I recently signed up for the 12 Short Story Challenge hosted by Writers Write. Every month they give you a prompt, word count and deadline, and participants have to write a short story and have it posted by the deadline. The goal is to complete 12 short stories by the end of 12 months.
The first prompt for the year was The Bridge, and the word count was 1200 words. I had two days to throw this story together for the deadline, so it’s not my best work, but I hope you enjoy it none-the-less.
Tiyana’s heavy breaths drowned out the sounds of everything going on around her. Hands gripped her arms tightly as she was dragged from the cage she had been locked in for the last two days. With the sack over her head, she couldn’t even see where she was being taken. It didn’t really matter though. She was walking to her death.
How did this happen? Why would the gods punish her like this? Just two days ago she had agreed to help her old friend Riya with her spiritual quest. For an Edonist to become a priest or priestess, they are sent on a journey to the holy land, Oshea, to find a rare carrolite crystal that will become part of their amulet.
Riya had been Tiyana’s best friend at school but had moved to across the ocean to Oshea when they were in their sixth year. Tiyana was surprised when Riya had asked for her help, since they hadn’t seen each other in over twelve years, but she felt duty bound to assist her old friend.
Tiyana took a transport the very next day, but Riya was not there to greet her. Instead, she was abducted and locked in a cage, with her arms bound behind her back and a thicken woolen hood placed over her head.
“Why are you doing this to me?”
No one answered her.
Somehow, Tiyana had to get out of there. She lay there for hours calling for help until her throat burned. Finally, she heard muffled footsteps in the distance.
The metal door creaked as it opened. Someone pulled her to her feet. She was surprised when they pulled the hood from head. For a moment, she felt a sense of relief.
“Riya! Thank the gods.”
Riya face was as cold and hard as stone. Tiyana felt her insides wither.
“Don’t thank them. They had nothing to do with it,” Riya said then smirked. “Well, there is one you can thank. Edon.”
Tiyana took an involuntary step back. Edon was the betrayer god. How could Riya fall in with him?
“Don’t bother trying to figure it all out. Suffice it to say, you are here to help me. I didn’t lie about that. Edon has demanded that I perform a sacrifice to prove my loyalty. Tomorrow I will sacrifice you before Edon’s flame and take my place amongst his children.”
Before Tiyana could say anything, the hood was thrown over her head once again, and she was forced back into the cage.
The following morning, Tiyana was lead to another room where she was prepared for her sacrifice. Her clothing was cut from her and her body was rubbed with a pungent herb that warmed her skin and made it tingle. When they finished, her hands were temporarily released while they wrapped her in a rough cloth.
She was in a daze as they led her to another part of the mansion. They entered a lift that carried them down several floors from what she could tell. When the doors opened, a rush of cool damp air rushed in. It smelled musty. They must have taken her to a basement in the mansion.
The hood was finally removed and Tiyana found herself in a cavern. The only light source was a bonfire on a small rock mountain surrounded by a moat of thick bubbling liquid. Men stood around the moat in dark red robes, chanting. Riya waited on the island wearing a white robe and holding a ceremonial dagger.
The men guided Tiyana to a narrow bridge with no railings that led to the small island. One of the men holding her left to join the others. The second one released her bonds, then leaned to whisper in her ear.
“Listen to me carefully because I do not have much time to explain.”
Tiyana swung her head around.
“Keep your head forward. I am not with these people. I try my best to help their victims, but there is only so much I can do without risking my own capture. They believe I have just injected you with a mind-numbing serum. It dulls your senses to make you susceptible to suggestion. You’re expected to cross the Bridge to Edon and submit yourself for sacrifice. There is a tunnel that goes deeper into the ground to an underground waterway. The release for the entrance is one of the stones surrounding the fire. Once you begin crossing the bridge, it will retract behind you. What you do after that is up to you.”
Tiyana had so many questions, but she wouldn’t have the chance to ask them. The man gave her a shove onto the bridge, which began retracting. She had no choice, but to move forward or risk falling into the boiling sludge below her. She could feel the heat rising and had no doubt it would melt the skin from her body before she could get out.
Riya stood passively in front of the fire waiting to kill Tiyana. Tiyana’s heart pounded as she watched Riya approach with the dagger held towards her. Just as Riya thrust the dagger toward her chest, Tiyana surprised herself by taking a step to the side and smacking Riya’s hand hard, knocking the dagger into the sludge. Riya’s shocked gaze quickly turned to a look of anger and hatred. Tiyana was shocked to see it on her former friend’s face. She had always been so kind. What could have happened to her to make her like this?
A struggle between them ensued. Riya shoved Tiyana so hard, she fell backward and hit her head on one of the rocks. Nearby, she heard a grinding sound. It had to be the hidden tunnel. Tiyana kicked Riya’s knee, hyperextending it and sending her to the ground.
Riya screamed. “You’re ruining everything!”
Tiyana didn’t waste any time. She jumped to her feet and ran to the tunnel. Out of the corner of her eye she saw the bridge extending. They’d be after her soon. She ran down the spiral staircase which opened into another cavern. The water was dark except in one place in the distance. She dove in, the men close behind in the stairwell.
She swam towards the light as fast as she could and before long passed through the archway into the open ocean. The mansion stood high on the cliff above her. She couldn’t believe how far down they had gone, but she didn’t have time to consider it long. The men were right behind her, closing in on her. She swam again towards the city in the distance. She would be able to get transport home from there if she could beat the men in getting there.
They were getting closer, and she knew they’d be in the open ocean soon, but she didn’t risk the time it would take to look. A sudden creaking and grinding sound brought her to a halt. A metal grate slid down blocking the men from following her out of the cave. The man who helped her must have done it. She quickly swam for the city. Soon she would be home. She hoped.