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Under my feet I felt the rhythm of aches and sighs breathe with each step I took. I felt like I was walking on quicksand. And indeed, when I tried to move my feet I could not feel my toes but only the inability to move them on the surface of palpable danger. When I turned to ask for his help he only laughed. Then I began to think it was he who was making my feet turn to stone.

Inside my head lived a frightened little boy who nibbled at his nails whenever a strange man glanced at him. I could not leave that fright alone.

The man beside me glanced at me with his only eye. "You boy, you go. I can see inside of you with this eye of mine and you are good. Listen to me. Leave the mountain far behind you because those who killed your father want to hurt you too."

When I touched the needle it magically fell loose and landed on the inside of my palm.

"I killed the creature that has been plaguing us all," he cried. I looked at him in shock, and immediately protested in front of the king.

The bearded man approached me in heavy garb of silk and flower embroidery. He told me that my tongue would be tested for truth by way of needle. "If upon the needle's p***k your tongue does not bleed you will be telling the truth. If, however, it does bleed, you are a liar, and hence will swallow poison through your broken tongue."

People began to move away from the other person, who now shook his head and his hands. He kneeled to the floor and placed his head there in mercy.

The earth rumbled and the trees shook, and before the old hag could spit another curse at me, the ground beneath her split in two, swallowing her rickety bones and hollow heart.

Parallel Seduction
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