The sword had been hanging over Damaris’s head for three months.
She had dragged out of awkward, unmeaningful dreams to find it hanging over her bed.
The starlight that wormed its way through the heavy drapes reflected uneasily from the blade.
She touched it, oh, so lightly, with her off hand, her left hand: a test.
The sword trembled and dropped toward her head.
Her fingers were covered with blood.
She lay, terrified, quivering, in bed all that day.
She stayed in bed for three days, sweating and foul.
Her fear flooded the room.
Hunger drove her from beneath the sword.
She drew her legs and arms beneath her and crouched thus, barely breathing, for twenty minutes.
She hit the ground rolling, and dove through the door.
She skidded across the linoleum and slammed into the stove.
The sword was still over her head.
It had dropped maybe two or three inches.
The hilt had disappeared into the cabinet.
No one else seemed to see it.
Or anyway no one ever mentioned it to her.
She was learning the rules.
It was a slow, painful process.
The first rule, the most important rule:
- Move slowly.
Her fingers were healing.