The ingredients of the cure were gathered remarkably quickly, once the doctor had told Harriet to go get the proper ingredients. Funny how much quicker it became when the doctor parroted Flare’s words instead of Flare merely speaking them herself.
The only thing that was left was the charm user. If pain made one thing difficult, it made charms difficult. Of course, pain didn’t make one thing difficult, it made everything difficult. Charms were just one of the everythings that this applied to.
For argument’s sake, and in order to circumvent the townsfolk should they be reluctant to find a charm-user or worse yet not have one, Flare still tried to trace the light charm into the incense block herself. A spike of pain shattered her concentration neatly, and the glowing strands of charm dissipated into the air. Flare dropped her hand.
“Can you explain anything more about this?” Hazel asked.
“Once I’ve breathed it in, it’ll take a while to work. So I’ll need somewhere to sleep.”
Hazel nodded. “You can stay here.” She didn’t sound happy about it, but she also sounded firm. Flare didn’t have the energy to argue with her, anyway.
Flare passed Hazel the incense block. “The charm user?”
Hazel looked at the incense block. “Just a light charm?” she asked.
“Meteorlight.” Flare clarified.
Hazel said, “Alright,” and then began to trace the charm herself on the incense block. Flare watched her do it. She was surprisingly adept at it, and Flare began to speculate as to why the town held her in such high esteem. Only briefly, since one of the other everythings pain interfered with was speculation.
Then the charm was finished being carved, and Hazel passed the incense back to Flare. “You three should leave,” Flare said. “The smoke is dangerous.”
“Will it linger?” Harriet asked.
“No. Now go.” Flare could feel another bout of pain coming on, and she wanted to get the cure started as quickly as possible. The faster she cured herself, the faster she would be free of pain and be able to head towards the mountains.
The three others left.
Flare coated the incense in the quicksilver, the metal beading and glittering in the light the incense was now giving off. She hummed as she worked, trying to keep her mind off the pain wracking her, and off the highly poisonous material she was making use of. She produced a flint and tinder from her pack, as well as an ignition charm on a small plate of wood that should make sure it caught.
Incense alight, Flare settled back and breathed deep. The smoke coming off it was thick, and sinuous, and orange-yellow instead of simple gray. It tasted of heaviness and weight and substance, almost like a solid object. Flare waved one hand through it, and felt it wrap around her fingers, envelop her arm, drag the whole thing down to her side, and she knew she’d made the cure right.
It seeped into her lungs, settling in and carrying her back down onto her back, lying on the couch. Already the pain felt faraway and unimportant, a detail of somebody else’s life that wasn’t worth worrying about. The wriggling under her skin slowed.
Solidity was what brought the tapeshades to heel. They were monsters of substanceless, and when they swallowed the light and the smoke that Flare was swallowing they would wind up more solid than the little squirming shadows they normally were. Then the blood could carry them, and the body could expel them. Taking advantage of natural functions in order to heal from monsters. A lot of witching hinged on that, more than most common folk expected. The world had its own ways of dealing with monsters, witches just made it happen faster.
The smoke became thick, too thick to see through. The image of Hazel peering through the window in the door faded away, replaced by thick orange-yellow clouds drifting serenely to and fro. Flare could feel exhaustion beginning to settle back into her body, and with the pain no longer standing in her way, she let the clouds take her off to sleep.
She woke up, and the clouds were still there. She went to sleep again.
She woke up, and the clouds were gone. Nobody was around, but the table was gone along with all its medicines, and there was a full glass of water sitting next to the couch.
Time passed for a few days. Flare’s strength slowly began to return as she worked the tapeshades out of her system, and while Hazel cooked meals and allowed Flare to sleep on the couch, they barely talked.
Harriet did come by though, fairly often. At first she simply wanted to see the book of poetry, curious about what the doctor had told her regarding Flare’s readings of it. Then she was coming by regularly to hear new poems, and to bring some poems of her own for Flare to peruse.
Harriet’s poems were direct, sharp, angular things. Short lines rattling around with simple language. Flare thought they had a wonderful rhythm to them, and the more of the poems she read, the more she got a feel for the poetry, and the better she could follow them spoken aloud.
Occasionally the doctor would visit as well, and when they did Flare would be forced to elaborate as much as she cared to about the local monster population. Flare found the doctor very difficult to talk to. Every statement Flare made would need clarification, or relating to some sort of medical concept, or a line to be drawn somewhere to work the doctor themselves into the explanation.
Still, much like Flare got a handle on Harriet’s poetry, she got a handle on explaining things to the doctor. Hopefully, with the doctor’s help and the things Flare had told them, Brink would be fairly well protected against any local monsters that decided to poke their heads in.
Flare’s strength returned piecemeal, but it returned. Still, though, she couldn’t help but feel that even if her trip through the mountains was as quick as she was hoping it would be, she would probably try to track down a different way back over them and skip Brink altogether. It just wasn’t her place.