Short Story

Following Orders: Blood on My Hands

Today’s post is a combination of a short story and look into the pre-novel life of one of my characters in Following Orders.

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Photo by Skitterphoto from Pexels

I gazed out at the courtyard as panic swarmed in my chest. Those arrow wounds were not from a crossbow and they all knew it. How long did I have before they reported to King Artimus and he made the connection to me? Not long.

What to do, though, what to do? I pulled myself away from the window and paced the room, cape billowing behind me.

“Glen, dear. Do calm down. It was only the first battle. At this rate, you’ll be in a frenzy before the war is over.” My mother sat with her embroidery across her lap, stitching tiny red flowers in a field.

I paused in front of her. “Yes, but how many have died already?” And because of me, I wanted to add. But I couldn’t bring myself to say that to my own mother.

“And many more will die. That is war. We must choose to be grateful that we are still here and still together. The king hasn’t sent your brother out yet and that is something which we must appreciate.”

I paced back to the window sill and clenched it so that my knuckles whitened. King Artimus had gone down to meet his men in the courtyard. The captain spoke with him, holding an arrow. A desert tribe arrow. King Artimus glanced up to where I stood in the window and I jumped back, wanting to be sick. He knew.

I had thought to bring peace between Aronway and the desert tribes. They had received me royally and I had convinced King Artimus’s court to welcome them as well. Treaties were outlined. I spent my days glowing with pride and pleasure. Then the chieftains had returned to their people, supposedly to help their land through the harvest season. They were to return at first frost. But they had returned much earlier and with weapons in their hands. I had no doubt the blame for this war would lay directly at my feet.

I had minutes at most. What to do? If I stayed, execution likely awaited me. If not that, then exile at least.

My mind settled on a quick decision. I didn’t take the time to question it, but swiftly bent to kiss my mother and strode out of the room.

Every soldier I passed on the stairs or in the corridors made my heart pound harder. Were they the ones sent to arrest me? But I made it to the kitchen door and out to the stables.

It was quick work to saddle my mare, despite my shaking hands, and I led her by the bridle to the side gate. The guards there didn’t move as I passed through and I mounted only once I was out of their view. I had to keep a steady trot through the city. It was too crowded to gallop and I didn’t need to attract any suspicion.

But once I was in the bright country, I kicked my horse into a gallop, my tears flying from my face in the wind. As I rode, I couldn’t help it: I looked back.

Kira

Staircase to Hell

One quick thing before today’s post:

I was published on the Rebelution this week! If you remember my post on complaining from a few weeks ago, they published it on their site under the name 5 Things I Learned on My Quest to Stop Complaining.

And now on to our regularly scheduled program. This week’s post is a short story I wrote based off of Dante’s Inferno (an epic poem about Dante’s journey through Hell on his way to Purgatory and, finally, Heaven). Please keep in mind this is all fiction and everything written here was done so on caffiene and with tongue firmly in cheek. My own mini epic is entitled…

Staircase to Hell

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Photo by icon0.com from Pexels

Forgetting a flashlight was my first mistake. Locking myself in was my second. I hadn’t meant to forget to prop the door open, but there you have it. The cellar was pitch black and smelled of wet cats. And I was stuck in it.

I banged on the door and yelled for a few seconds, despite knowing that no one else was home. It was just me and long dead wet cats for the next couple hours. Counting my blessings that I wasn’t scared of the dark, I settled onto the top stair with my back against the door and closed my eyes. Someone would be home soon.

Minutes ticked by – or maybe hours. The darkness morphed the time. I yawned and twisted around to get comfortable, to no avail.

Something at the bottom of the staircase flickered, just for an instant. I rubbed my eyes. Ridiculous. It was too dark to see.

But no. There it was again. A short flicker, then it died out. I rose to my feet and descended, running my hand along the wall to keep my bearings. The flicker came back and stayed. Was it my imagination, or were there a lot more stairs than I remembered?

I kept walking, down and down, the fiery light welcoming me in as I stepped deeper into the ground – for underground I must be. The steps kept going.

“Hello, my dear.” I screamed at the hissing whisper in my ear. I might not be afraid of the dark, but sudden silky voices out of nowhere do have an effect on me.

