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In Which Prayers are Answered

By Amanda StarksPublished 27 days ago 8 min read
Image by Tumisu on pixabay. Edited with Canva assets.

Walls of flesh envelope me, undulating with a sickening rhythm. Mucus and sticky membrane web out between my fingers as I pull them apart, trying to feel my way through a cocoon of viscera.

. . .

I awaken drenched in sweat, my skin and sheets damp and warm to the touch. A single candle dances in the darkness, grounding me to this reality.

"It's only a dream," I whisper to the night, though I know there is no one to listen.

I've been alone in this bedchamber for a month. Days have passed all the same way: awake, receive my meal for the day, pace the walls, prayers at sunset, sleep, dream, and wake up again.

It is my choice to be here, and yet my patience is wearing thin. Its taking a long time for the priests to make their preparations for the ceremony, a ceremony I should have had weeks ago.

I roll onto my side, casting off the blankets to let the nighttime air cool my body. The candle fills my vision, reminding me of the bonfires of the Irkallan war camps. If I concentrate, I can smell the mouthwatering boar rotating over the open fire, transporting me beyond these walls.

I suddenly gag at the thought of cooking meat, sitting up and clutching a hand over my mouth and stomach. Images of my dream flood into my mind.

Flesh walls and bone cages...

"It's just a dream, it's just a dream, it's just a dream," I chant, shaking my head until the nausea stops. I can't let this fear get in the way of my ceremony. I need to be ready.

Sighing, I lower myself back to the plush mattress, the stone walls of the castle looking paler than usual.

. . .

Walls of flesh envelope me, undulating with a sickening rhythm. Mucus and sticky membrane web out between my fingers as I pull them apart, trying to feel my way through a cocoon of viscera.

The scent of sulfur penetrates my nostrils, nearly choking me. White fumes slither up from the flesh beneath me, and the smoky tang of charcoal follows the grooves of my tongue. Long crescent shapes break up the never-ending walls of flesh, but they are beyond my weakening reach.

. . .

I awake on the floor, tangled in my sheets - gasping.

The wooden floor is strikingly cold against my skin, shocking me to action. In mere moments the coverings are torn off, but even as I lay spread out on the floorboards I can't shake the feeling of being enveloped by mucus and toxic fumes.

"Is this...still a dream?" I wonder.

The priests finally came today. They brought with them the items and clothing I would need for the ceremony. Accompanying them was General Bael, much to my chagrin.

He was an outlier among the robed men; at least half a head taller than the rest with a massive black sword strapped to his back and a flowing cape of black and gold. Bael kept his distance until the priests were finished fussing over me.

His first words were a punch to the gut. "You can still decline. No one will think less of you."

I immediately felt a recoil in my chest. "Are you calling me a coward?"

Bael's brow furrowed, his dark eyes piercing through my innermost defenses. "No. You are among my bravest soldiers, Jona, which also makes you one of my most foolish."

I rolled my eyes and folded my arms across my chest, not bothering with decorum in his presence. "Is doing the bidding of those we worship foolish? 'We pray, they answer. They command, we follow.' It is my sworn duty to follow the command of the angels."

"'To follow blindly is to lose true salvation,'" he countered, a sad smile curving his chapped lips. "Have you truly thought about this?"

I looked away, down at the garments displayed out on the bed that I was to wear the day after tomorrow for the ceremony. They were the most beautiful fabrics I'd ever seen, and yet the color - a faded sulfur - made my stomach clench.

"I've nothing to fear."

. . .

I do not dream because I refuse to sleep.

The candle at my bedside is both friend and foe. The flickering light lowers my defenses - eyes fluttering with each flaming curl - while the darkness it riles against keeps my edges sharp, reminding me of what's waiting for me if I let that darkness in.

In this tense standoff, I allow my mind to wander along the edges of the dream, reliving the imagery as if looking through a foggy mirror.

Flesh walls and bones cages...sulfur scents and mucus floors...

Perhaps it is this castle that has cursed me to dream. Not long ago it belonged to the Kur Empire before being occupied by the Irkallan rebels. I can more clearly remember running through these halls with my bloodied sword, a thousand men and women of faith at my back, than I can the exact details of my dream.

But I've slept in these walls before, and my nights had been blissfully empty.

You know when this all started, stop denying it.

I shake my head, chanting once more. "It's just a dream, it's just a dream..."

The night after I offered myself to the priests for their holy ceremony the 'dreams' began. Little more than sensations at first; a sense of drifting and swaying, cocooned in a massive embrace.

Now at this final week it has become a fully realized, repeating nightmare.

But what does it mean?

"It doesn't matter," I whisper, reaching out to the candle with my fingertips. "Winning this war is what matters."

I smother the candleflame, praying to the angels who walk the earth to watch over me.

. . .

Walls of flesh envelope me, undulating with a sickening rhythm. Mucus and sticky membrane web out between my fingers as I pull them apart, trying to feel my way through a cocoon of viscera.

