Legend of the Yearning Curse

by Dusty Swayed

email: DustySwayed@aol.com

Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction and is NOT an accurate portrayal of...well, anything, really.

Violence/Language: Pretty much

Sex: Explicit

Characters: Slathered on a tortilla and dipped in salsa.

Pronunciations and Terms: Found under something extra.

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Gently swaying astride a chestnut paint, a shapeless mound topped by a tattered brown hat with a leather twist band rode west along a rocky foot trail. A leather braided stampede string dangled carelessly from the hat, the fraying ends lost among a scrunched brown canvas coat. Any discernible features of who or what rode in the saddle were effectively hidden under the coat and hat. Only a pair of well-worn dust covered boots, trapped precariously in the stirrups' snare, gave any indication that the horse might be toting a rider.

As the paint steadily progressed up the slight incline, a tortured cry just left of where the two companions traveled jolted the horse from her sleepy gait. The rider had barely enough time to secure the reins, raise her seat, and lower her heels before the horse sped off in a right-lead gallop heading south of their original destination. Flashing hooves ate up the rocky terrain with each thundering step as the pinto blazed past sparse vegetation with flaring nostrils and a wild white-eyed expression. Only the stampede string lodged against the rider's throat prevented the battered hat from being lost in the wind.

"Where the hell are you going? Not that way, someone's screaming over there. I've told you before, we don't run towards screaming." Leaning back in the saddle, she pulled hard on the reins. "We scream and run away." With ears flat back and forelock whipping carelessly from her poll, the horse skimmed across the ground, shod feet barely skipping across the desert earth, ignoring her rider's commands.

"Whoa! You dopey third cousin of a rhinoceros, whoa!" she continued cursing the horse until they finally came to a halt in a scattering of rocks and dirt. The mare abruptly dug her hoofs into the ground, dropped her head, lifted her hindquarters, and snickered as the rider sailed over her lowered neck.

Cymbals crashed in her head as the woman collided against something hard and fleshy before landing in a sprawling heap amongst leathery wood. The polka dots swimming around her eyes began to fade as she became aware of two things. First, she had bitten her tongue deep enough to draw blood. Second, the grayish-green leaves poking her helped to easily identify the jojoba bush she landed in missing a prickly pear on one side as well as a cholla on the other by mere inches.

Clumsily disentangling from the waxy shrub, a sneezy tirade of glue recipes, all of which contained horse parts, began spilling from her mouth. With one last grumpy tug, she finally managed to break free of the small multi-stemmed tree only to realize she was not alone. Under the shadows of a Palo Verde tree, just left of the menacing teddy bear cholla, two figures in buckskin came into focus, one prone and the second kneeling.

Tugging her hat securely onto her leaf-infested head, she approached the two figures. The kneeling female openly wept next to the seemingly peaceful sleeping old man. Tearing her attention away from the scene of despair, the now horse-less rider watched as a kaleidoscope of colors in the shape of a woman jumped onto a camel, charging off with a trail of dust.

"What the hell?" Bewildered coal black eyes squinted from under a wavy mass of midnight black hair.

"My grandfather has left this plane," a heart-wrenching sob tore from the kneeling woman's lips. "Will you please help me build a pyre so we can release his spirit?"

"Yes, of course." The thrown rider helped the kneeling woman to her feet. "I'm Copper."

"I am Chilali." Turquoise and white beads, giving the impression of drifting snow, decorated the center of Chilali's buckskin tunic. Deer-tanned moccasins peaked out from under her fringed pants. A thin leather thong encircled her forehead holding sparkling hair out of crystal eyes.

"That's a pretty name." Copper smiled thinking the name suited this woman who seemed to move with luminous birdlike grace.

"Thank you." They busied themselves with gathering materials and building the pyre.

**********

"Jerky?" Copper offered the woman a chunk from her carefully horded stash of meat as they turned from the dying embers and began gathering their things. At Chilali's negation, Copper shoved the unaccepted piece of meat into her mouth and savored the spices flooding her senses.

Mildly surprised when she didn't have to chase her troublesome mare, Copper worked at tightening her saddle's bindings while trying to decide what to make of the beautiful woman saddened by tragedy. Carefully, she ran her hand down each of the horse's legs checking for injury before lifting each hoof to inspect for splits or lodged debris. Her mind wandered over the events transpiring in the last couple of hours. Copper remembered the look of intensity and gathering strength take form in Chilali's eyes. Chilali's tears dried during the funeral rite and she seemed more confident as if the fire had cleansed her soul, as well as releasing the dead man's spirit to the ethereal world.

