Appointment with an Old Enemy
Sanem's heart raced as she hurried down the ladder to her grandmother's bed. She had never heard her call out like that at night before. Her grandmother's resolve and resilience seemed limitless. But her call shook Sanem.
"Sanem! Sanem!" her grandmother wept as she called out.
"What is it, Grandma!?" Sanem held her grandmother's hands as they shook.
Her grandmother looked straight ahead, almost like she couldn't see or hear Sanem or the room. Then she started shaking her head back and forth. "I am stuck in the mist. Here, here take my bracelets and jewelry." She fumbled to give her trinkets to Sanem. "Control is an illusion. Power is a trap. I release my greed." She slowly repeated the words like a mantra.
"Grandma! What is going on!?" Sanem dropped the trinkets on the floor.
A thought nagged at Sanem. Before they came to Etonia, her grandmother told her and her brother an old story about a demon. Their parents had disappeared in the forest when they were very young. Their grandmother raised them for nearly seven years before making their way to the city. During that time, she kept the two of them close, shared her wisdom, and taught them about Acgozluk.
Her grandmother would say, "That ancient, greedy demon had followed their people through the ages, and he took her parents." Sanem knew her people had ways to keep him at bay, old traditions that no one in Etonia or from further South had heard. So when the first sages from Etonia reached out to her people in the forest, and they were also trying to find missing community members, her grandmother shared her knowledge.
Her grandmother and many of their people were invited to the city. Word spread, and most of her people began immigrating to the city. Many came after losing family members, hoping the demon could not reach them here. It had been another seven years here in Etonia. During that time and the time with her grandmother in the forest, Sanem had never seen a sign that the demon was real. Acgozluk seemed like a distant memory from childhood stories. Stories to soothe her and others after losing loved ones due to a difficult life in the forest.
Sanem's thoughts bounced from story to story. Her grandmother's hand started getting cold. What could she do? Sanem began singing a song her grandmother had taught her years ago when they were scared. It felt more like a prayer now.
Wings of silver, lance the demon's heart
Remind me of love and a fresh start.
Aerounic Airgead protect my love.
Jasmine and clover drive the poison out
but not without a mind that is stout.
Aerounic Airgead steady my will.
Sanem stopped and let go of her grandmother's hands. "Sanem! Sanem!" her grandmother called.
"I'll be right back Grandma!" She dashed into the kitchen.
Sanem opened every pot, every box. It had to be here. Her grandmother knew. She checked the shelves and cupboards. Winter jasmine was dangerous. Where would Grandma put it? Sanem hurried back to the chest at the foot of her grandmother's bed. A silver key was among the trinkets on the floor, tossed aside earlier. It worked.
A pouch of dried jasmine had been slipped alongside other heirlooms and personal treasures. She saw a sash that belonged to her father. There was a necklace that belonged to her mother. It had been some time since Sanem had thought of those items.
Sanem heard her grandmother and called to the fireplace. It lit. Water filled the caldron and began to boil. The sages from Etonia shared magic and put it into common homes. Sanem couldn't help but consider how sharing that power was helping her now. She made tea with the clover from the kitchen and the winter jasmine. An astringent aroma filled the house seconds after putting the ingredients in the water. She carried a steaming cup of tea to her grandmother's bed.
"Sanem!" Her grandmother had broken out of the spell. The aroma from the brew already interfered with the demon's reach. "Oh, Dear! Thank you." Sanem's grandmother reached for her granddaughter's hand. "You need to check on your brother. The demon is hunting for us."
Thanks for reading my flash fiction! I participated in the Storytelling Collective's Flash Fiction February Challenge when putting this story together. This story was in response to the prompt: "Person makes appointment with old enemies". It is also an introduction to my one-shot for World Anvil's April Adventure challenge. I knew the demon would be part of the one-shot so seeing the prompt was like getting an appointment reminder for the upcoming challenge. Inspiration flowed from there!
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