Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Chapter 3, A New Friend

***WARNING!!! My stories often contain strong language, sensitive issues, and, at times, other content that could be construed as offensive. Beliefs and viewpoints of characters are not necessarily the beliefs and viewpoints the Author holds in true life.***

My life returned to its usual constant routine once I arrived home from France. My days were filled with reading the newspaper, preparing and eating breakfast, and going to work. In the evenings, I studied recipes, read for pleasure, practiced magic, or worked with Alchemy. I often painted or sketched. I socialized with my colleagues fairly often. Life was busy and full, but I was homesick, especially for my mother.

I often suffered from episodes of melancholia. As winter settled over the town, my sadness deepened with the falling of each snowflake. In my time, winters were harsh and death clamed more than one life. The infirm or very young were the ones stricken most often. Winter held much darkness for me personally, for my father perished in that season, as did my second father and baby brother. Although I arrived in this time amid the warmth of Summer, it was on a dreary day in Winter when my time and my mother were lost to me.

"Och, Mother! How my heart cries out for thee." My cheeks were awash with tears as the wind carried flakes of snow here and there. A little part of me died each day without my mother's presence. Day by day, I was losing hope that I would ever see her again.

I found, with ease, the book that Georgie spoke of on the plane. I read it again and again, devouring every word and hoping it would somehow give me a clue to how to find Mother. I found more books that my mother had authored and read them voraciously. It was not difficult to find Mother's books, but finding Mother proved to be a great fiasco.

I spent hour upon hour on my telephone attempting to unearth a place of residence. It was daunting, at first, to speak to a disembodied voice. I am accustomed to speaking to a person face to face. It felt peculiar to hear a voice and not see an accompanying face. I learned that many of the voices sounded annoyed that I had the audacity to bother them with my request. This strange clan called Directory Assistance brusquely informed me, more than once, that there was no listing for one Mathilda Blankenship. Time after time, the strange box went dead in my hand before the voice inside it wished me a good day. It saddened me to be learning that proper manners were not the norm in this odd time.

I bought a map and located Aurora Skies but had to concede defeat. It was quite a distance from Dragon Valley, and without a proper carriage and winter upon me, I was not going anywhere any time soon.

I was in the midst of a self-pitying tine of brooding when my telephone rang. I had no reckoning that my life was about to change as I put the strange contraption to my ear. "Alina Blankenship," I answered distractedly.

"Hello, Ms. Blankenship. I was given your number by your place of employment. My name is Robin McIntyre. I'd be interested in speaking with you, as I'm looking to hire a chef for an evening." I was brought up short at hearing a deep, masculine voice in my ear. He spoke in a warm manner, making me feel as though I'd swallowed a bit of warm honey.

My brows raised toward my hairline. "A personal chef for an evening, you say?" I asked, surprised. It was not often that my colleagues or I were contracted out on an individual basis.

"Yes. You see, my mother is arriving from out of town to visit me. She'll be arriving the day after tomorrow, and I'd like to surprise her with a nice gourmet meal. I just moved here recently, and she...well...she's worried about how I'm settling in," said Robin, a smile in his voice.

Hearing this caused a pang of sadness come to my heart. I would give anything to have my mother worrying so about me and arriving to be with me. I fought down the melancholia and affixed a smile to my lips, needing to conduct myself in a professional manner. "Your mother appears to be very loving."

"Oh, she is," said Robin, the smile in his voice deepening. "She's one terrific lady. I want to give her a wonderful dinner, and your employer says you're the best."

A flush of pleasure crept into my cheeks, and this time, the smile on my lips was genuine. "I am honored. It is not often that the restaurant staff is called upon for personal off-site service."

"I know, and I do hope this isn't too much of an inconvenience. I'd be willing to pay you more than adequately for your extra time if you agree to take the job," said Robin. "I'd like to meet with you as soon as conveniently possible."

"I have some free time now," said I, my curiosity about this man rising. He sounded so warm and honest, and I could sense that he loved his mother greatly.

"Great! If you'd be so kind as to give me directions to your house, I'll get there as soon as I can," said Robin.

I hesitated, feeling my cheeks aflame. "I...erm..."

"Is something wrong, Ms. Blankenship?" Robin asked, concern lacing his voice.

"'Tis not proper for a gentleman to call on a spinster whilst she is home alone," I said.

To my chagrin, I heard Robin's laughter on the other end of the line. His deep, rich laughter caused my heart to misfire and I clutched the side of the table to keep my balance. "I'll keep it on the up and up, I promise. Strictly business, Ms. Blankenship, I assure you. It would be less gentlemanly of me to insist that you come out in this fowl weather to meet me elsewhere, don't you think?"

"Mercy, I..."

"Strictly business, Ms. Blankenship. I don't bite," Robin said, the smile never leaving his voice.

I found myself unable to refuse. I gave him my address, and within a few minutes, his sleek horseless carriage rolled up in front of my house.

My breath caught in my throat the first time I looked upon his visage. Och! He was so handsome with warm, twinkling eyes. His smile brought more light to my simple rooms than a thousand lanterns could bring. When he took my hand and brought it to his lips for a gentle kiss, my skin tingled with pleasure. "Robin McIntyre, Ma'am. Pleased to make your acquaintance."

"Alina...Alina Blankenship," I stammered, feeling my cheeks warm with color. "I...ah...please enter." I could not tear my eyes away as Robin stamped his feet upon the rug to rid his shoes of snow. "Would you accept some coffee...or anything else?" Och! I sounded like a naïve schoolgirl.

"Coffee would be great," Robin said with an easy smile.

"Please sit down," I said. For the first time, I was quite vexed over my meager furnishings. It was clear that this man came from money as people were fond of saying about the rich. As unfamiliar as I am with this time's way of fashion, I could see that this man's attire was well made. He carried himself as a wealthy man would, but there was no arrogance in his demeanor.

Robin lowered himself to the sofa and stretched his long legs before him as I busied myself making coffee. "So, Ms. Blankenship, tell me about yourself."

"There is very little to tell," I said, ready with the story I told everyone. "I lost everything I owned in a fire and needed a new place to settle. I arrived here with very little and am only a woman attempting to make my way here."

"Ah," said Robin. "Somehow I get the picture there is a lot more to you than you say."

My cheeks flushed and I looked down at the brewing coffee rising higher in the pot. "I am what I am. What of you, Mr. McIntyre?" I asked, wanting to divert the conversation from myself.

