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Jenni Clarke - Author

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It didn’t matter how hard Jarmin tried, the letters wouldn’t stay still. It wasn’t fair. He threw the two wooden rulers across the room. Useless things.

‘Fine king I’ll make, if I can’t read.’ He wiped tears of frustration from his eyes and looked at the page again, stabbing the base of each letter with his finger. ‘Tu…hu…eh…tuhueh...’ He shook his head. ‘Can’t sound it out, think…tuhueh…look at the shape, quick, before the letters move.’ Jarmin stared at the three letters. ‘The.’ He slapped his head. ‘Stupid. Even Flo can read better than me. Why can’t I do it?’

Jarmin looked down and watched the letters jiggle and dance. He must be cursed, like some fairy-tale prince in the stories his nurse used to read to him.

His hands clenched, as he remembered his father’s words two weeks ago. ‘He’s eight now, Nurse Flamment. I was reading the histories at his age.’ Sometimes Jarmin hated the King.

He stood, book in hand, poised to hurl it at the window. A muffled scream froze his muscles. Flo. He flung the book onto the cushioned window seat. She didn’t need more sounds to be afraid of.

His blood buzzed with the rising heat of anger. He loved his little sister, and wished he could take her nightmares away, but he couldn’t even read her bedtime stories. Two years younger than him, and she could read anything. She’d make a better king, accept she was a girl.

‘Stupid…useless…lazy…’ The words of his tutors thumped in his head. Jarmin scratched his arms, but his bitten nails drew no blood. He grabbed his hair and tugged hard. A few hairs stuck to his hands, he pulled them off, watching the golden threads twist in the air as they fell to the floor. His jaw clenched at the heroic knights and kings woven into the rug and he bit his lips. Licking the salty pain, his finger’s itched to rip out their triumphant faces. Instead he ran from his room.

He raced along the wide corridors, past statues and empty suits of armour, past portraits of generations of kings and queens, down into the lower passageways where giggles and candle light slipped from beneath the servant’s doors, through courtyards open to the moon, and into the North wing.

‘Ahhhhhhhhhhhhh’ Jarmin’s shouts echoed through the empty rooms. He slammed doors, kicked walls, knocked over chairs and threw pewter plates. Sweat dripped down his face, mingling with tears as he skidded to a halt in front of a metal door.

He stepped closer, grasped the handle with both hands and pulled. His muscles, fuelled by frustration and anger, pulsed with energy. The door gouged the wooden floor as it submitted to his rage, opening far enough for him to squeeze through.

Jarmin grinned, and walked to the table in the centre of the room.

‘No.’ He glared at the carved letters, daring them to move.

‘S…c…r…akartez. Scrakartez.’

The table dissolved, and the nightmare demon grovelled at Jarmin’s feet.

 Fiction - Scrakartez

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