The Cursed….

31 Oct

HAPPY HALLOWEEN from the GSP Halloween Promo. This is the last post for the Promo and we would like to thank you all for your support and participation. It has been a fun month and hope that you, the readers enjoyed it too! Today we welcome Lisa Farrell.

Lisa Farrell has been writing for as long as she can remember. Much of what she writes is speculative fiction, but she tries other things from time to time. She has an MA in Creative Writing from the University of East Anglia, and some of her stories are available in print and online – check out lisafarrell.blogspot.com for links. She lives in the UK with her husband, son and two black cats.

Her book that we are featuring on today’s post is The Cursed.

Magic cannot be used without consequences, that’s why you need a license to use it. But if your child was suffering because of the backlash of someone else’s spell, could you stand by and do nothing? Wouldn’t you want to save them, no matter what the cost?

This is a dark tale of magic, desperation and revenge.

Excerpt:

She pretended not to notice the women watching her as she approached the bier. She kept her head up and eyes forward as she passed them, her baby held carefully in the crook of her arm. Her offering was precious perfume for the chaotic god; she had to bring the best she could afford. It wasn’t her fault the other women could only spare a loaf of bread or a bunch of wild flowers. Their husbands toiled in the wheat fields because they hadn’t the skills to do anything else. Her man could both write and count, and so served the lord personally, up in the great house on the hill.
    That was where he was now, though the sun had almost set. The farmers were able to attend to the rites with their wives while she had to make their pledge alone. As the other women joined hands with their men and marched past her with their noses in the air, she turned to head for home. She cooed to her baby, who was waking up.
    It was a warm day, so she kept to the shade of the tall rickety houses along the street. The smell was worse in this season, as the sun released the vapours from the dung that had been walked into the cobbles of the road.
    She hated the town. Everywhere there was life, but of a very different sort to that around the country dwellings where the more fortunate lived. The sort she could have lived in, had her husband’s family not been cursed with ill fortune. It would be a long time before he could afford to house her on one of the hills above the town, where the air was clear and the ground not infested with maggots or disease.
    Her husband worked all day up on that hill, and she envied him for that. She had to return now to their poky little house, with nothing but a stone wall between her and the farmers’ families. At times she even envied the farmers themselves, who at least got to spend their days in the open fields beyond the town walls. They weren’t encased in stone all day.
    Her baby began to cry as she closed the gate behind her. He didn’t like the grate of metal as the latch dropped back into its place. Her garden was a mass of herbs and the scent greeted her. Everything she grew had a strong smell; it served to mask the stench of the town.
    She walked up the little stone path, jiggling the baby in an effort to quieten him.
    “It’s all right, my sweet one,” she said, “we’re home now.”
    She wished that she needn’t take him out when she paid homage, but she couldn’t keep a nanny for him, and it would look bad if she didn’t take something to the bier in the square at least once a day. Not with her husband doing so well in comparison with the other poor souls around, and with a young child to keep safe too.
    Her key was in the bottom of her pocket; she could feel it digging into her thigh. She held the baby close with one hand and fumbled for the key with the other. Her long skirt was too tight, she couldn’t get her fingers in without shifting position again. The baby was starting to thrash in her arms.
    “Stop it,” she snapped. “Give me a minute.”
    Her tone did nothing to soothe him, but when she pushed the heavy door open at last and stepped into the dark of the hall, the cool air quietened him. He whimpered softly as she moved to the living room, where she placed him on the rug before the empty grate.
    “There, that’s better,” she said, smiling as she knelt before him, hoping to have a smile in return. He just stared at her with his big blue eyes, but she tickled his round tummy and was rewarded with a giggle. He was getting bigger so quickly. It hadn’t been long ago she could leave him lying there as she worked and he’d be safe. Now if she turned her back for a moment he would crawl off somewhere more interesting.
    “Are you hungry?” she asked as he reached for her. “Already?”
She gathered him in her arms and sat in the chair by the fireplace to feed him. She had worked hard today, washing and baking. She hoped he’d sleep after his feed, and give her time to rest herself.

