This Poison Heart
Check out our episode here! This Poison Heart by Kalynn Bayron
We start the story at a flower shop run by Briseis's moms, Thandie and Mo. After an elderly customer is sad by them being out of white roses, Briseis runs to the back to do something about it. Here we discover that she has magical powers over plants. Not only is she able to grow six roses from the remains of a dead rose, but all the plants nearby flourish and try to be near her. Dizzy from the use of her power, she returns to the customer and makes his day. Her mom is not so happy with the events. She knows how dangerous it is for Bri to use her powers and doesn't want her to push herself. Soon after Mo comes in and both moms gang up on Bri about not working so much and to go do whatever it is teenagers do. As Bri goes up to her garden of a room, she finds an email from the school counselor telling her that her grades weren't good enough to get her into a summer college level botany class. Distraught over her shattered summer plans, Bri remembers that she still has her secret project to look forward to.
Hidden deep in a nearby park is Briseis's secret project, Water Hemlock, one of the most poisonous plants on the planet. Bri has spent months growing and studying it and now it is finally big enough for her to harvest and study more closely. While dissecting the most poisonous part of the plant, Mo surprises her, making her slice her thumb with the poison soaked scalpel. Bri is completely freaked out and scared because the water hemlock poison will kill her in a matter of minutes. She waits for death to come, but nothing happens. She's supposed to be dying a horrible death instead of just sitting there being handed pad thai by her moms. To try and take her mind off her not-so-near-death experience, Bri calls her friend, Gabby, who has been drifting away from her ever since she started clueing on Bri's powers. They talk about summer plans and Gabby tells her some unintentionally hurtful things about how she doesn't need to be weird around plants all the time and that she could be normal if she tried. All this does is make Bri wish she could be open and herself with a true friend.
The next day, after stressing about money problems and working at the flower shop, Bri's mom gets a phone call, making them have to leave for the apartment. An attorney called saying that Bri's birth mother's sister died and left her her estate, which leaves everyone confused and unsure how to feel. The attorney, Melissa Redmond, arrives at the apartment and dives right in. Bri's aunt Circe has left her a sizeable house with all items within and the forty acres of land it resides on in a small town in upstate New York called Rhinebeck. The only conditions are that she can't alter or sell the property until she turns eighteen. After telling Bri and her moms some cryptic stuff about the house and town being more than what it seems, she leaves them with two keys and a few letters meant for Briseis's eyes alone. After much debate between Bri and her moms, it is decided they will spend the summer at the house, a perfect escape from their current money problems and an unexpected rise in rent.
After setting up stock for the flower shop, Briseis, Mom and Mo pack up the car and head to Rhinebeck. When they get there, it looks like a beautiful small town. The three were split on whether the town looked lovely or looked like a scene out of the movie Get Out. Only time will tell which… They finally make it to the house, which looks like the Addams family mansion overrun with ivy. The house is old and a mess, but it also feels warm and lived in. It just needs to be cleaned up and worked on a little. While exploring the house they discover an apothecary shop that is filled with dried poisonous and non-poisonous herbs. After picking out their rooms, they continue to explore the house and find a set of stairs that lead to another floor. As they climb up they discover that it is a turret filled with books, paintings, and old furniture. The moms go downstairs to start cleaning while giving Bri a minute alone to absorb everything. As she's about to look at one of the letters Circe left her she hears her mom let out a piercing scream!
Bri runs to her moms and lands in a heap next to her mom while Mo is off to the side laughing her butt off. Turns out Mo played a prank on Thandie for fun. As they begin to get up Bri notices that the leaves she and her mom are covered in on the ground are poison ivy, and her mom is already covered in a rash! Her mom rushes to the tub to wash the oil off, Mo runs to the store to get calamine lotion, and Bri goes to clean herself up, but like how it was with the water hemlock, she's not affected by the poison. While waiting for Mo to get back she remembers the letter from Circe and pulls it out to read again. The letter goes on about regrets over their situation and how her sister wanted to keep Bri safe but that thanks to their "gifts," they can't escape their fate. It also promises her that the answers she seeks are in a safe in the turret behind a painting of Medea.
Mo returns pretty quickly and has Bri help her bring in groceries and set up food while she brings Thandie the calamine lotion. While eating dinner they talk about a home remedy that Thandie's mom used to make for rashes and how she wished she had some. They then decide to call granny up to ask for the recipe. It wouldn't hurt to try to make it especially since they have an apothecary now, so Granny talks Bri step by step through how to make the mixture. While Mo goes to paint the mixture all over Thandie's body, Bri runs back up to the turret to find whatever is in the safe. She finds a folder with three envelopes numbered and addressed to her. But before she can do anything about it she notices someone standing outside the window.
