Before Wis' Apothecary
Look forward to a tale about our masterful Wisteria Amberfinch!
It look months. Literally months. But my second-to-last story in the sequel to Welcome to Wis' Apothecary is finally finished, and I can't wait to share it with you! The rough draft comes out to 160 pages, which is three times longer than the longest story in the first volume. I hesitate to even call it a short story, but I'm okay with breaking the formula here.
Why? Because it has to do with Master Wis long before she became the infamous master, and how her past ultimately led to her opening up the apothecary that we all know and love today.
Literally a sneak peek of the back cover for volume 2!
Not her story alone
In this story, you'll meet a pivotal character from Wis' past: Rhodea Wissallis. Her best friend.
"Together, we looked like two flowers in a garden, her hair a floral pink to my violet purple. It was held up in double buns, with slender bangs framing her face. Her ears were pointed, betraying her fae ancestry."
Rhodea is from a different country, on the brink of civil war. She comes to the same atelier where Wis is learning magic, a small boarding school-of-sorts belonging to the The Circle of the Lilac Grove - a coven led by Wis' own mother. Though Wis is ostracized by her classmates for her talent and nepotistic roots, the two outsiders find one another and quickly become friends.
At that moment, Rhodea stepped out into the courtyard like she was looking for someone. Several of
the girls who had already finished eating swarmed her immediately, like ravenous birds.
“What’s with your accent?”
“Where are you from?”
“Are all dryads as pretty as you?”
“Come sit with us!”
I rolled my eyes at the mindless chatter and having polished off the last of my lunch, I started for the book in my lap.
That’s when Rhodea spotted me, and pushed past the crowd to head my direction.
“I wouldn’t go over there!” Estesia warned. “You wouldn’t want any of Ms. Know-it-All’s brown nose to rub off on you.”
Rhodea waved at Estesia but ignored her warning, and happily plopped down on the grass next to me.
“What are you doing?” I asked, looking up from my book.
“Hello again.” She smiled brightly. “The potion today ended up rather excellent, no?”
“Mm.” Perhaps if I continued reading, she’d get bored and go away.
“I love potions!” She stretched her legs and kicked her feet mindlessly. “That’s why I want to be a witch. To help people with my magic.”
“Good for you.” I growled softly, my patience with the new girl running thin. Couldn’t she see I wanted to be left alone?
“What do you want to do?”
“Why do you care?” I finally looked up from my book, my tone a bit more aggressive than I intended. “Sorry… that was rude.”
Rhodea just laughed it off with a big smile. “Answer my question for forgiveness.”
I rolled my eyes, but because I felt bad, I entertained her. “My mom is the high priestess. Well, you heard back there.”
“Yes, yes.” Rhodea giggled.
“Anyway, I suppose one day I’ll be the next high priestess.”
“No, that’s not what I asked.”
“I asked what Wis wants to do.”
Our eyes connected, for just a brief moment, but I quickly looked away before her acute gaze could violate me any further. It was like she was searching for some kind of unspoken truth from deep within my very soul.
“Look, I wouldn’t hang around me if I were you.” I sighed, nodding my head towards Estesia and the girls who were already whispering. “You’ll become a pariah.”
“Pariah?” Rhodea tilted her head. “I’m not familiar with this word.”
“An outcast. An outsider.”
“Oh.” Rhodea made a face, and shifted on the ground to get back onto her feet.
It was for the best, I tried to reassure myself. For both of us. I leaned back up against the tree and returned to my book. Or at least I tried to. Rhodea stood in front of me, and didn’t budge.
“Yes?” I was getting frustrated again.
“This pariah, does it bother you?”
“No, of course not.” I refused to look up at her from my book. Until she spoke next.
“It doesn’t bother me, either. I’m used to it.” She dusted off her backside and the blades of grass that had been clinging to her sprinkled back down below. “Back home, I’m an outcast too.”
How could she say that with a smile? If a painful past was hiding beyond her cheerful venire, her lips were excellent camouflage. She wasn’t just trying to pity me, was she? But her words were matter-of-fact, and as earnest as her face.
“Then… why?” I shook my head in exasperation.
“You’re a good person.”
“You don’t know anything about me.”
“I can just tell.” She giggled with a casual shrug of her shoulders.
Rhodea extended a hand towards me, the sunlight draping behind her like a cloak. She was so bright, I had to raise my arm to shield my eyes.
