The Zero Curse–Snippet

22 May

I’m not sure if this is the prologue I’ll use, but I had the scene buzzing through my head.

Prologue

It was a hot summer day when I realised – for the first time – just how vulnerable I truly was.

I was ten at the time and, despite everything, I hadn’t given up hope that I might have a spark of magic. It wasn’t uncommon for magicians not to show much – if any – spark and tar before turning twelve, when they would be schooled in magic. Or so my parents kept telling me, as they tried to teach me more and more arcane disciplines in the hopes of shaking something loose. My sisters were streaking ahead and I …

… I hadn’t even managed to cast a single spell.

It was a hot month, the hottest on record. My sisters and I would have loved to spend it in the swimming pool or paddling near the beach. Our friends – Alana and Bella’s friends, more accurately – had already decamped, leaving Shallot for their country estates where it would be cooler. We wanted to go with them too, but we hadn’t been allowed to leave. Great Aunt Stregheria had come to stay.

I still find it hard to believe that Great Aunt Stregheria was my father’s aunt. She was a tall dark woman, the tallest I’ve ever seen, her hair hanging down in a long braid that signified she was an unmarried woman. It was easy to understand why. I couldn’t help thinking that she looked rather like a vulture, with an angular face and dark eyes that seemed to glitter with malice as she peered down at us from her lofty height. She was one of those unpleasant adults who firmly believed that children should neither be seen nor heard and she hadn’t been shy about making her opinions known. She’d been scathing about my failings in magic. And she’d drilled my sisters in basic manners until even Alana was sick of her.

I didn’t know why she bothered to visit us. I still don’t. She complained about everything, from the food to the heat. We were in trouble if we didn’t curtsey just right when she saw us and when we deliberately stayed out of her way. She expected us to wear our formal clothes at all times, even though it was far too hot; she expected to wait on her at table, as if we were common maids. She’d get up late, have a long breakfast and then spend an hour or two with Dad before … well, we didn’t know what she was doing. We didn’t really care either. We just wanted her gone.

One day, the hottest day of the summer, we managed to slip away early. Mum didn’t say anything to us, let alone drag us back into the house. By then, I think she was sick and tired of Great Aunt Stregheria making itself at home. She had a home of her own. I rather thought it was a cave somewhere high up the mountainside, but I doubted it. Why couldn’t she go back home and stop bothering us? Great Aunt Stregheria was the sort of person who gave magic-users a bad name.

There was a little marshy pond down by the grove, one we’d paddled in when we were younger. We thought it was just far enough from the house – while still being part of the grounds – to escape detection, at least for a while. Dad hadn’t given Great Aunt Stregheria any access to the wards, we thought. She’d have been summoning us all the time if she’d had control. We took off our expensive shoes and splashed through the water, enjoying the cool liquid against our feet. For once, even Alana was too relieved to be away from the witch to indulge in a little malice. We were, just for an hour or two, a normal trio of sisters.

It didn’t last, of course.

Great Aunt Stregheria came striding through the grove in high dungeon, her face twisted with rage. I don’t think she was mad at us, specifically, but she was mad. We froze, fear holding us in place as solidly as any spell, as she stamped towards us. I had no idea where she’d been, or what she’d been doing, but …

“You little brats,” she snapped. In hindsight, I suspect she wanted to take her anger out on someone. “Get out of there!”

Normally, we would have obeyed instantly. But we were hot and sweaty and very – very – tired of her. We didn’t move.

Great Aunt Stregheria lifted her hand and cast a spell. I saw a flash of brilliant greenish light, an instant before the spell stuck me – struck us. Alana screamed – I might have screamed too, I’m not sure – as magic flared around her. My skin tingled unpleasantly, as if I was caught in a thunderstorm. I had an instant to see my black hand turning green and warty before the world shrunk. I squeezed my eyes tightly shut as I splashed into the water, then jerked them open as my legs started to move automatically. The tiny pool – so shallow that it barely reached our knees – was suddenly huge.

I broke the water, just in time to see Alana and Bella become frogs. My head swam as I grappled with the sudden change. It wasn’t the first time I’d been transfigured, but … but … this was far worse. There were no safeties worked into the spell. I could feel the frog’s mind gnawing away at mine, threading to erode my thoughts. The water was practically hypnotic, pulling at me. If I hadn’t been panicking, if I hadn’t managed to hop out of the water, I might have been lost.

