Three Rules - ~990 words

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The Urban Spaceman

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Greetings, all.

The following flash fic is for a friendly contest, the subject of which is disobedience. It's my first every foray into 2nd Person POV, which so far I have avoided and generally not liked very much when I've read it. But I feel like now's the time, and this is the right story, to explore it a little more.

Feedback/critique would be muchly appreciated.



The halls of residence are silent, save for the small noises of the other Acolytes sleeping soundly. The quiet snores. The fitful turns. The creak of Alovis's bed as he rolls from his back to his side. They're familiar sounds. Comforting sounds. They try to lull you into that same sleep, pulling at your tired mind and heavy eyes. But you resist. Tonight, you have a mission. Tonight, you're going to break every rule in the Cloisters.

You lie on your back, ears strained for the clock chiming midnight. When it does, you push the itchy woollen blanket from your shoulders, revealing your body in full dress. The first rule broken: Acolytes may only wear their official Robes of Learning between sun-up and sun-down.

As your heart pounds in your chest, you push yourself from the bed, landing barefoot on the cold stone floor. The second rule broken: Acolytes may not leave their beds after Twilight Prayer. Nothing save fire or flood is excuse for that.

Quiet as a carakar, you tiptoe down the aisle between the rows of beds, praying the other Acolytes are truly as deep in Saresh's realm as they appear. Even one of them waking for an instant would be enough to seal your fate. In desperation, you offer a silent prayer to Milakksa, Goddess of Mischief, asking her to shield your actions tonight from the eyes and ears of others.

By some miracle, or Milakksa's grace, you make it to the door and slip silently out. On feet numb with the cold of the bare stone flags, you hurry down the corridor, making your way to the secret passage behind the tapestry depicting Azura bringing forth the dawn's light. Fitting, that the light gives way to the shadow of the passage. What you do now can only be done in the dark.

The passage is long, and soon you're groping blindly, your hands at arm's length in front of your face the only protection against bumps and bruises from the rough-hewn walls. You long for a light, even though you dared not bring one with you. Light is too easily seen, in the darkness.

Your chthonic journey ends when, without warning, you come up against another tapestry, and very nearly fall through it. You catch yourself just in time, holding your breath as you pull yourself back from almost-certain exposure. In the cold darkness of the passage, you crouch down into a more comfortable position, and wait.

It doesn't take long for the dance of light to appear beneath the edges of the tapestry. The footsteps of priests leaving the Cleansing Pool are muted by the mass of your flimsy shield. Each priest carries a candle in the procession, and as they pass your hiding place, the light becomes brighter, so bright that it burns your vision. You squint your eyes closed, hold your breath again, and try to think small thoughts.

The procession passes. You hear the door of the Prayer Hall close with a dull thud. At once, you make your move. You slip easily from behind the tapestry and set off at a run from the direction the procession came. You've done your homework. You know the Chamber of Second Sight is unguarded. The priests are diligent in their observation of the rules, and the rules call for all full priests to cleanse and be present for Midnight Prayer.

The Chamber door is vast and ornate, heavy as lead, but in the darkness, you throw your weight against it. It's not a very impressive weight—you're still two years from your adulthood—but the door gives way before you, and you take heart from that. Perhaps Orlonzo the Seer has opened this door in his home to invite you in.

Light spills out of the Chamber, a slice of brightness cutting through the opening of the door. You feel warmth embrace you as you step inside, and there, in the centre of the room, illuminated by the light of a hundred eternally burning candles, is the Orb of Vision. You've seen it once before, during Centennial Feast which fell two years ago, but never have you seen it so close.

You step in front of it and your breath catches in your throat. The Orb is no bigger than your head, and it looks so fragile and delicate, as if a gentle breeze might smash it. You lick your lips, working moisture back into your desert of a mouth, and speak the words that will see you break the third rule.

"Show me my family."

Something slams into you... a force, a wind, screaming and buffeting around you... the ground, hard and cold... the scent of flayberry fills your nostrils, and you recognise the building in the distance as the farmhouse where you grew up...

Fire, burning, consuming... screams... Mama crying out for Papa, Linza and Reena clutched in each others' arms... cruel laughs, rough voices shouting approval, and the dark raven symbol of Manon emblazoned across a triangular battle-flag...


You're back in the Chamber, your breath hitching ragged and raw as you try to rid your mouth of the taste of ash and char. You don't realise you're crying until you look up at the Orb and find it blurry and indistinct.

"Has it happened?" you shout, uncaring if you're heard by the priests. Let them hear! Let them banish you! "Has it happened, or is it yet to pass?"

If Orlonzo is talking, it isn't to you. Silence descends in the chamber as the echo of your question dies away. You know there will never be an answer. You've broken the most important rule of all, and now you're on your own. The rumours are true; war is coming. It's time to go home and pick up the sword. And maybe, with a little luck and the blessings of the gods, you can make it back in time to save your family.
 

Geoffrey Fowler

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Great writing from beginning to end. The only problem is the piece doesn’t look like flash fiction; it looks like the introduction to a short story or a novel: A scene is set, the protagonist is introduced and development leads to a final scene where the second-person narrator says “It's time to go home and pick up the sword. And maybe, with a little luck and the blessings of the gods, you can make it back in time to save your family.” This sounds like its paving the way for a transition to the next, but non-existent section.
 
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Ed_in_Bed

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Enjoyed the read, and I realise it's submitted - but for future work, there's no need to capitalise generic nouns. 'Chamber of Second Sight' is capitalised, 'You're back in the chamber' isn't. 'is the Orb of Vision' is capitalised, 'The orb is no bigger than your head' isn't. Etc.

Ed