Cold Cure - Part Two
The twins spent the next three days holed up in the warehouse arguing and planning their course of action. They were twelve years old, still shapeless enough to pass for boys, an ability with both its good and bad points. Meg was all for attaching themselves to a trading party as water boys or whatever lowly position offered itself. Peg, on the other hand, was adamant about finding a wizard to break their curse.
"Fine! Have it your way," Peg finally snapped. "You go seek work, but here I'll stay."
Meg stalked away, head held high and bristling with self-importance. When she returned at sunset, however, her feet were dragging and her shoulders were slumped.
"Jobs there are, but none for us as cursed we are to speak as thus. They fear our curse, the cowards all, and fear the same to them befall."
"I'm sorry Meg, I feared as much when first we felt the wizard's touch. Though magic spreads not like disease, still most folk feel a great unease. Unless the curse can be undone, I fear our trouble's just begun," Peg said gently.
"It seems you are to have your way, we seek a wizard at break of day."
Peg made no reply, merely put her arm around her sister's shoulders for a comforting hug, then delved into their supplies to put together something for them to eat.
They'd never been outside of the city before and since they left through the eastern gate they continued on in that direction. It was both frightening and exciting. Gone were the reassuring crowds they could lose themselves in, gone were the buildings with their sheltering alleys. It smelled all wrong and it was too quiet.
"My feet are sore, these boots are too tight," Meg complained when they finally stopped to eat.
"We'll have to find shelter before the night," Peg mused, ignoring her sister.
"Those woods look dark, who knows what's there."
"There might be snakes, so have a care."
"I've changed my mind."
"Not this time!"
The sisters glared at each other.
"I'd rather be cursed, than journey on."
"You agreed to this -"
"Well I was wrong!"
Peg, when she had to be, could be every bit as persuasive as Meg when she wanted something badly enough. And right now she wanted to continue on. She'd never known such freedom in the city, returning was out of the question. She appealed to Meg's adventurous spirit, flattering her leadership abilities. At last Peg allowed Meg to take charge and they were on their way once more.
Eventually they found themselves quite lost in a seemingly endless region of rolling farmland and sparse forest. Meg was the first to notice things were not quite right in this region. Cows gave wine instead of milk. Fish flew above the streams. Cats barked furiously while dogs meowed and hissed. People were seen walking and talking backwards. It could only be the work of a powerful wizard.
The twins began asking questions of those they met, unwilling to reveal their true intent but seeking clues to the peculiar magicks plaguing the area. The source seemed to lie in an unremarkable, hilly region of sparse woods.
Meg shook her head. "I like it not, the magic we've seen. This wizard is more than he would seem."
"Yon farmer's wife, whose roof we shared, said this magician can't compare. His magic's white, to the first degree and curse-lifting is his specialty."
"What recompense? How do we pay?"
"That is for the wizard to say."
Meg gave up. Together they cautiously entered the forest and found an old game trail to follow, starting at every twig snapping, cringing at every leaf that rustled.
The game trail petered out in a small clearing. The twins stared around them in dismay.
"That's the way I'm afraid to say," Peg pointed to a darker patch of forest that turned out to be the opening of a cave.
There was a loud sneeze within the cave followed by, "Hellfire!" Another sneeze. The twins fell back just in time as a gout of flame came blasting out of the cave.
"Tis a dragon's abode! I'm for the road!"
Peg shook her head. "Not far enough north, a dragon to seek, and I've never heard tell of any that speak." She peered cautiously into the cave and motioned to Meg to follow.
"Hello in the cave," she called. "Be you friend or knave?"
"Go away," the voice was oddly muffled.
Peg grinned. "Did you hear? Someone's here."
They crept into the cave. The passage widened just inside the entrance and they stayed well to the side of the main thoroughfare. And well they did, for a fit of sneezing by the wizard was followed by another fire-ball and a glowing red, screaming apparition that scorched them as it sizzled past.
Meg turned around, about to take to her heels after it, but Peg grabbed her collar and dragged her determinedly up the passage.