Capitalia Bloom (part 4)


Sobs drifted into Larah’s bedroom. She put down her book and walked toward Melinda’s study. The Head Mistress sat looking out the window, her hands caressing the curled form of Passion, their sixteen-year-old cat.

Larah approached her desk. “Mother, is something wrong?”

Melinda turned and looked at her. Tear tracks glistened on her face. “Passion is dying.”

Larah had noticed her getting slower over the last few days, and that she had lost a lot of weight over the last year, yet the words still made her chest tighten. “Are you sure?”

“Yes,” Melinda confirmed. “She’s too weak to move; nothing more can be done.” Her hands slowly stroked its long golden fur. She stared at the floor before speaking, “Do you know how I got her?”

Larah shook her head. “No, you’ve always had her.”

“Passion was originally Anya’s cat, who came to be mine when Anya passed away. That happened on the same night you came to me, and I became Head Mistress.” She paused as her eyes became unfocused. “I gained and lost much that night.” Shaking her head, she continued. “Anya was my mentor and my best friend. Other than my memories, all I have left are Passion – and you.” She looked at Larah, lips trembling. “And I love you both so much,” she said, tears streaming down her cheeks. “Yet, it’s so painful to lose another piece of Anya, once again.”

Hurriedly wiping her eyes, Larah rushed over. Oh, how she wished to take the pain away. The older woman shook with sorrow, as Larah embraced her tightly, wishing the distance between them could disappear.

Finally, Melinda took a breath, cupped Larah’s chin and kissed on the nose. “It’s okay.” Together they looked at the cat.

Melinda scooped Passion up and laid her on the window sill. “I am going to let her watch the sunset as she often liked to do, one last time.” Leaning over, Melinda kissed the feline on the head and gave her a last petting. “Goodbye, my dear. You will always have a place in my heart.” With that, she left the study.

Larah walked over and stroked Passion’s soft fur, and felt the weak, but still noticeable purring. Sniffling back tears, she recalled Passion’s antics, and how Melinda had always appreciated the cat’s soft, quiet presence. Glancing up, she watched the sun setting over the waters of the Gulf.

Later that night, as Larah lay in bed, the image of the Thrush chick flashed into her mind. She sat up, considering it, and then raced into the study, and sat next to Passion. Gently, she touched the cat’s feeble body, and still felt a slow, hesitant pulse. She closed her eyes, placed both hands on the animal, and mouthed the words of the mending spell. A blue glow surrounded her hands, her fingertips grew cold, heat raced through her bones as a scream ripped out of her lungs.

* * *

Wringing her hands, Melinda stared at the unconscious form on the bed. Why did Larah do it? She’d been told never to try a mend spell on an animal. The infirmary nurse laid a hand on Melinda’s shoulder.

“Will she survive?” Melinda asked, holding her tears back.

“If she wakes up, I believe so,” the nurse said. “But she should be dead.”

Melinda blinked. “Why do you say that?”

The nurse fixed her with a serious expression. “No one has ever survived what she did.”

“What do you mean?” Melinda asked.

“She almost brought your cat back from death. The animal would be alive if it were able to survive being called back.”

“That is not possible,” Melinda replied as a chill raced down her spine. Such capabilities belonged only to the immortal Caretakers, or the practitioners of the darkest magic.

“Under other circumstances, I would agree. Regardless, Larah survived because she had passed out before the pull of death reached her. Otherwise, she might have died too.” A groan rose from the bed. Melinda turned from the nurse and leaned close.

The young girl opened her eyes, “Mother, what am I doing here?” She noticed Melinda’s tears. “Please don’t cry.”

Melinda smiled, “These are tears of joy, my dear.” But even as she squeezed Larah’s hand, a shudder ran through her. She had almost lost Passion and Larah on the same night.

 

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Capitalia Bloom (part 3)


Larah looped through the Ogamah Grove, running fingertips across the smooth, silvery bark. Warm, briny breezes rustled the shiny leaves. “Hello Lilibeth,” she murmured passing around the trunk of her friend.

Off to the east, the sun rose above the waters of the Gulf. Breathing in the warmth, she leaned back against the tree. On the edge of the horizon lay a green line, marking the Dunharraw coast. Staring hard, she tried to imagine what it looked like. From the other girls, came talk of exotic plants, animals, sounds and smells. Whole other communities of people lived there, though, as she understood it, not as harmoniously as the Druids did in Avalir. If the rumor was to be believed, that was mostly due to those ghosts of fear and violence: men.

