Star of Cursrah

Star of Cursrah by Clayton Emery Read Free Book Online

Book: Star of Cursrah by Clayton Emery Read Free Book Online
Authors: Clayton Emery
objected, “B-but, your highness, th-the most high sama sends tutors—”
    Another clap made them jump. Star pronounced, “I determine what I learn and when, you fox-faced doxy. Now get out!”
    Still the maids hesitated, twittering like birds. Furious, Star reached for the nearest object, a china vase that some artisan had labored a year to glaze. Unmindful if she hit anyone, the royal daughter lobbed it hard. Maids ducked, and the vase shattered on the wall. At the noise, two guards bearing lyre-spears ran to the doorway.
    Star shrilled, “Leave me! I command it! Leave me, or I’ll loose the cat on you.”
    The maids shrieked, disliking the ocelot, who licked its teeth. Chittering, the servants scampered out the double doors, and Star slammed them in the faces of the guards. Huffing, the princess regarded her luxurious prison. Even nine huge rooms seemed cramped after the freedom of the city streets. She asked herself, “Well? Shall I languish here like the Trapped Terrors or follow my own advice and learn more about the commoners I’ll someday rule?”
    For months now, as she approached sixteen, the princess’s life grew more and more constricted. Lessons were piled on until Star smothered, and more demands were made each day. The upshot of every instruction and the moral of every story was the same: serve the kingdom, don your destiny, assume your responsibilities—until Amenstar felt crushed under invisible burdens. Loose on the streets, she had none.
    “Mother’s lessons will wait,” the princess concluded. “I’ll learn more outside the walls than within.”
    Striding to a lacquered armoire thirty feet long, Star flung open gold-handled doors to whiffs of cedar. Catching her shift at the neck, Star tore the gauzy film off. She never wore the same garment twice. Picking through a dizzying array of new clothes, she donned a loose cotton blouse hand-painted with bright flowers, and double-wrapped trousers tied at the waist. Braided sandals, a head veil of silk, and a poncho of yellow samite edged with white and black pearls completed her outdoor outfit.
    Amenstar, Samira the First of the Palace of the Phoenix in Cursrah, Heir to the Blood of Genies and Demigods, slipped into her privy chamber with its low step and frame holding a gold chamber pot. The opposite wall was painted with a scene from legend: at the bottom of the Mother of Rivers, the hippo-hero Khises battled Skahmau the Wolfshead. With slender fingers, Star poked the eyes of both figures.
    The wall swiveled to reveal a staircase of stone leading down. Weak sky glow from high above lit the chamber. Childishly thrilled with her escape, Star skipped down the stairs. She’d need to conjure another story about exiting the family compound in secret. Perhaps she could claim to have been spirited away by a djinn, or maybe she’d sleepwalked, only to awaken miles away, or she had been transported by a flying carpet with a will all its own … though her parents must have suspected a secret passage by now. Like most of central Cursrah, the royal compound was honeycombed with cellars. If Star continued to disappear, her parents might order architects and masons to find this passage and block it. Star should conserve her few secrets, but once more wouldn’t hurt.
    Treading in near darkness, she eventually reached a main passage leading outside. Two guards jerked to attention and stared quizzically, but they assumed her personal bodyguards would join her. Cutting across gardens and grass, Amenstar entered the stables and bullied the hostlers to saddle three horses, hang them with hunting gear, and open the gates.
    Riding, towing the other two mounts, Star entered a necropolis a quarter mile from the compound. Sarcophagi, steles, and obelisks stood mute amidst evergreen oaks and box-cut cedar hedges. Cursrah served an impotent genie and the distant moon, and worshiped the unspeaking dead, so this sprawling cemetery was always beautifully manicured.

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