The photo I used for the fourth prompt is one that I’ve been thinking about often as I write one of my projects (Pathways is the chapter in which the following excerpt appears). It’s a fantasy story with which I’ve been toying when I need a break from my usual Sci-Fi. So far, I like where it’s going and enjoyed working on this chapter for the past week.
Enjoy and don’t forget to check back tomorrow for the next prompt!
“What on earth is going on?” I inquired of Lamia, who turned to face me looking a mix of flustered and confused.
“The celebration, of course,” she answered. When I didn’t respond, she blinked quickly and took my hands. “We’re throwing a celebration for your return. To let the nations know their queen has come home. I hope that’s to your liking.” She stared intently into my eyes and it was clear there was only one right answer.
“Of course, that sounds wonderful,” I lied. Lamia brought my hands to her lips and kissed them before releasing me and returning to her managerial duties. I used her distraction as an excuse to leave the overflowing house and see if I could get some exploring done before she realized I’d gone. The cobblestone streets felt odd beneath the thin shoes I’d been provided, but I had to admit this town was exceedingly charming.
I’d barely made it down the street before I realized I wasn’t alone. When I turned, Mila was mere paces behind me.
“You really shouldn’t wander on your own,” she told me as she came to walk at my side. “Even if you don’t believe what Lamia told you, she does. And so do a lot of people, not all of whom are pleased at the news.” I regarded her for a moment, trying to decipher the mask she now wore.
“And what do you believe?” I asked openly. “Do you think I’m the heir as Lamia says?” Mila’s eyes flicked to mine briefly, but her mask was still in tact. Whether she felt as though Lamia was right, she didn’t say, but her cold demeanor seemed disbelieving to me. I couldn’t blame her. I wouldn’t believe it if I were her. I was having a hard enough time believing it when standing in my own shoes.
We walked in silence for a while. Mila didn’t say much after that unless I asked about a building or a monument. I didn’t press her and instead tried to enjoy the sites regardless of the awkwardness. The buildings weren’t very tall here, barely reaching more than five stories and even those were rare. Many of them were strung together like sets, the stonework flowing from one to another. All connected. Occasionally, there were breaks between chunks of buildings that allowed for small gardens or ponds. A young girl was crouched by one of the ponds, poking a finger into the water, but each time a bright orange fish came near her, she’d giggle and pull her hand away, only to repeat the gesture when the fish swam away.
Mila led me toward the center of the town where I was faced with an abundance of stairs. The extensive stone staircase led up the mountainside a ways, where at the end I could see a large temple overlooking the town. I followed her lead and together we reached the top, one a bit more breathless than the other.
“From here, you can see the whole of Jethro and even a bit beyond,” Mila said proudly and she was right. The temple had a magnificent view over the town to one side and a deep valley to the other. Its back was nestled into the mountain like it was meant to have been there all along. Jethro was larger than I’d thought, extending further than I had expected and even across a river, the ends of which weren’t in sight. The part of the town across the river didn’t have nearly the number of buildings as this side, nor their height, but seemed a bit more residential.
I stopped to catch my breath at the short stone wall that outlined the temple, but my breath caught when over the edge I’d chosen I saw a steep drop into the valley below. I’d never been the biggest fan of heights and being confronted with a sharp drop only made me more uneasy. I retreated back toward the building, still breathing heavily, but followed Mila inside.
The temple ceiling rose high above our heads toward a peak. Each step we took echoed between the stone walls until it dissipated somewhere in the back of the cavernous room. As we walked, we passed tributes, monuments, statues, all dedicated to the untamed nature of the fire gods. We walked the length of the room until we came to the main attraction: a colossal statue of what I could only guess was a goddess. Her size alone was humbling and it was clear the artist of this piece imagined her anything but feeble. She stood tall and a little forward, as though marching toward a victory, wielding a ball of fire in one hand and a dagger in the other.
What caught my eye, however, was the amulet strung about her neck. It was carved into the stone, so it held no color, but as I looked at it my hand wandered to the pendant around my own neck. I realized Mila was watching me closely for a reaction and I let go of the necklace.
“That’s Thalia, the original goddess of fire,” Mila explained.
“The necklace you put on me looks so similar to the one she wears,” I remarked, attempting to seem as carefree as possible. Mila’s lips twitched.
“Indeed, very similar.” The gleam in her eyes told me she knew something she wasn’t saying and while I could guess what it was, I didn’t ask. “We should get you back to the house. Lamia will be wondering where you ran off.” I nodded, taking in one more look at Thalia before following Mila back out the entrance and toward the upcoming festivities.