Bri summons her moms and they all run downstairs to confront the stranger, but the person is now gone. They decide to play it safe and call the police. But who arrives isn't a cop, her name is Dr. Grant, a social worker who leads the civilian public safety office. She explains how the town has recently started defunding the police, how the officers haven't been doing a great job for the community, so they have taken the funding for other programs and the public safety office is a buffer between the police and the community for everyone's safety. They explain to her their situation and Dr. Grant sends out a squad to do a quick sweep of the immediate property. After finding no one, Dr. Grant assures them that she'll make sure that their house is added to the patrol route and they'll keep an eye out for them. Thandie and Mo appreciate it and Bri asks if she knows anything about the family that lived in the house before them. Sadly she gets little to no information beyond what she already knows.
The next day they get back to cleaning the house and Bri discovers a giant leather bound book called Venenum Hortus (or Poison Garden in English), a hand drawn and written encyclopedia on poisonous plants made by Bri's birth family. They go through the book until they get to the chapter on the Absyrtus Heart and discover that it was added in by Bri's birth mother indicated by her signature in the bottom corner of the page. And like the amazing parents they are, they tell Bri if any of this stuff gets too hard on her that they'll leave and go back to the city, and that they refuse to stay if it hurts her. Bri lets them know that she's really fine with everything and later on after her moms leave the room she opens the first of the three letters from the safe.
The letter has a key, a hand drawn map, and a note that tells her to follow the map and to open the second letter when she reaches the gate. After letting Mom know that she was going to explore outside, she goes off to follow the map. After some plant magically twists and turns that would make Poison Ivy proud she reaches the gate and pulls out the second letter. The letter says that this is the garden that stocks the apothecary that has been a pillar of the community for generations, to open the last letter once she reaches the moon gate, and that all her questions will be answered. But before she can open the garden gate, a stranger stumbles through the brush. He's an older man covered in slashes and welts holding a machete. He seems very out of it and calls her Selene, her birth mother's name, while rambling on about how he needs it while coming toward her, disregarding the can of pepper spray in her hand. Then suddenly out of nowhere, barb-covered vines snake out and drag him away from Bri in a not so gentle fashion, giving her enough time to run back home to her moms. She tells them what happened and they call Dr. Grant who rushes on over with the cavalry in tow. Bri explains what happened, excluding the part on the heroic vines. While her moms have a freak out and a back and forth over if coming here was a mistake, one of the officers finds the guy and requests an ambulance. He's messed up but still kicking, thus ending this crazy escapade.
After a sleepless night, the trio decide to head into town and explore. While the moms get distracted by a candle store, Bri escapes and checks out the bookstore. While going through the store she finds a bin full of field journals marked for $2.50 a piece, huzzah books for all!!! Suddenly there is a crash and she finds a young guy buried under a pile of books. She helps up the clumsy guy, named Karter, while asking about the books and HE JUST GIVES HER THE BOX OF FIELD JOURNALS, THAT NEVER HAPPENS!!! He's adorably awkward and they discuss books and the town. He also recommends a restaurant for her and her moms to check out, and they invite him along because again her moms are just the best people ever. They all have a fun time eating yummy food and getting to know each other until it's time for Karter to get back to work at the bookstore. Bri walks him back and they bump into the attorney who brought them to the town in the first place. Mrs. Redmond. Turns out that Karter is Mrs. Redmond's son, and the resemblance is striking. After that fun encounter, Bri and Karter exchange numbers and agree to hang out again sometime.
The next day she makes it back to the garden gate, no machete wielding creeps this time. She heads in and it's like straight out of the secret garden, lots of dead plants yet such beautiful potential. She walks through it until she makes her way to a circular archway that could only be the moon gate and opens the last letter. It explains how this gate leads to the poison garden, and how a normal person can't even walk in and survive, but thank goodness Bri isn't normal and needs no sort of protection. She heads in and besides a tingly sensation in her throat and nose she feels perfectly fine. After exploring the Tim-Burton-esq garden she returns home with a lot on her mind. She then gets a text from Karter using an excuse of finding more field journals for her if he could come over. When he comes over, Bri decides to go on a little trip to the hospital to see the machete guy to maybe ask him details about Selene and Circe since he knew about the garden.
Karter causes a scene allowing Bri to slip in the police guarded hospital room to talk to Machete Guy. He explains how he has diabetes and was in search of an herb Selene and Circe, Bri's bio mom and aunt, grew to help with it, but that Circe closed the apothecary ten years ago and he was getting desperate. Bri agrees to get him the herbs if he promises to not come by the property ever again. He agrees and Bri leaves. When Karter and Bri get back to the house, he invites her out to breakfast the next day, although Mo jumps in and invites Karter to a home cooked breakfast there.
