The Curse of the Orthana by Nick Tamboia

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Chapter 6: Alia Part 1

The child Jadis would eventually find and use to craft the dragon scale into the Black Ax was an eight-year-old girl named, Alia.

Alia was not a Narnian but had come here from a world known as Salem, where from what I understand; she had been living in hiding in a cabin in the woods with an elderly midwife who was looking after her.

The reason for this was that Alia could use magic. Here in Narnia that would be seen as a gift, but in the world of Salem, that was considered a curse, and people who could use magic were typically seen as evil and were burned alive, hanged, drowned or stoned to death.

Alia’s mother was the first to discover that the girl could use magic, when Alia was one year old and had been crying because she had wanted a rag doll that had been sitting on the table across the room. At the time her mother was preparing dinner for her husband and had been telling the girl to hush, while the girl sat on the floor, pointing at the rag doll.

“One moment,” her mother had told the girl as she had glanced from her to the doll.

And one moment later, to her mother’s amazement, the rag doll the girl had been crying and pointing at, suddenly lifted up and floated across the room all on its own, finally coming to rest in the girls outstretched arms.

Alia had giggled and cuddled her doll, while her mother screamed in terror, frightened that an evil spirit or demon was in the house.

Eventually, as time went by, Alia’s mother realized that it was not a demon making things move around the house, but her daughter who was doing it. And as the years had gone by, both her parents realized that their daughter had other abilities, one of which was making plants grow, and keep them alive, even in the dead of winter, which became a benefit to the family as the girl was able to grow things such as tomato plants and other vegetables all year around.

As a fact, in secret, Alia’s father would set up an area of their barn, creating an indoor farm just before the winter would set in, where the girl would grow them fresh vegetables all winter long so they would have food to eat. Her bedroom, in the small cabin they lived in, was full of plants, flowering vines, potted plants that bloomed flowers, and other such things. So much so, that her mother often complained that it looked like a jungle in there.

Finally, and most important to us, at the age of seven, Alia developed the ability to craft things.

This was discovered by her father one summer afternoon, while he had been working in the barn, trying to repair a broken wagon wheel. He had taken this off of the wagon and had the wheel sitting on a work table, trying to figure out if it was worth his effort to repair the wheel himself, or just ride a horse into town and buy a new one.

It was at that point the man had heard a scuffing sound behind him and turned to see his daughter standing there. At the age of seven, Alia was a little on the small side, lean of form, her fair skin tones tanned by the summer sun. Her face was attractive, slightly cherub-like, with large oval-rounded eyes that were of unusual purple coloring. A slight dusting of freckles covered her cheeks and the bridge of her nose. Her hair was long and wavy, light brown in coloring, but streaked through with black, all except a lock of hair that grew out from the right side of her brown and swooped down her right side, which was gray in coloring.

The man was a bit unnerved to see the girl standing there behind him. Unnerved not just because she could use magic, and not just because he had heard a lot of talk in town concerning witches, but because he had heard about evil spirits in the forest, Shadow People, as some called them, that had been seen lurking in the forest, almost as if they were looking for something.

That had bothered the man, because Alia spent a lot of time in the forest around their farm, and he sometimes wondered about her being able to use magic as she could, and these Shadow People.

His wife had simply said she was a wild child of the forest and would laugh. He didn’t laugh and thought there was a lot of truth to that, which worried him.

Alia didn’t talk much, and during the summer months she ran around barefoot, and often with little to nothing on, and would disappear into the woods for hours on end, returning home a mess, with leaves and grass in her hair, muddy, sometimes holding flowers or other plants she had found in the forest, and other times a bird or other animal she had befriended would be with her.

Not that long ago, she had come home a muddy mess, holding a cluster of wild flowers in her right hand, with a small skunk towing behind her like a lost puppy.

When he had told the girl she could not keep the skunk as a pet, Alia had responded with the oddest statement the man had heard come from a small child, and that was, “why would I want to keep her as a pet? She’s free to come and go as she wants.”

