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Vowed to the Old Gods

The Fantasy Prologue Challenge

By Kira DeSomma Published 10 months ago 9 min read

There weren't always dragons in the Valley. The boundaries, though invisible to the human eye, were clearly marked and maintained by the witches who served as guards to the Old Gods. Tales passed down from the humans made it clear that the witches protected the humans from the dragons. Tales passed down from the dragons made it clear that the witches protected the dragons from the humans. But the one thing everyone seemed to be able to agree on was that the witches were a cold force: a solemn group, as stern and haughty as nuns, cloistered away in the mountains where they could pray and practice magic in silence…

“Nia! Where are my sandals?” My sister’s pained shout pierced my thoughts as I doodled on the manuscript I was supposed to be transcribing. I blinked away my straying thoughts and looked up at her. She stood in my doorway, hands on her hips, her lower lip stuck out in a pout.

“Did you retrace your steps?” I asked before lowering my gaze back to the history manuscript, which was inscribed with gold leaf, red lettering, and now a very cartoonish drawing of a mountain badger. I shouldn’t have let my mind wander, but the badgers were so cute…

The one I had drawn wasn’t too cute, though. It looked demented and a little rabid. I grimaced.

“Yeah, I retraced my steps,” she said, but her tone said otherwise.

“Did you check the last place you saw them?” I asked. I tried to gently dab away at the badger’s ears, which were definitely the most offensive feature I’d added. Unfortunately, the cloth I tried to dab it with was also covered in ink. The manuscript now had a badger with an enormous cloud around its head, giving it the look of an angry demigod.

“Of course,” she said, walking closer.

“I’m going to have to help you look for them, aren’t I?” I asked with a sigh. She poked her head over my shoulder and looked at the drawing of the badger.

“Cute,” she said drily. “And yes. We have prayers and petitions in about twenty minutes. Aren’t you coming? The Mother Superior said something about a guest.”

“I don’t know if I should join,” I said, crinkling my nose in hesitation. “I mean, I have to clear off this manuscript… I have to read a few more volumes of this stuff before the weekend.”

“You’ve missed the last two meetings,” she pointed out, “You can’t live up here, shut away forever. Sooner or later, you’re going to have to make some friends. I know, I know – the horror! How dare I suggest such an egregious thing!”

“I didn’t say friends were egregious,” I protested.

“You didn’t say it with words, but your eyes said it all!” she exclaimed, eyebrows high. “Now, come on, let’s go. And I’m borrowing your sandals. You can go barefoot.”

“I don’t want to go barefoot, Lissy,” I whined.

“Oh, hush. You go barefoot in the woods all the time. You can go on the cold stone with bare feet for an hour.”

I grumbled but handed my sandals over to her. Then, seeing the time on the wall, I packed up my transcriptions and grabbed my satchel. Lissy and I walked together down the long hallways of the Refuge. Carved out of the mountains of the Old Gods, the Refuge was a haven for witches in search of a higher purpose.

Witches were welcome to travel all throughout the borderlands and the hometowns of the humans. The only place that was forbidden was the Shadow Country: the Valley of the dragons. My stomach wrenched at the thought, but there was no time to dwell: we had arrived at the hall. As soon as we took our seats it became apparent something was boiling just beneath the surface of this meeting. The Mother Superior was pacing back and forth behind the dais, and the other sisters were whispering nervously in the corner. As soon as the clock struck its dismal tone, she dove forward to begin her address.

“Esteemed witches of the Refuge,” she said, her voice cracking. “We have a guest. A representative of the Old Gods is here with us today.”

The room broke out into frantic murmurs. Young ones who’d never seen a representative of the dragons peered to see if they could spot the guest. The girls in the middle of the ranks whispered excitedly.

“A representative!” they whispered; eyes gleaming. “Who do you think they’re here for?”

I shook my head, my lips pressed tightly together in fear. The representatives only came for one reason: there was a witch they had special interest in. But for them to come now, in the off-season, before the placements were decided… something must be wrong. Perhaps the borders were failing. Perhaps we were on the brink of war. Perhaps the magic wells had been destroyed. Perhaps the king had been killed. Even more horrible possibilities ran through my head.

