Day 66 of 100 Word Prompts: Secret
Margaret teetered on her heels as she reached the bottom of the steps to the temple of Asindan. Looking at the perfectly laid granite blocks, she thought for a moment that she wouldn’t make it to the top. After the trip from the Valley of the Lost with nothing in her divine well, the next fifteen feet may as well have been a mountain for her to climb.
Forcing her right leg onto the first step took nearly everything she had left in her. She refused to fall in the fights leading her here, with no weapon and no divine well, each fight, no matter how small had been a humbling experience. Relying so heavily on her god’s power had left her at a loss without it.
Gritting her teeth, she pushed and threw her left leg up to the second step as she paused to catch her breath. Her armor suddenly felt heavier than she remembered as she struggled to remain on her feet. With a few decisive movements, her breastplate fell away, ringing loudly as it landed at the bottom of the stairs.
The next step came easier to her, so she continued, removing her greaves and legs next. She stripped down to her padded clothes there on the stairs, dropping each piece with the resolve of a desperate beggar looking for food. With each piece that fell, she took another step, and another, reaching the top of the stairs through sheer determination.
“Asindan, why have you forsaken me? Why have you taken my strength?” she pleaded as she stumbled to the open arch of the central atrium. There in the doorway, she finally fell to her knees, feeling tears welling in her eyes once more. “Father. The Light. My Guide.”
Margaret fell forward, facedown through the arch, her hand barely reaching the sunlight filtered through the glass above. A sudden pulse of warmth flowed through her arm. Her body felt stronger, even if just so, and she clawed her nails into the floor, dragging herself forward, wanting to bath in the radiant warmth of the temple.
As her head reached the sun, a burst of white light filled her vision. With it, she felt her well fill near to bursting inside her. The tears came harder now, flowing freely down her smiling face as her strength returned. She pushed herself to her hands and knees, crawling toward the statue of the deity at the far end. Great heaves of air-filled her lungs through her sobs as she reached the smooth foot of the statue.
“You didn’t forsake me, Father,” she whispered, tilting her head back to look up at the visage of her god. The familiar statue looked down at her with the warm, loving expression she had known, but something looked off about the statue. The left hand still held the Flower of Life, from which all living things were born, but the right, which was usually open and inviting, was wrong.
Margaret rubbed the tears from her eyes, clearing her vision. There, in the palm of Asindan, sat a black-robed figure, with long hair that swept to the left, revealing an ice blue eye.
“Gallin?” Margaret croaked. “How did you-How are-You were-”
“Hello, Margaret,” Gallin said, stepping off the stone hand and dropping to the floor silently next to her. “It’s nice to see you again. I thought for sure the undead had claimed you.”
“You were in pieces,” Margaret said, staring at them in disbelief. “This isn’t possible. Unless-” Her gaze moved up to the face of Asindan.
“They had nothing to do with this,” Gallin said.
“Then, how?” Margaret asked, suddenly feeling a cold chill travel up her spine.
“Can I tell you a secret?” Gallin said, taking a step closer to her.
“We have no secrets, Gallin,” she replied.
“Oh, you may not, but I certainly do,” Gallin said, their eyes growing wide. “It’s a pretty good one, too.”
“Something’s wrong, Gallin. I don’t like this,” Margaret said, shaking her head as she took two steps back.
“Watch this,” Gallin said, bending down and touching the floor.
As Gallin straightened and lifted their hand from the stone floor, Margaret watched first the tip of a black-steel sword materialize, then the blade, followed by the pommel and hilt. The breath caught in her throat as she saw the ornate scrollwork up the blade flare to life in brilliant white script.
Tumultus malo, libera animam meam
“Lightbringer!” Margaret gasped, seeing the script warp and change.
Tumultus animus in mala
“What have you done to her?” Margaret whispered.
“I’ve claimed her and shown her the truth about your god,” Gallin replied, a wicked smile spreading on their face. “She will forever serve us now.”
“Us?” Margaret repeated, taking another step back as Gallin hefted the weapon.
“Azazel, my master, and me,” Gallin said, as they darted forward, swinging the sword in a wide arc.
Margaret stumbled back, barely managing to avoid the strike, though it did catch her padded tunic, cutting a thin line across her chest.
“You were my friend,” Margaret said, feeling despair washing over her only to be replaced with anger.
Margaret rushed forward as Gallin brought the blade back for another strike. This time, Margaret pulled from the divine well so freshly filled within her, and she produced a shield made of glowing radiant energy. The sword crashed into it, sending sparks through the air over their heads.
“You are weak!” Gallin screamed as they came down with another strike. This one hit the shield hard enough that Margaret fell to a knee.
“I am weak,” Margaret agreed, looking up a Gallin with a smile of her own. “But I’m not alone.”
With a quick twist of Margaret’s arm, the blade was sent wide, leaving Gallin open for an attack. She didn’t hesitate, launching herself at them with a solid punch to the face. The moment her hand connected, she pushed more divine energy through her, filling the space with a blinding light as she felt Gallin’s nose break under the weight of her strike.
Gallin stumbled back, blood pouring from their nose.
“I was never your friend,” Gallin said. “That is my secret. I brought you to the valley because I knew you couldn’t resist the temptation. I knew you would ignore the warnings, and you would try to use your divine magic. You are the reason the kingdom will fall, and you will be the reason Azazel will conquer the world.”
“They did something to you,” Margaret said, shaking the tingling feeling from her hand. “You were my friend, and when I free you of this curse, you will be once more.”