The Curse of the Orthana by Nick Tamboia

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“Go away,” the girl said in an annoyed tone as she tried to shoo the bird away with her foot. “Stop trying to eat my toes.”

The bird hopped back and made a loud cawing call, one that oddly sounded like a word.

“What?” The girl cocked her head to one side and put a cute frown on her cherub like face. “What did you say?”

“Danger,” the raven said to her.


“Danger,” the raven confirmed as it hopped to the side of her. “Kane.”
“Danger,” the girl repeated, frowning at the huge bird. “Danger from . . . Kane?”

“Danger. Kane,” the bird repeated before it suddenly flew off.

As the girl looked after the raven, she felt a sudden chilly breeze rush around her, and the sun dimmed as if a large cloud was passing in front of it. Just as Alia realized this, she heard a deep humming coming from the forest across the stream from her. For a moment, she sat there, trying to see what it was making that noise, when a massive, buzzing black cloud of flies exploded from the forest and came swarming toward her.

Without thought the girl held her right hand up, creating a magic shielded around her as she sat there on the stone, one that caused the huge swarm of flies to first flow around her the way a school of fish will swim to each side of an object, before finally circling her.

Within moments Alia found herself sitting in the middle of a buzzing black tornado of flies. This only lasted for a moment, and then the flies condensed into a swirling ball in front of her.

As Alia looked at this swarming ball of black flies, she saw it forming features, eyes, nose, mouth, and what looked like a crown. In moments the ball of swarming flies had formed itself into what looked like the face of a woman wearing a crown.

A queen!

Just as she had realized this, the ball of flies exploded apart and in moments, dissipated until finally they were gone like smoke blowing away in the wind.

A moment after this, the air grew warm again and the sunlight returned to normal.

Realizing she had just gotten a warning, fearing something was very wrong, the girl quickly dressed herself and rushed home.

Just as she reached her backyard, she became aware of voices talking, and so had slowed down and crept over to the bushes that lined the yard, trying to see what was going on.

The raven reappeared and landed on the clothesline nearby, calling to her. When the girl looked over at it, the bird pecked at one of her dresses her mother had early hung out to dry, before looking back up at the girl.

“This,” it seemed to say.

Alia looked down at herself, realizing that she was just wearing what amounted to her under garments and sandals. Not the way she wanted to appear if they had guests visiting. And besides, she felt it was important that she not be seen by whoever was here, in the state she was in.

Carefully and quietly she crept over to the clothesline, removed the dress. It was still a little damp, but she slid it on anyway, before finally walking up onto the back porch and entered the backroom of her home.

There were three men in the back sitting room of their cabin, two from the town council, and one, the one Alia looked directly at, that she felt a mix of fear and anger at as he violet purple eyes studied him. He was a Puritan, dressed all in black, tall and lanky with very pale skin tones and was wearing a very large, black, slouch hat that rested low on his face so only his large, yellow colored eyes looked out at the girl.

“Here she is,” her father announced as the girl stood there. “Daughter, these are Jole Matter and Ethan Cory from the town council. And this is the Puritan, Kane,” he concluded as he pointed at the tall, skinny man dressed in black with the slouch hat.

Alia just nodded her head as she looked around at the men. If she felt any fear, she didn’t show it.

Kane the Puritan remained where he was, looking the girl over, his yellow colored eyes studying her from beneath that wide rim of his black hat.

“You need to teach her how to act when introduced to her elders,” Jole remarked. He was a tall, plump man with small beady black eyes and bright orange hair.

“She’s not yet eight,” Alia’s mother informed them. “You must excuse her, as she is not only young but a little shy.”

Alia’s father held his hand up to silence his wife as he turned back to the men. “As you can see my daughter, Alia, is quite decent,” her father said.

Alia frowned at that.

“Yes, at the moment,” Jole remarked as he looked at the girl up and down with an expression of disgust on his face. “However, from what your neighbors have told us, this is not always the case. We must uphold the moral standards and puritan values our community is built upon.” As he had said the words, “mortal standards,” he had thrust his head to the left as if to emphasize that, and then when he had said, “puritan values,” he had thrust it to the right.