The Curse: Part Three
It was a most peculiar thing, but since the day that he and Lord Ashford had arrived in Dunningham, Lockwood had found himself most unequal to any kind of exertion. For three days now he had done very little other than laze about in front of the fire; he fully intended to begin work on unraveling his spell, but somehow he could not seem to do it just yet. A great feeling of listlessness and depression had taken hold of him, and though Lockwood could not have explained the cause of his low spirits, he discovered that he was very much affected by them.
He was sitting in an armchair in his shirtsleeves (it was a most unprecedented occurrence, but he had not even had the energy to get properly dressed) when Ashford entered holding a letter.
“Mr. Lockwood?” the Scorchio said tentatively. “A letter arrived for you, carried by some sort of Darigan creature. It created quite a stir among the townspeople, but I managed to preserve your mail.”
“Is that so,” Lockwood remarked absently, reaching for the envelope with a gloved hand. “Thank you.”
Ashford looked as though he might be considering saying something else; he decided against it, however, and retreated from the room.
After some moments Lockwood unearthed the motivation to open the envelope and read the letter inside.
Mr. Lockwood –
Lisha has told me all about what you are doing, and I thought that I would write to remind you of one or two things, and to offer my help should you find yourself in need of it. Firstly, please allow me to warn you about the effects that your magic may have upon you. I am not quite sure what it has become, and I give you my word that I will take the next available opportunity to investigate it myself. If it has, however, become somehow sentient, it will despise no one more than you. You are extremely dangerous to your curse; and it will be extremely dangerous to you. Do me the favor of being careful. Secondly, enclosed are a few parchments I found detailing the various ways of evaluating and destroying unwanted spells. I hope that they will prove helpful. That is all for now – let me know if you need anything that I can provide.
Lockwood pondered this. One line struck him in particular – please allow me to warn you about the effects that your magic may have upon you. A glimmering of suspicion rose up in his mind, but it disappeared as quickly as it had come. He found himself wondering which line it had been that he had found so interesting.
After a minute or so, he gave up trying to remember; however, a reply did seem in order, so he went over to his writing desk and took out paper and pen, and began to write in his elegant, sweeping handwriting.
Lockwood had been aware, somewhere in the depths of his consciousness, that Lord Ashford had invited guests to dinner. Nevertheless he was rather surprised when a small green Ogrin peeked around the door of his room.
“What,” inquired Lockwood, who had no great love of children, “are you doing here?”
The small green Ogrin inserted himself fully into the room and closed the door behind him. He stared up at Lockwood with disconcertingly round, blue eyes. “The grown-ups were talking about boring things. Who are you?”
Lockwood sighed. “I am an extraordinarily busy individual.”
“You don’t look busy,” the boy objected doubtfully.
Nor was he, Lockwood reflected. It seemed there was no getting rid of this little nuisance, and the letter could undoubtedly wait for a time. “Very well, what do you want?”
“What are you doing?” the Ogrin asked with interest.
“What’s your job?”
There was no harm in telling the truth, Lockwood thought languidly. Nobody would believe the boy anyway. “I am a magician.”
“Really?” This appeared to be a source of great excitement. “Can you do real magic?”
“Of course I can. I wouldn’t be much of a magician if I could not, would I?”
The Ogrin thought for a moment. “My name is Tom. What’s your name?”
“That’s a strange name,” Tom announced rather condescendingly. “That’s not a name at all, that’s a last name.”
“Precisely,” agreed Lockwood.
“Well what’s your first name then?” Tom persisted.
Lockwood decided to humor him. “My first name is Harlan.”
Tom shook his head sternly. “That’s not a name either. What’s your real name?”
“But it is a name,” Lockwood protested half-heartedly. “It’s my name.”
It seemed that Tom had tired of the subject already, though it was a matter of serious doubt whether he believed that Harlan was indeed Lockwood’s name. “Can you pull a Snowbunny out of a hat?”
