Over the next month, for some reason, my life seemed to pass like a montage. I remember doing it and experiencing it; but, it didn't take any real time at all as I had to relearn how to do everything with one less finger on each hand. Cutting up food, skinning and cleaning animals, and mixing potions. You don't realize how much your little finger actually does until it's gone.
It was the same with my feet. Losing two toes on each foot had forced me to relearn how to walk and keep my balance. It was one of the weirdest experiences I had ever had. I even tried to tie sticks and rocks in the place of my missing toes, just to try and get my normal walk back, and it didn't work. Once I even cheated and tried on one of the Hag's shoes. Not only didn't it work, I also earned a day in the marsh gathering yellow moss.
If it was the green kind, I wouldn't have a problem with it. The yellow, though... the frogs owned the yellow part of the marsh. You wouldn't think that a normal sized frog could cause trouble. You would be wrong. The little monsters looked identical and they all had different properties. Some had acid on their skin. Others had a really useful greasy film that when spread on torches, it burned for hours.
The best ones let you taste bright colors and made your tongue into an electric buzzer. Anything you licked with it would feel a shock. Or you did. I honestly can't remember much after licking one. Except that you never lick the bottom. Never, ever lick the bottom. I lost the feeling of my tongue for two whole weeks and had to take a number four potion afterwards.
My life returned to normal soon after I became capable again. Normal as it always was for me, I mean. Beatings with hands, large wooden utensils, and once with a long pole, because I had managed to dodge a particularly nasty clawed hand from her when she was having her own anger tantrum. She had tried to brew a really difficult potion and it hadn't worked. Even after she made a special meal of my backside to fill her stomach, she couldn't muster up enough magic to infuse the potion properly.
That really pissed her off, because she had used up the very last of the special ingredients that she had bought in the village that was several days travel away. She wouldn't tell me what the potion was for or told me why she needed it, considering it was the very first time I had seen her trying to make it. I couldn't read or write, so I was only going by her instructions and the pictures in some of the books that she had.
“Boy! I need to go to the village again.” The Hag said and gave me a knowing look.
I was instantly filled with fear and she licked her lips as I slowly crossed the room and climbed onto her bed. I pulled up the rag I wore and she took out her razor sharp knife. After several strained and painful minutes, she had two nice fillets cut out from my chest. I drank the number four potion and the holes she had made regrew out to the surface of my skin and hurt like hell.
“Do NOT leave the hut! I don't care if it somehow catches fire or gets overrun by quill frogs.” The beautiful Hag said and licked the blood from her fingertips. “If I come back and you aren't here, I'll have to do something to make sure that you can never leave the hut.” The evil smile she wore sent shivers down my spine. “Do you understand?”
“Y-y-yes.” I said and visibly shook.
“I will be back in a week.” The Hag said and picked up a box of the number one potions and the number four potions. “I better make that two weeks. I may have some errands that need to be done around the village.”
I stood there and watched her leave the hut, then I walked over to the window and looked out. The Hag put the boxes into the small boat-like skiff, then kicked it to push it into the small waterway that was barely twenty feet away. She hopped on the flat bottomed boat and I watched in awe as it slowly puttered away without her having to use the long pole to push it or the oars to row.
The Hag is gone! You're going to be all alone and on your own for the next two weeks. What are you going to do? I know what I would do. You should do that, too. Choose wisely.
A) Stay and be good. B) Stay and be bad. C) Run like the wind. D) Burn everything. E) Drown.
My very first thought was me defying the Hag and her removing my fingers and toes, just a reminder that I was hers and that I was to never defy her again. It's A. I choose A.
For some reason, those two weeks seemed to pass like a montage. I remember doing it and experiencing it; but, it took no real time at all. I gathered ingredients and made number one potions up to the point that she would have to take over. I also made number four potions to the same point. I wouldn't dare spit in them myself, though. I didn't have the paralytic venom she had and I was sure it was an essential ingredient. She spit in everything she made, after all.
I smiled as I thought about what the villagers would do to her if they knew they were drinking her spit, then I immediately shivered and ducked my head in shame. If she ever found out that I had that thought, she would flail me again. Or flay me. It would depend on her mood and if she was hungry.
“BOY!” The Hag yelled and I walked over to the front door and opened it. The flat bottomed boat puttered into view and then slid partially onto the dry part around the hut. “Get out here and carry in the supplies!”
I walked over to her and she still wore her disguise as an old woman. She pulled off the charm around her neck and her beauty reappeared. She stepped out of the skiff and onto dry land, then she looked around.
“You're lucky that you've kept up with your chores.” The Hag said, slightly disappointed.
