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Elissa quivered slightly inside as the loud roar of the crowd echoed from outside the small tent she was in.  ‘I shouldn’t be here,’ she thought pitifully to herself, as she thought back on how the Fates had twisted her path to bring her to this junction in her life.

All children of wealth, status, or nobility knew to avoid the Festival of Chance which was held every year in honor of the God of Chaos, and like nearly every other child of influence, her family had prepared her for the occasion.  Only the most trusted of her family’s retainers had been chosen to escort her from the city and to the small private manor which had been reserved exclusively by her father for this occasion, and they had left the city and traveled in the midst of midnight darkness to escape without any knowing their destination.

If all would’ve went as planned, Elissa would’ve been safe in the privacy of her own family’s home, ready to be given off to one of her family’s most trusted protectors to serve and obey for the next week – for that’s what the Festival of Chance was all about: a turning of the rules of society completely upside down! 

Children of wealth, status, and noble blood, between the ages of thirteen and eighteen, had to place their names into a lottery which the priests and gods oversaw.  The more wealth one’s family had, the more times their name was entered into the lottery.  The higher status one’s family had obtained, the more times they were entered into the lottery.  And noble blood?  Should one be born with noble blood, their name was entered a thousand times more into the lottery.

Once all the names had been gathered, the priests would draw lots – the number of chosen to be determined by the overall population of the town, city, village, or temple one was in – and then the “lucky” chosen ones would become a “Maiden of Fate” or a “Lad of Luck”.  They’d be pampered and bathed.  Fed the finest of foods.  Dressed in what Elissa felt was one of the most embarrassing outfits she’d ever worn in her entire life.  And then, when the festival was in high swing, they’d be lotteried off to one of the people attending the festival, to serve them faithfully for the next week of their lives.

The priests claimed that this festival helped those of status connect and learn of the lives of the common folk of the kingdom.  It helped encourage kindness and largess between the wealthy and the poor – for one would never know if their own child might end up going to serve under someone whom they had slighted, mistreated, or angered. 

The festival was supposed to encourage a joining of the  rich and the poor, to help them reach out and find middle ground.  Instead, it was often a time of terrible dread for the children of prestige.  Servitude for a week to a complete stranger, with the backing of the gods behind them.  If they were beaten, worked nearly to death, or even wenched out in the taverns for that whole week, there was no legal recourse for them to avoid their fate. 

The order of the world turned itself upside down and the rich were trapped obeying the poor.  Even while trying not to think of all the terrible things that could happen to her, Elissa couldn’t help but feel her knees tremble and knock together.  In all her life, she’d never been this helpless.  This hopeless! 

I shouldn’t be here,’ she thought to herself again, for about the hundredth time. 

She’d packed up and left town on time.  She was surrounded by men and women her father trusted above all others – guards which had watched her be born and which had been there beside her for each step she took in her life.  She knew each and every one of them by name.  Knew their families.  Knew their hearts!

She would’ve been safe with them, and that was the plan all along – leave the city, travel to her family’s private manor, and take her “chance” with whichever of her family’s guardians might obtain her service for a week.  Instead, everything that could’ve possibly went wrong, did so.  They were ambushed by a large group of bandits several days from their destination and several of her guards were  gravely injured—even to the point where the healers were unable to cure them.

‘Whatever that poison was,’ Elissa thought to herself while chewing on the end of her thumbnail, ‘it wasn’t the least bit natural.   Some alchemist or wizard had to alter it to make it as dark and evil as it was.’  Even thinking back on what had happened made her stomach churn queasily.  Black blood slowly leaking from the eyes.  Skin turning gray and ashen.  Breathing  labored and ragged.

Shaking her head violently from side to side, Elissa tried to force the images out of her mind.  Those were her guards.  She’d grown up with them.  Surrounded by them.  They’d been there for her with each step that she learned to take in her life.  She couldn’t just abandon them and let them die for her sake.  Even if she somehow managed to spare her body some suffering at the hands of a poor bastard, it would’ve left a wound in her heart that could never heal.

