Seven days travel on a gentle angle upwind from The Emerald City lies the village of Pike’s Rock. Its citizens are magic users, ‘tho often unimaginative and of limited skill. They are not, by any stretch, a sociable people. Although they are capable of deep love, marriage and children are not a priority, thus the population has remained stable throughout the centuries.
On a rocky upper slope near the village sits a small, rambling cottage, inhabited by Anahesa and her aunt. On one side is a jumbled hillside containing the village cemetery. On another is a sheer cliff with a narrow river running along its base.
Like all fourteen year old girls, Anahesa, in her own quiet way, had become a sarcastic, snarkey pain in the rear. Since, as has been mentioned, the folks of Pike’s Rock are notably unsociable, this condition affected only her aunt.
One morning, not so long ago, Anahesa’s aunt found her sitting moodily on a bench, staring vacantly over the cemetery on the hillside below. She gripped Anahesa’s hair and pulled, pointing the girl’s face upward toward her own.
“What in the world is going on with you, child? I haven’t gotten ten words out of you in the last week!”
“Nothing,” mumbled Anahesa, scowling. “I’m fine.”
“Phooey! I know what ‘fine’ looks like and you’re not it. Now spill it! What’s your problem?”
Anahesa shook her head, freeing her hair. Expelling a long sigh, she shrugged. “I’m lonely, Aunty. There aren’t many kids my age in the village and most of them are morons, or worse. I want a friend, preferably a boy, and the boys aren’t smart enough to be morons.”
Her aunt laughed knowingly. “Of course. Girl. That’s the best you’ll get with boys.” She put a hand on Anahesa’s shoulder. I can’t make boys smarter, but maybe I can use magic to create a friend for you.” She wrinkled her already wrinkled face. “I have a ton of magic books. One of them must have a spell that’ll help.” She gazed thoughtfully down the hill. “Don’t worry. I’ll dig one up.”
Seeing her aunt looking toward the cemetery, Anahesa jumped to her feet. “Oh no, Aunty! Don’t dig one up!”
Her aunt smiled indulgently. “Certainly not, child. Anyone can cast that spell, but the aftereffects are decidedly unpleasant, not to mention the smell.” She turned toward the cottage. “Give me some time. And while you’re waiting, go gather some tulip tree pollen. About half a pound will be sufficient.”
For the next two days, the old woman searched through her incredible collection of books, finding nothing of use. On the third day, she carried one enormous book to her work table and began making notes. For the next week, Anahesa was sent on seemingly endless errands, accumulating a pile of unlikely items, either obtained from local magic users or found in nature. Returning from an outing to obtain dried weasel ears, her aunt waved her over.
“I’m ready to start on your friend and you should watch. This might be the most interesting spell I’ve cast in decades.”
For three days, Anahesa and her aunt slaved from sunup to sundown, mixing, heating, cooling, binding and chanting over the growing thing on the table. Anahesa, not being accustomed to the appalling odors being produced, frequently ran gagging outside, desperate for fresh air. Due to the fact that the thing was intended to mimic a live human, all its ingredients were, obviously, made up of organic materials. No metal or ceramic could be included and that left wood – mostly branches and twigs and bark – and various properly prepared bits and pieces of animals.
Eventually, the thing was done. It might have looked more-or-less like a boy from fifty feet away; up close, the resemblance ended. It wasn’t terribly attractive, unless you find beauty in a pile of compost.