I throw myself at your mercy, oh loyal readers, and thank you for your patience. I know I have been woefully neglectful of my blog as of late. My only excuse is that Christmas, New Year and holidays in general have proven to be a powerful distraction. But here I am, finally, with Part Five of my story.
And now I am preparing to run and hide, for fear of your wrath. You see, dear reader, Colours in the Cave has been growing for a while now. It began as a short story for Be Kind ReWrite’s Inspiration Monday, but ideas kept flowing, characters kept screaming to be heard, and the word count kept growing.
But more significantly was its reception. The kind words and comments that you have all given me on this adventure have made me swell with happiness. And now, to repay your kindness, I, um… I am doing a terrible thing.
I am ceasing the story.
I feel like there is more here than a short story. I feel like it needs more work, away from my blog, without the pressure of “deadlines”. And so, while I have presented here a Fifth Part to the story to act as an ambiguous conclusion, it is not the end.
Far from it.
So I apologise for the unforgivably long wait in between postings. And I apologise for this painfully open-ending. But nevertheless, thank you all for your encouragement with this story, and please keep your fingers crossed that all goes well as I continue to work on it in a land far, far away.
Please enjoy the final part of Colours in the Cave.
Go back to the beginning here.
The Story So Far: Sleet lied about his Cave Trial, denying that Fidukko, the God of Faith, was his saviour, so as to avoid the solitary life of a Priest and remain with his beloved Shaana. However, months later, Shaana underwent her own trial and did not return–the Gods claimed her. Enraged with grief, Sleet ran from the Colori Tribe and wound up at the Cave.
“…the rain had eased and the sun was beginning to rise on a new day. But still Sleet remained, a broken figure in the Cave, desperately awaiting any indication that the Gods planned to undo his damage.
‘Why?’ he asked again, a final, broken plea that echoed off the walls. The shadows offered no reply, but somebody else did.
‘You know why.’”
Colours in the Cave
Sleet startled, but did not rise as he watched the ancient figure enter the Cave. “Pakrai,” he murmured, only half surprised to find that the blind man had journeyed all the way to the Cave unaccompanied. When the old Priest offered no further explanation, Sleet could find nothing else to say except, “You know, don’t you.”
It wasn’t a question, but the elder replied nonetheless, “I know, yes.” His tone was gentle, sympathetic, and—Sleet quietly hoped—forgiving. With a quaking groan, Pakrai leant against the wall directly beside the young man and slid down to sit at his hip.
Exhausted from his mourning, Sleet voiced the thought that he would otherwise have kept private. “You’re very sure of yourself for a blind man.” He winced as soon as the words left his mouth, but Pakrai merely laughed, the rasping chuckle arising from deep within his chest.
“There are more ways to see than with the eyes,” he said simply, interlocking his fingers in his lap. The pair lapsed into silence. Sleet began to shift uncomfortably while the old Priest sat motionless, but for the tiny movements of his thumbs. Left thumb over right; right thumb over left; repeat.
Sleet stared at the weathered digits. The action was too meticulous and consistent to be called fidgeting, and the young man found he was soothed by the soundless, recurring movement.
“I lied,” he mumbled, the words stumbling over his tired tongue. Pakrai nodded at the unnecessary admission, encouraging him to continue. “I shouldn’t have, and I did. But why was Shaana punished? She deserved better than—”
“A beloved who deceived her?” Pakrai supplied. From anybody else, this comment would have cut deep; however, as Sleet turned to stare into the man’s depthless eyes, he felt like the Priest had taken the words directly from his own head, laying them bluntly before him so that he may accept the raw truth behind them.
Wrapping his arms around himself, he amended, “She deserved better than to be punished for my mistake.”
“Indeed,” Pakrai consented. “But our Gods are wise beings, Sleet, as you well know. Truly, which punishment would have the greater impact—taking away your life, or taking away your love?”
Sleet shuddered fiercely as he crushed the rising urge to sob. Tenderly, the Priest laid an arm along the breadth of his shoulders. “If I could go back,” Sleet whispered, “If I had another chance to do it right, I would. I’d do anything to get her back.”
“Indeed?” Pakrai repeated. The hand on Sleet’s shoulder tightened significantly as the elderly man leant close and hummed, “What would you do, my boy? Would you face the Gods themselves and plead for her freedom? Would you place yourself wholly before their immortal power?”
Sleet gazed wondrously into the man’s chalky eyes, and for the first time did not flinch when they stared so certainly back. “Face them…?” he echoed anxiously. “How?”
Pakrai rose smoothly from the rocky earth, bracing himself against the wall as his scoured bones clicked into place. Pointing into the endless dark of the Cave, he murmured, “They are willing. They are waiting. Go to them, boy, and pray for mercy.”
Sleek turned stiffly to gaze down the length of the Priest’s arm, staring blankly into the unfathomable shadows. The blackness seemed to swallow his vision, and he shivered unwillingly in the face of its chill.
“Is mercy what they will give me?” he asked quietly. Only silence answered him. Sleet turned back to look into the hollow light of morning, but Pakrai was gone without a whisper of noise.
The young man pushed himself to his feet, gasping with the newly acknowledged pain of his shredded and bruised knuckles. Dimly, he noticed the sheen of blood against the walls, his life’s paint vivid against the dull rock. He reached out and gingerly touched the scarlet smudge.
The Gods are wise beings, Pakrai had said. And Sleet was certain that their wisdom would mean his demise, should he face them directly. Would this tiny crimson stain be all that was left of him by nightfall? Perhaps it would serve as a warning for the children who came to serve their own trial, years from now. Perhaps they would see this weathered, rusty canvas of blood, and know never to lie about their saviour.
Or perhaps it would go unseen. A bloodstain as insignificant against the walls of the Cave as Sleet was before the might of the Gods.
Blood be damned.
He balled his broken fists against his sides and strode into the shadows, towards the Gods, the Goddesses and the fate of his only love.
- Love The Bad Guy