Excerpt: The Cursed

“Why’d you do it?”

Her voice was small, but steady as she stood before Norflus and the bodies of the three young children.

“I had no choice, Saya.. You must believe me.”, said Norflus, taking a step towards her.

“You sick bastard… You murdered them! Your own children!”

“I only did it to save them! They were sick! You know that!! You’d seen Maya and Aliana yesterday! They could barely stand. And Ria hasn’t opened her eyes in 4 days! They’re at peace now, and I’m not sorry for what I’ve done!

The sound of a gun cocking made both of them turn around in time to see a disheveled Shade standing at the door, his eyes sweeping across the ransacked room.

“Saya, what the fuck is going on?”

 “Shade!”, Saya exclaimed, instinctively moving towards him, “What are you doing here? You need to be resting! Where are Tonya and -“

She stopped in her tracks as Shade pointed the muzzle of the gun at her, “I asked you a question.”

Saya stared at him in disbelief, dismayed at her training having seemingly failed her at this crucial juncture. She had no idea what to say to him. Besides the fact that it was dangerous for him to be here.

She watched his eyes sweep over the room, pausing over the bedsheet strewn carelessly over the bodies of the three young children. Oh, no.. Aliana…

Norflus now stepped up to Shade. “My Lord, I did what I thought best. Now you must do the same.”

Saya’s heart began to race. The Imperium would never forgive such a transgression. Already the walls were tainted with the blood of three innocents. Shade would be held responsible. The council was waiting for just such a transgression. The last thing he needed was to kill the one man who could offer proof before the Most Honorable Assembly of The Highest Justice.

She moved closer to him, and Shade drew back his pistol, cracking Norflus across the face with it. It took all of Saya’s training to not gasp out aloud at the sudden violence. Norflus fell to the floor in a faint, and Shade swayed himself.

“Shade!”, exclaimed Saya, slipping her arms around his waist to steady him. “Guards”, she called out into the hall, cursing the Others for letting him out of the Healing Ward and into this mess. He must have followed her. But why was he alone? His body was tense against hers, and she resisted the urge to dig her nails into his back, shocked at the suddenness of the thought.

In anger or in love? she asked herself, suddenly miserable.

Shade looked down at her, “I’m fine. You can let me go.”

Reddening, she stepped away from him. “You tried to shoot me.”, she accused, already aware of what was going to happen next, as if she had seen it all happen before. In the ghost of a dream, she thought, feeling her skin tingle as she watched Shade turn away from her and walk towards the murdered children.

Even though he wasn’t supposed to have entered the room before dawn. By then the girls would have been prepared for the ceremony. And he wouldn’t be walking towards their still-warm bodies on a floor slick with their blood.

It wasn’t your fault, she thought, her heart aching for him. But she couldn’t say that out loud. Because it wasn’t what she was supposed to say. He will curse now. Swear vengeance on the Introducers of this Vile disease. And Norflus.. And even me..

He stopped before the outstretched hand, that would have tugged Saya’s heart right out of her body were it not for her lessons in Momentary Isolation Techniques. “They need a proper funeral”, she said, finally, because that was what she was supposed to do, even though it was six hours earlier than when she was supposed to be saying it.

He will curse now.

A sudden movement on his part drew her out of her reverie, and she saw him on one knee, hand hovering around the youngest child’s hand, which stretched out from below the bloodstained sheet, fingers curled around a crumpled piece of paper. He took the piece of paper with his left hand, then covered her hand with his right.

She took a step closer, concerned with the different direction the situation was taking, and then stopped as she heard him speak. The Ancient Tongue! Tears sprang unbidden in Saya’s eyes..

He was praying for the children.

What had they done?

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