Chapter one: Quill
Her contented sigh seemed to fill the whole room. Peace and quiet and nobody and nothing but her, a good book and the occasional crackle from the fire that warmed her feet. The only thing that could have possibly made this moment any better would have been a hot cup of tea.
Hmm, maybe she’d get up and put the kettle on, or maybe she’d do it later, after a few more pages, besides she’d just gotten warm.
Shifting in her seat Quill pulled her blanket a little tighter around her body, the worn wool brushing softly against arms as she turned to the next page of her book. It was quite the colourful affair this blanket, she mused as her eye caught sight of a loose green thread trailing over her hand. A gift actually, back from when Iris had been most into knitting. She remembered when Iris had presented it to her, in all its eye watering glory; it had grown on her though, over time to the point where it was now rather her favourite, always draped over the back of her armchair. She ought to ask Iris to mend it soon, before it fell apart completely. And with that thought she let her mind once again become absorbed in the book on her lap.
Another couple of hours passed in silence and the shadows in the room crept higher on walls, twisting and dancing with the movement of the flames in the hearth. The sunlight, weak though it was at this time of the year was rapidly diminishing as the sun dipped below the trees and the night made its presence known.
Quill was beginning to squint now, the small black type hard to read in the dimness. She hadn’t bothered with flicking on any other lights before she sat down and neither had she been bothered to top up the fire wood. Never the less, she was still too comfortable to get up just yet. Grumbling she shoved her glasses further up her face and leaned in closer to the pages, hoping her eyesight would just adjust.
Her persistence lasted all of 5 minutes before calling it quits. Resigning herself to movement she marked the page and set the book down onto the table beside her while stretching her legs out from her blanket cocoon.
‘Ouch!’ She exclaimed as the pins and needles sensation prickled up her limbs. Well, not like she wasn’t deserving of it, what with keeping her legs crossed for so long.
Bloody hell she thought as she leaned down to attempt to rub some feeling back into her numb legs. I must have been sitting here longer than I thought; a quick glance out the window confirmed this, it was completely black outside.
Feeling in her limbs regained at last she stood and made her way to the kitchen, fingers probing along the cold walls in search of the light switch. Aha! There it was, she flicked the switch and blinked in the sudden brightness that bathed the small, utilitarian style kitchen.
She didn’t really use her kitchen all that much, thus she had never really felt the need to do much with it. Not to say she didn’t cook or even enjoy doing so, it was more that the things that she liked to “cook” were simply a little bit more…unusual and potentially volatile than the dishes one would usually find in a mundane recipe book. No, most of her “cooking” was done downstairs away from curious eyes and where any mishap could be contained (relatively) easily.
Wow. Because that trail of thought totally didn’t make it sound like she was running a drug lab in her basement or anything. A small snort escaped her lips and she smiled, it wouldn’t be surprising if that’s what her neighbours were inclined to believe though.
Oh well, let them think what they will. Not like they’d believe the alternative anyway. A meth lab was a lot more plausible to a normal than a witch dabbling in alchemy and potions.
Still smiling she walked over to the short fridge in the corner and browsed through her options for the night. Pushing past a cucumber, some soy sauce and a well past its prime tub of yoghurt she found some leftover spaghetti of questionable quality and not much else.
Note to self. Go grocery shopping.
She prised off the lid and held the tub of pasta to her face and sniffed.
‘Well, chances are it probably won’t kill me, at the most it’ll probably just taste a bit dry.’
Diagnosis reached she dumped the contents into a bowl and then into the microwave. Sure she could have heated it instantaneously with a quick spell but she found that always seemed to sap the flavour…and considering that the spaghetti didn’t look all that flavoursome to start with, into the microwave it was.
And now that awkward five minute wait. Not long enough to go back to her book, too much time to want to sit still in the kitchen. Especially since it was so cold, even the windows were starting to fog up.
Wait. Was that something moving out there? No? Maybe she had just imagined it.
‘Brrr’ a small shudder ran up her body as she moved to stare out the window into the garden beyond, not that she could see much in the dark. Belatedly she realised she had no socks on. No wonder she was cold, the tiles were freezing.
There. That’s what she’d do while she waited, she would go find her slippers; besides, she was starting to feel a bit creeped out by the black nothingness beyond her window.
It wasn’t that she was frightened. No not her, not Quill Winters, soon to be alchemist extraordinaire! Purveyor of fine potions and reality paintings! She just wasn’t fond of the dark, or rather whatever was in it…
Okay so she was a little bit scared.
Walking briskly (no, not running she told herself) back into the sitting room once more she looked around for her slippers. Black and fluffy and warm, where were they? It was like the temperature had taken a sudden and massive drop. Cold winters were per the norm in this town but it looks like tonight was going to be a real kicker. Even the fire in the grate looked as if were a bit put out over the cold.
Biting her lower lip and crossing her arms she observed the room once again. No slippers in the vicinity. Actually now that she thought about it, didn’t she have them on this morning in her basement lab while working on that tranquillity tonic for Momo?
‘Right,’ she sighed and grabbed the colourful quilt off the armchair, draping it over her shoulders like a cape. ‘To the basement!’ she cried wearily, striking a superhero pose. Not that anybody was around to see it. Thankfully.
To the end of the hall way, through the door that most people miss and down the stairs. The wooden steps giving way to cold grey stone topped with thin baroque patterned rugs.
A rush of stale air and potion fumes assaulted her senses. There were no windows in her basement and as such the whole room tended to get a bit musty when she didn’t reapply her circulation charms.
Looking around she headed to the main desk where she thought she left her slippers. It was quite a large room to be honest. Bookcases filled with all manner of literature and shelves bursting with bottles lining the walls with the occasional painting or diagram in between.
The battered desk she was headed to was currently overflowing with reams of paper and pens and sat to the back of the work room.
Majority of the rest of the space was taken up by the large work benches, both reinforced and coated with fire proof, acid proof and all kinds of ‘proof’ charms. They lined up parallel to one another in the middle of the room.
Weaving through the benches she noted that her tonic had formed a pearly purple sheen on the surface, a sure sign that it was coming along nicely. It also smelled faintly of lavender and peppermint.
The tranquillity tonic, when brewed correctly served to calm the nerves of the drinker and soothe anxieties for a period of 2-3 hours. Five or more if the powdered faienfish shell was bathed in the light of the waning moon prior to addition.
Thankfully her friend hadn’t required such a strong potion and she had been able to start it right away. At the rate that it was going the tonic should be ready by midday tomorrow.
Finally reaching the desk she toed on her slippers, just in time to hear the distant ‘ping’ of the microwave echo from upstairs.
The pasta was done.
Hurrah, she thought dejectedly as she trudged back up the stairs, hopefully it doesn’t make me too ill.