Wrought-Iron Roses – Chapter One
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Learn well on which runes to call
Cast not the red, but know them all
When runes ye cast, name them right
Whether foul cursed red or goodly white
Know each rune has its place
Learn well and mark the ones to trace
Though the symbol clear may be
Look deeper than at first ye see
For more than one truth is said
Within the runes of white and red
To teach or learn, it must be known
Each letter hidden in the stone
When true upright a rune is seen
The proper name it then must mean
Count upon the runes ye may
When rune is turned from front away
Reversed also a rune may fall
To further guide the caster’s call
The Light Rune as it is known
Becomes an A within a tome
Reversed then, Rune of East and sun
Shalt be writ as number One
It’s crazy. All of it.
Angie punctuated each thought by shoving another article of clothing into her suitcase. On the other side of the bed, she could see her younger sister slowly, reluctantly packing her own. Jo glanced up and her large brown eyes met Angie’s green ones. They both quickly looked back at their clothes.
This is going to be such an awkward road trip, Angie thought, heaving a sigh. She was willingly leaving the runes and all that magic stuff. Jo was going because she had no reason to stay. It was a cruel twist of fate that Angie had a power she never wanted while Jo, who would have given anything to have magic, had nothing. Angie knew that her sister couldn’t fathom how Angie could give up a chance to become a rune-caster.
A shiver ran up Angie’s spine, remembering the tendrils of evil magic reaching out for her. She tried to turn her thoughts to returning to med school and picking up her normal life. But all she could think about was how strange it would be. In less than a day she’d be back in her apartment, just like before. Yet, it had only been a few hours since she had used the runes to break a curse that was killing her older sister. Somehow Angie knew things about rune magic that nobody had told her. She just knew how to use them. And that had saved her sister’s life.
She shoved another shirt into her suitcase with a soft growl of irritation. Packing felt wrong. In spite of the fact she had been eager to leave ever since arriving, a part of her wanted to stay. Maybe she was being hasty… it had all happened so fast, after all.
How many weeks had it been since she and her sisters were told their aunt had died and they inherited her antique shop? Only a few. Angie hardly even remembered Aunt Lydia, let alone that she had an antique shop.
Angie and her sisters planned on taking some time off from work and school to clean out the shop and put it up for sale. It was supposed to be a short vacation and a chance to spend some time together. Instead, in just the span of a few short days, Angie found out that magic was real, she could cast runes, and then she and her aunt’s apprentice saved Rachel from the curse.
Funny, Angie would have thought that being cursed would have driven Rachel from the shop. Instead, she was the only one of the Shaw sisters who had decided to stay. Peter was going to teach her what little an apprentice could about rune-casting.
With another sigh, she half-watched Jo walking to the dresser to get more clothes. It would be hard enough to go back to school pretending none of it had happened. Angie knew she’d be a nervous wreck half the time, wondering if Rachel was alright in the shop or if she was cursed again.
Angie shook her head, as if it could clear away her confusion. This wasn’t the life she wanted. She couldn’t let worrying about her sister stop her from choosing her own path.
“Hey, check this out!”
Angie turned away from her suitcase, just in time to see Jo pull a drawer completely out of the dresser and hold it up. She raised an eyebrow at her sister. “What are you doing?”
“I think our grandfather did this. Peter said he was an apprentice here, right?” Jo held the drawer out. “Look!”
Angie shoved a wad of clothes into her bag and crossed the room. She frowned into the drawer. There, carved into the wood, were three names. One of them was her grandfather’s. A symbol—a rune, she realized—was carved beneath it. There was something really neat about seeing his name there, knowing that the grandfather she had never met, had touched it.
“Rachel is going to love that!” Jo thrust the drawer at her, forcing her to grab it, and started for the door.
With an amused snort, Angie started to set the drawer down. She took one last look at the names as she did.
Her breath caught and a chill went up her spine. She stared at the name and an image drifted into her mind. She could see a young man, with sad blue eyes and a sweet smile. Angie could feel his warm hand in hers.
“Ethan,” Angie whispered.
“Huh?” Jo said from the doorway.
Angie ran her fingers over his name and murmured, “I’m staying.”
“What?” Jo demanded.
“I changed my mind… I’m staying.”
Angie shook her head. “I don’t know…”
“Please tell me you aren’t cursed.”
Angie turned toward the doorway, where Jo was eyeing her nervously. “What? Why would I be cursed?”
Jo edged further into the room and pointed at the dresser drawer her sister was clutching. “You’ve been itching to leave the shop since we got here. I handed you that drawer and you made this weird face and decided to stay. That’s… a little odd, isn’t it? Was it because of our grandfather’s name?”
Their grandfather had died very young, decades before the sisters were born. They were told he was killed in the war, but the truth was that he had been cursed. Unless the sight of her grandfather’s name had stirred something in Angie, Jo couldn’t think of any other reason – save for a curse – that her sister would have changed her mind so abruptly.
Puzzled, Angie stared at the names. Harold, Benjamin, Ethan. “No…” Ethan. Angie shook her head. “I have to stay. I…” The strangest feeling that she had made a promise kept nagging at her.
“Peter!” Jo yelled down the stairs. “Rachel?”
