Friday, October 31, 2014
Hello everyone. I'm posting a short story I wrote for my Creative Writing class. It's sort of a prequel to a story that I wrote years ago. For class, the objective was to write a fictional piece that was no longer than two pages. Now, one thing you have to understand about me is that I cannot write short stories. They are the bane of my existence (along with ethical papers, argumentation, and spam). But then something occurred to me: who said this had to be a completely pulled-something-out-of-my-hat story? Why couldn't it be a build-off of something I had already written. A prequel. Or a sequel, depending which way you leaned. It was so much fun getting back into this mindset, into this world. Without further adieu, I present to you "The Foretelling."
Lord Ivan and Lady Larissa passed through the large, decaying archway as his ancestors had done before him, the reasons the same for every one of them: they sought to discover their child’s destiny. A child’s destiny was a precarious thing. While some believed a person was free to choose their own path, those of the old families knew the truth: the future had already been written, and there were only three beings who could decipher it.
Lady Larissa clutched her daughter closer to her chest, the chill seeping into the marrow of her bones. Lord Ivan placed an arm protectively around her shoulders. Tattered grey drapes sewn into the very stone, the frigid floor seeming to have been taken from a mountain, the ceiling that towered like a cathedral to a point too high to be seen. Markings etched into the walls spoke of a time long passed, where great kings and perhaps even gods dwelled in this shrine of a room. Battle scenes and paintings bleak with age, scripts that had once spoken of great names and quests now lost to time.
They stood almost in the middle of the room now, in front of a round marble platform with three steps, waiting for them to appear. The baby, awaking from her sleep, gave a shrill whine and the sound reverberated off the walls like an animal call.
“Shh,” Lady Larissa cooed. “It’s all right, my love, my dearest. My sweet Giovanna.”
Giovanna wailed and Lord Ivan and Lady Larissa shrank away from the sound.
“Keep her silent!” Lord Ivan hissed. Another cry and Lord Ivan yanked the blanket away from the baby’s face. “Hush, now! Hush! You’ll wake the dead!”
“Good evening, Lord Ivan,” came three voices from above. Lord Ivan and Lady Larissa looked up to see three hooded figures standing on the platform. The one in the middle was tallest by a head. The hood of her cloak concealed her features, but she was lean and Lord Ivan imagined she would have an angular nose and sallow cheeks. To her right, the other figure was short and rounded, her height barely reaching the waist of her sisters. The third one, to the left of the middle, had an unremarkable frame, and had it not been for her hood, she probably would have looked like a scullery maid.
The three figures stood in exactly the same manner –backs straight, hoods drawn, hands hidden within the opposite’s sleeve.
“We anticipated your return,” said the Fate in the middle. Lord Ivan remembered from his and Lady Larissa’s first visit that this was the eldest sister, the First Fate. Her voice was harsh and raspy, as if someone had stretched her throat.
“We wish –” began Lady Larissa.
“To know the destiny of your child,” finished the shortest Fate, the Second. Her voice was cold and grimy and frog-like, as if she were speaking around a cough. “We know.”
“Will you accept her?” asked Lord Ivan. Though the Fates were rumored to be all-knowing, they were not required to share their knowledge with anyone, not even the gods.
The Fates were silent for a long time, seeming to contemplate the request. Finally the third and final Fate answered in a voice like sunshine, “Bring her to the altar.”
With a wave of her hand, a podium appeared from a twirl of white smoke, the same white as the platform. On it was a basin. Lady Larissa ascended the platform and placed Giovanna in the basin, withdrawing her hand slowly as the baby held on with a firm grip. Giovanna screamed and Lady Larissa, joining Lord Ivan, clutched her husband’s arm for strength. He rubbed her arm comfortingly, never taking his eyes off his daughter.
The Fates surrounded the altar, gazing at the screaming child as if looking into a pool of stars. At precisely the same moment, the Fates each grasped each other’s hands until they made an unbroken circle around the altar. Lord Ivan heard chanting, though he could see no mouths moving, for the faces were still cast in shadow. But he perceived a change in the air, a crack of heat as if lightning had shot through the room. The chanting grew louder. Lord Ivan held Lady Larissa as they watched, uselessly, from beyond the platform as the three mysterious Fates dug into the churning froth of the world’s existence and located Giovanna’s destiny, like a thread in a tapestry. The basin glowed a vibrant, angry red and suddenly Lord Ivan saw the First Fate holding a knife above Giovanna, the tip impossibly sharp. All in a moment the chanting ceased and the Fate brought the knife viciously down. Lady Larissa screamed. The metal sang against the stone, filling the room like a single chime of a church bell.
Lord Ivan jerked to retrieve his daughter, but something stopped him, some subconscious knowledge that assured him his daughter was alive.
The Third Fate picked up Giovanna and placed her gently, so gently into Lady Larissa’s eager arms. Lord Ivan’s eyes searched hungrily over his daughter for the knife wound, but all her saw was the tiniest scratch on her arm, barely more than a hairsbreadth. Lord Ivan looked up at the Fates, but they were all concentrating on something inside the basin. A warm orange glow emanated from the basin, and Lord Ivan could almost perceive one of the Fate’s facial features.
“She has fire in her blood,” said the Second Fate. “Fire that will breathe and consume her very core until she possesses the strength and essence of a dragon.”
“And she will be brave,” continued the Third Fate. “As your general, she will lead your army into many battles and triumph over enemies both foreign and domestic. Not a single foe will cross her path that she will not conquer.”
Lord Ivan gazed at Giovanna, who wriggled in her mother’s arms like a worm. Her eyes, the color of rich mahogany, seemed to gaze at her surroundings in wonder, as if she understood the significance of this sacred place.
A general, Lord Ivan thought. A woman… my daughter… a general. He tried to imagine her grown up, those sharp, clever eyes looking into the face of an enemy and taking a life. He could not imagine something so innocent becoming something as cold and battle-hardened as, well, him.
“But innocent, she will not be,” said the First Fate, as if she had heard his thoughts. “The child shall grow amongst those she would call her own, but just as the fire which courses through her blood and her fingers will one day lay waste to entire lands, her heart shall be as dead as the worst of these. She will fall into the hands of Hades and intertwine her fate with his, but it will be by her doing that your legacy shall continue.”
The orange glow receded and the Fates dropped their hands. Silence like a storm overturned the room, heavy and foreboding. The Fates turned in synchronization toward Lord Ivan and Lady Larissa, their hands once again hidden within their sleeves.
“Is this it then?” Lord Ivan demanded. “Is this to be my daughter’s fate?”
“Ivan,” Lady Larissa said, but he brushed her off.
“Born to raise my family up but doomed to die with her life intertwined with Hades’?” Lord Ivan took a step to advance upon the platform, but an invisible force held him back. He glowered at the faceless fortunetellers. “So long as I live, I will not allow a single member of my family to die the way you have said. You have foretold falsely today. The life of my daughter shall not be like that of a sheep led to slaughter.” Without another word, Lord Ivan turned on his heel, and he and Lady Larissa left the Fates, his sacrilegious words ringing behind him like a thousand thousand ghosts.