The Curse of Dregs Hollow, Chapter 1

A horse clip-clopped across the rainy, cobblestone streets, and a shadowy figure eyed it closely. The rider had a cloak over his face, but the purple skirt around his steed let him know that he had found the right person. The shadowy figure reached his gnarly fingers into his own ratty cloak and took out a knobby, wooden wand. He pointed it at the projected path of the horse and shot out a spell. The horse suddenly stopped, which not only made the hex miss its target but it sent the man flying off his mount! He hit the wall of a house located in the middle of a row of closely built, sandy stone cottages. The shadowy figure advanced towards him but quickly retreated when the door of the house opened up. A woman with a long dress and apron shined her lantern on the fallen man and gasped. Another lady came outside to see what was going on and saw the first woman assisting the man. She ran out to help, and the man leaned on both of them as they took him inside.

The man shivered as he saw on a wooden chair in their dining area. A fire burned behind him as he sipped on some tea. Though his normally olive-toned skin had gone pale and his piercing blue eyes were overshadowed by heavy bags beneath them, he still had a very handsome and very commanding appearance. His dark brown hair laid limp on his shoulders as he fought off the shivers that plagued his body. Both women stared at him with concern. “Sire, what on Earth are you doing out in your condition?” one of them asked.

The king answered, “I heard the apothecary in this town is legendary. I hoped that she could make an elixir that would finally cure whatever is wrong with me.”

As the second woman draped a blanket around him, she gently reproached him, “You should have sent a servant to fetch it for you!”

“But he’s too right about the apothecary,” the first woman noted. “She’s a miracle worker!”

The second woman agreed, “Yes, she did wonders for Avalyn! Poor thing nearly died!”

The king inquired, “Where can I find this apothecary?”

“She hasn’t been in town for a few days,” the first woman regretfully replied.

The king grew crestfallen, so the second woman suggested, “Avalyn only needed a drop of this potion, so she probably still has some of it.”

“Where can I find this Avalyn?” the king probed.

The two women put on cloaks and walked with him across the dark, empty streets. The shadowy figure quietly groaned in disappointment of seeing the king with a couple of witnesses. Not far from the women’s cottage, the houses stood further apart from each other but were still made of the same stones and slightly dilapidated wooden beams. They approached a house with a peeling white picket fence and a small garden in the front yard. The three of them walked across the rock path and gently knocked on the door. A man inside cautiously opened up the door and shined his own lantern outside to see who was calling him in such a late hour. He looked old enough to be the women’s father, but he did not have the low energy of most people his age. He studied the figures and realized that he recognized them. “Joanne! Sasha! Is that… King Henrick?”

“May we come in?” Henrick requested.

“Of course!” he obliged. He stepped out of the doorway so that they could enter.

Joanne and Sasha helped Henrick into a nearby chair in the man’s dining area. Henrick told Joanne and Sasha, “Thank you, ladies! And to you as well, Mister…”

“Call me Solomon.” He paused and gingerly questioned, “Um, your highness, pardon me for asking, but what are you doing here?”

Henrick explained, “Well, as you know, I’ve been sick for a while, and I feel it’s of the utmost importance that I get well! I simply cannot let my kingdom fall into the hands of Duke Ferrin! His ideas for the land are dangerous and would destroy Lacoria! I read a newspaper column talking of the glorious work at the apothecary of Bohemma, so I came to find a cure. I’ve been told that your daughter still has some of her miracle potion…”

Solomon responded, “Say no more! Avalyn! Please bring your healing medicine over!”

A young woman with porcelain skin, sandy-colored hair, and golden brown eyes entered the room carrying a vial of amber liquid. “Father, its right here, what could you possibly…?”

Avalyn locked eyes with Henrick, who had a look of awe on his face! She, too, had an expression of great admiration and not solely for his position as king! He miraculously stood up, and she bashfully brought the elixir over to him. He took a sip and could feel his strength returning already. He fondly remarked to Avalyn, “If this potion works, I would like to woo you as my queen!” Avalyn smiled and blushed.

