Cally made sure to keep her hood completely over her face and kept her head as far down as she could. When she got to the gates of Dregs Hollow, she didn’t even make eye contact with the sentries guarding it. She usually got ridiculed or teased by them, and she didn’t know if it was due to her posture or an aura she gave off, but they didn’t give her a hard time that day. Perhaps they thought it wouldn’t amuse them as much to hurt someone who was already pretty far down, she had no idea because she didn’t see their faces at all as she entered into the village. She didn’t meet anyone’s eye; she went straight home because she needed answers right away!
When she got to her home, she could hear that Reisseck had company, so she kept her head down as she went inside. The room went silent when she came in, and a woman in all black and green skin sneered, “Oh, look who finally decided to come back! Did you forget that you needed to make your master’s dinner?” The other people in the room snickered.
Cally found Reisseck by his worn, brown boots and his musky stench. She stood next to him and stated, “Reisseck, I need to talk to you.”
She couldn’t see his expression, but she could tell from his tone that her remark had incensed him. He tried to maintain a cheery tone for his guests as he responded to her, “Cally, I’m a little busy, so it will have to-”
“Now!” She gazed at him so that only could see her face.
Reisseck’s eyes went wide as he stared at her smooth, unobstructed visage. He told the rest of the room, “Will you please excuse us?” They seemed confused, so he added, “I’ll explain later.” They still found the situation odd, but they complied with his wishes. He got up and from behind his door, he watched them leave the area. When they were alone, he slowly shut the door and nervously turned to Cally. “You didn’t drink your potion?”
After she jerked her hood off, she vociferated, “I tripped and spilled the entire bottle! Then I’m lying there thinking I’m going to die…” she decided to leave out the part about Prince Derrick. She didn’t know why, but she felt as though Reisseck would get made if he knew she had talked to him. If Derrick’s theory proved true, Reisseck could target him, and she didn’t want any harm to come to Derrick. Plus, she didn’t want Reisseck to blame Derrick for her suspicions. The more she thought about the situation, the more she realized that Reisseck had been hiding the truth from her, and she now felt infuriated at his lies. She didn’t want Reisseck to think others were investigating him and become defensive either, she wanted his unfiltered explanation. She thought that maybe he had a good excuse for it all, but she didn’t see how that was possible. “…Then I see my reflection in the lake and I found out what’s really been going on for thirty three years! Why would you do this to me?”
Reisseck assured her, “I didn’t do this to hurt you! When I found you, I couldn’t leave you in the forest to die, but a human child could never survive in Dregs Hollow, so I had to change your appearance for your own protection!”
His reasoning made sense, but she wasn’t totally sold yet. She flashed her palm at him and questioned, “What about this? You told me you put that binding spell on me because the king allowed knights to take the disfigured to Barlock’s dungeons for torture, life imprisonment, or even murder. But if they had captured me, they wouldn’t have given me that potion, so they would have seen my true appearance eventually! So, why did you really bind me to you?”
“So you wouldn’t run away,” he explained. “I can’t afford to buy another servant, this was the only way.”
“But, if I already depended on you for a life saving potion that no one else knows how to make, then you didn’t need to bind me to you,” Cally argued. “I would have felt bound to you no matter what! Okay, yes, I did try to run away as a kid, but I knew that if I couldn’t find a cure by the time I finished the vial, I would have had to come back. You could have hired an adult servant in the first place and traded their services for room and board, lots of people do that. An adult servant would have already known how to do all of your chores, but you decided to take a baby and slowly teach it to do your bidding? Why? And why me?”
“Fine, you want the truth?” he spat. “Your grandfather went through the land claiming that he had a daughter who could spin straw into gold. One day, a lord decided to punish him for his lies by taking his daughter to his dungeon. He told him if she couldn’t make it happen in three days, he would have her executed. I heard about this and couldn’t let an innocent woman get punished for his mistakes! I snuck into the dungeons and told her that I could help her, but the only way the magic would work is if she promised me her first born child. She agreed, and the spell work, I saved her life. When the lord came with the judge and executioner, he felt so astonished that she had actually made it happen that instead of having her killed, he married her right then and there. Not long after that, you were born, and they had no problems whatsoever with giving you up. I had no choice but to bind you to me. If I undo it, she’d die! It wouldn’t be right to let her get killed in exchange for your freedom, even if she isn’t the most morally upright person in the world!”
Cally still looked skeptical. She knew that he could perform incredible magic, but this seemed a little far fetched even for his prodigious skills. “My parents are noblemen, huh? Over what area?”
