Monday, June 3, 2013

Flash Fiction: The Mark

Rahni’s hands were cracked and peeling, her face badly sunburnt, her feet callused and covered in dirt. The warm curls of her unblemished, white-gold hair were the only thing that lent her any beauty. With a tub of laundry on one hip and a bucket of water in the opposite hand, she made her way to Plom Picket’s. She shoved through the swinging door and dropped the bucket of water to the ground at Plom’s feet. He shoved some coins into her hand without breaking eye contact as he continued trying to sell some beat up hides to a man that just came in for directions.
She smiled to herself, admiring the way Plom tried to turn every situation into a sale, then she noticed he shorted her 2 coins and was less amused. He tried this with her every week and every week she noticed. She knew he would have the remaining coins ready for her when she came back, handing them over without even the slightest look of guilt.
 She continued down the dusty street toward the Heplog Inn, adjusting the basket of folded sheets on her hip. The largest carriage she had ever seen pulled up to the Inn as she approached. The massive doors opened and a handsome man in seemingly untouched clothing emerged. His dark hair framed his face in soft waves, paired perfectly with the crown of thin silver and gold woven together. His boots were scuff-free and Rahni looked down at her own blackened feet in embarrassment.  She hurried inside the inn with her head down.

She waited at the counter for Mrs. Heplog to return with her payment of stew and bread when she heard the door open behind her. The heavy, booted footsteps approached the counter where she was standing, she didn’t dare turn. Mrs. Heplog returned with a pot of stew and basket of bread and set them on the counter. “You’re looking for the first room on the left on the second floor,” Mrs. Heplog said to the man behind me, pointing up the stairs.
“Who was that?” I asked.
“The new seeker, one of the travelers gave birth to a son last night” she said. I nodded my head in understanding. For centuries, the elite of Quam had appointed a handful of seekers to scour the country in search of a child marked by the scorpion. Legend has it that the one marked by the scorpion will bring Quam unfathomable power and riches.  Seekers have searched for the young boy they hope will one day lead Quam to greatness in every corner of the country. It is law to announce the birth of any baby boy as well as announce the arrival of any male into the country.
“If the most powerful man in the world was just born in your inn, I’ll do your linens for a month for free,” she rolled her eyes and slipped her arm through the handle of the pot, she grabbed the bread basket with her other hand and nodded her thanks before leaving.
Halfway home, her arm started feeling fatigued from the heavy pot of stew. Usually she would stop for a few minutes to rest, but she heard the carriage approaching loudly behind her, and a part of her wanted to show the handsome man how strong and hardworking she was, so she continued on. The carriage got louder and louder, she was nervous for some odd reason. If she had a free hand she would have tugged at her dirty skirt and smoothed her beautiful hair. Louder still.
She was so worried about how she looked and what the man would think of her that she didn’t see the large tree root sprawling across the ground. She tripped and lost her footing. What would have been a simple trip turned into a struggle of weight and balance as the heavy stew sloshed lazily in the pot, the timing threw her weight against her and knocked her to the ground. Her head hit the bricks of the road just as the horses came to a halt beside her. The light was too bright, she closed her eyes and fell asleep.
“What are we supposed to do? I thought the legend said it was a boy?” Someone whispered. Rahni struggled to open her eyes but her lids seemed to be glued shut.
“No, it never said boy. It was always assumed. Shit. We’ve never considered the fact that it would be a girl. “ Another voice whispered. Finding her eyelids noncomplying, Rhani tried to sit up, her head raised a fraction of an inch off the pillow and a sharp pain right behind her eyes throbbed to the beat of her heart until she hissed and let her head fall back.
“She’s up, go get him,” One of the voices whispered and then came to her side. “Are—are you awake, miss?”
“Where am I?” she managed after a couple tries.
“You are in the medical quarters of Quam’s Chief Appointed Ruler, and if you could just hold your questions until His Glory gets here, I—"
“Why am I here, what happened?” She asked, frantic that she was not in her own bed and that her head felt like pulp.
“You fell and hit your head. Seeker Westman happened by as you fell and could find no one to claim you so he brought you back here, but please, wait until His Glory arrives for any further—"
“Wait no longer child,” a new man barreled through the door, she winced at the loud noise but he didn’t seem to notice as he continued talking in a booming voice. “Now, please show me the mark.”
“What mark?” She asked.
“It’s on the back of her head,” one of the men from before said. They lifted her up from her arms into a sitting position and she felt a clammy hand brush against her scalp. Her bare scalp, her hair was gone.
“The scorpion. Hm, I have to say, I never even considered the legend being about a young lady. You were right, this will absolutely not do,” he tut softly. “She can’t go back, the others will see the mark and appoint her as ruler right away. We can’t have a woman ruler…the weakness of it all,” he sighed, tapping the bed as he thought for a few moments. “Just do it,” he said to one of the men.
Rhani had no time to think, she was grabbed by her arms and legs and carried swiftly from the room. “Where are you taking me? I don’t know anything about a scorpion mark, please!” Her eyes finally opened, she was being taken down countless flights of stairs into the bowels of the castle. She was thrown into a room and the door closed behind her. She waited for her eyes to adjust to the dark but they never did. She felt around the door for a handle or keyhole. Nothing. She began scaling the wall around the small room. Nothing, nothing, nothing, then…bones. She felt the smooth skull, the hollow rib cage, the long legs. She was going to die here.

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