‘There was only one real choice, and I made it,’ Elissa reassured herself.  Even if she was given to the roughest bastard in the city, she’d only have to suffer for a week.  No one was actually fool enough to kill one of the chosen and risk the wrath of the god of chaos.  The worst that she’d have to do is endure for seven days – and that’s only IF she was chosen in the lottery – compared to doing nothing and simply letting those who meant so much to her die a terrible death.  ‘No real choice at all,’ Elissa muttered softly to herself, as she slowly took a step forward to await her place in line to be lotteried off.

She’d made her choice.  Took her chance with lottery.  She knew the risks and knew there was a chance she might be one of the ones chosen – but she took it anyway.  ‘I had to,’ she reassured herself one final time, as a brightly dressed young man bounced back into the tent and skipped over to her.  Dressed in a robe painted all the colors of the rainbow, the young priest gently held out his hand for her.  His hair was dyed brilliant purple, and spiked wildly in all directions.  Bells attached to dozens of random places on his robes tinkled and chimed merrily with every step he took and glitter – or perhaps it was confetti – seemed to fall constantly from his clothing and color the ground all around him every shade of the rainbow.

“Let’s go!  Let’s go!  Let’s go!”  Without giving her time to even take his hand on her own, the young priest laughed merrily and grabbed her arm, turned, and began to half-skip, half-bounce towards the exit.  The cheers were nearly deafening as Elissa emerged out into the bright noontime sun and was led up onto the podium to await  her fate.

 


 

“Is this one the bitch we want?”  Concealed in a thick woolen cloak with a deep hood pulled low over his face, a man’s voice growled softly over to his companion – a greasy looking fat man who greedily was rubbing his hands together.

The fat merchant sighed deeply and glanced down once again to check the small crystal he held carefully in his hands.  “Not this one.  Not yet.  Be patient,” he repeated for what felt like the millionth time today. 

Every time a new young lady was brought out to be lotteried off, he had to go through the same thing.  Get pestered about if it was her – as if he wouldn’t say something if it was her!  Listen to several minutes of bitching from his partner about how he was wasting his precious time and needed to get back to his research.  Get threatened a few times if he didn’t hurry it up – as if HE had anything to do about what order the priests brought the chosen out – and then repeat the process once again.

As the last girl was being off in the direction of some old grandmother, the crowd went wild once again, and the fat merchant sighed deeply knowing it was time for another exchange of stupidity with the man at his side.  “Before you even ask…“ Glancing down at the crystal in his hand, he was going to try and cut off the questions before they even started, but he had to stop and blink several times to make certain he wasn’t seeing things.  The crystal was finally giving off a pale pink glow.   Had they finally found her??

“Is this the bitch we want?”  Once again, the rough voice half growled in the fat man’s direction.

“It is!  It is!”  Finally!  The fat merchant couldn’t help smiling as he thought about he could get soon out of here, be done with this business, and hopefully never have to deal with growl-voice once again!

“So how are you going to get her?”  He had to ask, just for his own curiosity, not that he really cared one way or another.  His job was just to identify her, then accept her when growl-voice  acquired her, and to just deliver her. 

“These games are simple to influence,” growl-voice told him with a snort, as he pointed one gloved finger up towards the podium.

The fat merchant had to admit, the young lady up on the stage right now certainly had all the right curves in all the right places.   Wearing a loose pink dress that was so sheer it didn’t hide anything, the girl had been bathed and dyed pure white from head to toe.  Some say the dying of skin and hair was to help give the young boys and girls a sense of anonymity, but the fat merchant had always held to the belief that it was just to help highlight the skin under those ridiculously thin outfits.  Lingerie was probably thicker and less sheer than what this young lass had on currently!

The round swelling of her full breasts was plainly visible, as was the risen peaks of her nipples.  ‘I wonder if the priests do something to make them perk up, or if that’s just natural from being nervous,’ the fat man wondered to himself.  Either way, he couldn’t help but grin at the two risen white peaks plainly visible under the gossamer pink dress.  Letting his eyes caress up and down the full length of her body, the fat man couldn’t help but find himself getting somewhat aroused.  High heels.  Long legs.  No bush.  Large, full breasts.  Soft curves.  Long, wavy white hair which seemed to dance across he shoulders and lick all the way down the back of her knees.  There wasn’t no doubt about it.  The girl before him was definitely a beauty.

