[Story] Story a Week 32

[[ Prompt: A story about a curse ]]

A screech like metal on stone announced the drake’s arrival into the clearing. Uldred watched it descend anxiously, the great leathery wings folding up over its back. Its prey was alive — stunned, but still moving. He’d made that mistake the last time he sent it out; the drake had swallowed it whole like a snake. This time, he’d waited until after the drake had fed before trying again. They shouldn’t be disturbed here. Uldred had searched for days for the right place in the forest. He hadn’t seen any of the giant insects here, nor the stalking reptiles, and there were no paths or villages close by. And there were small trees to tether the subject to, just in case.

The drake stood over its prey, its burning eyes watching Uldred intensely. He rubbed the smooth scales of its forehead. “That will do nicely. Thank you.” The drake was so huge now, grown rapidly from feeding off the creatures in this very forest. It was hard to imagine him as the weak, scrawny whelp he had been, on the edge of death. He still couldn’t understand how a creature that appeared to be undead could grow and thrive, either — but that was research for another time. Uldred’s subject was finally here.

Book knowledge and practical knowledge can be much different, and curses in particular were something that must be studied first-hand. But Uldred had little luck cursing small animals — often, they didn’t work as expected, and of course he could not ask the subject to describe what it felt. An aware subject, capable of speech, was required. Certainly there were dozens of people that Uldred would have liked to practice on, but most of them still lived back in Stormwind. Someone would surely notice if something happened to them, and he didn’t have a suitable place to work, either. For all its quirks, Shattrath was much better. Especially out here in the woods, away from the guards and the prying naaru. Uldred still wasn’t sure if they could know everything that happened in the city, but it was better not to risk it.

Seeing the bird people in the market had given Uldred the idea. He knew they had small settlements all around the walls of Shattrath. They were capable of speech, though rough, and no one would blink if one of them were to go missing. He wouldn’t even have to capture it himself and worry about being seen or attacked, the drake was large enough to carry one off — they were much lighter than they looked. The one that the drake had brought looked thin, too, or perhaps that was an illusion caused by the disarray of its feathers. It was alive, but the trip in the drake’s mouth hadn’t been easy. It stirred and, seeing the drake again, moved to get up. Its broad snakelike head struck and seized the bird again in its teeth. “Hey! Easy now,” Uldred said, frowning. He didn’t want to have to find yet another one. Quickly, he picked up the rope that he had left in the middle of the group of trees, and bound the bird’s hands with it. He’d had to research that too, and Uldred still wasn’t sure he’d got the knots properly, so he tied extra, just in case. The bird’s claws and beak looked sharp enough that it could probably cut through the rope, given enough time. So Uldred had to work quickly. The drake snapped its jaw and tossed its head before lifting off again, probably to find something else to eat.

The bird person’s small black eyes fixed on Uldred with a harsh glare. “Why,” it hissed, the feathers around its head rising. “Let go!”

Uldred didn’t answer, picking up his small notebook. Which one should he start with? There were so many, it was difficult to choose. Fireos? No, that would be too dangerous with trees around. Petrifesco? Maybe, but the subject would be unable to speak. Horribilius? Too loud, would surely attract attention. Arachiteus? Uldred scratched his chin thoughtfully. Hopefully it would attract only normal-sized spiders, and not the immense ones that lived nearby. It was worth a try. Carefully, Uldred recited the spell, sure to get every syllable correct. All magic was dangerous if done improperly, but especially curses.  He held his breath, watching.

Nothing happened.

Frowning, Uldred read over the spell again. He was sure to speak clearly, and in a firm tone. That was important for spells involving demons, it couldn’t hurt here either.

Still nothing. The bird’s eyes flashed, as if it was laughing. As if it knew.

Flustered, Uldred tried the spell on the next page. Then the next. None of them would take. Did the bird have some kind of magical protection? Or — the thought came to him with sudden clarity. Was the bird already cursed? It seemed fine, in fact it seemed to be gloating in Uldred’s frustration. Uldred snapped the notebook closed and stuffed it into his pack. All that research, wasted. He would have to find another subject, but he didn’t know where. He called for the drake, Naxitarius. This one would have to be taken care of.

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