This story is by Jeanne Lemire and was part of our 2016 Winter Writing Contest. You can find all the Winter Writing Contest stories here.
Owen Elderberry wasn’t surprised as they read his sentence.
“You are hereby banished for your hate crimes to the human realm where you will be without magic until we feel you’ve changed.” The gavel cracked on the slate of sacred stone and Owen was drawn away from everything and everyone he had ever known.
He landed with a solid thump on the cold ground in a darkened alley. He had no idea where he had landed. He stood and stretched quickly remembering his wand hidden in his long coat pocket. Fools, they hadn’t thought to search him.
“What you got grandpa?” He turned to see three men leering at him. They were twice his size but the wand in his pocket would teach them.
“Don’t come closer, if you leave now I won’t hurt you.” He glared back at them, he’d duelled with the best of them over the course of his 350 years. “I just want to be left alone.”
“Well, I just want all your money, so give it to me and maybe we’ll let you live.” The three knuckle heads laughed.
Owen had been laughed at his whole life. His mother was strange they said, but she had loved him and always helped people. What good had it done her, no one had come to her funeral. A life of service for nothing, being good wasn’t worth it. Still he had tried, because his mother had told him to try. When she died there was no point. He became grumpier and more isolated. Books were his friends, they taught him spells and made him dream of realms far away. Now here he was in the other realm. He whipped out his wand and said the spell with spirit and gusto.
“Wow boys, look at the little stick. Give it to me!” The man grabbed Owen’s antique 800-year-old elder wand, cracked it and threw it on the ground. Owen had his back against a stone wall when the first punch struck, it hurt. The more they hit, the less he felt until darkness overcame him.
“Sir, wake up, please. Sir..” A soft female voice called to him. It seemed so familiar and kind.
“Morumph” He had tried to say mother, but his mouth wouldn’t move and the pain seized him, even, opening his eyes was difficult. Between the pain and the bright sunshine all he could see was the outline of a hat surrounded by a golden light. He had died, he was sure of it.
The kind lady tugged on his arm, trying to pull him up, his body resisted and the pain made him cry out, but no words came out. He couldn’t move his mouth.
“Help me son.” That kind voice, his mother wanted his help, he would do anything to see her again. He tried to push himself up as stronger arms lifted him up. He could see the face of the lady and was disappointed to find she was not his mother as he remembered her, she was so much younger. Confusion led to darkness again, he passed out.
“There now Johnny, let’s bring him home.” The man looked so old and fragile as her son carried the man to their modest apartment. The great creator had given Johnny lots muscles but short changed him in the brain department.
Lydia Lang had to help him, he reminded her of someone, a picture in the old family album maybe. She had been a nurse in WW1, so she was used to taking care of people. Widowed and taking care of an unusual child. There wasn’t much on the best of days and even less to share, but she always managed. Faith was as good as magic. There was food on the table and a roof over their heads. She had learned to count her blessings, always helping those in need whenever she could.
Upon awakening Owen found himself in a dingy room, even the sunlight streaming through the ill-fitting curtains couldn’t cheer up the gray coloured everything. He tried to move, but the pain took over and forced him to lie still. The door then opened and in she walked.
The worn straw hat with the faded peach coloured ribbon matched the well-worn dress with pale white flowers, still she seemed to glide as if floating on air. She beamed joyously at him and he felt strange, as if filled with light, and a feeling of supreme happiness. He tried to smile, and despite the pain managed a grin that only a mother could love.
“Well, now, you’re all settled in and comfy, hum.” She eyed him tenderly preparing a lotion that she gently applied to his wounds. Her movements were graceful and the cool liquid soothed him and he felt better than he had in many a century.
She sang softly as she tended him and he closed his eyes and remembered his happy care-free childhood. Even though the others were cruel he had ignored them. Taking comfort in his books, and the occasional stranger his mother took in. Some of them were nice and they told interesting stories about the other realms. He was sure life was easier out there. But his mother depended on him, so he stayed until it was too late. He had changed. He didn’t want to hurt people, but he liked thinking about it. Revenge sounded so sweet. Especially since the kids would go out of their way to harass him. He was the one who needed protection, but no one cared. Until the day they pushed him too far.
He had put up the warning signs, STAY AWAY! It was very clear, still they came into his yard and wrecked his garden. He had even done a protection spell, not realizing the dark consequences. Still the boy would live. He had been relieved, but refused to defend himself. Banishment was fine by him, he hated his own kind now, it was a relief to get away.
“There now, this will help things along. Soon you’ll be good as new. I’m Lydia and you’re in my home now.” Her blue eyes twinkled as she looked at him. He felt his heart melt. This was where he was meant to be.
The elders were wrong about this realm, there was strong magic without spells or wands. He had read about love magic and had wondered if it was real. The healing was what they called a miracle. His heart raced, the pain was gone. She had healed him, a real miracle. Still to him it felt like magic as his old bones straightened, the wrinkles disappearing from his hands. Even his hair felt thicker and when he gazed into the dingy wall mirror his magenta eyes sparkled. He had transformed into his younger self.
Joy beamed from his heart as he reached for her and kissed her on the cheek. They held hands, she wasn’t his mother yet he knew her. He also knew he never wanted to leave her.
She looked surprised by the kiss but smiled sweetly and held his hands, “You’re Owen from the realm of Glowcrest, do you remember me?”
It suddenly came back to him, the happiest summer of his life. The stranger Mr. Oakenbramble had a daughter and they had gone fishing with their wands. Laughing and playing they made the fish swim in water bubbles that sparkled like rainbows in the sunlight. The bubbles rose through the air and then splashed back into the aquamarine river, freeing the fish. They were always together until one day.They had left so suddenly. He blamed himself and the anger had begun to transform him. Now he understood that they had been banished too.
He held her hands, none of that mattered now. He would finally have a life worth living. The future beamed before him, and all he could see was happiness.