Three Rules [Flash Fiction]

Themes: Fantasy, Religion, Disobedience
Words: ~990

The halls of residence are silent, save for the small noises of the other Acolytes sleeping soundly. The quiet snores. The fitful turns. The creak of Alovis’s bed as he rolls from his back to his side. They’re familiar sounds. Comforting sounds. They try to lull you into that same sleep, pulling at your tired mind and heavy eyes. But you resist. Tonight, you have a mission. Tonight, you’re going to break every rule in the Cloisters.

You lie on your back, ears strained for the clock chiming midnight. When it does, you push the itchy woollen blanket from your shoulders, revealing your body in full dress. The first rule broken: Acolytes may only wear their official Robes of Learning between sun-up and sun-down.

As your heart pounds in your chest, you push yourself from the bed, landing barefoot on the cold stone floor. The second rule broken: Acolytes may not leave their beds after Twilight Prayer. Nothing save fire or flood is excuse for that.

Quiet as a carakar, you tiptoe down the aisle between the rows of beds, praying the other Acolytes are truly as deep in Saresh’s realm as they appear. Even one of them waking for an instant would be enough to seal your fate. In desperation, you offer a silent prayer to Milakksa, Goddess of Mischief, asking her to shield your actions tonight from the eyes and ears of others.

By some miracle, or Milakksa’s grace, you make it to the door and slip silently out. On feet numb with the cold of the bare stone flags, you hurry down the corridor, making your way to the secret passage behind the tapestry depicting Azura bringing forth the dawn’s light. Fitting, that the light gives way to the shadow of the passage. What you do now can only be done in the dark.

The passage is long, and soon you’re groping blindly, your hands at arm’s length in front of your face the only protection against bumps and bruises from the rough-hewn walls. You long for a light, even though you dared not bring one with you. Light is too easily seen, in the darkness.

Your chthonic journey ends when, without warning, you come up against another tapestry, and very nearly fall through it. You catch yourself just in time, holding your breath as you pull yourself back from almost-certain exposure. In the cold darkness of the passage, you crouch down into a more comfortable position, and wait.

It doesn’t take long for the dance of light to appear beneath the edges of the tapestry. The footsteps of priests leaving the Cleansing Pool are muted by the mass of your flimsy shield. Each priest carries a candle in the procession, and as they pass your hiding place, the light becomes brighter, so bright that it burns your vision. You squint your eyes closed, hold your breath again, and try to think small thoughts.

The procession passes. You hear the door of the Prayer Hall close with a dull thud. At once, you make your move. You slip easily from behind the tapestry and set off at a run from the direction the procession came. You’ve done your homework. You know the Chamber of Second Sight is unguarded. The priests are diligent in their observation of the rules, and the rules call for all full priests to cleanse and be present for Midnight Prayer.

The Chamber door is vast and ornate, heavy as lead, but in the darkness, you throw your weight against it. It’s not a very impressive weight—you’re still two years from your adulthood—but the door gives way before you, and you take heart from that. Perhaps Orlonzo the Seer has opened this door in his home to invite you in.

Light spills out of the Chamber, a slice of brightness cutting through the opening of the door. You feel warmth embrace you as you step inside, and there, in the centre of the room, illuminated by the light of a hundred eternally burning candles, is the Orb of Vision. You’ve seen it once before, during Centennial Feast which fell two years ago, but never have you seen it so close.

You step in front of it and your breath catches in your throat. The Orb is no bigger than your head, and it looks so fragile and delicate, as if a gentle breeze might smash it. You lick your lips, working moisture back into your desert of a mouth, and speak the words that will see you break the third rule.

“Show me my family.”

Something slams into you… a force, a wind, screaming and buffeting around you… the ground, hard and cold… the scent of flayberry fills your nostrils, and you recognise the building in the distance as the farmhouse where you grew up…

Fire, burning, consuming… screams… Mama crying out for Papa, Linza and Reena clutched in each others’ arms… cruel laughs, rough voices shouting approval, and the dark raven symbol of Manon emblazoned across a triangular battle-flag…

You’re back in the Chamber, your breath hitching ragged and raw as you try to rid your mouth of the taste of ash and char. You don’t realise you’re crying until you look up at the Orb and find it blurry and indistinct.

“Has it happened?” you shout, uncaring if you’re heard by the priests. Let them hear! Let them banish you! “Has it happened, or is it yet to pass?”