"What is this beautiful prancer's name?" Chilali's approach broke Copper out of her reverie.

"Tango," Copper replied. "Although I'm thinking about changing it to stew meat after that little stunt she pulled."

"Oh, I don't know." Chilali commented hugging the horse fiercely. "I thought she was quite brave."

"I suppose you missed the part where I was thrown through the air," Copper stated incredulously.

"Scintilla stole my Crystal Maracas," Chilali said ignoring Copper's remark.

"Who is Scintilla?" Copper asked curiously as she gathered her horse's reins.

"The one you chased away." Chilali resettled the soft satchel slung across her shoulder.

"On the camel?" Copper looked toward the direction she remembered the camel traveled in.

"Yes," Chilali answered calmly.

"That's a damn shame," Copper muttered, frowning at the theft.

"May I ask a favor of you?" Copper's eyebrows rose at Chilali's bashful question.

"Um, well, I suppose." Copper was not at all sure she would be happy to hear what the favor would be. "But don't ask for much 'cause I'm on my way to see the ocean on the other side of California."

"Will you help me get them back?" Chilali asked hopefully.

"We don't even know where she went," Copper protested.

"Weavers Needle," Chilali stated as if it was an obvious conclusion.

"No way." Copper waved her hand in dismissal and prepared to mount the mare. "That place is haunted."

"It's not haunted." Chilali's hand on her arm stopped Copper's intended swing into the saddle. "It's spiritual."

"That's a matter of perspective," Copper protested. "There is nothing she can say that will convince me to go with her." Copper thought to herself as she prepared to mount her pinto determined not to set foot anywhere close to a place where people disappear and time has no meaning.

"No, it's a matter of fact," Chilali reaffirmed.

"Look, I can probably take you as far as the junction," Copper swung up into the saddle and settled in. "I have this giant yellow streak running down my back which keeps me from intentionally seeking out scary places."

"There's nothing to fear," Chilali assured her.

"They don't call them the Superstition Mountains for nothing," Copper pointed out.

"That's correct. They are called that because those who enter worships gold without respect to the spirit of the land. The spirits merely show their displeasure in this foolhardy pursuit."

"And this will keep us from harm, in what way?" Copper asked unconvinced.

"I do not believe you worship with an impure heart," Chilali replied confidently.

"But I want to see the ocean." Copper's voice edged toward whining.

"Please." Copper looked into Chilali's crystal eyes at the heartfelt plea and knew she would deny her nothing.

"Okay, but only cause it's on my way." Copper held her hand out for Chilali to take and pulled her up onto the horse. "She did say, ' please'," Copper thought in justification.

"Of course." As she settled in behind her, Chilali smiled at Copper's lie.

"Just don't be squirming around too much back there," Copper admonished as she felt Chilali's arms snake around her.

**********

They had been silently traveling for several hours when the sound of sleigh bells drifted back to them on the afternoon breeze. It was another fifteen minutes of traveling before the distinctive shaggy head and shoulders of a massive hunchbacked beast came into view. As Tango closed the gap between her group and the slow moving creature, it became apparent that someone was riding on the bison.

"Some insane person," Copper thought to herself while aloud she called a greeting. "Howdy."

"Well met," greeted the dusty blonde astride the massive animal. Trinkets of all different kinds and colors adorned her and the beast causing the jingling sound that had alerted them to the stranger.

"I'm Copper and this is Chilali." After a poke to the ribs she added sheepishly, "Oh, yeah, this is Tango," waving half-heartedly at the horse.

"I'm Amarice and this is Mike." The woman smiled as she ruffled the bison's fur.

"Did you happen to see a woman riding a camel through these parts?" Chilali asked.

"Kinda' look like a rainbow threw up on her?" Amarice asked in return.

"Yep, that'd be her." Copper chuckled at the description.

"They came through here alright." Amarice nodded.

"Thank you kindly." Copper tipped her hat and squeezed her legs against Tango's flanks causing the pinto to lengthen her stride.

"Hey, it's almost nightfall," Amarice called out before Copper and Chilali sped away. Understanding the gesture for what it was, Copper reined in Tango and waited for Amarice to continue. "There's a creek up ahead that might offer up some fish, if you two don't mind company."

