Friday, 7 June 2013

The legend of the scorpion queen

Terribleminds challenge this week.
Pick three words from the list of ten. Incorporate these words into your story.
1.            Scarecrow
2.            Mint
3.            Epidemic
4.            Tongue
5.            Republic
6.            Scorpion
7.            Divorce
8.            Moon
9.            Holiday
10.          Legend
Again: three words. Incorporate into the tale. Which doesn’t mean simply using those words — it means making them parts of the plot, characters, or motifs found within. You can choose these words randomly (d10 or random number generator) or eschew chaos and hand-pick ‘em.
I rolled tongue, scorpion, legend.
I was really stuck until I was chatting to pukbak on twitter and she inspired me. so this one is for her. 935 words.
The legend of the scorpion queen
She strode into the saloon as if she owned the place. He watched her; it was hard not to. Her skirts were kilted up around her waist so that her long legs could move freely. The skirt folds fell in long loops over the front of her thighs. She had tight leggings on underneath to cover her nicely shaped legs and ankle boots. He looked. He was a man.
“Evening, boss,” the barman called.
“Evening, Sam.”
Turned out she did own it. Huh. Maybe he should have known that before he started running a tab. He didn’t like women running businesses. Didn’t trust them; they were sneaky. Once a woman had told him it was because women were smarter than him, but as if she’d know? He curled his large, angry body around his whiskey and hunkered down. He’d finish this drink and leave. The other bar looked okay.
He watched her from the corner of his eye. She scanned the bar. He scanned her.
“Be careful, mate,” the guy next to him said.
“You’re new in town. You probably don’t know the legend. It doesn’t pay to insult the lady.”
He snorted derisively. She was no lady. “I can look,” he grunted. He took another sip of his drink. “What’s her name?” Maybe he knew her by reputation. She’d have to be tough to run a business that wasn’t a brothel in this area. The desert killed more than just the farm holders’ crops.
“She calls herself Serket. At least since the accident.”
“Weren’t no accident,” a grizzled old crone mumbled. “He tried to kill her.”
Now that was something he could understand. “Who did?” he asked the crone.
“Her lover.”
“Wanted her business,” the first guy said.
“I heard he wanted her to put out for the customers,” said another.
“I heard she had a treasure and wouldn’t share it with him,” another supplied.
“Gossip,” he grunted.
He was distracted, trying to remember what he had heard about Serket; that was the only reason why she could sneak up on him. She patted him on the shoulder. He twitched. It was the shock that was all. He wasn’t frightened of her. But he had heard of her.
She leaned down and whispered in his ear, “He said he hated how I could talk. So he held me down and shoved a scorpion in my mouth.”
Her hand caressed over his shoulder and he had the oddest sensation. It felt like feet. Little scratchy insect feet. He shivered and took a fortifying sip of his whiskey.
“It was a deathstalker,” she said in his other ear. She jerked towards him, making a hissing sound.
Just like a scorpion.
He was getting spooked. He wanted to leave but no woman was going to chase him off.
“Stung me on the tongue,” she added.
“Not dead,” he pointed out.
“No. Clever boy.”
He wasn’t good with recognising sarcasm. Never understood why people didn’t just say what they meant.
“That’s why it’s a legend,” the old crone said.
Serket laughed. Put her head back and shook her hair and laughed. He saw a glimpse of her tongue. It seemed kind of dark. Maybe even black.
He gulped the rest of his drink and made to leave. He’d had enough of this.
The barman saw him do it and had his tab ready but he was feeling ornery. She was annoying him and he didn’t feel like paying.
“Here’s your tab,” the barman said, sliding it across the bar towards him.
He wasn’t good with figures either. He stood and picked up his hat. Others shuffled away from him. He didn’t pick up the tab.
She slammed her palm down on the bar, blocking him from leaving.
She tilted her head. “You owe me a buck twenty.”
He looked down at her hand and shrugged. “Can’t make me.” No way was a woman challenging him.
The barman glanced at his boss and raised an eyebrow.
She sighed. It sounded more annoyed than sad. She made an odd click noise with her tongue.
It was then a movement in her skirt caught his eye. The material moved as if something was underneath it. He almost wasn’t surprised when he saw what it was.
It was a scorpion. It clambered out of the skirt fold and delicately made its way up her hip. He couldn’t seem to get enough air into his lungs. If he could have found his tongue he might have offered to pay, but he could not take his eyes off the arachnid. Purposefully it scuttled down her arm and onto the back of her hand where it still lay flat on the bar.
The scorpion arched its tail and pointed the barb at him.
He’d had guns pointed at him plenty of times and he’d never felt his bowels go liquid like they did now.
“Buck twenty,” she repeated.
He had to reach for the piece of paper. Past the armed creature. And he knew it was armed and aimed at him. They could move so fast when they wanted to.
He reached into his pocket and counted the coins onto the tab.
“Clever boy,” she hissed. He heard an echo of the scorpion rattle in her voice.
He jammed his hat on his head and stormed out of the bar. He made sure to tell everyone to avoid the place unless they wanted to see the scorpion queen for themselves.
A few said they had heard of her. “Is it true that her tongue is black?” one asked him.
© AM Gray 2013

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