October 08, 2019 11:30AM

The House with Kaleidoscope Doors



Here it is, the end. Thanks for reading along and extra thanks for all the comments.

Chapter 7: Revelations


It occurred to Catherine that in all the wasted advice that Eleanor had given on how to transform, the demon had mentioned nothing on how to transform back to her original shape.

She didn't have time to try much of anything though, because the door opened behind her. She fled to safety, hiding behind a pair of boots, and wondered how badly this was about to go.

Master Tiln had seen her, however, and he gasped in surprise. "You," he said in a voice of awe.

Catherine concluded that she must look the same as she had in the bakery alley. This was what she wanted, wasn't it? Sure, the location was wrong but she had turned into a cat.

"Miss Hattie, is that you?" he asked, bending down.

She peeked out at him from around the laces. Her body was unfamiliar and she didn't know what she was supposed to do. Should she act like a cat and meow at him?

"Miss Hattie, can you please come out?" His voice was calming, hopeful, coaxing. He didn't know whether he should behave as if she was a cat or a human either.

She put a paw forward and wondered why she was so nervous. He had seen her, he had recognized her. That was the hard part, right?

Oh no, the hard part was falling in love.

Deciding he needed more than kind words, he moved to the shelf and pulled down her hat. "I want to apologise for taking this," he said. "I couldn't stay after our first meeting; we had outrun the shadow demons but they were still chasing me. If I had stayed, they would have found us quickly. I took your hat so I could find you again. But it appears that it is you who found me."

Catherine walked over to him. Her hat was nearly within reach, if she wasn't a foot tall.

Master Tiln gasped again. "It is you." He was not looking at her, not exactly. He was looking at her reflection in the enchanted mirror.

Catherine turned and caught her own image, young and unblemished by time. This was how she was supposed to look. This was how her body was meant to be.

Just like that, she stopped being a cat, returning to her human form. Unfortunately, it was the cursed form -- old and stooped.

"Bonnet!" He was too surprised to hide the shock in his voice. But then he looked at her reflection again. "What happened?"

"I was cursed," she said simply. He already knew that much, or would realize it when he got over being gobsmacked.

"But you knew that I was looking for you."

"Yes, but I didn't know why," she justified. "I thought you wanted to eat my liver or steal my heart."

"Not literally," he said with a slight smile. He was more amused by her reasoning than Eleanor or Allen.

He was looking right at her, not at her reflection, and he was still smiling. Catherine glanced at her reflection and saw that she was blushing. Could he see the blush through all her wrinkles?

"No, not literally," she repeated, unable to meet his eyes. "The other two sort of explained it -- your curse and all -- but I don't know what I'm supposed to do. I don't really know if I can fall in love on command."

"Miss Hattie," he said, taking her hand, "my father was a powerful magician and I learned just as much from him as I learned from Master Errol. But if I should study magic for a thousand years, I don't think I could plumb all its depths. And I think love is very similar to magic in that respect."

Catherine looked down at her gnarled hand resting in his and thought of what she knew of love. Some girls in the hat shop had hearts that fell in love with startling regularity or speed. Usually, they fell out of love just as easily. Others had hearts with abysmal taste, fixating on someone who was all wrong for them, all wrong for anyone. Still others aimed too high; there were only so many princes to fall head over heels for a commoner.

But Catherine's heart had always been untouched. She had accepted the responsibility of inheriting the hat shop which meant that her husband would have to be a good fit for the business. While a few men had worked in the shop, she had never seen them as more than employees despite all her mother's hopes. But if Catherine was a witch, then she couldn't really keep the shop. And that meant her heart didn't have to think in terms of profits and costs. So if she felt an inkling for someone who could hold her hand and look at her like that while she looked like this, well, what was holding her back?

Still, she had to be sure. "This isn't a trick, is it?"

"One cannot force it, nor can it be diverted from its natural course." He seemed to know exactly what she was talking about. "And if it helps matters, let me say that my real name is Henry."

It did help matters. Considerably. "My name is actually Catherine," she told him.

