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The Curse

Marissa Lingen is a science fiction and fantasy writer living in the Minneapolis suburbs. Her work has appeared in Tor.com, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Strange Horizons, Uncanny, and more. [Even several times in Daily Science Fiction]

Twelve was old enough, or should have been old enough, not to need a minder at every turn. But twelve was also the perfect age for shiny things, for putting your hand on what is there for no better reason than because you can, and they turned their backs on my cousin for (his mother swore it) no more than a moment, half a moment really, and now he had that cursed sword.
Which was horrifying, disgusting, and a disgrace the likes of which our family would never live down if we could not get the curse off him before anyone found out.
His mother would not stop crying. "If his poor dear father was alive--if he had lived to see such a day--"
"He'd be no use whatever," said my eldest aunt briskly, "so there's no sense fussing over that. I don't suppose you could raise Mother, though, Carrots? She was always a dab hand at lifting a curse, was our mother."
My youngest aunt took a good long time to decide whether she felt like answering to "Carrots" before admitting that she just did not have any necromancy in her for another year at least, having used up all her best charms on the late king of Denmark sorting out that entire rotten business.
My eldest aunt sniffed. "Not that they're grateful, and now there's nothing left for your own family. That's what comes of meddling with Danes, I say."
"How was I to know we'd want to raise Mother! And it's not as if you hadn't gotten up to worse in the North Isles," my youngest aunt burst out. But they were both silenced by another round of wails from my cousin's mother, who was always rather soppy, particularly in a crisis.
"This never happens in our part of the family, never," said my own mother. "I can't see why he can't just give the sword to someone else, curse and all. I've bestowed loads of swords on people. Easiest thing in the world. Find someone who likes that nasty sort of thing, there's bound to be plenty of them, gods know why."
Mother had come with the rest of her sisters when the messenger brought news of my cousin, but the only way she was likely to be able to break a curse on someone was if hitting it vigorously with an axe would do.
I was not entirely sure we wouldn't get to that.
"It doesn't work that way, dear," said her youngest sister. "I'm afraid this one's a very durable curse. We could chuck the entire sword in a volcano and the curse would stand. And be on the boy still, more's the pity."
"So... the bottom of the sea? That's at least saltwater, ought to be good for something."
"An old priest and a young priest?"
"Rowan and mistletoe?"
"Turn him upside down and tickle him until he turns blue?" (That was Mother again; she did like to try to help.)
We tried on and on, into the night, through the blood of virgin rabbits and the dew of full moon mornings, through true love's kiss and gargling with kale juice.
Meanwhile my cousin sat outside in the courtyard waiting for the armorer to finish making the scabbard to hold the nasty cursed thing, as long as he had it. He ran his fingers over the letters carved into the rock: "rightwise king of Britain...."
The End
This story was first published on Monday, May 4th, 2020

Author Comments

Some curses are obviously curses to anyone, but others depend on who gets them. I have loads of aunts and now I am one, and I come from a family that doesn't think much of monarchies, especially compared to jobs that make things and get things done. You could be a painter or a poet or a nurse or an engineer and instead you're sitting in that fancy chair with that spiky tin hat on your head, telling people what to do? Get down from there, Our Arthur, what a trial you are, I told you to leave things be when we're in someone else's house....

- Marissa Lingen
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