"I arrived here about a month ago, having transferred onto the police force here."

"Police...constable. Oh!" I said in alarm.

Robin chuckled. "Hey, don't worry. I rarely arrest beautiful women."

Beautiful? Me? I turned my back so he would not see the flush of color in my face that constantly seemed to be there in his presence. However, his next words made me turn to him without realizing it until it was already done.

"Hey, I knew you looked familiar. Aren't you the one who got a fine for doing street art at a neighbor's house and thought you were going to be executed?" he asked.

Instead of my face flaming, it felt as if all the blood drained away. I gasped and covered my face with my hands. I was mortified when I felt tears slide down my cheeks and a sob shake my body.

The next thing I knew, I was in Robin's arms and he was comforting me. "Hey, I'm sorry! I didn't mean to upset you. It was just...well...apparently they never had an arrest go down quite like how yours did. It's not often someone thinks they'll be executed for vandalism, faints, and speaks in old English terms. Then when your employer told me about your skill in cuisine, I was intrigued and had to meet and then hire you. Please forgive me for being an insensitive jerk."

I should have pulled away but could not bring myself to do so. The rich tones of Robin's voice settled over me like a down comforter, and his embrace was so warm. What he said next made me lose my head completely. "There is something about you that is not of this world and that intrigues me.'re from the past...aren't you?"

I felt my knees begin to give way and panic rise to my chest. I knew I would have to leave immediately if my story was uncovered. Even in this seemingly enlightened age, stories of time travel would get one locked away in an asylum for being addled. However, Robin's arms tightened around me, his soft whisper warm against my ear. "There is nothing to be afraid of. I understand more than you know. I won't hurt you, Alina. I promise. I would like to be your friend if that is desirable to you."

My first instincts were to deny his claim, but his eyes bore intently and earnestly into mine. "I do not understand how you came to this conclusion, for I always tried to be careful of myself. Have I erred somehow?"

Robin's arms stayed around me, his big hand rubbing my back soothingly. I felt myself relaxing in his strong embrace, unable to pull myself away. "You've handled it very well. Well, the biggest thing was the street art incident, but from what I gathered, it's little things. See, I always do my homework...research...before I hire someone to do a service for me. I grilled...interrogated...questioned your employer thoroughly about you. He said you were very closed-mouthed about your life but that you seemed out of sync sometimes with simple technologies and other stuff. Well, it fascinated me so I was on a mission to scope you out, meet you, and hire you."

"I still do not understand," I said, shaking my head. "You do not find me addled? You do not seek to accuse me of...devilry or witchcraft?"

Robin threw back his head and laughed long and hard. "Devilry? Oh, Alina, we're all guilty of that at some point in our lives. Addled? No way! In fact, I think you're beautiful and courageous. Witchcraft? I knew you were a witch from the minute I walked in. You enjoy doing Alchemy. You have a cauldron, and I can sense magic all around you. You see, I'm a warlock myself and am quite familiar with the concept of time travel."

"I still do not understand. I-I--"

"Here, let's sit down. I'll tell you my story if you tell me yours," Robin said. To my surprise, he deftly poured the coffee and managed the cups easily while leading me over to my own sofa. As we sipped our coffee, he told me of how his Great-Great Grandmother Holly had been charged with traveling to the present day from the distant future where she was to write books and begin the legacy of producing heirs to educate the world about keeping the environment safe. "So you see, although technology and other stuff is great, it sometimes hurts the natural resources. If that keeps up and we don't make a difference, the world will not be worth living in down the line. Although the major responsibility usually falls with the firstborn in every generation, which is my sister Starr this time out, we all do what we can to help," he said, ending his tale.

I stared at him, openmouthed and unable to say anything. He took my silence as a sign to continue. "Then, there's my Aunt Lenora and Uncle Tyrone who have their own mission. See, history often repeats itself, and somewhere down the line of time, being artistic and creative in any way is illegal. They have to keep art and music alive and make sure all the magic isn't bred out of the world or destroyed."

"'Tis...'tis overwhelming to think on," I said once I finally recovered my voice

"Yeah, tell me about it. Anyway, that's how I know about time travel and how I easily figured out that you're not from this time. Now that I told you about me, what about you?" said Robin.

"I instinctively felt I could tell this man anything and that with him, I would not have to tread carefully. A ball of tension loosened up inside me as I began my own tale. By the time I was finished, I was weeping. "And so, my mother has not found me and I have been unable to locate her thusly. I...I am in sore need of a friend right now. You are the first one to whom I have been able to confide in."

"I'll be your friend, Alina. You can ask me anything you need to, anything at all. just think of me as your time traveling tour guide, okay?" Robin said, smiling easily.

I grinned through my tears. "I am beholden to thee. I be thanking thee for such kindness."

"Well then, I'd say we're doing each other a good service. My mother and I will get a lovely dinner and I get to be in the company of a beautiful woman," said Robin.

I laughed and wiped my tears with the handkerchief he lent me. "You have great faith in my abilities without speaking with me about my qualities or sampling my wares."

"I think we should remedy that," Robin said. "Will you have dinner with me? Then we can talk about the menu and your fee."

"'Tis much too cold to be meandering about. I shall prepare something here and we shall talk if thou art willing."

"Fine," Robin said.

Robin and I chatted easily as I prepared a meal for us consisting of salad, stead and baked potato, and cobbler for dessert. it felt as though I were reuniting with a dear friend who had been away on a long journey. While we ate, Robin proclaimed that I cooked like an angel and that he would be proud to serve my cooking to his mother.

I was sorry to see our time come to an end, but Robin finally said he needed to return home to finish some work. Before leaving, he gave me a chaste kiss on the cheek and said he'd be looking forward to seeing me soon. Tomorrow would be spent shopping for ingredients and doing some preparation so there would not be as much to do the day of the big dinner. After I bade Robin farewell, I closed the door, feeing a soppy smile form on my lips. I could not explain the mad thumping of my heart and how warm my insides felt, but I found I liked it.
Author's Note - I'd like to thank PiazzaGirl for allowing me to use Robin McInture for my story. If you have not read her blog, I'd highly recommend it. Her story is amazing. You can find it here.

