One Hour Story 4

Today’s inspiration for my one hour story is remote churches and other sites. I’ve seen a lot of photos of churches on mountains or at least steep craggy hills, in remote locations and so on. The Greek sanctuary at Delphi was also remote, high up in the mountains and away from civilisation, difficult to reach. Throughout history people have placed some value on such places, and on the effort required to get there as a measure of piety and commitment. I like this sentiment, and it works nicely for what I’ve written.

I didn’t get as far into the story as I wanted; I was, perhaps, too ambitious, so the below passage is an introduction only, really I suppose. I may try to continue it tomorrow. The vision in my head is that the main character discovers a variety of motives – some initially hidden – and some dark secrets on her way to this Temple, with the story ending upon arrival, but I didn’t get the time to explore all of that, so this is just the first part of it. Enjoy, and please give feedback.

There were bandits on the road to the Temple, they told me. Bandits looking to steal pilgrims’ money and offerings.

“Personally, I can’t believe there could be anyone with such impiety as to steal from pilgrims,” the inn’s landlady had told me, “But it seems there are such godless creatures. You should look for others to travel with, a young girl alone isn’t safe.”

Oh, I knew there were such godless creatures. I’d met plenty enough of them, suffered at the hands of some, when I was smaller and weaker. But it would be a good idea to travel with others, if only to stave off the loneliness of my journey so far.

I went to the centre of the small town where I’d spent the night, and found there a group outside one of the other inns looking about ready to depart. The group contained all sorts of people, some well dressed, others in little more than rags, men, women and children; pilgrims. A pair of tall men bearing spears approached the group ahead of me and asked to travel with them.

“Sure,” the man sat in the driver’s seat of the largest wagon of the group replied. “You can be the rearguard.”

So as the tall men wandered towards the back of the group, I went up and soke to the man they’d addressed.

“Good sir, if you are going to the Temple, might I travel with you?”

“Do you have coin?” he asked. “No free rides here, little girl.”

“You were more welcoming to those spearmen,” I pointed out.

“Key word there is spearmen. They’re not getting a free ride, they’re helping defend us. If you’ve not got coin, you can find another way to pay or you can stay here.”

“I can fight,” I promised.

He didn’t look like he believed me.

“I can fight, and I’ll take whichever watch is least popular every night. I won’t ask to ride on your wagons and all the food I’ll eat will be my own.”

“Fine. Keep out of the way and if you fall asleep on watch we’ll leave you behind.”

Such a fine welcome. As I moved away down the line of waiting wagons, I imagined sliding my knife into the man’s groin and slicing up through his belly. I fingered the hilt of my knife. But no; that wasn’t why I was going to the Temple.

Given that the spearmen were the only people I knew not to be with the arrogant caravan leader, I joined them at the back.

“Good day,” I greeted them. “I am Bara.” The third most common girls’ name in the free cities; innocuous, simple, and not a name to raise suspicion.

Seeing the two men from the front, I was under no doubt that they were brothers. One an inch taller than the other, each strong of arm and with the same narrow jaw, the same long nose, but different eyes, and the shorter man had darker, thicker eyebrows.

“Trin,” the taller named himself.

“Sharf,” added the shorter.

“Mind if I walk with you? I don’t think Mister Bigshot at the front is fond of me.”

Sharf glanced at his brother, who nodded once to allow it.

“Thanks.” I moved into the shade of the inn. It was already a warm day and would only get hotter as we travelled south, deeper into the mountains.

The spearbrothers didn’t seem too fond of chatter, so after a while I decided to strike up a conversation myself.

“So, the Temple of Garrad, huh? What draws you there?”

“Our mother is ill. We go to ask the god’s favour,” Trin replied.

“I’m sorry to hear that. May the god grant his favour.”

They thought I hadn’t noticed, but I’ve spent time in the courts of kings and I know well that even words which are true can be used to tell a lie. I play no such subtle tricks; if I want to lie, I shall lie.

“I go at the behest of a dream. I dreamt that Garrad’s sparrows beckoned me, and when I told my priest he said to me, ‘Bara, this is a message from the god; I beseech you, go to his temple and pray there, and he will give you a path.’ So here I am.”

Perhaps my lie didn’t pass muster; the brothers looked at one another, but said nothing.

“Well, this promises to be a lively trip,” I said brightly, and caught Sharf with the beginnings of a smile before his neutral look returned.

A shout from Mister Bigshot marked that we were setting off, and was followed by the rumble of wagon wheels, excited chatter and hurried farewells. After the last wagon there were several other pilgrims walking, and one leading a laden donkey; we fell in behind these, following at a sedate pace.

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