I never thought we’d be back here, especially after what happened last time. However, here we all stood outside the apothecary’s shop. The exterior hadn’t changed in the last couple of days, the door still had the same flaking green paint and the wooden sign above it still swung from side-to-side with a creak.
I pushed on the door but it was locked. I dropped my hand and turned to look at the three blank faces staring at me. I shrugged, “Nothing we can do if she’s not open.”
Eztil pushed past the other two and grumbled, “Let us see about that.” He rattled on the handle aggressively until it fell off in his hand, he pressed lightly on the door and it swung inwards.
“You know,” Alexander adjusted the straps on his back pack, “In this country that’s called breaking and entering.”
Everyone ignored him and followed Eztil’s lead into the shop.
It was dark inside, it didn’t have the same welcoming feeling as last time – maybe that was because we were trespassing but it could have been something else. I squinted my eyes together to try and make out shapes in the void, but none jumped out at me. It was pitch-black.
“Hello?” I whispered, hoping for a reply.
There wasn’t one, except a faint crackling from the corner of the room.
“I don’t think there’s anyone here who can help us.” Phoenix stated and began to leave.
“Phoenix,” I grabbed her arm, “Look.”
The spot in the room where the crackling was started to flash with a faint light. The light was getting bigger and bigger, brighter and brighter. It was gradually growing and forming an orb of light.
Phoenix turned round to face it and shouted, “We should get out of here.”
The orb looked like a giant storm cloud now, with lightening flashing inside it. Then came the chanting. The clouds of the orb parted and inside was the witch. Her greying hair billowing in a wind originating only inside the orb. Her eyes were glowing white and her voice was greatly distorted.
Alexander and Eztil clutched one another, screaming. I curled up into a ball, trying to make myself as small as possible whilst Phoenix didn’t move. She faced the witch head on, not backing down.
The lightening from the witch’s hands stopped sparking off in all directions, “Oh, it’s you two again.” The orb began to shrink slowly, “I didn’t mean to frighten you.”
“Well, you succeeded in that at least.” I replied curtly, getting to my feet and brushing off the dust from my shirt.
“I was hoping you would come back,” She smiled at Phoenix weakly, lowering her hands, “I’m sorry I scared you off last time.”
Phoenix didn’t reply.
The witch clicked her fingers and all the candles in the room became alight. Phoenix and I weren’t surprised at this but both Alexander and Eztil gawked with their mouths open at the woman.
“I wasn’t able to introduce myself properly before,” She made her way behind the counter, “My name is Morganite, but you can just call my Morgan.”
“Isn’t that a boy’s name?” Alexander said, obviously without thinking and a couple of seconds later had received a dig in the ribs from me to shut him up.
Morganite didn’t answer him. “Have you come for my help?”
Phoenix nodded, sitting down on one of the stools on this side of the counter.
“Well,” Morganite swiped a bit of dangling hair back from her face, “I’m glad you came. I was very worried about you when you left.”
I sat down on the stool next to Phoenix’s, “May I ask, what exactly is Pandora’s curse?”
The witch smiled at me, her eyes warm and inviting, “That’s no problem. This curse, like all others, uses a supernatural power to inflict harm and punishment. The problem with this curse is, it not only affects Phoenix but the entire world. She would have to carry the curse round with her like one would carry a brick that gets heavier and heavier as time goes on. The world around her would start to bend and change. Bad things, very bad things will start to happen, things such as wars and famine.”
“So, it’s a good thing we came back.” Phoenix laughed nervously, “I’ve become a bad omen.”
Morganite shook her head, “No matter, it is easily fixed.” She walked over to one of her bookshelves and drew out a book from her selection. She handed it to Phoenix and told her to follow the instructions exactly.
I went and sat at the side of the room along with Alexander and Eztil to let the two witches get on with whatever needed doing.
“She’s really scary,” Alexander whispered into my ear.
I rolled my eyes, “Stop being such a baby, she’s lovely. She’s going to help us.”
“She can also hear every word you’re saying!” Morganite called from the other side of the room.
Alexander gulped. “Sorry.”
We watched in silence as Phoenix went outside and collected some loose, dry dirt. She then brought it into the house and proceeded to sprinkle it over the wooden floor of the shop. I gave Alexander a confused look, which he returned. Neither of us understood what was happening. Phoenix took some of the dirt in her hands and rubbed them together, as if she were washing them under a tap.
“Soil and mud and earth and dirt, remove the curse that’s caused me hurt.” She sang, loud and proud. Morganite came over with a bucket of water and a broom, she laid them both on the floor beside Phoenix. Phoenix washed her hands in the bucket and picked up the broom, we waited patiently for her as she swept all of the dirt into a pile and out of the door.
“That’s it?” I asked, arching an eyebrow, “It’s that simple?”
“It’s that simple,” Morganite confirmed as she threw the contents of the bucket out of the door too. She turned to Phoenix, “Is that everything I can do for you today, my dear?”
“Not exactly,” Phoenix grimaced. She beckoned the rest of us over and said, “We were wondering if you knew of any way to get to the Underworld?”
