Sticks and Stones

Prologue

Daina laid her head back against the fluffy pillow, her forehead still wet from perspiration. She'd just given birth to a darling baby girl. She'd named her Lea. As the midwife packed her herbs and left, Daina's husband, Lo, walked into the room. He sat at her bedside and touched her hand. Then, he touched the little baby's cheek. She gurgled.

"She's gorgeous, isn't she?" Daina asked with a weak smile. Lo brushed some of her wet bangs from her face.

"She's really ours?"

"Can you believe it?"

"After years of trying… it's finally happened," Lo smiled, touching a finger to his daughter's little hand.

"You have no one to thank but me," a deep voice rumbled behind the happy couple. Out of the dark wood of the wall stepped a man dressed in a thick black coat. He dusted himself off as he came, looking at the two with brilliant green eyes. He had a head of unruly black hair with continuously fell into his eyes and quite a number of earrings, necklaces, and bracelets. He claimed each one was to conduct a separate charm.

"Septimus," Lo whispered, turning to face the man and standing in front of his wife and newborn daughter protectively. "Septimus, I thought you would give us a week."

"I don't have time for that," Septimus replied curtly. "Your wife is a week overdue." He gave a grimace. "If we do not follow up on the deal on time, the magic could have tolling side effects. It might even undo what I've so kindly given to you." Septimus threw one end of his dark green scarf over his shoulder and stuffed his hands into his pockets again.

"But… my child… I haven't had but a minute with her…!" Lo pleaded. "We haven't had but a minute…"

"I'll give you five more, if you like," Septimus replied. "But a deal's a deal. I gave you a specific time frame and you both agreed to it." Lo gave Daina a look, and she nodded tearfully. They both hugged their baby girl. Then, Lo picked her up and gave her reluctantly to Septimus. He touched her nose tenderly.

"Beautiful baby, if I do say so myself," Septimus said softly. Little Lea cooed as he touched her cheek with a gentle finger. He pulled a small silver ring off of his ring finger and fastened it to a silver chain. He let her hold it.

"What is that?"

"It's the charm, my good man," Septimus said, flashing Lo a green glance. "All I have to do is make it take effect."

"What are you going to do to her?" Daina asked fearfully, still too exhausted to stand, but still quite afraid. "Please, don't hurt my baby!"

"My dear woman," Septimus sighed, tucking the baby in the bend of his arm. "Why would I hurt her after all the trouble I went through to help you conceive her? No, this one is a keeper." He gave a slight smile and waved his hand over the child. She instantly began to glow, a strange purple light emanating from her skin. The ring in little Lea's hand sparkled with fiery light. The little girl started to cry.

"Stop it!" Daina exclaimed, sitting up from her reclined position. "You're upsetting her!"

"Septimus!" Lo roared. "Septimus! Stop!" He lunged forward and grabbed the child from Septimus' grasp. The light seemed to explode as the girl was scooped into her father's arms, and a blast of light threw Septimus back several steps.

"Wh… what in the world are you doing?" Septimus demanded, looking at his now charred hands. He waved away the smoke and inspected his palms for burns. Minor, not too bad. Daina and Lo coughed away the smoke. Lo clutched his daughter to his chest.

"I can't stand seeing you do this to her!" Lo snarled. "Get out."

"I really must undo that spell I bestowed upon her or it will not be as beneficial as I had hoped—"

"No. You are not welcome here. Go," Daina growled, giving Septimus a dangerous glare.

"Please, let me help her," Septimus said, taking a step forward. "The spell will only grow stronger over time. I might not be able to take it off in a few years." Lo stepped back and grabbed the letter opener on the table. He pointed it at the sorcerer in front of him.

"No, she doesn't need any of your help," Lo said lowly. "I'm completely willing to stab you right here." Septimus sighed. He held up his burnt hands.

"Do as you wish," he said. "I can only hope the girl prospers, especially in her current state." He gave them a rueful look. Daina clenched her fists.

"Just leave my house," Daina whispered. "Now." Septimus made his way across the thick wooden planks and to the dark wooden wall.

"You're very welcome," Septimus mumbled. "Good bye and good luck, little Lea." He touched the wall and slowly melted into it. In a few moments, he was out of sight.

Lea clutched the ring in her hand, staring at it in wonder with her clear amber eyes.

"Throw that thing away," Daina sighed, slumping back onto the pillow in exhaustion. Lo could see tears coming to her eyes. "Don't let her keep playing with it."

"Here, give it to me, Lea," Lo coaxed, trying to pry the thing gently from her hands. But Lea held it fast. Lo sighed, trying again to pull it away. Lea held it stubbornly. Lo managed to unwrap her little fingers and take it into his hand. Lea started to cry.

"We'll get rid of it eventually," Lo said. "But for now, it has to stay. She just won't let it go." He gave it back to her reluctantly, and it pacified her.

"Why did we make that deal?" Daina sobbed. Lo sat at her side and held her with his daughter. "Why didn't we just keep trying? Why did we ask for his help?"

"There wasn't another way," Lo replied, hugging his wife's head to his chest. "But don't worry, he's gone now. He's gone, he's gone. He won't come back. Lea will be fine, Lea will be fine." Daina wiped the tears away and took her daughter in her arms. Lea held the ring in her hands and stared at it with her clear amber eyes.

Thanks for reading. This is a new genre for me, so any feedback you can give is greatly appreciated. Please tell me what you think!

-Lefty