This story is part of the Chronicles of Morshan short story series. If you have not read the premise of the series yet, I recommend you read the premise below before reading.
Seventy-three years ago, the land of Morshan was on the peak of a new golden age. Gunpowder had been discovered, new agricultural techniques had been mastered, technology was at a high point, the kingdoms of the land were finally united, and the future could only be moving upward.
Then the gods descended.
Each god began offering noteworthy individuals a promise: serve one god above the others and they would be blessed with powers beyond human reckoning. To some was offered power over body. To others power over mind. To others power over nature.
Few who were offered these powers refused.
And society fractured.
It turns out the old saying of Morshan holds true: power always reveals what a man truly is like. And the essence of man is not kind. Within a matter of months, the unified land had broken up into warring factions, each led by one of the “god-blessed” trying to claim power for themselves. Within a matter of years, those factions had themselves split up into fiefdoms and sub-factions, countless lives and technological advances destroyed in the bloody aftermath.
Now, the once-prosperous land is a shadow of its former self. God-blessed war with each other in the ruins of a past civilization of glory while most peasants try to keep their heads low, serve a god-blessed who will protect them, and mind their own business.
But hope is not yet lost. There are still some who wish to use their powers for good. In the center of the shattered empire, a small group of god-blessed calling themselves the Heralds seek to reclaim the ancient ideals of chivalry and heroism for themselves.
But the times are dark and would-be heroes must face many enemies.
Time will tell if this is a new beginning for Morshan or one last dying gasp.
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