Chapter 2:

The Cat in the Bell Tower

The Wheel of Miss Fortune [Collab]

The high priest Xander ran as much and as fast as he could as he carried Kasca.

“Shut your eyes, child!” He yelled at her. Whether she listened to him or not, he didn’t know but she couldn’t see the destruction the cats had wrought. She couldn’t see the cats glaring with their jeweled eyes and growing anger. He could feel the energy drain from his body as he ran closer and closer to the bell tower.

“P-please,” Kasca muttered. The holy man could feel the energy drain from the both of them. “We have to hurry!”

No, no, no, he knew this. It was only his arrogance that made this young girl nearly sacrifice herself to the Lord for a village that didn’t help her mother with all the impurities she took from them. It was his influence that caused this young girl, no, this young woman into the outskirts of the village. Xander could feel the guilt nearly consume the rest of his energy as they approached the bell tower, the cats yowling, growling, threatening ever closer to them. He struggled to open the bell tower with the teenager in his arms but, somehow, he managed it.

As the cats attacked him within the open crevice, Xander used what little strength he had left to slam the door shut. He threw his body against the door as the cats tried their hardest to break in. On the word of their owner, Miss Fortune, they didn’t have any will of their own to stop their brutal attacks. Xander may have had to sacrifice himself in order to protect the village. Truly, a man of the cloth would accept his demise for the sake of others but Xander was scared. He was old and he was scared. He was pathetic. Did he truly deserve to be considered the high priest of the town if a little attack by cats scared him so?

Xander noticed that Kasca was still trying to get up from the ground. The cats’ strength only grew in numbers. However, for as holy as he supposedly was, he was human. He was scared. Terrified, he yelled at the young moaning girl on the ground.
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“Child!” His voice echoed in the empty walls. “Child! Don’t mind me! Go up to the bells! Ring them loud!”

Kasca eventually found her head. She had trouble standing and it took a while for her eyes to adjust to the darkened tower. There were remnants of someone who lived there a while ago but Kasca wasn’t too sure how long ago it was but it was long enough for spiders to weave their mark on the furniture. She turned to Xander and immediately understood the situation – she had a duty. She had to go ring the bells. Kasca started to run up the stairs as quick as her own weak legs could carry her. Loreli… her mother… even the high priest depended on her. From what noises she could tell, the cats had turned into pawns of Miss Fortune. How unlucky.

The bells, from what she remembered from her mother’s tales, were a poignant reminder of what the festival was all about. Fifty years ago, it was tradition to bring in the First Dawn Festival by ringing the bells. The bells, rumors said, would bring the New Year’s Sun. Essentially, it would bring the first dawn of the year. It would bring the village together and the demons from the previous year would leave, Miss Fortune included. They hated that sound so very much.

However, after the last owner had passed away, no one took the job of bell keeper to keep the bells ringing. After the first year, it was evident that demons were just a fairy tale. It was all superstitious. Then the next year, someone suggested ringing the bells, but no one wanted to trek up the stairs. The next years rolled in and out… and the bell towers remained empty. No one even bothered to clean up after the previous owner.
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Maybe… maybe this was why Kasca was chosen to bring the village together. Perhaps Miss Fortune disguised herself as Lady Luck to goad her away from the bell tower as it stood in between the buildings for years and no one seemed to talk about it.

Kasca tripped on some stairs but quickly regained composure. She didn’t realize how tired she was or how high these bells were but she had to save everyone. It was up to her!

Once she made her resolve, she finally made it to the bells. Like the bottom floor, spider webs and cobwebs made the holy bells home to generations of spiders and bugs and Kasca was initially disgusted. She looked around quickly and found a broom but as soon as she grabbed it, she heard the door finally fall and the yell of an old, fearful man. Cats’ yowls, growls, and hisses covered the bottom floor and she could easily hear their footsteps quickly running up the steps. Kasca couldn’t hesitate any longer.

Spider webs and cobwebs ruined, if the superstition of financial ruin was true, Kasca herself would be poor for years to come – but she had a job to do. She used the broom to clean up as much dust as she could. The dust fluttered all over the place and she had no choice to sneeze out the dust that came in her sinuses. But she pushed through as she could hear the cats grow closer and closer.

Soon, she was able to see the rope mechanic that clearly made them move. There was just one problem – the rope seemed to be frozen solid.Bookmark here

Kasca saw this and her heart broke. She fell to her knees and looked up.
“N-no…” She looked down and wanted to cry but no tears came out.

“Kasca, you must hurry!” A voice echoed. Kasca couldn’t tell who it was – Loreli, her mother, even Lady Luck herself – but she felt hopeless. “Kasca, you must ring the bells in any way. Please… Do it for Mother!”

The voice surprised her. It was her own voice! She felt something warm well up in her heart and stood up. She hadn’t realized she shut the door behind her and heard the begging of cats scratching and hitting; trying to get the door to open for them. She looked at the broom in her hand and she looked outside the window where the bells were displayed.

She half-expected to see Miss Fortune but she didn’t want to give her a chance to. She waited long enough. Even as the red smoke started to form itself outside of the window, Kasca forced herself to ignore it. No, she didn’t have time for a final monologue. She had came this far! She was tired, cold, probably sick, and starving – she was way too close. She can’t give up now!

Kasca made sure she had a tight grip on the broom as she saw at the corner of her eye. Miss Fortune had fully materialized and had screamed an objection to her. She tried her best to get closer and closer to Kasca but as she got closer, the girl’s broom inched ever closer than Miss Fortune could even reach the teenager.