“I’d rather not tell you,” Reisseck replied. “I don’t want you to go looking for them! They don’t want you, and they would only hurt you.” Cally didn’t say anything, so he brusquely changed the subject, “Now, to keep you and your mother alive, I need to make more transfiguring potion. You’ll be at work when you have to take it in the morning, so make sure to take your break around that time.”
“Normal people work at Camellia’s Circus,” Cally brought up. “Why can’t I-?”
“People of our village work there!” Reisseck reminded her. Cally couldn’t think of any other argument at the moment, so she sat in the dining area in silence as he brewed it. She dreaded altering her appearance and sorely wished that she could find an excuse not to do it. She started thinking about his explanation for this, which prompted her to mull over all of his other stories. The more she thought about it, the less he made sense. She didn’t know where to go from here though, and until she figured it out, she supposed she would have to continue her routine as normal.
The next day, Cally looked at the task list and saw that she got assigned to the carousel, which surprised her since it was an easy ride to operate. “Alright, what’s the catch?” Claude handed her a toolbox, and she inwardly groaned.
Cally pushed past the various animals on movable poles and found a small door on the cylindrical structure that made up the middle of the machine. She went inside its core and found several places that needed to get worked on. She grabbed a couple of tools and climbed to the top of the structure. As she worked, she heard a familiar voice say, “Nice tentacles!”
She looked down and saw Derrick standing by the little door! She inquired, “How did you find me?”
Derrick explained, “Well, I knew that some disfigured people worked at Camellia’s Circus, so I started going over my entire day to see if I could recall seeing you. I remembered wanting to ride the Ferris wheel, but every time I passed by it, it was always closed for repairs. Then I realized I had seen someone in a red cloak fixing it.” Cally didn’t say anything, but he could tell she was mildly impressed. “So, did you ask Reisseck about the curse?”
As Cally climbed to another section of the carousel’s inside structure, she admitted, “You were probably telling the truth. His story didn’t seem very believable.” As she tightened up some gears, she told him, “He said my grandfather bragged that he had a daughter who could spin straw into gold, and some lord decided to punish him by throwing her in a dungeon and giving her three days to make it happen or he’d have her killed. So, Reisseck snuck into the dungeon and apparently could do it but only if she promised him her first born child. So, she agreed to it, and Reisseck made it happen before the lord came back. When he saw she had done it, he married her. Soon after that, they had me and quite gladly gave me up.”
Derrick shared her skepticism, “I see… Why would anyone marry the person ready to kill them over such a trivial matter?”
“Yes! But that’s not even the strangest part!” Cally remarked as she moved to another part of the machine that needed fixing. “He wouldn’t tell me their names or what land they presided over! He claimed he didn’t want me to go looking for them because they want nothing to do with me and meeting them would only hurt me. He never explained why they were so keen on giving up their child or why he chose my mother’s life over mine! Reisseck never does anything so selfless, so who is this woman that moved him to produce that kind of compassion? I don’t think it would be hard to narrow it down since Lacoria only has a handful of nobles. Doesn’t he realize that by not telling me who they are that it wouldn’t take long to go to all of the lords and ladies in the kingdom and figure out which one gave up a baby because of some spell?”
Derrick pointed out, “But you can’t go looking for them because you can only go a certain distance away from where he is because of the binding spell. Does he do a lot of traveling?”
“No, he doesn’t!” Cally replied. “He hardly ever leaves Dregs Hollow. The furthest I can go to is Bohemma.” Cally hung suspended in mid swing as something dawned on her. “Maybe my parents live in Bohemma!”
“Either that or they have a strong connection to the area,” Derrick agreed. He saw her facial blemishes start to disappear, and Cally noticed this focus, so she sat on a beam and pulled out the transfiguring potion. “He’s not here, you don’t have to take that.”
“People from Dregs Hollow work here,” she begrudgingly expressed. “They wouldn’t be kind to a human being living there.”
“But normal people work here too,” Derrick reasoned. “How would they even know it was you?”
Cally thought that he had a point and put the bottle back in her pocket. “He must be worried that my real parents would recognize me and I’ll know where I really come from.”
“I’d like to take you to Bohemma,” Derrick proposed. “We’ll see if anyone recognizes you, but even if they don’t, we can search through their records to see if anything strange happened around your birthday. Maybe we can re-interview some of the potential witnesses and see if we can get some new clues. If he’s proven to be telling the truth, I won’t bother you anymore. But if we find out he’s lying, we can figure out the facts and find a way to get you out of there. What do you say? Are you in?”
Cally contemplated it for a moment, and she knew couldn’t let this issue go. She’d always end up thinking about it, and she wouldn’t be satisfied until she knew the truth. She swung off the beam and landed in front of Derrick. “I’m in!”