Monday, 6 January 2014

Monday, January 06, 2014 -


by John Benson
Published: Oct 25, 2013
Words: 23,918
Category: fantasy
Orientation: M/F
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The Demon was without fixed form, a boiling mass of smoke and flame, overlaid with stink of sulphur. "Heed me, child," the Demon said, "for thou shalt never know the full meaning of thy womanhood, lest thou learn as if a slave."

The damn thing was cursing her. But why? "I have shown you only courtesy," she said, "and you give me back curses?"

"I do only as I must," the Demon said. "As thou wilt." It leapt into the realm of Air and expanded hugely and became more tenuous until the last whiff of it was blown away, leaving behind bitter echoes in her young memory. Womanhood had been something Claudine had been more than willing to put off, while she made acquaintance with her Fire. Now suddenly she was being told it would come to her only at too high a price. She loved her freedom. Would she be willing to forgo it? Damn. So much for trying to make friends with Demons.

The witch moved slowly, more out of some inner calm than from infirmity, but her slow deliberation always made Claudine want to jump right up and help. The witch poured them tea, strange, fragrant, astringent, the infusion of boiling water on a lifetime of the lore of herbs. "You are anxious," the witch said. "More so than usual."

She was. Claudine had spent ten years becoming. Ten years with the cold old Gondarvin Windmaster just to learn to control that thing within her, and here she was. An Adept of Fire. It was supposed to be good for something. There were supposed to be great tasks. Now suddenly, this. "I've been cursed by a Demon," she said. "It has put some blockage on my path to womanhood, so I can only attain it if I experience life as if I were a slave. At least the damned thing didn't say I had to become a slave, exactly."

The old witch settled herself down near the hearth. Within it, fire sprites played, attracted by the presence of Claudine. "So what have you decided?" the witch asked.

Perceptive old girl. Claudine had wanted a sounding board, but in reality, she'd already made her mind up. "Study a bit more magic," she said, "but now with different motives."

"More tea?" the witch asked.

Out of courtesy, Claudine restrained the urge to jump up and serve. "Yes, please," she said.

The old witch smiled.

The Earthlord's dwelling was made of stone, and set into the side of a hill. Claudine dithered, knowing what she'd decided, but in less than her usual hurry to get there. The idea of skipping the womanhood problem for a time to just fulfill her destiny as an Adept was tempting. But those who forget their humanity are either ambushed by it, or live on to become monsters. Damn. It wouldn't be real slavery, exactly. It would just feel that way. Damn.

Before she could get up the nerve to knock, the Mage came out of his house.