This is based on a story prompt provided by the Story Engine. It’s pretty cool. I will not reveal what I drew until the story is done.
Being a captain felt like a lifetime ago, though it had only been a week. The city long ago left their view, and even villages were sparse. They were too far out, and too many monsters roamed the night.
The map was useless. They sold it to a merchant for enough to buy a month’s rations. It pained Claire to know it would likely be used against her people, but she already betrayed them once.
Then it was cold, and she couldn’t feel her fingers. It became impossible to shoot prey, but fortunately the behemoth hunted enough for both of them.
“You seem unprepared for a trip you claim to know.” It chewed a deer.
“I know the direction, not the terrain.” The answer to his question was embarrassing and something she wanted to hide a little longer. They were almost halfway.
But it stopped and looked at her. “Interesting.” There was a moment of silence, a silence she hoped meant it would let it go.
“Why do you want my power?”
That was the easy question. “Something threatens my home. Our reports tell of a foreign army marching toward us, but little else. With your power, I can stop them.”
It cocked its head. “But you betrayed them. They will not welcome you back.”
“They won’t. But my family will live. If I do nothing, we all die.”
“Noble, as far as power hunger goes. But you will have to go against your faith. To swear loyalty to me is to deny entry into paradise.”
She stared at the small fire. “I know.”
If she pushed that thought far enough away, it wouldn’t keep her from doing what she had to do.
“What?” Her head jerked up.
“Before I change my mind.”
Now she felt guilty. But at the same time….
“Do you, Claire, archer and captain of men, swear to serve me the best of your ability, and to be a steward of this world? To slay the unnatural and keep men in check?”
“I do swear to serve you and keep the world in balance.”
It huffed appreciation as she uttered the correct phrase.
“I accept you as my vassel.”
Her body glowed. The cold was pushed out, color returning to her blackening fingers. Strength filled her muscles. Her senses were acute. Then it passed.
“How did you know the pledge?”
“I dreamed it.”
He chuckled, then went to bed.
She fell asleep shortly after, and when she did she saw a giant walled city, with a spire reaching the heavens. It was three days out of the way, but she needed something in that tower.