"I already got more company than I care for, so one more shouldn't matter," Copper grumbled. "How about it, Chilali?"

"I think that would be a wonderful idea." Chilali smiled at the stranger's offer.

Arriving at the area, they set about establishing a campsite. Copper gathered materials and built a fire. Chilali took care of the animals and laid out the bedrolls while Amarice set off to catch fish.

By the time Copper and Chilali were finished with their chores and water for coffee boiled on a heating rock, Amarice returned with a healthy catch. She happily displayed two bass and a trout for the other women's inspection.

"This is great, Amarice," Chilali exclaimed.

"Yep, gonna have some good eatin' tonight," Copper added, rubbing her hands together in anticipation.

After they cleaned and cooked the fish, wrapping them in blue corn tortillas, they happily consumed the meal and stretched out around the fire, enjoying the night descending around them.

"So, what brings you out on the road, riding a bison of all creatures, Amarice?" Copper pulled out a Texas gallon of tequila she had hidden in her saddlebags. She took a healthy swallow before passing it on to Amarice.

"Well, now, there's an interesting story," Amarice began. She took a swig from the jug and passed it on to Chilali before continuing. "Al had just given me three fingers and a pitcher." Copper raised her eyebrows at this comment, while Chilali tried to keep from snorting tequila out her nose.

"Whisky and beer, you tongue-waggers," Amarice admonished. Chilali ducked her head to hide her blush as Copper merely handed Amarice the jug anxious for her to continue the story. "Anyway, this woman walked in. I looked her up and down and thought, 'I'd definitely commit adultery with her.'"

"Are you married?" Chilali asked.

"No, but some women are worth such sacrifices," she answered with a saucy wink. "One look at her and I knew Cupid shot an arrow directly into my groin."

"You vixen," Copper chuckled, taking the jug back from Chilali. Amarice laughed and continued her story.

"She slid up to the bar next to me and said, 'Hello.' She had shoulder length dark brown hair. It was curly in a funny sort of way. She was full but small just the same. Her breasts were large, probably a D cup if she had been wearing a camisole; but she didn't. Wear a camisole that is." She took another swig from the offered jug.

"Ooh, la la," Copper cheered Amarice's last observation.

"Her stomach was tight and her hips flared. All wrapped in a worn crinoline dress with a flowery bodice and leather boots," Amarice continued, passing the jug to Chilali. "She smelled of violets but had a tough no-nonsense demeanor. She acted as if she'd been there before. Where was 'there'? - A dyke bar in Snowflake of all places, the first and last dyke bar in the biggest Mormon City in the territory of Arizona, the Misty Rose." She stopped to quench her thirst with another swallow of tequila.

"The Misty Rose had many reincarnations over the years," she continued. "As far as I know, it began as an actual icehouse some time back but ended up as a watering hole for women. Tall, short, fat, skinny, pretty, ugly, every variation with the occasional drag king thrown in to keep it real."

"Drag king?" Chilali asked.

"A male impersonator," Copper answered.

"Anyway," Amarice said pointedly after the interruption. "I can't remember the woman's name just her look and the way she made me feel. Sitting at that bar, we talked. Her voice held the hint of an accent...very mesmerizing. Could she have been French Canadian? Canadians trekked to the U.S. by the wagonload. I had gotten the French part right, but she really was from France...a foreign exchange student."

"Sweet," Copper interjected her appreciation, accepting the jug from Chilali.

"I offered to buy her a drink and she accepted. The conversation was insignificant except that our bodies involuntarily got closer, until I couldn't resist kissing her. It was a light feathery kiss." She accepted the jug from Copper.

"Then all of a sudden Brian started a square dance up with his xylophone. I was hooked on square dancing at the time so I asked her to dance with me. She didn't answer, just grabbed my hand and pulled me to the dance floor. We danced, laughed and just had fun with each other. A waltz started and she pulled me into her arms." Amarice used her turn taking a drink from the jug as an excuse to wrap herself in the memory.

"Her arms felt good around me," she started again, handing the jug to Chilali. "I started to melt. I wanted to get close to her. I wanted to grind my pelvis into hers, but I didn't. She pulled me closer and held me tighter, if that was even possible. This time when we kissed it was harder and more urgent, but not urgent enough because we were interrupted by some drag king taking up the dance floor demanding everyone's attention and just generally making a nuisance of himself." She let out a soft chuckle.

