Something Wicked: Part III
A Meadowsweet Story
Imelda walked back to the little blue cottage with her ears burning and her heart thundering. The way that Betsy Patterson looked at her…
They had been classmates in school, and for a while, Betsy had been her friend. Then Imelda’s powers began to develop in early high school and one day Betsy just stopped being her friend. One moment, they were laughing together at their shared lunch table; the next moment Imelda was crying alone in the bathroom.
Imelda pushed open the door to the cottage and pulled out the rosemary. She sprinkled some of the herb into the simmering pot. What happened with Betsy was old hat. What bothered her more was that for the first time in a long time, someone in town had looked at her without fear or disgust. She stirred the mixture of herbs and inhaled the calming scent that rose from the pot.
The new baker was… nice. About her age, she’d guess. He obviously hadn’t known who she was. Otherwise, he would have reacted more like Betsy. Imelda grimaced and turned off the heat on the stove. The potion would have to cool for a while before it could be useful.
She glanced out the window. The clouds were shaped in a decidedly more threatening manner.
“Well,” she said to the gray and white cat who had come to rub against her ankles. “I best take care of this before the girls get here. Isn’t that right, Frost?”
Frost looked at her with his luminous green eyes and mewed softly.
“Right,” she said again, more to herself this time than her cat. She pushed her dark curly hair from her face and strode from the kitchen and up the stairs, heading for the attic.
Frost bounded after her.
Archie couldn’t stop thinking about the woman from that morning. He moved through his day with a strange and exhilarating energy. He was curious about her. Why hadn’t he seen her in town before? Why had Betsy reacted so strangely? A witch, that is what Betsy had called the other woman. Her tone had been bitter, her face had twisted into a derisive expression.
Archie muddled this over in his mind as he prepared a batch of sourdough. He considered himself to be a modern man. He put his faith in science and observation. He held no superstitions. He knew there was no such thing as magic or demons or witches. He wanted to dismiss Betsy’s remarks, but he had felt the strange energy in the air around the other woman. He had seen the electricity in her eyes as she rushed from the shop.
A witch. Fascinating.
For the last few years, he had been searching for… something. He had never been able to put his finger on exactly what it was, but in his heart he felt incomplete. He had tried to fill that emptiness with a companion—someone he could settle down with and raise a family. He’d met and dated a few women—intelligent, beautiful, funny women—but still the emptiness remained. He had tried to express this feeling to his Dad, who had given him the advice “Go out on the water this weekend. A canoe, a fishing rod, and the great outdoors will fix you right up.”
Archie had taken his advice and found that no amount of fishing would cure whatever was wrong. Then, he’d found an advertisement in the paper—a bakery for sale in a town an hour drive North of home. Archie eagerly put in a bid. A fresh start, a return to baking, a town full of possibilities.
Archie completed his tasks and cleaned up. He glanced out the window. The strange formation of clouds from this morning still hovered over the forest outside of town. He squinted at them. One of the clouds had the distinct shape of a massive wing. He shook his head. It had been a strange day.
As he left the bakery, he paused mid-stride. He always stepped out of the bakery, locked the door, and turned right to continue on his way home. But today, he had the overwhelming urge to turn left. He stood frozen on the sidewalk, shifting his weight from side to side as he tried to convince himself to continue home. But the urge to find the woman from this morning overtook him and, muttering to himself, he turned left and headed uphill, toward the forest and the strange woman’s cottage.
As he made the climb uphill a strangely hopeful thought rose in his mind. Perhaps he would finally find what he’d been looking for.
Imelda rummaged through the dusty bookshelves in the attic. Where was it?
Frost circled at her feet, nudging her ankles with his head. Imelda sneezed and a cloud of dust jumped into the air. Frost mewed an admonishment.
“Sorry,” she muttered to the cat. “Been a while since I’ve dusted up here.” Imelda felt a twinge of guilt in admitting it. Her great grandparents Josephine and Thomas had begun this library of rare and powerful books. To her knowledge, it was the largest collection of spell books and magical artifacts in the world.
Unfortunately, this made it a target to those creatures of less than adequate moral character.
“Ah. Here.” Imelda pulled from the top shelf a small and extremely old leather journal. On the first brittle page, written in a neat hand where the words: “Bartholomew Arrocass’s Classification of Daemons, 1784” in black ink.
Imelda gently turned the pages until she found the one that she was looking for.
Cloaden Daemons said the page.
A type of cloud demon that manifests over the course of several hours. They reside in a realm of nearly pure energy and thus, must acclimate themselves to our climate slowly. Most Cloaden Daemons are classified as in a lower category, having very little intrinsic magical abilities. However, certain atmospheres prove highly beneficial for them. They are attracted to areas of particularly high magical residue, and feed on those of magical blood.
Should one come across a Cloaden Daemon, a simple incantation paired with a bridging potion is enough to banish the beast back to its home realm. Details for such a spell are listed below.
Imelda scanned over the list of supplies: bottled lightning, toad’s wort, herring scales, sage, basil, river water, and orange peel.
Thunder boomed overhead, a sign that the demon would fully manifest soon. Imelda had not time to waste. She rushed down to the kitchen and began to throw the necessary jars and vials into a basket. Half a jar of bottled lightning, a vial of toad’s wort. Another vial of herring scales, a bottle of river water, a satchel of dried orange peel. She then moved to the spice rack and plucked her small jar of dried basil.
She consulted the list again. Sage. Where was the sage?
Her fingers searched the back of the cupboard and found a jar that had toppled on its side. She pulled it out. The jar held only a few withered leaves of the herb. Imelda cursed. She’d have to go back to the bakery. She groaned in frustration. She didn’t have time to go all the way into town and back again.
Thunder rumbled loud enough to shake the walls and send Frost racing for safety beneath the couch.
Imelda brushed her hair out of her face as she tried to think of a solution.
Then someone knocked on her door.