Lockwood considered this proposition. He had learned quite a lot since his highly unfortunate attempt to conjure up Modern Spells, and this kind of magic did not seem unduly risky. “Well,” he replied slowly, “I see no reason why I should not be able to.”
Tom eagerly scurried across the room to fetch one of Lockwood’s rather beautiful hats, and set it on the desk. “Can you make it a cuddly Snowbunny that doesn’t bite?” he requested.
The corner of Lockwood’s mouth turned upward. “I make no guarantees. My magic is not very well suited to anything of a cuddly nature.”
He took a deep breath and leaned over the hat, letting his magic swirl out into the hat to create something new. He sincerely hoped that he was very familiar with what a Snowbunny looked like; otherwise the results could be disastrous.
Lockwood had half-expected some mutated monster of ice and fur to emerge from the hat, but a perfectly ordinary Snowbunny hopped out onto the desk. With a cry of delight Tom scooped it up, and it snuggled joyfully into his arms.
“Thomas?” called a soft, musical voice from the hall. “Thomas, where have you gotten to?”
“I may be jumping to conclusions,” observed Lockwood, “but I believe somebody is looking for you.”
“That’s Celeste,” said Tom unwillingly. “She’s my sister...”
A knock at the door obliged Lockwood to get up, and his eyes met with an extraordinarily pretty green Cybunny.
“Oh!” she exclaimed with rather engaging timidity, finding Lockwood’s appearance quite imposing. “I’m so sorry – Tom, what are you doing here? Mr. –”
“Lockwood,” he supplied helpfully.
“Mr. Lockwood, I’m terribly sorry if Thomas has been bothering you. I should have kept a closer eye on him – oh, Thomas, where did you get that petpet?” There was gentle reproof in her voice.
The Ogrin clutched his prize defensively. “He gave it to me!”
“I did,” concurred Lockwood, foreseeing a long discussion on the subject should he fail to intervene. “But I would not have you keep it if it causes any inconvenience.”
Celeste smiled, her melting brown eyes warming up to him. “No, not at all. I’m very grateful to you. Tom could use a companion, couldn’t you?”
Tom held the Snowbunny up to his sister in order to present her with the fullest possible view of its charms. “Pet it,” he demanded.
“Well – we’d better be going,” Celeste said with a touch of what might have been regret. “Thank you very much, Mr. Lockwood. Maybe we’ll see you again?”
“It seems very likely,” he agreed.
After they had gone, Lockwood returned to his desk and sat there rather pensively. The fire, he noticed, was beginning to die; that would have to be remedied. And his letter – had he finished it, or hadn’t he? He glanced over at it.
Then he stared in the utmost horror at what he had written.
I am excessively flattered by your concern, but I assure you that your aid is entirely unnecessary. I would not like you to think that I am not fully capable of managing my own spell. As I am quite busy, perhaps you will do me the honor of ending this correspondence until I return to Meridell Castle.
- H. K. Lockwood
He ripped the note into pieces and threw it in the fire with revulsion. Surely he had not written that? He had no memory of doing so; and upon further inspection he could have sworn that he had never finished the letter at all.
Lockwood’s mind raced. His spell, whatever it once had been, was now entirely out of his control; now that he had the barest conception of how drastically it was altering his behavior, he realized that he could not count on his thoughts within the next day or even the next minute. Hastily, before he could forget what he was doing, he took out another piece of paper and scrawled a new letter.
The magic is having the odd effects on me that you predicted, and I think I had better warn you that should I send you anything strange, it is not by my own will. I dare not make this any longer because I can write what I wish to only as long as I can collect my thoughts. Thank you for your concern; please give Lisha my regards.
He hastily sealed it, addressed it, and took it personally to the maid, requesting that it be sent as quickly as possible.
Then he returned to his room and sat dully, wondering how long it would take for the curse to reassert itself over his senses and vaguely noticing an odd, curly shadow out of the corner of his eye.
To be continued...