How many of you knew that was the name of the world Mirian lived in? Yeah, I didn’t make a big push to get that out. Nonetheless, here is another story from that world.
*EDIT* I’d like to find somewhere I can post this, for free, to raise exposure for my book. If anyone has any suggestions, leave them in the comments please!
I’ve noticed that my bit on Sarintha only got 3 views. You should go read it. It’s cool. Here’s another story:
Bofia glanced over her shoulder before turning onto the side road. She adjusted the bundle of cloth tucked under her arm, trying to appear casual as she clutched it tightly. Lothmurn was the capital of the underground dwarven kingdom, so it was hard to move around without being seen. Still, on the edges of the Hannbar clan’s district there were seldom others to worry about.
The road ended abruptly in a blank wall of stone. Checking over her shoulder one more time, she summoned her magical power until her hand glowed with a faint golden light. She pressed her palm against the stone and slid it to the side. As she did, the stone moved with her hand, revealing a hidden room beyond. Inside, another dwarf sat waiting.
“Bofia?” His deep voice made her heart race.
“Yes, Prindoch. It’s me. Did you have any trouble getting here?”
“Nothing that wasn’t worth enduring to see you.” He smiled and pulled her into his arms. “I’ve missed you,” he whispered into her dark red hair.
She held him close, enjoying the strength of his arms and chest pressed against her. “I missed you too,” she answered, finally pulling away. “I brought you something.”
Prindoch loosened his grip, but kept his hands on her shoulders as she unwrapped the bundle she’d carried with her. A flower formed from gems emerged from the cloth. The stem was emerald with threads of jade woven into the leaves to mimic veins. The flower’s head was ruby and garnet, spun together into a plump bloom. “It’s a mohrla blossom,” she said.
“Goddess save me,” he said breathlessly. “It’s beautiful.” He accepted it and placed it gently on the cloak he’d been sitting on. He bent further and picked up a small box. As he handed it to her, he said, “open it.”
Intricate details adorned the edge of the thin, marble lid. She gently lifted the front of the hinged cover. From inside, she heard a click and a whirring sound. Music poured forth from the box, plucked from tiny tines hidden inside.
“I love it,” she said. “Does this mean that you’ve gotten your…”
He shook his head. “No, Aliyah hasn’t blessed me with magical power yet. I carved everything myself, even the gears inside. I don’t mind, really. It gives me something to do while Jintral is strutting around the palace.”
Bofia scrunched her face. Jintral was Prindoch’s older brother and Crown Prince of Lothmurn. He was also a pompous ass. She stuck her nose in the air, stood up on her tip-toes, and strutted in a circle around the room. “Prindoch. Be a good lad and fetch me some water. I need to moisten my face so it appears I have done something other than sitting on my backside all day.”
“Goddess, stop that.” Prindoch laughed. “You’re far too good at it.”
She joined in his laughter and they curled up together. “What if you were going to be king instead of Jintral? I mean, I know you’re not, but what if?”
He shook his head. “I wouldn’t want it. Nothing but listening to the clan leaders bicker and whine and having to act like I cared in the least. Besides, I’d be forced to marry someone to for a political alliance to another clan. But I already have someone picked out.” He ran his fingers along her ribs, tickling her.
She slapped his hand playfully. “I don’t believe you. If you were going to be King –”
“If I was going to be King, I’d give it up to be with you.”
She relaxed deeper against his chest and sighed. “I love you, Prindoch. If your father knew about us…”
“I love you, too. And he won’t find out about us. Once Jintral is King, he won’t have enough authority to stop us.” he whispered. “Besides,” he continued. “Wouldn’t you do the same? If you were chosen to be a high priestess or prophetess, wouldn’t you give it up for me?”
Bofia laughed. “Prindoch, I have less chance of becoming prophetess than you do of being King.”
* * * * *
Bofia pulled a book from the library’s shelf and laid it out on a table. Slouching into the chair, she pulled it close and started reading. Ever since Prophet Fourash had fallen ill, High Priest Hrouk had her studying the ceremony and procedures for selecting a new prophet.
Her eyes skimmed over the words before her. This book described the same ritual all the others had. The ruby heart embedded in the diamond sphere, the chamber sealing itself closed and the high priests taking turns attempting to remove the ruby, and how the one who succeeded was the goddess’s choice.
She groaned and let her head fall forward, forehead thumping into the pages before her. She hadn’t intended to fall asleep, but a jab in her back woke her with a start.
