of course they would find me. A child came to the base of my tree and began to climb.
It was Meggi’s son John and she was watching him from the ground as he made his way higher and higher. Looking up the tree as she was she should have seen me, yet she did not. Another illusionary bubble?
Every now and again John would stop and wave back at Meggi gleefully. She would smile and nod back at him, unable to wave as her hands were occupied holding Oak. John was a fast climber, and he was soon just a few branches below me. As he clambered up onto the last branch, he seemed to go through, all unaware, a thin film that rested there. He stood there looking out at the field and waving to Meggi.
“Go down now,” I whispered under the wind. He was high enough in the tree for anyone to climb. He did not have to look up. He only wanted a nice climb. He did not have to find me. No one would blame him if he did not find me.
John looked up. His eyes widened as he saw me, then he fell. One moment he was perfectly balanced on the branch with his hand resting lightly on the trunk, the next he was falling as if my words had pushed him. Blind terror wiped out all other emotions as he tried unsuccessfully to catch hold of a branch and stop his fall. He crashed through the branches. Meggi screamed. She forgot she was holding Oak, and let him go as she ran to the base of the tree, arms extended as if she would catch John. Oak fluttered down and then up, instinctively knowing I was there. I heard a dull thunk as John’s head hit a branch, leaving a gash above his eye. The impact slowed his fall, though not by much. Meggi was knocked off her feet when she tried to catch him, and my tree shook in sympathy.
Oak landed on my shoulder. Meggi sat up to quickly, swayed for a moment, and looked down at John’s motionless form. His left leg was crumpled under him. It looked broken.
Only then did others rush to see what had happened, what they could do. I stayed in the tree, clinging to the trunk and told myself that I had not done this. That I could not have done this. That I did not do magic. I could not. I would not.
Oak trilled happily. Meggi directed a group of people carrying John back to the palace. Oak pecked at my ear, wanting attention. I could not look at him. I looked down at the stone in my hand. It was as ordinary and disregard able as ever.
Not caring that the people below might see it, might find me and burn me, half wanting them to for what I tried and failed to deny was my doing; my fault John had fallen, my fault. I threw the stone away. It went not two inches before it slapped back into my hand.
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Lillie
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Female Location : I think I'm on what you would call earth, but it might be an illusion I've suffered since birth.
Posts : 18

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