While looking at the map of the garden in her room she notices that there is a missing piece near the poison garden and runs off to check it out. The vines pick her up and take her to the back wall revealing a door with a crest showing three faces of a woman and a keyhole. Not having the key, Bri returns home for the night. While searching through the turret for any sign of the missing key, she gets lost in the books surrounding her. They are all about Medea and Hecate. She talks to Mo wanting to learn more about them, and Mo gives her the email of a friend who is into Greek mythology to help her, not like Google isn't a thing or anything. As they are talking, Mom calls up saying that Bri has a guest. It's the stranger from their first night in the house that disappeared!
Mo doesn't seem to recognize her, which is probably for the best. Her name is Marie and she's Machete Guy's granddaughter and is the most striking person Bri has ever seen. Bri invites her to the apothecary for the mixture for Machete Guy, whose name is Alec by the way. Marie isn't very sympathetic toward Alec, saying he always rushes into rash situations and that he has to deal with the ramifications. Bri confronts her over being the trespasser the other night and Marie agrees saying that it wasn't the best first impression. They talk while Bri gets the mixture ready and Marie makes a request for rosary peas. Harmless in the dried-out pea form but poisonous to cultivate. They exchange numbers with Marie offering to talk about anything Bri would like. Bri then discusses the option of reopening the apothecary with her moms since that's why people have been showing up on the property and they'd only sell what she'd grow. After agreeing to give it a go, Bri gets ready for bed and discovers that the fireplace in her room isn't real, that it's a door to a secret room.
The next day Karter comes over for breakfast, which ends with flaming waffles because Mo can't cook breakfast for some reason. While walking around outside talking, Karter notices how the tall grass responds to Bri. She makes the brave decision to tell him the truth about her powers and takes him to see the garden. Karter is enthusiastic and curious, he even wants to check out the poison garden section, but the air is so toxic he can only stand being in there for less than a minute. They talk about how Bri wants to reopen the apothecary and that she needs help with getting the garden back into shape and asks for his help. They spend the next week gardening and getting the place cleaned up.
Mo and Bri go into town to do some shopping, Bri splits off to go see Mrs. Redmond, hoping she'll have the missing key. She runs into the owner of the candle shop, Mama Lucille, who asks her about reopening her tab at the apothecary once it's up and running again. She also vaguely warns her not to stock any oleander. After that fun encounter, Bri gets a text from Mo to hurry to the grocery store. It turns out someone slashed their tires. Bri then gets a call from Mrs. Redmond who found a picture that is related to her estate. She warns her to be careful of people who might want to take advantage of her, especially Marie, but Bri gets kicked out when they notice the news flash about the body of a missing woman that was an old friend of Mrs. Redmond's.
When Bri gets home, she explores the secret room and discovers a secret compartment under a desk. In it was a sketchbook, most likely her birth mother's, and on the last page of the book is a recipe of some sort, some notes, and the missing key! Suddenly she gets a call from Marie, inviting her over to her house to hang out and discuss things. Marie sends a car to pick her up like the lady she is. That's when Bri meets driver/bodyguard extraordinaire Nyx, a 6ft tall bald Amazon of a woman. Nyx brings her to a small library inside the house where Marie is. Marie shows Bri around the house that's practically a museum while talking about Circe, what is behind the door in the poison garden (some sort of plant), and how the women in Bri's family are known to die suspiciously.
The next day, Bri rushes to the poison garden to open the secret door. It leads down to a small room with a glass enclosure in the middle with a beam of sunlight hitting it. The plant looks just like the drawing in the poison encyclopedia that her birth mother drew, the exact replica of a human heart, called the Absyrtus Heart, though this one in person looks shriveled and dead. Bri is freaked by the plant and by how toxic it is, so she grabs a bag full of oleander and runs back home.
As she returns from the garden, she encounters a new apothecary customer, an alchemist who shows her some magical fun with herbs before leaving with some sulfur. Later Karter comes around to take Bri to the movies and with a little demonstration with some flowers, he reveals to the moms that he knows about Bri's powers. Everyone is happy to have it all out in the open. Half way through the movie, two guys in black come in and sit right in front of them and two more sit in the back row. One thing leads to another and they end up being chased by the guys in black. They make it to Karter's truck and drive off until they see a car belonging to one of the public safety people. Dr. Grant comes soon after and Bri tells her everything while begging her to not tell her moms because she doesn't want to freak them out. Dr. Grant promises to investigate and keep it quiet.
