205/366 – The Herald of Fortune

Day 63 of 100 Word Prompts: Kiss

The cold stone room where I found myself was utterly unremarkable. With no furniture or even a pile of hay to lie on, it was probably the least comfortable place I’d ever been. A single iron door stood between the windowless room and, what I could only assume, the hall outside.

My eyes adjusted to the lack of light easy enough, though the faint flickering of light did reach under the door, shedding a slightly golden glow a few feet from the space. Pressing my ear up to the door, I could make out the sound of patrolling guards pacing from one end of the hall to the other in even, measured steps.

I grumbled discontentedly as I began inspecting the walls with my fingertips. The seams were so faint that not even a fingernail could fit between the large blocks measuring easily three feet high by six feet wide. I had no idea what the depth was, but I assumed it was significant due to the lack of window.

An hour later, as I reached about halfway down one wall, I heard the sound of a key sliding into the lock on the door, followed by the loud click of it turning. The door screeched as it opened on undermaintained hinges causing me to wince from the noise. Through the open door, a person stepped through the door wearing the familiar ceremonial vestments of Imidir, the God of Penance.

“Are you Xavi Barnett, the Herald of Fortune?” they asked. Their voice was almost musical—the cadence something to be admired.

“Possibly,” I replied, tilting my head in a weak attempt to look under their hood. “Depends on who’s asking. “I hope not a cleric of Imidir.”

“I am no cleric,” they replied, grabbing the sides of their hood. It fell back, revealing long golden hair with a jeweled tiara atop her head. Her ruby eyes barely caught the light reflecting off the back wall giving the familiar red gleam to them. “I am a priestess. Priestess Amelia Chambers.”

“I see,” I replied, nodding. “So, I assume there will be some torture involved, perhaps some light stretching?”

“Do you think it is some kind of joke that you are here?” she spat, rage flaring in her eyes.

“I think it is a joke that you think that somehow I’ll help you gain favor with your god,” I said. “I am not a servant-”

“You are the blessed one,” she said, cutting me off. “You are the bringer of good fortune.”

“I can’t help what happens around me,” I replied with a shrug. “I don’t make anything happen. I’m fairly certain on my last interaction with your group I made that very clear.”

“When you escaped capture last time, it was only due to a lack of preparation on our soldiers’ part. This time you weren’t so lucky,” she said. “By order of the High Cleric of Imidir, you have been granted the honor of Pennance.”

“By Pennance, I assume you mean a ritual sacrifice in an excruciating manner,” I replied.

“The Pennance is what is required by us. It is our devotion to Imidir that lets us persevere longer than most who are subject to it,” she said.

“If it’s been ordered, I suppose there’s nothing left to be done,” I said, sitting on the floor and leaning against the wall. “When is it scheduled to happen? Not that time means anything in a place like this.”

“There are some things that must be kept true to the old ways. Your Pennance will bring luck to our order and allow us to spread across the world like never before,” she said.

“So you say,” I shot back. “Or my death will make you fall from your god’s favor along with the bad luck that follows, and your order will shrink into the sands of time, never to be remembered again.”

“It has been foretold,” Amelia said, taking a step closer as though desperate to convince me. “You have to understand. We do not like hurting others.”

“It’s been foretold by whom?” I asked. “Your Cleric? Your God? Found on some filthy scroll deep inside a sacred mountain?”

“It has been foretold,” she said, her voice barely above a whisper.

“Well, let’s get to it then,” I said, pushing myself back to my feet. “Let’s see how fate smiles upon you once you have your knife in my stomach.”

Two guards rushed in, placing themselves between Amelia and myself.

“There’s no need for that, gentlemen,” I replied, putting my hands up as they pointed their spears at me. “I’m not going to fight you. I’m not even going to try to run. Your order has been hunting me for six long years and finally caught me. Let’s get this started and see what happens.”

Amelia turned and left the room, leaving me alone with the guards.

“Am I going too? or should I wait here?” I asked as the guards backed out of the room, keeping their spears leveled at me. “Do you understand how ridiculous you look right now? I’m unarmed and not even in a fighting stance.”

The door screeched shut once more, plunging me into darkness once more. A moment later, I smelled a floral scent on the air that hadn’t been there before. As the intensity of it increased, I felt my eyelids growing heavy, and my limbs suddenly felt weak.

“Oh, now I-” I managed to say before unconsciousness took me.

The softness of Amelia’s lips against my forehead was comforting, to say the least. It felt reminiscent of a mother’s kiss despite the lack of relationship between us. She pulled away, her eyes large, reflecting the candlelight in the room like a field of stars. Her face was a mask of contentment and something else I couldn’t quite place in my groggy state.

“Thank you for your sacrifice,” she whispered as she turned away from where I lay.

“Good luck,” I said, closing my eyes.

I heard the chanting begin, and waited for the incense laden clothes of the High Cleric to get close, which only took another moment. Peeking through one eye, I saw an ornate dagger in his hands, held high above my waist. The chanting grew more intense with each passing moment, becoming a deafening cacophony of some obscure, long-forgotten language.

As the dagger descended through the air toward me, I watched the blade slip from the hilt and drive down on its flat side into my stomach. The High Cleric’s clenched hands drove down into my stomach, pushing the air from my lungs. Though it hurt, I couldn’t suppress a laugh as he looked at his incredibly expensive ceremonial knife in disbelief.

“I told you, this is going to be fun,” I said, looking squarely at him. He glared down at me as he picked up the blade. He moved quickly to stab me with it once more without the handle affixed, but in his haste, his hand wasn’t completely closed, so the blade shot out the top of his hand, barely pricking my stomach but gashing his hand open. “I’m waiting for my noble sacrifice.”


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