Welcome to the start of a new story!
For those who checked in a few weeks ago, you’re familiar with the story Saving Mae. I’ve always been fascinated by how different people can take the same elements of a story and come up with something completely different. So this story is me taking the same ‘idea’ as Saving Mae and turning it into a different story.
Hope you enjoy and thanks for stopping by.
The God Connection
The fighter in him begged to confront them. They’d taken what was most precious to him but the ground beneath his feet was sacred. To fight here would damn his soul.
She wouldn’t want that. She might be his younger sister but she was gifted with the power of God’s sight that flowed into her dreams. Kale trusted her in spiritual matters like he trusted no other.
So fighting was not an option, but kidnapping was. They’d taken Val. Perhaps they’d be willing to trade if he took someone just as precious.
Through the wooden slates of the floor, he could make out the tiny soles of her feet. Raylin. He’d never seen the woman before but this had to be her. The young priestess elect of the Karr. Only Raylin could have that kind of hair Only a priestess could keep long hair without it becoming a threat to her life. And only Raylin had onyx hair.
He waited while a woman finished brushing and then plated the black tresses into an intricate braid. His men would be in position soon but the timing had to be perfect.
Guards passed and he counted, silently tapping out the seconds on the boards above him.
Thirty seconds and another guard’s feet passed.
The woman finished braiding and bid her mistress goodnight. She closed the door to the small hut as another guard passed.
Kale shoved the boards open just as his men dropped a net from the window in the roof.
Raylin hit the floor a few feet away without so much as a cry of surprise. Grabbing the edges of the net, he pulled her into the floor and held her tight to his chest as the fourth man replaced the boards about them.
A guard passed without pausing. Kale sighed. Their work over the last two nights had just paid off. They’d loosened the boards little by little and disolved the mortar around the window.
All for a perfect job.
Raylin didn’t struggle even as he held a hand over her mouth. He’d expected her to but perhaps she knew pitting her strength against his would only get her hurt.
She was tiny laying against his chest. Everyone knew the priestess elect was all of four feet ten inches tall but it was different when holding her. He loosened his arms a fraction. He didn’t want to hurt her. Her chest expanded, taking a deeper breath.
They waited. Steps sounded at regular intervals and the night went on until a familiar face peeked below the hut wall.
Bane, one of his men. The shift change for the guard took five minutes. It was time to move.
Bane helped him haul Raylin from under the hut, net and all. Once free, Kale threw her over his shoulder and they skirted the back of the huts, around the temple and into the trees, where they met up with the other men.
Without stopping, Kale led them through the trees west. They skirted several small villages, staying to the shelter of the forest.
Finally seeing the light of dawn, Kale stopped and set Raylin down. He pulled the net away to find himself staring into violet eyes speckled with blue. She wasn’t afraid. Other than her eyes, that was the first thing to catch him off guard.
Slowly rising, she stretched her legs and back. They watched but didn’t hinder her movement.
Then she bolted, right past Bane and Erik. Even her bare feet didn’t seem to bother her.
Kale cursed and gave chase. Her lack of struggling had lulled him into thinking she wouldn’t be a problem. He gained on her, for although she was fast, he had much longer legs.
She glanced over her shoulder and he caught the determination in her eyes. Spinning, she planted her feet and lowered her shoulder. He couldn’t stop. Ramming into her, his feet left the ground and he flew over her to land on his back.
His breath whooshed from his chest. It seethed in a constricted gasp until he exhaled again with relief as his lungs relaxed. Sitting up, he found two men down and the third, Lenn, watching the priestess with wary eyes.
Kale rose slowly behind her. Lenn shifted to his right and Raylin shifted to counter. Lenn shifted again and the priestess took another step, which brought her closer to Kale.
He lunged, driving her to the ground. It wasn’t pretty or graceful but it worked. At this point, he wasn’t sure what she was capable of.
Raylin gave a frustrated cry. It was the first sound he’d heard from her. She scrambled away, slipping under his arm as he tried to rise. At the last second, he dropped, pinning her legs.
By God, she was fast, but pitted weight against weight or strength against strength, she didn’t stand a chance. He secured an arm around her middle, pinning her arms, and pulled her tight against him as he sat up.