She jumped to her feet. “High Priest Hrouk. I… I’m sorry. I was reading the book, and then…”
He frowned. “Yes, I see. Wipe the ink from your face and come to my office at once. Prophet Fourash has died. It is time to choose his successor.”
Minutes later a freshly scrubbed Bofia sat in the high priests office. Hrouk lowered himself into the seat behind the desk. “You’ve read and are familiar with the ceremony for selecting the next prophet?”
“Yes, High Priest.”
He nodded. “Good. Unfortunately the ruby has not chosen the successor for generations. Fourash and the two prophets before him have been chosen by vote. The high priest from each clan chooses an assistant to accompany. I’ve chosen you.”
Her breath caught. “Me?”
“You.” He frowned. “While we are there, you must not argue with me or embarrass me. The prophet is very powerful, and it is important to our clan that we, that is I, am chosen.”
Bofia swallowed the lump in her throat. Why was he worried she would embarrass him? “Yes, High Priest. When do we leave?”
He stood. “Now. Follow me.”
* * * * *
The tunnel they’d followed from his office opened into a large room with similar tunnels radiating out. A crystal dome dominated the ceiling. Sunlight from the outside of the mountain was carried down through a crystal shaft to illuminate the large chamber.
In the center of the room, a plain stone pedestal stood three feet tall. The diamond orb containing the ruby heart rested on top.
“Hrouk,” one of the waiting dwarves called from across the room. “Glad you could finally join us.”
Bofia’s eyes darted around the room from face to face. She didn’t recognize any of the others. Not surprising, as each of the clans kept to themselves.
“Pleased to see you as well, Laush.” He lowered his voice to a whisper. “Surprised you managed to drag yourself away from you drink.”
Bofia covered her mouth to hide the laugh. Hrouk’s looked back at her. “Welcome to the politics of religion. You cannot let them see any reaction.”
“Pagrick,” he continued. “Where is your assistant? Surely you don’t expect to pluck the ruby from the diamond, do you?”
The other dwarf bowed his head. “I presume only to do the will of the goddess. If that is her decision, then I will obey. Other than that, a last minute change has caused my new assistant to be slightly delayed.”
“Pompous, self-righteous ass,” commented Hrouk. Bofia kept her face perfectly composed. She held her stoic expression as the banter continued between the fifteen high priests gathered in the room.
Pagrick’s assistant finally arrived. Bofia gasped loudly, but Hrouk didn’t notice. The entire room erupted as Prindoch took his position behind Pagrick.
Curtains were pulled across the tunnel entrances to simulate the sealing of the room. Bofia stood next to the curtain, ready to slip out and fetch anything that Hrouk might require.
Each of the high priests took a turn laying his hands on the diamond, but none were able to reach inside. Bofia noticed several of them called upon their magical ability to manipulate stone, but even that proved fruitless.
Hrouk returned and stood in front of her, facing the others. She burned to ask him what was going on, but bit her tongue. Even more, she wanted to ask Prindoch what he was doing here. That was obviously out of the question, though. Hrouk’s reprimand to not embarrass him kept her silent.
“The goddess is speaking to me,” Pagrick called out suddenly.
Hrouk groaned under his breath. “The only way he could be more full of zeekah dung is if he were taller,” he muttered. Bofia clenched her teeth and held her breath. Even so, she barely contained the snicker.
Pagrick continued. “I believe Aliyah wants the crown and prophet in the same clan.”
Laush spoke up. “I have heard the goddess speaking. She has told me that a strong leader is required for the prophet. I think punctuality is an important attribute though, don’t you?”
Hrouk leaned back and whispered, “each one will claim to hear the goddess speak to him. It is important to never contradict what another has claimed. Also, you cannot claim to be chosen personally. If that were true, that person would have already lifted the ruby from the diamond.”
Bofia’s stomach turned. How could she believe and follow a prophet chosen in this way? It was nothing more than a lying contest to see who could talk the others into a corner. She couldn’t bear to watch. Despite Hrouk’s earlier admonition, she slipped behind the curtain. Maybe she could sit in the tunnel and calm down a bit. If she stayed right now, she’d say something to get herself in trouble.
A stone on stone grinding made her jump back. The walls of the tunnel slid together, closing the tunnel off. The same sound resonated fourteen more times as the tunnels all sealed themselves off.
