“It’s the darndest thing, Ms. Bottlehelm!” said Mayor Gendry Dew, several days after the Parazoa incident. “I just woke up like this the other day! Do you think this just happens to potted plant people when they turn 189 and twenty-seven days? I’ve never met another one!” He was positively pleased with his new legs, so pleased that he was hand delivering all the mail in Skymoore this week.
“You know, I really couldn’t say,” said Gwendolyn, doing her best to be patient as the mayor went on for the fifteenth consecutive minute about his legs. She was happy, at least, that he was happy, but her empathy only went so far. “I’m just wondering about the letter?”
“Right, of course!” said the mayor, “your letter! I had almost forgotten if I’m being honest. Now I do feel obligated to share that the letter has been opened by yours truly, as is policy for all incoming letters from outside Skymoore, and this one is positively sweet as pie.”
“Then you won’t mind if I hurry on to reading it, would you? Just one more question: how did you know I would be at Linda’s house?”
The mayor tipped his tiny hat. “Now that information I don’t feel obligated to share, madam. You have yourself a great one, now!” And he was off, pursued by his floating, spherical attendant who carried a Bottomless Baggie containing a city’s worth of mail.
Gwendolyn returned to the tea she’d made herself in Linda’s kitchen and took another look at the letter, which the mayor had sloppily resealed. The envelope was appropriately plain, with only a “TO: GWENDOLYN, FROM: LINDA” and her address, but the stationary was unexpectedly frilly, printed on pink and green paper that smelled sweet and fruity, though Gwen did not recognize the exact scent.
I do not often write letters. I am bad at them. I apologize if this is awful, but I wanted to reach out to you.
Things are good in Castiron. I think I am finding what I wanted to find here. But I miss you, dear. I hope you don’t think that I abandoned you, because nothing could be further from the truth. There were just some things that were left undone that I needed to take care of. It’s taken longer than I imagined, but every day I have wished I could hold you, or kiss you, or see your perfect smirk.
Next time I leave Skymoore, I promise I will take you with me. And when I come back, I’ll share a few stories of all the old times. I owe you.
Hope this finds you well,
P.S. Beneath the sink in the kitchen is a locked cabinet. The key is in the book about sword maintenance in my study. Can you polish the ceremonial knife inside? Take it to a blacksmith if you don’t know how. I’ll pay you back.
It was a rare occasion that Gwendolyn Bottlehelm got misty eyed when it wasn’t on command. Linda’s letter managed to produce a tear or two, the product of a sudden wave of relief and surge of longing, one after the other. She held the letter to her chest and smiled without meaning to for a time. As factually as one might realize it is raining when they open their curtains, Gwendolyn realized that she loved Linda Arterford when she opened that letter. The Gwendolyn of the past would have thought this behavior sappy, or put on. The Gwendolyn of the present was simply happy.
A little while later, Gwendolyn opened the cupboard beneath the sink. She had to admit it had been setting off her curiosity, though she’d been a bit distracted by Parazoa.
There several neat boxes of wood and stone, each labeled something such as “knife from the Island of Kyth” or “enchanted hair of Ul Menektoh.” When she removed the surprisingly heavy box containing the knife, the stone box beneath it began to shift, suddenly. The unexpected motion startled Gwen at first, as she thought it might be some kind of insect, but it seemed like whatever it was might be inside the box.
The box in question, which was still restrained by two other boxes, was made of carved moss stone and labeled “Donovan’s stupid rock.” Gwendolyn raised an eyebrow at this. She knew they were close, but she stored his stupid rock in the cupboard with all the valuable artifacts? What could be so interesting about the rock? She’d have to ask Linda about it when she returned.
Or…she could just take a peek inside. After all, it was right in front of her. And Linda said herself that she owed Gwendolyn stories, right? This was just…reading the back of the book. She bit her lower lip as she looked down at the box containing a knife. She could just close the cupboard and be on her way.
But she knew that it was vital to be true to herself above all else, so Gwendolyn removed another box from atop the boxed rock. It became clear now that it was trying to lift itself out from under the other boxes. A soft voice in the back of her mind thought maybe she should go get Nestor or something before she did this, but the voice was drowned out by the excitement beating in her ears.
When she finally dragged the box out from beneath the sink and dropped it on the floor with a soft thud, Gwen let out a breath. The box didn’t move. Maybe she had imagined it? Except then it did move, lifting itself perhaps a foot off the ground, wobbling and struggling against its own weight as it levitated. Throwing caution entirely to the wind, Gwen unlatched the box and opened it a crack, prepared to slam it shut if need be.
Instead she gasped and took a step back. The small fragment of stone that levitated out of the box was colorless. Colorless in the same way that creature or thing the Cabal had imprisoned had been colorless. Like an emptiness in the air, one she could reach her hand through into nowhere. She did not dare.
It apexed about four feet off the ground, before becoming lifeless and grey and sinking back into the box. After thirty silent, breathless seconds, it repeated the process. The room was entirely still as it went, and Gwendolyn tried in vain to decipher its purpose. But it only rose again and fell, like a long breath. She couldn’t imagine what this stone was for, or why Donovan might have it, or why Linda might have stored it under her sink in such a mundanely-labeled box.
But she closed the latch, replaced the containers, and resolved to find out.
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