Looking up at the counter, “The Child” was on a mission. She knew that the town Roose had what she was looking for. She knew that there had to be something here that would make her mother better. Using a chair that looked less like something you would sit on, and more like the kind of worn out furniture you found outside behind someone’s house. That ‘project’ that never got worked on, and whether it rotted as fertilizer, or held the tomatoes, it generally found its way to the garden. Using that to climb up where she could reach the counter, she began digging through the papers, vials, boxes, and more that littered the surface.
“The Child”, it may as well have been her name ever since her father had passed away. She was told that he’d gone on to a better place, that he was folded in the land’s final embrace, but when she asked if she could visit him there, they told her that it wasn’t her time to go. Ever since then it had been “Who will help provide for ‘the child’, you have no other family here”, and “What will you do with ‘the child’” asked of her mother by the neighbors when they didn’t think she was still listening. Opening a small intricately worked metal box, she frowned at the loose paper, and dried leaves inside. She’d seen some of the older folk sit around putting these together and smoking them on the porches. Finding them on the Roose’s counter caused her to wonder at the good effect they must have on people. But this wasn’t what she had come for, so she closed the box and continued her search.
Ever since that day, her mother had become more and more distant, her trips outside the home fewer and fewer, until finally they only ever saw company when it came calling. During that time she had become noticeably weaker, and had lost a considerable amount of weight. At first the Roose had refused to come to see her, insisting that it was normal for a woman who had lost her husband to mourn. But after the season’s had passed a full cycle, and her mother had not been seen for half of it, the Roose came to her. Standing beside the bed and never once opening her satchel, the Roose examined her mother, asking her questions about her diet, and about how she felt. She waited for the moment that the Roose would make her mother better, waiting for the satchel to come open and the Magic Words to be said. But after what seemed like far too short a time, she picked up her satchel and left the room. No herbs, no smoke, no tonics, and No Magic Words.
After the shock of what had just happened, she ran to her mother’s side and promised her, she would make her better. Getting no response from her mother, who had once again nodded off, ‘the child’ set off to find what she would need to help. And here she was, rifling through the many things on the Roose’s counter, not seeing the pouches or tonics that she’d watched the older woman use when people were ill. Frustrated, she looked once more around the room. Barrels that were held together by rusted hoops, and luck, holding tools and whatever was tossed into them in passing sat at the end of the counters she had just finished searching. Cabinets, that may have at one point had doors, lined the walls higher than she would be comfortable pulling the glass containers, holding all manner of things, from. The older wooden floor didn’t look like it’d been swept in years and the closet at the far end of the room with one of the barrels holding its door open was the only place she could safely reach, but hadn’t looked yet.
As she climbed down and made her way to the closet, a sound at the front of the building let her know she was no longer alone. Rushing in and crawling behind a convenient stack of books, she balled herself up as small as she could and hardly dared to breath. She didn’t want to get caught, didn’t want the Roose to stop her from making her mother better. She couldn’t imagine why the woman would want to stop her, but she would take no chances. She could hear the Roose come into her workroom and stop just inside the entrance.
“What in the lands…”
She could hear the woman moving about the room, and heard too, the sound of something being set on the floor rather soundly. The Satchel. Moving slowly, and as silently as she could manage, she attempted to peek around the books. To both see where it had be set, and also, to maybe see what the older woman was looking at now that the sound of movement had subsided.
“I don’t have time to… who would… the child… oh no…”
The Roose rushed from the room, not stopping to take her bag. As soon as the child heard the front door come too, she quickly rushed over to the satchel. It was far too large for her to carry the entire thing, but opening it up, she found the jars and herbs she was looking for. Using her dress to carry what she could, the child went back out the rear of the building and made her way home, careful to keep out of sight.
As she reached her house she waited in the trees until the Roose left, she had suspected the woman would have rushed here, and only then went back inside. Coming up to her mother’s bed, she couldn’t hear the heavy breathing that had been with her for the last few phases of the moon. Perhaps the Roose had done something this time. Sitting on the floor, the child began mixing the ingredients together. She had seen all of these things used to help people who were even worse off than her mother was, and every one of them had recovered to full health. So if she mixed them all for her mother, then there was no way that whatever she had wouldn’t’ be cured. Besides that, she knew the Magic Words.
As she sat stirring the thick concoction with a spoon from the kitchen that hadn’t seen a real cleaning in quite some time, the child considered how to get her mother to drink this… or if she ‘should’ drink it. Sometimes the Roose would apply her remedies to the bodies of the sick… but no, her mother would have to drink it. That way she’d get the full effect. Pulling the stool up to the bed, the child climbed up and shook her mother.
“Momma!” she called, “Momma, I got you a medicine. You can be better now Momma,” shaking her as she did she was frustrated that her mother wasn’t waking. “Momma!” she shouted, “Momma, get up! You have to drink so you can be better!”
The child jumped down from the stool and grabbed the mixture. Climbing back up to where she could see he mother, the child set the concoction at the head of the bed and began shaking her mother more vigorously. “Momma! I got you a cure, and I got the Magic Words! Momma, Wake, Up!”
She didn’t know if the person had to be awake for the words to work, so she decided to try. Standing as straight as she could, the child tried to do it the way she’d watched the Roose do it when she made someone better. Holding the mixture in her two hands, as she wasn’t big enough to hold it with one, the child reached out with it and taking care not to mix up the words she said, “Take this tonight, and you should feel better tomorrow. Drink this, and Be Healed.”
Nothing happened. There was no light, no sound, and no wind. The room was silent enough that one could almost hear the tears as they hit the stool the child was standing on. A firm hand on the child’s shoulder received no response, and some time passed in silence before she heard, “You did what you could child. She is beyond your help now.”
Turning in a rage, the child lashed out with her little fists, and shouted, “You didn’t make her better! You didn’t even try!” chest wrenching sobs beginning to form within her, “Why didn’t you help my Momma!”
Doing nothing to stop the blows, the Roose tried to put a hand on the child’s head in a comforting manner. She had never been the best at comforting children, “Your mother had a malady of the Soul Child. There was nothing my tinctures and tonics could have done.”
Glaring up at the old woman, the child spat, “And why can’t you cure the soul!?”
“The soul is beyond my reach little one. The Wise Men, that is their domain. My cures are cures for the body.”
“Then I will learn to cure the soul!” the child exclaimed, “If I learn to cure the body, and the soul, nobody will ever have to lose their momma!” For she knew, she had seen her father when he had passed, and her mother had the same stillness. She had gone to the final embrace of the land… and she would never hold her again.
“That is a noble desire child,” the Roose said, pulling the child into an embrace, which was enough to loose the torrent of pain that the little one had just barely kept at bay, “and I will do whatever I can to make it so.” And though nobody had wanted to take this child’s care in their hands as the little one’s noble intents were commonly seen as mischief, the Roose knew that her future had changed, and that the child would be her responsibility from here forward.