A squawk and a chirp shifted her attention. Above her in the outstretched boughs, she saw a Thrush nest and in it, the fuzzy gray heads of chicks. After that, each morning she sat under Lilibeth, watching as the mother bird fed her brood and anticipating when the chicks would fledge and leave the nest.

But one morning flapping and squawking sound came from the base of a nearby tree. One of the chicks lay on the ground, panting, and at intervals flipped itself into the air, attempting to get airborne. For a time, the bird continued to fail. When it stopped moving, she walked over and scooped it up.

With wide eyes, the creature flapped one wing, but not the other. It must be broken. A mend spell would heal the creature. But should she?

She knew the answer. No one was to interfere with wild animals. Still, no rule said she could not return the animal to its home. Tucking the bird into the pocket of her robes, she climbed and placed it back into the nest.

Yet the next day, the bird lay on the ground again. Larah picked it up, caressed its head, and fed it seeds. The bird turned its face to her as if to say thanks. But clearly the wing would never heal on its own. She agonized over the decision, then with misgivings, placed it back into the nest.

All the next day, a storm raged over the island, keeping her indoors, but the morning after she raced into the grove. Her heart sank seeing the feathered form lying motionless on the ground. With care, she scooped it up, and buried the remains, but not the memory of what could have been done.

 

Capitalia Bloom (part 2)


Shrieks followed a ten-year-old girl charging into the room. Melinda dropped the scrolls she studied as Passion darted from atop her desk and hid behind the curtains. Struggling to corral scattered manuscripts, Melinda asked, “Goodness, Rhianna, what in the world is the matter?”

Bouncing on her toes, the girl yowled, “Just look, Head Mistress.”

Melinda pressed her lips together to stifle a laugh. After regaining control, she asked, “Why is your hair pink?”

With pursed lips, Rhianna pointed an accusatory finger toward the door. Melinda turned to look.  A pair of brown eyes, under a black-haired mass of curls, disappeared from view. “Ask Larah,” Rhianna said.

A few minutes later, she found Larah perched high in a silver leafed Ogamah tree. “Explain yourself, young lady,” Melinda commanded.

Larah sat silent for a moment before speaking, “I said I could turn her hair pink, and she said I couldn’t. So I did.”

Melinda cocked her head to one side. “What is the first rule of The Principles?”

“Never use magic on someone to cause harm unless you are in danger,” Larah replied with a roll of the eyes. “But I didn’t hurt her.”

“That does not matter,” Melinda said in a stern voice. “Using magic on someone just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. Do you understand?”

Larah gave her a peevish look but then muttered, “I know.”

Melinda called Rhianna over, and Larah climbed down the tree. “Change Rhianna’s hair back to normal.”

Larah nodded, looked at Rhianna, and said the undoing spell. Then with a snap of her fingers, Rhianna’s hair turned back to its natural golden color.

“What do we say?” Melinda coaxed.

“I’m sorry Rhianna,” Larah stated, staring at the ground.

Rhianna stroked her long locks. “You’re forgiven,” she said relieved, then ran off.

Passion reappeared and began rubbing herself on Larah’s legs.

Melinda stroked Larah’s shoulders. “Remember dear, you have a great gift for magic – but you need to be careful when using it – never use it on someone without considering the consequences. Magic has unpredictable effects, and you can hurt someone if you are not careful.”

“Yes, mother,” Larah said with a sigh. She reached down and gently stroked Passion’s neck, the animal began purring loudly. “May I be excused?”

“Certainly,” Melinda answered. The young girl ran off. Anya had been right, the inherent magical ability Larah wielded was potent, and she did so effortlessly. She was already well ahead of the other girls in regards to ability, so much it scared her. One wrong incantation or bruised feeling could have serious repercussions. Then what?

She ran a hand over the Ogamah tree. Concerns aside, Larah had a sweet nature and understood the need to be careful. What would she do after her Visioning, when she no longer had the constraints of Avalir to reign her in? Would she, like the infamous Druid Faline, turn her back on The Principles, and leave a wake of havoc and betrayal? Or would she come back to the sanctuary after the required year? She hoped so, and that the girl would take her place, and lead Avalir for the next generation.

Light flickered across her vision as a stray breeze ruffled the Ogamah’s silvery leaves, causing them to reflect sunlight. All this was far in the future. No need to be concerned, yet.