Months later, the kingdom showed up in droves to the castle Barlock buzzing about the king’s wedding. Not everyone could attend the ceremony, so those who couldn’t see it waited outside by a red carpet where Henrick would officially present Lacoria’s new queen. The shadowy figure stood in the back as two peasants excitedly chatted. One man commented, “I’m so glad we won’t have to have Duke Ferrin as king! What a nightmare that would have been!”

The shadowy figure cringed, and the other man pointed out, “We’re not totally out of the woods yet! They have to produce at least one heir or we’ll go right back to the same old drama!” This gave the shadowy figure an idea. Henrick and Avalyn came out, and while the crowd cheered and the smoke from the cameras lit up the sky like fireworks, the shadowy figure snuck off.

He disguised himself as a chef and penetrated Barlock’s kitchen without fuss. Dozens of cooks were preparing a myriad of different dishes, and the shadowy figure wondered which one was intended for Avalyn. He heard one person talk about “the queen’s favorite,” and he whipped his head in that direction. He saw the person walk away from a bowl of soup. He steathily made his way to the wheeled tray it sat on, and when no one was looking, he took a vial out of his pocket labeled “Infertility.” He put in a couple of drops and stirred the food to mix his potion in. When a woman came over with another plate of food, he quickly shot himself out of eyesight. He hid behind a pillar and watched a servant wheel the tray out of the kitchen, which made him smile mischievously.

For years, Henrick and Avalyn tried to conceive a child, and neither of them understood why they weren’t having any luck. They tried every trick they could find and still, nothing happened. One day, a kindly old sorceress visited the king and queen in the throne room and theorized that someone had slipped Avalyn an infertility potion. The antidote to it was difficult to make, but she finally produced it for them. They seemed skeptical about the concept of magic, but they thought that it was worth a shot to give it a try. The sorceress gave her a small bottle and instructed Avalyn to drink the whole thing. It would reverse the infertility effect for twenty four hours. If she needed more, she told them that she lived in a cottage in the Oreads forest, and she assured them that she lived far enough away from Dregs Hollow that they could be certain of their safety. Avalyn and Henrick thanked her for her gesture, and they promised that if it worked, they would find her cottage and reward her handsomely.

One day, as the shadowy figure walked along a dirt path surrounded by billowy trees, he noticed a newspaper in a trash bin next to a wooden bench. His eye had seen a picture of the royal couple with broad grins on their faces, and he didn’t think that anything that made them this happy could bode well for him, so he snatched up the newspaper and sincerely hoped his hunch would get proven wrong. When he read that Avalyn had conceived a child, he roared in fury. He threw the newspaper down and cursed the fact that he couldn’t use his powers to kill. He didn’t let this stifle his determination though and devised a new plan…

Shortly after the baby was born, Henrick and Avalyn brought the new princess to the throne room where reporters stood ready with their cameras on tripods and their quills ready to write. Henrick and Avalyn pleasantly answered all of their questions except for the one about the name simply because they hadn’t decided on it yet. Later on, Avalyn carried the infant into the nursery and laid her in the crib. As she tucked her in, she crooned, “Sleep well, little… Caliana!”

As the nighttime nanny entered, Avalyn stole one more loving glance at her baby before she left the room and fell asleep in her and Henrick’s chambers. After the nanny fell asleep on a chair on the other side of the nursery, the shadowy figure crept in through the window. He moved slowly and as silenly as he could so he didn’t wake the nanny. He swiftly grabbed the child and ran out of the window! The nanny heard him jump out of the window and woke with a start. When she saw that the crib was empty, she let out a blood curling scream. Henrick and Avalyn rushed in and nearly had a heart attack when they realized what just happened. While Avalyn uncontrollably sobbed, Henrick rounded up everyone in the castle and ordered them all to search for the culprit. They searched the grounds thoroughly, but no one saw the shadowy figure sneak off into the darkness!

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