I didn't tell her that I had two sets of potions for her to finish, because I didn't want her to think that I was trying to impress her. The last time I did that, she hit me so hard that she nearly tore my head off. I carried the sacks off of the boat and put them onto the ground, then went to pick up a large cask.
“I'll get that.” The Hag said.
I left it alone and dragged the large bag of oats to the side, then rolled it off the edge and onto the ground. I was very glad that burlap was so durable, because any other cloth would have burst from me doing that. Once I had all of the supplies on the ground, including the two empty boxes of potion bottles, I transferred everything into the hut. You couldn't leave anything outside the hut's protective wards, because all the little bugs and creatures would infest it and consume it before you knew it.
Although, I had discovered a neat little trick with an oat covered skewered frog. If I left it out for a week, the most delicious grubs anyone had ever tasted, either grew inside or nested there. The Hag would let me sneak off with a frog or two on occasion and she wouldn't complain that I was wasting her precious oats, just because the meals I made with the grubs always tasted that much better.
Now that we had a huge bag of fresh oats, for the next two months, we were going to have some of the best tasting meals we ate all year. The Hag didn't say anything when she carried her cask of alcohol into the hut and saw the two large cauldrons filled with the two nearly completely prepped potions. I had left a number one potion in front of one and a number four potion in front of the other, just so she would know what pot had what potion in it.
You have a minor choice to make. It only determines the order in which you do things.
A) Go spider hunting. B) Go frog hunting. C) Gather ingredients for dinner. D) Relax.
With the big bag of oats, there was only one choice for me. It was B. I choose B.
“I'm going frog hunting.” I said, eager to start the delicious grub gathering, and picked up my short pole. I already had my stubby knife and I slung the draw string of an empty sack over my shoulders, which hung the sack under my left arm, the perfect spot to quickly stash clobbered frogs.
“Don't forget to do the leaf trick.” The Hag warned me about testing for the acid frogs and I nodded. The last thing that either of us needed was to have the limited number of sacks we had be depleted.
I left the hut and made my way to the part of the marsh that was near the yellow moss section. It was the best hunting area, because the frogs kept trying to expand their territory and they were easy pickings. I was gone for several hours and gathered dozens of frogs, of both the oil kind and the magic licking frogs. I never tried to hide one of them for myself, though. The Hag always knew when I tried to hide stuff like that.
On the way back, I found some brightly colored mushrooms and fungus bulbs that the Hag would definitely want cooked with her frog legs. I added them to the sack, careful of the oil covered ones, and went back to the hut.
“Boooy.” The beautiful Hag said, her voice slightly slurred. “Y-you're lucky I don't f-fancy children.”
I ignored the Hag, because she had already opened the cask and had a half empty cup of alcohol in her hands. She always made comments like that and I had no idea what she was talking about. She never fancied me when she was sober, so why would she fancy me when she was drunk?
I took out the mushrooms and the Hag perked up at the sight, then I took out the fungus bulbs and she shot to her feet.
“BOY! Where did you get those?!?” The Hag exclaimed and walked over to me as if she was missing several toes.
“I found them on the way back from hunting frogs.” I responded, slightly afraid.
“Did you pick them all? DID YOU?!?” The Hag yelled and I shivered in fear.
“N-no, I... I only took enough to cook with the frog legs.” I said and ducked my head, afraid that she would smack me for not taking them all. I felt her hands go around me and I thought for sure that she was going to crush me in her embrace. She let me go a moment later.
“You're a good boy.” The Hag said and I froze at the very first kind words to ever pass her lips. “Don't ever pick them all. Once a month, we can go back and get another handful. They are the most precious ingredients a potion maker could ever hope for.” She said and I looked at her face. It had a kind expression and it absolutely terrified me. “I've done my delicious work on you too well.”
The thought of her cutting me up to add to the frog legs had my whole body shivering.
The Hag took the sack off of my shoulders. “I'll make dinner. You go and clear out the spiders around the hut.”
I gave her an incredulous look for a moment about her cooking a meal, then I realized what I was doing. I gasped and ran from her before she could whip me for giving her that look. Over the next hour, I cleared away every single spider from our several hundred feet wide dry patch of marsh, too terrified to show my face inside the hut without doing exactly what she said.
- Creator of L.I.F.E. Begins and Bookworld
It's all up! Morbid is on Scribblehub and new daily chapters will be posted, starting Nov. 30th, 2019!
Don't forget to check out my other story, Bookworld Online: The Rogue Necromancer as well. It's complete!
I have a new one called Bookworld Online: Marsh Man! New chapters will be posted when I can make them!