I woke up the next morning and I felt rested. I wasn't sure why today was different, then I sat up and looked around.
I wasn't in the hut! I thought with a smile and rolled off of the bed and stretched my arms. I let out a yawn and went to the kitchen to grab something to eat. I made short work of it and then went to the room where I had left the pitchfork to set the night before. It looked okay from what I could see, so I tapped the wooden block it was set in and it popped off.
I lifted the pitchfork and turned it around to look at my handiwork. “Well, it was close.”
I had been right and the sharp knife point was a bit too pointed for the number ten potion to fit down into the thin groove it made. It almost did, though. What I had now was a kind of jagged edge teeth from the actual knives on the tips to the curved part of the metal fork, where it was just smooth metal from the channel I had carved with the woodcarving tools.
I had been liberal with the potion and it had reinforced the top of the knives and the pitchfork perfectly. I did a quick jab with it into the wooden block and the four tips of the knives stuck in and didn't waver from side to side, bend, or break. It was just what I wanted. A long pole with multiple strong blades on the end for distance attacks.
I was tempted to extend the handle, then decided that wouldn't make it easy to use in an area like the nearby trees, strangle vines, or any other place that had other things that would stop me from using a longer pole. The only real place I could use a long pole was in the dry area where I lived and it wouldn't be useful anywhere else. I kept the normal length handle.
You have a choice to make. Will you do what's best for you?
A) Gather ingredients. B) Read some more. C) Relax. D) Tear down the hut. E) Make potions.
I really want to tear down the hut right away. I thought and read the options again and sighed. I've put off making health and healing potions long enough, though. I've got my nice weapon that will help keep me safe when I go deeper into the marsh, so I'll choose A.
Now that I had a good fending off weapon, it was time to keep my promise to Diane. She needed stock for her new store and I was going to get it for her. I prepared everything I needed to take with me, which included potions, my knife, a small ward that I hadn't activated yet, my engraving tools and a couple extra one foot wide wood coins that already had the proper engravings.
I also had my bandoleer, my new knifed-pitchfork, and enough food to last me up to a week in a pack I had made straps for. I tied several large burlap bags to it that I used for holding ingredients and slung the pack over my shoulders.
I didn't intend to come back until I had filled at least two bags, then remembered to bring the smaller bag for the mushrooms and fungus blooms. I didn't really need to harvest the fungus, since I had so many from the Hag's secret stash; but, I wasn't going to skip the opportunity to gather more. I didn't want them overgrowing and rotting, so taking enough to keep the area healthy that they grew in was my top priority. I wasn't going to let years of hard work go to waste.
I shut and locked my front door, which was a new experience for me, and hung the key over my neck. As an extra precaution, I touched the bottom and the top of the door with some number ten potion and made it solid, then I touched the door and added the magic charm that the Hag said would keep out intruders. A small glowing 'G' floated in front of the door, which was something I hadn't seen before, and then it sank into the door.
“Weird.” I said and walked around my large house to the back. I reached the waterway there and took a slight run and jumped it. I usually had to wade across it, since it was waist deep, until that time I had taken a strength potion to get back to the Hag quickly. I had jumped it that time, when I was so young, and I was much bigger and stronger now. The Hag made sure of that.
I started to make my way through the forest and I did my best to be quiet about it. I had gotten very good at sneaking around, especially when I smelled just like where I was. I could sneak right up on things and they wouldn't know I was there, unless they were looking for me.
I carried my knifed-pitchfork at the ready and looked for something to test it on. I ignored the scattering bunnies as I passed them, even though they were some of the tastiest meat and had the softest pelts, next to the marsh panther. That thing was so soft that I was tempted to keep it for myself and make something like a blanket or a pillow out of it. Or both. It was a big panther. I had promised it to Diane, though.
I had even moved the antler sets I had gathered from near-deer into my left front room to keep them out of the coming snow. I didn't know that they were valuable and had just thrown them behind the hut and out of the way. I guess I needed to ask Diane why they were valuable. It was funny that the pelts weren't, too. I had tons of them and sewed them into water skins to hold my gland extract.
That reminded me to open the large empty water skin on my hip and I squeezed out a pile into it. It would take me a while to fill it, even doing it every hour.
Montage mode engaged. Quick harvesting selected. Done.
I was gone for a week and I had filled three large sacks with ingredients and killed four near-deer with the new knifed-pitchfork. One of them had antlers and three of them didn't. I also killed eighteen snakes and most of them were poisonous, so it cost me a number three snake juice potion. I even scared off the spiders that were starting to nest near the fungus bloom area with one of my wards.
The last thing I needed was to have to fight off a nesting brood of spiders every time I went back there. Of course, that meant I would have to replace the ward every time I went back or they would overrun the place. There just didn't seem to be an end to them, no matter how many I killed. I think I was really starting to hate spiders.
I approached my house with my very heavy burden and used the vigilance technique to check everything, and everything was fine. I didn't see, hear, or smell anything bad. I relaxed and went to the front door, glad to be home, and touched it to disperse the charm on the door. I felt it pop and fade away, which was also a new experience for me, since it hadn't happened before. I cut the parts on the door that I had sealed with potion to release it, used my key, and went inside.