The scent of sulfur penetrates my nostrils, nearly choking me. White fumes slither up from the flesh beneath me, and the smoky tang of charcoal follows the grooves of my tongue. Long crescent shapes break up the never-ending walls of flesh, but they are beyond my weakening reach.

My skin begins to fizzle and pop, and breathing becomes difficult as the chamber of flesh fills with acid. The walls come alive and begin to compress, folding my limbs in and over themselves, twisting and crunching bone.

I realize that I am nothing but fodder before the dark.

. . .

I stand before a massive chasm, the wind whipping against my dress and hair. It's late morning, but the sun is hidden behind overcast clouds, creating a slight chill.

Behind me, the chanting of the priests can be heard, the smell of incense heavy in the air. Their words are ancient, heavy. Even though I do not understand their meaning, I can feel their importance inking themselves onto my flesh.


I turn at the sound of my name, gawking at the appearance of General Bael standing before the priests. He no longer bears his sword, and his cape has been replaced by a crimson sash across his armored chest.


Bael nods, walking forward until he is at my side, looking out over the chasm that borders the Kur Empire. He doesn't speak, and after a while, I feel my knuckles burning from how hard they are clamping down on the sides of my ceremonial uniform.

"Why are you here?" I ask, breaking the silence between us.

He sips down a breath, then turns to me. "To witness your dedication to our cause."

My knuckles unclench, my shoulders relaxing back into a more natural position. "Thank you, General. Honestly, I was afraid you had come to stop me."

He shakes his head, his dark locks briefly falling onto the plane of his forehead. "No, I'm here to ensure the ceremonies' success." He then turns to look at the priests, motioning to them with a flick of his hand.

Immediately the chanting stops, and the swinging of the incense lamps ceases. As one, the holy men gather around me, dropping to their knees. Then, they begin to chant again with a much lower, grittier tone.

Finally, the time has come. After this ceremony, I can leave the castle, and live out the remainder of whatever time I have left.

I turn to look at Bael. "Do you know the name of the angel they are summoning? I wish to offer my prayers to them."

Bael's pupils darken. His hand reaches out to grasp my shoulder roughly, and then with a sudden push and flourish of his foot behind my legs, he has me on my knees before the chasm.

"Bael -!"

"I call upon thee, ally of my enemy, scion of gluttony," he shouts, his hand slightly shaking on my bruised shoulder. "Show us the vessel of your power, so that we may feast upon your strength, and strike against those who would strike against us!"

A loud cracking in the earth rushes up from the chasm, a cloud of black fog rolling up from the deep.

Fear slices through me like a thunderbolt as I realize it will not be an angel being summoned. I struggle, but Bael's grip tightens, and one of his boots comes down hard on my leg, pinning me in place.

I shout up at him, anger and betrayal fueling my voice. "Scion of gluttony? Bael...Bael, please tell me you didn't do this!"

Bael looks down at me, meeting my panicked gaze with his own.

"We swore to each other we would do anything to win this war. You did it your way. Now it's mine."

The black fog clears as a massive black, clawed hand rises up and grips the edge of the chasm a few meters away from me. Shiny obsidian scales dimly glitter in the cloudy daylight, the sight sending a shiver down my spine.

Then, a massive horned head held up by a long, serpentine neck emerges, curling up and over everyone on the chasms edge. Multiple eyes peer down like black suns, and scaly flesh and bone hang off of various parts of it's skull and neck, as if it had been awakened from a rotting grave.

All thought and sensation leaves my body. I am frozen before the ghastly creature before me.

A black dragon.

I am shoved forcefully forward, and I faceplant into the dirt and sand at the edge of the cliff before the dragon. Shaking, I lift myself onto my hands and knees as the priest's chanting becomes louder and more frantic, their fear and desperation changing what I once thought were holy prayers into demonic ones.

My eyes rise to meet the multiple irises of the dragon's, and the beast lowers its head to my level. Slowly, its jaws open, revealing multiple rows of long, twisting fangs that bristle in anticipation of what now must come.

The scent of sulfur, the cage of bones, the walls of flesh...I was being warned.

Tears stream down my face, but I do not balk. I open my arms wide, leaning back on my knees as the dragon's foul maw encloses itself around me.

I am devoured by darkness, but I let the existence of my dream comfort me to the end, for a warning comes with a messenger, and my prayers have come with proof of being answered.


About the Creator

Amanda Starks

Lover of the dark, fantastical, and heart-wrenching. Fantasy writer, poet, and hopefully soon-to-be novelist who wants to create safe spaces to talk about mental health. Subscribe to my free newsletter at for updates!

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Comments (4)

  • Belle7 days ago

    Absolutely insane, Amanda!! This is beyond incredible! I loved reading this, through to the end. All of the context we don't get to know, the war and the need to summon the dragon... Chilling!! I also loved the crude and gorey descriptions of the dream, of being inside the stomach of a monster, that we don't understand as foreshadowing until the very last moment!! I couldn't have seen the ending coming!! Incredible. [2/5]

  • S.J. Frederick22 days ago

    That was great!

  • Ian Read26 days ago


Amanda StarksWritten by Amanda Starks

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