Friday, January 20, 2017

Chapter 3 – You Can Never Have Too Much Tea

 It was cold and dark. Toadmila gripped her cup of tea tightly with her left hand. She tucked her broom under her arm, so she could hold her wand properly in her right hand. With a slow, twirling motion of the tip of her wand, she whipped up a thin wisp of blue light. The wisp floated in front of her, revealing tall, gnarly shadows of old trees. Far above, their branches were knotted into a dark web. Below, their gnarly roots spread across the ground, ready to trip any unsuspecting traveler's feet. There were no leaves in sight, neither on the branches, nor on the ground, but something brightly colored did shine at Toadmila's feet. Lowering her wisp of light, she saw a crumpled piece of paper with “50% OFF” written on it in bold, red letters, and the words “void if folded or creased” glittering in gold letters. Toadmila checked her hands to make sure, but indeed this was her coupon for a half-priced familiar. She took a calming sip of tea, and suddenly she felt that she did not need a basic familiar for 50% off. She had always wanted a dragon anyway. Whatever would she do with a basic familiar? Still, she picked up the piece of paper and smoothed it as best she could with her hand. The creases would not go away, but after one more sip of tea, she decided she was quite pleased with the result.
It took several more gulps of tea before Toadmila could persuade herself that she'd be content to find her hut. The light of the wisp did not go very far, but there seemed to be a wider opening between the trees just ahead of her. Slowly, mindful of the old roots, she made her was towards the opening. More trees stood before her, but the spaces between them got wider and wider as she kept walking, and their trunks got thinner and younger, until she reached a clearing.
Looking up, she saw a sky as black as death. There was no silver lining along the edge of the clouds to mark the spot where the Moon might be. Toadmila brought the cup of tea to her lips, but thought better of it. Clouds were just vapor, nothing to be upset about. She waved her wand at them to send them off. But the clouds wouldn't budge. This was not what she'd been taught in class. Every textbook she'd ever seen stated clearly that clouds could be moved by wind, yet these clouds would not move. Exasperated, Toadmila set aside her cup of tea, leaving it to hover in the air beside her, and used both hands to send a stream of sparks into the air. By their light, she could see the entire clearing before her, and, at its center, the dilapidated hut.
This time, she reached for the cup of tea with both hands. The hut was worse in real life than she had ever imagined it. Firstly, it was round, which was the least distressing thing about it. The walls were bare, with no sign that they had ever been covered in paint. A skeleton of wooden beams stood out of the thin walls, which looked and smelled as if they'd been made out of dung. This unlikely construction material had leaked away in parts, piling up at the base of the hut and leaving openings below the roof. The roof itself was a sight to behold. A thatched roof, it had the odd look of a large haystack that had come to life and was attempting to run away from some unseen evil. It leaned on one side, and straws had slipped from it, covering the ground around the hut.
Toadmila gulped down the tea, which was magically still warm. Slowly, the warmth filled her with a sense of peace. Slowly, as she drank, she began to feel that things were as they should be, until she could dismiss even the stench as a minor nuisance. When she had had her fill of tea, she felt quite content, though a little light-headed. Wobbling a bit, she made her way to the front door and pushed it open with a loud screech. Something moved inside the hut, though it was too dark to see what it was. It made a sound like a snake slithering through grass, which turned into a whooshing of evil wind. Something cold and dark flew out of the hut and into the woods, brushing past Toadmila ans she stood in the doorway. For a moment, she stood frozen. Then a few gulps of tea convinced her that this must have been a draft of wind, nothing more. She shook her head, as if to shake away any unpleasant thoughts, and raised her wand to light a fire in the fireplace.
There was no fireplace, however, and all the light she could bring into the hut was her blue wisp. It did more harm than good, casting ghostly shadows over the miserable furniture, which was made-up of a blackened table and a three-legged stool. There was no bed, but in the darkest part of the single room, at the point farthest from the door, there was a pile of straws that looked like it might have fallen there from the roof. The one thing that made its presence there look somewhat deliberate was a large, scarlet blanket, surprisingly clean, folded neatly on top of it.

Toadmila decided that no amount of tea was going to make this place look welcoming. She sat the cup on the table and lay down on her straw bed, folding herself tightly in the blanket. Her wisp shivered for a moment, then died, leaving her in complete darkness. As the effects of the calming tea were slowly leaving her, Toadmila closed her eyes and wished that she was somewhere else entirely.

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