Chapter Two

The apothecary lay in ruins.  Jars lie broken on the floor, their contents trampled underfoot.  Strange smells lay thick on the air; old spices and dried herbs and… something else.  Blood?  Fear?  Something.

Mica squinted her eyes, peering past the gloom, looking for any sign of life.  Jasmine pressed her body against the wall, willing herself to blend into the cold stone, to disappear.  Slowly the pair edged their way inside.

The apothecary was once a place of peace, of life.  Both the workshop and living space of Jasmine’s mother Dawn.  Many were the long hours she had spent at her mothers knees while the elder woman bound herbs for drying or prepared a medicinal tea.

Dawn had made the space holy with her presence.  The apothecary was a place of healing, of peace.  Its ruin mocked Jasmine’s memories, laughed at her fear and pain.

Drops of blood discolored the counters, mixed with the myriad herbs on the floor.  Jasmine’s heart skipped a beat but her face never betrayed the turmoil within her breast.  Her mother may need help, may even lay dying in the next room or it might be a trap waiting to end them.  The minions of the Demon usurper were treacherous.

No matter how much she wanted to run into her mother’s chambers Jasmine forced herself to move slowly, cautiously.  Make no sound, check for trip wires and traps, surprise was the Amazon’s most potent weapon.  Finally, the pair reached the far doorway leading to Dawn’s chambers, Mica readied herself on one side, Jasmine on the other.  They glanced at each other and nodded in unison, an entire conversation shared in the one look.

They breathed deeply, readied their knives and, in unison, rolled into the room ready for a skirmish.  Jasmine leapt to her feet, her arm out, ready to grapple with an opponent, her knife held close to her body point facing out.  Mica stayed low, crouching to one side of her friend and compatriot, balancing on the balls of her feet, one hand lightly touching the floor the other ready to thrust her blade into the enemy.

The room was empty.  The ruin of the apothecary didn’t extend into Dawn’s living quarters.  It was almost as though the older woman might be returning at any moment from a long day tending her garden.

Puzzled the pair glanced again at each other then moved cautiously about the room.  The bed was pushed up against the wall, blankets folded neatly and placed on a small table ready to be used for sleep.  Dawn’s scent permeated the room, flowers and herbs and something else, something that was just… her.

Jasmine’s eyes teared up and her chest heaved.  Her mother was gone, she might be a captive or tortured or dead for all she knew and there was nothing she could do about it.  Mica moved to her friend and put her arms around her, burying her friend’s sobs in her embrace.

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