"Hand in hand we made our way back to the bar. When we sat down, our legs intertwined in each other's. She started rubbing my thigh very gently. I was beginning to become very turned on; I'm sure my nipples were visible through my leathers. They were so hard. The king was in the middle of the dance floor trying to show off his prowess as a dancer. We sat there caressing each other but watching every other woman in the place. She put her hand on my wet crotch, leaned over and whispered in my ear, 'will you come home with me?'" Copper had wrapped both arms around the jug and was leaning forward dangling on every word.

"My heart skipped a couple of beats, but there was no hesitation when I said, 'Okay'. I'd been tipping the bartender all evening but at this point, I gave her something extra. I probably over tipped her, but what the hell. My girl and I walked outside, snow was falling and it was very cold. She led me to this one-horse buggy. Once seated, she grabbed my hand and placed it on her thigh under her crinoline skirt. Her thigh was encased in silky soft hairand I kept rubbing it...her thigh that is." She waggled her eyebrows, mischievously.

"To this day, I have no idea where we ended up other than it was close to the schoolhouse. When we arrived at her place and got out of the buggy, we kissed again...much more urgently then the last kiss at the bar. Inside, she pushed me up against the door and started kissing me." Chilali groaned in appreciation. Copper hugged the jug closer to her body, clamping her knees together.

"This woman from France was hungry for me and I was all for it but at the same time I was very nervous. I tried to focus on where we were. I couldn't get a fix on the ride over, maybe I could tell something by the inside of the house. I realized we were in some sort of basement so I asked her where we were. She told me that she was a part time nanny and we were in her room in her employer's house."

"Oh, my," Chilali whispered breathlessly.

"I continued looking around and noticed a couple of other doors. Finally, I looked into her eyes again and got lost. She had me pressed against the door with her body with one thigh putting pressure in between my legs. I started caressing her hair and felt wetness seeping into my undergarments. Slowly my hands found their way down her chest and inside her enticing top. I wanted her in the worst possible way. I began to touch her nipples. I pulled her bodice open because I had to see her breasts and taste the buds that were ripening at my touch. She moaned a little and then off her bodice came. Breasts finally exposed, I started licking one and rubbing the other. I went back and forth between the two; all the while, she was grinding her thigh into me. She started to shimmy out of her skirt but stopped to pull me in to another urgent kiss. I got lost again." At this point in the story, the desert seemed to be holding its collective breath. Even the fire burned silently in eager anticipation.

"Her kisses moved down my neck and onto my breast through my top. She started sucking my nipples through my leathers. I needed to feel her lips on me so badly. Finally, she got my leathers unhooked and off. My nipples were achingly hard. She continued sucking my tits, rubbing me all over, and at the same time grinding her leg on my clit. By this time I was lost and crazy, I could feel a climax coming but I wanted us both to be naked for it. I wanted to feel her skin on mine." She closed her eyes and took a breath trying to calm her own pounding heart.

"I pushed her away and pulled off that skirt she was wearing, as well as those boots. She stood completely naked before me. I'm sure I was drooling in anticipation of her taste but I was too far gone to care at that point." She smiled in remembrance. "My fingers roamed uncontrollably as I got one of her nipples into my mouth. She tasted and felt so sweet." Chilali was fanning her face trying desperately to cool down.

"She kissed me again and started pulling me towards her bed. I started to fall and then felt her weight on me; she was on top and continued to kiss me. I caressed her hair and back as she kneaded my breasts. I couldn't take any more playing so I told her to touch my clit. 'Clit, what is this?' she asked. We looked at each other as if we were from different planets. I realized it was a language barrier. Oh damn." All three women chuckled.

"I grabbed one of her hands and put it on the triangle between my legs. I guided her fingers around my clit; she got into a rhythm and so did I. As she fingered me, she went back to sucking my nipples. She kissed and sucked down my body. When her tongue touched my clit, I knew I was close to exploding. I sucked in a deep breath and let out a loud sigh. That's when she told me her employers were in the house, in the next room as a matter of fact." A small squeak escaped Chilali's throat as bongos played havoc in her chest.

"I vowed to be quiet although I had no idea how with the magic she was working. I pulled her face up to mine and started kissing her deeply. I rolled us over so that I was on top and positioned one leg in between hers. I started to cum again so I rode her thigh, which wasn't enough for me; I needed to feel her clit against mine. I opened my legs as wide as I could and pushed myself into her, she pushed back. We were grinding into each other so hard and fast that we came at the same time. I screamed so loud I'm sure there's a new crack in the Liberty Bell." She laughed.