As the echo of the last slamming stone died away, silence hung in the air. Nobody moved for what felt like an eternity. Finally, Hrouk spoke up. “Perhaps we should discuss this quietly for a moment.”
The fifteen high priests huddled together. Bofia couldn’t hear what they were saying, but heated whispers flew back and forth.
Bofia whirled around. Prindoch stood nearby, not looking directly at her.
“What are you doing here?”
He rolled his eyes. “I made the mistake of being in father’s eyesight. When he heard that the ceremony was taking place, he suggested to Pagrick that he take me with him. He hopes the goddess will finally bless me with my magic abilities if I’m here.”
“I’m glad you’re here.”
The huddle broke and the priests lined up again in front of the ruby. One by one, they tried and failed to remove the ruby from the stone.
Pagrick’s eyes lit up. “The doors have sealed. That means the new prophet is in the room, correct?” The others muttered their assent, so he continued. “Perhaps what I heard the goddess telling me is correct then. Perhaps it is not a coincidence that the king’s second son is here with us. Prindoch, come and lift the ruby from the diamond.”
“An assistant? He’s not a priest,” one of the others objected. “Everyone knows he’s not even been favored by Aliyah yet.”
“And yet my father is still the king,” Prindoch replied. His voice boomed with more authority than Bofia had heard from him before. A shiver ran down her spine.
“The prophet is not allowed to marry, is that correct?” Prindoch asked.
“Yes, the prophet is required to remain single and celibate.”
His eyes darted to Bofia. “Then I am not interested.” He folded his arms and stared down Pagrick.
Laush spoke up. “Perhaps Terauk should try.” He motioned for his assistant to come over. Terauk approached the pedestal. His hands were shaking as he reached toward the diamond.
Nothing happened. With a visible sigh of relief, Terauk scurried back behind Laush.
“Bofia, perhaps you should try.” Hrouk looked at her expectantly. Her eyes widened and she shook her head. Despite her best effort, she caught Prindoch’s eye. A smile touched his lips.
Hrouk’s eyebrows shot up. Before he could say anything, one of the others volunteered his assistant.
Each of the assistants tried in turn. Each of them failed. All eyes were on her. “Bofia?”
She couldn’t think of any more excuses. She slunk toward the stone. Despite her desire to avoid it, part of her heart raced at the thought. What if? What if I succeed? Lifting the ruby would mean being directly chosen by Aliyah.
But what about Prindoch? They had planned their life together. Once his brother took the throne, they could reveal their love for each other. Maybe it would even help bring their clans together.
She looked out across the gems. Everyone was staring at her. Prindoch shook his head. Her stomach sank. Maybe it wouldn’t be her. She looked away from him and placed her hand on the stone. She couldn’t deny it. She wanted this more.
Her fingers slipped through the diamond as if it were water. She barely noticed until her hand bumped against the ruby. She lifted it out and held it in her hands, staring at it. Afraid to look up.
“Prophetess Bofia,” Hrouk whispered. A murmer passed through the others.
“How could you?” Prindoch yelled. Everyone turned. “How could you betray me like that? I refused to even try for you. Didn’t it mean anything? Was everything you’ve told me a lie?”
“Prindoch, no! I didn’t intend for this. It wasn’t supposed to happen. I’m sorry.” Tears stung at her eyes and ran down her cheeks.
“Don’t speak to me. First the goddess rejects me, and now you turn your back on me.”
“I didn’t… I mean, that’s not what it was. Please, Prindoch.”
“Please what? What would you have me do? Just be friends? Will you reject the position? Will you deny being prophetess?”
Bofia stared at him, then hung her head. She couldn’t. The goddess had selected her. She didn’t have a choice.
“That’s what I thought.”
The grinding of the tunnels opening disrupted everyone’s stunned silence. A moment later one of the curtains was torn aside.
“Prince Prindoch!” A messenger burst into the room. Spotting Prindoch, he scurried over and dropped into a bow. “Prince, there’s been an accident. The king and your brother were manipulating the stonework in the throne room. Something happened… Something shook the mountain and the stone shifted… Both were crushed. Your father is still alive, barely. But your brother is dead.”
Nobody moved. Prindoch finally looked up at Bofia. “Well, it appears that I am to be king. I guess there is no way I could reject that is there? No denying it.” His gaze burned into her. “Just one more thing that your goddess has done to me.”
He turned and stormed from the room. Bofia sank to the ground, weeping. She still held the ruby heart in her hands.