Alina is now a Line Cook (Level 5) in the Culinary Career. During this chapter, she received a promotion to Ingredient Taster (Level 4) and another promotion to reach her current level. She is at Level 8 of the cooking skill.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Chapter 2, Traveling Abroad

***WARNING!!! My stories often contain strong language, sensitive issues, and, at times, other content that could be construed as offensive. Beliefs and viewpoints of characters are not necessarily the beliefs and viewpoints the Author holds in true life.***

The longer I spent in this strange era that is oft referred to as the Age of Enlightenment, the more displaced I felt. It is as if I must learn a new language, for the people here speak of things I know not of. Even their manner of dress is alien to me. In my day, women in trews was unheard of. My heart ceased beating for a wee time the first time I beheld a woman in shorn black trews. Her T-shirt, as I heard it called later, was red with the word "Expensive" attached somehow to the bosom area. Such manner of...well...undress...would have been grounds for incarceration in my time. However, I discovered that such garments are of the norm during this era. How these people manage not to catch their death while so scantily clad is beyond my understanding.

For a time, I lived a quiet, unassuming life. I read as much as I could about this period in time while observing the people around me. I desperately wanted to belong but realized I must find my own way. If I should ask someone the wrong kinds of questions, I fear I would be shut away in an asylum or worse. Och, but I was lonely for some friendly company and yearned for a guide to teach me what I must know here.

With the passing of each day, I brooded more and e'er longer about my lot in life and what might have befallen my mother. I was getting on very favorably at work even though some of my colleagues beheld me with strange expressions. It was during those times I realized I likely said something strange for this time or asked a vexing question. I decided it was best to speak less and observe more, hoping it would help with my learning.

One day, I longed for some excitement to break up the monotony of my days. Och, I did not mean the kind of excitement that would get me arrested again. I just desired a difference in the day. My mother oft said, "Have a care what you wish for, child, for it might come true." I am living proof of how true this statement is.

It was a beautiful day, so I decided to walk through Dragon Valley to better acquaint myself with my surroundings. Dragon Valley is a lovely, peaceful place, and I could feel the magic of it surrounding me. As I explored, I came upon a strange black object that resembled a large egg. It radiated warmth, and as I held it, I could feel it pulsate between my hands. It was somehow alive. The peculiarities did not cease there, for I sensed it desiring to communicate with me. //We are the Ancient People of the Fire. We once roamed this world in peace until the Great War amongst our people commenced. Many perished, and the few of us remaining fled to another realm. Once there, our kind was free to grow and thrive once more. Many of our brethren remain there, but a select few returned to survey the area and attempt to befriend the humans who dwell here. I sense great power, wisdom, and a gentle spirit within you. For that reason, I have made myself visible to you. If you wish, you may bring this egg to your dwelling, for inside will be a lifelong friend. You may also choose otherwise, leaving this egg for another worthy soul to find. Make your decision with care. It is a great honor and privilege to have one of our kind appear to you and make this offer.//

I gasped, barely succeeding in holding onto the egg. It was always my mother who received such opportunities of this magnitude, never me. However, I did not dispute what I distinctly heard and sensed. //I am honored, O Great One, that you have chosen to appear in my presence. I shall, indeed, take this egg to my dwelling and care for it. Och, but...ah...what is your kind and how must I maintain what is inside?// I asked inside my head. I had never imagined I would possess gifts of telepathy, but nonetheless, I was speaking in thought and whatever was inside the egg was speaking to me in the same manner.

//We are dragons; People of the Fire. Our distinctiveness is in our color. Each color represents a different breed, if you will. Each breed possesses unique abilities. All you need to maintain the hatchling, who is me, is to take this egg to your dwelling, keep it warm, and be kind to it. I am due to hatch within three days. If you do all this while I am still inside, our bond will be very strong. It will grow even more once I am in the world,// the egg said.

//Och, a dragon! But you will grow exceedingly large and be massive in size by the time you are an adult. My house will be much too small for you in due course,// I worried.

A tinkling otherworldly laugh sounded inside my mind. //Oh nay, dear human! Our people are a different sort of dragon than what you have read in fairytales. We remain quite small. In fact, we remain so small that you can carry us on your arm or shoulder.//

//My heavens!// I exclaimed. //What must I do once you have hatched?//

//Just care for me and remain my friend. I eat very little and am not finicky. I enjoy being spoken to, both with mental thought and aloud. I will show you my abilities once I am hatched and have spent some time getting acclimated.//

I cradled the egg carefully in my arms, feeling as though I never wanted to be separated from it. //I am in sore need of a friend, for I, too, am displaced. Perhaps we can help each other.//

//Indeed,// the egg said.

I spent every moment I could just talking to the egg, telling it stories of my life and how I came to be here. I poured my heart and soul out to the egg, and I was rewarded with waves of great compassion and empathy. //Your heart will ache only a short while, dear one. Take courage, for you will find great joy anon.//

//How do you know this?// I inquired, wiping tears from my cheeks. //Are you a soothsayer?//

//Of sorts,// the egg said. //Our scope of vision is wider than that of humans. Just know that what I say is true.//

Three days later, the egg began to glow and tremble violently. I shrieked and backed away, feeling suddenly afraid. "Och, please forgive me! I am sorry if I harmed thee in any way. I beg your forgiveness!" I covered my face, feeling tears sting my eyes.

//Be at ease, dear friend, for I am hatching. No harm has befallen me. In a short while, we will meet face to face,// came the egg's serene message in my mind.

I decided to call him Onyx, which he liked. As it happens, Onyx is of the Guardian species of Fire People and so wears the sacred armor of the Queen. //You are a human of privilege to have my kind at your side, Alina, for my powers are unique. You will find that as we interact, refreshing energy will boost you when you grow weary, and my magic will give you sustenance when food might not be available. I have the ability to clear your head for logical thinking, but most of all, I can protect you from certain death." He produced a Death Flower, which is legendary.

//Och, you are, indeed, a wonder, my dear friend!// I exclaimed as I carried him on my shoulder.

//I am a friend who will never leave you,// Onyx said. //You only need call me when you wish to talk or if you need me.//

Over time, I felt more confident around my colleagues, and most of us struck up a blossoming friendship. I was promoted and given a very nice bonus. I then was pleasantly surprised when I found a gift in the mail from someone named Starr Slayer, who sent me an easel and some paints. I unashamedly danced around the room with Onyx on my shoulder. I love my sketchpad, but there is nothing like actually painting. I immediately set it up and began a small painting. I was elated to discover that I had not lost my touch.

I continued with my study of Alchemy and found mixing elixirs to be very relaxing. Aye, one must think while mixing, but it is good activity to stimulate the brain.