"Next thing I knew someone had busted in the room and was screaming. It seems she was staying with a Mormon family and Papa Bear wasn't too pleased to see me. I had just enough time to grab my clothes and hightail it out of there before the shooting started." Amarice laughed as she remembered her mad dash out of the house.

"As I was trying to run and pull my boots on at the same time, I saw this herd of bison running through the meadow. I figured my screaming must have started a stampede. I grabbed on to Mike, there." She jabbed a thumb in the bison's direction. "Jumped on his back and off we rode."

"You're lying," Copper remarked after a few minutes of silence.

"You calling me a liar?" Amarice stood half-unsheathing her sword.

"I'm saying there ain't no dyke bar in Snowflake and you didn't jump onto the back of a bison in the middle of a stampeding herd," Copper clarified, unconcerned with the woman's aggressive stance.

"I'm sure what Copper meant was thank you for sharing that very entertaining story," Chilali interjected, forestalling any further hostilities.

"Never said he was in the middle of the stampede," Amarice muttered with a shrug, sitting back down and signaling for the jug. "So, what's your story?" Amarice asked the two handing the jug off to Chilali.

"I'm on my way to see the ocean and Chilali is looking for her Crystal Maracas." Copper took another swig from her jug and passed it on to Amarice.

"Crystal Maracas?" Amarice questioned. "Weren't they hidden in the Chocolate Mountains?

"They were," Chilali answered, wondering at this woman's knowledge of this supposedly guarded secret.

"You know of them?" Copper asked Amarice.

"I keep my ears open." Amarice shrugged. "Doc Simon had them made in Mexico to celebrate the founding of Christmas, Arizona. However, the Gods of Donner gave Carl, a crystal grower from Spain, the Curse of Yearning. He captured the curse into the crystal used to create the maracas. During the Founding Celebration Dennis began playing the maracas with the timpani, yearning started to seep from the maracas and invade the townspeople's' sense."

"That's right." Chilali took up the story here. "If it hadn't been for Sheriff Blitzen's quick thinking, the townspeople would have been enslaved by the Curse of Yearning. She slung a tambourine, which bounced off a wagon wheel, rang a fire bell, and ricocheted off Mrs. Dasher's feather hat before knocking the instruments out of Dennis' hands. The Yearning Curse couldn't fully escape and entirely consume the town. Sheriff Blitzen asked a guardian to hide the Crystal Maracas deep in the Chocolate Mountains just north of Yuma."

"That's miles from here," Copper noted.

"Scintilla found them," Chilali answered.

"Scintilla?" Amarice became alarmed. "She's of Alti's line."

"Alti?" Copper asked glancing between the other two women, hoping for more information.

"Each generation inherits their own kind of covetousness." Amarice answered as if that explained everything.

"I believe she's taking them to Weavers Needle," Chilali said.

"That's not good. There are some pretty powerful spirits there." Amarice poked a stick in the smokeless campfire.

"This is just crazy." Copper shook her head in disbelieve.

"The spirits only mean harm to those who don't respect the land," Chilali stated flatly.

"Humph. I'll respect the land by not going there." Copper folded her arms across her chest as if to say the conversation was over.

"Please, Copper you must help me," Chilali beseeched. Copper heard the chimes of certain surrender in the background as she fell into the depths of Chilali's crystal eyes.

"Well, I did promise," she said slowly.

"Yes, you did," Chilali smiled and Copper forgot why she was protesting more time in this woman's company.

"I guess I have to follow through," she whispered, knowing she would do anything in her power to honor Chilali's request.

"In that case, we better get some sleep." Amarice's declaration broke Chilali's hold on Copper. "It's going to be a long hard climb."

"Yes, of course," Copper answered visibly shaken by the sudden release of Chilali's gaze. Trying to cover for her disorientation, she began circling the bedrolls with a horsehair rope. While Copper created the snake barriers, Chilali hung a dream catcher at the head of each bedroll to sift through their night visions.

****************

Composed of alternating layers of ash and basalt with a summit elevation of 4,553 ft., Weavers Needle loomed in front of the three companions as they set about preparing for the climb. The steep column of rock rose majestically from the desert landscape of mesquite bush and cacti, dominating the land for thirty miles around. After bidding Tango and Mike a fond goodbye, they scrambled to the notch between the two points of the Needle beginning their arduous climb.