The echoing voice laughed and a figure shimmered into being in front of me.

“Surprise you, did I?”

“Who are you?” I was determined not to show my fear. Why did the man’s body waver like that in the heat?

“I am the Fuhrer. Surely you have heard of me!” He straightened up and somehow managed to look down his nose at me, despite being a few steps below.

“Hitler?”

He made an irritated noise in his throat. “Fuhrer will do. I am here to guide you through the depths of Hell. Your God has determined you should see it, and I am to accompany you.”

“Through Hell?” Fear was replaced by shock. Surely I couldn’t have heard correctly.

“Yes, Fraulein. Lass uns gehen.” He reached for my hand and all went dark again.

When I could see again, we were no longer on the staircase. Flickering fluorescent lights glinted off of miles of splotchy tiled floor. Every few feet, what I assumed to be a soul covered its ears and wailed. Each was surrounded by demons. Some only two or three. Others ten or twelve. The demons crowded in close, vying for attention. Some screeched, others laughed, and more babbled incoherent words.

“What is this place?” I had to yell above the noise.

“Why don’t you ask one of the shades themselves?” the Fuhrer suggested.

I looked around and chose a soul with only four demons surrounding it. “Who are you? And why are you here?” I shouted.

The soul raised its eyes to meet mine and groaned. “I am a nobody. You would not know my name should you hear it. But I spent all my life as the cause of agony for those who work for hourly wages. I gave no one my full attention, but talked on the phone while checking out, fixed my mascara while ordering food, and made countless cashiers wait to hand me change so that I might only finish replying to a text.”

I took a step back as one of the demons screamed to my right.

“That doesn’t seem so bad,” I yelled.

“Ooohhhh! I didn’t think so either. But I didn’t value the image of the Great One within the people I ignored. I considered their needs as nothing and my own distractions as monumental when I should have placed them above myself.”

I backed away and re-joined Hitler.

“Do they suffer like this forever?”

“Yes. For all eternity they must endure the demons all crying for their attention since they were so willing to divide it on earth. Kommen Sie hier. We have more to see.” He took my hand and the blackness returned.

This time the darkness cleared to reveal that we were in a hedge maze. The bushes towered high above on either side, closing us in. An assortment of animal like sounds, including the occasional human scream, rang through the air.

“What punishment is this?” I took a few steps forward, but retreated as the bushes just ahead rustled. Footsteps pounded the earth, coming nearer.

“Why don’t you ask Mr. King?”

A soul appeared from around the corner of the maze. He stopped abruptly at the sight of us standing there. He took off his glasses and rubbed them on his shirt, looking over his shoulder with terror in his eyes.

I leaned closer to get a better look at him. “Are – are you Stephen King?”

“Yes.” He glanced around, every muscle tensed.

“What are you doing here?”

“In life, as I’m sure you know, I wrote horror. I became deliriously famous and wealthy. But that good fortune came only at the expense of my readers. I preyed off of their fears – their terror provided my daily bread.”

“And your punishment is running through a maze?”

“My eternal burden is confinement to this labyrinth with the creatures of my creation. Every book I wrote, every movie adaptation. The monsters are here. Each of us in this place is given our own such arena.”

Something screeched nearby and Mr. King jumped. “I must go!” He vanished around the corner.

“I’ve seen enough,” I said.

“Oh, Fraulein…there is so much more!” The Fuhrer spread his arms wide and laughed.

“Take me back!” The screeching was coming closer.

“If you insist.” He grabbed my hand and the darkness fell.

I had never been so relieved to find myself alone in the black cellar. I leaned back against the wall, breathing hard, thanking God that it was over and determined to never forget a flashlight again.

Kira

Breath Stopped

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It had come down to this moment as I knew it would. And here I was, unable to do it. I had assured the captain I was capable of this mission. This would be my chance to rise above the common man in our band. I would become one of the heads, inferior in status only to the captain himself.

About time too, after seven bloody years of service and measly portions of the riches. I remembered stroking the finger that would bear my new gold ring as proof of my position as I spoke with the captain, telling him that I would not fail him, not in this imperitive moment. So he sent me off, alone, to complete the dreadful task.

