With its lacy leaves and small white flowers this plant doesn’t look nasty, but hemlock is a seriously poisonous plant. Every part of it – the leaves, flowers, bark, roots – all carry dangerous alkaloids that kill in fairly small quantities.
Just about everyone knows the story of Socrates and how he was executed with a dose of hemlock back in the days of ancient Romans. The poison causes muscular paralysis, then respiratory collapse and death. People who were with Socrates at his death wrote that he was talking while the paralysis climbed up his legs into his torso!
In mediaeval times the plant was used by herbalists to heal in minute doses. No doubt a few deaths occurred as people experimented with the dose, perhaps it was used to murder a few times as well.
For my stories, I needed a potion to banish an undead sorcerer. What better plant to use, than the deadly hemlock! Unfortunately, the internet isn’t overflowing with recipes for banishing undead sorcerers – but with a little artistic license I constructed a spell that could possibly work…
I opened the Vae Magie. The pages flicked and stopped. A decorated page glimmered in the lantern light. Mandrake root, hemlock, a hair from the head of Quintus, and my blood would meld together this morning, would bind together in a banishing spell that had to work.
Lyken pulled two bowls and spoons from the shelves under the bench that ran along the wall in the potions room.
… I ran my fingertips across the pages of my Vae Magie and reread for the umpteenth time the recipe for the banishing spell. Lyken handed the largest bowl and spoon to me.
I took his hand in mine. “We will do the final part of the invocationtogether.”
Lyken nodded. “As it should be.”
… Lyken had already grated the freshly gathered mandrake root and pounded it into a pulp. All I had to do was spoon a quantity into each bowl and stir in a measure of alcohol. He added a long stick of cinnamon and a pinch of saffron to both bowls. Neither masked the foul odor. The smell kept my mind alert, and the mechanical activity kept my fingers busy.
… I rotated the vial of hemlock in my hand. The small amber bottleheld enough of the oily poison to kill us all. I lifted the stopper and quickly returned it. A disagreeable mousy odor filled my nose.
An acrid taste touched the back of my throat. Neither the mandrake root nor the hemlock would kill Quintus the way they would a living person. He was already dead. But with the help of this spell, my will would see him off. I had to dampen down my own energy so he couldn’t feed off it.
I nodded. I could do it. I would tell him to be gone.
… I shook my gaze back to the workbench, gave the muddy liquid in my bowls a quick stir, and added two drops of hemlock to the banishing bowl and one drop to my father’s invocation bowl. I still had my spells to finish.
I covered my father’s bowl with an altar cloth and opened the drawer of henbane. A stink of foul body odor wafted upward. A single pinch of powdered henbane separated the invocation to raise my father from the spell that would banish Quintus.
The banishing spell required the most concentration. I’d do that first. With one hand gripping my nose, I added a pinch of henbane to the brew. I drew a small circle around myself, teased a single silver hair from the mourning locket, dropped it into the liquid in the bowl, and stirred slowly. With each circuit of the spoon, I repeated just two words: Begone, Quintus.
“Lyken, help me finish the banishing spell.”
Lyken jumped onto the bench, sniffed at the banishing brew, and nodded his head. He lifted the cloth from my father’s bowl and gave the mandrake root and hemlock brew a whisk.
Rose followed Lyken to the bench, her cheeks flushed pink. “What are the magic words?”
“All words have magic. My intent will weave them together,” I said.
“Make your intent strong, mistress.”
Rose squished her eyebrows together. “I don’t understand.”
“It’s not the words.” Lyken passed the needle through the flame again. “Meagan will create an effect to deliver her will.”
It had to be enough, enough to keep Ravenswood for me, and enough to stop Quintus from turning me into a mirror image of him.
Lyken passed a needle through the flame and pricked my finger again. This time he squeezed out three drops of blood. I glanced at the simple words I’d written a few hours ago. Begone. In the name of Haebeth, never trouble me again.
I unstoppered two small glass bottles, a thick black for Quintus and a pinky-red bottle for the invocation potion to call my father.
Lyken bobbed his head. Already, magic entwined our thoughts. “Midnight tonight. We will make it so, mistress.”
Are you enjoying these posts in the AtoZChallenge? I’m enjoying writing them. More than I thought I might 😀