(IP) Field of Thorns

The broken city was dark and silent, the only light in all of the crumbling dwellings torches and lanterns hung here and there, providing golden pools of light for the weary traveler to see by. Not that there would be anyone traveling here; only the deluded and the desperate chose to set roots down in soil this poisonous. Anyone passing by, illuminated in the bloody red light that shone from the clock tower marking the square, would’ve taken great pains to avoid the man standing at a lectern, arms spread outward as if in supplication.His face seemed to be carved from razor-sharp crystal, all hollowness and angles, his eyes two black pits with pinpricks of garnet at their centers, his torn suit hanging limply off of his bedraggled, gaunt frame.“Don’t you all see that this city is cursed? No matter where you go, you cannot escape it!” His voice climbed, loud and shrill even in the silence. “The prophets have said that this city will be devoured by beings of blood and darkness, even before it was formed! You simply must listen!” His voice was raspy, but musical, and he held a baton in one of his delicate, feminine hands, rapping it against the lectern.This wasn’t an unusual occurrence in itself; this man had made a habit of ‘preaching’ to the wayward population of this doomed city. The legend was half of the appeal, a summons to everyone who didn’t fit in to the rigid new regime that the humans had enforced. Lawless, dark, and gloomy though the city was, there was more freedom to be had in its poorly drawn borders for creatures of the night, the peoples who fed on blood, sweat, and tears, quite literally.A noblewoman clothed in black hurried by, a thick, dark veil hiding her features, her young children following her like tiny ducklings, their eyes glowing like gems when they looked up at the man. Some were afraid, others looked on him with disdain, and the eldest, a young woman with eyes like citrine stones, narrowed her eyes at him. She hissed from between her teeth, peeling her lips back as though she were an animal.“Every day you come to this square and talk to us of how our city is cursed,” She said crisply, though her tiny, pointed fangs gave her a bit of a lisp. “How do you know? Surely you don’t know your history that well. And what do I care for curses? Such talk is for the old folks, and you don’t look it.” She had stopped in front of the man, one dark brow arched in bemusement.For her mother’s part, she’d stopped, and all of the children hid behind her voluminous dark skirts, one son peeking out from behind her, bright eyes on his sister.“Dahlia! Show some respect, child! Come along, we must be going. We simply don’t have time for idle conversations with… unsavory individuals. We have business to attend to."But the preacher man simply smirked, waving off the mother’s concerns as if they were lint on his clothes. "Do you happen to frequent our local library… Dahlia, was it?” His eyes sparkled with mischief, and Dahlia curled her lip, sneering. “If you do, you would know that it’s simply a matter of presenting your card. There’s a reason that such legends and curses are documented.Don’t you know that every fiction, legend, and story contains a grain of truth? They would not survive, otherwise,”“Dahlia!” She frowned, looking over at her mother and the gaggle of siblings that trailed along behind her in a curvy zigzag. “We must go. We’re already late. Come now, I will not ask again.” Her mother’s voice was imperious and brooked no argument. And she knew that they had social engagements to get to, but something about this lean, gaunt figure fascinated her. She could feel his eyes on her, even as they walked away, and something inside her itched, longing to know precisely what he had meant by his doomsday tomfoolery, even if she’d scoffed at it publicly.Something told her that this wasn’t going to be the last time she saw that crazy loon, and she wasn’t sure whether she wanted it to be or not.