the wide berth they took and didn't blame them one bit. He didn't
trust what would happen around him and any ladies too close.
Perhaps a hint of sadness in his eyes but soon covered
up as he approached the bar. "Potcheen, Alex, I'll finish the
work tomorrow." He was done for the night as he didn't drink
on the job and certainly he could use a drink at the moment. It
was Anne he addressed from at least a ten foot distance.
"It is a real curse," then adding as focus turned on
Feather, "a medicine woman, it was a woman." In
that moment the words finally became clear. Spouting them
near as quickly so he
didn't lose them again. "Darkness looms to devour. A curse
upon thee this hour. Things possessed to be lost from small to
large will be the cost." A breath drawn through his
teeth as he had lost a lot in the decade past, "those fair of
gender to flee as you bring upon them catastrophe. The days
numbered until death or cure, the riddling to be obscure."
Eyes held that out of
focus quality as he was reaching inside, "the key persistence
of one unknowing through rain and high water to never falter. When
petals of the flowers bloom then sealed together to dispel the
doom." Eyes refocusing but with a blank look the moment
as if he would lose what he just spewed.
with right sympathy for the poor man, to bear such a curse was
dire indeed and naught he did could surely warrant it. "How
long has it been upon you, that curse, do you not mind the
horrible!" Anne didn't try to hide her dismay as she blinked
at the curse. "And no one's been able to break it yet?"
Her bright head shook, resolved to do whatever she could to make
sure he was freed from that dark cloud.
indeed terrible." She frowned as she went over the words
again in her mind. "The woman was very angry and very
cruel." She looked at the other two women as she considered
He shook his
head, "until now I was not able to remember the whole of the
curse. I had nightmares over the past few months here and there. A
woman's voice in chant in my head. I remember the voice. My parents
insisted I wed this woman of a family with prestige. It was said
she was a witch. I thought in personality wise after meeting her.
Self centered, greedy, demanding, quite insufferable. I refused,
threats were made by my family, then by her. There was this severe
pain in my head, a bright searing light. I must have passed out
and the next day I packed up and left without a word. Roaming
for a few years until I came
here. Felt safe but there were still the incidences around
women." Almost mentioning some of them but it might well be
even more embarrassing than what happened tonight already. He
was sure they could believe him.
tightened upon its cup of tea, for finding it similar in its way
to her father's plight. Placing it to the counter with care, she
looked to him a moment. "You have not sought a wizard's help
or one of the wise workers of this land for their aid? It does not
seem as if it will go without them."
got a point. There are some here who could get to the root of the
curse and find out what it takes to lift it, Matthew. You didn't
deserve to be punished in the first place, and it's unthinkable
that you're continuing to suffer for having the good sense to
spare yourself a miserable marriage." Emphatically nodding in
agreement with Alannah, Anne glanced at Feather for support.
possible that they might be able to, or, if nothing else they may
be able to help explain the riddle." She looked thoughtful.
"I may be able to look into the smoke and see if it was the
woman who was angry who cursed you but
unless I know her power, I cannot offer help." She could make
a medicine bag that might help ease some of the trouble he had
The rigid line of his shoulders softened as a weight was being
lifted. One glance to Alex but as usual he seemed not to be paying
attention. Except Matthew knew better, probably knew Alex better
than anyone, except maybe Hazel. He was sizing them up in that
quick way of his before letting out a breath. "For a long
time I hid here as being a jack of all trades and master of none.
Someone insignificant that would go unnoticed. Although this
curse makes me noticed, not in a good way. Until now I didn't
realize such was a curse placed long ago. Usually I work alone and
just avoided ladies to not
cause havoc. Except it gets lonely being alone after a duration.
Maybe that is why all this has been happening for me to realize
what was done and find the cure it speaks of?"
could well be the truth of it. Or mayhap it is that you've come
the point in your mind that you are ready to confront the curse
and see it done?" She took the glass of Alex and went to
offer it to him with a bit
of an encouraging smile. "It's no small thing, the finding of
courage to face truth."
Anne smiled at
Feather with a nod. Now there was a helpful lady! "I can't
speak for Feather or Alannah, but I'd certainly be willing to do
what I could to see that you're freed, if as Alannah
says, you're ready for that. It will take more than I've got,
though. I know that."
I. At least if we can find out if she is the one who placed the
curse, it could begin to unravel its power." She watched
Alannah and smiled. She was showing courage in giving the glass to
him. Perhaps that too, could be a
brave and in doing so touched his heart to come so close after all
that happened and him having a curse upon him. "I never
thought of myself as courageous," although liked the idea if
he could be that kind of person.
