03 – Book One – Toll – Chapter Two – Moró

I never knew my mother . . . Or father. Least not when I was older. As a newborn bundle they were there, helping me, supporting me, nurturing me. And then they were gone. Gone from my life. Gone from this world. Their bodies were never found. No one knew anything.

As for me, a babe of just six months, I was rescued by a very special woman. Clýstra was her name. She was old when I was still very young. When I grew to my teens, and over-teens, she was older, but did not seem so. She appeared just as I remembered her when I was fifteen, ten, and five. But I knew before five that she possessed a special gift, a gift she chose to impart to me.

For she was a great sorceress.

A Circé.

[Break]

She came upon me in a setting that bares more than a passing resemblance to a quaint tale out of a very old book. I lay wrapped in a swaddling blanket in my wicker crib, studying the intricacies of my toes and their ability to move independently, as if they were their very own tiny little creatures. It made me giggle endlessly. My giggles grew louder when I discovered I could in fact reach these little toes and my face grew shocked when I learned they were part of me.

You are perchance wondering how I could recall a moment in such detail from a very young age; how the mind does not begin to keep and maintain thoughts and memories such as these until a few years greater in age. Let me elucidate and by the same token reveal the awesome power of the incredible Clýstra.

On the day she performed this complicated spell, I had no idea what her plans were. She had told me nothing, but let me stew in my wandering thoughts. I merely watched her as she assembled her articles. Picking up certain rocks from various baskets in her storehouse and assembling them in a crude pyramid before me. Then accumulating a number of sticks and twigs which she carefully lined up against the rocks, all seeming to come to a tapered point.

CLYSTRA: Wait here

Then she stepped outside her home. She was gone for but a few moments, and returned with a gorgeous vibrant green rose, the burgundy leaves framing the exotic color of the flower. The fact that this rose’s color was the same as my eyes was not missed by me, especially since Clýstra has told me this myriad times over my years. I knew then that this was certainly something involving my person. I grew nervous.

She delicately placed the flower on the rickety scaffolding of sticks and rocks. I thought it would all come tumbling down, like Eggy-Freddy, and it did but tremble for a second, like an insect about to take flight, and then held.

CLYSTRA: Are you ready?

I gave her a look that said I knew not at all. She nodded in acceptance and began.

[Break]

Her legs folded beneath her and seemed to disappear. Clýstra held up her hands, palms out, as if she were absorbing warmth from a fire. Eyes closed, she was concentrating.

I watched and learned.

Something happened, but I didn’t know what. It seemed like nothing, but then I saw we were no longer where we’d been.

Now inside a thatch house, sitting in the same position, Clýstra before me, sitting just the same. Except . . . We were not alone. I was able to immediately know this by the sound of a child . . . A very young child. I turned my head to see a wicker crib in a corner of the hut. From my angle of view I could not see who was in the crib, though the noises  made it clear it was a babe. Then I saw wriggling hands and feet reaching and kicking out until they came in contact with each other. I couldn’t close my eyes; I couldn’t blink. Those tiny limbs, so soft and pure and innocent. I was mesmerized. Entranced. Hypnotized.

CLYSTRA: That’s you

How is that possible?

CLYSTRA: We have traveled. Through time. To the past. In a short while someone will walk through the door . . .

“You?” I ask in wonder.

CLYSTRA: Yes. You catch on quick, girl. And this is the day I found you.

THYRA

[hopeful]

: So you know what happened to my parents?

CLYSTRA: Sadly, no, my dear. I tried. I tried very hard. I used spells. All the ones that might work. And I talked to many and all. No one had answer or even a clue. One day they were there, taking care of you. The next they were gone.

I wanted to move on. Not talk about this still fresh and open wound.

THYRA: How have we traveled in time?

CLYSTRA: We do not have long, so I will be terse. You know the essence of magic is in the life of things, be they organic or not. Living or lifeless. The stones I chose because they are equal to those in this hut.

I can’t help asking:

THYRA: you remember the exact stones?

CLYSTRA: I remember everything I see, because I have to. Because it is a focal part of the craft. Because it is a requirement and a tool of the sorceress. A tenet of the Circé. I took a little from each stone. The stones and rocks of Albion are almost as ancient as the planet itself. I only need a little time, so I was very sparing with each stone. If you examine them, you may notice a new scratch; a small nick; nothing more. The more essence you take, the greater toll it takes on the object.

Hearing this, my eyes returned to the grouping of magic items and I gasped. The sticks were no longer there. Gone. But no . . . There were small piles of wood dust around the rocks. They’d been converted to oh so tiny pieces. The cost of the spell. The sacrifice. I could also see the rocks now, and Clýstra was right. While I had not paid much attention to them before. I could see a visible white scratch on one, a scratch that looked fresh. On another a small piece was absent, as if it had been deftly cut away, or dropped onto a sharp edge.

I looked for the last ingredient to the spell, and for some time could not find it. The lovely, vibrant, green rose. There was no greenery to be found anywhere on the floor between us. Then I did see a blackened, shriveled piece of something . . . A small discarded banana skin that has been left for days to the elements. It was barely a husk; a nothing; a no longer. Something that could never come back and be the beautiful thing it once was.

The greatest cost . . . The highest toll had been on the rose, which did not exist anymore. All its life essence subtracted . . . Removed . . . withdrawn.

This was an important lesson for me. One I would never forget.

Clýstra said nothing during this time, knowing that what I was seeing was teaching me far more than any service words could perform.

Then the thatch door opened on the thatch hut and in walked another Clýstra more than a decade younger, although she did not look much changed from the one kneeling before. Perhaps a few less wrinkles, more black to her hair, and a brighter light in her eyes.

I pulled myself to the side, attempting to cower before this new person, hoping to hide myself.

The Clýstra from my time snorted at this.

CLYSTRA: She cannot see us.

I understood this response, but had trouble accepting it.

The younger Clýstra walked through the old woman, then through me, over to the child. She began cooing at the babe, and it made sounds at her. She bent down and picked up the child, putting her over her shoulder.

The babe’s head was turned towards me; her face looking at me, and I looked back.

Then the child began to fade; grow transparent. As did the younger Clýstra, and then so too did the hut.

I looked quickly to my Clýstra and was immediately relieved to see her solid and corporeal.

Then the thatch hut vanished, like a flicker at the corner of my vision, and we were back in her stockroom.

I let out a deep breath . . . A breath from the past, from a different moment in time, perchance?

But then are not all breaths when taken in, expelled at a different moment in time?

For time is always moving forward, whether we want it to or not.

I turned to Clýstra and saw her looking at me, as if waiting for a question. And then I had it.

THYRA: How do you know what ingredients to use in a spell like this?

CLYSTRA: That is the correct question and an easy answer: I do not. I know much about the objects of the world. Those living, and those that are not. But for conducting spells, there are no books that tell you step by step what to do, like a recipe for cooking a favorite dish. It is all about . . . What the spell is; what it is for . . . And who it is for. I knew I wanted to take the two of us back to this moment in time. I knew the stones that would be required and how much time we needed to travel in to the past. I knew the amount of life energy that would be required from past experience. And I knew the element that linked to you specifically would have to be very strong and potent. I only have one more of those rare green roses left on the bush in my orchard. I know not if more will bloom, or if the plant may die. Magic is all about tolls on life. The role of the sorceress, the Circé, is to know the toll, and to confidently know whether that toll is truly worth it.