“David… David…” Sarah pushed insistently back on the boy’s head who was leaned over and kissing repeatedly on her neck. “David, quit that,” she demanded firmly.
“Huh…” David leaned back and blinked several times while grinning up at her sheepishly. “Why? What’s wrong darling? I thought we were just getting started,” he added wishfully.
“Maybe,” Sarah sighed, “but isn’t that your brother going up to the stage like an idiot?” Using her hands, she turned his head to make him face in the direction of the podium where the lottery was being held.
“Stone? Nah, It can’t be…” Blinking a few times, David’s eyes widened as he tried to convince himself that it wasn’t his brother slowly stepping up to the stage and heading over to the priests. “What the hell! I told that idiot to stay put!” Shoving himself back away from Sarah – her lithe form suddenly far from his thoughts – he began to push and shove his way though the crowd to try and get up to the stage.
The priest was halfway through the award speech by the time David elbowed and shoved his way through the densely packed crowd, his mind racing with worries and fears about how he was going to get his brother out of this mess that he’d gotten himself into. He was so worried in fact, that he didn’t give more than a passing thought to the two men he’d had to step over who’d drank so much they’d passed out and collapsed in the middle of the crowd. It was a shame their friends couldn’t be bothered to drag them out to rest it off in the shade somewhere – his friends would’ve at least did that for him if he’d drunken himself into a stupor – but they weren’t his worry and he didn’t have time to spare for them at the moment. His only real thought was to stop his brother before it was too late and he got himself into some sort of irreversible trouble. Idiot Stone!
“And so, unless someone has reason to object,” the young colorful priest announced loudly out over the cheers of the crowd, “I declare this chosen to belong t…”
“Wait! Wait! Wait a minute,” David demanded as he pushed out past the final line of people separating him from the stage. “He didn’t know any better,” he half yelled, half pleaded, rushing up the steps to join his brother, the girl, and the priest on the podium. Uncertain what new entertainment they were going to get to see, the crowd let out another loud wave of wild cheering and drunken shouting.
“That’s okay,” the young priest laughed gaily, waving his hands and spraying rainbow confetti out across the crowd once again. “You don’t have to know anything to win at the Festival of Chance!”
“But… But… He can’t win,” David panted breathlessly as he finally stopped in front of the priest and stood beside his brother. “Stone didn’t have a game token,” he confessed, smacking his much larger brother upside the back of the head, which only made his own hand ache, and Stone didn’t even seem to notice. “He tends to lose things like these,” David explained, pulling two shiny metal disks out of his own pocket and holding them over towards the priest, “so I was holding onto his token for him.”
“Oh! OH! OHHH!” The young priests eyes grew wide and he half hopped where he stood. “It’s wonderful,” he exclaimed, suddenly and unexpectedly. “If what you’re saying is true, we must have a cheater somewhere!” Instead of looking the least bit offended, the priest’s eyes twinkled and happy laughter pealed out from between his lips as he half danced a crazy jog on the podium.
“Father! Father! Lookie! Lookie!!” Grabbing the colored disk from both Stone and the two disks from his brother David, the priest laughed wildly and held all three of them up towards the heavens. “It’s funny! It’s fishy! It’s not right!” Too excited to contain himself any longer, the young priest threw open this robe and then tossed it out across the crowd and danced a wild jig across the stage. “Whatcha going do, Papa? Huh? Huh? Whatcha going to do,” he laughed out gleefully, taunting the heavens.
“Wait! Wait! Wait a moment,” David pleaded, “before you do something, let me explain! Stone didn’t mean to do anything wrong. He’s just an idiot who doesn’t know any…”
Several terrified screams from out in the crowd interrupted David’s heartfelt explanation, and several people began to push and shove each other clearing a sudden hole in the mass of people, exposing two massive spotted cats, as large as any dog! Hissing and growling, the two angry looking felines seemed almost as confused and frightened as the crowd around, and they slowly turned in circles as if eying who they wanted to attack first.
“Cheetahs! Cheetahs,” the young priest laughed gaily, pointing out towards the massive cats. “It’s funny! Go get ‘em! Go get em!” The excitement was too much for the priest as he gyrated and contorted wildly while bouncing from one end of the stage to the other.