There was magic all around them suddenly. She could feel it in her bones and joints, in the fading lines on her face, in the straightening of her back. It felt lovely, growing young again, but not so wonderful as the feeling of his lips on hers.

When at last they broke apart, they were silent with awe for a moment. Then Henry kissed her again, almost smiling too widely to do it properly. Catherine was too giddy -- they both were -- to keep at it.

"Do you think Master Errol knows?" With the curses broken, Catherine had no impediment to naming the villain.

Henry made a face. "Probably not. It would be unusual. But he will find out when he comes to collect on my birthday. And I look forward to seeing his disappointment."

"Your birthday," Catherine repeated airily as ideas tumbled around like beads in a kaleidoscope, much like the doors in this house. "Oh, I know exactly what I want to do to celebrate."

Henry quirked an eyebrow in unspoken question.

"Eleanor will hear me when I call for her, won't she?" Catherine asked, already backing away from him. "I have an errand to run and there's only so much time. If I call for her, she'll open the front door, won't she?" It was a question, but she didn't seem to tarry for an answer.

"Wait," called Henry. "Where are you going?"

"Back to the hat shop," she answered. The doorknob needed to be turned further than normal to move past the confines of the house. She had to angle her wrist just so before the pieces aligned perfectly. "I need my father's recipe book; I want to bake you a very special cake. And I need to see Sally. She needs to know what's going on and why I can't come back to stay."

Master Tiln tried to stop her but he couldn't cross the distance in time. She opened the door and stepped through, tripping over the threshold. With a groan from the magical house, the door shut with a slam behind her.

It was her room, her bedroom above the hat shop. Everything was as she left it, except the letter she had left for her sister was gone from the desk. She wasted no time in nostalgia but went downstairs. Sally would be in one of the rooms down there, and her father's book of recipes (potions really) was in the kitchen.

She headed first to the kitchen, figuring Sally would find her as soon as she was spotted in the house. The first few people to see her gasped or shrieked in surprise. She gave them a smile and sent them off to find Miss Morland who was on the shop floor.

As expected, Sally ran into the kitchen just as Catherine tucked the precious book under her arm.

"Hattie!" her sister cried in relief. "Where have you been? I was so worried about you! What happened?"

Catherine grabbed Sally's hands before they could wave all over the place. "It's complicated, but the long and the short of it is I'm a witch," she said, trying to sound reassuring. "I was cursed by an evil wizard but another wizard helped free me and I helped free him. And now I can't stay here anymore, I'm afraid. I'm a witch, and witches can't make hats. Not normal hats, anyway. Not the sort of hats people buy in Market Chipping. I can't stay, but I can visit. Do you understand?"

Sally stared wide-eyed and gaping. She was still standing mutely when Master Tiln rushed into the room.

"There you are, Mistress Morl," he greeted a touch breathlessly. "Next time, please exit through the front door. Eleanor doesn't handle it well otherwise."

"Who is this?" asked Sally, finding her voice. "A wizard? A good wizard or a bad one?"

"A good one," Catherine said confidently. "His name is --"

"Master Tiln," Henry interrupted. He had no qualms against sharing his name with Catherine, but it was not a secret he wanted to share with others.

"What did he call you?"

The question caught Catherine off guard. "What did you call me?"

"Mistress Morl," he repeated. "It's a fitting name for a witch. Unless you'd prefer Madam Tiln," he proposed.

Catherine blushed and there were no wrinkles to hide it.

"But Tiln is your name, isn't it?" Sally asked.

"We haven't talked about that," Catherine said. Not that love and marriage didn't go together, but it was all happening very quickly.

He didn't back down. "The offer stands."

"What offer?" cried Sally, who was still struggling to come to terms with Catherine's first announcement.

"I cannot stay here, Sally." Whether she was Mistress Morl or Madam Tiln, the regular, non-magical part of her life was over now. "I cannot be Miss Hattie. You have my letter, yes? The one I wrote before I ran away that left the shop to you?"

Sally nodded.