The spell on me wore off in an hour, although it wasn’t until two years later that I understood why. By then, Dad had literally thrown Great Aunt Stregheria out of the hall and ordered her never to return. The spell on my sisters lasted nearly a week before it finally collapsed. Dad was delighted, utterly over the moon. He insisted I had a definite magical talent. I had to have something, he reasoned, to escape such a complex spell. Our parents had been unable to unravel it for themselves.

I knew better. Alana and Bella had been trapped, but neither of them had been in any danger of losing themselves in an animal’s mind. Their magic had even fought the spell when it was first cast. But I had no magic to defend myself. The protective spells Mum and Dad had given me had never been anchored properly because there was nothing for them to anchor too. It was sheer luck that I’d survived long enough for the spell to unravel. I was defenceless. Anyone could cast a spell on me.

It was a lesson I should never have forgotten.

I was a zero. And being powerless was my curse.

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23 Responses to “The Zero Curse–Snippet”

  1. Mike May 22, 2017 at 4:04 pm #

    Great work!

  2. benbailey12373 May 22, 2017 at 6:59 pm #

    Defo sign me up to beta this one. Hope you and the family are well x

    Sent from Samsung Mobile on O2

    • chrishanger May 27, 2017 at 9:42 pm #

      Will do, when i actually write it

      Chris

  3. An Marie May 22, 2017 at 11:08 pm #

    Excellent, can’t wait …. I just re-read the 1st one and I actually liked it even more the 2nd time around

  4. Dustin May 23, 2017 at 5:07 am #

    Nothing particularly wrong with it, but what exactly do you hope to gain by bringing all this up again? It’s a story that was already told in the previous book so telling it again with a little bit more elaboration just seems to be redundant. Is the aunt going to come back to play a major role in the story soon and you want her fresh on the reader’s minds?

    • An Marie May 23, 2017 at 7:40 pm #

      Just my thoughts that it introduces the idea that Cat could loose her humanity once transfigured easier because of being a zero, I don’t think that came up in the first book.

      • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard May 23, 2017 at 7:49 pm #

        I see it as a stronger reminder that being magic-less around magic users is very dangerous.

        While we learned in the last book, as a Zero she can do things that regular magic users can’t do, she is still vulnerable in ways that a regular magic user isn’t.

        This was mentioned at the end of the last book and it was pointed out that she could be valuable to other magic users.

        IE She’s still lacks the defenses the regular magic users have but some regular magic users have reasons to want to enslave her.

      • chrishanger May 27, 2017 at 9:49 pm #

        It depends on the spell. But yes, Cat is far more vulnable than her sisters.

        Chris

    • chrishanger May 27, 2017 at 9:43 pm #

      Yes, she is.

      Chris

    • Anonymous May 29, 2017 at 6:01 am #

      You are also forgetting that in the first book everyone ASSUMED that she had SOMETHING! She comes from a strong magical family. Here two siblings have magic. Ergo everyone assumes she has magic. Nobody is sure how strong or weak that magic is. But. Everyone. Assumes. That she has some.

      Now. Book Two. Most people still don’t know that she is zero. But some very important and powerful people do know it. Also some very important, but not powerful people (like that girl with whom Cat had the duel) know.

      • chrishanger June 3, 2017 at 4:49 pm #

        That’s true. Everyone assumed that Cat was just a late bloomer. (It does happen.)

        Now, too many people know the truth.

        Chris

  5. georgephillies May 23, 2017 at 5:38 pm #

    Sound rewrite of the introduction so readers know where they are starting.

  6. kell May 25, 2017 at 3:10 am #

    I really like this prologue it’s very concise. it shows cat’s character and her fears well. I feel like no one in her family really gets it. But this horror like story really sets up the danger that she feels.

  7. georgephillies May 25, 2017 at 4:41 pm #

    “It was a lesson I should never have forgotten.” Implying she is going to forget it.

  8. pkohonen May 26, 2017 at 11:43 am #

    “.. because there was nothing for them to anchor too”, A small spelling mistake, “anchor to” 🙂

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Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Yet More Updates | The Chrishanger - June 2, 2017

    […] (That said, I have also finalised the plot for The Zero Curse, which I will probably write in August. Snippet here.) […]

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