Adversity

Adversity

(Cursed # 2.5)

 

By Claire
Farrell

 

Kali
is the seventh of seventh, both blessed and cursed. With a father
willing to sell her, and a life already mapped out for her, she’s
desperate for an escape. But her way out can only come from the
most unavailable person she knows, and stealing happiness comes
with a price that many generations will bear.

Amelia’s haunted by disturbingly vivid dreams about a gypsy
girl but ignored by everyone else in her life. She’s desperate to
prove herself. To show everyone she can help. So when her brother
and best friend display the influence of the curse on their free
will—or lack of it—and a spirit warns of Perdita’s fast approaching
death, she knows she has to do something. Yet she can’t ignore that
something huge is happening to her too, and her journey leads her
back to where it all began, but not everyone wants her help, after
all.

 

Smashwords
Edition

May 2012

Copyright ©
Claire Farrell 2012

[email protected]

 

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Notes

 

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Chapter
One

 

Kali

18th century Ukraine

 

Sleep
didn’t come easy. With her arms stretched out beyond her blanket
and her fingers hovering over damp blades of grass, Kali stared
upward at the stars and longed to find reason in the one constant
of her life. No matter where she moved, no matter where she slept,
she always had the stars. They felt like home, and when she gazed
at them, she could forget about the ways her life would soon
change. The stars remained the same, but her destiny clawed at her,
trying to scoop her up into her fate. She should have felt
honoured, but she couldn’t feel anything beyond reluctance and
absolute terror.


Kali? Awake still?”

Kali sat up as a figure stumbled toward her in the dark.
Drina. Sister number six.
Aged seventeen
and married three years ago, her sister had a swollen belly and
unhappy eyes, but the lightness in her step couldn’t be snuffed,
not even by the oaf she had married.

Maybe the
future would hold the same for Kali. Maybe she could keep a piece
of herself, despite everything else.


You should be with your husband,” Kali chided gently, knowing
it was the right thing to say, though she didn’t quite believe it
herself.

Drina
eased herself to the ground with a soft grunt. She leaned close to
Kali and wrapped her in a fierce grip, overcoming years of distance
in mere seconds.


He has little interest in me right now,” Drina said. “Besides,
I’ve missed my little sister. It gets lonely without you
all.”

Kali
leaned into her embrace, a sudden lump blocking her throat. “I’ve
missed you, too.”


I hope he finds someone here for you. I would like to have one
of my sisters close by.”

Blinking
rapidly, Kali refused to answer. As much as she longed to stay with
her sister, doing so would mean her future had caught up with
her—marriage, her responsibilities as a chovihani, and that double
curse of hers. Drina would call it a blessing, the accident of
birth that made her irresistibly valuable to her people. For Kali,
the accident worked as a chain, as bondage. Freedom was
impossible.

Her
birthright was the thing that provoked her father to drag her from
camp to camp, to try to find the highest bidder before she became
too old to be of any worth.


He’s having trouble finding anyone to take me,” she confided
in her sister. “Times are changing. We haven’t had a Guardian in
such a long time that many of the younger ones don’t believe
anymore. All the men see is the greed in our father’s eyes, so they
won’t pay what he wants. I can’t pretend to be meek and dutiful
when the women pinch my cheeks and measure my hips, trying to
decide how many children I’ll bear before fading away
completely.”

Drina’s
husky laughter rumbled loudly. How Kali had missed that familiar
laugh.


You’ll never change, little one.” Drina smiled.


Enough of the ‘little.’ There’s barely a year between
us.”


Why are you so obsessed with time? It isn’t natural. I don’t
know how many years my own husband has been on this earth, and you…
you’ve never been able to stop thinking about the length of your
time here.”


I’ve always needed to know how much time I have left,” Kali
said softly.

Drina squeezed her hand. “It would be so much easier for you
if you would learn to accept it.
He
would be easier on you.”


All he cares about is his final payoff. Then we’ll both be
free of each other.” Kali ignored the bitterness behind her own
words though they rang true; he
r father
would never go easy on her. She was a disappointment to him in
every regard. She wasn’t like him, and the things he wanted her to
do repulsed her. He was respected—or rather, tolerated—for his role
as chovihano, but he used his power in ways Kali couldn’t. She
would never be as powerful as long as she held onto her
morals.

One of her other sisters might have taken on the burden of
chovihani, instead of Kali, but her father saw Kali’s birth as an
investment. But time really was running out, along with her
father’s patience, and no clan would
support her without a return on their investment. A clan
couldn’t support her. Everyone had to pull their weight to keep the
clan’s camp running smoothly.


If you, while you’re here, could only do what he says and make
them want you. We could be together forever.”

