Ogre Enchanted


WORMY WAS DISTRACTED. I counted three symptoms:

He kept forgetting to mash my inglebot fungus.

He twice asked me to repeat why Master Kian's cough had seemed odd.

Whenever I looked at him, he was wetting his lips, although-exasperatingly-nothing emanated from them.

Soon he'd need a remedy for chapping.

He was spoiling our daily companionable time, when we worked together in my apothecary (in a corner of Mother's kitchen) and chatted; we were old friends, though we were both just fifteen.

"Wormy, what did you notice on your way here?"

"Drag leg. Ferocious sneeze. Palsy. A gentleman who tripped over nothing." He named streets: "Moorcroft, sorry-don't know where the sneeze lives-Ashton, Westover."

"You're a miracle." He never missed anything.

Wormy was a healer's best friend. He knew almost everyone and where almost everyone lived, and he had a fine eye for symptoms, as well as for beauty, which-shame on me-interested me less. He arrived midmorning every day, after working on the books for his parents' various enterprises. Not a coin remained unaccounted for when he was in charge.

Half my patients came from his observations. He told me about sufferers, and I tracked them down. Healing was my calling and my joy.

"Thank you." I patted his hand.

He blushed. He'd been blushing often. This blush seemed too brilliant. "Do you have one of your headaches?"

He shrugged. "Maybe." The blush faded.

I teased, "Maybe I'll treat you."

The blush flared again.

"Are you feverish?"


Grimwood, my fever remedy, tasted bitter.

He smiled. "Grimwood cures as many patients by being threatened as swallowed."

I smiled back. "A good healer knows when to just mention a remedy and when to pry open a jaw."

A moment later we spoke at exactly the same moment. He said, "Evie?" and I said, "Wormy?"

Ah. He was finally going to reveal what had been occupying him.

But he insisted I go first, and I didn't mind. Unless an emergency case came in, we'd be together the rest of the day.

I reached into my cupboard for my darkroot salve. "Sit."

He sat on my stool and gazed up at me. I felt the satisfaction of an artisan surveying her good work. His chestnut skin glowed with health-and with his blush. His brown eyes were bright. "If you saw yourself on the street, Wormy, you'd have nothing to report to me. A headache is invisible."

"People are patients or nothing to you."

A mere dab of the ointment was all I needed. I began to rub it into his temples, my fingertips describing tiny circles, always going counterclockwise. "You are my friend. How lucky I am that you're also delicate, and you like my ministrations."

When we were eleven, I'd set his broken ankle. Before then, I'd treated only birds, rabbits, and mice. Afterward, I'd made his stomachaches vanish, his headaches recede, and his fevers fade, and I'd spooned unpleasant concoctions into him to convince him he was well when he merely thought himself sick.

Gradually, I'd garnered more human patients, but I'd always be grateful to him for being first.

He breathed deeply. Either that was the headache receding, or it was a sigh. If a sigh, why?

"What were you going to say, Evie?"

Oh, yes. "Wormy, am I peculiar?"


"Who else my age wants nothing more than to take care of sick people?" I continued rubbing. "Who else reeks of camphor at least once a week?"

"Or worse," he said solemnly.

I nodded. "Pig bladder!" Stinky, but excellent when wrapped around a sprain. "I'll be an outcast! People will want peculiar me when they're sick and never otherwise."

He raised an eyebrow. "Some folk are friendlier at a gathering, a dance, even"-he stage-whispered-"a ball."

I kept to myself at such affairs. "I'd rather observe for symptoms than talk or dance." Although I liked dancing. I lifted my fingers. "How is the headache?"

"Better, but it's still there."

I returned to rubbing.

"You're not peculiar. You're remarkable." Wormy slid off the stool. "Evie?"


Someone banged on the front door. Rupert, our manservant, would answer, but pounding meant an emergency.



I put the salve on my worktable.

It was as well I went, because Oobeeg, a ten-year-old giant, couldn't fit through our door. Weeping, he gasped out his story. His mother, Farmer Aeediou, had had a brush with an ogre. She was alive because her hound, Exee, had sunk his teeth in the ogre's throat before it could say a word. Still, by the time the ogre died, it had lured her close enough to deliver a gash to her leg. With their honeyed words and irresistible voices, ogres could persuade people to do anything.

