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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“And these things just come naturally to you?” His voice dripped with sarcasm.
She didn’t answer him.
“Do they?” he demanded.
“Yes... they do.” Her voice was so quiet only those closest to her could hear it.
“What’s that?” he asked. “Mouse?” he added with a pointed glance at the people hanging on his every word. A few obligingly snickered.
She shrunk down a little more; trying to look small and defenceless.
“Fortune telling?” He laughed.
Learning quickly, more of the crowd chuckled this time.
“So you can see my future?”
“And your past,” she added.
“Oh, ho?” He waved a hand and the crowd laughed derisively.
Her jaw gritted. He was really annoying her.
“So what?” he asked. “You read my tea leaves? Look at my palm?”
“No.” She paused. “I need your blood.”
“Ooooh.” He held his hands in front of her face and waggled his fingers. “Blood.”
Small as she was, she didn’t blink. She had moved from annoyance to active dislike. “Just a small drop,” she said with a head tilt. The implication was there even if she didn’t say it.
And he knew it. He leaned in and hissed in her ear, “I am not frightened of you or your fortune telling.”
She didn’t answer; just drew a small shallow bowl from inside her cloak.
He eyed it off. “Don’t tell me you are going to drink it?”
“I need wine,” she said. “White wine.”
With a gesture from him, servants moved to obey.
“A small table? If you please?” she added. Her fear was gone. This was what she did. As he had said, it was her nature. And she knew that he wanted to hear his fortune. He was curious, and that meant she wasn’t dead... yet.
“Why blood?” he asked. The question was quiet; just for her.
A servant passed her a glass carafe. She poured, and then placed the bowl in the dead centre of the table. It was a perfect height for her to lean over dramatically.
He was still waiting for her reply.
Her mind was racing; trying to piece together every little piece of gossip she had heard in the time that she had been travelling his kingdom. Another part of her was trying to compose something that sounded suitably poetic and a third part was praying. Her gift was erratic but tonight she was praying that it actually worked. Perhaps she could dwell in the poetic past and hope that she caught a glimpse into the future.
“It has to have a cost to you,” she finally answered him. “Gold means too little.”
“So you have heard of my wealth?” he preened.
She wanted to remind him that he had clearly heard of her and dragged her to him by force of arms... but she didn’t. Palming a blade from inside another pocket, she said, “Blood.”
He frowned at her. She was supposed to have been searched for weapons. “And allow you to stick me with your blade? I don’t think so.”
She shrugged. “As you wish.”
“Does it matter where the blood comes from?”
“No.” All blood passed through the heart and the brain, allowing her - if the gift worked - to know what he thought and what he felt.
He had to use his own dagger; the point held to the tip of his finger. The drop fell with an audible plink.
“Three drops,” she said.
She didn’t really need three drops; she just wanted to see him bleed. Perhaps she should have asked for ten? But she had him now. He was nervous. Obviously he had something to be nervous about.
She saw that he resisted the temptation to lick his finger like a child; he wiped it on his sleeve.
She leaned down over the bowl. Her head above it and her hands gripped on the table edge. Closing her eyes, she prayed. “This may take a moment,” she said, stalling for time.
He threw himself into a chair and feigned nonchalance.
She took as long as she could before she spoke; now her voice rang out.
“First and only child of the father, but not of the mother-”
“Everyone knows my mother was married to his brother first.”
She silenced him with a look. “Born hungry, a death already to your name.”
His leg jigged nervously.
“Your twin dead. One for above, one for below. The evidence-” She scrabbled in her head for death ritual information. “-burnt to ash. Your mother broken and now barren. A womb of tears, poisoned and slowly killing her. Your father lost in mourning.”
He stared at her.
“Your step brother died. Fell from the battlements they said.”
“She had me,” he whispered. “I should have been enough.”
She threw her arms out wide; today the gift was working she could feel it. It remained to be seen if that was a good thing.
The room was deathly silent.
“You grew,” she said. “Almost unmatched in physical strength and grace. Told you were a good boy and great man until you believed it yourself. But you are not a good king.”
Someone gasped behind her.
“Your kingdom ails. The root crop is rotten in the ground. The wheat blackens and falls before it can be harvested. The fruit on the trees is stunted and does not ripen.” She pointed at him. “You do not see it!”
He rose to his feet; his face white.
“You eat! You feast while your people starve.” She knew she had minutes left. “You are the bad king who will fight off all revolutions. You will rule on in chaos and fear. But the child of the queen-”
“A child?” he interrupted; he sounded almost hopeful.
“-will be your death,” she finished.
“Shut up!” he shouted at her.
“And it is NOT your child!”
“SHUT UP!” he screamed it at her now. Grabbing the top of her arms with his hands and shaking her.
“You beat her for it but she does... not... love... you.” She spat it in his face.
He released one hand. She knew what was coming. He hauled back and slapped her. It hurt but he only held her with one hand now. She twisted out of his grip, scooped the bowl off the table and threw the contents in his eyes. He pushed her away from him.
Another hand locked around her arm. She would have bruises for days if she survived this. She was yanked backwards. She caught a glimpse of the horrified face of the king before it seemed as if the wall opened up and swallowed them.
She tried to speak but a hand was slapped over her face. They were inside the wall. The noise of the crowd in the audience chamber was muted.
The man held a finger to his lips. She blinked slowly to indicate she understood.
The passage was narrow and cramped; the air stale and musty. They hurried along for some distance until he spoke, “If he kills her, you die, too.”
The queen? “He won’t. I saw the future.”
“It’s your child,” she guessed.
“My son,” he said proudly.
“I didn’t say it was a son,” she commented as she checked her bowl was unbroken.
He gave her a look. “Huh.” He nodded. “If she is anything like her mother I wouldn’t be surprised what she will do.”
“Oh, she’ll be amazing.”
© AM Gray 2014