The week skims by quickly and soon she has found herself up early on the day she plans to leave to go to the next town where she must complete tasks 3 and 4. She has told her parents that she wishes to go and find new fabric for new clothes, having grown bored with the fabric being traded in their own town. Her parents were not happy about this but she tells them that she has always wanted to travel and that she is old enough to do so. She also said that she will be asking Lennie and Stacy to join them and possibly Mark, Dan who is Lennie’s betrothed, and Mark’s cousin Sid who Stacy hopes to make her own. She, of course, asked her friends to go with her and has told them the same story she told her family. Her friends jumped at the opportunity and they began to make plans on where they would stay on their trip. Her plan is working but now she has to figure out how to escape her friends so she can carry out the tasks.
She packs her bags, unpacks them, then packs them again as she tries to figure out what she will take in order to travel in as well as what she will wear to carry out the tasks. She knows that she has to wear clothes that she can run in as well as sneak around in so they have to be easy to get on and off and they will have to be dark. She picks her black dress and cloak that she was going to wear the night she was supposed to help switch the baby to a changeling, placing them on the bottom of the bag. She hides them with a couple of brighter traveling clothes and another pair of traveling boots to have just in case the ones she has breaks during the trip. She has never been so far from home before and it was scary and thrilling all at the same time. She finishes packing and heads out to see her mother already up, cooking a few meals for the road for her.
She smiles and hugs her mom close, packing the snacks and meals she has made and then turns to see her father walking towards her. He holds out his hands and hands her a knife that he tells her to carry it for protection, even if the boys will be traveling with her and the other girls. She slips the knife into her traveling bag, placing it on top of the map and two parchments, and thank him, giving him a quick kiss on the cheek. She eats a biscuit with a bit of butter before she heads outside in order to wait for her friends.
The others join her and they begin their days walk to the West to Green Hills little village. The night before, Tanya had snuck out of her house and made her way in the shadows to Morlock’s house where she found a box sitting outside the front door. Inside she found a bag and a note. It read to put the items inside the bag and return it once she has come home. The bag will be invisible to all except for her. He then wished her good luck and said at the end of the note ‘I love you’. She had shuddered at the last words and returned home, stashing the bag he had given her at the bottom of her traveling bag with the map and two lists. Now as she walks, her bag feels heavy and her shoulders feel as if they have the weight of the world upon her.
She chats lightly with her friends but her worry of messing up and her friends finding out the truth behind the trip keeps clouding her mind. Soon, their first day has come to an end and they must set up camp. They find a quiet place off of the trail, set up a small camp, and sleep peacefully under the stars after eating a good meal. Tanya sits up in her bedroll, her arms wrapped around her legs as she watches her friends sleep. She knew that after tonight everything will change and not for the better. The fairy’s words about how to signal her and her kind to help Tanya disappear rings in her ears. She lays back down and stares up at the night sky, watching as a star shoots past. She closes her eyes, makes a wish to have the curse lifted soon, then rolls over and falls fast asleep.
The next morning, after they packed their belongings and had a quick bite to eat, the group enters the small village of Green Hills that sits only a few miles away from where they had camped. They chat excitedly since none of them except for Mark and his cousin, Sid, have ever been out of their own village. They walk around, seeing the sights and talking to the locals to find where they can sleep that night in a real bed. They check into the little inn in the middle of the town and set their things in their room. They then explore the town, the girls heading off to find new material for making clothes while the boys go off to find news about good local fishing holes. Soon lunch time has rolled around and they meet each other back at the inn as it has a little tavern too. Tanya takes this time to excuse herself, saying that she wants to get her new finds packed away and take a small nap before they explore more of the area outside of the village.
She returns to their room, packs her new materials, and pulls out her travel bag, slinging it over her shoulder as she leaves the room. Soon, she is on a trail leading away from the village into a dark looking forest, following her map to where she will find the witch’s hut. She pulls her black cloak close to her body as she enters the forest, a chill shaking her to the core even though the sun is blazing hot. She walks cautiously on the trail, doing her best to stay quiet. She hears humming and knows that she is getting closer to the hut. She hides behind a giant oak tree and peers around to see a woman bent over a plant, picking off the light pink flowers from the stems and placing them inside a canister. Once she is done, the woman heads back to her house and closes the door behind her, after scanning the forest around her with pale purple eyes. Tanya notices the look on the woman’s face and wonders if she knew that Tanya is out there waiting for her.
Tanya stays behind the tree, watching and waiting for the perfect time to sneak inside and take one of the woman’s spellbooks. As if to answer her silent prayers, the door opens and the woman emerges, wearing a satchel as if she were about to go out and do more flower and herb hunting. The woman disappears down another trail and Tanya rushes out from behind the tree to get in and out as fast as she can. She puts the map back into her bag and retrieves the bag that Morlock has provided, finding an open window. She slips inside and looks around the dark hut. She finds the wall of books and begins to look through them until she finds one that she can tell is a spellbook. She slides it carefully into the bag before she turns and comes face to face with the witch, who stands just inside the door, watching her. Tanya falls back against the bookshelf, frightened and not able to move as the witch begins to walk quickly towards her. She points at Tanya ready to chant but Tanya doesn’t run.