“Yeah?” The eldest Shaw sister’s voice echoed up from the kitchen, laced with irritation. If she hadn’t been worried about Angie, Jo would have laughed. No doubt Rachel was enjoying getting a moment alone with their aunt’s apprentice. In the few short days since they had arrived at the shop, she and Peter had gotten very close.
“I think Angie’s cursed!”
Almost immediately Jo could hear the pair pounding up the stairs. They practically flung themselves into the bedroom.
“What?” they chorused.
Angie was still standing by the dresser, holding up the drawer. “I’m not cursed,” she protested. “I just…”
“I handed her the drawer and she decided to stay here,” Jo said, snapping her fingers. “Just like that.”
Peter narrowed his brown eyes. “Nothing in this room is cursed.”
“Then why the abrupt change of heart?” Rachel asked.
Angie shook her head and shrugged.
“What exactly happened?” said Peter.
Jo gestured to the drawer. “I found our grandfather’s name in there.” The thrill of telling Rachel was gone now that she was worried about Angie. Nevertheless, Jo was pleased by the way Rachel’s face lit up as she hurried to check out the drawer.
“Oh wow!” Rachel said as she took the drawer from Angie. After years of working in a museum, she had seen plenty of initials and names. Even though the small glimpses into the past had yet to lose their charm for her, seeing her own grandfather’s name carved was enough to make her throat tighten with emotion. It was the only physical object she could link to her grandfather that she had ever seen. She wondered how old he had been when he carved it, what he was like. According to Peter, all three of the apprentices had been killed. It was strange, sad, to know that all three of the people who carved these names had died young. It was chilling too, to know they died because they were rune-casters.
She started to run a finger along the H when she saw the rune carved next to it. The other names had runes too. The runes were more complex than the few symbols she had seen. What if the drawer was cursed? “What do these runes mean?”
Peter was across the room in a flash, but relaxed the moment he saw them. “They’re trisk-runes.”
All three sisters sighed in relief. One of the few things they had learned about runes was that each rune-caster’s powers were affected by a combination of three runes.
“So… you saw this and?” Rachel prompted.
Angie shook her head again. “I don’t know. I saw the name Ethan and I… I don’t know. I just know I have to stay.”
“Weird, right?” asked Jo.
Rachel peered into the drawer again. “What are the runes?”
“Your grandfather’s are shal, orin, and une,” Peter read.
“Healing,” said Rachel, suppressing a smile. Shal was part of her trisk-rune as well. “And?”
“Water and warmth. All good for curse-breaking.” Peter inspected the other runes. “Benjamin’s is geil, mure, and wyt. That’s nature, protection, and life. And Ethan’s is ail, pathe, and lyde.”
“Light and empathy,” Angie said. She shared two of the three.
Peter nodded. “And shelter.”
Angie took the drawer from him and traced her finger over the symbol for light. “He’s a double-ail like me.” The rune determined by her birthday and the most powerful rune in her trisk-rune were the same.
“You do both have ail,” Peter said, “but there’s no way to tell a birth-rune from a trisk-rune. It’s just a combination of your power runes. There’s no way to be sure that ail is his first rune either.”
“He’s a double-ail,” Angie insisted. “I know it.”
Peter studied her. “I believe you,” he said after a moment.
“How can she know that?” Rachel asked.
“She’s known things all along,” Peter said. Ever since he started teaching them about runes, Angie had known things before he said anything. Breaking the curse on Rachel was a blur, but Peter remembered Angie suddenly joining him and blocking the curse’s attack, without any prompting from him. “Maybe…” he said, thinking aloud, “it’s because she’s a double-ail. It gives her the power to see more than we can.”
The words sounded almost familiar to Angie. As if someone had told her something similar. The image of the blond man came back to her. It was Ethan, she was sure of it. And she knew that she had spoken with him… but how could she possibly have talked with someone who died decades before? She frowned down at his name, trying to remember. It was like trying to remember a dream.
Angie couldn’t remember the dreams themselves, but she had been having strange dreams ever since arriving at the shop. They weren’t the only strange thing she was experiencing, other than rune-casting itself. She was hearing things and seeing them as well; a hazy figure kept appearing behind her when she saw her reflection.
Frustrated, she plunked the drawer down on the dresser.
“Angie?” Rachel spoke her sister’s name softly.
“I can’t remember,” snarled Angie. “I’ve been having dreams. Weird dreams. But, I can’t remember anything about them. There’s a guy in them. Talking to me. But… they aren’t dreams. I think they’re real. I think I’m dreaming about Ethan.”
“So what, he’s a ghost or something?” Jo asked.
“No… he’s cursed…” The thought drifted into Angie’s head, but as she spoke the words aloud she knew she was somehow remembering one of the dreams. “He’s not dead, he’s cursed! And I… I promised to help him. To save him… I…” That was all she could remember. The sudden rush of memory was gone as quickly as it had hit her. She shook her head and threw up her arms in aggravation. “I know there’s more. Is that even possible? A dream that’s real?”
Rachel and Peter exchanged a look. Ever since Rachel’s arrival at the shop the two had been dreaming about each other. It had taken several dreams before they realized they were both sharing the same dream. Just as Angie said, the dreams were mostly forgotten the moment they woke up.
“I don’t know anything about dreams,” Peter said, “but it is possible to have one that is… more than a mere dream.” He frowned in thought. “I wonder if there’s something we can do to help you remember. I have several tomes I can read over. If you’re right and Ethan is cursed and not dead, we have to help him.”