“Come on, dammit!” David shoved at Stone’s back with all his might, but couldn’t budge his brother at all. “Move you stupid ol’ ox! Let’s get out of here while the getting’s good!”
Without paying any attention at all to his brother’s frantic attempts to move him, Stone slowly took two steps forward and then wrapped both his arms around the beautiful young woman who was up on the stage with them. Without saying a word, he pulled her much smaller frame up tight to his chest and then gently began to stroke her hair, as if he was attempting to somehow comfort her.
“Damn it! Leave her,” David pleaded. Grabbing his brother’s massive arm, he nearly lifted himself off the ground trying to pull it down and away from the woman. “Can’t you see you’re in trouble? Listen to me Stone! We’ve got to get you out of here. That wasn’t your token, and you know it!”
A sudden collective gasp from the crowd, followed by soft murmurings and wild laughter from the priest made David’s heart sink and then leap up into the back of his throat. Nervously, even though he didn’t want to, he forced himself to slowly turn his head and see what was going on out in the crowd. It was too late. Several heavily armed and armored men had already surrounded the two massive cats and sliced them almost in two. Whatever chance they’d had to use the confusion caused by the great beasts to escape, had already passed them by.
“Look.” David held both hands up pleadingly and firmly placed himself between the exhuberant priest and his brother. “Stone’s not right in the head. He didn’t intend any ill will. You don’t have to do anything to him; we’ll find the true owner of that token someho…”, he started to promise, but was interrupted when the priest suddenly skipped over and then cartwheeled around him.
“Well big fella, that’s all done now.” Giggling like a madman, the naked priest wrapped both arms tightly around both Stone and the young lady he was holding. “Father says it’s all taken care of and that she’s yours now. Now, go enjoy yourselves, both of you!” With a quick wave of his hand, a large puff of rainbow smoke billowed out and fogged over everything on the stage. When it finally cleared away, Stone and the young lady was gone – as was the young priest – leaving David standing alone, looking like an idiot with his mouth agape, feeling lost, and wondering just what the hell he was supposed to do now and how he was going to explain what’d just happened to his parents.
Elissa had never been as nervous or embarrassed in her whole life as when the priest took her hand and energetically pulled her from the tent where she was waiting and up onto the podium to face the crowd. ‘I’m just like a hunk of meat up on display,’ she thought to herself, cringing inwardly at the horde of people who were all whooping, hollering, and jeering up at her all but naked body. ‘I’m just glad they painted me white for this,’ she tried to console herself somewhat. ‘At least nobody can see how red I am!’ It was a small victory, but at this point, she felt like she should try and hold onto any victory she could claim, no matter how trivial it might be.
‘Power, Courage, Honesty, Loyalty, Generosity, Faith, Courtesy, and from these seven come Authority.’ Elissa closed her eyes and repeated her family’s motto to herself over and over to try and calm her frantic mind. ‘Power, Courage, Honesty, Loyalty, Generosity, Faith, Courtesy, and from these seven come Authority.’
‘May I have the Power to endure this trial and tribulation, and the Courage to accept that this is a fate which is beyond my control,’ she prayed silently to herself, while working to control her breathing and settle her nerves. ‘Give me the Honestly to admit to my fears, and the Generosity to accept that this will help me and my family draw closer to those less fortunate than ourselves. Allow me to have Faith that the one who wins my freedom for the next week shall be a righteous and honorable person, all let me have the Courtesy to accept whomever I go to, no matter what their beliefs, home, or life may be like.’
After several more deep and calming breaths, she slowly repeated her family’s motto one last time. ‘Power, Courage, Honesty, Loyalty, Generosity, Faith, Courtesy, and from these seven come Authority.’ Taking one final deep breath and holding it for several moments, she finally opened her eyes again and tried to take in the rest of the proceedings with a calmer heart and mind.
Apparently the priest had already finished the raffle, and the winner was making their way through the crowd to the podium. Curiosity overcoming embarassement, she moved forward closer to the edge of the stage to see who was approaching, and then stopped; eyes opening wide in shock.
‘MotherFatherSomeonesaveme!!’ Just one look at the beast of a man who was approaching the stage was enough to send all her work calming herself out the window. ‘That’s not a man! That’s an ogre,’ she screamed inwardly, as her eyes frantically darted left and right seeking for some path which would allow her to escape.