Tanya stands up straighter and shrugs her shoulders at the witch, “Go ahead! I am already cursed so anything you do to me won’t be as bad.”
The witch stops walking and silences herself before she even begins to talk, startled by the way Tanya has stood up to her. “Cursed?”
Tanya nods and then without warning, she breaks down, falling onto her knees and balling her eyes out. She pulls the book out of the bag, knowing that she has been caught and will have to give back the book, holding it out to the witch. The witch points at Tanya again, muttering some words, then hisses. She walks over to Tanya and pushes the book back to the girl, shaking her head. “Keep it. The curse that is on you is definitely far worse than something I can do to you. And you obviously need this book very badly.” She takes Tanya in her arms, “Tell me about the curse.” Tanya is hesitant and the witch nods, “You are afraid of telling me because there is another curse put on your loved ones. I can tell because I have seen this happen before. You can tell me everything because I am not a part of that curse.”
Tanya takes in a shaky breath and before she knows it, they are sitting at the table, the book in her bag, cups of steaming calming tea sitting in front of the two of them, and she is telling the witch everything. The witch doesn’t talk or interrupt her as Tanya tells her about Morlock, the curses, and why she needs the book.
“I cannot break this curse, unfortunately, so you will have to do the tasks but I can help a little,” the older witch tells Tanya. She stands and grabs a quill and parchment, quickly scribbling down something. “Here is a spell that even you can cast yourself by reading it aloud. Whatever happens with your other tasks, this spell will hide the harm that comes to you from your family and friends when you face the other dangerous creatures that this Morlock is forcing you to face. That is all that I can do I am afraid besides letting you take a spellbook. But not the one you have. That one I need…” she scans her bookcase again, looking over the books until she finds one. “Ah yes I have been wanting to get rid of this one so you may take it.” She switches books with Tanya, gives her the spell, and wishes Tanya luck on her adventure to rid herself of the curse.
An hour later, Tanya is in the room, showered, clothes changed, and actually sleeping in the bed when her friends come to check on her, not knowing that she had even been gone. They went out together for a hike then explored the town some more before it is time for dinner and bed. The day had gone quickly and as Tanya lays in the bed, cradling the spell that the kind witch has given to her, she grows more frightened about the tasks that she has to do if she has to cast a spell on herself so that no one can see the harm that will be brought on from the other tasks. She places the paper back into her traveling bag, hearing the soft sleeping sounds from her friends and she pulls out the map to find where the phoenix lives. Seeing that it lives in the mountains a few good miles from there, she quickly dresses back into her black dress, black boots, and black cloak. Packing some water and some jerky in her travel bag, she folds the map back up and quietly leaves the room.
She doesn’t know how she will be able to get the feathers as she hasn’t planned that far in advance but she knew that she had to get the feathers somehow. She leaves the village and heads into the forest, makings sure to not be seen by anyone who is out late. She walks for what seems like forever until she finally catches sight of the mountain. She pulls out the map and curses herself for not bringing a candle or torch for light. She squints in the darkness, trying to see where the cave is so she can get the feathers. A light shines behind her and she can see the map better, seeing that the cave is to her left. She heads that way, the light growing and seeming to follow from behind her.
She begins to panic and turns to see if someone has followed her or if there is another creature out that may harm her. But slowly following behind her is the phoenix itself, curious since he hasn’t seen a human out by his home at night before. She pretends that she hasn’t noticed him, looking at the map and slipping her hand inside the bag for something to use in order to get the feathers off of the phoenix. Her hand falls on the knife that her father had given her and she carefully unsheathes it, not sure if that it will work but she has to do something.
Tanya swings the knife out at the startled bird, making the phoenix cry out and fly backward. The knife bites into the bird, causing it to scream at her and lunge forward, its talons ready to strike. She feels the sharp nails dig into her skin but with her free hand, she grabs the bird by his tail. Yanking down hard, she feels the feathers rip loose into her hands and she jumps back away from the talons. Blood seeps down her shoulder where the phoenix had grabbed her and she feels a bit woozy, not being one who likes dealing with blood. The phoenix screams at her again and swoops down towards her, angry that a human has ripped out some of his feathers. She drops to the ground and covers her neck, feeling the bird clawing at her back. She swings the knife over her head, causing the phoenix to fly back away from her. Losing interest at the flailing human, he flies away, heading back home and disappearing into the night.
Tanya looks up to see that the phoenix is gone and slowly gets up on her hands and knees. She pulls out the bag with the book and shoves the handful of feathers inside, cursing Morlock’s name as she shoves it back into her travel bag. Tanya puts the knife away and instead of walking back to the inn, she makes her way back to the witch’s hut to see if the woman can help her with her wounds.