When Bri gets home, she finds a photo album and sees pictures of her birth mom, Selene, pregnant with her, making her decide that she does want to learn more about her. She texts Marie, taking her up on a previous offer to take her to her family's grave plot. Marie leads her to graves and Bri sets down the flowers she brought on Selene's grave. Marie tells her about her birth family and how she was best friends with a relative of hers back in the day. Bri is confused by this because she sees the grave of this relative who died in 1680. But before Marie can explain they are attacked by the same guys from the movie theater. They want Bri and threaten to kill Marie if she gets in their way, which just makes her laugh. While Marie is fighting the guys, handling them like rag dolls, these poisonous vines straight out of Jumanji wrap around Bri and shoot poisonous darts at whoever comes near her.
They make it to the car and while driving off, Marie starts explaining everything to her, with Nyx upfront adding colorful commentary. The men want Bri for the Absyrtus Heart. Back in the day, Bri's relative used it to heal her and the protection of the heart has been passed down through her family for generations. The heart can prevent any impending death and grant immortality. Bri is obviously freaked out by all of this, mostly that the girl she likes is over 300 years old and could easily kill her. They talk it out and Bri calms down, and they agree that Bri will go to the coroner to discuss what happened to her birth mom and aunt while Marie will talk to Dr. Grant about the men that attacked them. The next day, with backup from Karter, Bri goes to the funeral home. They meet Lucifer the coroner, who is not a fan of Marie, but aside from his lovely attitude, he helps them with what information he can give. He goes into detail about how her family members died, mostly homicide and accidents, that Selene was shot and killed in the woods and the murder is still unsolved and now Circe might just be missing.
When Marie and Bri get together later, Bri explains everything she discovered: how much Lucifer hates Marie, about how everyone in the family died, how Circe is only missing and could possibly be alive, and thanks to an email from Mo's college friend that Medea was a real person with similar powers. She also brought this old looking parchment she found earlier in Selene's sketch book that looks related to Medea. They take it up to Alec to translate.
It tells the true story of Medea. She was the niece of the sorceress Circe and a follower of Hecate and she and her brother, Absrytus, were gifted with the immunity to all poisons. Jason, from the Argo, tricked her into thinking her father and brother were going to sell her to the highest bidder, but because he loved her, he would protect her from them. So they went off in search of the golden fleece, but after many years and three children, Absrytus finally caught up to them and told Medea the truth. Angrily Jason and his men grabbed the children and her brother, holding them hostage. If Medea doesn't get them the golden fleece, he will kill her family. Medea, with help from Hecate, got the fleece and made a poison to kill Jason, but sadly he made the children try it first, killing them, then he killed her brother by chopping him into six pieces. Hecate came and killed all of Jason's men, though Jason himself escaped, and luckily Medea's children inherited her poison immunity thus survived. They spent the rest of their days on Circe's island, where they buried the pieces of Medea's brother, from which weird plants sprouted and were fed with their blood and moonlight. After hearing the story, Bri decides she wants to show Marie and Karter the heart, to have no secrets, and to have help on figuring out what to do about it. They fight about it but eventually Marie agrees to see whatever Bri wants to show her… you know... the heart.
Karter joins up with Bri and Marie at the house, and Bri leads them to the turret to show them the picture of the heart in the poison encyclopedia. She explains how she now knows how to cultivate the heart thanks to the story she and Marie heard, and goes on about her revelation of how she believes she's related to Medea. They make it to the garden and the heart's room. (Special thanks to Marie for carrying Karter like a baby using super speed to avoid the poisonous air in the garden.) She shows them the heart and then feeds it a drop of her blood. It moves, freaking Karter out who then books it like a wet cat. Bri goes after him to protect him from the other poisonous plants but twists her ankle in the process. Marie does her Edward Cullen move to get Karter out of the poisonous garden. Karter is freaking out but overall okay. Bri says she'll explain everything to him later but that they need to keep quiet and get home since her ankle is hurt. They return to the house and make a salve for her ankle.
The next day while cleaning, Bri's duster got caught on something in the wall making it open. She summons her moms to come check out the hidden room in the hallway. It looks to be an altar dedicated to Hecate with a picture of Bri as a baby amongst the offerings. After discovering all of this, Bri tells her moms the truth about everything: the immunity to poisons, the relation to Medea, the poison garden, being attacked, and the heart. The moms once again show how amazingly awesome they are by being the most understanding and supportive people ever.
