In Elpída’s hand was the killing weapon, the piece that would end her maternal dream.
Wrapping her hand around the pendant, the reluctant mother closed her eyes and concentrated. Silently, she mouthed an enchantment, with her daughter still resting soundly. Her fist sheened with lights that resembled snow fluttering in icy winds. She could feel tears trying to pry their way out of her eyelids, but she did not waver. She could not afford to. In just a moment, she reopened her now remorseful eyes. The pendant glistened with a faint white light that shimmered briefly before fading back to its original dark hue of purple. The piece was loaded. Now, all she needed was the guts to pull the trigger.
The enchantment, feared by many in Koilós for its simplicity in execution and misuse, was forbidden. Xéchase, the Forgetful Curse, bewitched the target with amnesia, which could only be undone by its caster. If the caster were to be slain, the curse itself could no longer be broken. It was because of this last characteristic of this curse that led to its ban. The curse itself had far too many repercussions to justify its purpose. Simply mentioning the name of it resulted in interrogation and use of it was punishable by death. Elpída took the risks. In secret, deep inside her soul, she felt like she was already dying, cherishing her last moments with her daughter, awaiting to forfeit her pride and joy.What more was there for her to lose?
The woeful mother still had much to do in the last hours of night. Hesitantly, Elpída took the cursed artifact and laced it around her slumbering daughter’s neck. The enchanted pendant illuminated with the same vibrant tinge of snow white, acknowledging and accepting its new owner. Thus, the deed was done.
Elpída adored her daughter in silence throughout their journey to the city. In the dead of night, the tearful mother could hear the steady heartbeat of her daughter. With each pulse, her eardrums throbbed, nagging her of what was to come. Finally approaching their destination, Elpída did not look at her daughter. She could no longer will herself to endure the heartbreak. She carried her petite daughter in her arms and walked up to the main doors, passing by a sign that read “Orphanage: A Home for the Abandoned.” The sign stung like a knife in the mother’s bosom, as if it were written just for her.
Elpída gently rested her still dormant child upright along a marble pillar that was entangled in tendrils of vines and leaves. She knocked with apprehension. She had not felt this sense of uneasiness in a long time, not ever since she and her beloved husband parted ways.
A petite, spritely woman quietly answered the door and analyzed the unexpected guests. Elpída and the caretaker, Ntantá, were familiar with each other, fellow prophets in fact. The caretaker met Elpída’s eyes and held her gaze. In silence, the two women talked with their eyes. The colleague conveyed words of sympathy and pity while the lonesome mother expressed defeat and unwilling acceptance. Ntantá disappeared back into the house and returned with a wheelchair, suited with soft blankets and a plush pillow. The mother assisted her and sat Auriel down. Wheeling her daughter into the orphanage, the two ladies exchanged their last words before closing the doors.
With a heavy heart, the Elpída whispered, “Thank you, Ntantá. Please take care of Auriel. She is--.” She cleared her throat and croaked, “... was my darling daughter.”
“Fret not, mistress,” said the old woman, with reassurance, “she will always be your daughter. She will come back to you.”
“If only that were true”, muttered the mother. “I- I just hope...”
The pendant adorning the innocent, cursed child interrupted their farewells as it shined softly once more. The caretaker took notice to the glow but was unfazed by it.
The landlady had played a role in this scenario before: distraught parents arriving in the shadows of night, disowning or abandoning their child, and then leaving empty handed. The worst part about all of that was that the children were almost always cursed, much like Auriel. The children she sheltered were not woeful children. They were blank slates, primed and ready for the caretaker to reconstruct them with lies that truly meant no harm. There were too many parents for her to recall who wanted an easier time letting go, unburdening themselves of their shameful neglect or mournful surrender. The caretaker had rehearsed this heartbreaking moment too many times to be surprised anymore.
“I see…”, hushed Ntantá, looking down, away from Elpída to conceal her pity.
“My vision, Ntantá, I had to--”, blurted Elpída, eager to defend her shame.
“You need not say more, mistress. The cosmos is a fickle and cold one, purely by sadistic design. I know this was not your intention. This is for the future, her future, the greater good of the future.” The caretaker continued her futile attempt to console the mourning mother. With sincerity, the old woman sighed, “I was waiting for you, Elpída. I have already drawn a wondrous image of your beloved Auriel. She will be grand, just like her mother.”
Neither of the two women smiled at the sentiment. In the depths of their minds, they both knew this was a sinister act of playing God. Elpída, in particular, felt a sense of hatred manifesting towards her colleague. Both Auriel and Elpída were at the mercy of the Ntantá, caretaker of the accursed children.
Nothing else could be said. The door was closed gently behind the two, leaving the forlorn mother out on the door steps. Elpída walked back to the carriage and ventured back home in shame, attempting to focus on the future with head held high.
The transaction was complete, and, as expected, Elpída left empty handed.