Curses, Inside-Out: Part Nine
also by Dreagoddess
The Darigan Citadel still hung looming over Meridell,
shrouded in sinister stormclouds, but nothing unwholesome now grew in its shadow.
Walls no longer began to crumble the day after they were built.
Untangling the curses had taken months of careful,
patient work, teasing bits of magic out from under each other and untying knots
that had been fused together. Today, there was one last curse to remove, and
both Darigan and Meridell had gathered to celebrate.
She was on a light blue Uni, a very steady companion
who had borne her uncomplainingly to the Citadel and back every day. This was
their last regular visit, though Lisha rather hoped it wouldn't be her last
of all. She'd grown surprisingly fond of the Citadel and its inhabitants over
The air was growing steadily cooler as they ascended,
though it wasn't nearly the abrupt change it had been some months ago. The Citadel
still looked imposing at first glance, but the clouds lurking around it weren't
so dark and there were hints of green growing bravely now.
Of course, today there were a lot more
colors than just green, with the happy Darigani bedecking themselves and their
city with festival brightness. The Meridellian delegation that was following
behind Lisha would definitely find a Citadel greatly changed from the one they'd
The Uni, Culea, tossed her mane as they crossed
the edge of the clouds' shade, leaving the warm sunlight behind but exchanging
it for an excellent view of the Citadel's buildings. "Ooh," she said approvingly,
skimming low. "They've decorated." She nodded, not at the banners on the walls,
but toward a Darigan Uni with electric-blue ornaments complementing his purple
fur. "And I think the grass grew since last time."
Lisha couldn't help laughing. "I think there's
more of it, anyway." The first sign of spontaneous new growth, a little pink
flower curling determinedly out of a crack far away from the Illusen's Orb Plant,
had come as something of a shock. The suggestion that it was something they
should get used to had practically electrified the Darigani.
The Darigani cheered when Culea came in for a
delicate landing. The Meridellian sorceress had become quickly accepted and
even beloved -- which made Lisha blush fiercely -- at the Citadel when it became
clear she was working just as hard as Lord Darigan to restore their home.
She waved with a little smile, trying not to
turn too red. She greeted Lord Darigan with a smile of relief that turned
into a laugh at the jaunty red banner flickering from his staff. "Hello. I'm
starting to think I should have dressed up more!"
"Told you so," Culea said under her breath.
"You look fine." Darigan was grinning when he
glanced at the banner. "I was waylaid by a rampaging decorator." That might
have explained the banner, but he was also dressed for once in white and yellow
robes instead of black and deep violet. It was a startling effect.
"I see lots of decorators have been rampaging,"
Lisha told him with a broad answering grin. "Well, Jeran said the delegation
was going to leave not too long after I did, so we should probably get set up....
Everyone's very excited. Everyone from Meridell, I mean. I know you all are
"Indeed." Darigan glanced upward, where streaks
of blue sky sparkled incongruously between dull gray clouds. "The last remaining
curse may be less painful in itself than many of the rest, but... highly symbolic."
"Which is why it is the last one," Lisha
pointed out. "This way it's more of a celebration. Don't worry. Everything will
He chuckled. "It certainly should. We made sure
of that." They could, really, have removed it two days ago without all the production,
and had made sure the other bits of magic pinning it down were out of the way
at that time. But the opportunity to let everyone celebrate instead of presenting
it as a fait accompli had been too appealing to pass up -- Darigan could
use some celebrations.
"Then stop worrying. About that, at least. Oh
look, here comes the king! And Jeran!" Lisha lifted her paw over her head and
waved vigorously at the approach of the Meridellian contingent.
Lord Darigan may have been somewhat less than
ecstatic at King Skarl's presence, but he offered a courteous bow to the delegation
as a whole. "I thank you all for attending this celebration, and for allowing
us Lisha's assistance in removing the curses on our land."
"We're glad to see the curse lifted as well,"
Skarl said formally after dismounting from his Uni-pulled chariot. "And glad
one of our own could help. We hope this is the dawn of a new day of cooperation
between our two lands."
