After eating a magic apple, prepared by Missy to get rid of her, Taïga has fallen in a deep, coma like sleep…
Granny stands looking down on her deeply sleeping grandchild. Her breathing is calm and regular but there seems to be no way to make her regain consciousness. Granny has tried everything – from first aid in the hallway with mouth to mouth and cardio massage, to magic. Nothing…
They even called Vulturu’s old doctor, who had trouble diagnosing anything at first. Finally he settled on the famous tropical African illness brought by the Tsetse fly – sleeping sickness. Even if he emitted some reserves about the probabilities of finding Tsetse flies in Romania, he signed at least all papers needed to explain Taïga’s absence from school…
Taïga has now “slept” for months, and Granny hasn’t left her side except for the meals and doing some research in her and her sister’s spell books. Faithfully she has watched over the pale sleeping child throughout the seasons. Filled with remorse, Missy has tried to be useful, spending time reading up on magic apples. So far the only thing she has come up with is the kiss of true love.
‘It worked for Snow White!’
‘Missy, just think! Taïga is too young to have someone love her like that.’
Missy looks thoughtfully at her sister. ‘So why can’t we just let her sleep until she’s suitably aged? The Sleeping Beauty pulled it off just fine and it doesn’t seem to have brought any prejudice to Taïga’s condition so far, has it? It won’t hurt to have some calm and quiet for a couple more-’ she bites her tongue when she sees Granny’s expression. ‘- err… days.’
‘As a matter of fact, there might be another way.’ Granny snaps.
‘Another way? Why didn’t you say so earlier? Might have spared me some time.’
But Granny is scared… She has recently found out about a potion, a dangerous potion, which has never been tried on a child before. It could as well cure her as kill her.
But she also knows she can’t live with the knowledge that she hasn’t tried everything. As the full moon rises over the mountains, her decision is made. She will use dark magic for the first time in her life…
She starts by casting a protection spell around Taïga’s bed to keep her out of harm’s way while she makes the potion.
Protection spells are her specialty, and this is the most powerful she knows of. Chanting the potent words puts Granny into a trance.
But casting those kinds of spells is wearing, and after making sure her granddaughter is protected from evil, she stumbles into the bathroom and throws up from sheer exhaustion.
She prepares to make the dangerous potion, but she has difficulty to relax and open up to the dark magic.
‘Please, please let Taïga survive the cure…’ She murmurs, closing her eyes and trying to concentrate. ‘Spell book of my ancestors – open up…’
Nothing happens. Missy’s spell book seems immune to her plea.
Granny swallows and tries again, ‘Spell book of my ancestors – I command you to open up – SHAZAM!’
A wind blows through the room, and with a rattling sound the pages turn. Trembling she starts to read.
‘OMG, I can’t do this! Oh no no no…’ She closes her eyes and tries to breathe calmly. The thud of the grimoire closing, pulls her out of her gloom. ‘But I have to succeed, or Taïga will never wake up again.’
‘So get a grip on yourself, Granny! Open that darn book and get going. Time is running out…’
‘I can do this… I must do this…’
She sings the words like a mantra while she starts to pour the ingredients into the old kettle, hesitantly at first, then with more and more frenzy.
She murmurs the secret Latin words of the spell as she mixes the ingredients.
‘Only one package of lembas left…’ she tut-tuts upon discovering the precious elven ingredient and puts some in a wooden mortar.
‘Now, the most important…’
With trembling hands she opens the lid of a little silver box and holds her breath. With utter precaution she empties the content onto the lembas in the wooden mortar.
‘Dust from the wings of fairies.’ There are only a few ounces to be found in the whole world, and Granny is holding them in her hands. She wonders if Missy can help her find a new source to harvest…
Granny powders the potion lightly with grinded lembas and fairy dust and watches how the color changes from musky brown to electric blue.
Several hours later she taps the precious blue liquid into a bottle which slowly lights up from within.
There’s only enough to fill two bottles. Granny hopes it is sufficient to cure Taïga.
While Granny is occupied with the making of the antidote, Old Missy sneaks into Taïga’s room…
She’s surprised by a burning sensation behind her eyelids, she isn’t used to crying. But at the sight of the young girl lying pale and vulnerable under the soft bedspread, years of pent-up tears suddenly burst forward.