Morganite gasped, horror stricken, “Why on earth would any of you want to go there?”
I stepped forward, “That would be my fault. My soul is promised to Hades.”
Her facial expression became softer and her eyes understanding, “Oh, I see. Well sit down, this might take a bit of explaining.”
We all placed our rears onto the stools whilst she gathered a couple of books in her arms. She dropped them on the counter with a heavy thud then took a seat herself.
“To get to the Underworld you need to pass through The Five Gates of Hell.” She began.
“That doesn’t sound very appealing,” Alexander muttered under his breath,
She cocked an eyebrow at him, “I can still hear you.” She laughed then said, “These gates are actually infernal portals, gateways into the upper levels of the Underworld, and the only way to open them is to summon one specific type of demon.”
“This keeps getting better and better,” I groaned.
“It’s called The Wraith.” She began reading from the book in her hand, “Type: Portal demon.
“Origin: The Underworld.
“Communication: Speaks all languages, human or otherwise.
“Strengths/Abilities: Not only can this demon open infernal portals to aid a living mortal to travel to the Underworld but can sense the presence of other infernal portal locations, thus helping the soul that summoned it further. Wraiths are able to teleport so once summoned can disappear and escape helping a person or thing completely, have to be trapped whilst aiding and then banished back into the Underworld afterwards.
“Weaknesses: Wraiths can be trapped by runes, more specifically the Norse rune Þurisaz. This teaches the Wraith to suffer through the Underworld whilst helping another, when the demon has completed its set task it is able to learn that by assisting others it has earned its freedom rather than just being given it. Human kindness is the only weakness of this monster.
“Description: When summoned can take on the form of whatever it was summoned by. For example; if a human were to summon this particular species of demon the Wraith would also take on a human form. This enables the demon to communicate with the person or thing that summoned it from the Underworld when in the plain of the living.
They are trapped souls, much like all the dead living in the Underworld and are desperate for their freedom. They all wish to return to the land of the living and will only agree to help a mortal if they strike a deal to set them free once all infernal portals have been linked and opened.”
“I do not understand how the rune affects the Wraith in such a way,” Eztil frowned, “It is a demon, strong and powerful.”
“That’s true,” Morganite said. She closed the book and I watched as a small cloud of dust erupted from between the pages. “The Þurisaz rune means ‘thorn’. The lesson commonly associated with it is that in order to learn, first you must suffer. The Wraith has to suffer through the Underworld in order to learn that its kindness is what earned its freedom from the land of the dead, not its power.” She smiled, “I’ll give you the summoning spell you need.”
She walked over to her bookshelf once again and picked down a hardback. She offered it to Phoenix, who tried to take it but Morganite held onto the book, “Please be careful, this spell is one of the most powerful in existence. Only a strong witch can cast it correctly. If you mess it up, you’ll be haunted for the rest of your life.” She let go, Phoenix took the book.
“In the text, it mentioned more than one infernal portal?” I inquired, fiddling with the feathers from a dream catcher hanging by the window.
“Yes,” Morganite answered, “There are five. They’re dotted all over the globe. I only know of one, on top of Mount Olympus is Greece. I don’t know the whereabouts of the others.”
“Where do we even start?” I moaned.
“Greece?” Eztil suggested.
Morganite chuckled low in the back of her throat, “If only it were that easy. The portal in Greece is the last one you must visit. Once all other four are linked, this one will open. You can’t get to the Underworld any other way.”
“Oh it’ll be easy. It’s not like the world is massive or anything,” Alexander joined my brooding mood, “We’ll find all the portals in no time at all!”
“I did hear of a sighting in Alaska.” Morganite mentioned, tapping her long nails on the top of her counter.
“A sighting?” Phoenix pressed, sensing we were all eager for information and wanting to speed up this interrogation.
“Did you not hear?” The witch drew together her brow in a perplexed manner, “Hades was sighted in Alaska.”
Nobody spoke. Nobody even dared to breathe.
“By whom?” I didn’t recognize my own voice.
Morganite picked up a feather duster and began sweeping along the tops of her shelves, as if disinterested in our conversation. “A man. He was about sixty, I think. The townspeople said he was crazy. I can find out his address if you’d like it?”
Phoenix stood up, the legs of her stool scraping across the wooden floorboards, “I’ll help you.”
The witch smiled sweetly at her, “That would be wonderful, thank you.”
They both disappeared through a curtain at the back of the shop. Eztil, Alexander and I didn’t speak whilst they were gone. We were all too shocked, nervous or excited, I wasn’t sure, about what we were going to have to do. It seemed like forever before the two wiccans emerged back into the shop floor again.
“We got the address.” Phoenix announced, fastening her coat.
“Alaska?” Alexander questioned.
“Yes.” The other witch confirmed, “In a little town just south of the Yukon river. Ruby, it’s called.”
I sighed. “Looks like the next stop is Ruby, Alaska.”
“I’ll start up the van,” Alexander got to his feet and started walking towards the door. We all followed close behind.
“Merry meet and merry part young witch, until we meet again.” The corners of Morganite’s mouth turned upwards as she called after us, “That is, if we meet again.”