There was much he wasn't being for the hiding. "A decade
about, living with such." All becoming clearer as he thought
back on numerous instances. "I want to be free,"
hesitant to take the glass that it might shatter and not
wishing her to get cut. Eyes lifting to Feather first, "could
we make some smoke here and you look into it to find out?"
Then upon Anne, "you would do this for me," spared
between them all, "all of you?" Amazement was the color
of his eyes.
The smile and
nod urged him to take the glass. It was an act of trust on her
part to prove herself willing aid the man beyond the curse's
affects. "Aye, to be sure I will, on my honor as a Callihan.
We're nigh accustomed to
curses and seeing them removed now."
something you could do here, Feather, or do you need to make
special preparations?" She looked between them, then grinned
at Matthew. "Since I've come here, there's been
all sorts of strange and unusual things I've seen. Of course I'll
what I need with me. We can make a fire outside. The smoke is
pleasant and will not cause harm but I am not certain that Alex
would wish the smoke in the tavern, even if briefly." She
looked toward the tender in question. To
make a fire would not take her long.
One hand slid to
cup hers while the other moved in to take the glass. There was the
oddity of pressure, not given by him, of pushing her hand away.
Had his not been there the glass would probably have
fallen and shattered, spilt or some like hazard, instead he
managed to take it without incident. "Thank you," words
low and meant before he was moving towards the side door leading
out to the garden. "I'm sure
we could out here and not disturb anyone." Obviously he
wanted to be rid of it like one wanted to be rid of a virus.
be cooler so as well, aye?" She made proper certain the glass
was safely delivered ere she drew away to fetch her cup and see to
Anne was already
deep in thought as she went to follow Alannah and Feather out into
the gardens, puzzling over what the resolution to the curse could
be. "It sounds like it will take someone to look
past your curse to see the worthy man behind it to me."
cooler." She stepped outside and took a few deep breaths,
then began to gather tinder in the form of small branches. It
wouldn't take much for her to start a small fire but it would be
the blend of herbs she used that would
create the smoke. Once she had enough, she used flint to start the
flames, blowing on them softly until they caught.
thoughtful with Anne's spoken words. That made sense in the curse
being to keep any female away from him. He stepped out into the
night without having any of them tumble or get stuck
in the door with him, although almost, preventing it by taking a
quick step back instead of forward. Looked strange but it worked.
Then again he was being consciously careful. He took up a
position close but not too close as Feather made the small fire
that would turn to smoke. This was the longest he was near a
female, let alone three where nothing happened in the last twenty
Not knowing the
what needed to be done, she stood nigh to Feather to act as
windbreak for the lighting of the fire and certain as the lass
would tell her aught as she could be and do for the helping.
It sounded like
sour grapes to Anne, a curse placed by a woman of power in a fit
of jealous pouting. The whole 'If I can't have you, no one else
can either' thing. She brought up
the rear and went to watch Feather at work with fascination.
down in front of the small fire, watching as the herbs caught.
They might catch the scent of lavender and juniper. The other
scents were of pinion resin and of a particular type of sage. As
the smoke grew thicker, she
began to chant softly. At first nothing happened, but then it
seemed to dance as if in a breeze. Shapes could almost be made out
by them but it was one she focused on. "I see the face of a
woman. One who is beautiful but not this night. Her face is
contorted, showing the ugliness of her spirit. Her words are foul,
evil and she too uses smoke but to curse, not to heal." She
added another handful of herbs so that the others might see the
woman as well.
sounds like Melisande, Sande," he hadn't spoken her name
since that time. He was frowning. "I remember her anger when
I said I'd not go through with an arranged marriage," looking
a touch sheepish for he had been
angry that night, being pushed from all sides. "I didn't love
her, would never love her and would not marry her if she was the
last woman on earth. Her heart was black. She was so angry I
thought she might explode as she hissed, spewing her words that
didn't make sense, some odd sound ringing in my head instead and
woke hours later, alone." He had never seen one so angry and knowing
well his words had been harsh but it was to the point they had to
be for no one was listening otherwise. She was planning their
wedding day, planning their lives, planning when he'd take his
"I can well
understand the anger, for no woman wishes be rejected, yet to do
this is naught short of cruel and monstrous." Alannah's head
was after shaking with the very inhumanity of the deed done, and the
fate of the one who would act in thus manner.
that isn't living proof of the saying that hell hath no fury like
a scorned woman." Anne didn't call the woman what she wanted
to, no matter how much she deserved it. "I'm with Alannah.