Lenn relaxed and checked Erik and Bane.
“They’re gonna love the headache when they wake,” he muttered.
“Get me some cord,” Kale ordered.
Raylin was now relaxed but he doubted she’d stay that way if he let her go. He took the cord from Lenn and tied her arms behind her back. Then tied her ankles together. She didn’t struggle but neither would she look at him.
“Get a fire going,” he told Lenn, “we all need something to eat.”
Erik and Bane sat sulking but Kane kept them from taking out their head aches on the small priestess.
“Val will tan your hides if you harm her,” he said. They deflated at the words.
“What makes her a priestess?” Erik grumbled. “Val’s dreams are special. What’d different about this one?”
Raylin’s head swung in his direction with what Kale guessed was surprise but she didn’t answer.
“Doesn’t matter,” Kale said. “We only need her to trade.”
Raylin snorted. “Trade? How dumb are you?” her words were soft. Her contempt was not.
“Dumb, priestess?” Kale asked, holding his hackles in check.
“The Karr will not trade. Never have, never will. They want all connections to God within their grasp. They will not trade one for another because it gains them nothing.”
Raylin was the Karr poster child. They paraded her before everyone as their claim of favor before God. Surely they valued her more than a young girl with dreams.
“You’re their priestess. Their connection by birth,” he argued.
She laughed. “By birth? They’ve never had a connection born to them. Why do you think they steal others?”
Their confusion must have been clear because she looked at each of their faces and said, “Dear God, you don’t know.”
“Then tell us,” Kale ordered.
Her back went rod straight and she glared at him, her violet eyes glittering. Just as suddenly, she slumped.
“Fine,” she grumbled. “The Karr have never had a connection to God born to them. No dreamers, no prophets, no singers, nothing. When they sacked Mansillan, they discovered me and, instead of killing me with the others, they took me in, claiming I was born to one of their women. It started an idea. They took Balsha during the attack on Rived. Mora came next, then Sharon, then Clare. They scout out children, taking them when their families are killed in attacks they’ve instigated, usually between other tribes.”
“Then why Val? She’s thirteen and,” Kale indicated himself, “family still lives.”
Raylin frowned, a fine line forming between her brows. “I have never seen your Val but perhaps they think you insignificant, man of no tribe.”
Kale folded his arms, hiding his outcast tattoos.
“I’m confused, why kidnap me and not this Val?”
“She’s held in the under temple. We’ve not enough men to get to her without a fight.”
“Why are you not guarded?” Lenn blurted. They’d picked her for two reasons. One was her status. The second was because, of all the God connections of the Karr, she was the only one never guarded by her own men.
Her eyes dropped. “Who would rescue me? Family and city are all dead. Who would I escape to? My home’s been burned to ashes and washed away by rains these last 15 years.”
Kale dropped his head into his hands. All his planning, all the effort to capture this woman to trade, all for nothing.
I’m trying, Val.
His insides felt hollow.
“If your sister is indeed in the under temple, perhaps there is a way to get to her.”
Kale’s head came up. “What do you mean?”
“I serve in the under temple once a moon. It’s possible I could sneak one of you in.”
Kale stared at her but those strange eyes didn’t waver.
“Only one?” Erik asked, his tone heavy with suspicion. “I don’t like it, Kale.”
“Why would you agree to such a thing?” Kale asked Raylin, not addressing Erik’s statement.
“Because, for once, there’s a family to fight back. Someone who cares.”
I want to believe her. But even without believing her, he’d do it. Val needed him.
Whether Raylin was lying or not, there wasn’t another way Kale could figure. He’d tried to think of another way, something he’d have more control over than Raylin’s plan, but he hadn’t come up with anything.
He lay beneath the hut closest to the temple contemplating everything that could possibly go wrong. Raylin would come by on her way to serve at the height of the night. He was to crawl out and fall in behind the priests who followed her. She’d made one sick by putting something in his food. There should be an odd number, so when he joined, the group would be even and look right to the temple guard.
It was flimsy but they’d only had a few days to return Raylin and set things up before her time to serve in the temple rolled around.