“The representative is here to speak to you on behalf of the Old Gods,” the Mother Superior said, raising her voice over the cacophony.

I straightened, but didn’t relax: so it was to be a lecture, then. Perhaps the young ones had been up to mischief and needed to be frightened into behaving. But I didn’t need to be taught fear. I knew to fear the darkness, the dragons, and most of all to fear my own desires.

The representative stepped up to the podium, and all fell quiet. The woman was tall, with curved horns that curled over auburn curls. There was a stern austerity to her fiery gaze. “I am here to assure you that all is well with the Old Gods,” the woman said. “You have been an asset to my people for generations. I know it is unusual for one of my kind to appear so early in the season, before placements have been decided and handed out.” She smiled, but the fear in my belly only tightened. “I am here because someone in your midst called us. Someone… someone here… someone amongst you… has invoked the Rite of Amethyst.”

The room burst into chatter. The Rite of Amethyst was an ancient ritual: a witch wanted to make a deal with the Old Gods. The representative was here to gather the price of whatever deal had been made. It was rare that such calls were made… because unlike other deals, which could be paid with gold or silver, Amethyst only dealt with one currency: blood.

The representative raised her hand for silence, but it took a few minutes for the chatter to die down. When it finally did, she said,

“I have come to negotiate.”

Shouts from the audience were inevitable:

“Who made the trade?”

“What are you negotiating?”

“How much blood will you demand?”

My anxiety was reaching an all-time high. I was sure I could not bear much more suspense. I turned to Lissy, expecting to see grim, naive excitement – but instead her face was sheet white.

“What’s wrong?” I whispered to her over the din. She shook her head. I repeated my question.

“Mom made a deal,” she said. “I know it. I can feel it. They are here for us.”

“Mom didn’t make any deals,” I hissed back. “We haven’t even seen her since she came around asking for money.”

“They are here for us,” she said, and looked at me in panic. Through my doubts and fears, I could see the inevitable: she was telling the truth. “Mom made a deal,” she said again. She shut her eyes tight in concentration as she tried to decipher the clues buried deep in her memory. “She vowed us to the Old Gods.”

“No,” I whispered, “She made that up. She said that to scare us.”

“You know it’s true. They’ve come to collect.” her eyes opened and were immediately filled with tears. “They’ve come to collect,” she repeated in horror.

I didn’t even realize the room had gone quiet and parted around the two of us. The representative repeated herself:

“Felicity and Nialina Gregory,” she said, “I will again give you a choice. You may be stripped of your magic permanently,” – here, her eyes sparkled hungrily – “Or you may give up your blood in ritual. You have been sworn to us by the Rite of Amethyst.”

A memory of Lissy and I, poring over books, rose unbidden to my mind. Our mother had never had time for books or magic. She was a temperamental woman, set in her ways, without much patience for us. It had been my job to take care of Lissy, even though the words had never been spoken out loud. The choice was made before the representative came to the Refuge. The choice was perhaps made before Lissy was even born. I would do anything to keep my sister safe.

“We have the same blood.” My words, spoken in cold defiance, echoed through the small room. The representative blinked at me. The Old Gods were not often surprised. I repeated myself: “We have the same blood. You don’t need both of us.”

The representative’s lip curled back into a sneer, “You would offer your sister as a sacrifice, so that you could keep your magic?” she asked.

“No,” I said, my resolve crushing me, shaping me as an expertly handled snap, like setting a bone, “I offer myself. Let my sister stay. Let her keep her magic. If there is no getting out of this deal… if there is no other way… I will go with you to complete the Rite.”

The sneer disappeared and was replaced with something unreadable. A long, heavy silence fell as the room held its breath.

“Is there no other way?” the Mother Superior prompted breathlessly.

“There is no other way,” the representative finally said, her words slow with reluctance, “The Rite must be paid. The deal was set.”

“Then I will go with you,” I said. “I will pay, if this is acceptable to the Old Gods.”

She nodded to the sound of my sister’s screams of protest:

“It is acceptable. We depart for the Shadow Country immediately.”

