So, yeah, I’m pretty much dying today.
It’s not dying, exactly. It’s more of a temporary loss of time. How temporary? That was the one thing I didn’t know about this particular future. And damn all the gods and goddesses for it, either above, below or beyond.
There are many things I don’t know. Being a prophet wasn’t some faucet that I could turn on and all the secrets of the universe just spilled forth. I received anything that came my way. Images, messages, golden notes through the sky, whatever the source, it came to me. As for a reason why, I don’t know. Maybe it’s because I’m a good-looking, skinny redheaded girl with too many good things going my way.
Probably not. I needed to go see a woman about a crown.
Kait Demonborn. That was what she was called. I knew her mother named her Kait, no clue why. I also knew she would be in town, and she would be working.
A clock struck nine. No, no no no nope, I was running late. I sat on my bed, sent a prayer to all relevant deities I had just damned, and left the hotel for the dusty road. I set off for the outskirt of this town…located about three feet from the main road. I was late, yes, I was running late, but I had time. I hoped I had time. I was supposed to be the only person semi-dying tonight.
In case I didn’t say it straight out, I am a prophet. That’s not a profession, not really. It is more a perpetual state of being as the future’s little preview show of coming attractions. Or the past. My name is Lila no last name, and I’m Time’s bitch.
It was hot. And dusty, and humid, even so late in the evening. The name of the town was someplace not important enough to be given to me. I didn’t care, it didn’t matter. All that mattered was that gal.
At least I had picked out the best outfit I could. My usual dresses were simply out of the question, especially getting all the way out here without a stain. No, instead I was looking definitively boy-like, but, you know, hot. The leather pants were both functional for running, and hugged my hips, while a white cotton blouse was always in fashion. My hair was curled, what was left of my makeup was perfect, and even in this heat I was gorgeous.
I may be almost dying, but accessorizing properly was a must for every occasion.
I turned at the last building, and started heading west. The town was an old logging camp that eventually became permanent, and the clear-cutting showed. There was about a hundred yards between the two dozen or so buildings around the street and the tree line. I had time to think about how stupid this was about to be.
There were these things, you know. Not demons, not natural, just out there killing folks. Gross, really. Kait got a letter, and here she was.
Actually…there, there she was. Being thrown through a blue spruce tree. Tumbling, horned head over tail. She kept her knife clenched in one hand, even as she tumbled her way over to rest by me.
She was pretty. Not gorgeous, and way too bulky for any beauty pageants. But she had curves in all the right places, and there wasn’t an ounce of fat on that creamy blue skin. She managed to make a perfect mess of that white hair, even with the horns in the way. Even her eyes were pretty. Pools of black narrowed in my direction.
I waved. “Hi, I’m Lila.”
A roar caught our attention. What could be best described as a “something” rumbled out of the trees. Its face was furred, almost drawn in like a wolf, underneath two large horns and wings. While it had the face, its body was bulked, like a buffalo. Were the wings merely decorative?
I pointed to the knife. “That’s going to do nothing…”
Kait adjusted her grip. “Move.” She said through clenched teeth. The thing rumbled, deep in its barrel chest. It pawed the ground. The front legs ended in clawed paws, but the back were hooved, and they tore up the dirt in anticipation.
Oh. He was charging. Oh, no. No, that wasn’t how I was going out.
Kait started forward, and I grabbed her. She spun on me, enraged.
The thing bellowed, and charged. Steps beat like thunder, it came crashing towards us. I might have yelped. Kait grunted, and picked me up. She tossed me to the ground, and there was another yipe from me. I am not a hardy girl.
The thing blew past us. Wind and musk filled my nose. Kait pointed the knife at me. “Stay out of the way.”
Stay out of her way? I’m the one that’s had to schlep across the continent looking for one girl of prophecy. I had to race across two wars, cross a lake of fire, and used up all of my eyeliner to get here. No special girl of my prophetic voice was going to tell me what to do.
“Duck!” I shouted.
Kait flattened to the ground. The beast rumbled past again, slowing. I picked up a rock and threw it at the thing. The stone bonked off its head, and settled on the ground before I realized that that might be a bad idea.