I had killed before, certainly. Seven years in a band of thieves doesn’t come without a price of human blood. But it had always been a price I was willing to pay. The men I fought with and removed from this life were always giving just as much effort to my death as I was to theirs. And I couldn’t let that happen. So I killed and I ran. Later, I pushed the memories of their faces from my head with the help of a deck of cards and a jug of ale.

My assignment was simple: eliminate the captain of the King’s Guard without a fuss. We knew he would be home on leave this weekend, sent to spend a few days with his wife and children and take some time off from the stress of being constantly personally responsible for the king’s physical well-being. He was given a holiday such as this one in a regular cycle – every three months came with its promise of three days of leave – and my own captain had reason to want him dead. As did we all. The man had been nothing but trouble for our well established band since his appointment to his current position.

So it was my job to get rid of him while he was at his ease, taking a few days break from his professional vigil. That’s why I had crept into his house in the dead of night, opening the door without a creak and stepping softly through each room of the grand home that the man shared with his family. Though the city was a busy one, no one raised the hue and cry at this time of night. All were asleep besides the gutter rats and the watchman. No gutter rats lived in this sector and the watchman had turned the corner just before I stepped into the street.

I’d never thought of myself as an honest man or a good one. No need to lie to myself like that, as some of my comrades did. It would be hard to continue to tell myself that I was doing it for the greater good or some other such nonsense as I unclasped a bracelet from a sobbing lady’s wrist, so I didn’t bother. It was enough that I did it for my own good.That was probably why the captain was finally considering promoting me to be one of the heads, his leaders who never hesitated to be sure that his will was carried out by those beneath them.

The captain of the King’s Guard had become a rather wealthy man through his own seven years of service to a different master. His home was full of beautiful things which I kept from touching as I went. It was not the time for collecting trinkets.

It wasn’t hard to find the bedroom he shared with his wife and come up next to his sleeping form. My shadow blocked the moonlight through the window from illuminating his wife’s face and she shifted slightly. In the morning, the kingdom would be one beautiful widow richer.

I slid a short dagger from a sheath at my belt and held it a breath away from the clean-shaven throat I was prepared to cut. Breathe in, breathe out, and slice. That was the best way. I took my breath in.

“Dadda?”

I snapped around and raised the knife at the intruder.

A girl of about seven stared back at me, mouth wide open. She had been rubbing her eyes, but now they were frozen on me. The girl had blonde hair in waves to her shoulders and shivered in the thin nightgown that was her only garment. Her barefeet must have been ice on the floor.

I stepped closer to the girl, refusing to wake her father and my target. “Go back to bed,” I hissed. “Unless you want me to hurt you too.” I held my blade before her eyes, bending close to her.

“Are you going to hurt my dadda?” Tears began to well in her eyes, but she spoke softly, not rousing her parents. She brought her hands to her mouth, covering it, and let the tears fall.

I recoiled at the girl’s reaction. I had expected her either to flee or scream, but she stood fast, shaking from cold and fear. I shook my head and moved back to her father’s side. If I killed her father before she could wake him, I would have only her mother to deal with when she did cry out. I could handle a terrified woman.

I put the knife back to his throat, taking my breath once more. But my hand did not complete the sliding motion that would complete the man’s life. I tried again. I couldn’t do it.

“Please, sir, don’t hurt him.” The girl had lowered her hands a moment to make her soft plea before replacing them and resuming her position as a trembling statue.

I turned back to my target, frozen with indecision. I must do this if I wanted to be a head. But I made the mistake of glancing back to the girl. One of her tears fell to the floor. I shook my head and looked back to her father. Do it. Just finish it.

I bit my tongue and pulled the knife away. As I slid it into the sheath, I knew I sealed my fate. I paused next to the girl on my way out the door. “Not a word of this to anyone,” I breathed.

She stood shaking, giving me no reply, and I disappeared back into the dark.

Kira

Adventure Novel (part 2)

You can read part one here.

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“Good, because we need to get down to work.” Jackson went to a small dresser on one of the walls and pulled open the top drawer. It, like everything else in this forgotten corner of civilization, was covered in dust. I sneezed.