I found the shade of my tree so comfortable. There was nothing wrong with that, right? Then why did I feel so challenged? Her warmth was so genuine, it made the idea of stepping out into the sunlight seem tolerable. No, desirable.
Even so, my hand fell short of hers. I hesitated.
Radiating the way she was, if I reached out and accepted her touch… would it just leave me burned?
“Let’s be friends, okay?”
It wasn’t a question, but a declaration. Rhodea didn’t even wait for me to meet her half way. She just took my hand in hers and grasped tightly. The next thing I knew, I was being pulled up off the ground, her honest laughter welcoming me into her care.
Years later, after Wis successfully tests to become the youngest witch in modern history, civil war finally breaks out in Rhodea's home country. Rhodea abandons her training to go back and help, and Wis decides to come along with her. The war doesn't just put a strain on their relationship, but the events of this war will shape the young Wisteria forever.
Needless to say, this will be...
A Pretty Serious Tale
This story isn't just long. It can also get pretty heavy at times. I have young readers, and I kept that in mind. But I also don't shy away from the realities of war, and how intense some moments can be for these two teenage girls, who really have no business being exposed to such atrocities. I don't get graphic, nor do I think that was necessary for this story. Still, they're traveling apothecaries following the path of war, so you can understand why this was such a pivotal part of Wis' past.
I had read about the ancient swamp of Huriel, but seeing it for myself was something completely different. The expanse of trees stretched endlessly, with some so large, they dwarfed the towering trees of Aramore’s own Pinella Forest. These trees were so colossal, their branches could have supported entire homes, their roots entire highways.
They rose magnificently above a dazzling but complicated network of waterways which were like the veins of the forest, disappearing into the confines of the swamp to hide their true breadth and influence. It would have been breathtaking, if my awe hadn’t been already violently snatched away.
Billows of smoke angrily climbed up into the air like claws tearing open the sky. It was a stark contrast to the lovely shades of green that made up the wetlands, and hazed what should have been an otherwise clear and beautiful day. It tickled the back of my throat uncomfortably.
Just as shocking was the river of people billowing out from the forest as well, an exodus of terrified Hurielians running to escape the horrors from within. I couldn’t even begin to count the number, and felt unimaginably sad for everyone below who were being forced to abandon their homes.
“Wis, go lower.”
“My parents. What if they’re down there?”
As we descended, the indistinguishable mass became a highway of beaten faces and tired children long past the point of shedding tears. A horse was crumpled on the ground, flies hungrily circling the body, its carriage full of luggage abandoned in a hurry. Dropped belongings and rotten food littered the ground, stepped on and ignored like any other rock or petty obstacle. I spotted a children’s doll on the roadside, defiled with mud, and wondered if its owner was crying for it.
My heart sank to the bottom of my stomach. Now it was I who felt sick.
Of the fleeing people, almost all were dryads. Mostly women and children, or those too old to really be traveling like this. Bark coated their skin, a condition I observed amongst only elderly dryads. A very pregnant woman, accompanied by only two small children, caught my attention. As did a wounded young man, with more than half of his body covered in bandages.
How much further could all these people go? Their arduous journey was just beginning. Crossing the mountains and braving the elements would be an insurmountable task. But what choice did they have except to keep marching forward?
I turned back to ask Rhodea if she was okay, but before I could, someone started shouting at us from below. It was a panicked woman frantically waving up at us, a small child clinging to her back. I didn’t understand what she was saying, but I didn’t need to. They boy’s eyes were closed, his face flushed, stained with dirt, and twisted in discomfort.
“Look!” Rhodea pointed, tears held in the corner of her eyes.
“But what about your parents?”
“Let’s help first.”
"Magic Exists to Help People."
This is a theme repeated constantly in the first volume, and a dearly held belief by Isabel. But she only holds this belief because of her teacher. And Wis came to hold this conviction because of Rhodea. But why hasn't Rhodea been brought up before now? Why doesn't Wis talk much about her past?
I've mentioned this before, but Wis is my favorite character. Of course I love Isabel, but Wis is really just as special to me. Yet, there's so much the reader doesn't know about her by the end of the first volume. She's as mysterious as she is wise, and guarded as she is powerful. We don't get much of her, because frankly, the stories aren't about her. But this story is. And I hope it answers many questions about our beloved instructor. So please look forward to it, and everything else volume two will hold! I'm very, very excited to share it with you all.
Thanks for reading, and until next time!