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        The Twisted Mirror        
by
Tom Haskworth

On the last lost edge of a far remote place a cruel widow, jealous of her child's beauty, gave her an old, misshapen looking glass that presented only a deformed, grotesque reflection. Alicia grew, shamed and hating her likeness.

Whilst Alicia bloomed, her mother shrivelled and perished from bitter resentment. Alicia missed not her pecking but came to be weary of solitude. Imprisoned in the lie she smeared and dyed to favour her looks yet stayed repulsive in the glass.

Necessary visits to a distant village were cloaked and muted. She leaned from lights and steered by shadows.

Young men stared entranced but Alicia took it for alarm, even disgust. She hurried from a smart gallant who spoke kindly to her thinking it pretence or pity. Oftimes she heard him converse with others and kept aside, hooding her face. His pleasant voice stayed long in her mind. Hopes did flare ... but faded. Perhaps it was from him that she first heard tales of the old mage. He was said to have helped many with his wizardly powers.

Alicia sought out the mage in the cold dead hills. Smoke choked through a sooted brushwood frontage rooted into a cleft in the broken scarp. When she spotted a figure shuffling and shovelling outside, Alicia instinctively paused to test her unsightliness was well cowled. She sighed at the senseless reflex and at her unkind image, repacked her glassed oppressor deep with finality, then resignedly drove herself to proceed. But even from a distance the old man looked so dreadfully scrunched and wrinkled himself that she doubted his sorcery could help her and so she turned back.

Lonely thoughts stopped her in the turn. His might be the only company she could keep without the gravity of inferior sensations. Undecided, she twisted on the trail, dropping her pack. The distorted echoes of her mirror cracked across the silent slopes. She sensed the wizard's attention. Alicia, foolishly wrong-footed, pretended to examine the coarse track. She toed the innocent scree then resumed the visit.

The Sorcerer greeted her, welcomed her, provided a warming meal beside his fire, even sympathised and helped with her breakage. Images of the bright flames glittered in the translucent globe that lay on the low bench squatting between them, obscuring all else therein. A large musty tome, lettered with olden glyphs, slept beside it.

The old man stared in wonder when she begged a charm to correct her hideous appearance. His brow folded more deeply and he squinted at her closely as if doubting his sight. He went to study the mirror shards that now glinted in the filthy midden outside his stone and withy hovel.

He consulted his symboled book, drew upon spells ancient, mysterious, cryptic, and looked far into the fire'd sphere beyond its present flares. With a wise smile wasted in deep furrows he prepared and performed elaborate and theatrical conjuries. From coloured radiances and smokes a tiny pool of glorious light floated, glided, and shaped to a silver disc burnished true which the magician presented to the astonished girl with an extensive flourish.

When Alicia looked at the gift she was incredulous for only the moment. Deceipt's burden then feathered off as naught. Unpressed, uncrushed, she staggered, crumpled down, and sobbed great tears onto her reflection. She did briefly attend the images that deformed in the quivering drops but, ignoring a fleet idea that tried to surface, she wiped 'way an ocean of blemished yesterdays.

In time, Alicia married her pleasant, smart young man. They enjoyed walks in the sunshine. Alicia skipped without wrap, frocked for summer. She started to laugh and sing for the first time. She learnt to dance. She learnt to dance and sing in the sunshine.

The mage formed a pleasing twisted mirror for himself which hid his creases but revealed his grin. The guise of agedness amused him and was useful when helping others but he mostly preferred his younger incarnation at home in the village. When looking at his new wife he did not need the crystal ball to see that all their children would be beautiful.

 

The end