The
tremor in Drina’s voice was enough to release the stubborn tears
from Kali’s eyes. She couldn’t hurt Drina, but she would never do
the things her father wanted her to do. Curses and dark magic.
Things that would make her powerful. Feared. For these reasons, she
hadn’t fully taken on the chovihani role destined to be hers, and
the power within her was resentful. She felt it bubbling inside her
with an intensity that took her breath away. The idea of releasing
it terrified her more than the idea of marriage or bearing a new
bloodline of werewolves.

The main
trouble came from the voice in her head telling her what was right
and wrong, a whisper of conscience that warned her not to interfere
when desperate women begged her for love potions and fertility
spells.

She
didn’t want to make people unhappy, but she didn’t feel she had the
right to meddle in the affairs of the gaje, especially when the men
never knew magic had been used against them. Magic could take away
a person’s free will, something she understood far too well to
inflict magic on another person.

Besides,
using her power felt dark, wrong somehow, as though the true
meaning of the magic had been twisted into profit and obsession.
The people who came to her looking for help believed in her magic,
which only strengthened its unwieldy power in her blood. Her power
sometimes drew out consequences even she didn’t expect.

Her
mother had once called her a dreamer, said she thought too well of
herself, but Kali had watched all six of her older sisters marry
and age before their time. She wanted something different; she
wanted her value to be more than the coin she brought
home.

Maybe
dreaming was pointless, but it got her through the tedious hours of
fortune telling and putting on a show. Her magic wasn’t bells and
whistles but the power of word and intent, something more than the
rattling doors and dying flowers most people expected from the
curse makers. Her magic should be respected, something her father
seemed to have forgotten. Having magic came with a price, which was
why most chovihani never uttered a curse in their entire lives. Of
course, she had to be born from the chovihano who blackened
everyone else’s name with his corrupt use of black
magic.

She
should be grateful, she tried to remind herself. The only reason
she hadn’t married yet was because of that same power that chained
her to her father. But the power already present in her blood was
growing, and her father was anxious to pass it on, to marry her off
and leave her with a clan who would pay him a massive dowry to have
their own chovihani.

Kali was
more than a mere chovihani. Her life was different from all of the
others who had come before her. She was a gift since she was the
seventh daughter of a seventh daughter, which meant she was a lot
more than a fortune-teller. She offered protection from the dead
because her offspring would become the white wolves that would once
again guard her people from the fallen souls trying to scramble
back from hell. As the seventh daughter of the seventh daughter,
Kali had power. And power meant horror.

Power
meant her own father would use her as a bargaining tool.

He had
fooled and teased a number of clans along the way, and visited camp
after camp to figure out who could pay the most to have her, who
would value her the most. But, as he liked to remind her, she would
have no value if she brought nothing to her new people, and her
blood would not turn worthy for many years yet, after which her kin
would become the newest line of wolf guardian. Until then, she had
to prove herself by selling hopes and dreams, and by giving the
clan plenty of strong, healthy babies before her body gave
out.

She slept
little that night. For hours, feeling unsettled, she listened to
Drina’s snores. She was in yet another new camp and wondering what
her gift would mean for her. The possibilities weighed heavily, and
she wished she were as accepting as Drina.

Yet, she
couldn’t help but wish for a way out, instead.

 

***

Amelia

Present Day Ireland

 

I awoke
with a start, staring at my room as if I had never seen it before,
my fingers curling around the sheets as I backed up against the
headboard. Within seconds the realisation hit me. Another dream.
Same people.

Not
real.

I brought
my knees to my chest and tried to slow my breathing. At first, I
hadn’t paid attention to the dreams, but they hadn’t started out so
vividly. But soon I realised the dreams were a running series of
events involving the same people, and every morning I found it
harder and harder to wake in my own reality. Instead, I woke
wondering why I couldn’t see the stars, and why there was a
stifling, oppressive roof over my head. Every night I became Kali,
and every day I felt a little less like me.

Of
course, my mind had to play tricks on me when I needed it to stay
straight. I figured I had some kind of mental block because I was
dreaming about someone else’s life when I should have been
suffering from nightmares of my own.

Checking
the clock, I groaned. Five a.m. Brilliant.

I pulled
on my dressing gown and glanced at my hollow eyes in the
mirror—stranger’s eyes—before heading to the one place I knew would
make me feel as though I were still in the right body. Kali might
have found her constant in the stars, but mine was in a single
room.

I
shuffled into the kitchen in slippered feet, half expecting to hear
Mémère’s voice and smell her perfume, feel the warmth of her
protective arms around me. Her soothing words could tell me
everything would be okay.

Instead,
I found a cold, empty room. She was the light. She was the warmth.
The kitchen had always been just a room. Yet it was where I
retreated when I wanted to feel her close to me or when I needed to
feel as though I still belonged to my family.

No milk
in the fridge, so I settled for a relatively stale piece of toast.
Chewing had become perfunctory. I didn’t taste food; I didn’t feel
sunlight on my skin. In some ways I thought it a sin for the sun to
shine when my heart was still mourning.

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