Later that day, Daphne found herself studying incantations in the classroom of Sister Georgina. The sister was teaching the class how to properly roll their “R’s” for the most effective invocations. Although Daphne rolled her R’s sufficiently well, she raised her hand.
Sister Georgina walked over to Daphne and asked, “Your pronunciation sounds fine to me. What is it child?”
Daphne signaled for the Sister to come close to her and acted as if she had a secret to tell.
Sister Georgina fell for the ruse. She bent down and lent Daphne her ear.
Daphne leaned forward, cupped her fingers around the sister’s ear, careful to get at least one hair caught in the silver ring she wore around her middle finger. She whispered, “I think my moon time is early upon me.”
Sister Georgina’s eyes grew wide with understanding as she straightened and cleared her throat. Daphne saw no evidence that she even felt it when a few tiny hairs were yanked from her head. “Hmm, hmm. Very well Daphne, you are dismissed for the remainder of this class. Run along and don’t forget your assignment.”
Daphne gathered her things and left the classroom, fingering the tiny hairs that sprouted from her ring.
Asphorela’s task was a bit more challenging than Daphne’s. Father Ecthlion was practically bald, and she was unsure how to get even one of the last remaining hairs from his blindingly shiny head. He was the type of man that had a small ruffle of thin hair encircling his neckline. He also sported a few twigs that he combed over the top of his scalp. Somehow, Asphorela needed to convince him that it was absolutely necessary to part with those last remaining remnants of his youth.
When dinner rolled around, Asphorela had a plan. It was not necessarily a fool proof plan, but a plan nevertheless. With her wand in one hand and a small razor in the other, she approached Father Ecthlion. She had heard Father Ecthlion talking about gardening many times with fellow Sisters and Brothers of the temple, so she assumed he had a keen fondness for the temple gardens.
“Father Ecthlion. I am holding a fundraiser to raise money for the temple gardens. My herbology class would like to add Atractylodes. We would also like to purchase caterpillars to grow Cordyceps.”
Father Ecthlion’s smile seemed sincere, yet he eyed the razor skeptically. “What can I do to help you young lady?”
Asphorela let her cheeks turn red and her shoulders slump as she tried to portray the perfect picture of embarrassment. “Well, you see. Oh no. I can’t. It’s too much to ask.”
Father Ecthlion’s expression appeared genuinely curious when he prodded. “Tell me child. I will help if I can. I’ve hoped we could find a way to gather Cordyceps for years. I will do what I can.” He placed his hand in the small of her back. This was the first time a man, a real man, had touched her in such a delicate area.
Asphorela truly blushed this time. She gathered her wits about her before she explained, “You see, I’ve kinda been making bets. I bet that I could get you to shave your head, and most of the novices have bet against me. I’ve got a lot of money coming to me if I can pull it off. It’s all with good intentions.”
Father Ecthlion gulped.
Asphorela shook her head, “Never mind. I know it was wrong of me. I just couldn’t think of any other way . . . and I love growing new herbs.” She began to walk away and then stopped when she felt Father Ecthlion grasp her elbow.
“Would I have to shave my entire head?”
Asphorela shook her head, “I don’t think so. Not technically. I think just the top would do.”
“Very well. Follow me.”
Asphorela followed Father Ecthlion into a room adjacent to the dining hall. He sat in a chair and instructed her to proceed.
Asphorela smiled triumphantly as she walked out of the dining hall.
If Asphorela thought she had had a difficult time obtaining an elder’s hair, it was nothing compared to the difficulties Heleconius faced. The young novice waited until the moon was high in the sky, and all the creatures of the night were quiet. Heleconius crept carefully into the elders’ quarters, using unlocking and silencing spells to move about the dwelling. When she found the room belonging to Father Neldoroth, the most daunting professor in the temple, she froze. How could she even dare to think she could pull this off? Who did she think she was, Helen the Huntress? She almost talked herself out of the mission, but Daphne’s words echoed in her head, “Do you want to live?”
Part 5 to be released next Wednesday!