I felt nothing: not the regret of the choice I’d just made, not the white-hot judgment of the eyes on me, not the cold under my bare feet. I felt nothing but the wind through my fingers as my sister’s hand was torn from mine. I turned to her to say my final goodbyes.

“You can’t do this, Nia,” she said, her eyes filled with tears of despair. As I looked at her, my eyes narrowed in resolve. I was not a martyr. I did not march to my death. There would be an opening – for escape, for dark magic, for conspiracy, possibly earlier than I anticipated – and I would take it. I would do whatever it took to get back to my sister.

I smiled, feeling the ferocious determination fill me. The magic of the mountains was within me. I would not be deterred or set back. “Take care, Lissy,” I said, my words careful as I knew the representative was listening, “I’ll be back for my sandals soon.”

And I walked barefoot to leave with the representative. I did not turn back, because I wasn’t saying goodbye. I would return for my sister.


About the Creator

Kira DeSomma

Author. Artist. Earl Grey Enthusiast // She/her // Joypunk and/or hopecore

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Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!

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  1. Easy to read and follow

    Well-structured & engaging content

  2. Excellent storytelling

    Original narrative & well developed characters

  3. Compelling and original writing

    Creative use of language & vocab

  1. Heartfelt and relatable

    The story invoked strong personal emotions

  2. Masterful proofreading

    Zero grammar & spelling mistakes

  3. On-point and relevant

    Writing reflected the title & theme

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Comments (13)

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  • Kyle Edwin Salveson10 months ago

    Gripping introduction! It could implicate a fascinating and rich history in a very cool setting. Your protagonist is impeccably humanized, which makes me more excited to see her supernatural capabilities. I enjoy the insight into the mechanics of their magic. Would love to see more of this. She basically promised, after all!

  • Brian Baylor10 months ago

    Absolutely rapt by this!! When I finished reading, I thought I had only downloaded a preview and I wanted to buy the rest. I would definitely be interested in finding out how Nia returns to the witches. Super well done!

  • Megan10 months ago

    Loved this! I'm so excited to read more. :)

  • Ember10 months ago

    Extremely engaging, couldn't stop reading!

  • Cindy Mae MacDonald10 months ago

    Engaging, nice start.

  • R. K. Osborn10 months ago

    The badger detail is perfection, can’t wait to read more!

  • Nell Fay10 months ago

    nice engaging story line. I don't completely understand how the mother made her deal or what for or what the main character is to go through now when she is taken. I'm assuming I will find out by reading further though and I was immersed enough in the story that I want to read more to find out.

  • Ben Shepherd10 months ago

    Outstanding! Can't wait to read what comes next.

  • MaryLei Barclay10 months ago

    Interesting choice of using the nunnery comparison and then using the nunnery title for the character. It is a good start to an interesting story, but certain aspects need to be fleshed out for consistency. I will admit there was a slight confusion of the Old Gods being the dragons. I was also confused on them being cloistered away if they are to be protectors of human and dragon. I understood the imagery and push in the story for the lost sandals, but it doesn't seem plausible with the nunnery imagery. When the characters were introduced I thought they were in a home where they shared a room. As I read I realized they were in separate rooms but still thought a home large enough to loose sandals. Then I realize we are looking at witch students in a large building, but each have their own room to store their items. Nuns are known for simple living and few possessions so I'm wondering how she lost shoes that would be in a single room unless she supposedly lost them somewhere on the grounds. However, it sounds like she only needs to search her room.

  • Very engaging. I am at awe at some of the writing I run across since I joined a couple days ago. I hope for you to flourish one day in this endeavor of yours.

  • Trevor Quigley10 months ago

    Nice, original narrative and character driven perspective!

  • J. Jay10 months ago

    "I tried to gently dab away at the badger’s ears, which were definitely the most offensive feature I’d added." I love the way this was worded. A truly relatable feeling as a creative. There's always an offensive feature we create and end up despising. Great work!

  • Call Me Les10 months ago

    This is truly stunning. Please feel free to share it in Great Incantations on Meta! Best wishes, Les

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