“King and Lionheart” by Of Monsters and Men Inspires Anne

Of Swords and Other Things

I watch from atop the fences as two lanky boys kick up clouds of dust under shuffling feet. The sword master and a group of five other boys line the practice circle. The reek of unwashed bodies made worse by vigorous thrusts and parries catches on the breeze. Lantsida and her twin, Basina, escaped inside to finish their needlework rather than be subject to the rank odor for one instant longer. I’ve grown used to the musky roughness of young men. It sings of hard work and determination, an outlet for frustration and anger.

It’s home. It’s Hal.

The layered fabric of their practice doublets blunts the sound of a solid hit. Hal always wins and gives a raucous cheer, which most of the boys echo. He raises his arms in celebration, reveling a strip of bare skin that sends waves of delight through me. Even missing his left eye, Hal never fails to strike a killing blow. Basina says the other boys let him win because he’s their One True Prince. Mama slapped the back of her hand with a wooden spoon the last time she said it. We’re not to speak of Hal as anything other than the orphan boy we took in nearly ten years ago. He’s not His Royal Majesty Prince Henry Louis Philip Charles Valois. That name is supposed to taste like ashes in our mouth.

Instead, it tastes like hope. The royal line didn’t all expire in that tower.

Hal’s taller and more slender than most boys his age. Raven-haired and gray-eyed like his mother. The shape of his full bottom lip closely resembles his father’s mouth. Anyone who worked in the palace would know him, even with the ragged scar that mars the perfect symmetry of his facial planes. He wears his hair longer on the left side to hang down over the deformity.

He’s beautiful in ways that other boys will never be. His kindness shines like the stars at night: quiet and delicate.

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“Love Song to California” by Jen Hickman Inspires Anne

LoveSongtoCalifornia_JenHickmanLa Terreur

3 November 1793

Paris, France

The bells are ringing in Saint-Germain-des-Prés across the Seine. I pull my shawl tighter with each peal as I try to keep my slippers clean as I walk as quickly down the Rue Honoré. The pale pink shoes are the only nice thing I have on. It wouldn’t do to wear the matching silk gown. Papa would have noticed that slipping out the back gate. I borrowed the dress and shawl from Claire, but her feet were too big and her boots clunked and slipped when I walked. I glance up at the darkening sky.

A shout from a man on a mud-splattered white horse stops me. I nearly ran into its path. I turn and cling to a lamppost and lean my cheek into it, squeezing my eyes shut tight. Maybe this is a bad idea.

I came down to breakfast this morning to find Mama fretting around the house, her handkerchief pressing into her reddened eyes. I followed her to the blue parlor at the back of our townhouse.

“Mama?” I ask, placing a hand on her arm and turning her toward me. Her eyes dancing everywhere but on me. “Mama? What is wrong?”

Papa slams open the front door, thumps hurriedly down the hall, bursts upon us, and heads straight to the cognac on the sideboard. Two glasses later, he turns to us.

“It must be tonight, Mama.” She nods. Her eyes seem to focus as her pupils expand engulfing the blue into black.

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Anne’s No Rules Friday 04

A/N: I’m following the tradition of sharing a bit of my NaNo WIP: The One with Talons. It’s more of a prologue than a first chapter.

I’m eight and don’t yet know fear.

Mother’s screaming pierces my sleep. Getting out of bed and picking up my new blade, I race up the servant’s staircase in the North Tower. It’s cramped and dark, the screams echo against the cold stones, making the space smaller.

I’m eight and don’t yet know monsters.

A blast of cold air hits me as I reach my parents’ bedchamber. Moonlight falls through an enormous slash in the wall. The smell of butchered meat and feathers fills my nose. A rush of wings and claws overpowers Mother. I see Father strewn across the bed like a discarded doll. His once-proud chest lies in shreds; he stares at me with eyeless sockets. A bird-woman throws Eleanor, my infant sister, out into the night to another who catches the babe in her feet and flies away. Eleanor’s wails carry on the wind.

I’m eight and don’t yet know bravery.

The steel’s heavy in my sweaty grip. Stepping into the room, chin held level, I avoid looking down at my parents. “I command you to leave!” I scream in a high-pitched voice. A beautiful woman’s face, streaked with blood, turns to find me in the dark of the stairwell.

I’m eight and don’t yet know pain.

In an instant she’s upon me, one talon gripping around my waist, and the other stabbing deep into my left cheek. Her wings snap and move in the air above me. Something sings through my veins. I raise my sword, slashing down hard and true. The blade bites until two heavy talons fall to the floor. The price: my eye. I grip the hollow space, and hear the king’s guard marching inside. The bird-woman escapes, a curse on her lips.

I’m eight and don’t yet know the word for revenge.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Stay tuned for Julie’s No Rules Friday next week.