The first ring echoed across the town. The cats stopped yowling. The whined and groaned in pain as the bell echoed. It hurt even Kasca’s ears but she had to swing again. She didn’t know how many times the bell had to ring for the sun to come up – but she had to hit it as many times as possible. The sooner she saw Miss Fortune wither in pain and disappear, the better off she’ll be.
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Kasca’s ears rang and rang the more the bells moved. The ice on the rope seemed to have broken away and Kasca had quickly grown tired of swinging the broom. She used what little strength she had left to ring the bells the old-fashioned way.

“YOU WRETCHED CHILD! YOU WRETCHED, WRETCHED CHILD! WHAT HAVE YOU DONE? HOW COULD YOU HAVE FIGURED IT OUT?!” The witch screamed as she covered her ears. The bells had a very strong deep sound and Kasca was scared that she herself will go deaf at a young age. The cats, one by one, started to quiet down – or it could just be the bells covered up any and all sounds.

Soon, Miss Fortune disappeared as Kasca continued to ring the bell. She kept ringing the bell for as long as her small body could take it until she just couldn’t anymore. The bells continued to move on its own and echo all around her. It scared Kasca but once she felt she wouldn’t fall out the window due to the vibrations, she felt relaxed. She looked outside the window and saw that the town remembered the bells and what they meant. The winter’s wind kissed her cheek for a job well done. She could feel tears well-up in her eyes and immediately wanted to go downstairs.

The red-head touched the door, as she couldn’t hear anything right at that moment, and didn’t feel anyone or anything on the other side. She opened the door and saw no more cats. They were gone. Dirty paw prints covered the entire area but as long as they were gone, that’s all that mattered.

The high priest! She rushed downstairs and realized how short the actual trip was; she rushed to the old man whose body was covered in bites and scratches. He bled to be sure from the violence the cats imposed on him but he was very happy to see Kasca.

He reached up to touch her soft face and then was unconscious. Kasca felt really bad but she had to open the door. And once she did, she was happy to see the village surround her with smiles. They didn’t seem angry and in fact, seemed to celebrate the fact that the bells were ringing once more. She looked around for any familiar faces and saw her best friend – Loreli. Tears welled up in her eyes and Kasca wanted to reach for her, but the townspeople were more concerned with celebrating over the victory of Miss Fortune.

But Kasca was more concerned about her mother. Where was she? Her ears still hurt and she couldn’t understand what was said to her. Once she was settled, Loreli went up to her and hugged her. She said something in her ear but she couldn’t understand. She grew frustrated; everything was muffled. Where was her mother?
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Loreli then grabbed her hand and the two went out of the celebrating crowd. She didn’t look back – the high priest would be taken care of, to be sure, and Kasca could finally get the truth about her father. But her first concern was her mother. Gradually, Kasca’s hearing started to come back and she could hear the birds tweet, the dogs bark, and cats back to meowing as though nothing happened. Kasca couldn’t help but flinch.

“Loreli… what happened? What happened to mother?”

She didn’t answer.

They soon arrived back at their abode only to see her mother’s body in her bed all covered up. Kasca ran up to her and feared the worst. She placed her head on top of her mother and started to cry. Was she too late? Did Miss Fortune already take her mother as she disappeared?

“M-mother… I’m… too late. ..I’m so sorry…”

A pat on her head.

“You did nothing wrong, child, you did what you were told to do.”

Kasca opened her eyes and saw the smiling face of her mother. Unlike Kasca, she had green eyes and brown hair, but this wasn’t a spirit or a dream. It was real. Her mother really was smiling at her, not with a flushed face but a fresh one – one that had rested after seemingly many years.

“Mother! Mother!” She jumped on her bed and cried out her heart. Her mother held her close tightly as she cried too. Loreli just stood there and watched the scene before her. Even though she probably had seen it before, it was a touching moment. “Mother, I was so scared! I-I thought you wouldn’t come back… I thought you wouldn’t come back!!”
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Her mother tried to shush her. “My dear Kasca, you’re here with me. You’re safe with me now.”

Loreli knew by now, she had to leave. She snuck outside from the crying couple’s gaze and silently shut the door. With Kasca’s success, Loreli could rest herself. Her dream had come true but not only did it come true, it was a happy end. It was finally a happy end.

However, she was surprised to see the High Priest bleeding and walking to the cottage. She knew why he was there. He never liked her dreams; not because it was unholy, but because it was true – Loreli was an oracle after all.

“You’re going to tell them about your son, her father?”

The high priest closed his eyes and chuckled. “It’s her right, after all, isn’t it? She saved the village, did she not? It’s because of my ignorance, Samuel is dead. If only I had let her mother heal him that way… I was a fool.”

“You should bandage that up, ser. It might get infected.”
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“Isn’t Kasca’s mother a healer? She can heal me.”

“She might be a healer, but that might cost you. You know they had to suffer for a while, right? Because of her mother’s illness? Because of Miss Fortune?”

“Hm, perhaps. Well, even though I am a high priest, they do give compensation. Are you sure Miss Fortune is gone for good?”

Loreli didn’t nod and she didn’t shake her head.

“She might try to come back next year. These witches… are never truly gone. Someone needs to live at the bell tower.”

“Indeed they do. Now, Miss Loreli—“

“I know, I know. This conversation never happened.”

Loreli walked away as the high priest chuckled and knocked on the door. The young girl spent her time as a mouse somehow avoiding all the cats but thankfully they were controlled by Miss Fortune. She looked up and sensed something evil looming above the cottage – but as soon as she did, the evil moved away. It was afraid of the cottage and Loreli knew this wouldn’t be the last time she herself would see Miss Fortune. However with the First Dawn Festival finally underway, Loreli could at least be comforted that, at least for this year, Miss Fortune will stay away for good.Bookmark here

Leanne Ormus
Jewelry Jelly
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