Unfortunately, things do not always go according to plan. One day, I made an unforgiving error, and the elixir I was making was destroyed. To make matters worse, I became quite ill from it. Everything came up in a rush, and I heaved until there was nothing left. Och, I wanted nothing more than to climb into my bed and sleep for a month.

With my promotion came an exciting and vexing opportunity. I was asked by my employer to travel to France, learn how to make crepes, and teach the technique to my colleagues. It was exciting, for I have oft longed to visit distant lands. It was vexing because I would have to travel on some kind of bird called an airplane. I had never heard of such a bird before. If it was large enough to carry me to France, I reckoned it must be gigantic and majestic. I imagined it had very beautiful feathers and a glorious song to match. I reflected on how this bird might carry me to my destination and how it would know to come for me and when. In my time, we used pigeons to carry our mail, and ships and boats carries people across large bodies of water.

How relieved I was when I chose not to voice my questions aloud! I wanted to know more about this airplane, so I sought my answers in the pages of a book. When I discovered that an airplane was another great beast like the constable's car, only larger, I felt my muscles seize up in fright. To know that this beast was to carry me through the air was terrifying. The only things I knew of that could remain airborne were birds, not great hulking beasts.

There are some witches, like my mother, who can wish themselves to a destination and get there instantly. Unfortunately, I am not such a witch, for my powers are not yet developed enough for such a powerful spell. I wished I could travel aboard a ship but knew it would take too long. To achieve what my employer had asked me to undertake, there was no choice but to travel on this airplane and trust that the beast would not dump me into the ocean or worse. I did not want to turn down the chance, for I was honored that my employer sought me out for this. As the people of this time are fond of saying, I was going to just have to suck it up and do it.

When I arrived at the airport, I gaped. I had never seen such a sea of humanity. Everyone was in a mad rush to get from one place to another. I had never felt more like a wayfaring stranger than I did as I stared, dumbstruck, around me. I thanked my lucky stars when a kind soul came to my aid. She helped me check my luggage and retrieve my boarding pass. By the time I arrived at the gate for departure, I felt like a specimen under constant scrutiny. The hullabaloo was called security, which I did not understand. I say, if a body acted inappropriately, would not the great beast stop it?

I sank into my seat feeling completely bewildered. Again, I thought of Mother, who would have handled this situation with much more grace and dignity than I did. Mother would have never run screaming as I wished to when this whatever called a metal detector screeched at me. I had bought myself something called a watch in order to help me keep time. I was told it was the reason for the horrid noise and was instructed to put it into a bin. "I will get it back, will I not?" I asked before I could stop myself.

The man threw back his head and laughed. "Of course, Ms. Blankenship."

I smiled wanly and retrieved my watch when the man gave me the nod. Now, in my seat, I rubbed my temples and sighed. What on Earth had I agreed to?

I found out what I had agreed to when the great beast roared and I was hurled against the back of my seat. I tried to cry out in fear, but no sound came. I feared I was going to die at any moment.

"Relax, honey," a smiling, elderly woman said from the next seat. She uncurled my clenched fist and patted my shoulder. "I see you have never flown before. You'll get used to it and love it once you see the view. Open your eyes, dear, and look out the window."

"I do not wish to fall," I squeaked, my voice finally recovering a fair bit.

The woman laughed. "We won't fall, dearie. I have been flying this airline for years and have had the same pilot a number of times. We won't fall. Look now before you miss your chance."

I gulped and slowly opened my eyes. As I looked out the window, I saw something I thought I never would see without being on a broomstick. The ground fell away, and we were rising. Everything began to look diminutive in size, and ere long, we were actually in the clouds. "It is amazing! Truly, it is!" I said, feeling my fear dissipate by the minute.

the woman laughed again, her face crinkling and blue eyes shining. "I never tire of the view no matter how often I fly, dear. My name is Georgiana. You can call me Georgie if you wish. Georgiana Whittaker at your service, my dear."

I introduced myself, smiled, and shook her hand. "I am thanking you kindly," I said. "Mayhap I would have swooned anon had you not taken pity on me."

Georgie smiled and patted my arm in a grandmotherly gesture. "It's nothing, dear." She studied me then, and I blushed under her scrutiny. "You are a stranger to these parts, aren't you?"

"I am," I confessed. "I have not lived in Dragon Valley long, and I am still getting acclimated." I felt as though I had "Stranger" penned across my brow.

"Yes, I thought so." She lowered her voice. "Your way of dress and speech clued me in. Also, I sense magic around you."

I must have grown pale because she smiled kindly at me again. "There is nothing to fear, honey. I'm just astute about these things. You are a witch, as am I. You cannot live in Dragon Valley and not know of such magic. Ah, and you are alone, poor lamb."

I gaped at her. ""

Georgie smiled again. Och, I loved her smile, for it instantly put me at ease. "I am what some might call a Sensitive. I am able to catch glimpses of someone's life and even emotions if the person is feeling them strongly enough. I am not a true Empath nor a Seer, but I have enough of those kinds of abilities which helps me read people very well. I sense you have traveled a great distance over time. You must be a very, very powerful witch to do such a thing."

"My heavens!" I said, almost unable to believe what I was hearing. I felt I had found a kindred spirit in this kindhearted woman, to which I was extremely thankful for. I then remembered her statement. "It was not I who performed that magic. It was my mother." My voice caught on the last word, and I could not stop the single tear from trickling down my cheek.

"Oh, you poor dear," Georgie said, putting an arm around m shoulders and giving me a tissue. "You and your mother were close."

"Aye, we were," I choked out.

"Is she living?" she asked.

"Aye, she is. She...erm..." I felt I could tell this woman anything, and och, I was in sore need of a woman's friendship. "My mother is an immortal and therefore cannot die." I told Georgie of how Mother had sent me through the time portal. "I must believe she is looking for me and that there is a reason she cannot find me."

"Blankenship...Blankenship..." She tapped her temple in reflection. "There is a witch I know of with your last name. She is Head of the International Witches' Council and is probably the most powerful witch in existence that I am aware of. I have never met her myself, but I believe she lives in Aurora Skies. Mathilda Blankenship., Kelly now that she has married."

I gasped upon hearing the name. "That...that is my mother's name! Oh, you must tell me all!" However, my excitement died as quickly as it came. Mother had oft told me of parallel worlds and other realms and that many people had a counterpart of themselves living in said other realms and worlds. This Mathilda sounded like my mother, but it could be a counterpart of her who would have no knowledge of me whatsoever.