Calling behind me, I rushed back to the apothecary. "I'll get supplies. Don't leave. I'll be quick."

Untreated, the cut would kill Aeediou. Whatever Wormy had been about to say would have to wait.

Back in the apothecary, while I nested a pot of honey in my healer's basket, I told him what had happened. Where was my packet of turmeric?

There it was. Now I needed my flask of vinegar.

I smelled lilacs.

I turned to see and forgot everything in staring. A woman stood behind Wormy. How had she arrived without a sound?

She was a vision of health and beauty: yellow hair cascading to wide shoulders, garnet lips, blue eyes, and petal-smooth skin.

Wormy said, "Oh!"

She must have been dosed to create such perfection. What herbs? Periwinkle, for those eyes? Strawberry juice, for that skin? What else?

And what a smile. What teeth. I blinked.

"Young Master"-her voice rang out, as if her chest were as big as a castle-"speak your mind! Brook no delay!"

"Welcome!" I curtsied and wished my apron weren't shapeless and grease-stained.

"Thank you." She nodded graciously. "Continue, Young Master."

I remembered Aeediou. "Mistress, this must wait. Beg pardon. I have an injured-"

"I repeat: Continue, Young Master."

How dare she?

Wormy said, "Mistress, there's no hurry for what-"

Her voice gained volume. "Continue!"

Who was she? I gripped tight my manners and my temper. "I am Mistress Evora, called Evie by my friends, and this is Master Warwick." Wormy. "May we have the honor of your acquaintance?"

She drew herself up even taller. "I am the fairy Lucinda."


Wormy bowed.

I curtsied again. "Can you replenish my purpline? And give me a unicorn hair? Or sell both to me?" Purpline-dragon urine-cured almost everything, even barley blight, and lately there had been none in the market. Unicorn hair in a soup was nonpareil for fever. "I'd also welcome anything else for an ogre scratch, enough for a giant."

She seemed not to hear. "The young man will say his piece."

Wormy dropped to his knees, as a puppet might. "Evie, will you"-his Adam's apple popped in and out-"marry me?"

The woman clapped her hands. "So sweet!"

That was his secret? That he wanted to ruin our friendship?

"I relish proposals"-Lucinda jigged a quick hop-step-"and weddings and births. If I can, I come." Her hands embraced each other. "Proposals are the start-"

"No, Wormy, dear. Thank you for asking me, though." I put the vinegar in my basket with my next-to-last vial of purpline. "I must leave." But curiosity held me. "Why do you want to marry me?"

He stood up. "Because . . ." He shrugged. "You're you."

Did he think-being me-I'd say yes? He knew my ideas about marriage.

And I didn't believe he could truly be in love with me. As his healer, I made him feel better. He'd confused loving health with loving me. That was my diagnosis: imaginary infatuation, which would clear up as soon as we got a little older.

"And you can stop working so hard." His family was rich. "But"-his blush returned-"pretend I didn't ask."

"Why won't you marry him?"

I picked up my basket. "He's Wormy." Yes, I loved him-the way I loved my pet rabbit. I didn't even know how romantic love felt. We were too young. If Wormy didn't think he was, I thought we both were. I didn't know if I'd ever want to marry anyone. But I didn't have time to explain. "Good day." I'd be two hours riding to Aeediou's farm. A few farms owned by giants covered the rolling hills near Jenn, though most lay in the west near the elves' Forest.

"I urge you to reconsider. If you persist in breaking this young man's heart, you will suffer the consequences."

Wormy's jaw hung open.

I picked up my herb basket. "If I accept him, we'll both suffer the consequences." No one should marry before they were ready-and certain.

For a moment she looked puzzled; then her face cleared.

My mind emptied. The kitchen tiles no longer seemed to be beneath me. Somewhere, fabric ripped.

My mind filled again. I held my arms out for balance and felt the floor under my feet. My mouth tasted gamy and spoiled, as if I'd swallowed a three-day-dead squirrel.

Wormy's jaw was still unhinged. He extended my name. "Evie-ee . . . there's hair on your face."

Not what I expected to hear. I started to lift a hand to my cheek but stopped and held the hand out. Hair sprouted there. My fingernails were long and filthy.

My stomach rose into my throat.

"Evie . . . you're an ogre."