I stood on the precipice, a staff in my fingers. I clutched it tightly, my nerves crashing against my chest like a smithy’s hammer pounds against the piece he’s foraging. Thump, thump, thump.
I looked behind me. A presence was there, a presence stronger than myself. I closed my eyes as I turned back. I drew in three deep breaths before I opened my eyes, wishing my heart wouldn’t sound like the thundering hooves of the wild horses that lived the Wilder Plains in the south.
I let my mind register the city below. The black towers of the king’s castle looked like two blemished horns of the demon god they worshiped. The small houses were dirty, I could tell. Smoke came from all the chimney pots, sweeping toward me. I took a deep breath of the smoke, hating the message I was being given for this king. For these people.
“Must I?” I whispered, “Mighty One, why me?”
You are my chosen one, Daughter. You accepted my call. I’m with you. Through death, through life. Through the good and bad. I’ll never leave you.
“Shall I die?”
No answer came to me. Did this mean I was going to die? Was I to die on my first mission of the Mighty One?
I took another shaky breath as I turned and began to walk down the mountain precipice, my booted feet thumping down the rocks. I loosened my cloak as I headed into warmer temperatures. The pine trees grew thick in this area of Jorege. I loved the smell of pine. It took me back to simpler times. Simpler times with people I loved. And who loved me.
I stopped, taking a slow breath of the sharp scent.
I jerked, “Declan?”
A tall, lean man walked toward me. He looked so different from the gangly youth I’d left three years earlier. His thatch colored hair was just as unruly, but his blue eyes had a wisdom that had not been there before. His forearms were larger, strong with the work of a woodsmith. His jaw, more defined. His stature, taller.
“How are you? What has life taken you on?”
“More adventures than I can recount.” I whispered. I was conscious of my dirty clothes, my ratted brown hair and the dark circles under my brown eyes.
“Are you on a mission?”
I took a half step away, “A mission?”
“You serve the Mighty One. You’re his messenger.”
He rolled up his shirt sleeve, pointing to a marking above the cress on his inner arm. It was a crown, with beams of light shooting off of it. “I, too, have been called.”
“A speaker.” I let a breath of air pass through my lips, “You are a speaker.”
He nodded, “And I’m to speak for you. The Mighty One sent me here today. He said I would know who my prophet would be.”
I blinked, crossing my arms with my staff between my chest and my arms. “I am.”
Declan shifted his feet, “I have missed you, Willow.”
“I cannot, Declan. I cannot have ties.”
He ran a hand through his hair, “I am to travel with you, Willow. I will serve our Mighty One with you.”
“It was wrong three years ago, and it is wrong now.”
Memories of past sins rushed back to me and I ducked me head. He did not know what choice I had had to make, the horror I lived with each and every day of my existence. If I was to die in service of the Mighty One, maybe my past sins might be atoned for.
“No, let us just go speak to the king.”
“My mission is clear. The king and his advisors are serving the Mighty One in word only. They worship in secret the demon god, Dunedee. Because of the sins of the people, the Mighty One is justified in destroying this city.”
Visions of children, infants, being burned alive to that fake god made my stomach turn. The wails assaulted my thoughts, and I gasped as I fell to the ground, dropping my staff as I clutched my head in pain. Tears fell uncontrolled. I moaned, shaken by the sound and the picture.
“Willow!” His voice caused me to look up. The sound vanished, instead I saw his deep blue eyes and the worry line that had etched its way between his brows. I felt his hands that were squeezing my bicep. And I heard the whisper, the prompting.
Tell him what you have done.
Mighty One! He’ll hate me. Kill me! He had the right to choose. I took that choice away.
Tell him! The Mighty One’s tone bartered no argument.
“Declan. I have to tell you something.” The war in my soul was strong, but I pushed it away, drawing on the Mighty One’s gentle, calming presence.
He hadn’t let me go, “What?”
“I …” I gasped, tears flowing again, “When I left, I was pregnant.”
His grip loosened. He sat back on his heels, “Pre – pregnant?”
“Yes.” I pulled away, standing up and straightening my skirt. “I … I went to a potion maker. She … she gave me one to … take care of it.”
Declan stood, “You killed it?”
I blinked back the tears, “I live with my guilt every day. I cannot justify what I did.” Sobs racked my body, “I wish every day that I could go back and save my baby.”
“Our baby.” Declan swore, “Why would you do that?”
“I was scared.” I wiped my eyes, “I was afraid of what you would do.”
Declan paced, “Well, it has been done. We cannot change it.”
I hiccupped, “Will you forgive me? He was your child as much as it was mine.”
He brushed his knuckled down my cheek, “I was wrong to cause you to disobey the Mighty One. We should not have done what we did that night. But I still love you, Willow.”
I leaned into his hand. “I love you too.” But then I shook my head, steeping back, “We cannot do this! We have to work, we have to obey.”
Declan got a far off look in his eyes, “Marry?”
I looked into his eyes, “What?”
He looked at me, “Marry me?”
I jumped as the voice of the Mighty One invaded my head again, “What?”
It shall be a sign of me to my people, a sign of my love for them, despite their sin. Your story shall be a message to them, the adulterous people. Your sin shall be an example to this people and those to come of my great compassion and love.
I shook as I looked at the hand Declan extended, “You … do you forgive me, Declan?”
“I do. Marry me, Willow. Please? Let me show you the love of our Might One, the true King of Jorege in my love for you. Let me serve you. My wife.”
I hugged him, “I have betrayed you, and yet you love me. I have hurt you, and you forgive. I have murdered, and you chose to pardon my darkest sin.”
He chuckled, tangling his fingers in my hair, “You are a prophet, Willow.”
I laughed softly, “It is only by the Mighty One’s grace.”
Declan turned my face up to his and gently kissed me, “Let us go. Father Lusious is still our priest, he shall marry us.”
Willow blinked, “The Mighty One is such a gracious God.”
Declan weaved my fingers with his and kissed the back of my hand, “That he is dearest. That he is.”