I think some of this must have shown in my expression, for Georgie smiled reassuringly. "If she truly is your mother, she will stop at nothing to find you. Word has it that Mathilda never stops when she is on a mission. Have you read her biography?"

"N-no," I stammered.

Georgie wrote the title and author of the book on a slip of paper and handed it to me. "The instant you are able to visit a bookstore or library, you ought to read it."

We spent the next few hours in deep conversation. Georgie invited me to her house for dinner once we both arrived home. She was going to France to visit her son, who was working there. After that, we spent the rest of the trip reading or napping in our seats. When the plane landed, she hugged me tight and made me promise to keep in touch. Once again, I thanked her for her help and company, but mostly, I thanked her for giving me hope for finding my mother. I now had a place to begin looking and vowed I would start my search the instant I arrived home.

I checked into the hotel, unpacked, showered, and then went straight away to the bookstore. I am always mesmerized when I enter a bookstore, and the one here was no exception. I found several recipes to my liking, including the one for crepes, and immediately sat down to read.

I even learned some French songs which I eventually could not stop singing. They implanted themselves into my mind and always brought about a smile when I sang them.

I very quickly learned the technique for making crepes and was quite pleased with myself. I loved experimenting with using different fruits for the filling and combining several types to add variation. I would have much to teach my employer and colleagues upon returning to work.

With that accomplished, I longed for an adventure. I bought a map from the local tourist bureau and realized there were many tombs to explore. In my guidebook, I found a list of necessary supplies for tomb exploration and went to the Celtic Ruins. I entered the tomb, finding it damp, dark, and dank. It was rather frightening, but I went onward.

I realized there were many secrets in a tomb. I found that if I stood on certain parts of the floor, doors would slide open or become accessible to me.

I learned that tomb exploration is not for the faint of heart or weak of muscle. There must have been a cave in at some point, for there were several piles of rubble that needed to be cleared. It was not in vain, for I found treasures underneath the piles. I argued with myself about picking them up. I did not want to vex the spirits who dwelt in these tombs. However, nothing happened and I felt no curses come upon me as I took piles of coins, gemstones, and relics.

There were hidden panels and tomb holes to inspect. I found even more treasures. The tomb holes unnerved me once or twice because horrid little insects lived in them. They flew angrily at me when I disturbed their rest, but I persevered. When I grew weary or hungry, I simply called upon Onyx whose magic sustained me.

Before I departed from home, my colleagues informed me that a voyage to France was not complete without a visit to the wineries. I adored that as I am a great lover of wine. It sometimes vexed Mother, for there were instances where I partook of too much and felt the effects the next morning. Och, I have many weaknesses and wine is one of them.

I had never tried my hand at making wine and so wanted to attempt it. I quickly conjured some apples and inquired about the use of the wine maker. I released my inner child by stomping on the apples and laughed sheepishly when I lost my balance. Once I regained purchase, I finished squishing the fruit and then turned to yet another beast, hoping this one would not roar so loudly. I pulled the lever and turned the wheel a few times, then laughed at the sound it made. It was not a roar but a funny whistle and purr. "Ah, so you like wine as much as I do, great beast," I said, patting it fondly. I decided to purchase some wine to partake of at home and even bought a wine maker. I had been wishing to start a garden and reckoned I could use some extra produce for my own wine making endeavors.

Regretfully, the trip ended all too soon. The flight home was uneventful, and I was sorry to not have Georgie flying with me. I talked to her once I returned home, and we promised to visit one another this week. I returned to work feeling rested and in high spirits. I only wished I could have shared my adventures with Mother.
Author's Note - I would like to thank PiazzaGirl1015 for the gift sent to Alina, who got an easel. If you have not read her story, I would highly recommend it. it's awesome! You can find it here.

Alina is now a Vegetable Slider (Level 3) of the Culinary Career and is at Level 7 of the cooking skill.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Chapter 1, Hurtling Through Time

***WARNING!!! My stories often contain strong language, sensitive issues, and, at times, other content that could be construed as offensive. Beliefs and viewpoints of characters are not necessarily the beliefs and viewpoints the Author holds in true life.***

As I reflect on my life, I've come to the conclusion that I belong to no period in time and no period in time belongs to me. I, Alina Blankenship, am a wandering stranger, thrown into a turbulent sea and expected to swim to shore. I am being buffeted in a fierce wind, careening in all directions with no clear line of sight.

My story really begins with my mother, Mathilda, who was one of the most powerful witches ever to touch the earth. Mayhap she still is, wherever she is. My mother was lost to me when I began my journey. Ah, but I flounder. Let us return to the beginning.

I am one Alina Rebecca Blankenship, born of my mother Mathilda and a deceased father, Gunther. I never knew my father, for he succumbed of fever shortly after my birth. I was born in a period of time where it was uncommon for a woman to raise a child alone. If her man predeceased her, another eligible man would wed her, or she would return to her family for protection. A child who had no father was shunned, no matter the circumstances that befell the father.

I was my mother's firstborn. The fact that I was not a male child became more of a burden with no man to provide for us. A woman's place was home with the children, not doing a man's work. However, my mother needed to earn money to support us, so she did whatever she could to acquire a few shillings.

I thrived under the watchful and sharp eye of my mother. We were different than most of our townspeople. My mother was a witch, but she needed to have a care about how, when, and where she practiced her craft. If a witch was discovered, she was tried and sentenced to burning at the stake. Many times, a body was innocent of being a witch but because circumstances and so-called sworn testimony said otherwise, there was no chance of acquittal. I inherited my mother's magical ability, to which she said was both a gift and a curse. "You must always keep tight control over every part of yourself, my darling Alina," my mother said to me every night as she helped me arrange my hair before we retired for the night.

"But why must we hide who we are, Mother?" I always asked, not quite understanding the dangers. I was so young and inquisitive that it was difficult for me to understand that people feared who and what we were.

"We must if we are to live," my mother's words were firm but loving. "How I wish we could openly show our talent. Secrets are burdens that weigh more and more heavily each day." It was during these times that my mother showed her tender side. She could be a sharp, sometimes cold woman, but when her heart belonged to someone, she was loving and gentle. Her eyes would go from snapping black fire to softening into dark pools of concern. My mother was a complex woman who appeared as though she lived a thousand lifetimes.

Her goal in life was to rise above her poor station and become one of the most powerful witches, if not the most powerful witch, to ever live. Along with that, she coveted immortality. Nobody showed determination like my mother. "Persistence and patience are virtues, my child. Always remember that," she always said.

