A knock on the wooden door awoke me from my afternoon nap. And what a nap it was! The Grand Hierophant himself was about to propose to me after a romantic dinner of stewed lamb and leek. And leek is so hard to buy this season! He was dressed up, so fancy like, and his powdered face gleamed white as the moon on a midsummer night’s eve. That bloody knocker better have a good reason to be disrupting my fantasies in such a cheeky way. The stench of grilled newt filled my nose as I took my breath. It was none too pleasant, but the ointments that I can make with it sell for a fortune. I put on my shoes and made my way through the dimly lit, tight room cluttered with pots and flasks galore. To the ignorant eye it all looked like a normal kitchen. Probably for the best. Not all of my ingredients are exactly legal, mind. As I pushed the door, it creaked open, revealing a tattered young man, his skin as pale as a water lily in full bloom (they sell quite nicely, and the love potions they can help make – even better; pity they give nectar only once a year). He had large shadows under his eyes and he was shaking despite the warmth of the spring evening.
“What?” I demanded.
“Ar- Are you the h-holder of the eye?” he asked in a meek voice, stuttering as he did. “I seem to have been c-cursed.”
“Really? Well, my sister Isolde’s the one with the eye, but I can take a look at yer curse for ye.”
“I-I’m afraid that won’t s-suffice,” he stuttered. “It’s ly-ly-lyca-ca-“
“Lycanthropy,” I finished his sentence. “Fine, I’ll give ye a geas that will take ye around the lake to the forest yonder where my sister lives, but let me take examine ye first, why don’t ye.”
He nodded in silence and entered. The lad seemed much larger in the house than outside. He was as tall as a house and built like an ox, if a bit dried up due to the illness. His face, though worn-out, was quite handsome, I must say. Even the bushy auburn beard could not obscure his good looks and those electric blue eyes. Once he took a whiff of the house’s current stench he made a grimace.
“What is that?”
“Newt. The sulfur’s what’s disagreeing with your nose. Now take off yer tunic.”
I examined his body. The sculpted stranger had scratches all around. All of him was as pale as his face. A full moon must have been imminent, then. Another thing I noticed was a curiously shaped burn wound by his neck. He did seem like he did plenty of physical work, small wonder such injury was sustained.
“Aye. Ye’re a werewolf if I’ve ever seen one,” I told him. I placed a hand on one of his shoulders once he finished dressing, a soft glow shimmered for a quick moment. “There, I placed a geas on ye. Ye should make it to Isolde’s by midnight.”
I kicked him out and saw him walk away by the lake, towards the woods. I quickly went up to the table and picked up parchment and quill.
My Dear Isolde,
a young lumberjack of sorts is heading your way. He’s a werewolf, so be prepared, as it’s a full moon tonight. Once you cure him, remember to send a third of the gold to me. I did do the initial examinations, after all.
“Nevermore!” I shouted as I opened the kitchen window. A raven black as tar and large as a boar landed on the windowsill. “Get this to Isolde, why don’t ye.”
The raven flew away with a flap of his wings, leaving some feathers on the grass. I quickly ran outside to scoop up some of them. The solutions I could brew out of those would fetch me 30 tusks! I tucked them into a dusty jar that I forgot to put back in the pantry. I then went to the back of the cabin to turn my grilling newts a little. A tapping on the window nearly made me spill the lot on the ground.
“Ye bloody birdbrain!” I said to the bird angrily. He was having none of it, though, the expression on his beaked face defiant. “Knock gentle next time, why don’t ye.” I unrolled the pinkish piece of parchment the raven delivered.
I do not recall us having an agreement on sharing the gold we receive for the treatments we give. Though I suppose there is no harm in giving you a piece or two once I’m done with the young man, considering how stale business has been for you lately. I also think you should pay more attention to the moon calendar, as today the moon is clearly absent from our skies. I should be safe from the lycanthrope’s transformed form for at least two weeks.
Smug little witch. We’ll see how she likes it rough.
ten gold pieces is the least I’m expecting, lest you be expecting a basilisk at your doorstep.
Enraged, once Nevermore flew off (no feathers this time around), I returned to my newts. I did find it peculiar, though, that it turned out I was mistaken about the moon phase. It seemed obvious to me that the human forms of lycanthropes grew weaker the closer the full moon was, and that lad looked as feeble and sickly, despite his stature, as they come. And yet my sister’s words rang true – no moon shone its pale light on the lake that night.