"Then use it," Catherine told her. "I won't come back to stay. The shop is yours. You are Miss Hattie now."

"But I'm not a hat maker," Sally said. "How can there be a Morland's Hats without a master hat maker?"

"Nan is the furthest along," said Catherine, thinking of her apprentices. "She still needs more time to hone her craft but she can grow. Or write to Mama in Kingsbury and see if she can poach an up-and-coming master from another shop there."

"Hattie." Sally's eyes started to fill with tears. "I mean, Ca--"

"Mistress Morl!" Henry interrupted. "Your sister's name, at least for now, is Mistress Morl. And it would damage her to have anyone hear otherwise. Do you understand?" Given that Catherine originally believed all manner of nonsense about magicians, it was probably wise to treat Sally as equally uninformed.

Sally sniffled and nodded and started to cry. Catherine hugged her.

"It's all right, Hattie," Catherine said, sniffling too. "This is just a little distance, no worse than when Phillip went to work for the weaver. I'll be back before you know it. You'll get so bored of my visits, you won't be able to stand the sight of me."

When the sisters had at last gotten hold of themselves, they separated and wiped their eyes.

"Are you ready to go?" asked Henry, looking prepared to stay as long as needed.

Catherine nodded a little too vigorously. She wanted to stay, but time was sliding past. As much as she thought she understood about magic and doors, she only knew how to cross distance; she had not yet begun to wonder how she might play with time to cherish moments with those dear to her.

She went to the nearest door -- to the pantry -- and called to Eleanor.

.o8o.

The main room of the magical house was decorated for a celebration. On the dining table, a tiered cake stood in the middle of white plates and gleaming silver.

Master Errol entered just as he had a few days before, with pomp and gloom. Allen was there, as well as the fire demon, and they both looked to him with deferential fear while he took in the festive scene and scowled at it. For a magician about to sacrifice his freedom or his humanity, it was a little too cheerful.

"Allen, I see you had the foresight to hide the charwoman before I arrived, but where is your master?" He kept his voice low and intimidating.

Allen swallowed. "He's just finishing up some preparations with Mistress Morl."

Errol's expression darkened at the new name. "And who is Mistress Morl?"

"She's, she helped me with the potions you admired," answered Allen, growing more uncomfortable with each minute in the master's presence. He trusted that the other two could handle Master Errol between them, but he didn't want to get in the way.

"Ah, so Tiln has found someone to take over your contract when he loses the ability to be your master," Errol deduced. "I would gladly have taken you on as an apprentice, Allen."

The young man smiled nervously at that. The thought brought him no comfort. He was rescued finally by the sound of movement and conversation on the stairs.

"And those, Mistress Morl, are the bedrooms," Tiln concluded as if he had been giving a tour. He descended the stairs and paused before offering a greeting to the newcomer. "Master Errol, welcome. You are right on time."

"Tiln." Errol inclined his head a hair's breadth. That slight motion and the lack of an honorific indicated that he would not be magnanimous in victory.

"Master Errol, allow me to introduce Mistress Morl," Tiln said as Catherine began to climb down the stairs. It wasn't until the top of her head cleared the upper floor that Errol's face drained of all color. "But I see you have met before."

"Miss, Mistress Morl," the elder wizard said, positively ashen.

"Master Errol," she nodded. "How did you like my potions? I confess, they were my father's recipes, but I've started to put my own stamp on them. I believe I've managed to turn his Calming Draught into a Sleep-Like-Death. Allen, have you offered our guest some tea?"

Master Errol pinched his lips. There was nothing he could safely drink here, or eat. And the presence of the witch restored to her youth -- glaring at him with distrustful eyes and a rictus smile -- was all the notice he needed that Tiln had broken his curse.

"No thank you," he said imperiously. "I cannot stay. I merely came to congratulate Tiln --"

"Master Tiln," the witch corrected him.

"Master Tiln," Errol repeated, "and to wish him many happy returns of the day."

