Previous: Whispers In The Kitchen
The rain had stopped. It was a new day. Noella ran down stairs to make breakfast. Already, the thought of taking another recipe from the box excited her. Although she thought she heard the strange whispers the whole night, she dismissed it as the combined sounds of rain, perhaps croaking toads, and maybe night birds, all exaggerated by her unreasonable fear.
She had remained aware of her brother's death, although a part of her could still not believe it. And perhaps she would never learn to accept it. But she would need to regain her strength, and the only place she could think of finding it was the kitchen. Suddenly, Noella had a strong urge to cook. So strong, it had (for that time) surpassed the importance of Sebastian's death. She would cook now, and solve the mystery of her brother's death some other time.
On her way to the kitchen, Noella first took a quick stop at the wash room downstairs. She felt that she really had to brush her teeth first and wash her face, as if cooking in the kitchen were as important as visiting someone special. As she patted her face dry, she gazed at her reflection in the mirror. Her dark honey blond hair seemed darker today, like chocolate, and that must be good, because it emphasized her delicate features, and her youthful fair skin. She had baby blue eyes, which normally appeared dull and faded. But today they seemed bigger and livelier, like a pair of round sapphire stones waiting for the gemologist's appraisal. For a moment, Noella almost believed she was beautiful.
Oh, who am I kidding! She thought. I'll never be attractive, let alone become beautiful! Ever since she left the Mezcado House she felt detached from everyone, like she never belonged. The more she felt that way, the lower her self-esteem went. She felt insecure, always inferior to the rest of the world. And although her face, with little improvement, could have won her titles in beauty pageants, her lack of confidence made her appear plain looking, if not unappealing. With much practice, blending into the crowd became one talent Noella excelled at.
After pulling her fine hair up in a ponytail, Noella went straight to the kitchen.
The shiny black metal recipe box had been on top of the kitchen table where she left it. She chose to make cream cheese omelet of pigeon's eggs (because she couldn't find chicken eggs), and toast, but she could not make a decision whether she should have coffee, fresh fruit juice, or tea with her meal. "Coffee? Hmmm... Or should I walk downhill to the fruit stand? Maybe I could prepare tea and--" She had not yet finished talking to herself when a card in the box, touched by the tip of her finger, flashed, naturally catching her attention. Did she just imagine that? She pulled the recipe card out.
TO MAKE HARBINGER'S TEA
Boil lavender and chamomile leaves in 3 cups of spring water, add dandelion, cinquefoil, eyebright, and a dash of powdered belladonna leaves. Flavor with wild cherries and honey. Brew for 3 minutes. Chant while stirring:
"I stir harbinging gifts into this tea,
that warnings from the future I may see."
That's strange, she thought. But she made the tea nonetheless, just as it was printed on the recipe card.
Aside from its unique taste, there was nothing special about the first sip. Nothing overwhelming, unimaginable or, magickal. Of course, the tea was refreshing, with a subtle flowery fragrance that complemented the fruity flavor of wild cherry. The mild sweetness of honey lingered in her mouth and triggered pleasant memories, but nothing more. What was it called "The Harbinger's Tea" for? She would soon find out.
"Harbinging gifts into this tea... Woooh! Harbinging. Huh! What was I thinking! Stupid recipe with a silly chant..." she chuckled before taking her last sip. Then, it came. Suddenly her heart pounded in her chest. And without warning her muscles tensed and then she realized that she was unconsciously holding her breath. Her vision blurred and then everything was dark. Oh no, I poisoned myself! Noella thought she was going to die.
She fell on the ground and was inanimate for a few seconds as though in a coma. When Noella revived from the temporary stupor, she quickly gasped for air. Then she slowly sat up, dazed. More than her passage through lethargy, it was the memory of what she saw in her mind's eye, while she was in the trance, that disturbed her. She quivered.
In her vision Noella had seen three masked intruders, in dark clothing. They had entered the Mezcado House by breaking the kitchen window and as her vision progressed, she could saw them moving from room to room, pulling the house apart. She could hear them laughing like mad men. They had brought a black sack with them, and they had used it to carry things they had stolen: her mother's jade collection from Burma, the brass elephants her father carried home from his trip to Thailand, their silverware, and many other things that had survived their house after Sebastian's death, including the old shiny black recipe box. And then the events had simply flowed too fast she did not have the time to process the events. As the vision faded, she could see one of the trespassers dragging her lifeless body to the front room. Assisted by the two others, he had wrapped her with the dusty carpet. She could see him hide her in the store room. She could see her cloudy eyes stare blankly.
I'm dead! Noella gasped.
It was a horrible vision. And it scared her to her bones because it felt so real. She rose from the floor, sat at the table, and tried to eat more omelet. What had been pleasant to the palate just a while ago now tasted worse than ink flavored paper. Something bitter formed at the back of her throat and she felt sick. Tears streamed from her eyes. It was the first time she cried from the day she received news of her brother's death. She had lived a very independent life since she was twelve, and she always wanted to believe she was strong. But now, fate seemed to challenge her strength. Noella felt fragile and vulnerable.
"No. I can't just stay here crying like a child. I must do something! Whether what I saw was a result of my depression and underlying fear or whether it is a forboding, doesn't matter. I must prepare in any case." Noella stood up and searched the box. First I must find strength and courage,she thought. "If a recipe from the box can make me feal weak and afraid, then there should be a recipe in here that will do the opposite. Now i'll find it first and then do something to make the house burglar-proof after."
She was not yet done talking when she thought something shimmered in the box. When she pulled it out, she was no longer surprised. It was a recipe card with the recipe to obtain the powers of a dragon. "Hmmm, Envigorating Dragon Stew. Exactly what I need. Isn't the dragon the symbol for strength? Ingredients... turkey wings, gila monster's tongue, beaded lizard's scales, shallots, garlic, tomato sauce, chili pepper, red bell peppers, paprika, turmeric... Some of the ingredients suggests this is an exoctic dish. Nothing I can't buy in the downtown marketplace though. Yes, this is it alright!" She already felt a little more confident just reading the recipe.
That evening, Noella had dragon stew for dinner.
Next: Blame It On The Dragon Stew