The Curse of the Orthana by Nick Tamboia

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There was another deep rumble that came from the boulders before them.

“Okay, fine,” Raven shouted as he waved his hand at the hill. “Go back to sleep. I don’t care.”

Alia frowned at the odd boy as she looked him over again. His wings where large, almost as big as he was tall, the feathers of which were the same black coloring as his hair. His eyes weren’t just a bright gold coloring. They seemed to be glowing as if lit by inner light. What he was, she wasn’t sure, but something about him felt . . . safe. Then she noticed that around his neck he wore a leather cord from which dangled a small, silver hourglass.

Noticing that, Alia took a step back as she looked the boy over, asking, “you can’t turn into a bird, can you?”

The boy frowned at that. “Nope.” His wings moved a little on his back. “Not a bird. Not that I have anything against birds. They’re nice people and all, but, no.” With that he sprang back up on the huge elk’s back. Smiling down at Alia, he then said, “well it was nice meeting you, Elf-a.”

“Alia,” the girl corrected.

“Okay, La-la. Hope you find your way back home.”

“Wait,” Alia gasped. “You’re just going to leave me out here?”

Raven appeared to think that over for a moment and then answered. “Yes. No offense but I have something important to do. I think.”

“You think?”

“Or I did it already,” the boy said more to himself as he frowned with thought. “Moving forwards and backwards gets confusing sometimes. Anyway. I don’t know where you live. And you don’t, so.”

At that point the elk looked back at the boy and made a strange whistling sound, followed by what sounded like a deep grunt.

“How do you know where she lives?” Raven wondered as he looked at the elk.

The elk made another series of grunts and whistling sounds before looking away into the forest.

Frowning, Raven looked back down at the girl and said, “Bob, says he knows where you live. I don’t know if he’s just making that up or not. He once told me he knew how to get to a great restaurant at the end of the world. I didn’t believe that either.”

Alia frowned at that as she looked the elk over. “You know how to get to Old Nann’s house?”

The elk looked back at her and seemed to nod its huge head with its massive rack of antlers at her.

Raven frowned at that. “Well if you want to give it a try, we can.” And with that the boy leaned down and offered his hand to Alia.

The girl took it after a moment and with Raven’s help, climbed up onto the back of the huge elk.

“Okay,” Raven then said in a cheerful tone. “You’re in the driver’s seat, Bob. Let’s go.”

With a snort, the elk turned in a half circle and began walking into the forest at a steady pace.

After a few moments, Raven looked back at Alia and asked, “you didn’t happen to bring any snacks, did you?”


“Oh well.”

Alia found the ride more comfortable than she would have expected. Considering that the boy, Raven, had wings on his back she expected them to get in the way and be bulky, as she was sitting behind him, but in fact, she found them oddly soft, and the lush, thick black feathers felt warm. Without realizing it, she found herself leaning against those wings as if they were soft, warm pillows.

After a while, thinking of those wings, the girl asked, “Raven, can I ask you a question?”

“If you’re going to ask me if fish get thirsty,” Raven replied, “the answer is no.”

Alia frowned at him. “No that’s not what I was going to ask. Interesting, but no.”


“You have wings, so can you fly?”

“Of course,” the boy answered.

“So why are you riding on this elk?”

“I like to ride. I once rode across the country on the back of a mammoth. That was fun, like riding on a floating bed of wool,” the boy answered back.

“Is that the cabin you live in?”

Ahead of them, slowly appearing out of the misting rain and gloomy fog, Old Nann’s cabin came into view as the elk walked toward it.

“Yes,” Alia said in delight. “Wait. Bob, stop.”

Abruptly the massive elk came to a sudden stop.

Raven glanced behind him at the girl, a questioning expression on his face.

“Kane and the Witch Hunters might still be here,” she told the boy.

That turned out not to be the case.

After the two climbed off of Bob, they searched the area around Old Nann’s cabin, looking for any sign of the men. When they saw no one, they finally approached the cabin, finding it a disaster. The outside chairs were thrown all over the yard and the garden on the side of the cabin was dug up and what plants had remained there that Alia had been growing for the old woman, had been pulled out by the roots and tossed aside. Nearby the fence that had ran around the small barn where Old Nann had kept her one donkey, a few goats and chickens, was smashed apart. The donkey and goats were gone, but the chickens and the one rooster were still there, clucking and picking at the grass and dirt for food.

The doors had been pulled off of the cabin as well.

Inside it was even worse. The house was destroyed, chairs tossed around, tables smashed, the pots in the kitchen were thrown all over, the plates and bowls broken, and the jars and pots Old Nann had stored her herbal medicines she used to heal people, had been dumped out and smashed.

Even the bed Old Nann had slept in, and a cot in the side room Alia had been sleeping in for the last month had been pulled apart, the bedding tossed around and the wooden frames smashed.

There was no sign of Old Nann. She was gone.

“I am really sorry,” Raven said in a soft tone as he stood in the backdoor of the cabin, looking in at the mess.

Alia sighed as she up-righted an armchair. “Well,” she sighed again. “I guess I should start cleaning this up.”

“At least it’s still here,” the boy remarked as he looked down at the floor of the cabin.

Alia looked back at him. “What is?”

“The doorway,” Raven answered.

Alia didn’t understand what he had meant at the time and thought he was talking about the doorway he stood in. Thinking him a little insane, she looked back around the room, trying to think.

“What do you want to do, Elsia?”

“Alia,” the girl corrected him about her name. “I’m going to straighten this mess up and wait for her to come back.”

“She might not.”

Alia held her hand up toward him, indicating that he should be quiet. “She might be in the forest, hiding as I was. Maybe she got lost. She’ll be back.”