"Thank you, Master Errol," Catherine replied and looked up at Henry quite happily. She had already mentally dismissed their guest and now all they needed to do was get him to leave. "It is a pity you cannot stay, but we would not want to delay you. I wish you safe travels."

"Oh, yes. Do be safe," Henry agreed overenthusiastically. "I should not wish any former instructor of mine to come to harm."

Errol glared at them both but they were well inoculated against any reproaches from him. He had cursed each of them and if they let him leave the house unscathed they were being more generous than he deserved.

"But you will understand," continued Henry, "if this is the last we see of you for a long while. We are to be married soon, and that is no time for unexpected guests."

To his credit, Master Errol didn't sneer. He inclined his head in something like agreement and turned toward the door.

"Master Errol," Catherine called, leaving her spot at Henry's side to pick up a small plate from the table. "I knew you would leave early, so I have this little treat ready for you to take with you."

This time, Errol's expression was more honest, but his voice was still cool. "I could not possibly accept, Mistress Morl."

"Nonsense!" Catherine said, forcing the plate into his hands. "It is especially for you. You don't have to eat it now. That's the whole point of taking it with you."

Errol was grimacing openly and trying very hard not to have the treat roll about on the plate.

Henry, having decided that he had spent as much time with his former master as he ever wished to spend, walked to the door and opened it wide. "Good day, Master Errol," he said. Good day and good riddance.

The older wizard didn't linger but left the house without adieu.

Henry shut the door with force and smiled at the others.

"May that be the last we see of him!" said Eleanor, standing tall.

Allen collapsed weakly into his chair. His knees had been threatening to fail as soon as Master Errol had appeared and he finally gave in to the urge. "I know you wouldn't have let him steal me as an apprentice," he said, "but he's just so intimidating."

"Mistress Morl," said Henry, "what was in that pastry?"

"What do you mean?" Catherine was all innocence.

"Did you poison him?" he asked bluntly.

"No! Of course not!" She had thought about it briefly, but decided against it. Master Errol probably wouldn't eat the dessert, and he might possibly give it to someone else, and Catherine didn't want that on her conscience. "I snuck out to Market Chipping this morning while you were busy and visited my friend Jamie who works in a bakery. Master Errol's treat is completely non-magical, completely safe."

"Ah, you didn't trust yourself not to magic a poison or some other unpleasantness in his parting gift." Henry's grin deepened. For knowing her such a short time, he certainly understood her well.

Catherine shushed him while the other two roared with laughter.

They gathered around the table -- Eleanor remained at her hearth but the table was positioned to make her place obvious. There was cake suffused with joy, and a posey for Eleanor to turn into ash and smoke, and loud singing, and funny stories until Allen was banging on the table and Catherine laughed so hard that she was crying.

It truly was a wonderful birthday party, the first of many.

//THE END//
SubjectAuthorPosted

House with Kaleidoscope Doors, END

NN SOctober 08, 2019 11:30AM

Re: House with Kaleidoscope Doors, END

PetraOctober 23, 2019 08:26PM

Re: House with Kaleidoscope Doors, END

MichaOctober 16, 2019 10:53PM

Re: House with Kaleidoscope Doors, END

EmelynOctober 14, 2019 11:11AM

Re: House with Kaleidoscope Doors, END

Maria VOctober 11, 2019 12:04PM

Re: House with Kaleidoscope Doors, END

NN SOctober 14, 2019 01:49AM

Re: House with Kaleidoscope Doors, END

Lucy J.October 11, 2019 07:13AM

Re: House with Kaleidoscope Doors, END

MarciOctober 09, 2019 11:48PM

Re: House with Kaleidoscope Doors, END

Maria VOctober 08, 2019 08:55PM

Re: House with Kaleidoscope Doors, END

NN SOctober 08, 2019 10:45PM

Re: House with Kaleidoscope Doors, END

NN SOctober 08, 2019 11:34AM



Author:

Your Email:


Subject:


Spam prevention:
Please, solve the mathematical question and enter the answer in the input field below. This is for blocking bots that try to post this form automatically.
Question: how much is 8 plus 25?
Message: