The Curse of the Orthana by Nick Tamboia

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“We cannot have child running around the forest in nothing but her skin like some savage,” the other man then remarked.

Her father said that this was not the case and that his daughter didn’t run around the forest like that, although both he and his wife knew she did, and the two men from the town council insisted that their neighbors had complained of such.

They talked for a moment longer, when Puritan Kane suddenly blurted out. “Very interesting,” as he stood up.

Everyone looked at him, watching as he walked over to Alia. The girl stood there, straightened up as she glared up at the man.

“Very interesting,” Puritan Kane said again. “She has violet purple eye coloring.”

Alia’s parents exchanged a glance with each other before looking back at the man. “Yes, so she does,” he father finally remarked.

“Neither of you do,” Kane then said as he looked at Alia’s parents.

“Yes, well,” Alia’s father said as he swallowed hard.

“My mother did,” Alia’s mother lied. “So does my sister. I have blue eyes as you can see, but my daughter’s eyes are the color of my mother’s, her grandmother.”

Kane just stood there looking at Alia’s parents for a long tense moment, before turning and walking across the room to the window, his heavy boots making loud, clucking sounds on the wooden floor as he went. “I have asked about your . . . daughter in town before we came out this way. Seems none recall you being with child. When was she born?”

Her parents exchanged a glance before her father said, “late September, almost eight years ago as a fact.”

“Odd,” Kane remarked as he continued to look out of the window. “Odd that none in town knew your wife was with child. She should have been showing, and people would have noticed when you went to town, yet none did. How is this possible?”

Alia’s father opened his mouth to speak but his wife did instead, explaining that she had not gone into town, as carrying as she had, during the summer heat was uncomfortable, and that when Alia was finally born she had gone to a midwife who had lived nearby at that time, who had helped her deliver.

No one remarked on that for a long moment, and the puritan remained looking out of the window.

“I heard a story,” Kane said. “When in the next town over. A strange story about a red haired woman who had dug an infant up out of a cornfield by the light of a harvest moon. This would be about eight years ago, which would make that child the same age as your daughter. From what I was told, this woman, most certainly a witch, had given the infant to a family and requested they care for it and raise it as their own, and in return they would know prosperity and good health.”

That finished, the puritan man remained where he was standing, looking out of the window.

Alia’s father cleared his throat and stated he had heard the same story, only that it had been a boy, who when dug up was about the age of ten, not an infant.

“Indeed,” Kane said at length and slowly walked over to Alia, where he stood looking down at her for a long moment. Finally he leaned down, looking into the girls violet purple colored eyes with his own yellow ones. Slowly he smiled an open lipid smile revealing his silver colored, pointy teeth.

Alia took a step back away from him, whispering, “I know what you are, Kane soul stealer.”

The puritan’s smile widened. “And I know what you are.” He then winked at the girl before standing upright and looking directly at Jole. “Ask them about the others, please?”

“Others?” Her father was suddenly confused by this turn in the conversation.

Jole then asked them how well they knew the people who owned the next farm over, the Pritcherds, what their religious beliefs were because they were never seen in church, and most important of all, if they knew Pritcherds grew hemp plants on their property or made the Devil’s Drink in their barn?

“Devil’s Drink?” Her mother was confused by that as she had never heard of such a thing.

“An alcoholic, intoxicating drink,” Kane told her.

Alia’s father told them that they knew very little about the Pritcherds as they kept to themselves and didn’t bother anyone.

A short while later the men left. As they rode off toward the Pritcherd’s farm, the puritan, Kane, had actually looked back at Alia as she stood there on the front porch of their cabin, and winked at her.

That night the darkness and forest in the direction of the Pritcherd’s farm was light with the light of flames, and it would later be learned that Patrick Pritcherd had been arrested by Puritan Kane and put in the stockade in the town square, where he later died. His older son was hanged, and what became of Pritcherd’s wife and two youngest daughters none would ever know.

The following day Alia’s parents packed her stuff up, and her father took her out to stay with Old Nann, explaining that the old midwife was a friend of theirs, and had agreed to help them out and watch over Alia for a while until the trouble in town settled down and the Witch Hunters and Puritan Kane left.

Chapter 8: Old Nann and the trunk

Old Nann was old, with deep ebony skin tones and long curly gray hair. She was suspected of witchcraft, due to her both being a midwife and because she was a healer. While some considered her to be a witch, no one had made an issue out of it, as Old Nann had not only brought many of the town’s people into the world, she had cured many of them from illness with her medicines and elixirs she made.

In the beginning, Alia was not at all happy with having to stay with the old woman, but as the days went by, she grew to like Nann.

One day, after a bad wind storm the night before, Alia demonstrated her ability to craft things, when she repaired a hole in the cabin room, caused by a branch that had blown out of a nearby tree.

After seeing what the girl did, Old Nann had remarked, “that’s a very useful talent to have.”

“Thanks,” Alia had remarked. “How come people hate us? Me and you who can do things like we can. Don’t they see we can help?”

Old Nann had sighed at that, before saying, “people condemn what they can’t or don’t want to understand. Sadly, it’s the way things are in this world, and very little will change that. There is an overall idea of the way things should be, and anything outside of that idea is usually dealt away with. The world will never know what it lost or could have had.”

The following night, Alia awoke with a strange feeling, a sense that she had to do something. For a short while, she had remained in bed, but the feeling grew stronger and stronger. Not just that, but she thought she could hear music, flute music coming from the floor.

She knew that Old Nann had a root cellar, and it seemed as if the music she was hearing was coming from down there.

“Do re mi fa so la,” it sounded as if the flute was playing.

Wondering who was in the basement playing that odd music, the girl had slid out of bed and lit a lantern, snuck outside and around to the side of Nann’s cabin where there was a set of stairs that led down to a door beneath the house.

She expected the door to be locked, but to her delight, it wasn’t and opened easy enough, and as soon as it did, the music stopped playing.

For a moment the girl stood there, wondering, as she tilted her head to the side, thinking. She could hear the distant sound of katydids singing to the night, and an owl hooted from a nearby tree, but that was it.

No sounds came from beyond the dark doorway she stood before.

Slowly she entered, holding up the lantern in her left hand. Her right held up in front of her chest, palm out, ready to make a magic shield should she need to protect herself.

It was cool in the cellar and smelled like damp earth. In the light cast by the lamp, she saw shelves with jars on them, what looked like a work table, and there sitting on the floor before it was what looked like a trunk.

Frowning at that, the girl slowly approached it. It looked like the type of trunk people used to store clothing in when shipping it long distances by horse and cart. It appeared to be dark brown in color, with gold trim. Then there on the top of it, she noticed writing in white bold print. Writing that said, “or ent.” She frowned at that, wondering if it was some odd language.

Then the lock that held the trunk shut caught her eye and the girl knelt down, examining it. Like the trim, the lock was done in gold and was of a very detailed carving of a lion’s head.

Fascinated, the girl sat the lamp on the floor and examined the lion’s head lock more closely, noticing the detail of it, tracing it with one small finger.

Alia was half tempted to open it when she heard a noise behind her. With a startled gasp, the girl spun around on her knees to see Old Nann standing there, her tired eyes not looking at the girl but the trunk.

“I thought I heard music,” was all that the girl said to the old woman after a long moment had passed.

Ignoring that, the old woman stood still, holding her lamp up over her head, as her ancient-looking eyes fixed on the trunk.

“If I told you how I got that thing, you’d never believe me,” the old woman finally said.

“How?” Alia asked after a long moment, looking from the old woman to the trunk and back again. “How did you get it?”

After a moment the old woman sighed, as she lowered the lantern to her side. “A boy gave it to me a very long time ago.”

“A boy?”

“I had gotten lost in the woods,” Nann explained. “I was a little older than you are now. A boy helped me get home, and then he flew off.”


The old woman nodded her head. “He showed up a few days later with that,” she remarked as she nodded her head at the trunk. “He told me to keep it, because someone, one day, would need it. I asked him if I would ever see him again and all he said was, ‘I move forward and I move back,’ and then he flew off again.”

“What is inside it?” Alia looked again at the trunk. “A music box? Because I heard music coming from down here.”

“Worlds,” the old woman answered. “It’s a doorway to worlds.”
Alia frowned at that as she glanced up at the old woman.

“Remember this and mind what I say, child. Only open it and go inside it in an emergency. Only if you need to. Understand me?”

Alia nodded her head as she looked back at the trunk.

“It’s getting chilly,” Nann had then remarked. “Too chilly for a young girl and an old woman to be standing outside in this dark night with October nearly here. Let’s get ourselves back to bed.”

Alia followed Old Nann out of the cellar, casting one last look back at the trunk with the lion’s head lock on it. For some reason, she felt it was important to her and that she should remember exactly where it was.

As the last week of September fell away just as the leaves were beginning to turn bright colors and fall from the trees, Alia checked to make sure the trunk was still there in the cellar.

Then as the first week of October ended, the Puritan Kane and his Witch Hunters showed up at Old Nann’s cabin.