The ladder teeters and tilts as she leans across the gap to grasp the leatherbound spine of a thick tome. A deep groan and a gust of grimy gray dirt when she drags it from its place and she peers closely at the spidery script through thick spectacles. One small step and she is sliding down the rungs to rest on the floor.
Her fingers scrape decades of filthy film from the cover while her feet carry her across the library in swift, short strides. She hurries past the pulsing pustules sprouting from the cramped walls and around the massive creeping roots crawling along the library floor. One swing of her slender arm sends peeling parchment and empty vials off of the crowded desk.
The heavy book thunders onto the stained wood and she thumbs through the pages until she can finds the entry she needs, tracing along the spells clumsily scrawled there. Her hands are already in the swollen sack beside the table, snatching the shriveled fungi and crooked sprigs of dried herbs by the bundle and dumping them whole into the bubbling brew in her cauldron.
"One more try," under her breath as she pauses to adjust the crescent-moon spectacles and then reaches out to swirl the spoon in a wide circle, stirring the contents slowly. "One more and he'll wake right up."
His body glistens in the sickly green glow of the towering toadstools and slithering, slimy grubs. She taps the spoon against the side of the copper pot and watches shimmering flecks of the broth sink to the ground and a carpet of fungus spring from the soft earth beneath her sandals. They wriggle skyward, through the muck and the mud, and burst into clouds of glittering silver sparks.
"One more try."
She pries his mouth open and carefully tilts one hearty spoonful after another after another until she's scraping the spoon across the bottom of her cauldron.
It would work this time.
It had to.