Jackson crossed back over to me and held out a small round thing, roughly the same color as my skin. I took it and turned it over in my palm, examining it.

“It’s an earpiece. Put it in and get going. You’re going to be late for work.”

I shot him a look that said I definitely was not okay with this, but did it anyway. He checked to make sure it was in correctly, then spoke into a little microphone on his wrist.

“Testing, testing.”

I jumped when it came through loud and clear on my earpiece.

Jackson grinned. “I guess it works. You won’t be able to contact us, but Kat will be outside if anything goes wrong. Now go.”

“You still haven’t told me what you want me to do yet.”

He pushed me gently toward the staircase. “I’ll talk you through it. Just go.”


I was only a few minutes late, but Mr. Helsing’s secretary shot me a concerned look anyway.

“Morning, Natalie. Have they already started?”

“Yes. Here, bring in the coffee order and maybe you won’t get as many glares.” She handed me a styrofoam tray of coffees which I balanced with one hand while edging my way into the meeting.

Everyone turned to look at me and Mr. Helsing stopped midsentence. “Ah, Megan. So nice of you to join us.”

“Sorry I’m late.” I set the coffee in the middle of the conference table and six people turned to grab their drinks. The attention was no longer on me and I slid into a chair at the end of the table.

“As I was saying,” Mr. Helsing continued, “profit has spiked this past year due, I believe, to our marketing efforts.”

“Megan.” Jackson’s voice in my ear made me jump and everyone turned to look again.

“Sorry. Just remembered I forgot to feed my cat. Please, don’t mind me.”

Mr. Helsing gave me a very disapproving look before continuing once again.

“Megan, the virus is on a flashdrive in Mr. Helsing’s office. I’m told it’s in the top drawer of his desk. You’ll need to find a way to get in there, take it, and get out. You have two hours.”

In his office? And how did Jackson know where it was?

I pretended to listen to the meeting as my mind scrambled for an excuse to leave.

“One hour, Megan.”

I had to get out before Mr. Helsing went back into his office.

“Thirty minutes.”

Time for action.

I stood, once again attracting the attention of everyone in the room.

“Megan, is there a problem?” Mr. Helsing crossed his arms and glared at me.

“No sir. Sorry. I’m just not feeling well today. I think I need some water. I’ll be right back. Please, go on without me.”

“Be quick about it. We’ve got a lot to go over and I don’t want you missing it.”

“Yes sir.” I left in a hurry and went back out to the lobby. “Natalie, Mr. Helsing wanted me to grab something from his office for him. Could I have the key please?”

“Sure. What is it?” She handed me the key.

“Just a flashdrive. Thanks.”

I unlocked the door to Mr. Helsing’s office and stepped in, holding my breath.

Top drawer.

I opened it carefully and stared down at five flashdrives, all the same color.

“Can I help you find it?” I startled at Natalie’s sudden appearance in the doorway.

“Um, no thanks. Got it right here!” I held up one of the flashdrives and smiled, using my other hand to slip the other four into my pocket. I shut the drawer and slipped out past Natalie. She closed the door and locked it.

I headed toward the front door.

“Don’t you need to be getting back to the meeting?”

I stopped. “Oh, um…some of the drinks were missing. I’m just going to go around the corner and grab them real quick. It’ll only take a minute.” I offered her a reassuring smile and walked out the door, breathing a sigh of relief.

Kat caught up to me as I walked toward the base. “Do you have it?”

“I’ve got five. They’re all identical.”

“Well we’ve got to hurry. Time’s running out.”

Back at the base, Jackson had pulled up a computer and snatched the flashdrives from my hand as soon as I held them out. He began plugging them in and searching.

“Three minutes, Three minutes…” he muttered.

At number four, his eyes lit up. He began typing furiously.

Kat checked her watch. “Jackson…”

“I know, I know.” His fingers flew across the keyboard. I looked at my own watch, watching the seconds tick down.

Five. Four. Three. Two.

“Done!”

Jackson heaved a huge sigh of relief and sank back into his folding chair with a grin. “We did it.”

“And all thanks to you, Megan.” Kat smiled at me.

I smiled back. Just like in an adventure novel.