On the afternoon she displayed her ability to craft things; she was standing there in the doorway, barefoot, wearing tattered black shorts and a sleeveless shirt, her long brown-black hair tied up in a bun on the back of her head, all but a few strands that had come loose and hung down beside her left cheek. That lock of gray hair over her right eye, swooped back over her head, almost like the white streak on a skunk back. Small yellow flowers adorned her hair like a crown, and as the man looked at her, a small cluster of sparrows danced around her, fluttering in the air behind her, landing on the ground around her feet, singing and chirping, before fluttering back into the air and flying around her. One actually perched itself on her right shoulder.

After a moment, the girl had stepped into the barn, her large, purple colored eyes fixed on the broken wagon wheel.
Her father explained that it had broken the day before when he had run into a rut in the road, and he was debating if she should try and fix it, or just go to town and buy and a new one.

Without saying a word, Alia stepped over to the wagon wheel where it sat on the work table and after looking at it for a long moment, put her hands on it.

There was a strange sound, the type of wood makes when under stress, a faint growing and splintering sound. As the man watched, the broken wheel quickly began to mend itself, the wooden spokes growing, the wood fibers twisting and knitting themselves together, as did the wooden outer part of the wheel. Even the metal ring that ran along the outer most rim of the wheel seemed to bend back into shape on its own.

In a few moments, the wheel was as good as new. Stunned the man just stood there gawking at it, looking from the wheel to his daughter and back again.

“There,” Alia then had said as she looked up at her father. “All fixed.”
With that, the girl turned and walked out of the barn.
For a long while, the man just stood there, looking at the wheel, thinking.
It was not long after this when the events that would lead Alia to Narnia began.

Chapter 7: Alia Part 2

People who had lived in the area had been reporting seeing those Shadow People, as they called them, in the forest around their town. Some even claimed to have been chased by them. One elderly man went to the town counsel and told them that he had been returning to his farm just around dusk and had seen what looked like a Shadow Person and a Shadow Wolf in the forest alongside the road. At first he thought he was seeing things, but then they had chased him. He claimed that he had turned his horse around and instead of riding back to his farm, headed back to town and spent the night in the pub, telling everyone what had happened.

I have no doubt that these Shadow People the townspeople of Salem were seeing were Narovis’s Shadowlings. In the time that had passed since Jadis had commanded her followers to find a child gifted in crafting, Narovis and his Shadowlings had not only been searching all of Narnia for such a child, but had been looking in other worlds as well. Being creatures from the Underworld, they did have the ability to see into other worlds besides our own, and I fully believe they had been doing just that. It could be because of Alia’s ability to use magic, that they had sensed her presence and had been searching for her there for some time.

As a result of all these reports and complaints, the council concluded that these Shadow People and animals were a result of another witch, one that was living in hiding among them, and in turn had requested the help of Witch Hunters.

How these supposed Witch Hunters could tell if a person was actually a witch I have no idea, and how they could determine if a person was good or evil is beyond me. I doubt they actually had the ability to know either way, and as a result, many women and girls were wrongly put to death because of them.

These Witch Hunters showed up in town just as autumn was setting in, shortly after Alia had turned eight-years old.

Having heard this, Alia’s parents quickly tried to hide her, taking her to the Midwife, Old Nann, who lived alone in a cabin deep in the woods, where the girl lived for about a month.

It wasn’t just the talk about witchcraft and those who had arrived to investigate it that had caused the Alia’s parents to hide her, but the fact that they had actually showed up on the farm one afternoon, but for a different reason than suspecting witchcraft.

On that afternoon, the girl had been playing down in a wide, but shallow stream that flowed beside their farm, splashing around in the water and having fun.

Eventually, realizing it was getting late into the afternoon, and that she would have to soon head back home and help her mother, Alia had climbed out of the water and found a nice spot on a large flat stone beside the stream and laid down to dry off in the warm afternoon sun.

She had nearly dozed off; when she felt a sharp prick on her right big toe. Before she could react to this that same thing snatched onto her small pinky toe and gave it a good yank.

Startled by this, Alia sat up with a gasp to find herself looking at a very large black raven, one with an unusual light gray patch of feathers on its breast that looked oddly like an hourglass.