Although the times in which we lived were unkind and harsh, my mother and I prevailed. She did wed once again when I was eight. He was a kind, gentle man named Philip, who took his role as my second father very seriously. Although my mother cherished him, I learned when I was much older and wiser that her adoration and love still rested with my father. I also came to understand that Philip knew this and did not begrudge my mother's feelings. What was even more miraculous was that Philip knew what we were and approved of our talents. He knew the value of caution, but he always found ways of encouraging and helping Mother and me grow stronger in the craft. While wed to Philip, my mother's powers grew with intensity and speed. As she learned, she found an Alchemist who gave her the immortality she sought and taught her the steps in recreating the potion once she gave him a blood oath that she would guard this secret with her life. Only would she bestow the gift herself and share the secret very sparingly and with someone she knew was worthy.

For many, many moons, our life was idyllic. Our days of poverty slowly fell away, and Mother was one of the few women in our village who was fully respected for her intelligence and wisdom. Aye, she still needed to hide her craft from the public eye, but she was very learned and wise in many other areas. It went on like this until I was one and twenty. It was then that our village was savaged by a rampage of small pox. Only a few survived, and the few who remained became convinced that it was witchcraft that brought on the illness and that it was a witch who chose who survived and who died.

Tragically, Philip was taken by the illness, and I, too, was afflicted. My mother remained untouched, and we both believe it was because of it that it was she who was pointed out as being the witch. It did not matter that Philip succumbed or that I, her firstborn child, was ill. It mattered not that my sweet baby brother, born of Philip and my mother, also was lost. Och, how my mother grieved for Philip and her wee son! She was desperately frightened that I, too, would perish. Even so, it was not long before the entirety of our village, the people who was once our beloved friends and neighbors, were calling for her beheading or burning.

"I feared this day would come," my mother said, her voice quivering as she bathed my brow with cool cloths. "I have lost ought but you, my Alina. Although we must part, I will not lose you."

"I fear I shall perish, Mother, for I do not possess the immortality that runs through your being," I whispered.

"You shall NOT perish. I will not have it. Do you hear me, child?" Mother said fiercely.

"If the Almighty wishes to take me, there is nothing we can do. Mayhap Father wishes for me to be by his side," I replied.

"Nay!" my mother said with determination. "It is not your time. This was confirmed to me in my crystal ball. You will live, but it will be in another place and time."

"I do not understand," I said. "I am weary." My eyelids refused to remain open, and I felt sleep desiring to claim me.

"You just sleep while I make preparations," Mother said, touching my brow as if in benediction. "You will understand. I only pray I can complete the preparations in time."

When awareness returned, I was being shaken firmly as Mother fought to rouse me from deep slumber. "You must awaken, child. You must look up Alina! Awaken, child, for if you do not, it could mean your life."

I finally roused with reluctance. "Why do you weep, Mother?" I was vexed, for it was only during times of deepest distress that my mother wept.

"I weep because I must bid you farewell, my sweet one," she said, her hand touching my cheek.

"I am dying?" I asked.

"Not dying," she said. "You are going on a journey. I have summoned magic from every ounce of strength and learning I possess so I can send you to a place and time where being a witch will not harm you."

"But this is our home? How can we depart?" I asked. "Och! I cannot think clearly. The illness has made me sluggish and stupid."

"We must depart, for if we do not, it will mean the forfeiture of your life. I will not have that, so this is our only option. Come now. You must make haste." Mother's arm moved under my shoulders and lifted me in her strong hold. A vial was held to my lips and Mother instructed me to drink all of the contents. My throat hitched as the vile liquid fought to stay down.

"What...?" I asked weakly once I could speak again.

"It is a potion that will keep the illness from being contagious. It would not do well for you to come to a world and time only to infect and annihilate its inhabitants with a foreign illness. Now, come. You must hurry. The gateway is ready."

"Where are we going, Mother?" I asked.

My mother's dark eyes filled with tears, something that always vexed me. "This is where we must part, my beautiful Alina. You are going to a world called Dragon Valley in the twenty-first century. Alas, I cannot come with you, for I only had time enough to prepare the gateway for one traveler. I will come anon and find you, but I must see to your departure. It has been discovered that I cannot die, but everyone knows you can. They are coming for you as we speak, so time is of the essence. Come!"

"I don't want to leave you, Mother? I do not know how to cope in such a place. And...the twenty-first century? I do not understand."

Mother tucked a book into a valise she packed for me. "I thank the gods I had the foresight to teach you to read. You will find everything you need in the valise. In the book, you will find the information you will need to survive. How I wish I had more time to explain things to you, but time is short."

"I am frightened," I said, sobbing unashamedly as I clutched my mother desperately.

"As am I," Mother said, embracing me tightly. "I will come anon to find you, and then, we will be together, this I swear."

Thusly, I was shepherded toward a swirling mass of colorful lights that no human has likely ever beheld. "Go now!" Mother shouted as her hands pushed against my back and toward the light. "I love you, Alina." With that, the light engulfed me. As I was hurled along in whatever direction the lights chose to take me, I had no clear sense of direction. A strange sensation of vertigo assailed me, and I felt faint. I was still afflicted with fever and wished everything was conjured from a state of delirium. When the light receded and I looked around with bleary eyes, I knew it was not delirium. I was now in a place I could not have fathomed in my most vivid imaginings. I blinked stupidly, felt the earth slide from beneath me, and fell into an abyss of blackness.

When I awoke, I was lying in a strange bed with unfamiliar aromas around me. I twitched, feeling a knife of panic slicing through me. "Mother!" I called out.

"It's all right now, honey. You're safe. You're in the hospital. My name is Cynthia, and I'm one of the nurses taking care of you," A kind voice said while my hand was held in someone's strong one.

"Hospital? Where...?" I licked my lips and tried to swallow. My throat was dry and I was so weary.

"You are in Dragon Valley. You were found unconscious and brought here where we treated your fever. Your illness was a mystery to us. You were feverish and delirious, but we had a heck of a time pinpointing the source. We chalked it up to the flu, and dehydration was the cause of your loss of consciousness. You had no identification, and you're obviously not from around these parts, so we had no idea who you were or if you have a family who might be looking for you."

I blinked dazedly, trying to take in everything this woman was saying. Apparently, I had no spots or rash from the illness. Mother's potion must have cured that while killing the contagion. "I was feverish," I said.

