Sunday, 26 May 2013

Kittens can scratch

Writer’s Block

In one sentence is the spark of a story. Ignite.

Mission: Write a story, a description, a poem, a metaphor, a commentary, or a memory about this sentence. Write something about this sentence.

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Kittens can scratch
She hauled her arm back and punched him, as hard as she could, right in the gut. He made an oof of surprise, but it was only that. She hadn’t hurt him at all.
“That hurt about as much as petting a kitten,” he snarled at her, as he cuffed her across the top of the head.
Her servants made noises of shock and horror that he had dared to lay a hand on her. It was the way he would chastise a child, not an equal, and most definitely not a superior.
She blinked tears away. She was angry; a deep, burning anger that reached down to her insides and made her feel shaky. Something inside her broke.
“And you call yourself a princess.” He mocked her. “Seriously pet, give it up before you hurt yourself.”
She growled at him.
Now, he put his head back and laughed at her.
Her hands clenched into fists. Yes, she was a princess. But she was only young; she had never been told why her family led, they just always had. And then this man had come along, broken into her home when her father and brothers were away and he had threatened her and the people she felt responsible for.
She understood that the attack was a feint; a plan to lure them away. She also understood that someone within the castle had let him in. There was a traitor in their midst. She would deal with the traitor later. Right now, she did not take her eyes away from the invader.
She wanted him to stop laughing. No, she wanted him to stop breathing.
She stared at him.
“Stare all you want, pet. You can’t hurt me.”
She didn’t reply. She was dealing with some dark, curling, dangerous part of her that she had never known existed. It scratched at her insides. It demanded to be released. It wanted revenge.
And so did she.
She could have forced it back inside the broken box, but she let it out. It told her what to do.
He jerked his face towards her suddenly. It was intended to surprise her; to frighten her.
She did not move.
He stepped back and started to pace. Large strides that showed his height and his strength compared to her. She was half his size. “You can’t hurt me,” he opined, “your family’s days are over.” He waved a hand at her assembled servants. “Not even enough strong men left to guard the baby.”
“I am not a baby!”
He snorted derisively.
Her eyes fixed on his face.
He blinked. His mouth opened but nothing came out. He reached a hand up to touch his throat. His eyes became wide; too much of the whites showed. He clearly tried to inhale but he couldn’t do that either. He gaped like a fish out of water.
She did not blink.
The room was oddly silent.
He realised too late where the attack was coming from. He tried to take a step towards her, but the need to breathe overcame him. He raked at his throat with both hands, before his eyes protruded and he fell with a crash at her feet.
The few men, who had accompanied their leader, threw their weapons down and prostrated themselves on the floor.
“How many more are there?” she asked one of the men. He had stood behind the shoulder of the leader; she presumed he was a deputy.
“But a dozen, lady,” he replied, suitably respectful now.
She turned to her fencing tutor. He was an old man, but he had been a fighter in his younger days; a good one. “They surrender or they die,” she said.
“Yes, princess.”
He motioned the man who had spoken to his feet. “You can deliver the message,’ he suggested.
They had almost reached the door, when she recalled the traitor.
She allowed her eyes to travel slowly across the attendants in the room. People feared her gaze, she noticed. They flinched as she looked at them. She had better get used to that. It would not go back in the box, now. “Someone… let… them… in.”
“Who… was… it?”
The glance of the chatty invader flicked towards one man. Her husband-to-be.
Her head turned and she looked at him. He thought it was for reassurance.
“Don’t worry,” he said as he stepped towards her. “We’ll find him.”
“How do you know it was a him?”
“Princess,” she reminded him.
A tiny shake of his head, as if he didn’t understand. Now was not the time to be disrespectful. He was a fool. She had always thought so.
“How could it be a woman?” he asked, genuinely confused.
“Oh, of course,” she said. “Women are weak and small and powerless.”
“Ah.” He frowned. His hands on his hips in his permanently aggressive pose.
She had heard him espouse this theory often. Her father had told her that they needed this marriage as an alliance with his kingdom, but she had never liked him. “Is my father too healthy for your liking, prince?” she asked. “And all those brothers, who will inherit before I do.”
“Not if you exhibit the family trait,” her tutor suggested quietly.
The prince looked caught out.
“Oh, I see,” she said. Power was relevant, not gender, in her kingdom. She brushed her palms down her skirt. “Was that the plan? You threaten me and I may show signs of the gift. If I do not, no harm is done. You will marry me anyway and then control my kingdom. After you get rid of my brothers.” She looked up at him. “So what do you do now?”
“I have the gift. Clearly.” She waved a hand at the dead man. “But I also have you and you are not a comfort to me. You are a traitor. A man capable of betraying the family of the woman he swore to love. Doubly a traitor.”
“You betray me; your beloved.” She was sarcastic. “And my family and you betray yourself and your family.” Her head tilted. “Did you not think about the repercussions for your family?” She stepped towards him. “Hmmm?” she asked.
Her tutor had been silently creeping towards the prince. He wore a long dagger at his belt as all men did. It was the only weapon he had but he would probably be stupid enough to use it.
As she got closer he grabbed her around the neck and drew his dagger. Her tutor caught his arm, before he could hurt her, but took an elbow in the face for his trouble. He didn’t let go.
She took the prince’s breath away. Her tutor released him when it was clear that she had the situation under control.
“For that, you will die slowly and horribly,” she promised her attacker.
She asked the darkness inside her what else they could do.
He fell to the floor on his back and gasping. As he lay there, she made the stone below his hands change. His hands sank into it as if the stone was liquid. She let him breathe. He gasped in a mouthful of air and then tried to get to his feet. He looked puzzled for a second and then he screamed when he could not pull his hands out of the floor.
She smiled at him. It was not a pretty smile.
“Thank you, Gurney,” she said as she pressed her kerchief to her tutor’s bleeding nose.
“Princess,” he said.
She took off the ring the prince had given her and dropped it on his heaving chest.
The deputy’s face was white and his hands were shaking.
“Falconer? Send a bird to my father. Tell him we are all safe. Warn him of the trap. Hurry now,” she added when he hadn’t moved.
He bowed quickly and ran from the room.
“Right,” she said as she dusted off her hands. “We have more vermin to remove.”
© AM Gray 2013

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