This story is by Tammy and was part of our 2017 Spring Writing Contest. You can find all the Spring Writing Contest stories here.
A heavy pounding startled Rose awake from her nap. The pounding came again as she groggily stumbled towards the door.
“Who is it?” trying to focus her eyes and look through the peep hole.
“It’s me. I need your help. Can I come in?” came the agonized voice of her childhood friend.
Opening the door she found herself face to face with her good friend Steve. Although, his usual happy go lucky demeanor was not there to greet her. Instead, he was pale and covered in mud. His clothes were torn and reeked of something she couldn’t quite place.
“What happened, you look like you were in a fight.”
Just as his mouth opened he collapsed. That was when she noticed a crossbow bolt sticking out of his left leg.
“Oh crap, what the hell happened to him?” asking her cat, Greugatch who was batting a piece of paper around. She glanced up, meowed, walked over and sniffed the wound.
After dragging him over to the couch she started to examine the bolt. Carved into the shaft was a symbol that looked familiar, but hoped she was wrong.
Parting the little curtains to her kitchen filled with hanging herbs, shelves overflowing with dried roots, barks, and powders covering the color spectrum she went to her Book of Shadows. Rose had always been helping others whether it was human or animal. Her mother, grandmother, great-grandmother as far back as anyone could remember were the healers of the village or town where they lived. And with each generation the mother would teach her daughter the ancient arts of healing, among other things. Sitting at the long island of soft dimpled brown she open the ancient tomb that had been handed down for generations, looking for a way to help her friend.
After only a short amount of searching, she found what she was looking for. A single rose within a circle of thorns, the Order of the Black Rose, a organization of evil creatures and practitioners of black magic. A group to try to stay far away from, and never be crossed. Listen to this Greu, “Created by the royal houses of Europe, the Order of the Black Rose were used as assassins to eliminate their enemies and anyone or anything they saw as a threat to their power. Often using such techniques as curses, poisoning, and torture. They became the most feared people in all of Europe.
Peering at her friend on the couch, wondering what he had gotten into that would cause him to cross paths with such people. Gathering some gauze and tincture of rosemary she readied herself for the task at hand. Propping up his leg on the coffee table, Rose pushed the bolt the rest of the way through. Scarlet and black dripped to the floor. An acrid smell emanating from the gaping hole, slamming into her nostrils.
“This is not good.”
Steve was starting to perspire and twitch, his pale skin, changing to a nautious green.
“I have got to figure out what the poison is and make an antidote quick.”
“This will take all of my skills.” All she had ever done before was help with colds and twisted ankles, by making tinctures, compotes, and casting healing spells, nothing like this. Poisoning was for back in the old days when magic was out in the open. “Back to the book, and run tests.”
“I figured the type of poison and a decoction to stop the effects. Hopefully, I have all the ingredients.”
Gathering everything needed from cupboards and shelves she found all but one of the herbs she needed.
“I don’t have anymore nettle. I’ll have to run and get some from Peaceful Plants and be right back.” once again talking to Greugatch since Steve was still unconscious.
Stepping out the front door Rose was met with a cold chill and wet fog. Wrapping her shawl around her shoulders tighter she made her way to the little shop.
“Hello, what can I do for you today?” inquired the shop keeper, a face of happy crinkles and rosy cheeks.
“I am out of nettle and need some right away. I’m making a healing potion for a sick friend.” not wanting to elaborate any further.
“No problem, let me look.”
After several minutes of searching. “I don’t have any out here, let me just go in the back and see.” a few more minutes later the pleasant smile was gone. “I am so embarrassed, I seem to be completely out right now.’
“Where can I get some more, my friend needs help right away.”
“You can go out into the forest and gather some fresh, there is always plenty this time of the year. That is the best I can do for you, sorry.”
Rose had spent her childhood exploring the forest, either playing chase, hide-and-seek, and other games, or learning to identify different plants and herbs from her mother and grandmother. Unfortunately, she had not been able to find the time to venture out in a while.
Her intuition telling her that it would be best to check in on Steven and see if his condition has changed, Rose rushed home.
“Oh, this is very bad.” she gasped when confronted with the greenish-gray pallor of her friend who was no longer twitching and perspiring.
“I have to hurry, he’s running out of time. According to the book at this stage, he only has another couple hours to live.”
She ran out the door, grabbing a basket she always kept by the door, not even bothering to lock it behind her.
Dusk was settling over the town with the forest to the west and the high mountains to the east. The forest was already difficult to navigate through; the dense trees provided a canopy too thick for the sun to completely penetrate even on the brightest of days. Tonight, with only a sliver of moonlight combined with thick black clouds, Rose decided to slow down once she got off the well-worn path and headed into the thick underbrush. Her flashlight provided her with a narrow beam to find her way as she searched for the last ingredient.
“Luckily it grows in large patches.”
It only took about twenty minutes for her to find a patch and gather enough for the healing potion. Jogging back, a tree root found the toes of her shoe, with a sharp pain in her ankle Rose found herself with a face full of mossy forest floor.
“Ouch! This cannot be happening! I have to save Steve and now I’ve sprained my ankle. I don’t have time for this!” As rose got up forcing herself to ignore the pain in her ankle. A slow hobble walk was all she was able to manage.
Knowing she had less than an hour to save Steve. Remembering the recipe and talking to herself, “I need to finely chop the herbs, and grind the roots to a fine powder, put them in a pot with 250 milliliters of snow from the top of a mountain gathered on Yule, heat and let everything steep for 10 to 15 minutes and then have the person drink.” Gathering a deep breath she continued on to save her friend.
With less than five minutes to spare the potion was ready. With a small cup and tilting his head up a bit poured it into his mouth pinched his nose shut until he swallowed it several times. “Now all I can do is wait.”
A while later, after mending her own injury and resting there was a stirring coming from the couch.
“You are looking so much better. I thought you might die. What happened?”
“Well, I have been following in my family’s footsteps by trying to protect people from the evil in the world.”
“Such as what is the Order of the Black Rose?”
“I did not think anybody knew about them. How do you know?”
“The bolt that I took out of your leg had their symbol carved into it. I found a reference to it in my family’s book. That was how I realized that you had been poisoned.”
“You have to promise me to not speak of this to anyone, anyone who knows about them will always be in great danger.”
“I certainly don’t want to get in their way, or put anyone else in danger either.”
“Thank you so much for saving me tonight. How can I ever make it up to you?”
“You could take me to dinner when you are feeling better,” she said as a sly smile crossed her face.