Hazel and Holly — Hawthorn’s Help
Previous: Spoil Sport
Hazel sat at the kitchen table, sipping some tea as she peered out the window. Where did Holly run off to? Not that she should complain. Hemlock would be coming over soon, and it was growing increasingly difficult to talk to him without Holly coming by to see what they were doing.
Hazel felt a twinge of guilt for excluding Holly in her dealings with Hemlock, but it really was for the best. Holly was a simple, gentle soul, and this grisly business with their mother was upsetting–for both of them, yes, but perhaps even more so for Holly. She didn’t need to be dragged into the details of finding their necromancer father. Nor was there telling what fate awaited him when they did. Knowing Holly, she’d likely hug him and forgive him on the spot, conveniently forgetting everything he’d done. It would be easier for all of them to keep Holly ignorant of the matter, and resolve it as quickly and as quietly as was possible.
If, of course, it was even possible at all. Hemlock’s enquiries at the last warlock Conclave had failed to produce results, and the next one was many weeks away. She and Hemlock had been meeting to discuss their options, but they seemed to be dwindling without much else in sight. It all might be a glorious waste of time, as was Hazel’s efforts to protect Holly from any unsavory details.
Hazel continued to sip her tea, waiting and wondering until Hemlock appeared on the woodland path. She got up and opened the door just as he was about to rap upon it.
He blinked at her. “Ah, Hazel, hello. Fine day, isn’t it?”
She pulled him inside and closed the door. “It’s summer, the days are almost always fine and terribly boring to discuss. Let’s just get to business, shall we?”
Hemlock blinked again several times and said, “Ah, yes. Of course.” He cleared his throat. “I have sent several letters to warlocks of acquaintance to make inquiries among them. They, ah, unfortunately have all gone unanswered.” He blinked at her some more. “I will keep trying though, of course.”
Hazel sat down on the couch and shook her head. “I am beginning to think it’s all quite pointless. No one seems to know anything, or if they do, they’re not talking. I’m not any closer to finding my father than I was before our… partnership.” She looked at him. “I’m afraid I’ve wasted your time.”
“Don’t be ridiculous. I…”
Hazel got up and opened the door. “Thank you, Hemlock, for everything you’ve done. But perhaps we should part ways now before wasting any more time and making utter fools of ourselves.”
Hemlock’s mouth worked soundlessly a while and, before he could find his voice, Tum bolted through the open doorway, dragging behind him a bulging bag.
“Close the door!” he shouted. “Bar it, barricade it, whatever you need to do, just do it!”
“What–” Hazel began when Holly then bolted through the door after him. She ran into her bedroom and closed the door and didn’t come back out.
“What on earth is happening?” Hazel said.
“Guards!” Tum said as he tried wedging himself under the couch, but he was too big and wouldn’t fit. He burrowed under the cushions instead. “They got grabby hands, and I don’t abide grabby hands.” He pulled a cushion down on top of him and disappeared, visible only from the slight bulge on the seat of the couch.
Hazel’s mouth hung open.
“Watch out!” Hemlock said and pulled her away from the door as a pair of guards charged into her living room.
“Now see here!” Hazel said, but the guards paid her no mind. They walked up to the bag Tum left lying on the floor, grabbed it, and upendended the contents. Silver spoons and plates clanged to the floor, along with a teddy bear, a knitted striped scarf, and a few crumpled pieces of paper.
Holly poked her head out the door. “That doesn’t belong to you!”
“It certainly doesn’t belong to you!” One of the guards said as he turned towards her, and Holly squeaked and disappeared back into her room.
The other guard bent down and picked up the teddy bear. “Hey, Garret. Look.” He held up the bear and, in a high-pitched voice, said, “I will love you forever.”
Garret scowled at him. “Don’t be an ass, Sid.”
Sid sniggered and continued to wave the bear at Garret while making kissing sounds.
“I said, knock it off.” Garret swiped at the bear, but Sid yanked his hand back. Garret lunged towards him, and Sid laughed and threw the bear out the door, where it landed at the toes of Hawthorn’s finely polished boots.
Both guards straightened and Sid cleared his throat. “Didn’t see you there, sir. We were just retrieving your things, as well as apprehending the thieves.”
Hawthorn picked up the bear and gently dusted it off. He clutched it to his chest while peering at the guards before moving his attention to Hazel and Hemlock.
“Hemlock, how could you?”
“I-I didn’t…” Hemlock said.
Holly stepped out of her room. “It was me. I took them.” She scowled at the guards. “Do your worst!”
The guards moved towards her, but Hazel put herself between them and Holly.
“Nobody is doing anything in my house without my permission. Now, you two will tell me what’s going on, or I’ll turn the both of you into potted plants.”
Holly gasped. “But that’s what I do,” she whispered.
Garret pointed a finger at her. “Your sister there is a thieving shrew. She needs to account for her crime.”
Hazel stiffened her back and lifted her chin. “And just how, exactly, did she gain access to the house? You two stand guard at the gate, do you not?”
Sid shuffled his feet and cast Garret a nervous glance, but Garret just grew angry. He jabbed a finger towards Hazel, “I imagine with her witching ways.”
“She turned herself into mist!” Sid said.
Garret closed his eyes and tightened his jaw. He turned towards Sid. “What mist?”
Sid seemed to shrink within himself a little. “I saw it… all pale and… misty.”
