Mara: A Modified Origin Story
It’s a little-known fact that interdimensional travel is possible. I’ve done it at least twice. The sensation is prickly at first, and then the light comes. So much light. Enough to drown in, if you let it. It took me a few seconds to recover the last time, before I could even see anything. But now I’m getting ahead of myself.
Excelsia. A land of fairy tales and magic. Princesses and happy endings. Hell, I even saw a unicorn once. And all of it protected by a powerful wizard called the Wise One. It was a place little girls would imagine in their most favorite dreams, a perfect cupcake rainbow bliss utopia.
Unfortunately, it was also my home. To set the record straight, I have nothing against unicorns or fairy tales or even happy endings. I had unusual problems, sure, but everyone has their issues, I get it. It’s just that I’ve never felt comfortable here. My earliest memory on, I was always out of place. From my jet-black hair and warm complexion to my tendency to dress in dark clothes, I didn’t belong. Like a puzzle piece that doesn’t quite fit, from an entirely different puzzle.
Since blending in wasn’t an option, I learned to defend myself. Every kingdom has an underside, and Excelsia was no exception. There are three types of people in Excelsia: aris, vils, and coms. Aris are perfect, shining beacons of beauty, kindness and love, destined for a glorious happy ending. Vils are the opposite of that—witches, trolls, sorcerers and other unsavory types designed to thwart all the pure hopes and dreams of the aris. Coms like me are pretty much everyone else. We aren’t mentioned in fairy tales so much because we’re not essential to the story. If the baker sleeps in and the castle doesn’t get bread, life goes on. But damn are we everywhere. In bars, in alleys, in small homes with not enough food for the children. Fighting was just another skill to be mastered, and there were enough miscreants around to get a decent education.
There are two things you need to know about me, for all of this to make sense. Number one is my curse. I have this ability to kill people simply by touching them. A single touch starts an irreversible chain reaction of decay. I know, makes it kind of hard to date. Which leads me to number two: I’ve never orgasmed. Not once, and it’s not for lack of trying. Sex requires human contact, and by the time things start to get interesting, well that’s when my partner stops breathing.
So yeah, you could say I’ve got some issues. I learned to stay away from people, to keep them safe. The only friend I had was a hawk I called Artemus, because he just didn’t look like a Martin.
My hope is that if I write this all down, from the beginning, then maybe it can help someone else. Maybe they can avoid my mistakes, make better choices. There are others, so many others like me. Knowing that gives me a sense of peace somehow.
The beginning of the end for me started with a rude witch named Walinda and a simple job.
“This one should be easy,” the witch said, as she gathered ingredients from the shelves in her small hovel. “Prince Thornton, he’s not that bright.”
Her skin was radiant, almost glistening, and her gorgeous hair spilled down her shoulders, perfectly positioned. She looked to be maybe twenty years, but I was fairly certain it was a spell responsible for her stunning beauty. Her eyes were critical as they stared me down. “Well?”
“20 crowns?” I confirmed. Vils often lied and cheated, even when they needed something. This one knew what I could do, so the chances of her trying to screw me over were slim.
“You’ll have your money when he’s dead.” She waved me off. “Go, get it done. Be gone with you!”
I shot her a look. It’s not like I was going to stay for tea, but she didn’t have to be a jerk about it. I left without another word, fighting back the urge to flash a hand gesture in her direction. Powers or no, pissing off witches was just a bad idea. Hexes are forever.
Artemus was smart enough to wait for me outside, and he rejoined me on my shoulder when I emerged from the witch’s creepy little home. He squawked his hungry cry, so after picking up some bread in town, we headed for the river. I took a swig from my canteen and wiped the cool water off my lips. Artemus always flew above, watching the trail ahead. I was so grateful for his company, and that my power didn’t affect him. I don’t know why he stuck around—I figured it was the supply of bread and occasional pastry, but if I allowed myself to be delusional, it was more than that. He was my only friend in the craziness that was my world, the only thing that made sense.
I gathered some branches along the way to make a fire. At the river, Artemus went to work fast. Watching him fish was fun—the quick descent and plunge into the water, the helpless fish flapping vainly and finally the gulp. He was able to swallow fish that appeared larger than his beak, which I found oddly fascinating. The really large fish he carried over to me, dropping them next to the campfire. My job was always to debone and cook the fish over the flame, then afterwards we would share the meal. He seemed to enjoy the cooked fish as much as the raw fish, which I could tell by the odd purr sound he made as he chomped it down. That and the nuzzling—he would nuzzle my cheek with his head, a move beyond cute that I simply adored.
But today he was unusually alert. After he finished eating, he flew out to the adjacent woods. At the sound of a twig snapping, I understood his nervous behavior.
“Someone out there?” I grabbed my fish gut-covered knife and joined him. I looked around but didn’t see anyone. Artemus flew high above the forest, scanning the trees and ground for movement. He cried out and swooped down near a patch of trees in the distance.
A man dressed in black tried to shoo him off, unsuccessfully. Artemus hovered over the spot where the man hid, cawing and snapping at him.
“Are you following me?” I called to the stranger.
Artemus swooped down and his beak made contact with one of the man’s fingers.
“He’s not going to stop that, you know,” I said, as I cautiously approached his hiding spot. “He’s got a bit of a stubborn streak.”