Adventure Novel (part 1)

You can read part two here.

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“Honey!”

I glanced over my shoulder as I continued to push my way down the busy street. Who would be yelling above the crowd so loudly?

A tall woman with dark hair looked delighted to see me. She must have been the one who called out. I turned and kept walking, faster now that a lunatic was following me. Only a few more blocks to the office. No problem. Besides, police officers were all over the city. Right?

Only a few steps later, an arm wrapped around my shoulder. It was the woman. “I’ve been looking everywhere for you!” she exclaimed.

I made a face and started to squirm away, but she tightened her grip and lowered her voice. “Come with me. Quickly – there’s no time.”

I obeyed in spite of myself. Surely there would be a police officer soon. I could call out for help as soon as I saw one. But my gut told me that wasn’t why I was going along with this black clad woman. No, it was the adventure novels. I was addicted to them and this felt like something out of the first chapter.

“Where are we going?” I asked.

“Shh. No time for questions. You’re my little sister and they have eyes everywhere, so act like it.”

I continued to trot to keep up with the woman’s hurried pace, trying to get a good look at her. She wore a black leather jacket and dark jeans tucked into combat boots. And was that a gun in her belt? Suddenly this wasn’t so much fun.

“Who are you?” I pulled away from her, but kept walking.

“Katrina. You can call me Kat. I’ve been watching you, Megan, and I think you’re going to be very helpful.” She raised her voice. “Well, you really ought to tell me if you’re going to leave without me in the morning. You had me scared half to death!”

“I’m a grown woman. I can come and go as I please!” I answered.

She shot me an appraising look. “Very nice,” she breathed.

“How do you know my name? And where are we going?”

“To the base.” She took a sharp right, shoving a path through the crowd and entering a tiny secondhand shop. The furniture and clothes all looked as if they had come from the twentieth century and my allergies instantly flared up at the dust.

I followed Kat through the deserted shop and down a narrow flight of stairs into the basement. The room was lit by a single lightbulb hanging over a card table. A teenage boy sat at the table, leaning back in his chair and shuffling a deck of cards.

He stood abruptly when we came in. “You got her then? No problems?”

“No problems,” Kat confirmed.

“Good. Have you briefed her?”

“Nope. Didn’t want them hearing anything.”

“Good call.” The boy turned to me. “I’m Jackson. Kat and I have been watching you for some time now. We need your help to save the world.”

I raised my eyebrows. “To save the world? Nice try, kid. Look, I’ve got to get to work. I don’t have time for this.”

“Then why’d you follow Kat?”

I glanced away, knowing he had won this round. “Fine. What do you want? You have five minutes.”

Jackson nodded to Kat. She turned to face me. “Your boss – Mr. Helsing – he’s trying to take down the entire banking system of America.”

I rolled my eyes. “Hilarious. Did John put you up to this?”

Jackson stepped forward, looking me straight in the eye. Somehow, his gangly teenage limbs didn’t detract from the seriousness of his face. “This is not a joke, Megan. He has a virus that will destroy everything holding the financial world together. We need you to get it for us.”

“Why would he even want to do that? He’s one of the richest men in the city – wouldn’t that undermine everything he’s done?”

“No. I don’t have time to explain all of the details to you. This virus is set to go live in three hours. Are you in or out?” Jackson held my gaze. Kat stood with crossed arms a few feet behind him.

I scoffed. “You expect me to drop everything and spy on my boss for some lady I just met and her teenage sidekick?”

Neither of them answered.

I glanced between their faces. “Fine. I’m in.”

The Golden Shark: Part 2

You can read Part 1 here.

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Michael started the message down the ship, through each of the slaves, convicts, fighters. Within the hour, he told me I had every man’s allegiance.

“Perfect. Now, how to get the keys? None of us can do anything against George and the rest of my crew in these chains.”

Michael thought for a minute. “Leave that to me, sir.” The next time we pushed our oar forward, he reached out and tapped the man in front of him on the back. The man nodded, seeming to keep with the beat of the drum. A moment later, he collapsed off of his bench, into the center of the ship.