The beast glared at me with yellow eyes. Oh, no. The wolf head was there for a reason, it was probably hungry for a baroness’ daughter who really didn’t want to get involved in all of this. It charged again. This time it wasn’t going to miss.
Kait leaped up, and grabbed the creature by the wing. It teetered, off-balance. I ran off in the opposite direction, and heard another bellow, and a third. Hmmm, stabbing it actually did work. Maybe Kait did know what she was doing.
A thud made me turn back. Kait was collapsed on top of the beast, breathing heavily as blood bubbled up out of the wounds. Again, gross.
“You prefer I not stab him?” Kait breathed out.
I said that out loud? I started forward, and stopped. I had had visions of this girl running through my head for the last six months. This place, this time, little snippets that just were too distracting to ignore. I had a message to give, and then life would suck.
So I wanted my questions answered first.
“What is that thing?”
The Rider sat up on one of the wings, and shrugged. “A Chimera-bred, most like. Mishmash of the species, disoriented, confused, angry.”
She tapped the knife against the chimera’s horns. “Silver blade, helps with cutting through that enforced hide. Though a flying buffalo was kind of new.”
She stared at me. Black blood stained her beaten-down red vest. Her black pants were ripped beyond repair, though that could have been fashionable. But her hair was perfect. That braid had managed to stay in place, while mine was certainly filled with dirt and sweat and…focus.
“You’re Kait Demonborn,” I said.
The girl cocked an eyebrow at me. “What was your first clue?”
“Right,” This was awkward. Everything had been awkward.
“What are you doing here, Lila?” she asked. Kait grabbed a Chimera horn, and started to saw it off. I grit my teeth as the horn was being torn from the beast’s scalp.
“Well, that’s a long story. I’m actually Lila from the Barony in Southern Chillea…” I trailed off as she ripped the horn off. “Would you stop that?”
Kait shrugged. “Want to have this looked at. Chimera don’t usually have buffalo in them, might be interesting as a weapon.”
I must have stared ahead. “That has got to be the grossest thing I have ever seen.”
I walked over and took a closer look at her braid. Not a damn strand out of place. “And yet your hair is perfect.”
“A baroness,” Kait ripped the second horn off. “Interesting.”
She walked towards the edge of the woods, and whistled once. “So what are you doing this far north, Lila from the Barony in Southern Chillea?”
“Well, I’m actually here looking for you.”
Kait turned and looked at me. I mean, really looked at me. I was being examined like a piece of meat. Don’t think about the tear on your ankle seam, or the loose strands in the bodice. Your makeup is fine.
The girl snorted. Snorted! “Harsk isn’t here, girl.”
I put my hands on my hips. “Harsk and his Riders are on the Western Reef Coast, dealing with cursed gold,” I muttered. “You are here because you are on orders from Harsk to get your own life, and it seemed like there was work in central Merikae that didn’t involve the Pit, something you had been searching for for years.”
The girl set me off. I may be concerned with clothes a lot, but I knew things. I wasn’t stupid. And I absolutely hated to be called girl.
Another snort behind me. I turned to offer a retort. And stopped. There was another monster, and it was even angrier.
I’d say it was supposed to be a horse. But it was shorter, almost squashed down on itself. A dirty yellow, aged with streaks of grey running through a coarse mane. It glared at me, it snarled.
Hands up. Back away slowly. Don’t show any sign of fear besides the trembling running up and down my legs. Please don’t kill me, I still hadn’t given the message yet.
Kait walked past me, and slapped the horse across the nose. “Clari-Ann, she’s harmless. Relax.”
Well, that was just rude. Clari-Ann, the horse I guess, snorted again, but finally looked away. Kait rummaged through the saddle pack, and made room for the horns.
“So you’re here for me?” Kait asked.
“Why?” Kait frowned. “And how did you know I’d be here? Harsk only has a general idea.”
“Harsk didn’t tell me anything,” I said.
“Then how…” Kait trailed off, confused.
I sighed, this was where I was going to start sounding crazy. I pointed upwards.
Kait squinted. Don’t do that, frown lines are eternal. “The gods?”
