Writing Prompt: Story Generator
It was past dark when Ren came in sight of old Prophet’s Church, and the local militia were gone. Perhaps in the first days, when the fires of revolution still burned in the minds of the people, those guards had not shirked their duties. Those days were decades past now, the great people’s revolution now reduced to boring history.
No one had worshiped in this building in decades, since it was abandoned by royal decree. Newly crowned King Darenth had not ordered it burned or torn down—that would imply the land’s newest monarch thought the Prophet’s rantings meaningful—but had instead ordered it left to decay in obscurity. Forgotten, like the Prophet herself.
Still, the church was in better shape than the Prophet. You could not behead a church.
Ren’s trusty velociraptor, Shrike, hunkered down as Ren reined him in at the stone fence. Time and opportunistic villagers had left its stones depleted. Shrike hated the church, hated what waited inside it, but that was because raptors were, by nature, distrustful of magic. What had brought them into the world could easily send them back out again.
“There now, girl.” Ren slid off Shrike and stroked his hand down the raptor’s long neck. “Don’t fret. I’m going in alone.”
Tonight, Ren knew, he would finally hold Elen into his arms. He would free her from her magical prison and bring her home to his father, to marry. He would tell her he loved her.
The inside of the church was in worse shape than the exterior. While stone and mortar had weathered the years gracefully, the wood inside was peeling, broken, and rotting. Ren chose his steps carefully. He was going down to the cellar, but he preferred to take the stairs.
He felt his way down stone steps in darkness, using the wall as his guide. Only once concealed by the cellar did he produce his wand and light it with a word of power—Solyr. Long ago picked clean by scavengers, the cellar was empty of all valuables save one—the full-length mirror with the golden frame and frosted glass. The mirror that had called to Ren from his dreams. Elen’s prison. A prison for the woman he loved.
The scavengers hadn’t touched the mirror. They hadn’t even been able to see it. Ren could see the mirror because he knew the old words, like Solyr and Vanis, because he had learned those words from his father. King Darenth’s mastery of those words had allowed him to seize the throne. All Ren wanted was to free Elen.
He walked to the mirror and set the wand aside. He focused and waited until a blue tint grew at the edge of his vision. He said the words that brought him to Elen six weeks ago, on the first of many nights they spent talking, commiserating, falling in love. “Revel.”
The frosted glass melted from top to bottom, revealing a surface beneath like the side of a soap bubble, transparent but always shifting. Elen waited beyond the frost. Her brilliant smile when she saw him lit Ren’s world brighter than the glowing wand.
“You’re back!” She was everything he wanted. “I thought I’d never see you again!”
Elen was close to his age, old enough to marry but only just, with golden hair to her shoulders and a green dress—the same dress she always wore—that rose to her neck and fell to mid-calf. She had soft curves and a nose that was just a bit rounder than his. She owned his heart.
“I found the word,” Ren said, and Elen’s eyes grew wide. “I can free you. We leave this church tonight, together.”
“You found it?” Elen clasped her hands together at her breast. “Oh Ren, I knew you wouldn’t fail me. I love you! I love you! I love you!”
Each repetition made the words more powerful, and Ren felt his face flush and his body heat. He thought of all the nights they had spent talking in this cellar, her on one side of the glass and him on the other, and the bond that grew as they learned they shared the same dreams, and beliefs, and hopes. Her to be free once more, and him to free her.
“I need you to stand back,” Ren said. He couldn’t wait to touch her, to hold her, to kiss her, at last. “Stand well back, Elen, and I should be able to make a hole in the mirror.”
“Will it hurt?” She swallowed and stared from behind the glass that kept them apart. “The Prophet told me it would hurt. She said I would die if I went free.”
The Prophet again. Ren worked to hide his anger. The Prophet deserved to lose her head for all the awful things she had done, least of which was imprisoning her own daughter in this mirror when King Darenth took power. No one deserved to suffer forever in a mirror.