A ballet of toes and fingers clambered over the rocks as the three climbed up Weavers Needle while darkness enveloped them. At the top, an archway greeted them over a trail leading into a canyon guarded by a murder of ravens. The spirits of the mountain's fallen champions emanated strongly from the canyon walls.

The trail ended into a horseshoe-shaped ravine guarded by several stout-bodied black lizards with orange and yellow blotches ranging from 8 to 12 feet in length. Surrounded by smoking idols inside a fire ring, Scintilla chanted in the center of raised dais. Spying the three confederates, she called upon the wrath of the Gila monsters to delay the intruders.

"I didn't think Gila monsters could get that large," Copper commented in awe, drawing her six-shooter.

"They're magically enhanced," Chilali replied, wielding a tomahawk in one hand and a hunting knife in the other.

"It's spiritual not haunted. There's nothing to fear," Copper mockingly repeated Chilali's comments from the previous day.

"The echo of that gun will be a little dangerous in here," Chilali said indicating the loose boulders making up the canyon walls.

"Here try this." Amarice tossed a staff to Copper as she unsheathed her sword. Copper caught the staff and holstered her pistol in one swift move.

"Great, a stick to fight venomous lizards controlled by a spirit-caller with a clown suit fetish," Copper muttered. "After this, we can go dance naked along the rim of an erupting volcano." Copper smashed the staff down on a charging Gila monster; its forked-tongue flickered from its black face.

"This is nothing," Amarice stated confidently twirling her sword and stabbing ineffectually at one of the great beasts. "You should have seen the time two of my friends and I fought Caesar's entire army. Unfortunately, they were crucified..."

" Amarice, never pass up the chance to let your tongue sleep," Copper interrupted, dodging five toes sharpened to pointy claws that swiped at her.

"No need to be abusive," Amarice pouted.

"We need to get those maracas!" Chilali cried out worriedly, cutting into their verbal sparring.

"I'll hold off these guys while you two try to find a way through to the maracas." Amarice barely had enough time to dodge a snapping jaw. Seeing an opening, she sliced across the throat of her assailant.

"Amarice, there's too many of them for you to fight alone," Chilali protested, incapacitating another Gila monster with a perfect knife throw to an eye. Blood spilled across the ground, nourishing the mountain's spirits with crimson energy. The canyon vibrated with the lost warriors' wakening power.

"Go on," Amarice said, engaging yet another of scaly creature. "Getting those Maracas before Scintilla fully releases the curse is more important than battling overgrown lizards."

"True," Chilali admitted, worried she was leaving this brave woman to certain death.

"If I keep them focused on me, you can concentrate on Scintilla." Amarice swung at a descending claw, separating it from the hostile foot in a splattering of blood.

"Be well, Amarice." Convinced by Amarice's reasoning, Chilali directed her attention to finding a way through the mass of beady-skinned lizards. Any return comment by Amarice was lost in the chaos of the battle.

Frustrated as another strike to the snout went almost unnoticed, Copper turned the staff in her hands and charged at one of the venomous predators. Placing the staff end on the ground inches from the gaping mouth of a menacing creature, she pole-vaulted over the creature's head, losing the staff in a crunch of teeth. Landing on the ground close to a dangerously swinging tail, she tucked her body and rolled clear of the menacing beasts.

Clambering to her feet, Copper located Scintilla as the spirit caller's chanting rose above the cacophony of war waging around them. Taking a two-step leap, Copper tackled Scintilla knocking her off the raised dais onto the canyon floor. Scintilla lost her grip on the Maracas, each flying in different directions. Seeing one of the maracas laying within the east side of the fire ring, Copper gave up the tussle with Scintilla and rushed to prevent the fire from destroying the instrument thus releasing the Yearning Curse upon the land.

Temporarily distracted by Copper's gallant leap, Chilali found herself flat on her back as the claw of one of the Gila monsters ripped past her chest. Scrambling backwards in a crablike grace, she found refuge on the backside of a boulder. Fueled by Copper's successful attempt to jump clear of the battling lizards, Chilali quickly jumped to her feet and scaled the towering boulder. Once atop the boulder, she was able to easily jump upon the back of the Gila monster that had cornered her. Confident in Amarice's ability to occupy the Gila monster's attention, Chilali raced to join the skirmish between Copper and Scintilla.

