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The majesty of the ocean was unmatched by the copious amounts of shipwrecks on her shores, the stormy sea off in the distance battering and destroying most of these proud vessels. The rotten wood swayed and rocked over the cliff, its sharp edges protruding into the shipwrecks with small enclaves of beaches in-between where one could land safely.

Rainier awoke upon one of these beaches, nude from the waist down, save for the cross attached to his crotch. His hair was all but gone; his eyes looked dull and lifeless, save for their fiery red tinge. Slowly, he awoke from his stupor. He looked up to see the unfamiliar scenery around him. Dazed and confused, he looked around for his boat; but could not find it. He slowly got up from the ground, only to realize his clothes and hair were gone as well.

Cursing, he looked around the beach for anything he could find, but alas, found nothing. He looked up at the cliff, summoned his willpower, and raised his cross. With the image of stairs in his mind, he pointed the cross at the precipice and concentrated as stone stairs materialized, descending slowly until it was right in front of him. Looking a bit paler, he walked up the stairs. At the top, he was meet with rolling hills and plains; and what appeared to be a small shack a few hundred feet in front of him and a large forest behind it. 

He approached the house cautiously, looking around for any signs of danger. Once he was a few feet from the house, he heard a loud yell come from the shack: "Stay away; you nude lunatic!"

Alarmed and shocked, he took and few steps back. He shouted: " I mean no harm, I only want a change of clothes and some food. Then, I will be gone by sundown."

There was a pause for a few moments; before an even louder shout rung in his ears: "I don't trust you! How do I know your not a lich?" 

Flabbergasted, he raised his cross to the house and shouted, with fury: "I am a Cardinal! If you do not comply, you leave me little choice!"

All was quiet for a few seconds, then; the door swung open to reveal an elderly woman. She wore a floral dress with blue roses all over it, boots that looked worn to the point of ruin, with short white hair and a blue tinge in her eyes.

She looked towards Rainer with a look of disgust and curiosity; she asked: "If you truly are a Cardinal, then why are you here?" 

Walking closer, Rainer stated: " It's a secret, my dear, important church business. Now, would you mind helping me? I'm certain you wouldn't want to keep me here."

"Fine, but if you want food and clothes, you're going to have to help me with a few things. That shouldn't be too hard for you, your holiness," she stated, turning around and walking into the house. Rainer, with a look of amusement on his face, followed her into the shack.

The shack was cramped, barely fitting the tall Rainer inside. There was a small bed off to the side, with a desk and candle beside it. On the opposite side were several piles of dishes, almost as if she was feeding an entire family herself. Beside that was the fireplace, along with several pots, utensils, and a cauldron.

"So, what did you need help with?" Rainer asked impatiently. 

"I need some help with dinner tonight. No holy magic though, you have to earn your reward," she said sternly.

Walking back and forth, she continued: "You'll wash the dishes, cook the food and gather the ingredients. You can find the ingredients in the forest behind the house, along with the firewood. The firestarter is beside the fireplace. You are to do all this before sundown, and if I catch you using any holy magic, I'll tear that cross off myself. Any questions?"

"You expect me to do common household chores? Are you daft? Or has old age made you mad as well?" Rainer said, filled with spite.

"Oh? I thought the big and mighty Cardinal could handle anything? What've chores compared to leading armies and slaying Witches? Unless; you're saying you can't do it," she stated with a mischievous grin.

Irritated, he walked over towards the pile of dishes and started to sort them.

"I will leave you to it. If the big, scary Cardinal needs anything from this frail, old woman, I'll be in my workshop." She walked towards her bed, her eyes glowing blue. Suddenly, a wooden door appeared on her bed. 

"I'll see you at sunset. Oh, and make sure you make three servings tonight. My son is coming over: he has quite the appetite, so make sure you make lots for him. Have fun!" she said, jumping through the doorway.

"I swear, I'd bury her if I wasn't on a mission," Rainer grumbled to himself.

As Rainer continued to prepare dinner, the elderly women floated down the passageway into a dark room. It was pitch black, save for a table and young child strapped to a wooden chair. He looked as if he hadn't eaten in weeks.

As her feet touched the ground, the young child looked up at her, barely conscious.

"Soon, you'll be free. I know life hasn't been fair to you. Just know that everything I've done, I've done for you." Kissing his forehead: her eyes glowed blue; the kid dozed off; what little consciousness fading away.

She looked down and focused all of her willpower. A cross materialized into her hand. Her eyes started to grow dull, and with the last of her strength, she stabbed the cross straight into the kid's heart. Blood splattered everywhere; as her eyes slowly closed; she muttered: "We'll all be watching you from above, kiddo. Don't let us down."

Submitted: August 11, 2021

© Copyright 2022 Novice Ovice. All rights reserved.


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Jake J. Harrison

Nice beginning. The Cardinal seems like a piece of work! Did he ever get any clothes or is he washing dishes in the buff? Good cliffhanger at the end.

Sat, October 23rd, 2021 11:42am

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