I can understand being angry and hurt, but this is just a blatant
misuse of her power for selfish, spiteful reasons."
away seeing that face before tearing his eyes away from the sight.
Almost a fear that she could see him and somehow find her way to
where he was hidden. To fear a woman like he did
here without rhyme or reason before was something he had to live
with. There was a lot they didn't know about him but he had not
feared anyone before, now he knew it wasn't her but what she was.
Glancing to the side until the smoke showed her no more
before fully looking back. "It is my family's money she wants
and I the heir. She tricked my parents into thinking she had
connections they needed but she doesn't. I tried to tell
them, aside all else that was wrong about the whole idea, but it
was as they could not hear me at all. I decided the best thing
would be to disappear if I could." She obviously didn't have
enough power, or his will stronger, to keep him from that.
"Now I know the reason for the curse and by whom, left only
to find the answer to dispel it." The woman no longer a
threat he was sure by this
time, probably latched onto some other gold mine as she looked
upon potential men in her life.
She shook her
head, then carefully covered the flames with dirt, watching as the
smoke cleared. "The answer lies within her words." She
looked at Matthew, lips pursing slightly. "She cannot find
you here. There is too much good in
this land that will protect you." Standing, she smiled.
"I will make you a medicine bag if you wish. I am not certain
it will work but it may."
Miss Anne has a bit of a notion in the what she said. Is there a
lady as you might seek spend time with, to see about overcoming
the curse?" Alannah knew naught of such matters or the reversing
of them, but it made proper sense to him. "Aye, a medicine
bag could help as well."
Anne blinked at
Alannah's words then. "What did I say? Oh, about finding
someone to fall in love with? Or something like that? I wasn't
sure if that made any sense, I was just babbling."
be nice to think I could spend time with a lady but it's like
asking the plague to dinner. I cannot even know with the things
that happen that something worse might befall them if they got
too close. I think the riddle of the curse needs to be unraveled
before, for it is against that very thing." He was wondering
if he was making any sense but knew a lot so far this night was
need be taken line by line, aye? The better to learn its
meaning?" She was curious of the how now.
I still think it wouldn't hurt to ask one of the gifted for help,
they might see something in the riddle that we don't." Anne
was going to stand firm on that point, simply because she
had no idea how to undo the curse.
finding someone is not always easy." She nodded slowly.
"A curse is always breakable but it may take time. But
speaking to one of the others must be your choice, Matthew."
gotten so far to be stumped." It eluded him too but then the
hour was late. "Maybe if we all sleep on it," well, more
like maybe if they did being he had gotten no where with it, like it
was not for him to know the meaning, kept from him even. Another
had to. "If any of you figure it out or at least come up with
some ideas to try, you can contact me here through Alex. I would be
very appreciative of any such efforts." He'd been elated to
get this far but now felt the pull of it all and didn't want to
lose hope. He could ask around, not letting on how close the
riddle was to his welfare.
"Aye, it is
grown late and I ought return home, for there are preparations yet
to be made." She nodded and would lend her mind the task.
"Do I think of aught, I shall send word round."
what I can myself. Maybe Odile will have some ideas too."
Anne agreed, then added, "Will you write it down for us,
Matthew? It might be more clear if we see it in writing."
stay here this night, as it is late." Not that she was afraid
to return to the camp, especially with Miakoda to escort her, but
she was tired. She smiled at Matthew, daring to step close enough
that she could look into his eyes.
It was necessary in more than one way. "It will come,
Matthew. You have three of us to help you. I think we will be
"I will do
so and send it to each of you." Hoping Alex continued to have
that steel trap of a mind that remembered everything as the
words to the curse tended to fade in and out, getting it out
fully for once. "I have faith again, not having
such in a long time." Still, he knew he needed to be careful
as best he could around any and all females until the curse was
broken. "It is the first anyone has wanted to help me after causing
so much havoc." He was still in that amazement and obviously
meant a great deal to him. "Sleep well, I know this night
will be a better one for me."
to you all and I look forward the hearing that your curse is
broken, Matthew. Keep strong the meantime." She smiled and
with a bit of a wave, headed to home.
night, Alannah. I should head back too, before Odile sends out the
troops." And she had a part to continue learning too!
"I'll come by and see how you're doing in a few days
to each of you. May your dreams be pleasant ones." She headed
for the door of the tavern. She might stay around for a day or two
and try to work it all out.
things on an even level, he kept his distance. The glass returned
to Alex having finished off the spot of potcheen. Giving a wave he
was quick then to end this night without mishap as he headed
for his quarters in another section of the tavern by way of that
same hall, just not upstairs.