Curses Part III
“Halt, demon!” a man yells from behind.
Someone grasps the hood of my robe. It catches my neck, and I’m flung back, hands out, losing the staff. I touch the hard metal of a breastplate, and I channel my curse.
The corridor flares with light. My hair stands upright. The man slumps to the floor, smelling singed. I run.
Ahead is an open door in the wall. I don’t want to go, but this feeling that’s been pulling me along, her, tugs me. The other demon.
More shouts. I dive for the opening, fall for an instant, and catch myself on a rough rail along the wall. Steps go down.
It’s suddenly cold, chilling my skin after the blast. From the door, yells echo, steps resound. But they don’t follow me.
There is a platform at the bottom of the stairs lined in the soft light of candle flames burning low. A sweet, nauseating smell rushes up my nostrils so fast it’s like I’ve been hit between the eyes. My feet crumple under me, just for a second, and I tumble down the remaining stairs.
The cold of the stone floor against my skin is so intense that the incense clears out of my head for a minute. Before me is a low stone dais, surrounded by packed, off-white cubes. I’ve never seen ice before, but somehow I know that’s what they are.
The girl on the dais, however, draws my eye. She’s robed in white, but her bare feet stick out toward me. Her arms are crossed over her chest like a corpse, and her skin looks sickly pale. There is a cloth draped over her eyes. Censors hang at either side of her head. She doesn’t move.
But someone else does.
Gray cloth shifts out of the shadows and then pain twists into my side. I roll across the floor, see through the flutter of my eyelids her gray face, depthless eyes. The Finder.
She reaches for me again, and I howl at her touch. The sound echoes in the small chamber. Purple flower scent breaks through the pain, and for an instant I wonder how she remains unaffected by it. Then her hand lowers to my heart.
I wrap a fist around it, put everything I have into a spark. The air crackles and she steps back, more startled than hurt. I shouldn’t be able to do that. Just the presence of the new demon feeds power into me.
The Finder pulls up her hood and sheathes her hands in her sleeves, as if that will protect her. It will hamper her own power, too. I try to stand and she lunges for me, grabbing my left elbow. Fiery jabs race up my arm to my shoulder and heart. I fall against the stacked ice, cutting myself on a sharp edge. Blood runs down my arm.
The Finder moves for me again, this time landing a hand solidly at my right collarbone, squeezing the breath from me. I can’t brush her off, and the pain grows so my limbs are flailing. I see the way Ears flailed before he went down in my cell, and blackness rushes in as something soft touches my hand.
The pain falls away. I float outside myself and watch the girl on the dais sit up, her hand clutching mine. The cloth flutters from her face, and she opens her eyes to pupils shiny white like fish scales. She looks into me, where I float. She squeezes my hand.
My power charges through me, into her hand and into the Finder’s hand on my collar. It throws the Finder to the floor, but the girl keeps my grip. She shakes my hand to remind me I’m still channeling, and I stop, dropping back into my body. I slump against the ice as she gathers her feet beneath her, dropping my hand. She approaches the Finder on the floor.
The woman gasps at the sight of the girl in white, throws out a hand, but even as she pours fire into the girl’s heart, the girl is glowing. She cups the Finder’s face in her hands. The woman’s body rocks gently and falls still.
The glowing girl turns to me.
“Who are you?” she asks. Now her voice trembles, and despite the silver strands in her hair, I realize she is younger than me.
“I’m Anelli,” I say. “I’m like you.”
She nods. Something about her sightless stare tells me she can read the truth of my words.
“I’m Juna,” she says. “There are men above.”
“Yes.” I nod.
“They fear to come down here,” she says. “What will they do if we go up?”
“They will kill you, or put you back to sleep,” I say. “You’re only a weapon to them, like this woman was.”
We study the dead Finder. Juna sighs. “I didn’t want to kill her,” she says.
She turns to me and offers her hand.
“Let’s go,” she says. “It’s the only way out.”
We ascend the stairs together, and Juna glows as we go, the white light becoming stronger until it burns my eyes, then sears through my eyelids. My body tingles with warmth, all of the places the Finder gave me pain filling anew, but it’s like they’re being washed away.
The men’s voices grow nearer, then turn to screams. Still the girl gets brighter. I think we’re out of the tunnel now, but the world has become white hot and shaky. Stones rumble and crash. My feet slip, but her hand tugs me onward. My ribs shift inside me and grow whole. The palace crumbles to dust around us.
Gradually I wake to the stars blinking above through haze. I don’t recognize the patterns, as if the sky hangs at a different angle. The mountain on the horizon looks smaller, less substantial. Around us, the air is thick, but I can tell there are no more walls.
My hand is still in hers. She sleeps, her blind eyes closed. There is more silver in her hair than before. Brushing dust from my eyes, I touch my nose. Still crooked, but the pain is gone. My lips are whole.
I curl against Juna, my demon sister, and close my eyes.
For more of Anelli and Juna’s story, go here.
Anne answers the latest prompt on Monday. Stay tuned for Audrey’s No Rules Friday next week.