Julie’s No Rules Friday: Curses Part III

Curses Part III

(Part I is here. Part II is here.)

“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.

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Julie’s No Rules Friday: Curses Part II

Curses Part II

(To read Part I, go here.)

My cell mates immediately fall silent. There is one set of boot steps, the jangle of chain. They’re here to move somebody.

The ward keeps humming. I don’t know what to do. As the steps near, I settle for sitting at the back of my cell, against the wall. Keys turn in the door. It opens.

Ears stands there, legs splayed awkwardly, squinting for me in the dim. His shoulders are hunched, gangly arms hanging, trailing a length of metal links. In his right hand he grasps a wooden pole which they use to keep me at arm’s length.

I shift so he can find me in the gloom. His adam’s apple bobs.

“Are you making magic back there?” he whispers, eyeing the ward.

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“The Woodpile” by Frightened Rabbit Inspires Julie

Curses

Heavy iron thunders and I’m conscious, bit by bit and then all at once. From a corner of my stone-walled cell, the scent of burning violet flowers chokes me. My stomach curdles. I try to roll away from the corner with the incense stick, and my ribs sear with pain. Right. Beto kicked me so hard I couldn’t breathe.

At the thought of the guard captain’s name, I want to spit, but my lips are mashed. The inside of my mouth and half of my face is bloodied. With my tongue I probe the slanted edge of a front tooth. The exposed roots tingle. Guess they’re done using me for my looks.

Footfalls sound heavily at the end of the hall, and I relax my body against the crackling straw. If they think I’m waiting for them, planning something, they’ll do worse than break my ribs. Then voices banter, muted through the stone and wooden door. Shift change.

The newcomer is the basso voice, the heavyset guard with piggy eyes. Replacing the young one with the deformed ear. The one who sometimes gives me a little extra food or water. Slitting my eyes, I see he’s put rations through the slot for me. If only I can get to them before Piggy realizes I’m awake.

“What’s happening outside?” asks Ear, stopping too close to my cell. “I heard the sound of troops, horses leaving. Are we at war?” His voice cracks. continue reading ...

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Julie’s No Rules Friday: Desert Cursed

Desert Cursed

The sun rides high, but Juna’s hand sticks to mine as she speaks to the guard outside the wall. His eyes roam the cloth that covers her blindness and prickle over my shoulders and lank, long hair. We are dusty and footsore from the road, can count all our ribs. No food since yesterday morning, no water since nightfall. The guard only filled our waterskin because he couldn’t understand Juna’s raspy whispers.

“We’ve been on the road days,” Juna says, her accent smoothed and fitted with the man’s nuances. “My sister, Anelli, and I were separated from our caravan.” After a pause, she adds, “She cannot hear or speak.”

We’ve practiced the lie again and again. I can’t lose the city accent, so Juna talks for us both. If we told the truth, that I found her two years ago in the rubble of our city, they’d know our curse and run us out of town.

This man is wider than the two of us doubled, his meaty arms folded over a worn tunic. He frowns, but his blue eyes have not yet settled on distrust. I imagine him, briefly, as Juna has told me people appear to her Sight: a flaming column rippling with indecisive colors, orange and green. Her curse is sometimes beautiful.

“We’re stout,” Juna says, dropping my hand and giving her best attempt at standing with her feet apart, which only emphasizes her frailty, “and hard workers. Anelli is the best.”

She looks at me when she says this, and I nod, staring at the cracked clay between my feet and clasping my hands together. I know many people are watching us from the ramparts and the chinks in the wall. I’m only fourteen and can close my fingers round my biceps, but in crowds people give me a berth, and grown men have fled from my stare. Maybe they sense my curse like dogs sense danger.

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