277 – “The Mad Prophet” – Shylai’a

Author’s Note: Today’s scene is a part of the Clean Fiction Blog Tour, sponsored by The Story Quest Academy (A homeschool or self-study curriculum for creative writing aimed at teens).

There are a lot of fascinating stories, authors, and blog posts on the tour, so I’d encourage you to check them out! The list, with links, will be at the bottom of the page, below the scene.

Now, on with today’s scene which is a lovely scene with some charming acting and pretty sets and…

“…But there will be great woe and sorrow for those that work in the shadows!” The old man shouted. He wore a dingy light gray robe over his short torso, tied at the waist. His beard was long, but thinning, and pure white. His hair was also white, hanging sparsely from the sides of his head underneath the smooth and freckled bald dome. 

The rains had stopped sometime during the night, and though the cool morning sun was bright, it hadn’t yet dried the cobblestones of the plaza. The smell of the Wynne River, just a few blocks away, wafted through with the breeze. The old man breathed it deep as if he was about to start preaching again.

“Aw, shake off, old man, nobody’s listening!” People walking by him mostly ignored him, but when he heard the shout, he turned.

“My good man! My good man! Come and follow.” The old man stepped after the passerby, limping slightly and tapping his cane. “The time of doom is near! Brother will fight brother and flames will fall from the sky! Pestilence will ravage the kingdom!” 

“You’re crazy, old man! Leave me alone! I’ve got work to do.” The passerby hurried away. 

That voice! Shylai’a raised her head under her cloak, sitting in the shadows of an inn’s overhanging upper story. She stood. I’ve heard that voice. 

She stepped out from behind the ale barrels where she’d spent the night and snuck along the building to where the alley opened onto the plaza. Her legs were cold and sore and her empty stomach rumbled. The morning sun on the plaza was bright, but she held back in the shadows. It was too easy to be seen in the plaza, and if she could be seen, she could be reported or captured. 

She glanced left and right, peering past people setting up carts and blankets to sell their wares along the street. Any soldiers? She didn’t see any right away. It had become increasingly more difficult to avoid them, particularly the militia garrisons of House Kaelig. The king seemed to have them everywhere since, well… Shylai’a knew that if they ever caught her, she would be killed as a deserter. Though, frankly, I’d bet that my whole troop was glad to see me gone. 

I need to score up some breakfast. Shouldn’t this whole plaza be full of Vernalfest things? There should be food and music. Isn’t that soon? I wonder if the Brown Bear Inn would let me clean their stockyard again.

Satisfied that the plaza was clear, she shook the night’s rain off her cloak and pulled the hood tight around her face. With her head down, she stepped out into the street and immediately stopped short with a gasp. Startled, she raised her eyes to the smiling face of the old preacher. 

“Hello!” He chirped with a cheery grin. He looked and sounded familiar, but she struggled to place his thin and wrinkled face. She stepped back. They were almost the same height. He cocked his head off to one side and said, pointing, “Your face is green.”

“No, it’s not!” Shylai’a frowned and wiped the back of her hand across her cheeks, then inspected it. Her hand was dirty, wet and cold, and her nails were chipped, but it had no trace of any abnormal color. She furrowed her brows.

He reached out and touched her arm. “It was Winterfest when I saw you last. You are well! Did you find what you were looking for?” 

She drew away quickly, recognition flooding her mind. He had helped her when she was lost in the Outerwall and had wanted to get home. Yes. I found my way home. Then she had joined the militia. Wait. Is that what he means? Is that what I was looking for?

“Oh! You remember me!” He said, “But you are still afraid.” He began to dance down the street, a light bouncy step, singing a quiet melody and splashing in the puddles. 

When he saw that she wasn’t following him, he paused and reached out his hand to her. After a moment, he wagged his fingers at her with insistence. 

He’s crazy. She shook her head and stepped up to him, taking hold of his palm. His fingers were rough, but his touch was kind. He smiled broadly and resumed his song and dance, Shylai’a in tow. No. That’s not it at all. I’m crazy. That’s what’s what.

“Bum badummm bah dah bumm,” he sang, then added while he danced, “Who are you hiding from?”

Her shoulders and back tensed. “I’m not hiding,” she glanced across the plaza and tugged at her cloak. “I’m not afraid of anyone. I just don’t like being out in the open like this.”

“Not afraid? Yes, I think that’s right. I think you are very courageous.” He paused the dance. “Yes. Very courageous indeed.”

“I’m not courageous either. I’m just trying to survive.” She dropped his hand and kept moving along the row of shops at the edge of the plaza. 

He called out to her, “Freeing the condemned innocents in the wagon was very courageous.” 

She froze, icy shivers running down her neck, in spite of the sun and the cloak. She spun to face him, her eyes drilling holes deep into his mind. How does he know? Was he there? Did he see? He must have seen! She dropped her hand to her sword and gripped the hit under her cloak. He’s sold me out! He’s been tracking me, and now he’s going to hand me over to the militia!

“Who are you?” She stepped back, eyes darting from side to side.

He smiled at her, a soothing grandfatherly smile. “Some people call me a prophet.”

She took another step away. “You’re a madman!”

“Yes, it’s true,” he nodded. “That’s me. The Mad Prophet, they say. I have a message for you.” 

Ok, I’m done. I’ve got to get away from here. Shylai’a bolted off. As she dodged past some crates in front of a shop, she heard him shout, “The Creator blesses your steps!”

Check out this week on the blog tour!

March 1st Story Quest Academy

March 2nd Ellie Naomi

March 3rd Julie Gilbert

March 4th Jasmine Natasha

March 5th Liz Delton

March 6th Mark Hansen

March 7th Ian Vroon

March 8th Story Quest Academy

March 9th Nicholas Kotar

March 10th J.M. Hackman

March 11th Mark Hansen

March 12th Courtenay Kasper

March 13th Debbie Schreffler

March 14th Story Quest Academy

March 15th Steven Guglich

March 16th Laurie Lucking

March 17th Julie Gilbert

March 18th Meg Dendler

March 19th Nicholas Kotar

March 20th Courtenay Kasper

March 21st Story Quest Academy

March 22nd Molly Casperson

March 23rd D.J. Edwardson

March 24th Marty C Lee

March 25th Molly Casperson

March 26th Mark Hansen

March 28th Story Quest Academy

March 29th Debbie Schreffler

March 30th Nicholas Kotar

March 31st Molly Casperson