“To Lay Down His Sword”
It had come. Today was the day he had been dreaming of and fearing, the day he would lay down his sword.
He had been chosen on the day he was born. It had been the seventh day of the seventh month, an auspicious day. The priests had taken him to the temple, where he had lived for the last 18 years. He had learned much. He was able to read and write, to understand the symbols that adorned the holy spaces and the Queen’s dwelling. They had taught him how to fight, armed and in hand-to-hand combat, to protect the people of the village, the temple, and, most importantly, the royal family. He was strong and, he knew, handsome.
He placed his sword on the stone table and joined the other two young men facing the altar. One would receive the ultimate honor and be sacrificed to the gods. One would become a true priest, allowed into the highest chamber where the gods spoke. One would become the Queen’s, one of the Estrechos, pampered but subject to the Queen’s whims and desires.
He kneeled with the others, bending his forehead to the ground. He was too disciplined to tremble, to allow even the slightest emotion to show. He was one of the select, the chosen, he knew his role. The High Priest stepped behind the altar and began the ritual. The priests words blurred as he waited to hear the gods’ choice. He heard the announcement that the gods had chosen Ardin as the sacrifice, and he was ashamed at his relief. Neither was he to be allowed to become a priest, the connection between the people and the gods, but that was no surprise. Patyik had already shown himself a prophet, a man who could reveal the gods messages to the people and interpret dreams.
His destiny, then, was with the Queen. He had no way of knowing what to expect, as life behind the royal chambers’ doors was not discussed even among the servants. But he would be alive, if not free.
The three rose together, bowed to the elderly priest, and exited the chamber without speaking, leaving their swords where they lie.
Dottie at Tink’s Place has a Monday Morning Flash Fiction challenge that I’m enjoying. Each Monday a new picture prompt will be posted and if you choose to participate you post your story on Friday – 350 words, give or take. Today’s image is by Luis Royo.