A Prayer at the End of All Things
Flash Fiction | Tales of Havek: Volume One | Duration: 6 Minutes
This piece was written for Week 1 of the #MarchoftheCORE archival event hosted by Arthadian Anthologies.
A hearth’s flame crackled along the far wall, disguising the distant clangs upon the besieged battlements. The army of Darkness had arisen and laid waste to the known world. This meant that the city of Ohnarhold was the last bastion for all Empyreans seeking refuge from the Horde.
High Priest Ghald knelt at the edge of the rocky balcony of Sol Temple, overlooking the sprawling city below. The balcony had no railing, it was merely a stone lip that dropped off to a sheer cliff. On either side of the grand metropolis, mountain ranges stretched for as far as the eye could see, and the sun sank behind their peaks to cast the skies with an ominous, blood-like hue.
The ancient door grated along the stone as someone entered the holy chamber. High Priest Ghald didn’t move at the sudden noise. He took in the sights and sounds of the final moments he’d have in the natural world. Screams filled the air from the outer city limits where the Horde had just broken through.
“Almighty above,” the young prince gasped, stepping up to the altar at the center of the chamber. The altar was a pillar made of stone, and sitting atop it balanced an orb of blown glass that blazed a bright white, tendrils of mist curling down to drape across the floor. “What have you done, Ghald? What is this… is it magic?!”
Ghald—annoyed that this holiest of moments had been interrupted by the chief non-believer himself—spoke without turning to address the once future king. “Ah, Prince Teron, welcome to the Almighty’s House of Prayer. Is this the first time you’ve seen Light? Haven’t you ever prayed before?”
“Light? Is that what this is? Look, old man, enough with the religious nonsense. The other priests are saying that you’ve gone mad, that you’re planning on destroying the city. What’s really going on? Why are you here and not with Father? He needs your help… he needs your healing gift.”
The high priest sighed and stood, his dark blue robes covering even his sandaled feet. He turned and leveled his pupil-less eyes toward the young prince. “I serve only one Father, boy, and it’s not yours. Yours has done nothing for our people, nothing but propel us further down into the depths of Burg’s embrace. This city is in a degenerative state, far beyond saving. I’ve spoken with the Almighty directly, and plead for our collective retribution. Of course, he was anguished by my call, but thankfully he answered my prayer. The Great Light is on the cusp of rebirth, Prince Teron. Are you ready to witness its glory?”
“You really are crazy, aren’t you? If you won’t save us, then you will die along with all of your pathetic followers. I’ll make sure of it. Father will have you beheaded for this. There’s no more need for your pointless lies.”
High Priest Ghald chuckled. “So naively egotistical of you. You assume any of us are going to survive the night. This is it, young prince. I hope you kissed your parents goodbye before charging up here to my temple. You did kiss them goodbye, didn’t you?”
The prince gulped. He found himself staring into the hearth for a long moment before realizing the truth in Ghald’s words. He suddenly bolted for the chamber door. High Priest Ghald whipped a crooked hand in its direction and the massive door shut with such force that the walls cracked in splintering branches. Prince Teron slammed up against the cold slab and tried to pry it open, but to no avail. He yelled for help, but no one would hear his desperate cries.
“Come now, my heretical prince, let us pray together.” The high priest bowed his head, standing in front of the orb, its harsh glow bleaching him free of color.
“Dear Almighty, you honor us with your presence. You bless us with your ever-listening ear, providing comfort to your favored children. We humbly ask that you bathe us in your Holiness, purify us of our sins and cleanse the hearts of sheep and lions alike. Please, we beg of you, spare the souls of the ones who trust in your guiding Light, spare the children of both age and mind, spare the ignorant, spare even the least ardent believer so long as they do believe—” the high priest paused and altered his tone “—But do not spare those that hold your name in contempt. Show no mercy to the enemies within these walls that blaspheme against you. Destroy the evil that has so corrupted the minds of these faithless people that call themselves royalty. There’s no king that has ever ruled as mighty as you have reigned in your blessed Kingdom.”
The young prince turned to the high priest, who held his arms out to either side, his weathered face upturned to the ceiling. A strange, white light had transformed dusk into dawn over the city. Cyclones of mist swirled aggressively about the chamber, an invisible force welling up in a palpable, suffocating way. The hearth blazed hotter, the flames licking the top of the alcove burning it soot black.
“What is that? What’s happening, Ghald?” Prince Teron asked, incredulously. High Priest Ghald smiled and opened his eyes to stare unblinkingly at the orb.
“That’s the Almighty, boy. You should’ve prayed while you had the chance. All you had to do was believe.”
A brilliant flash engulfed the world and Prince Teron shielded his eyes. A sharp crack reverberated in the chamber like thunder, and the stone floor rumbled. When the blinding light finally faded and night once again returned over Ohnarhold, the young prince looked about the chamber. It was empty of the high priest and of the mist. The orb remained, although it was but an empty vessel, cracked and clear of any proof that Energy had been channeled through it.
Screams intensified in the city below. Prince Teron walked through the holy chamber and stepped up to the balcony where High Priest Ghald had knelt. He, too, knelt on the cloth and watched with teary eyes as his promised city burned and collapsed before his eyes.
“Dear Almighty,” Prince Teron started, thinking of his words of forgiveness. “I’m sorry for—”
A long, dark arm reached up from beneath the balcony and tore the young prince free from his kneeling place so swiftly that the cloth was left undisturbed. His plummeting scream blended in with all the rest, nothing distinctly special about it. Eventually, there were no more screams in Ohnarhold, and the flames of the demolished city rose ever higher to cast the skies with an ominous, blood-like hue.
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