Telling Tales 222
The Cleverness of the Curse
“I told you it would bring us bad luck!”
The scream pushed at her belly, swelled it as Conomor stormed above her. He was angry, but then he was almost always angry. More than that, though, he was sad. Even through the numb haze that had settled over her head, she was sorry that she had disappointed him. And confused at the same time. “You brought it up so often, my husband.” She called him ‘husband’ in the dim hope that she would somehow not end up suffering the same fate as his other brides.
He ground his teeth. “I could not help it!”
“It is part of your curse?” The questions came out of her on their own, the scream slipping words past her defenses even if it could not escape entirely on its own.
He shouted, “Yes!” His rage shook the trees around them and the stars above.
She wanted to know how it was bad luck for him, when it was so clear which one of them was going to die, but instead she said, “Can you tell me about it? Now, finally? Can you tell me your secret?” She recognized in his body and the clenching the kinds of things that were trying to escape from his belly. While he regularly terrified her and she mostly closely knew fear, she knew shame when she saw it.
Conomor turned his burning eyes on her. His shame fed his rage and she was the only one whom he could strike and offer himself release. She shrank back against the shrub altar and felt the scream flowers pressing into her dress. “What do you know?” he demanded.
“You struck a wizard…” She didn’t mean for the words to come out as a whisper, nor did the scream, but her throat was smaller than she was used to.
“Aye.” The way he pronounced that word made her think of the silversmith and she wondered if her husband had not worked to lose some distant, backwater accent. “He made me a beast, covered me in this dog’s skin, laughed while he did it. I swore I’d kill him and he told me I wasn’t the first though he confessed I might be the strongest.” In spite of his temper his chest puffed up ever so slightly.
“Can you be freed?”
“YOU!” He swung back on her once more and now she saw despair and disappointed hope underneath his skin. “It was going to be you! You were going to free me! Now look what you’ve done! You’ve ruined everything!”
“How could I free you?” she asked, her voice as small as ever.
“True love! If you’d loved me, truly loved me, I would be free! But you opened the door and now you’ll never love me!”
“But I do love you!” She wasn’t sure that her husband could hear her, but in the moment she had forgotten about his keen senses.
“You say that! They all said that! If it was true, I would no longer look like this! I would be free!”
“What exactly did the wizard say to you?” She and the scream were working together now, anything to postpone her inevitable death.
“On the day you know true love, you will be free of my enchantment. I can still hear his hollow voice!”
“Not on the day that you are loved.”
“WHAT?” he raged.
“Not on the day that you are loved,” she repeated. “The day that you know. The day that you trust in the love given to you.”