The Gat climbed the ladder to the top shelf of books. He swiped the boney finger of his right hand along the dusty spines, sending a small cloud of white particles into the air. He puffed through his scraggly beard several times to clear the air in front of his nose. More dust followed. He sneezed and blew vigorously. Still, his finger continued moving down the titles:
One Hundred Potions, One Hundred Cures by Finnaous Dolspringer
Gorgenyweed, Uses and Dangers by Dorian Middlesnout
Ancient Herbal Spells for Today’s Gat by Meldringfor the Gat (a Gat who had been dead for more than 200 years)
Plant use in Gates and Portals by Melvin Parnoidian
Herbaceous Curses by Doddlesnick Twofinger (rumored to have lost the other three to a particularly potent mix of Nodlesleg Weed and Brovlinine Seed)
“No…no,” muttered Mattoby. “Where is it?”
He continued along the line of books, careful not to damage the tattered spines. His finger stopped, and he gently patted the title of the next book.
“There you are.”
He pulled the book off the shelf and hugged it to his chest as he walked down the ladder, mumbling under his breath. He carried it past piles of books that covered every part of the room, from the overstuffed shelves and mismatched tables and chairs to the floor. Mattoby’s library contained books of every shape and size, color and age, and history and use arranged in a haphazard order understandable only to himself. He knew the general location of every title, including those stacked on the floor, books that he was now stepping over and walking around to get to the one empty table in the back of the room.
He placed the book on the table and read the title out loud, “Magical Cures, The Lingering Effects, by Vagmorgian the Gat…ah, Vagmorgian, my old friend…I do wonder whatever became of him.”
He opened the book, taking care not to rip the brittle pages, and ran his finger down the Table of Contents.
“Ah, there you are…Chapter 7: Tests of Completeness – The Theory of Magical Growth…dry topic.”
He coughed a few times and sneezed.
“Let’s see…let’s see…I know it is in here.”
He resumed muttering and mumbling to himself as he scanned Chapter 7. “Aha! Yes…yes…,” he read fragments aloud, “…magical powers displayed in young and developing beings…lingering effects connected to…especially pronounced in cures…provided the benefiting specimen remains alive…powers reflect, in theory…” He stopped. “Yes…yes…it’s all theoretical, isn’t it? Still, Vagmorgian…I wonder…I wonder…” He continued reading, stopped at one point, and traced his finger under the words as he read them slowly, “The connection between a healed living organism and its magical healer is a strong bond, lasting the life of the healed organism. In theory…yes, there it is again…yes, yes…In theory, the recipient organism reflects the power of its healer, the reflection growing in intensity with the maturing magical power of the being that delivered the healing. The healed organism does not possess the magical powers, merely reflects them under the proper test conditions, in theory…yes, yes.”
Mattoby waved his hand as to chase the word “theory” off the page.
“You always were a cautious one Vagmorgian. In theory…” he chuckled. “I wonder…I wonder…I shall put it to a test.”
The Gat returned the book to its place on the shelf in the same manner he had retrieved it, sneezing a few times at the top of the ladder. He paused at the door to his hallway, held up his hand, and snapped his fingers. The candles in the lanterns, which were positioned on the walls and hanging from the three chandeliers on the ceiling, all dimmed to a soft glow. He entered the brightly lit hallway and turned to the right. The ceiling in this hallway was high enough for the tallest of men to walk comfortably upright; although, the Gat, diminutive as he was, did not require it. He had rare, but occasional, company to the rooms down this corridor, and the hallway was set to properly accommodate them. He reached the room in the front of his house.
The corridors to the left and the right of this main hallway were reserved for his personal use. They were narrow and winding tunnels with low ceilings. He could pass through them on his tiptoes if he desired, but tall men and Valdaren would have to duck and walk bent over at the waist to navigate the passages. It was no bother to him. These rooms were never intended for company.
He stepped into the hall to the left of the main passage. The lanterns scattered down the corridor lit up as he did but provided only dim light. Unlike the main section of the house with its wooden plank flooring and clapboard walls, the floor beneath his feet was dirt and the walls stone. Mattoby walked down the corridor past three thick wooden doors, each locked with a different variety of bolts and barricades. He stopped at a fourth, mumbled quietly, and ran his fingers over the face of the locks. One after another they unlocked.
He opened the door, walked into the dark room, and shut the door behind him, repeating the process with his fingers. The muffled snapping of the locks on the backside of the door answered him. He flicked on the bright white lights with a snap of his fingers, revealing an enormous greenhouse that stretched for a hundred feet in front of him. The ceiling vaulted high above his head, and numerous birds, startled by the sudden brightness, took flight and perched in the lofty rafters. In the center of the room was a grove of rare trees whose branches pressed against the glass panels on the ceiling, threatening to break through them.
A few of the birds landed by his feet, and he tossed some crumbs from his pocket to them.
“Yes…yes,” he said quietly to the birds. “I’ve disturbed your sleep…It cannot be helped.”
He walked down the path to the right of the tree grove. Several vines twisted their tendrils and brushed against him as he passed.
“Hello, my friends. I will not trouble you for long.”
At the back of the room was a small greenhouse contained within the cavernous room. It was made of glass panels all around with no apparent entry. Vines wrapped around the outside of little room, blocking its insides from view. Mattoby snapped his fingers, and the vines responded by recoiling off the structure. A light in the center of the space illuminated, revealing a table with a single plant that had emerald leaves shaped like hearts and lovely white flowers as large as man’s hand, the only plant in the small room.
“Still alive, I see…good thing…yes…yes.”
He mumbled a few words, and the front panels of glass folded themselves to the side, creating a doorway.
He stepped inside the room and gently touched a leaf.
“The first gift of the last Lightbearer…a child’s wish for your flowers to ever bloom…and still you bloom…though hundreds of years have passed. She is a child no more, but is she ready? Is her magic strong enough? I wonder?”
Mattoby reached to the belt around his waist, which was hidden by his long grey beard. He pulled out a thin dagger, a blade that looked more fit for a child’s play than a powerful Gat’s use. The handle was made of carved bone in the design of a twisted vine. It was an ancient bone, the former owner of, Mattoby would never confess to knowing. He pulled a clean tissue from his pocked and folded it into a perfect square several layers of cotton thick. He placed the cloth directly underneath a leaf and held that leaf in his left hand just at the base where it connected to the stem. He held the dagger in his right hand and poised it above the leaf.
“Forgive me Lorien. This will sting a bit.”
He whispered a few words, then plunged the blade into the center of the leaf, resting its tip on the cloth. Blood flowed through the gash in the leaf and down the blade, saturating the folded tissue. It dripped off the table and onto the floor.
Chapter 2, A Test, from The Legend of the Lumenstones: The Lightbearer
words and cover art © 2017 Tanya Cliff
on sale now