Here's a peek at my entry for Best Short Story, CURSED.
A vengeful dragon, a cursed Prince, and a lovesick scullery maid that will risk everything...
Tess crouches on the riverbank, the icy water numbs her fingers, but she continues to scrub, certain she can still smell the hag's blood on her skin.
A crow calls out a warning from the grey sky above. Tess slips her rucksack over her shoulders, then runs up the tree covered slope, grabbing her clothes, hanging from a nearby branch. She scrambles to the summit and finds a rocky mound to hide behind. Goosebumps pepper her bare skin as she steps into her tunic, it's edges frayed and rough.
Wings flap close to her head. “My lady, make haste—oh! Beg pardon!”
Tess pulls her arms through the scratchy fabric and says, “Not worth fretting about, Sebastian.” She fastens the buckle of her cloak, then pulls the hood over her wet and tangled hair. “I'm only a kitchen girl, after all.”
The crow hops down from the rock, and tilts it's head, staring at her with it's black beady eyes. “A kitchen girl who just defeated the Witch of Wenlock,” he says.
She smiles at the admiration in his voice, then says, “Because you told me the soft spot behind her ear was the only place my dagger would penetrate.” She sighs heavily, a few months ago she only handled cast iron frying pans.
He turns a leaf over with his beak, a bug is caught and swallowed in one swift manoeuvre. He flies up and lands on her shoulder, nuzzling her neck, “It is my duty to protect the soul who has saved my life.”
“Chucking a rolling pin at feral cat is hardly heroics. If there's any debt in this relationship, it's on my side.” Tess strokes the soft feathers under his chin, “You're leading me to my true love.”
“So you tell me every day.” He stiffens, then scans the horizon. “Perhaps a chat about love later since we're about to be killed by barbarian dwarfs.”
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