***

    She woke to his wailing and sighed. Her head hurt, as it generally did when her sleep was interrupted. Her husband rolled over to face her and mumbled something, but she hushed him. She would get up to quiet the baby and let him sleep.
    Her candle had burnt down while she slept. Moonlight highlighted the cracks in the shutters and allowed her to see her way to the cot by the shades of grey. The baby’s cries were angry and urgent, as though he was in pain. He was kicking his legs in the air as he shrieked, and his tiny fists were clenched. She reached in to lift him out, but before her fingers touched him she could feel the heat radiating from his body. She was afraid to touch him. She put a finger to his wrinkled forehead and yelped at the burning of his skin.
    “Mark!” she cried. “Get up! Something’s wrong.”
    She didn’t try to lift him for fear of dropping him, so stood uselessly looking down at his face. Her husband stumbled to her side and blinked down at the screaming child.
    “Maybe he just needs feeding?”
    “He’s too hot, Mark, feel him. I think . . . I think someone has brought the curse on us.”
    Mark put his hand to the baby’s forehead and the little hands latched onto his bare arm. The sickly smell of burnt hair began to fill the room but Mark didn’t move.
    “Fetch the doctor,” he said.
    She spared little thought for the shame of having to go herself, but hitched her nightdress up and ran barefoot through the street to the doctor’s house. A learned man who came at no small price, his house had a wall higher than her own. She clambered over the gate, for her hands shook too much to open it, and hammered on the door.
    She was shivering by the time he opened it to her, but couldn’t feel the cold. She could only blurt out that they needed him before she broke into sobs. He came with her at once, throwing a coat over his dressing gown.
They could hear the baby’s cries from halfway down the street, and she cried harder to think that his little throat must be raw with screaming.
    “He’s burning up,” Mark said as they entered the bedroom. “What’s wrong with him, Doctor?”
    He had detached his arm from the child and lit a candle. She could see red welts on his arm where he’d been gripped. The doctor hurried to see into the cot, and swore.
    “What is it?” she asked, and gasped as she peered over his shoulder. The child’s face was scarlet, and his eyes, open wider than she’d ever seen them, were bright yellow.
    “Oh, gods help us!” she said. “What’s happening to my baby?”
The doctor turned to her, his lips a tight line and his brow furrowed.
    “I can’t help you,” he said. “It’s the curse. Only magic can save him from magic.”
    “No!” she shook her head, and her husband caught her trembling hands before she could grab the doctor by the collar. “There are no magicians in this town! There must be something we can do.”
    “I’m sorry, Madam, but this is no natural sickness. Do you want me to inform the witch-finders?”
    “Yes!”
    “No,” Mark said. “That won’t help him. We must employ a magician to redirect this curse.”
    “Someone has cursed our child,” she growled at him, “and we can’t let that go unpunished. No one has a license in this town. They must be brought to justice!”
    “One man has a license,” Mark said. “Our lord. And I shall go to him at once.”
    “Be sure that you do,” the doctor said. “The child will burn out; he doesn’t have long.”
    “Wait!” she shrieked, breaking from Mark’s grip to follow the doctor from the room. “I beg you, Doctor. Send for the witch-finders.”
    “As you wish, Madam.”

Her book is available at: http://www.amazon.com/The-Cursed-ebook/dp/B00433U1EU/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1351668472&sr=8-1&keywords=the+cursed+lisa+farrell

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3 Responses to “The Cursed….”

  1. Sheila Deeth October 31, 2012 at 7:06 pm #

    Scary!

  2. Dawn Colclasure October 31, 2012 at 7:21 pm #

    Wow! I enjoyed reading that excerpt! It sounds like an interesting and spooky story. I’ll have to check it out sometime. Happy Halloween!

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  1. The Cursed…. « Chalaedra's Weblog - October 31, 2012

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