Garret punched him in the shoulder and Sid staggered back. “You’re an idiot.” To Hazel, he said, “She confessed to the crime, that’s all we need to know.”
Hazel scowled at the guards. “Am I the only one here that will acknowledge the gnome hiding under the couch cushions?”
“Hazel, no,” Holly whispered.
Hazel ignored her. “The same gnome that was carrying the bag of stolen goods that’s still lying at your feet. Why doesn’t he need to account for anything?”
Garret’s frown faded and he seemed less sure of himself. “She confessed,” he murmured.
Hazel made a disgusted sound and walked over to the couch, threw off the cushions, and grabbed Tum by the collar of his shirt and lifted him up.
Tum screeched and howled as he flailed his arms and legs. “Hands off! Grabber!”
Hazel thrust Tum at Garret, and Tum grabbed hold of Garret’s uniform and scrabbled up his chest and towards his head.
Garret cried out and backed away, swatting at Tum. “Get it off me!” he cried.
But Tum wouldn’t budge. He planted a hand on Garret’s nose and hoisted himself up. With his feet on Garret’s shoulder, Tum launched himself to the ground where he then grabbed a couple of spoons off the floor before running out the door and out of sight.
Garret bent over and rested his hands on his knees as he caught his breath. Then, looking at Hazel, he said, “You’ll pay for that.”
Hemlock stepped forward. “My, what an exciting afternoon. Thankfully, it’s all over and done with.”
“But, sir–” Garret said.
Hemlock clapped him on the shoulder and smiled. “Fine work today, Garret. You too, Sid. Hawthorn and I can take over from here. You two return home. Can’t leave the gate unattended too long, now can we?”
Garret straightened, his face impassive. “No, sir.” To Sid, he said, “Come on,” and then walked out the door.
Sid hesitated a moment and glanced at Hawthorn, but the warlock just frowned and clutched the bear closer to his chest, and so Sid cleared his throat and followed Garret out.
After they had gone, Hazel slammed the door shut and locked it. She rounded on Holly. “What on earth were you thinking? Robbing Hemlock and Hawthorn? After they showed us hospitality? Have you no sense of decency?!”
Holly wrung her fingers as she kept her gaze on the floor. “But Tum said…”
“And what exactly did that filthy little beast say to make you think it was a good idea? I’d love to know.”
Holly looked up at her, and then at Hawthorn, and then returned her gaze to the floor. “Nothing,” she murmured. “It’s not important.”
Hazel put a hand over her eyes and let out a ragged sigh. “I swear, Holly, you’ll be the death of me, and on days like today, I can’t wait for that to happen.”
Holly swallowed, but her gaze remained fixed downward.
Hemlock cleared his throat. “No harm done, really. I’m sure this has all just been a playful misunderstanding. Isn’t that right, Hawthorn?”
Hawthorn frowned while tightening his grip on the bear. He walked over to the remaining stolen goods still scattered on the floor. He picked up the scarf, smelled it, and then wrapped it around his neck. He moved his long fingers over the spoons and plates, picking up at last one of the crumpled pieces of paper. He smoothed it out, read it, and tossed it back onto the floor. “I suppose you’re right,” he said, straightening. “No harm done. What I don’t understand, Brother, is why you are here if you didn’t have a hand in this… playfulness.”
Hemlock’s cheeks reddened. “I am afraid that is a private matter between me and Hazel.”
“No, it’s not!” Holly cried. “I want to know why you’re always here, and what you two are always whispering about!” She folded her arms and scowled at him.
Hawthorn stood next to her and folded his arms as well. “I’m afraid you’ll have to come clean, Brother.”
Hazel closed her eyes and sighed. “Just tell them.”
Hemlock’s mouth worked soundlessly a moment before he managed to say, “Well, it’s about your father, Holly.”
Holly’s scowl depened. “What about him?”
Hemlock glanced at Hazel again, and then said, “As you know, we’ve been trying to find him. What you might not know is we suspect he’s been dealing in necromancy.”
Both Hawthorn and Holly unfolded their arms. Hawthorn looked pale, but Holly looked confused and mildly disappointed. “Is that all?” she said. “Why’ve you been keeping that a secret?”
Hemlock blinked a few times. “Well, we… uh…”
“We didn’t want to upset you, Holly,” Hazel said.
“And so you lurk around being all creepy and secretive? You thought that was a better idea?”
“Well,” Hemlock said. “When you put it like that…”
Hazel shook her head. “It doesn’t matter. All our efforts have turned up nothing, and so Hemlock won’t be coming around anymore, so you have nothing to worry about.”
“What do you mean you haven’t had any luck?” Holly said. “Why not?”
“I’m afraid my contacts in the Conclave don’t know anything,” Hemlock said. “We’ve come to a dead end.”
Silence hung in the room, and then Hawthorn walked over to the crumpled papers on the floor, picked them up and, with a flourish, handed them over to Hemlock.
Hemlock frowned as he took the papers. “What’s this?”
“Your way forward, it would seem,” Hawthorn said.
Hemlock read the papers and then, shaking his head, looked up at Hawthorn. “I don’t understand. What is this?”
“I have an acquaintance in the Conclave that you do not share. He is one of the oldest members and, as such, is given more leeway for not attending than the other warlocks.” Hawthorn turned towards Holly. “If anyone knows how to find your father, it will be him.”
Hazel said, “And why would he tell you anything at all?”
Hawthorn smiled, showing his perfect white teeth. “As it happens, he owes me a favor.”