The same voice that had ordered me to row shouted for him to get up, get back to work. He lay still. The man stormed forward and I recognized him as Howard, one of the lesser of my crewmen. He began beating the man on the floor with both his fists and his whip. The man cried out, but didn’t get up.

Michael jumped to his feet, stepping as far as the chain on his ankle would allow, and delivered a sound blow to the back of Howard’s head. He froze and swayed a little. Michael hit him one more time and Howard fell, the sound muffled as he landed on the slave he had been beating.

The slave wormed his way out from under the man and fished around in his pockets for a moment before pulling something out. He held his findings out to me. “Your keys, sir.”

I blinked, still taking in what had happened. But no time for that. Already, some of the slaves had stopped rowing and the voices above deck told me that George had noticed. Someone would be down to check on that soon.

I accepted the ring of keys and unlocked my own chains, and Michael’s. Then I passed them forward. I addressed the slaves as if for battle as they took turns unlocking themselves, all down the ship.

“The crew is armed. We are not. However, we outnumber them. And do not forget that for which you fight: your freedom!” Eighty or so fists raised in the air in silent celebration. “Follow me, men. Today, we fight to regain this ship.”

I led the way up the ladder to the next deck, where a few crew members snored in their hammocks. We crept by, unwilling to waken any extra enemies. I did, however, snatch a stray sword leaning against the wall on the way through.

The moment I reached the deck, I ran for the wheel. That was where George Mullins gleefully reigned. The smile fell from his face at the sight of me and my following of haphazardly armed slaves charging the deck.

As the slaves engaged with various members of the crew, I fought my way to George. It wasn’t difficult, considering how we outnumbered them. Every time a man attacked me, two slaves closed in on him and I moved on, nearer to my first mate.

“Captain.” He breathed the word. “How…”

“That’s not your concern, George. You have two choices: hand back my ship, or have it taken by force.”

“Do your worst.” He slid his own blade from its sheath and I raised mine, striking immediately.

The fight was short – George was not very good with a sword, and I had mine at his throat in less than a minute. “Care to give me back control, now, Mullins?”

He swallowed hard, sheer hatred in his eyes. He ground his teeth together and dropped his sword.

“Order the men to do the same.”

“Drop your weapons.”

I shook my head. “I don’t think they heard you.”

“Drop your weapons!” he screamed.

I smiled. “Better.” I turned to face a deck full of sailors surrendering to galley slaves. “Lock them up, men. We’ll need someone to row the Golden Shark to the islands.”

My new crew cheered and hurried to gather their prisoners. I handed George over to Michael, who prodded him below deck with a rather sharp looking shard of glass.

I gripped the smooth spokes on the wheel of my ship. “And now,” I whispered, “we sail.”

The End

Kira

The Golden Shark: Part 1

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The world lurched beneath me and my head slammed into something hard. I moaned and opened my eyes a crack. The world was mostly dark, with a single flickering source of light at the end of what looked like a long tunnel.

Rows of people lined either side of the tunnel – men, sitting on benches two by two and swaying in sync with one another. Behind me, a beating sound pounded into my head, a slow, persistent thump. Thump. Thump.

I moaned again and was suddenly jerked up into a seated position. “Row!” yelled a rough voice, right in my ear.

Stars still blinked before my eyes and I sat there dumbly.

“I said, row!” A fist collided with the back of my head and I woke myself up enough to grab the piece of wood rotating in front of me and copy the man next to me. Push, pull, push, pull.

What was I doing here? And where was here? I asked the slave beside me – for slave he was – and received a strange look in return. “You’re in the galley, Captain Shores,” he whispered.

I had deduced that I was in some sort of a ship by now, but didn’t understand why the man would be calling me Captain. “Why do you address me like that? I may not know where I am, but I am clearly no captain!”

Push, pull, push, pull. I realized now, that the rowing was in time to the thumping of what must have been a large drum.

“Sir, you are the captain of this ship, the Golden Shark. Your first mate organized mutiny last night and your men confined you to the galley. You must have hit your head…or had it hit for you.”

“The Golden Shark…” I paused in my rowing, the words bringing back flashes of memory. “My first mate…George?”

“That’s right, sir.”

