This story is part of the Chronicles of Morshan short story collection.
When the gods had begun “blessing” individuals with supernatural powers in exchange for loyalty, Clare was the first.
She hadn’t even needed to swear any devotion.
Because, unlike all the others, she had received blessings from multiple gods at once.
Clare strode out of her chambers. Her violet-tinted knee-high boots clapped against the stone floor, and servants turned their heads to get a glimpse of her. Nilde had recently ordered their craftsmen to design her a new outfit. It was ridiculous. She was supposed to be a warrior-ruler, not an emblem of fashion. But Nilde had insisted the boots and violet tunic would enhance public impressions of her. At least Clare had been able to keep the functional black-leather skirt.
Clare pushed through a pair of large iron doors and descended the tightly spiraled stairs into the stagnant depths of the dungeon. The door at the bottom was locked, but the guards recognized her pace and opened it before she reached it. Nodding briefly at them, she entered the dungeon.
Cells lined the right side of the hall; the wall on the left was bare, lit by occasional torches. Water dripped in the distance. Near the fourth cell, Riccardo was squatting and washing his hands in a basin of water. Redness still lined the creases in his palms.
“You’re finished already?” Clare asked. “I expected my presence would be needed to break the man.”
Riccardo stood. His curly hair clung to his sweaty brow. “Queen, I was about to summon you. He broke easily.”
Clare peered into the cell where a one-eyed man with a gnarly beard hung against the wall, legs limp and battered. He moaned softly.
She returned her attention to Riccardo. “You’re fortunate then. Are you desensitized yet?”
“I doubt I’ll ever get used to torturing people, Queen.”
Clare crossed her arms. “Forget about that—what did you learn?”
“Only that the couple and their children were insignificant.” Riccardo looked away. “He murdered them to make a statement.”
Clare clenched her jaw. “Should anything stop me from thrusting my hand through his heart?”
Riccardo shrugged. “The Rose hates you, not him. He joined simply for the pay. He was a street thug in Livorna who needed work.”
“Joining a group that hangs innocents by their entrails is how people obtain jobs in Livorna these days?”
“I never said he was honorable.”
Clare studied the prisoner. He didn’t look like a fanatic—just a pathetic man with nothing to live for. She turned back to Riccardo. “He’s not worth bloodying my hands over. Give him a public hanging. Ensure that a message is sent to the Rose. Did he mention any names?”
“We already captured the other members of his Rose group in Livorna. The only superior he spoke to was a man that went by the name of Kel.”
“Was it actually Kel?”
“The man wore a rose-petaled mask, but he didn’t bind anyone’s life to an object, so we can’t confirm his identity.”
“Did he have turquoise eyes?”
“Our prisoner didn’t notice.”
Clare pursed her lips. “Of course he didn’t.” She glanced at the man again and caught him staring at her. He quickly averted his eye.
After the violence the man had committed, he didn’t even have the courage to look her in the eye. Clare balled her hands into fists. “Maybe I do have something to say,” she muttered, and she walked into the cell. “You!” [Read more…] about Short Story: The First God-Blessed