Clementine Morcerous awoke one morning to discover that her father had no nose.
This was not exactly unexpected. Several mornings previously, the Dark Lord Elithor Morcerous had greeted her with slightly less nose than usual, and a bit of a weaker chin. The difference was so small that Clementine, who was quite small herself, barely noticed it. She did notice something different about him—he was her father, after all—but she thought perhaps he had gotten a rather unflattering haircut.
An unflattering haircut could not explain the next few days, however, as the Dark Lord Elithor’s nose became skinnier and skinnier, and his chin weaker and weaker. It could also not explain why his skin took on the raw-looking texture of freshly chopped wood, or why the ends of his fingers sharpened first into long points, and then shorter and shorter ones. It was as if every day, something were eating away at him—chipping away at him, Clementine’s mind helpfully suggested—but the Dark Lord carried on as if nothing were the matter, even when the tip of his finger snapped off as he was ladling out the pea soup at dinner.
It was so light it barely made a plop as it landed in the tureen. They ate the soup anyway.
Clementine Morcerous knew that if the Dark Lord Elithor had three gifts in this world, they were:
- The invention and implementation of magical Dastardly Deeds
- Not Talking About Anything
But the day she sat down to breakfast, rubbed the last bits of sleep from her eyes, and looked up to see her father sitting across the table from her, quite alarmingly noseless . . . well. Clementine decided that was the day they were going to Talk About Something. “Father,” Clementine said as she watched him spear a piece of melon on the tip of his pointy wooden finger. “I do believe you have been cursed.”
The melon cube paused on its journey to his poor thin lips.
“Ah,” said her father, his thick eyebrows rising. “Do you?”
He then returned his focus to his plate, as if she’d merely made a comment on the weather. His finger had sliced through the melon cube. He picked it up again with some difficulty.
“Well, it’s obvious, isn’t it?” demanded Clementine. “Something is . . . well . . . chipping away at you!”
Clementine regretted using the word “chipping” as soon as it was out of her mouth. Yet a consequence of Finally Talking About Anything is that words, once set free into the world, aren’t in the habit of going back where they came from.
The only sound in the room was the Dark Lord’s labored breathing, a thin whistling from the two tiny slits left in his face where his nostrils should’ve been. His eyebrows threatened to meet in the middle. He looked down at his plate again, and even the melon seemed to turn a paler green under the force of his glare.
“No . . .” he said softly. “Not. Chipping.” He spat out the words like they were curses themselves and finally looked up at a very concerned Clementine. “Whittling.”
I found A POTION OF ORANGE!
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