* How far would you go to mend a broken heart?
After Randolph left, Lucia could not extricate herself from the shadows at the gate. She stood there in the dark crook, waiting for his return.
For days she stood, sodden by the cold rain, the wind turning her brittle from the inside out. After a week she knew he would not return, the warm waves of hopefulness that had sustained her receded. All she could see was the empty dark.
Slowly, as if a woman of great age, she returned to her room in the castle, her cloak stained with mud and grass brought in by the horses.
She lay as if fallen in a place where there was no tears, where the sorrow was greater than the measure of the world.
As the dawn seeped into the sky she could stand it no longer. She climbed to the top of the highest tower of the castle, breathless, afraid. The large iron door at the top of the stairs was ajar.
The room was dark, pungent. Lucia began to cough as the smell of unfamiliar herbs filled her throat.
‘What brings you here, child?’
‘Are you the wise woman, Sage?’ Lucia asked.
‘Of course,’ Sage replied.
Lucia squinted in the dim room. She couldn’t make out Sage’s form. She couldn’t tell if she was old or young, a beauty or plain. The air shifted as if someone was passing by her.
‘I need your help. My heart has been broken. I am dressed in snow. I can no longer stand it,’ Lucia’s throat was heavy, the words fell like plum stones.
‘When love goes wrong, nothing goes right,’ Sage said. Her soft voice was as frightening as a knife slicing through flesh. She mixed something with a mortar and pestle. It crunched like the forest floor underfoot. She handed Lucia a cup full of liquid that glittered like stars.
‘What is this?’ Lucia asked.
‘Broken hearts, turned to glass. Mixed with larkspur and hawthorn berries.’
‘You, you want me to drink broken glass?’ Lucia wondered if Sage would follow her if she ran out of the room.
‘ The glass of the broken hearts absorbs the broken fragments from your own heart and thus your heart is mended. It is a spell that works for many. Take the cup, drink when you are ready.’
For days the cup sat on the mantel. At night Lucia imagined the wailing of the broken hearts, grieving for their lost loves. Her heart joined in, but she could not drink.
Word got around the castle that she had a potion from Sage, glimmering in her room. Some of the courtiers looked at her in awe, some with pity.
From their whisperings Lucia gleaned that Sage was a woman of great power and that her magic was malicious, changeable.
Do not drink, people whispered.
Her potions are cursed.
You will be changed.
You will be destroyed.
Lucia’s heart was still broken, but she could not drink.
That night she dreamed of drinking the crushed broken hearts by the light of the moon. The bleeding began soon after. From her mouth, her nose, her ears, from the tips of her fingers. The fragments of glass were slicing her to pieces. She woke in a panic, thinking it was real; hard crystal tears encrusted on her cheeks.
Lucia pulled the cup from the mantel and threw its contents onto the fire. A horrible, cloying scent filled the room, worse than the bindweed thrown onto funeral pyres.
And then the screaming came. Hundreds of voices in anguish at once as they breathed their last breath because of love. Death was close now, smelling of unaired rooms. Lucia could feel the sweet tremor of Her breath stroking the base of her neck. She ran out and out and out into the sunlight where children played and cats lolled on the grass. Chickens scurried for seed, with purpose, with joy.
She loved Randolph with every part of her. She longed for him. She ached for him. But he was gone. And she would not die for him.
Lucia stood in the sunlight giving thanks to any god who cared to listen. The wind was vital, tender. The trees were full of warmth, of living colour. The castle bustled. Merchant traders set up their stalls.Friends greeted her, people she knew, tipping their hats or nodding their heads. A boy watched clouds with a spyglass. She gestured to the guards on the watchtower as they raised the flag of the King.
A scent of damp dusk filled her head as she caught sight of the tallest tower. She could have sworn she saw a figure there, the merest flicker of drapery, watching. She asked the boy for his spyglass, sweat gathering as she looked to the tower. But the window was closed, the shutters drawn, blackened with age and disuse. As she turned away she caught the flicker again, more defined this time, but once more the spyglass revealed nothing.
Lucia gathered her cloak about her and moved into the day, mustering as much courage as she could. She did not look back.
*Inspired by Search Engine Stories prompt – fragments.