“More like the entire existence,” I said. “It’s a whole being-a-prophet thing, not my style at all.”
“You.” Kait pointed at me. “You’re a prophet.”
“Hey, it’s not like I asked for it!”
One day I have servants, a room with a cushy bed that was just divine. My wardrobe needed another room for a reference! It was paradise.
Then suddenly I can’t close my eyes without looking at this girl with no fashion beyond a fine pair of horns, and a message. I didn’t want to give it, it wasn’t fair. I wanted to go home. It was going to be fall, the tailors would be coming up with a new line. I wanted the new bodices.
At the same time, I knew the prophecy was true, and real. Kait was something I would never be. A good person. Someone who cared less about the fashion, and more about livelihood. I wanted to be alive. Kait wanted people to have life.
Kait leaned on one leg, and then another. “Is the prophecy about me?”
I nodded. Kait frowned. “And since you haven’t given it to me, is it a bad one?” Nod again.
She shrugged. “Just spit it out, then.”
I wanted to. Really, I just wanted to give her the lowdown for this damn future. With none of the stupid prophecy mystery. Just ‘here is what’s going to go on, here’s when, and no matter how many times people insist, hats are definitely out of style.’ But no, I had to be cryptic.
“Um…” how was I going to put this?
The girl turned away. “I don’t have time for this. Prophecies are dumb anyways.”
I grabbed her hand. “I want you to know something, before I say it.” This was important. Not to the prophecy, but that wasn’t my decision. My decision was on the girl I had seen. The girl I knew. The one who helped people because it was the right thing to do. The girl who slept on the outskirts of town, because no one wanted to get close to her. The one who wept as the sun rose, because it was another day she got to be alive.
“You are a good person,” I whispered. “Don’t ever forget it.”
I let the prophecy flow in. I started to glow, golden light filling my core and spilling forth. Clari-Ann took a step towards Kait, shielding the girl. Kait took a step back, getting a better look at me.
It wasn’t painful. There was pressure, as Time rushed through me towards its chosen one. Golden light that had been blurred words started to fill my breast, and up, up to my mouth.
“Don’t be afraid of the leather crown.” I said. My voice was lower, richer. There seemed to be more of me, more people speaking with my voice. “When you return to Harsk, the pain is real, but not what you’d expect.”
Kait drew a knife. The light that had been golden darkened to crimson. I cried out, there! There was the pain. Stabbing, ow, right in the forehead. Please don’t let me be bleeding, just let the agony be only in my head.
“There is gold, there is ash, and there is the Pit. When your father comes to you, know this. If you kill him the Pit will rise. If you don’t, you may one day rule.”
There. A moment of bliss. It was over. I collapsed to the ground, spent. Kait rushed over, holding me in her arms.
“What was that?” She shouted. “What in damnation was that about?”
I grimaced. “I’m sorry.”
“Don’t give me that crap,” She muttered. “My father? The leather crown, the Pit? What are you trying to tell me?”
“Previews,” I said. I struggled to get to a kneeling position. I hadn’t prayed in a while, but it might be the best stature for a while. “They’ll be helpful, if you think on them.”
“No, you don’t get to bitch out on this,” She pulled at my arms. “Come on, you prissy little noble girl! Tell me!”
I looked up, and tried to smile. “I’m not dead. Just remember that, please. Keep me safe.”
Lightning struck. Kait’s grasp on me loosened as she flew backwards. Clari-Ann screamed. Wind roared. I closed my eyes.
They’re still closed.
I knew what Kait saw when the wind died. Time had let me see that, at least. There I was, still kneeling. I looked the same, still a little disheveled, hair a little bit out of place. That was going to bug me forever. But I was there, just crystallized, kneeling down in prayer. To who, I don’t know yet. I didn’t know who was listening.
How long was I going to be here? Trapped, unmoving, unfeeling. Crystal was fashionable, hopefully forever.
Would Kait protect me? Maybe track down my parents, and let them know why they awoke one morning to find their baby girl gone?
I don’t know. Isn’t that the best thing ever?
copyright 2017 Jack Holder