I let out a relieved sigh as the door shut behind me, because I was home. This was my place and I was glad to be back. I also had work to do. I needed to make a lot more waterproofing potion to apply to the roof, and I thought about mixing in a fortifying potion, too. Why make two batches of different potions to apply when I could just mix a fortifying potion in with a brewing pot filled with waterproofing potion?
I wasn't surprised that the color of the potion changed slightly when I added in the fortifying potion as an ingredient. What did surprise me was that the entire potion looked more like fortifying potion. I took a container full and a rag outside and easily climbed onto the ten foot high end of the roof. I walked up to the very top and started applying it to the wood. It soaked in just like the waterproof and fortifying potions and the wood changed color to look aged.
I kept working all through the day and finished covering the entire roof. It looked both stronger and waterproof. As a test, I scooped out a bit of water from the water barrel and threw it onto the roof. It worked like a charm and the water ran right off. It didn't even leave little beads behind. Of course, now that I knew it worked, I looked at the single old barrel that I used for water. It had been an old ale barrel and it had been in the hut for as long as I had lived there.
I decided then and there to make new ones. I didn't know how to make then round like that, though. So, I made tall square ones. It was easy with the melding potion and the new fortifying water potion. I made six wooden boxes to hold water, quickly filled them, and put them in the kitchen and potion brewing room. I used up pretty much all of the spare wood I had, except for the firewood, and that I was definitely going to need for the winter.
Diane had said it was going to be a harsh one, so I needed to be ready. Plus, I had a whole hut that could be cut up into firewood to be burned... and that's what I did with it. I took great pleasure in slicing up the whole thing over the next few weeks as firewood, in between preparing the animals I had killed for cooking and brewing as many general health and healing potions as I could.
I even found some of the rare ingredients for the strength potion. I brewed as many potions as I could with them, being very careful to only use the proper amount and not make any mistakes. I managed to get half of a cooking pot of it and that gained me fifteen potions. I had been tempted to add a fortifying potion to it; but, I was pretty sure I couldn't survive drinking that many fortifying potions. I did not want to become a living statue and then starve to death because I couldn't eat.
The only down side to my little late in the year hunt was that I hadn't seen any marsh panthers. Either they had moved on or I had scared them off somehow. I hoped that they were just gone to better areas to live, while the winter blasted the marsh, and they would be back in the summer when it was warmer.
I finished all of my winter preparation just in time, because a cold snap hit the marsh a few days later. The water in the waterways stopped moving, as did anything inside them, and a light smattering of snow fell to blanket everything. None of it stayed on my roof. I even went out to check and to watch for a while. As a last minute thought, I brought the small boat inside and put it beside the front door.
After that, I used up the last of the large stone blocks I had made and finished filling in the stone floor where the hut used to be. It used to fill the whole middle room and some of the room on the left. I decided to make that left room into my work room. I put all of my equipment in there, including the hatchet, pitchfork, stacks of one foot wide wooden coins, the wood carving tools, and several skins filled with my gland extract, as well as the six molds for making stone blocks.
My eyes fell on the lone shelf and looked at the Hag's books that I had retrieved from under the kitchen counter, before I had cut it up for firewood.
You have a choice to make. It will significantly change how the story progresses.
A) Burn them. B) Ignore them. C) Try to open them. D) Figure it out. E) Study them.
Since I have no clue what could be in them or what that magic glow is, I think I need to figure out what's going on with them, now that I've got the time. I thought as a particularly loud wind hammered the side of my house. I choose D.
I picked up one of the six books and tried to open it, and it wouldn't move. I tried reading the cover and it didn't make any sense to me. I tried the next and the next, and none of them would open, even though there were no visible locks on them. I was very tempted to toss them into the fire when I couldn't open them... then I sat down and thought about it.
The thought of no visible locks on them, had me thinking that I might need to know a word or something to stop the feeling of magic on them. It was then that it clicked in my head.
They are locked like my front door! I thought with happiness and put my hand on the book I held. I did the same thing the Hag taught me to disperse the charm on the door after locking it with magic, and I laughed when the magic popped the same way and faded. I opened the cover and it moved. I did it!
Inside the book, it was the nicest and fanciest thing I had ever seen. I immediately shut it and put it on the shelf, then went to one of the barrels and rinsed off my hands. I dried them as best as I could and I even blew on them to dry them. I shook my hands and waited for nearly fifteen minutes before I could no longer feel any moisture on my hands.
I went back into my work room and picked up the book I had magically unlocked and opened it again. I marvelled at the intricate swirly things on the edges of the page and turned it. The next page was just a thin, nearly see through white page, then there was another nicely detailed page. I took my time and was very careful with it. Each page had a white thin page between them and I looked at every page. I was too stunned at the artwork and pictures inside to bother reading anything.
I sat there and looked at the back of the book and smiled. It was time to go through it again, because some of the pictures and drawings I had recognized.
They were potion ingredients.
I flipped the book over and started again. This time, I did my best to read as much of it as I could.
- Creator of L.I.F.E. Begins and Bookworld
It's all up! Morbid (200 full chapters) is on Scribblehub and is currently on hiatus.
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I have a new one called Bookworld Online: Marsh Man! New chapters will be posted daily.