The Curse Weaver
“You'll never find it. 'Round and 'round you'll go, exploring paths you've wandered before. Searching, always searching. And when you think you've discovered it, and you've reached the journey's end, your eternal march will start over...again, and again, and again.”
Bold words, infected with the malice and prophesized doom Curse Weavers were prone to invoke when threatened to reveal their knowledge or be put to the torch.
They'd encountered several of her ilk lurking in the swamps of Tendradril, and Idris had been impressed by none. The stump between his legs hadn't shriveled. His arms hadn't fallen off.
“Take her tongue, Idris,” Garren urged.
Idris brushed Garren's hand from his shoulder and approached the tree where she was lashed, hoping this Curse Weaver valued her life more than her words.
For two seasons they had already searched, a hundred increasingly frustrated and weary men, hacking their way through sun-melded vines and drooping, long-leafed fronds. It was a tiresome routine, one Idris was eager to abandon, but like all old places the swamp guarded its secrets well, and the spring Idris had been charged to find had refused to surrender itself.
“Do you know where it is? Can you lead us to it? Will you help guide us through the swamp? Do so, and I vow in the name of my king you'll be set free. None shall take your life, or your tongue.”
The Curse Weaver's body shook when she laughed. “Unyielding as the light, forever as the eves, the bearers of the sleeping king shall not leave this place.”
The flames ringed the dried reeds pushed up against the tree, growing bolder, roaring higher. The rising columns of smoke as gray as the wild mange of hair matted to her shoulders.
When the fire latched onto her mottled skin, Idris was somehow pleased he hadn't let Garren convince him to hack out her tongue. He wanted to hear her scream, screech vulgar damnations, inflict curse upon curse, if only to prove her threats were meaningless. She was nothing, except food for hungry flames.
“Idris!” Garren pleaded. “Silence her!”
“The fire will silence her.”
“Put an arrow in this boggish bitch before-”
“And waste a perfectly good arrow. No.”
It was then Garren pointed to the sullen group of men gathered around the tree, and by the fire's light Idris saw in their faces how the creature's declaration of perpetual wandering had afffected them.
From this moment on, every leaf that wouldn't bend, every blade that went dull, every time one of them turned his ankle the wrong way, they'd blame the Curse Weaver, and thereby blame Idris because he'd ignored Garren and had, out of desperation, allowed her to speak.
He didn't know whether to pity the superstitious lot or ridicule them as a band of faith-blinded fools. They'd been turning in circles long before they'd snared the Weaver, chasing after a myth, held hostage to an oath they'd sworn to a dying king.
Pity, Idris decided, would be a prudent choice. They had to forge forward, and it was not for him to decide which beliefs they should cast aside and which they should hold close to their hearts.
Idris nodded to Garren, and Garren whistled for one of the archers to ready his bow.
“Have them collect the ashes when the fire dies and put them in a one of the empty water casks. Weight it with stones and have it staked into the deepest part of the river. Then have the men break camp.”
“The landlayer hasn't finished drawing this clearing on his map,” Garren said.
“Fuck his maps,” Idris said, as he turned and walked away. “We march at dawn.”