After all that loveliness, Mo goes to the city to help with stuff with the flower shop while Bri and her mom chill and be adorable. But then stupid Karter comes in bursting the bubble looking all upset needing to talk to Bri alone, telling her that they have to leave right now. Bri and her mom repeatedly ask him to leave but he's so insistent that they need to leave. Dr. Grant comes by during all this and scares Karter off. She then asks how well they know Karter, that he and his mother have only been in town for six months and all of their personal information seems pretty suspicious. She also explains how she was friends with Bri's birth mother and feels like she failed her the night she was killed and feels like she's failing all over again with keeping Bri safe. Not long after, Dr. Grant leaves and Karter's mom, Mrs. Redmond, comes by looking very rough and beaten up. She's very gruff with Bri and her mom saying there's an issue with the bank and that they have to vacate the house immediately. Bri's mom is pissed and Bri wants to go talk to the bank herself, but Mrs. Redmond is having none of that and just hands them paperwork saying there's nothing that can be done and demands that they hand over the keys. Thandie threatens her to keep away from her daughter, making Mrs. Redmond run but not without a throwback comment about how they need to return the keys when they leave or she'll put out a warrant for their arrest.
Bri leaves for town going to all the banks to find out which is in charge of her home with her ID and Mrs. Redmond's paperwork. By the fourth bank, she finally gets ahold of someone who knows of the situation, but the problem is that there was no will and that the paperwork given to her by Mrs. Redmond was flagged as invalid because it went missing. Apparently they were just going to auction the house off until a woman from the adoption agency came to them with information about Bri being the last living relative, so they drafted up the papers and were going to deliver them to her a couple weeks ago but the woman in charge of the case went missing and very recently was found murdered. Bri explains how they came to be here and the bank woman is shocked by all of this. She says they need to fill out the updated paperwork with her guardian present and that the eviction notice is fake and that they need to call the police. Bri tries to get ahold of her mom but gets no answer.
After getting a sinking feeling, Bri decides to go back to the house and bring her mom to the bank. On her way there she gets a phone call from Mo and fills her in on how everything was orchestrated by Mrs. Redmond just to get the Absrytus heart. When Bri gets to the house she can't find her mom but finds a note that tells her to look out the window. Outside Mrs. Redmond, the drama queen that she is, has a knife to Bri's mom's throat. She demands that Bri take them to the heart now and that if she tries anything then she'll slit her mom's throat. They get to the poison garden and Bri tells Mrs. Crazy Pants that she can't go in the room because it's dangerous. Mrs. Redmond tells her that she's not the only one related to greatness, that she's the descendent of Jason himself and that she's the one that deserves the heart. She wants it. She will kill for it. She already has, and heavily implies that she killed her birth mother and the woman from the bank. She needs the heart to become immortal to find the gods that still walk amongst us. They go into the room and Mrs. Redmond slices open her hand to feed the heart more blood that it needs.
The three head back to the house with the heart and into the apothecary. With mom tied up, Mrs. Redmond summons Karter and has him hold the knife to Bri's mom's throat while she forces Bri to make an elixir with the heart: the Living Elixir. With the elixir complete, Bri gets in a struggle with Karter to keep it away from them, but Mrs. Redmond grabs a fistful of oleander and shoves it into Thandie's mouth, saying it looks like I get the chance to make you motherless a second time in this life. That's when Mo kicks through the door and makes it over to them, but she is too late. Thandie is gone. Filled with anger and grief, Bri lets go, and vines shoot up everywhere, grabbing both Mrs. Redmond and Karter, though her focus is on Mrs. Redmond and Karter uses that to get himself away from the vines.
As he tries to escape the room, he is stopped by a giant black dog and a tall woman in a cloak. The dog pounces on Karter as the woman goes to Bri and asks her to release Mrs. Redmond. The cloaked woman crushes Mrs. Redmond's hand, making the vial of elixir fall to the counter. The cloaked woman then asks Katrina Valek, aka Mrs. Redmond, how she found the keepers of the heart. She says the line of Jason still exists and they deserve to use the magic, not Selene's selfish family. The cloaked woman throws Mrs. Whatever her name is to her dog and he enjoys his new chew toy. The cloaked woman reveals herself to be the goddess Hecate, mother of Medea and Bri's family. Hecate makes a deal with Bri. If she can reunite the six missing Absrytus hearts, she will bring Thandie back to life.
Bri calls together Dr. Grant, Marie, and Nyx and fills them in on everything that happened and tells them that they have one month to get the hearts together to save her mom. Suddenly a woman bursts into the house and grabs Marie and starts yelling at Dr. Grant. It's Circe, Bri's aunt, and she has two containers holding two hearts! They look at each other and realize they have a lot to talk about.