Wednesday, November 30, 2011


Blessed Curse
By Terri Rochenski

Daustan stared into his tankard of ale.  I should have died.  Not them.  He sat against a slab-board wall of the Rogue and Horse amidst a ruckus of conversation and laughter.  Frothy bubbles tickled his nose as he raised the cup to his lips.
Across the room the tavern’s door opened.  A dry wind blew in along with a bearded hulk of a man.  Stonewise’s minion, Lynus, scanned the room, his onyx eyes locking on Daustan. 
Great.  Just what I need, Daustan slumped further into his seat.  How did he find me? 
The High Wizard’s disciplinarian glided across the room, purple cape billowing behind him.  “He’ll have you horse whipped for sure this time!  And that’s the burnt bunion’s truth!”
“It won’t help.”  Daustan’s green eyes clenched shut.  “Nothing he’s done has helped.”
“You’re right.”  Chair legs scraped on the wooden floor as Lynus sat.  “Stonewise is at a loss.  But you mustn’t give up and run away like this.  Your blood sings with magic.  You just need to find a way to release it.”
“I don’t want it released.”  Daustan lifted his head and met Lynus’ gaze.  “Ever again.  It’s a curse.”
“It doesn’t matter if you want it or not, boy.  It’s part of who you are.”
Daustan tugged on a tawny forelock.  “Because of it my family is dead.”
“You cannot allow the misfortunes of your past to control your future actions.”  Lynus frowned.
Daustan shifted in his seat and listened to the chaos of voices around them.  A serving girl glanced at their table, lifted a painted brow, and wiggled her hips.  He shook his head and turned back to face the grizzled man across the table.  “What’s the point of my attending a wizard’s school when I have no intention of becoming one myself?”
“It’s the king’s law, my boy.  Any with magic in their blood that reach the age of sixte-“
“Must be under Stonewise’s tutelage.  I know.  I’ve been told more times than I can count these past five years.”  Raised voices drew Daustan’s attention to a group of men on the other side of the smoke-hazed room.
“I said that’s the tenth time you done rolled snake eyes!” One player stood, his chair tumbling backwards. 
The accused rose to his feet.  “And I said I ain’t no cheat!”
The table flew aside in a clatter of dice and coins.  Meaty fists thumped into ale-filled stomachs and stubbled jaws.  
Another dicer got too close and was knocked over.  With a curse he jumped on the back of the accused, and the fourth dicer slammed a pitcher on his head for interfering.  Within moments the tavern erupted.
“Much as I enjoy a good fight I believe it’s time we left,” Lynus suggested.
Daustan picked up his tankard as a body crashed into their table.  “You may be right.”
They ducked and sidestepped their way through the confusion of flying pitchers, chair legs, and drunks.  Lynus threw open the door just as a lantern exploded on the wall beside it.  Hungry flames shot up the slab-boards.  Daustan rushed behind him into the moonlit night.
“Fire!”  A voice shrieked from within the tavern. 
Daustan turned.  People jostled out the doorway onto the village green.  The serving girl tumbled through an opened window, her skirt in flames.
Lynus tore the cloak from his back as he hurried to her side. 
Daustan’s feet dug oak-like roots into the earth beneath them.  The acrid stench of burning fabric filled his nose.  Visions of a similar night flashed through his mind as people rushed past. 
His home burned in a red hot blaze.   His arms lifted to call forth rain, but he froze in horror as his mother’s flaming body fell from her bedroom window.  It was his fault!  The magic had called to him – enticed him into trying to bring forth a flame. His stomach emptied itself.
Damn my blood!  And damn the magic coursing through it!
Daustan turned glassy eyes toward Lynus. 
He cradled the serving girl in one arm and pointed to the tavern’s upper window.  “Do something!”
Daustan looked up and saw a child leaning out the window, smoke billowing around her.  Wild, frightened eyes met his.  She struggled to get a leg over the sill.
“Oh, no,” Daustan whispered.  “Please, gods, no!”  He threw back his head.  “No!”
His legs trembled; arms shook as he raised them to the sky.  A well-spring of molten power rushed through him, scorching his bones.  He called forth the wind with a mere whisper.  Clouds rushed from the horizon on a rumble of thunder. 
The girl tumbled from the window, screaming as she fell.  The wind caught the child in a whirl of ash and smoke, and gently lowered her to the ground.   
Torrents of rain fell from the clouds and whipped at Daustan’s face as he called the air out of the fire.  The orange flames drew inward till every last red ember surrendered. 
The rain slowed.  The last few droplets landed on the ground in staccato splats.
He lowered his arms.  The tavern still stood, although half of its timbers were blackened and steaming.
A hand grasped his shoulder.  “May the gods favor you for saving my daughter’s life.”
Daustan watched his hands clench and unclench.  “With these hands I’ve called forth fire and killed.”  He looked up into the misty eyes of the tavern owner.  “I’m cursed.”
“No.”  The grateful father shook his head.  “You are blessed.”

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Terri is a stay-at-home mother of two toddlers who enjoys an escape to Middle Earth during the rare 'me' moments her daughters allow. Her fiction has appeared in Larks Fiction Magazine, Hogglepot Journal, and Every Day Fiction.


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