"Yes," the nurse said. "Feverish and dehydrated. We gave you IV fluids, which helped bring you around quickly enough." I looked at my arm, which had a strange, sticky something on it. Through the transparent matter, I saw what was clearly a needle protruding from my arm. I gasped, and the room began to orbit.

"Here, honey," Cynthia said, somehow lowering the head of my bed a little. "Breathe deeply. You're just a little lightheaded. It will go away."

I took in several gulps of air and blinked owlishly at her. "I do not understand. Why stab me with a sewing needle? Why did you not bleed me?"

"Bleed you?" Cynthia asked in a confused tone.

"Aye...with leeches. That is the standard treatment."

To my vexation, Cynthia laughed a jolly laugh. "Oh, honey! What century have you been in? Leeching went out over a hundred years ago. This isn't a sewing needle, rather, it's a hypodermic needle that goes just under your skin into your vein to administer medications."

My mind was awhirl with this strange, new information. Cynthia's eyes were dancing when she'd asked her question, which I understood after a moment that it was asked in humor and that she thought I was jesting. "What year is it?" I asked cautiously.

"It's 2014, dear," Cynthia said. Her brow furrowed, and I could see the concern and compassion in her countenance. "Oh, honey, you must have been through it. Get some rest and then maybe you'll be in better shape to tell us who you are and what happened when you wake up." She plumped my pillow and smoothed the blankets over me. "I'll look in on you in a bit. Sleep now."

When I next awakened, Cynthia was bending over me. "How do you feel, honey?" she asked.

"A bit stronger," I said.

"Your fever broke just a while ago. You're over the worst of it now." She sat on a stool beside me and took my hand. "Can you tell me what happened?"

My mother warned me about divulging the actual truth, for she said they might think me mad and put me in an asylum. She suspected that time travel and dimensional gateways were rare or even unheard of in any universe I might find myself in. With that in mind, I recited the story my mother gave me to tell. "My name is Alina Blankenship. I am a stranger to these parts, having traveled here from Sunset Valley. My home was destroyed in a tornado, the only possessions having survived were the things I have in my valise. I had very little money so I traveled by walking, asking for rides from strangers, and sleeping outdoors. I likely became ill due to exposure to the elements." I despised lying, but Mother said in this instance, it was necessary. My story needed to be believable no matter where I was.

I was discharged from the hospital later that week but fretted over how I would pay for services rendered. I had money that Mother gave me, but she warned me that it might not be acceptable in this world. I was told not to worry, as it was a county hospital and there were programs that helped with people in my situation. Och, I hated being looked upon as poor, but for now, I could not say otherwise.

Luck was with me, and my currency was usable. In this new time and place, I knew I needed to be cautious and frugal. Things cost more here, and I knew my money would be gone in due course if I did not spend it wisely. I bought a small house and furnished it with only what I felt I needed. My only luxuries were a small bookcase and an Alchemy Station, which I was elated to find whilst visiting a curious little shop on the outskirts of Dragon Valley.

I adore food preparation. It was I who prepared most of our meals whilst Philip worked and my mother was occupied with practicing her craft. I always found new and innovative ways of altering a recipe to give the food new flavors and odors. Mother said it was a wonder I was not wed and that she was a wee bit fretful about it. Aye, she and Philip could have arranged a marriage for me, but I voiced my extreme displeasure in that regard. I wanted to marry for love. Aye, I realize a woman is looked upon as daft or unmarriageable if not wed by a certain age, but that was no incentive enough for me to live in a loveless marriage. Mother, being who she was, did not force the issue, to which I am exceedingly grateful.

There are drawbacks to not having a man to protect a woman, even if said man is someone the woman does not truly love. I was alone in this strange new world, I did not have unlimited funds, and I needed to somehow make my way. I needed to find work, which vexed me. I did not have experience, nor did I have any record of my origin. I materialized out of thin air, after all, which could be a rather large problem.

As luck would have it, the local restaurant needed someone to fill in after one of their employees became seriously ill. I must have looked desperate when I spoke with the proprietor, for he took pity on me and gave me a job on a trial basis. Much to my chagrin, I did not do much cooking. Instead, I was nothing more than a scullery maid. Even so, work is work and sometimes one cannot be choosy.

It is sad for me to admit that I do not often have the determination or backbone Mother has. In my idyllic life, I became complacent, feeling that things would happen when they were meant to and that I need not fret. At times, I regret that, for now, I just reach inside me to find that determination, which I am uncertain of finding. I accept that I am woefully inept and inadequate compared to Mother. That does not vex me, for I know that a woman like my mother is very rare. Even so, I somehow must find the will and ambition to succeed in my work so I can prove that I am an able cook.

I am ever thankful my mother taught me to read, which is a rare ability for a woman. I loved reading from the instant I began learning and begged my mother for any kind of book she could acquire. Books were extremely costly because most were penned by hand, but as always, my mother came through. Both she and I were proud of the collection of books she had.

One of the first places I visited was a lovely little bookstore. I thought I was in Heaven as I gazed longingly at all the books. There were books as far as the eye could see, and oh, did I feast my eyes on everything! I sighed with ecstasy as I sat reading for hour upon hour. How I yearned to possess at least a small portion of these books. When I asked the proprietor about the cost, I thought I'd taken leave of my hearing. Things were more costly here, but in proportion, books were a fraction of what Mother paid. I must have looked like a woman possessed as I bought what seemed like entire library. Now that I had work, I felt I could justify spending some of my money on some small pleasures.

I was both puzzled and fascinated with this strange new place. For instance, I was so accustomed to chamber pots that I was nearly frightened out of my wits when I saw a modern day toilet. I was simply amazed by the concept of actual pluming in a house, and I spent much time turning the faucets off and on and flushing the toilet. One such day, I managed to damage my, and water spewed everywhere, including all over me.

I was in a panic, not knowing what to do. I did not know how to employ someone to repair it and certainly was unsure of how it functioned. At times like this, I missed my mother terribly. If she were here, she would know what to do. Why has she not found me yet? Worry and concern for Mother etched themselves into my panic, and I could almost hear Mother say, "Now, Alina, being panicked will only bring on more panic. Just think it through, and you will come up with a solution. Take into consideration everything you have learned thus far."

"Och, Mother! What have you gotten me into?" I asked aloud. "And where are you? I miss you."