Scintilla's bony fingers clasping around her booted ankle unexpectedly halted Copper's hustle to the instrument. Copper kicked out with her free foot, connecting against Scintilla's jaw with a resounding gong. The resulting force was enough to jar Scintilla's fingers loose. Copper made one final lunge toward the maraca. As her fingers closed around the handle of the fiery instrument, she felt the yearning influence flowing through her.

So intent on battling the Yearning Curse, she wasn't prepared for the hard body slamming into her, the ensuing crash further engulfing both Scintilla and Copper within the fire ring. Sped along by the fire and strengthened by the awaking spirits, Copper was helpless to fight off the Yearning Curse. Her black hair flowed lava orange and her skin glowed molten red as the maraca poured uncontested through her pores and infiltrated her very essence becoming one with Copper.

"No!" Chalila cried in dismay at the sight of Copper's transformation. She hurdled herself into the two combatants with a heartfelt scream. She successfully knocked them apart, but the Yearning Curse held firm within Copper's essence. Aching in the fire's grasp, Copper hurled out twenty-nine reddish-brown conducive elemental branches in a burning need to find relief. Melting to the ground, Copper sought distance from the power of the mountain's spirits, in hopes of weakening the curse's hold.

Realizing Copper had successfully escaped with one maraca, Scintilla turned her attention to retrieving the other. When she finally found it, Chilali was in the process of picking it up. Fearing all would be lost to her; Scintilla raised her hands above her head and let out a scream that shook the canyon walls. With the maraca tightly grasped in hand, Chilali ran towards the canyon's exit, looking up as a rumbling alerted her to the imminent danger. Rocks and boulders began tumbling down from the canyon walls threatening to engulf her.

"Amarice, run!" Chilali called out to her still battling friend, even as she continued her own dash for safety. Feeling the Yearning Curse taking hold of her, she sped her way to the ever-closing exit. As the Yearning Curse exploited her affection for Copper, she felt the ache for unrequited love amplified. Knowing there was no way she could escape the thundering avalanche, she called upon the mountain's spirits to protect her. Taking on the physical characteristics of her namesake, Snowbird, Chilali soared high above the rumbling destruction.

On her newfound wings, she sped for the sky barely visible through the falling rocks. With the speed of a comet, she cleared the canyon walls on the north side of the mountain. From her heightened position, she watched as the canyon closed in on itself with a cascade of crashing rocks. Chilali located Amarice with her bird's-eye view escaping through the archway sans ravens and silently applauded as a giant boulder smashed the head of the last remaining Gila monster. Relief washed over her as she realized her friend had escaped.

Finding Copper was a different story. Although Scintilla was nowhere in sight, with her last chance at vengeance she released a shimmering wall of invisible flames, effectively trapping Chilali on the north side of the newly formed rock wall. Copper had entrenched herself so deeply into the earth's layers, Chilali was unable to reach her from her limited boundaries. Try as she might, Chilali could not cross the invisible boundary as the Yearning Curse penetrated deep in her soul.

During the summer, Chilali is banished to the northern regions by the power of Scintilla's continuing presence. In the winter when Scintilla is at her weakest, Chilali seeks the Arizona territory, desperate to satiate her desire for Copper. Her never-ending search to ease this yearning ache keeps Chilali relentlessly returning during Arizona's winter months. Meanwhile, Copper continues to hide deep in the southern mountains.

The End

All 78 words used.

Something Extra:

ChilaliNative American - Snowbird

Cholla – < chô'yä> - a cactus with detachable joints that sticks to anything that brushes against it - commonly known as jumping cactus. The teddy bear cholla is named for its furry "cuddly" appearance but is actually a plant with a dense spine.

Jojoba - < h-hb> - A dioecious shrub of the southwest United States and northern Mexico, having opposite, leathery leaves and edible seeds that contain a valuable oil used in cosmetics and as a lubricant. Miners and pioneers used the jojoba as a substitute for coffee, roasting the seeds to reduce the bitter taste.

Gila - < hē'lu > Monster - a venomous lizard of arid regions of the southwest United States and western Mexico, having black and orange or yellow scales.

Palo Verde - < pl věrd> - Spanish - ‘green stick’ - a spiny, desert shrub, of the legume family, of the southwestern U.S. and Mexico, having green bark. This relatively small tree can obtain a height of approximately 32 feet and trunk diameter of 1.5 – 2 feet.

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