If Orlonzo is talking, it isn’t to you. Silence descends in the chamber as the echo of your question dies away. You know there will never be an answer. You’ve broken the most important rule of all, and now you’re on your own. The rumours are true; war is coming. It’s time to go home and pick up the sword. And maybe, with a little luck and the blessings of the gods, you can make it back in time to save your family.

UFO


First ever experiment in 2nd Person POV. Today’s BlogBattle theme is Disobedience, with a free choice of genre (I chose fantasy). If you haven’t checked out BlogBattle yet, please do so—and maybe participate, too. From Wednesday, you’ll be able to vote for your favourite story(ies). The featured image is from Pixabay.

16 Comments on “Three Rules [Flash Fiction]

  1. Wonderful world building and another story that begs for telling. Second person is incredibly hard to do, partly because of all the “you’s” and there are few ways around them. I also agree with Jade, that it feels awkward because it isn’t actually me. I waver between being in the scene and watching the scene – it’s disorienting! Ha ha. That said, you pulled it off admirably. I wouldn’t want to read more than a flash piece in second person, but it is a great exercise and I enjoyed the story regardless.

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    • Thanks, Diana! I think 2nd person is definitely something of an acquired taste (I haven’t acquired it myself, yet) so I appreciate you checking out the story regardless! I know what you mean about being in the scene and observing it. Definitely not easy to keep things consistent in this POV.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m not a huge fan of second person-pov. It strikes a chord with me that makes me say, “how about I DON’T break the first rule, huh? YOU DON’T KNOW ME.” That being said, I barely noticed the second person-pov here because you weaved an emotional and touching story, and I just hope this little boy makes it home in time to save his family.

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  3. Since everyone else is talking about the POV, I’ll talk about something else. The tale of a homesick boy wanting to see how his family was doing only to discover the horrible answer.

    As I was reading your tale, I imagined that a thief who pretends to become an acolyte would gain the same access to such secrets. It would make an interesting twist on your story.

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  4. 2nd person POV! You attacked this complicated POV well. I think somewhere along the middle I had a thought that it could be a “choose your own adventure” sort of showing and telling mechanism, but the story really draws you in. I could definitely keep reading, although, I think I’d like it in first or third person better, but that’s just me not really caring for 2nd in the few instances I’ve ever read it. Such a great story. Maybe it will keep going? 🙂

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    • To be honest, it felt a little choose-your-own-adventure when I was writing it—possibly because of the genre I chose! I think if I was to do it again, I’d pick a different one entirely. 🙂 Alas, this isn’t one of these which will keep going.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Pingback: #BlogBattle 19: May 16th “Disobedience” Entries & Voting | BlogBattle

  6. I was going to say — good take on 2nd person POV—then I saw it was what you were aiming for. Sweet!

    I still kind of imagined a “he” instead of the “you” in most places …

    An aside: I used to think that this POV necessarily entailed the reader taking part in the action, like in your story. In that case the author has to try hard to make it work. However, I recently realised there’s a more natural role the reader can play in such a narrative, namely, that of a witness. Banville’s “The Book of Evidence” addressed the Judge and and the jury, as if you, the reader, are either or both. In that case the author appeals to a reader’s natural, very human inclination to pass judgment, to analyse and assess, and therefore want to be involved in the story (granted, in a very different way than if he or she were present, playing out the role as a ‘you’).

    Either way, great stuff, enjoyed your story, looking forward to more 🙂

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    • Thanks, I’ll check out The Book of Evidence, it sounds fascinating. And TBH, I originally saw this story from the POV of a boy, so that probably came across in the telling despite my attempts to neutralise the gender. If I’d had a couple of hundred more words, would’ve tried to work in a few more references to women, to make it clear this is a gender-equal monastery. Ah well, live and learn! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • Hey, for a first attempt that was great! It’s hard making ‘you’ work well. But I don’t think you need to make it gender neutral; I wouldn’t mind reading or identifying with a character that’s male/female/any other gender or species. Btw, my first serious encounter with second person, some years ago, was in Camus “The Fall”. I just checked to see if I was remembering correctly, and the first line is: “May I, monsieur, offer my services without running the risk of intruding?” And then he goes on to address the reader as you. So in fact he establishes that the reader is male from the third word! I don’t remember the book well, but it may just fall between the two categories I mentioned (active participation, like yours, and active judgement, like Banville’s). Sadly, I don’t think I enjoyed Camus much at the time (too young). Banville’s book, on the other hand, I’m reading and enjoying now (also marvelling at the writing, but that’s just me!) 🙂

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