I uttered an exasperated sigh and considered my options. I could go into the village to the pub and announce that I needed someone to repair my sink. This was how the men did things in the past. Otherwise, I could tinker with things and see if I could repair it myself. With luck, it would work, but I surmised I might make the damage worse. My third option was to search for a book with repair instructions. I chose the third option and was pleased to find one so easily. I read the instructions carefully, then realized I had no tools to use. Exasperated once again, I walked to the something called a hardware store and purchased everything the book told me I required. My feet were afire when I returned home. I would have to see about purchasing a horse soon, for walking from end to end of this village was not overly efficient.

I repaired the sink and breathed a prayer of thanks. After cleaning up the mess, I desired something pleasurable to do. I could read one of my new books or mayhap experiment with one of my recipes.

I finally decided to test out my new Alchemy Station. Ah, it was wonderful to be mixing potions again. I loved the large book it came with and knew there would be many, many more recipes for me to learn and experiment with. I would have to return to that curious little shop and look more closely at the other items for sale.

I was a little frightened to practice my craft. Aye, I lived alone and Mother said she was sending me to a place where being a witch would not cause me harm. Habitual behavior sometimes dies hard, but I knew I needed to face my fear. I did not want my craft lying dormant, for that would be the biggest travesty ever to be faced.

Magic flowed freely from my soul and into my wand. In a way, it flowed more naturally in this place than it ever had in the past. Perhaps magic sensed fear and hostility and attempted to contain itself somehow. Once again, I thought of Mother as I worked simple spells at first and then gradually escalated to more difficult ones. Mother would adore how free and easy magic flowed here.

Another talent I possessed was an affinity for painting. I loved color and instinctively knew how to mix it and put it together to make beautiful paintings. I found an art supplies shop and bought an easel and paints. However, I found this little bag that caught my eye. It was something called a street art kit, and I added that to my list of purchases. I studied it intently as I unpacked it, my mind immediately focusing on how I could use this for picture making. I found I had a talent for this as well and instantly became enamored of using these curious little cans to paint with. I painted on the ground and on every wall I deemed eligible for "beautification." I laughed like a madwoman as I worked, feeling as though I'd stumbled upon the Holy Grail.

I had my truly first harrowing experience one day when I was arrested for vandalism. I'd prepared too much food for me alone to consume, so I thought I would be a goodly neighbor and bring some to the people who lived next to me. We often waved at one another and chatted, so being neighborly was second nature to me. I put the casserole in the fridge and left a note explaining what I had done. They were absent at the time, but their door was unlocked, so I thought ought of it when I entered. The artist within then saw an empty wall, so I brandished my street art kit and began working. My blood vastly dropped in temperature when the constable came to take me away. My wrists were tugged behind me, and metal bracelets were fastened. I was on the verge of a swoon when he roughly dragged me outdoors.

The constable put me into one of those strange carriages that moved without a horse. I recall the first time I beheld one and how frightened I was when it roared, sounding as though it were breathing fire. It was unnatural to travel at such rates of speed. I was always unnerved when I needed to travel in one. I could not bring myself to learn how to drive one, but I knew I would need to become at least somewhat accustomed to that mode of transport.

As he maneuvered his strange beast over the road. he somehow conjured flashing lights, which burst through my vision. Then, he caused an unearthly wailing, which made me shriek and cover my ears. The constable called them "sirens" but to me, it sounded like an army of banshees caterwauling to the heavens.

When we arrived at what he called the police station, he opened the door and dragged me from the enormous beast. I swayed alarmingly and was then violently sick. To my utter humiliation, I swooned.

When I awoke, I realized my wits were completely frayed. I was lying on a bench with the constable bending over me. I blinked up at him and began to shriek anew and covered my face. The constable shook my shoulders and then slapped me across the cheek. My shrieking ceased, and I beheld him, certain that the terror quaking my soul was etched in my very demeanor.

"Lady, I'm sorry I slapped you. You were hysterical," the constable said. I had never seen a constable look nonplussed before, but this man did.

Tears welled in my eyes and spilled over onto my cheeks. "If you mean to execute me, I beg you to be hasty about it. Would that I not suffer brutally in the dungeons." Oh ye gods! What would Mother think of me? She risked everything to save my life by sending me here only to have me beheaded for attempting to be neighborly. I felt another swoon come over me and would have sank to the ground had not the constable caught me.

"Execute you? Dungeons? Lady, what world have you been living in?" My cheeks flamed as he studied me, then frowned. "On second thought, don't answer that? What's up with your clothes? Do you belong to some Renaissance group or something?"

Och, if he only knew! My mother's warnings sounded in my head, so I only shrugged. "Please sir, I beg of you to inform me of my fate so I may prepare myself to meet my maker."

The constable was silent for a moment as he beheld me. His frown turned to an expression of bewilderment, his hard, brown eyes softening. "Lady, I don't know what your deal is, but nobody is ever executed for doing street art on private property. You won't even do any jail time. You'll just have to pay a fine and get a warning not to do it again."

I felt my shoulder slump in relief. "I will pay whatever I am commanded. I--I do not know what I did wrong. I was only attempting to be a goodly neighbor." The tears continued to flow.

The man cleared his throat. "Ms. Blankenship, let me give you some advice, okay? First of all, I suggest you see a psychiatrist. Secondly, what you did wrong was doing street art on private property. It's considered vandalism to deface someone's walls in that manner. Around here, that is cause for arrest."

I do not know what a psychia whatever is, but I was certain I did not need that. What I needed was for Mother to find me and join me. What I needed was to learn the proper laws here so something like this would ne'er befall me again.

I was instructed to sign some parchments; papers as they are called here. Then, I was told I needed to appear in court on Monday where a judge would inform me of the fine I was to pay. I was bone weary when I was finally released. I declined the offer for a ride home, unable to bring myself to voluntarily climb into the constable's roaring beast again this night. I had never performed a walk of shame until now, and I aim never to perform one again. It is not a desirable feeling in the least.

My pride remained severely wounded for the next few days. I yearned to carry on with my artwork, so I found solace in my sketchbook. As I sketched, memories of Mother washed over me, and oh, how I missed her! A single tear rolled down my cheek as I sketched her dear face. "Mother, where are you? Please be well." I knew she could not die, but a crushing feeling of despair settled over me. She would have come to me by now. Of this, I am adamantly certain of. The fact that she has not filled me with dread, for I knew something must be keeping her from finding me.
Author's Note - Alina is now a Spice Runner (Level 2) of the Culinary Career and is at level 5 of the cooking skill.