‘… and it’s all my fault… I’m so sorry, I never meant to… to… harm you like this. I just wanted to scare Granny to leave with you and that… that horrible dog…’
She doesn’t hear the door open on her sister.
‘What are you doing here?’ Granny’s voice is like ice.
Guiltily Missy spins around. ‘Err… I just wanted to check on her…’
Granny can feel the anger welling up inside her. She has made it clear that she doesn’t want her sister’s presence in Taïga’s room. They haven’t really talked since the “incident” as she has spent all her time in Taïga’s room and Missy has been careful to avoid her, their only encounters having been over a few shared meals.
‘Haven’t you done enough already? I don’t want you near her. Do you hear?’ Granny hisses.
‘But I just wanted to say I’m sorry!’
‘Tell her you’re sorry? You can’t always go around hurting people and then just apologize!’
‘Well. Not accepting an apology is rude.’
‘You almost killed her, Missy. And IF she NEVER wakes up from this deep sleep, I swear to the Goddess you’ll pay for it!’
Missy’s tears turn to rage. ‘Why delay? Let’s do it now! I’ll wait for you on the sacred grounds!’
She stomps out of the room, leaving her sister trying to calm down before administering the potion to the sleeping child.
Corpes sleeping and dreams that are black –
from death-like sleep I command you to come back…
Granny drips the precious liquid, drop by drop into Taïga’s mouth. Murmuring the spell over and over again, she massages some potion into the soft skin of her granddaughter’s forehead and on the eyelids.
She walks from one window to the other, pacing nervously. Waiting for a sign that the potion is working – one way or the other…
A raspy whisper pulls Granny out of her thoughts.
‘Thank God!’ Granny rushes over to the bed and helps Taïga drink a little more potion. She puts the bottle back onto the bedside table and kisses Taïga’s now feverish forehead.Finally. She’ll have an access of slight fever, but that’s only the cure making the body chase the poison.
‘You mustn’t drink water just yet. Rest now, my child, I’ll be right back…’ She closes the door behind her, leaning against it for a second, a grim smile curling the corners of her mouth. It’s time to confront her sister.
The old churchyard is deserted at this late hour. Old Missy is pacing, wringing her hands in despair, glancing towards the entrance every other second. When she sees Granny’s forbidding figure approaching, she’s seized by fright.
‘How is she? Is she…?’ She can’t bear to say the dreadful word.
Granny just stands there, scrutinizing Missy’s face, trying to judge her emotions. ‘She’ll make it. She woke up and the fever has set in.’
A huge sigh of relief escapes Missy. ‘So you see? Everything is going to be alright!’ she gushes, the words tumbling out of her mouth.
‘Oh, no. You won’t get away with this so easy.’ Granny waves her finger in front of her sister’s face. ‘You wanted a duel, and you’ll get one.’
They don’t notice the shadow who has sneaked up on them and is now hiding in the bushes.
‘Do you really find it necessary? I mean, now that Taïga is recovering, can’t we just go home? I’ll make us a nice cup of blackberry tea.’
Granny doesn’t answer, but her hands are clutched so hard her knuckles are white. ‘Are you serious? Choose your position, sister,’ she hisses.
The figure in the bushes strains to hear what the old ladies are arguing about. ‘Uh-oh…’ He squints, trying to see what they are doing.
He watches them draw their wands, chuckling to himself as he thinks the old fools are going to throw sticks at each other.
But he’s thunderstruck when the sticks suddenly burst alive, spewing flames and stars and other magical substances.
‘Oh. My. God!!!’
‘This cannot be real!’ He winces when he pinches his arm.
Seeing the two witches dueling is too much for the shadow to take in. His eyes roll backwards and he faints…
‘That’s cheating, Missy! You’re not supposed to aim the eyes!’ Granny rubs her burning eyelids.
‘Oups! I’m sorry.’ Granny and Missy look at each other.
‘”Oups”, huh? Hmpf… You’ll never change, Missy.’
‘Err…’ Missy shrugs, and looks at her feet.
Granny shakes her head. ‘Let’s go home, check on Taïga and get ourselves that cup of tea, shall we?’
Back at home Taïga stirs and wakes up. She lies a moment watching the shadows dance on the ceiling, but a terrible headache caused by dehydration makes her sit up and reach for the bottle on the bedside table.