The man bolted out, careful not to show his face. He ran away without another word. Artemus gave chase for a while, but then returned to me, landing on my shoulder.
“Who was that guy?” I asked the bird, as I stroked his head. His eyes closed and that strange purr resurfaced. “Thanks for running him off.”
Prince Thornton of Gloud. The very image of prince charming himself – chiseled and gorgeous, blond and courteous, a testament to blue blood refinement. He was courting Azura, the fair princess of Weston, and their marriage had been foretold to end the grisly Trading War between Azura and Gloud. The witch who was my employer simply couldn’t have that. She had a line of spices selling at obscene prices because of the war. With both sides in agreement, her business would cease to exist, for who would pick a price-gauging witch to be a supplier, if given a choice? With the prince out of the way, it would at least buy her some time.
I took a couple of days to study the prince’s routine. It was always easier to not have to infiltrate the castle and needlessly kill other coms. So, when I noticed he went for a daily ride around the outskirts of the castle, I found the best place to intercept him. A place beyond the guard’s patrol, so we could be alone and uninterrupted.
The next day, a royal decree announced the engagement of Princess Azura to Prince Thornton. The whole kingdom was rejoicing—kids were dancing in the streets, singing to music that wasn’t playing. Talking about true love and how you could tell by the way they looked at each other, nothing would ever keep them apart again.
It was just weird.
I decided that afternoon was as good as any to bump him off. I waited in the woods near the trail, far enough away from the castle to not be seen, but close enough for him to hear my distress cries. Artemus sat perched in a nearby tree, high up enough to be camouflaged in the branches. I heard galloping in the distance and as I peeked up to look, my heart immediately sank.
Two horses approached.
By the Wise One, those kids were right! Beautiful Azura sat atop the second steed, riding side-saddle like the elegant little flower she was. To my horror, they stopped on the trail near where I was hiding.
The two of them dismounted, giggled and held hands, and then ran toward the very spot I sat crouched and waiting.
I gulped. This wasn’t part of the deal. I’m only supposed to kill Thornton. That witch is not getting a two for one special.
I let out a breath only after they turned and arrived at a large oak a few yards away. As I watched them make out, I realized they had the same idea as I had. Well about the not being seen part anyway.
“I love you, my prince,” sweet Azura said, a little breathless as she broke away from the kiss.
“And I you, my love,” the prince predictably returned. “I can’t wait until the day I call you my wife.”
She shrieked a lovesick giggle. “Mrs. Thornton Addler. Has quite a ring to it, don’t you think?”
He kissed her neck, making his way down to her perfectly displayed cleavage, no doubt suspended in place by a painful corset. He nuzzled her breasts, and she let out a soft moan.
“Ooh, you’re making me so hot!” she gasped. “If I return to the palace with flushed cheeks, I’ll never hear the end of it.”
“I want you,” the prince said, his voice a low growl, his face still submerged in her breasts. “All of you.”
If I had believed in werewolves, this would be the part he would turn into one. But as interesting as that would’ve been, it’s not what happened.
“And you will have me,” she murmured, as she lifted his head to be level with hers. “On our wedding night.”
He kissed her fiercely, shoving his tongue in her mouth. It seemed to take an effort for her to push him off.
“You know the scandal it would cause…”
“I don’t care!” He groped her breasts with considerable force, and it just looked painful. “You’re mine.”
She took his hands in hers. “I am yours, my love. Always.”
He took a deep breath and exhaled. Her words seemed to defuse him somehow.
“Only a few more nights,” she said, as she rested her head against his. “I’m as eager as you are, you must know that.”
“I need a moment,” he said. “Being so close to you, and not being able to take you, it’s driving me crazy.”
“I’ll return to the castle. If anyone asks, I’ll say I got winded, and had to cut the ride short.”
He nodded. I understood his reaction; while his behavior seemed a bit dark on the surface, I’d experienced that kind of frustration before, myself. That was of course prior to the discovery that my touch was the reason all my boyfriends mysteriously died after short (too short) make-out sessions.
She mounted her horse in that dainty princess way of hers, accepting assistance from her noble prince.
He kissed her hand. “I’ll be back with you shortly.”
“I shall count the seconds.”
I wanted to vomit, but that would’ve given me up. If she rode off and he stayed, I could still pull this off. The Wise One knows I couldn’t handle watching another interaction between those two.
He watched her disappear on the trail, then took a deep exhale. I caught a glimpse of his enormous erection as he turned and faced the woods. No wonder he needed a moment. Riding with that would probably be dangerous.
“Grandmother, babies, puppy dogs…” he muttered to himself.
It’s now or never, I thought. I can’t go with my original plan of acting hurt, he’s going to wonder what the hell I was doing creeping in the bushes. Screw it, I’m going to go for it… Witch said he was dumb, let’s see how dumb he is…
“You know, I can help you with that,” I said, as I stood. “No one has to know.”
“Where the devil did you come from?” He frantically scanned the woods around me. “And just who are you?”
“No one of consequence, just a com.” I smiled as I approached, positioning myself uncomfortably close to him. I motioned to his crotch. “It seems to me you could use a release right about now.”
His erection hadn’t faltered, not even a little. It was hard to argue my point. The question was whether he would be loyal to his so-called true love.
Well, I’m not married yet.” A sadistic grin appeared on his face.
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