Flash Fiction Friday #13: “The Will of the Gods”

Definitely the longest flash fiction I’ve written so far, coming in just shy of 900 words. Enjoy!

What is flash fiction? It’s an itty bitty story, generally under 1,000 words or 3 printed pages. Fresh fantasy and sci fi flash fiction every Friday!

*Please pardon grammar whoopsies. They will be fixed when this story is published in a collection later this year.

“The Will of the Gods”

A Fantasy Flash Fiction

By

K. D. Jones

 

The young man looked up at the stairs leading to the temple in the clouds. Atop its pointed crest glowed a fire, haloed by cloud vapor.

He turned to his grandfather, who was stooped over, wrinkled in age, and covered in the midnight-blue robes of the Order of the Sun.

“Must I do this?” the young man asked, a quiver of fear in his voice.

“It is the will of the gods,” his grandfather said, his eyes filled with sorrow.

“But what if the gods are wrong?”

“The gods are never wrong,” his grandfather said sternly.

“But I don’t understand why I must do this.”

“You don’t have to understand—you just have to trust. Have faith.”

Faith. It sounded like such a dirty word at that moment, thinking of what lay ahead.

He looked down at the crowd gathered at the base of the temple. Torches flickered and hissed in the wind, the yellow glow of fire highlighting the familiar faces of the villagers. Of his family. They looked up at him with tears in their eyes.

His gaze lifted to the shadowy forest beyond, to the tips of the trees bathed in moonlight.

Would he make it to the treeline before the archers shot him down? Was there truly no escaping his fate?

As if sensing what he was thinking, his grandfather softly repeated, “Have faith.”

The man wanted to scream. What good was faith if it cost him everything?

With a resigned sigh, he looked at his loved ones one last time. He swallowed past the knot in his throat, and, with a nod to his grandfather, started the long trek up the temple stairs.

The ceremonial drums beat in the distance, a steady thrum-thrum-thrum that contrasted with his fluttering heart. With each step that brought him closer to his doom, everything in him screamed at him to turn around and run.

Would it hurt? he wondered as he climbed, his legs like lead. Would he scream when the dagger pierced his heart?

Around him swayed temple maidens, their faces covered by gauzy veils, their robes rippling in the increasing wind. They seemed not to care that he was about to die. And for what? To appease gods he had never seen? Gods who had let his prayers for food to feed his starving family go unanswered? Crops had not grown in this region for the past three years. Trade with neighboring countries had ceased. Some believed the gods had truly abandoned them. And he was their last hope.

A sacrifice worth a thousand lives.

In a blink, he was at the top of the temple, a white-cloaked figure his only companion. The high priestess, her beautiful face illuminated by firelight from the four great cauldrons burning at the top of the temple, bowed in greeting. The dagger, its hilt encrusted in jewels, glittered in her hands. “Welcome, son of the gods.”

“I am no such thing. I am an ordinary man.” Who will never truly get to experience life, he silently added.

She shook her head, her ruby lips smiling slightly. “You have more power than you know. Come and see.” She gestured to the stone altar.

Reluctantly, he dragged his feet and lay upon its cool surface.

The priestess hovered above him, smearing a sweet-scented oil on his forehead and cheeks. She gently closed his eyes. “Sssshhh…” she cooed. “It will all be over soon.”

He barely had time to grab a breath before the dagger pierced his flesh, diving straight into his heart. His eyes flew wide open, a scream forming in his throat. Columns of fire burst from the cauldrons, towering into the sky as the wind shrieked and howled. Charred clouds roiled overhead, and lightning whipped against the furious night.

The priestess chanted and sang a song of their people, and they echoed her from far below. In a few seconds, it was all over. There was peace, quiet, and a steady humming in his veins. Stiffly, he reached up to touch his chest. His heart beat! Was he not dead after all?

Slowly, he opened his eyes—and stared in wonder at the glow upon his flesh, like a thousand glittering diamonds had been embedded in his tanned skin. “How is this possible?” he said in wonder. “How am I still alive?”

“It is the will of the gods,” the priestess said simply, as if surprised he even asked.

He climbed off the table and stood. Power sizzled along his fingertips. An image popped into his mind, and suddenly, he knew what he must do. With a laugh, he raised his hands to the sky. Magical rain, shimmering like stardust, poured, nourishing their land. The brown and dead changed to green and lush with life. Crops grew. Flowers bloomed. The people rejoiced and danced in the rain, laughing for the first time in ages.

The Order had been right. He had been their last hope.

He hung his head in shame. “I did not have faith.”

The priestess approached and lifted his chin, her dark eyes kind. “The gods never demanded that you erase your doubts, just that you have faith. You climbed on that altar despite your fears and reservations. That is faith enough.”

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