It all came back. The darkness of the night on which George Mullins chose to lead my own men in attacking me. The struggle to fight them off, the cries for any of my men – any at all – to aid me.

And all over some cinnamon.

The Golden Shark was one of the Queen’s navy ships, charged with finding a quicker route to the Spice Islands and bringing back enough spices to make investors and the royal family quite wealthy. Of course, as captain of this ship, I was to receive a considerable percentage of whatever we managed to bring back to England with us. All George needed to do was claim that I drowned at sea or broke the law and tried to take all the riches for myself, turning pirate, and he would be lauded and paid – well paid.

I looked to the man sitting next to me. Galley slaves. All of them. And now I joined them, rowing and rowing, chained to the ship by my ankle, a man with a whip at my back. I must regain my ship.

But would they aid me? Me, who enforced the court’s sentence of slavery for however many years befitted their crime? There was only one way to find out.

“What is your name?”

The slave gave me a sideways glance. “Michael, sir.”

“How much longer are you sentenced to the galley, Michael?”

“Seven years, sir.”

“I assume the others have similar sentences?”

“I’m sure they do, sir. Some shorter, some longer.”

“And do you think they would aid me in regaining control of this ship if I offered them their freedom?”

Michael turned to face me as well as he could without letting go of the long oar. “Doubtless, sir.”

To be continued…

Kira

From the Archives: Potamiaena’s Prayer

This post is a short story I wrote for a class a while ago. I still remember the story of Potamiaena above any of the others we read in Eusebius’s Church History. It’s my favorite.

Also, don’t forget to check out the giveaway in my last post – Edwin Brook: Dire Recompense. It’s only open for a couple more days.

Originially published: 9/24/15


This is a short-short story that I wrote as a project at the beginning of last school year. We were reading The Church History by Eusebius and we had to write a story about one of the many martyrs in the book. I chose a young woman named Potamiaena. Her story was only a page or two long, but I really liked it and wanted to spend more time thinking about it. So this is what I came up with . . .

* * *

Potamiaena stared up into the face of the judge, fear clouding her heart. She struggled to keep this same fear out of her voice and countenance. Her entire body ached, burned, and stung from the tortures she had already endured prior to this so-called trial. “I shall never worship your childish gods. They are invented only to provide something primitive and sinful for you to chase in ignorant hopes of fulfillment. I worship the one true God, the Creator of heaven and earth and His Son, Jesus Christ, now and forever!” Immediately, Potamiaena felt courage wash over her and she was now only faintly aware of the pain filling her body as she continued to stare at the judge, defiance on her face and in her stance.

The official’s look of shock and indignation rapidly evolved into one of anger and hatred. “Then you shall die! No one, not even a woman, can defy the gods and go unpunished!”

A soldier stepped forward to lead her away and Potamiaena willingly followed. As they made their way through the crowds to the road, he whispered her some comfort. “My name is Basilides. May I pray for you?” He began at Potamiaena’s nod of assent. “God, give this brave soul courage and faith through the end and keep Yourself at the forefront of her thoughts. Bring her to Yourself quickly and as painlessly as possible. In Your Son’s Name, Amen.”

Potamiaena whispered her thanks to the ground, so as not to endanger this kind young man.

Coldly, the crowd began jeering at her as she walked toward her imminent and torturous death. Basilides pushed the crowd away, driving them back and giving her room to walk, despite the oppressive nature of the bystanders. “Thank you for your kindness!” exclaimed Potamiaena, when they reached the place she was to die. She claimed one last glance at the single kind figure being swallowed by citizens of her former home. “I will ask the Lord for you and very soon I shall repay you for everything you have done on my behalf.”

With these faith-filled words, Potamiaena turned into the arena where she was to die. A tear slipped down her cheek, but she quickly brushed it away. Lord, she thought. Give me the strength to endure this for You. Help me to show them that I am not afraid to die for You. Let my death impact someone’s life. I look forward to seeing You soon. Oh, so soon. Potamiaena’s  prayer stayed in her heart through the last moments of her life. The thought calmed her from the fear of death and gave her a final smile at the thought of being martyred for her Savior.

Kira

Is there a martyr story that cuts right to your heart and gives you a stronger passion for Jesus?