Monthly Chapter: July 2022: Tansy Stays a Spell – Chapter 2

On the first of the month a new chapter is posted from an as yet to be released book. The current book is Tansy Stays a Spell. This is the second book of the upcoming Oak Hill Series.

Tansy Stays a Spell – Chapter 2

Tansy decided that in a search for the rings Eunice might have stashed somewhere she would begin in what Eunice would probably view as the safest part of the house. 

“her work room,” Tansy said.  “After all if you can’t even take books out of the space it has to be safe, right?”

She walked over to the pantry and stepped inside.  With her large garden and many vegetable plants, Eunice spent a large chunk of the warm summer months and the early fall in canning and pickling.  As such her pantry was oversized and, while there were still plenty of filled jars form the previous season, as spring was just getting underway, many of the shelves sported clean and empty mason jars waiting for the new season’s crop.

With a start Tansy realized that they would more than likely go empty this year.  Tansy had always been good with mushrooms and herbs, but she hadn’t done much with the settled parts of the garden.  She was good with foraging, but not planting.  She didn’t know if Eunice had a schedule, if she planted anything before she passed or left it ready to be planted. 

“I also have no idea how to can or pickle,” Tansy said. 

As she looked at the jars, waiting in long shiny lines, Tansy felt tears prickle her eyes.  Grief was a strange thing.  On minute it was faded to the back of the mind and easily forgotten and then something mundane would trigger a thought and the pain of loss would be sharp, immediate and rising up to swamp her. 

Tansy let the pain of losing Eunice wash through her.  Then she turned away from the waiting jars, wiped her tears on the tail of her shirt and sniffled as she went to the moveable shelving unit.  She fiddled with the catch and pulled it away from the wall.  It rolled smoothly and Tansy moved into the hidden space.  She opened the door and began the descent into Eunice’s workroom.  The lights clicked on as she entered. 

The descent was not a normal angle and Tansy knew the room existed somewhere between floors.  She hadn’t gone into the basement to see if she could figure out how the hidden space was camouflaged from below, she just knew that anytime she had been in the basement in the past she never noticed it.

“Maybe they used magic to hide it,” Tansy said to herself. 

After seeing the sheep step out of the painting and explode into paint globules she was willing to admit that one of the ancestors might have had the skill to conceal the presence of a room.  She let the thought go as she looked around.  There were shelves of books. Now that Tansy accepted the oath to join the community they opened for her instead of remaining as book shaped decorations.  While the beginning lessons were all about controlling your senses so you could still function in the real world and stop things like painted sheep from stepping out of paintings and exploding, the rest of the information was not so well organized.  They were less like lessons and more like recipe books. 

Some of the recipes, or spells, were labeled beginner, while others were intermediate and still others were just labeled difficult.  They were all jumbled together as though they were written down as someone came across them in a magazine article or in an on-line search.

“Or maybe they invented them,” Tansy said.  She let her eyes scan the shelves.  Nothing looked out of place and the shelves were shallow enough that the backs of the books touched the wall behind.  If anything was hidden behind the book it would have thrown the row out of alignment.  The books were lined up ruler straight. 

“So nothing behind them.”

Tansy shifted to the notebooks.  These rows were less neatly aligned as the notebooks were in many different sizes and shapes.  Some were long and thin, others wide and short. It looked like anyone taking notes just found a notebook that was currently empty and claimed it for their notes. Thinking it was as good a place to start as any, Tansy moved to the shelf and began pulling them out one by one. 

As she pulled them from the shelf, Tansy looked at them before setting them to the side on the work top surface.  Many of the top ones were written in her Aunt’s handwriting.  They contained notes as Eunice tested each of the spell work recipes trying to find which components were actually necessary, which were redundant, what could be exchanged for other ones and what amounts were really needed to ensure results.  It was the same way she approached culinary recipes and the cook books stashed in the various bookshelves upstairs had similar notations.

“Although I doubt many of those recipes called for mugwort or baneberry,” Tansy said.  “Whatever baneberry is.” She was fairly certain that anything that started with the word bane should probably not be added to a list of culinary herbs. “or berries,” She added.

The entire top shelf of notebooks belonged to Eunice and after taking them all out and flipping through them she searched the shelf behind them.  The now empty shelf held no secrets, just a little bit of dust.  Tansy picked up a rag and wiped off the dust figuring she might as well. 

