Iron and Blood


Happy #flashfictionfriday! Here’s an older story of mine that I thought I would share. Enjoy!

No one ever said I was smart, had I been smart, I wouldn’t be in this predicament now.

The iron chains burn my wrists and ankles. If I don’t find a way out, I fear all my magic will soon be gone, and then I’ll be dead. That’s what they want, though. They want to rid the world of another witch.

My kind has always been misunderstood. Mortals try to categorize us into dark and light, but for most of us it doesn’t work that way. Most of us are quite grey.

The same goes for trying to kill us. You can’t just burn us, or stone us, or drown us. The magic will bring us back, and then we want vengeance. To kill a witch, you have to take her magic away first.

It’s a painful process- magic leaching by iron. If I had done a better job of keeping my magic secret, then it wouldn’t have changed me.

I was beautiful once. When I was young and just learning about my abilities, I was called a “great beauty,” but all magic changes the user. I think that’s why you never hear about middle-aged witches in fairy stories. There are some young and beautiful but not new to the craft, and the others look hundreds of years past their prime and can hardly transfigure a branch.

It all depends on how much you use your magic for yourself. Selfish magic keeps you pretty. Good magic makes you ugly. It doesn’t make a lot of sense, but there it is. If I had only spent more time looking out for number one, I wouldn’t be in this predicament.

“Enough vanity,” I tell myself. I try to slow my breathing; I will the tears to stop streaming down my cheeks. I need to get out.

More calmly than before, I take stock of my situation. My wrists are shackled in front of me. That’s good; I can see what I’m doing. I pull at one of the manacles. My thumb stops it from coming free.

I bite down on the inside of my cheek and think. My teacher told me once that you can break a finger bone as easily as a carrot; logic just tells you not to. Well, I’ve never been too good at logic anyway.

I grab my thumb and wrench it to the side. Pain, sharp and dizzying, fills me. I do my best to stifle my screams, but I can only do so much. This hurts so much worse than biting through a carrot. If I am very lucky, the guard will think it’s just me succumbing to the iron torture.

Breathe, I think to myself. If you can control your breath, you can control your pain. Just breathe.

When I have my breathing under control again, I look down at my hand. The angle my thumb is dangling at seems nothing short of macabre. I pull at the manacle again, and this time it comes free.

One down, one to go.

I still can’t use my powers, but I don’t want to break another thumb. Helplessly, I look around my cell. There is nothing that I can do. I have no choice.

I stick my whole thumb in my mouth. The iron burns where it touches my chin. I breathe in and out.

“It’s just a carrot. You like carrots. Rabbit food.” I say, but I don’t really believe myself.

Breathe.

In and out.

I chomp down. Hot coppery liquid fills my mouth and pain racks my body. I want to spit it out but I’m afraid I’ll never find it again in this dark, dirty cell. Contrary to the macabre popular belief, we can’t grow back limbs.

Thumb still in my mouth, I pull my arm away and use my other mangled hand to slide the restraint off and throw it across the cell. There’s a rushing sensation as my magic begins to return to me. It isn’t enough, though.

I spit my thumb into my hand and put it in my pocket. I’ll want it later.

I stand up and walk to the door of my cell. For once, hubris is my ally. They were so sure I wouldn’t be able to get past the iron chains that they didn’t bother to put even an ounce of it on the door.

I’m too weak to use a spell to knock it down, but not so weak I can’t employ a well-placed kick. My powers are coming back, but nowhere near fast enough. I’ll have to use my mortal powers. I’ve always been strong.

The door gives easily, and I stroll down the hall and out of the barracks. The night air wraps itself around me like a blanket and I can feel the power begin to course through my veins once more.

Soon, I will be whole.

I use what magic has already been restored to me to move with the flowing wind away. I’m not quite flying, but I’m not quite running either. The night feels so good wrapped around me; all I want to do is sleep. I know I can’t- not here.

It’s a struggle, but I retain my consciousness until I reach the woods. I’m no one there. I lie down beneath an elder tree. The Fae won’t bother me tonight. If I over stay and spend another night, I’m fair game.

I peel back some of the bark and stick it in my mouth. The taste is bitter. I chew and suck until it’s malleable enough to wrap around my broken digit. I fish my other thumb out of my pocket. I need more bark, but the process is the same.

In the morning, I’ll be covered in the Fae’s brutal little pinches, but most of my magic will be restored.

Fair trade.

The breaking dawn stings my eyes. For a moment, I don’t know where I am; then, I remember. I’m in the woods and I’m alive.

I look at my mangled hands. They’re whole, but look like they belong to someone much older and darker than I.  Today, I feel as old as I look- ancient.

I whisper my thanks to the tree and get on my way. I’m burning daylight and the guards know  I’m missing.

I breathe in and out, and concentrate on blending in with my surroundings. I feel my bones twist and break and reform themselves into the new me. I wriggle free of my dress and hop away.

When they track my movements to last night’s resting place, they will look for a mangled, naked woman running around in the woods. They won’t think to look for a small, tawny hare.

I’m free and I’m alive, and that’s all that matters.

1 thought on “Iron and Blood”

  1. Hmmmmmmmm…… will I be such a creature come Fall? No longer a mangled, broken old woman, but something different and alive and happy?

    Like

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