And soon….

Soon she was going to be in his hands and he could do anything he wanted with her, before he finished his delivery.

 


 

Stone stood tall and unmoving near his brother’s side, never swaying, never even blinking, as the morning’s festival carried on all around them.  He never cheered.  Never waved.  Never even twitched.  He simply stood where his brother had told him to wait, and planted himself firmly and patiently there like a rock – thus why everyone who knew him always called him Stone.

Tall and massive, by any standards, Stone stood head and shoulders above all the rest in the crowd and had a perfect view of the morning’s proceedings.  His brother was laughing with the nearby boys and trying to flirt with any of the nearby girls who might give him the time of day, and he just stood there.  Several people jostled and bumped into him, but they might as well have been bouncing into a wall for all the effect it had on Stone.

Silently, unmoving and unaffected by the wild party all around, Stone stood and waited.  From  time to time, his right eyebrow would twitch slightly as he listened to the fat merchant and cloaked idiot standing directly in front of him.  At first, they’d whispered conspiratorially to each other, but as the morning moved on into the afternoon, they quickly dismissed him from their thoughts.  It seemed obvious to them, just like it did to everyone else who ever met him – Stone was a complete and utter imbecile!

As the morning advanced, Stone watched with a mild sense of amusement as Hoodman got more and more agitated and threatened Fatman.  Some of the things which the one threatened to do to the other sounded quite bizarre and rather impossible.  There wasn’t anyway you could pull someone’s ass out their nose and make them eat it.   Was there?

As Stone mulled over whether the last threat was even possible or not, the two men in front of him suddenly leaned together and began to whisper and point at a really pretty girl who’d just been led up onto the stage.  

“Friends!  Neighbors!  Countrymen and Visitors too!”  The rainbow dressed priest laughed and waved his hands wildly back and forth as the crowd cheered and yelled encouragement.  Fireworks burst in the sky and confetti rained down -- once again – over the crowd.  Laughing gaily, the priest yelled out to the masses, “Who’s going to be the lucky person to win this little beauty?” 

“ME!  ME!  ME!”  A thousand enthusiastic cheers echoed throughout the courtyard and the priest seemed to bounce even higher in response to the people’s excitement.

“Maybe!  Maybe,” the priest laughed, as he skipped over to a large circular wheel on the podium.  “Let’s find out!”  Giggling happily, he spun the wheel and laughed as color after color rotated once after the other for several moments.   When it finally stopped on red, the young priest hopped three feet into the air and waved his hands back and forth, causing a large ray of red light to burst forth from them and highlight the whole stage!  

Our first color is red,” he screamed wildly out to the cheers of the crowd.

Frowning, Stone blinked a few times and thought about what he’d just witnessed.  Hoodman had just did something, and he’d made the wheel stop on red.  It’d been going fast enough that yellow should’ve been the color up top, but the wheel had stopped early on red.   Slowly, and for the first time that whole morning, Stone moved his hand and slowly rubbed his chin as he thought about what he’d just seen.

“Oh!  Oh!  It’s red again!”  Another rainbow flash of red light shone across the podium and Stone’s frown grew even larger.  Hoodman was doing something to make the wheel stop when he wanted it to, and that wasn’t right!  ‘Of course’, Stone thought to himself, ‘this is a festival of Chaos.  Is it really wrong to break the rules in a game dedicated to the God of Rule Breaking?’  Frowning, Stone tried to sort out his feelings as the priest continued to spin the wheel and Hoodman continued to cheat.  Green was chosen, then blue, followed by yellow, and then finished with black. 

As the last color was chosen, Fatman lifted up the small metal disk he’d been issued when the festival started that morning, but before he could say a word, he staggered and fell over – as did the cloaked fellow beside him.  Blood oozed from the corner of both men’s heads where they’d been banged together with enough force to instantly send them both into a deep state of unconsciousness.  Ignoring the two collapsed men laying at his feet, Stone slowly leaned down and picked up the small metal disk from the ground. 

“I won,” Stone exclaimed calmly, as he held it up for the world to see.

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Darkbringer

  • Dark Dream Weaver

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