“It’s not like I’m going to take them out to dust regularly,” she told herself.  As she dusted, Tansy searched the back of the shelf for hidden catches or panels.  There were none.  With the dust cleared and no hidden spaces revealed, Tansy put the notebooks back in place and moved to the next shelf. 

The volumes here were in a variety of different handwritings, no one else being as prolific a note taker as Eunice.  The notes were less meticulous as well.  There were substitution notes and amount differences, but they looked to be things people tried because they were out of an ingredient and wanted to see if a similar one would work as a substitution rather than going to the store.  Many of the substitutions were failures, like the time she substituted packaged instant pudding for eggs when she tried her hand at baking, but there were a few successes.  Tansy found herself drawn into them and had to shake herself, remembering that she was there to search for rings and could come back to read later.

As before, once the books were off the shelf, Tansy dusted the back of the shelf looking for anything hidden.  There was nothing.  No ring holding pouches, hidden catches or sliding panels. The rest of the notebook shelves were similarly unrevealing.

“Except that I found out one of my relatives liked to doodle in the margins of his notebook.” While interesting, it wasn’t what she was looking for.

With the books and notebooks hiding nothing, Tansy turned her attention to the stack of bowls and other odd looking tools and decorations.  Deciding to start at the top and work her way down, Tansy clutched her dust rag in one hand and climbed up onto the work surface.  

“Think of it as an informal inventory,” she told herself.

By the time she finished searching the various shelves, the dust rag was filthy, the air was filled with dust particles and her nose was stuffy. She doubted Eunice had looked at anything on the upper shelves in years let alone used any of the items.

She had also found nothing of note.

Tansy looked around at the bulletin board, but there was nothing she could legitimately call a clue tacked to the board.  She checked under the work surface of the table hoping something might be taped to the underside. 

Again nothing. 

She poked and prodded the floorboards hoping something would come loose. 

Nothing did. 

Finally Tansy had to give up.  She was dusty, her nose was running and her eyes were watering. She desperately wanted to be free of the dust and waved her hand at the dancing dust particles glittering in the overhead lights.  Unfortunately she forgot she was holding the dust rag and only succeeded in adding more particles to the air and giving herself a coughing fit.

“At least the doodles were interesting,” she decided as she stopped coughing and regained her breath.  Her voice even sounded dusty.

She took her filthy dust rag out of the secret work room and climbed back up to the pantry.  This time she felt recrimination from the rows of sparklingly clean glass jars lining the shelves instead of grief.

“I was going to take a shower anyway,” she told them.  She resisted the urge to stick her tonge out at the gleamingly clean glass.

Tansy locked the hidden doors, making sure the catches caught and then went to the laundry room.  She dropped the dust rag directly into the washing machine and headed upstairs.  Catching sight of herself in the hall mirror, she could understand the condemnation of the clean mason jars.  She had dust streaking her hair, hands and face as well as her clothing.

“Not a good look,” she told her reflection. 

Tansy moved into her room, kicking the door shut behind herself.  Most of her clothing had been lost in the fire, but she had managed to replace a few items.  She pulled out a pair of jeans that still felt too new to be comfortable and an old long sleeved t-shirt she left with her things at Eunice’s house.  She set them and a clean set of underwear on the closed lid of the toilet and realized she needed fresh towels as hers were in the washing machine with the dust rag.  She dropped them off the day before hoping it would encourage her to do her laundry before she had to rush it for work. 

While there was a linen closet in the hall, there was a second smaller one in her bathroom.  Tansy had never liked the lavender and rose scented sachets her Great Aunt put in between the folds of her linens.  She thought they smelled like little old lady, although she told her aunt that they simply made her sneeze.  As a result, Eunice stored the sheets and towels Tansy used in her small linen closet with sachets of mint and rosemary.  The spicy, herbal scent was much more to Tansy’s taste than the flowers and she liked the freshness as well as the sharp notes. 

“I suppose I’ll have to make the sachets now,” Tansy thought. 

She opened the cupboard and wondered if she could wash the lavender and rosemary out of the other sheets and towels or if it was permanently ingrained in the items.  “I wonder if these sachets will last until I can clip more herbs for spring.”  While Tansy didn’t know how to can tomatoes or pickle radishes, she often helped Eunice make up the sachets.

Deciding to see how strong the scent was, Tansy took out her towels for her shower and lifted out one of the sachets.  It was strangely heavy and she frowned.  Tansy set the towels aside and opened up the mesh bag.  There, mixed in with the remains of the herbs, were two heavy rings, their stones a match for Tansy’s necklace.


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