“It won’t hurt,” Ren said, because he wanted to reassure her. “And you won’t die.” That he did know, having researched every book in the old king’s library regarding enchanted mirrors. “You’ll be free, we’ll be together, and we’ll rule the kingdom as husband and wife.” He smiled. “In a few decades, of course. After Father passes.”
“I’m ready.” Elen stepped back. “I trust you, Ren. I know you’d never hurt me.”
Ren focused on the golden frame, on the bubble glass, and waited until the blue tint came. It was all around the edges of his vision now, crackling more than normal. Was that a warning? Ren didn’t care. He focused on the word, fixed it in his mind so he could think it as urgently as he said it, and spoke. “Liber.”
The surface of the mirror shimmered like a still pond struck by a heavy stone. A wind grew inside it, tossing Elen’s blond hair and pressing her dress close against her body. Frost appeared at the edges of her hair, and her teeth chattered. “Ren!”
“Come out, Elen!” Ren shouted. “Walk toward the wind!”
“I can’t!” Her eyes were wide now, the frost spreading across the glass. She reached for him, struggling. “Help me, Ren! Help me!”
Something was wrong. He had said the word of power wrong, but he couldn’t let her die in that mirror. He couldn’t let her freeze.
Ren dashed forward and, for the first time, reached through the mirror. He strained for her and Elen for him. Their hands touched, warmth upon warmth, and for the barest of moments time ceased to be. There was just Elen, her hand in his, her smile and her love.
The world melted around him.
Ren stumbled into hard stone, except it was not stone, not any longer. It was glass, clearer than any he had ever seen and tall as the sky. A golden frame surrounded a mirror shape in the wall of glass, and behind that glass and endless sky was a dark cellar and a glowing wand. Elen stood in it, staring at him, smiling, her hair still tipped with frost.
“Elen?” It was cold in this world of sky and glass, and Ren saw his breath mist as goosebumps rose on his arms. “Elen, what’s happened? Are you all right?”
“I’m fine now, Ren.” Elen’s smile grew as she watched him through the glass that had once separated them. “No, beyond fine. I am perfect. I am avenged.”
“What?” Ren didn’t understand any of this, and he pushed his hands against the glass that separated them. It was no longer a bubble, and it was hard and cold. “Elen, what are you doing out there? How am I in here? What is this?” He loved her!
“Your father’s reward.” Elen’s smile turned chill. “My mother’s gift.”
She was the Prophet’s Daughter. The Prophet had imprisoned Elen, hidden her, damned her, and King Darenth had killed the Prophet. Elen should be grateful!
“Elen, no. I love you!” Had she lied about everything? He realized he didn’t care. “I’m not my father. We can overthrow him, Elen! We can rule together!”
“My mother can’t rule without her head.” Elen picked up his glowing wand and turned her back on him. “And your father can’t pass on a kingdom to a son that doesn’t exist.”
She was mad! She was going to leave him here, in this mirror, where no one would find him, because he loved her. Because he wanted to save her. “Stop! Please! Don’t do this!”
Even as he shouted, even as his heart pounded and his head thumped, Ren knew she wouldn’t listen. He knew, because he remembered those words. The Prophet had uttered those same words, in that same tone—before King Darenth chopped off her head.
“Farwell, Ren Darenth.” Elen climbed the steps. “Farewell, you blind fool.”
Ren was still screaming when the cellar grew dark again.
About the Story:
This month, the mods made their own “story generator” and everyone rolled a set of random numbers to determine what elements they would have to incorporate into that month’s story. This resulted in a number of stories with similar elements, but those stories ended up being very different. It was a remarkably fun exercise, and I was surprised by how much of this story “wrote itself” as I worked to incorporate all the elements I had rolled. Below, the story generator matrix:
My roll ended up as the following:
photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/25494789@N02/27894292603″>Chapelle de Cazeneuve</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/”>(license)</a>