"We have already achieved greater cooperation
than I would once have dreamed was possible. I believe it will soon be greater
Looking around, Lisha was happy to see that things
really did seem to be going well. The Uni had unhitched himself from the chariot
and wandered off to talk to Culea and the Darigan Uni they had passed before,
the one with the blue ribbons. The honor guard of Draiks hadn't left formation,
but one or two sported unexpected and improbable-looking artificial flowers
bestowed by excited Darigani children, who obviously were no longer particularly
shy of Meridell's soldiers. And the guests who had been specifically invited
had swiftly found their way to their hosts: a yellow Zafara was chatting to
General Galgarrath, and while Sally the Usul and her parents were too polite
to crowd up to Lord Darigan, Master Vex had quickly ushered them to a place
where they could see him easily.
This happened not to be far from an Eyrie who
looked vaguely familiar; Lisha realized with something of a shock that it was
General Kass, out of uniform and looking uncharacteristically timid. She had
heard that he was "recovering," after Jeran and Illusen had helped Lord Darigan
retrieve him from the Three, but hadn't seen him on her previous trips to the
Lisha looked away from him somewhat uncomfortably.
He was supposed to be changed -- chastened -- but he had nearly killed her brother.
She wasn't going to seek revenge, but she was glad she didn't have to carry
on a conversation yet.
She raised her eyes to Lord Darigan instead,
as he lifted his staff and opened his mouth to announce the start of the proceedings,
but he stopped before he spoke and bowed again. "Illusen," he said. "I had not
presumed to expect you. Welcome."
Everyone turned to watch the earth Faerie, whose
approach left the fragile grass faintly thicker in her wake; Illusen laughed.
"I may prefer to keep my feet on the ground, but this was worth leaving it."
"We're honored. Your gift has helped our city
bloom again." He gestured in the direction of the Illusen's Orb plant, where
growth was thickest of all. It wasn't quite up to Meridellian standards, but
it was quite impressive to the Darigani.
"I think you deserve most of the credit for that,"
she demurred, smiling. "You and young Lisha. I'm looking forward to watching
you work together."
"And it is time we began." Lord Darigan raised
his staff and his voice. "All the curses laid on our land, save one, have been
removed. You can already see that we have begun to heal from their effects:
our walls are rebuilt without crumbling; grass grows in ground that was barren
less than a year ago... our wings are no longer torn." He spread his own, the
ragged rents long gone. "Today the last will be erased, in your presence, and
Darigan will be truly on its way to wholeness."
He planted the end of his staff on the ground
again and nodded to Lisha, who wrapped one paw around it, below his, and closed
This wasn't by any means the most difficult spell
they'd done. They'd planned it that way on purpose, knowing that failing or
even struggling would be disastrous to Darigani morale. So it was only with
minimal effort -- and the ease of long practice -- that the two wizards combined
their magic and reached out to delicately untangle the last of the twisted spells
that had wracked the Citadel for so long.
There was a twist and a snap only those two heard,
then a beam of sunlight pierced through the cloud barrier. There was a moment
of silence, then as the beam was followed by another and another, a spontaneous
cheer arose among the crowd.
A low breeze sprang up, warm as a breath, stirring
Lisha's antennae -- she glanced over and saw Psellia, perched translucent to
the point of near-invisibility behind Jeran. The wind that was soft at ground-level
on the Citadel evidently grew to something approaching gale force higher up;
the sunbeams grew to a glorious blaze of light as the dark clouds parted and
were whipped away entirely.
The cheers redoubled.
Grinning so hard her cheeks hurt, Lisha looked
down from the sky to Lord Darigan. After a moment, he pulled his own gaze from
the sudden expanse of blue to meet her eyes.
"Congratulations," she shouted.
He laughed. "Thank you." His voice softened.
"With all my heart. All our hearts. This is going to be a new holiday, you know."
"Thank you, too." Still more quietly,
but still just audible under all the rejoicing, Lisha added, "I feel like a
real sorceress now. I'm glad you were willing to teach me." She looked around.
"Can I still come visit sometimes?"
"After this?" Darigan's gesture took in the sky
and all his people. "I may be busy -- but you are welcome here. Any time you