The wind blew in Maria’s hair. It reminded her of the curse. She struggled on, the wind almost knocking her over the edge. ‘Thalia!’ she cried before stumbling on a pebble. ‘Thalia!’
Maria was looking for her long lost daughter and a fortune teller had told her to seek Bloodhurst Cave. Years of searching had made her desperate for help and she would go to every petty fortune teller, every fake oracle, just to be given some hope and then be beaten down. This was her last chance.
Suddenly, in the distance, Maria spotted a plume of red smoke. ‘Thalia!’ she cried again and began to run. She stumbled again and her knees were bleeding but still Maria ran. When she got to the source, she found a hole, just large enough to walk into if she stooped. Maria checked ehr photo of the cave. Yep, this seemed right. She ducked and stepped in gingerly reaching out in the powerful darkness. She peered behind her. The cliff face of Scurrying Ridge lay behind her. Maria shivered and carried on forward. ‘Thalia?’ she whispered loudly.
Maria bit her lip and began to run. Her knees hurt and she was tired, but Maria was impatient. She kept bumping into the walls until she found what she was looking for. In a large room, deep inside a cave, on top of a ridge that was ten miles high, travelling on foot and horse, donkey and carriage, she had made it. In the room, there was a witch, lighting blood red candles whilst chanting strange words. The witch didn’t look up as Maria stepped into the pale light.
‘quis es?’ asked the witch in a young voice.
‘Beg pardon ma’am, I do not speak that language.’ Maria said uncertainly. The witch laughed a high, brittle laugh.
‘Of course you do not, child. Here is the potion to make her wake.’ the witch handed Maria a tiny vial, no bigger than a child’s thumb. ‘Through there.’ she pointed behind her.
Maria stepped into a tiny door, only just wide enough to let her through. In the room there was a stone bed. On the bed lay a young girl. She had been cursed by the witch after stealing some bread form the market and some lettuce form the witch’s private stock. Then (accidently) she had set fire to an important spell. So the witch had said she would sleep until one of her relatives discovered the curse and found the place to set her free.
Maria took out the stopper with trembling fingers and poured it into Thalia’s lips. The girl did not respond.
Suddenly, her eyes opened. She was twelve, no older than the days she was cursed. Mother and daughter embraced and Maria smiled. It had been worth the journey to see her daughter. She was middle aged and too old for ten miles travel in one day. She was exhausted.
‘Good bye, my child.’ Maria said through silent tears and helped Thalia up.
‘Mummy?’ whispered Thalia. Maria nodded and sunk to the floor.
‘Good bye.’ she whispered again and died. Thalia began to cry and the witch came in.
‘She made a great journey.’ the witch said grimly and placed a finger on Maria’s lips. Colour shined in her face once again as Maria began to cough. ‘Life.’ the witch said quietly and disappeared suddenly. On the floor lay a pile of robes. On top was a piece of paper. Maria opened it and read it with a trembling voice to Thalia. It read:
Dear Maria and Thalia,
You have passed my test and proved yourself worthy. You are witches of the highest kind. The ones who are noble and truthful. You must return to this place once a year and light the red candles, and then you will discover new truths each time. Your first truth lies here, on the back of this note. Turn it over.
Maria turned over the paper and both women’s faces filled with wonder. For on the back it said in curled writing:
Have hope, children, for the noble king will rise once more. Find him in the great cavern and wake him or he shall lie there and grow dusty. Find him, children, find him or when next he is needed and called, he shall sleep. Find him or forever bear the burden. For you are Queen Yia-Liheskia’s messengers, messengers to the queen of the witches. That is your truth. Awaken the great king, known as King Lyanor, king of the centaurs, king of the elves, king of men.
©2008 Megan Read