I decided to step out of the cabin and admire the stars reflected in the clear surface of the black lake, whilst collecting some wolfsbane. The thorny blue petals pricked my fingers ever so gently, though I was prepared to face any torment for the gold the weed warranted. I soon made my way on the overgrown grass back towards the cabin, when, with a muffled thunk, I received a soft blow to the head. It was Nevermore. He was holding a small leather package in his beak. I took it from him, hissing at him, to which he turned his head, seemingly upset, and I noticed that the package seemed to have been assembled with great haste. Within were three objects. Our crystal eye. A small vial with two liquids – one red, the other glowing silver. And a torn note with a peculiar symbol and the word:
Not again, I thought to myself. I took another look at the symbol – it matched the one I saw while admiring the chiseled young lad. It all seemed pretty obvious, yet I needed to make sure. I made haste to the Tome of Clarity in my cabin, while listening closely to the sounds of the forest. Nevermore was following me. The forest was still, until I reached the door. That’s when I heard a nightmarish howl from deep within the woods. It sounded nothing like a wolf’s.
Knowing that time was flying ever faster, I quickly dove into the basement. The door to the underground library had a padlock, to which I seem to have misplaced the key.
“What the bloody whorechild of a leshy!”
Nevermore seemed to be fed up with my tantrums and quickly disabled the padlock with his solid beak.
“Bloody brilliant! Now I need a new padlock!” I screamed at him, but then caressed his little bird-brained head slightly, while sighing: “But thanks anyway.” Nevermore didn’t seem to care in the slightest, however, and quickly made his way into the library, right next to the pedestal with the Tome of Clarity.
I blazed through its parchment pages and found what I had been looking for. The peculiar symbol was that of two straight lines forming a cross, with a curved one forming a crescent above it. That lad was no lycanthrope. That was a strix. Beings similar to werewolves, yet they only took control of their hosts under a New Moon and were thrice as bloodthirsty. Servants of the bloody Lord of Malady. I’m sure the poor lumberjack had no idea what he was doing, only knowing he wants the crystal eye for his master on an instinctive level. Time was running short and I was sure I saw in the small basement window a figure making its way towards the cabin door. The eye was safe in my pouch, yet I still held my life quite dearly. If only there was a way to undo the curse. That lad was still young, I was sure he could woo a lady or two if he got to live a bit more as well. The book did not elaborate much on that. It only stated that while silver was the bane of a werewolf, sulfur was what made strices shiver. I figured an antidote would then be similar to one for lycanthrope. As fate would have it, wolfsbane was what I needed. I sighed at the thought of losing some of the gold I could get for it instead, but what’s the point of being a witch if you’re not a good witch?
I ran up the stairs and found the beast in all its glory standing in the doorway. A bipedal lynx of sorts, with a flowing auburn mane and three rows of knife-sized teeth, it just stood there, sniffing the air. That’s right! The newts reeked of sulfur. It gave me all the time I needed to prepare the antidote. Nevermore was standing at the table, glaring at the beast, fearless, though the strix’s enormous claws could tear it to shreds if the beast decided to enter the house regardless of smell. And it looked as though it was trying to. It made a shaky step forward and let out a low, guttural growl, all the while flailing its arms at me. I made nothing of it and lay the vial my sister gave me next to the raven and asked him to take care of it. He glanced at me and grabbed it in its talons, but later turned his gaze back at the strix.
I threw all the wolfsbane I had into the mortar and poured some water and honey. I then added a powdered head of grilled newt, just in case. I stirred the solution for a good two minutes when I heard a cat-like roar, a raven’s scream, and the sound of large chunks of wood being devastated. I picked up a silver knife and started pouring the solution into a vial, when Nevermore landed on my shoulder and the beast appeared right I front of me, his mouth gaping, his nostrils growing and shrinking rhythmically, his limbs shaking, as if he was fighting with himself over whether he should enter the stinking hellhole of sulfur, or stay where it was moderately safe.
“Ye whoreson!” I shouted. “That was mahogany!” I ought not have taunted the creature. That utterance was enough to provoke him to leap at me. I made a quick dive to the floor, barely escaping the creatures enormous claws sliding my reagent table in half. Glass vials fell to the floors, breaking into thousands of shimmering shards. I’d had enough. I clenched the crystal eye in my pouch, praying to the goddess Tylia for protection against curses and absolution to those suffering from them. The orb began to glow and flew out of the pouch, hovering straight above the monster. I wasted no time and hurled the vial with the antidote at him. As the bursting vial made contact with the monster’s fur, the creature let out a growl and exploded into a million pieces. I covered my face, so as to avoid direct contact with beast flesh. Sadly, a large chunk of a tongue landed right on my forehead. I could see Nevermore grabbing and consuming sizeable pieces of meat in one gulp. When the storm subsided I took a look at the middle of all the filthy flesh. The lumberjack lay there, naked, his bare chest visibly raising and lowering at a steady pace. He was alive and well. In an act of uncanny decency, I took out one of my blankets from an old drawer and covered him with it. Before that, though, I took a peek at some parts I could not see when I only made him take of his tunic. I wasn’t disappointed.
I then took a long look around the mangled pieces of the strix. There was one more important detail I needed to seek out. And there it was, right beneath the fireplace. A long strand of yellow hair – Isolde’s hair. The instant I received her package I knew she went and got herself killed. Which meant the regular procedure was to be carried out. I picked up one of the empty jars that had not yet been shattered, placed it over a small flame and poured in the liquids she sent me, placing the hair I found in the bubbling mixture. I picked up the crystal eye that now lay on the floor and offered another prayer, causing it to float above the jar. A little fetus soon formed within the liquid, quickly developing a backbone, limbs and a clearly distinguishable face. I could see a little smirk on the homunculus’ petite face.
“Don’t ye be smilin’ so, my little sister,” I whispered to Isolde. “This time, I’ll be keepin’ the eye by my side, since you clearly lack the responsibility. And for not willing to share with me, ye’ll receive no sweets till the ripe age of eighteen.”