Whoever – or whatever it was – was steadily approaching and easily advanced through the horde of people that opened up frantically to clear a path as it to approached. ‘It can’t be an ogre. Even the Children of Chaos wouldn’t let an ogre into the town to participate in the festival. Would they?’ She asked herself uncertainly.
‘It…’ Shaking her head left and right slightly, Elissa clenched her fists hard enough that her fingernails threatened to dig the blood from palms. ‘No,’ she chided herself. ‘He. He’s not an it. He’s a HE. He’s just the size of two HE’s, but that still doesn’t mean he’s not a HE.’ Refusing to let any tears trickle down the side of her face, Elissa bit her lip and took a long deep breath to try and resteady herself once again.
Obviously, now that he was stepping up onto the stage, he was certainly a he. ‘May the Gods have mercy on me,’ Elissa thought, shivering slightly at the thought, ‘but he’s going to break me in half. I’ll end up a cripple after he takes me to his bed!’
Never in her life, had Elissa ever seen such a large and daunting man. She’d heard of people towering head and shoulders above another, but never before had she imagined that a person would stand head, shoulder, and half the torso above another fully grown man. The poor little priest barely came up to this guys elbow! He looked like a child of ten beside him, rather than a fully grown adult!
And wide! Heaven’s forbid if she was going to be expected to wrap her legs around this guy – he was broader and wider than any of her father’s horses that she’d ever attempted to ride in the past. He might be a he – a plain enough looking he, without any real redeeming features of beauty which stood out, except for his size – but he was every bit as large as any two normal he’s put together.
‘And I’m not some stupid, naive child of twelve,’ Elissa reminded herself. ‘I know very well that almost none of the girls who get chosen in the festival, and end up with young men, come home with their virtue intact. Once I was chosen in the raffle, I knew in my heart that my purity probably wouldn’t survive this week, but this… This won’t just break my purity. It’ll break me!’
“Wait! Wait! Wait a minute!” A handsome young man, of about sixteen years of age, suddenly pushed himself out of the crowd and rushed up onto the stage. “He didn’t know any better,” the young gentleman yelled, rushing up the steps, before firmly planting himself between the giant-he and the wildly giggling priest.
‘I’m saved!’ Elissa’s heart leaped up into the back of her throat and she felt like cheering with the rest of the crowd when they released another loud wave of wild cheering and drunken shouting.
“That’s okay,” the young priest laughed gaily, waving his hands and spraying rainbow confetti out across the crowd once again, and Elissa’s heart sunk back into her chest just as quickly as it had risen. Whatever else the priest said, she didn’t hear it as her mind was reeling at being offered hope and then having it suddenly and ruthlessly snatched back away from her. Blinking blankly for several moments, Elissa was completely lost for several moments as it was all just too much for her to take in and comprehend all at once. It wasn’t until the priest yelled something about cheetahs and the giant-he stepped forward and wrapped his arms around her that she snapped out of it.
‘FatherMother, MotherFather, he’s even larger than I’d imagined!’ Elissa couldn’t help but tremble at how tiny and insignificant she felt while wrapped up in the much larger man’s arms. ‘I’m not going to end up crippled. I’m going to end up dead!’ It was finally too much for her to take any longer; Elissa slumped heavily and leaned up tight against the massive frame which was holding her, silent tears now rolling freely down both sides of her face.
““Can’t you see you’re in trouble?” Her handsome savior pleaded beside her, but Elissa was in no state to truly listen to what he was saying. No more than half his words were sinking though her addled mind and reaching her. “We’ve got to get you out of here.”
‘I know I’m in trouble,’ Elissa moaned inwardly. ‘I’m going to die and there’s nothing anyone can do about this. I took a chance to save my family, and now I’m going to have to pay the price for that gamble. The ultimate price,’ she thought pitifully. ‘Oh, my charming hero, if only you could save me,” she lamented, “but it’s no use. No one can save me from this fate!’
Wild, peeling laughter from the priest caused Elissa to snap out of her funk once again. “Father says it’s all taken care of and that she’s yours now.”
“she’s yours now.”
The priests words echoed hollowly throughout Elissa’s skull for several moments, until the cool blackness of oblivion washed over her and she fainted dead away.