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“Words are power. Words are magic. I write the words. I wield the power.”

She sat at the desk in the centre of the room. Her desk, taken from her study without her permission even as she was dragged here. Around her, soldiers and courtiers stood silently, staring at her with suspicion in their eyes.

She glanced up nervously. The King was the only other seated figure in the room. It was unusual for anyone to be seated in his presence but she had been granted special dispensation. She needed to sit to work. He wanted her to work in front of him. Thus, she was seated in front of him.

The King upon his throne leaned forward, watching her impatiently. He was waiting for her to write the words he had ordered, weave her spell. She tried to steady her hands. She had never felt so nervous. A sheet of parchment was propped up in front of her. Written in mundane hand by the King himself, this was the spell she had been ordered to weave. A soldier stood by her shoulder, ordered to make sure she wrote exactly what the King had ordered. His sword was poised to strike if she disobeyed.

She dipped her pen into the inkwell and set it carefully upon the parchment.

She wrote slowly, the sound of her pen scratching across the parchment the only noise in the great room. As her carefully prepared ink flowed across the parchment, she felt a tingle through her body that told her the world was re-writing itself to match the words on the parchment.

“It is done.”

She put her pen down and looked around her. The soldiers and courtiers looked disappointed- they had obviously expected some kind of spectacle. Smoke, perhaps, or flashing lights. Not merely the sight of a woman writing on parchment.

The king spoke first. “How soon will I hear news?”

She swallowed nervously. “That would depend on the speed of your messenger, sire. The effects are usually quite immediate.”

He nodded. “Then you shall wait here until the messenger arrives.”

They waited. Hours passed; courtiers strayed away, others appeared to peer at her with curiosity and suspicion. Soldiers changed their shift. The King conversed with his aides, signed orders and watched her. She sat with her head down and her hands folded in her lap, grateful that she at least had a chair.

A door behind her burst open. She held herself still, although she wanted desperately to twist round and see if it was the expected messenger.

“I bring news from Inasterael, sire!”

She felt a little faint.

The messenger was brought forward, past her desk, to kneel in front of the King.

The King heaved himself to his feet, his heavy robes rustling and an expectant smile growing on his face. “It is done? The fields of Inasterael are burnt?”

The messenger shook his head. “Burnt, sire? No, they are not burnt. They thrive. They had begun harvesting vegetables as I left.”

She raised her head a little, to see the King’s face cloud over with anger. She closed her eyes for a long moment, bracing herself.

The King stormed across the room and banged a regal fist upon the desk. “Explain yourself, wordsmith! Why have you disobeyed me?”

“I have not disobeyed you, sire,” she said quietly, turning both parchments for him to see. “I wrote the words precisely as commanded.”

He stared at the parchments for a moment. “You speak true. Then why do the fields of Inasterael thrive? They should be burnt! Charred, as I ordered!”

She cleared her throat slightly and laid a finger on the King’s original parchment. “You commanded me to write that ‘the fields of Inasterael be chard’, sire. C-H-A-R-D. Chard is a leafy vegetable which tastes quite nice sautéed, and is spelt with two letters fewer than ‘charred’.”

© Kari Fay

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