‘That was a strange dream… I’m so thirsty…’
She stands up, but she’s still weak and her legs give way, making her stumble and grip the bedside table for support. She focuses on the ornate bottle, having difficulty grabbing it.
‘Oh…’ The precious bottle slips from Taïga’s trembling fingers and breaks, spilling potion all around her.
A beautiful light envelops her and she feels warm and lightheaded. She’s not even thirsty anymore. She closes her eyes, giving in to the prickling sensation in her limbs, and the world starts spinning.
The brief feeling of bliss gives way to a terrible nausea and she hardly makes it to the bathroom in time. She stays for a moment, resting her head against the cool porcelain. She wants to lay down, but she’s not sure she can make it back to her room again.
The Grey sisters find Taïga deeply asleep in her bed. With a frown, Granny replaces the broken bottle at the bedside table.
‘I hope she didn’t drink it, it’s too dangerous.’
‘If I am to judge the stains on the floor, I think most of it went into the floorboards,’ Missy points out.
Granny nods. ‘I hope you’re right. You know that it could even be lethal…’
‘Well. She would be dead now, and it’s not the case, so why should we worry? It was probably the wretched dog anyway.’
Granny hopes that Missy is right, but she also knows that Taïga has not yet fully recovered. For three more days they take turns watching over the soundly sleeping girl. Missy seems to truly regret her gesture, sitting in the rocking chair with her book on her knees, staring thoughtfully into space with unseeing eyes.
Shasta and Leonardo are overseas, on tour, when unexpectedly Shasta goes into labor, almost a month early. Leonardo throws a fit! He was supposed to meet with the mayor about becoming an honor citizen of Twinbrook because of his success as a magician and this was definitely not on his schedule…
It’s nearly midnight when the phone rings in Vulturu. Granny hurries up to answer, suspecting it’s Shasta – she’s in the beginning of her eight month and Granny knows her daughter is accompanying Leonardo on his “Dazzling Dazzler” American tour…
‘Congratulations, Leonardo! And how is Shasta? … Good! … Difficult? … Uh-huh… Uh-huh… The principal is that she’ll recover without any significant means… And what’s her name?’
Granny’s smile fades. She must be mistaken? ‘A boy? You said “boy”? As in B-O-Y? Garçon? Ragazzo? Niño? Junge?’ … Oh. My. God…’ Dazed Granny hangs up and sits heavily on a chair.
As expected, Shasta almost lost her life giving birth, but thanks to Leonardo’s connections she was rushed by helicopter to the state’s best hospital, and the rapidity of the intervention saved her life. She was hemorrhaging so badly after a placental abruption, that it took 5 units of blood and 4 units of fresh frozen plasma and a whole team operating for more than four hours to patch her up again.
Granny hides her face in her hands and lets her herself give in to the terror of almost losing her only child, and the relief that she didn’t…
It takes a while for Granny to compose herself, then she returns upstairs to the study and locks the door behind her.
‘A boy… Well. I suppose he’s entitled to the Grey ragdoll, boy or not!’ She rummages through the drawer where Missy is keeping her sewing things. She throws the bits and pieces of fabric and a couple of buttons on the floor in a heap, before taking out her wand and breathing deeply.
‘Mecca lecca hi, mecca hiney holl…
Come forward ragdoll!’
‘I wish to make this doll come to life…
I wish to make it breathe and think…
I wish to make it walk and talk and move…
I wish to make it be real, to have a life and soul…
Make my desire come true…
Make it real…
Make it true…
So it be!’
She watches the cloth whirl and turn, assembling itself into a little ugly ragdoll slumped on the floor.
‘Now – Stand up!’
The dog rises to its feet, looking at her with a blank expression. Granny picks it up and scrutinizes it, pulling on the arms and legs, but also on the eyes. It won’t do if the seams don’t hold…
She puts the doll in an empty shoebox and wraps it in brown paper before putting it in the mail box for the postman to pick up. She hopes she has stuck enough stamps on it to safely bring it to its far away destination in Monte Vista.
Now she’ll just have to wait and see if he will play with it enough to trigger the magic…
The mailbox seems innocent enough, but if you have a closer look, you could see slight sparkling that slowly diminishes as the day breaks…
Part I – End of Chapter 20