Footsteps shuffled by on the side closest to the temple. Feet covered by the same brown robes he wore.
Time to move. Letting them pass, he crawled out and stepped in beside the last priest. Raylin said they were all mutes. They didn’t even look over when he fell into step.
They shuffled up the steps of the temple with heads bowed. Approaching the first guard, Kale clenched his hands to keep from wiping his sweaty palms on his robes.
“Greetings, I come to serve,” Raylin announced.
The guard closed around the group, patting each priest down for weapons. Kale raised his arms with the others, clutching his sleeves against his palms to keep the fabric from falling and revealing his tattoos.
The captain nodded to Raylin and she proceeded into the inner sanctuary.
Kale had never been beyond this area of a temple. The under temple was reserved for the devout, priests, priestesses and so on. Few saw below.
They descended a flight of stairs behind the alter into another guard room. Again they were inspected. It was a good thing the robes covered most of his skin, Kale realized, because the lights would have shone on his tanned skin. It would’ve been an instant giveaway he wasn’t a priest.
But they didn’t look closely beneath his hood. Just patted him down and sent them through. The group broke apart once they moved beyond the guard station.
Kale hesitated until he caught Raylin’s hands clasped behind her back. She pointed and then closed her fingers together.
Unless this was a set up, Kale decided, Val would like Raylin. The priestess was capable. Once she’d decided to help them instead of escape them, she’d put her all into it, even running on her own to get back before they found her missing.
Kale turned down the hall she’d indicated to find an open room with a vaulted ceiling.
In the center knelt a group of young girls. He scanned their heads from beneath his hood. Val wasn’t among them but that didn’t surprise him.
Raylin said she hadn’t seen Val. The Karr must be keeping her apart for some reason.
Shuffling past the group, he entered the hall beyond and turned right, following a sound that echoed faintly. Words. As he drew closer, they became clear.
“I can’t. They don’t happen at will.” The voice was high pitched and painfully familiar.
“You can,” said a male voice. “I saw you zone out. I saw the look in your eyes.”
“I zoned because I haven’t slept. I didn’t dream.”
Did they not understand Val’s gift? It was sporadic, trivial and profound at different times but only present when she slept. Where they not letting her sleep?
Kale crept closer as his hands clenched. It hadn’t occurred to him they’d mistreat Val. God connections were rare and special.
“Tell me what you saw. You dreamed! Tell me.” The voice rose, echoing in the hall.
Kale shook. No one spoke to his sister like that. But this was sacred ground. He’d damn his soul hitting the person and Val would look at him with her dark eyes full of sorrow. She never yelled at him but that look was far worse than her yelling. It spoke of her disappointment and love of his soul.
“Who are you?”
Kale jumped. A hand spun him around to face a tall, robed man with armored boots peeking from under the hem of his brown robe. A warrior priest. He shoved Kale’s hood back and his face hardened.
“Get in there,” he shoved Kale through the doorway into the sanctuary.
Val cried softly in surprise.
“Who is she to you?” the priest questioned.
Kale lifted his head defiantly and locked his lips closed. The backhand across his face was all the more surprising because this was a priest. He stumbled from the blow, regained his footing, and came back swinging.
He twisted last second only to find himself in a head lock, held tight against the priest’s armored chest. He couldn’t pull air. Desperately he clawed at the arm around his throat but his vision blurred as he looked into Val’s wide eyes. Tears brimmed on her lids but another man held her back.
“What is this?” Demanded a new voice. Even with his head pounding from lack of air, Kale recognized that voice.
“Mistress Raylin, this is nothing to concern you.” The warrior priest answered her but his arm loosened a fraction.
Kale rasped in air as he heard her answer. “You are disturbing the quiet of the sanctuary. That does concern me.”
She came into Kale’s line of vision and stopped between everyone. Her violet eyes showed no recognition as she looked him over. Then her head swung to take in Val and the man holding her.
“Come here, child,” she held out a hand to Val.
The man stepped back from Val like her skin had become hot. She hesitated but then took Raylin’s offered hand.
“Tell me your name, child,” Raylin demanded.
“Your real man.”
Val swallowed, terrified. “Val,” she whispered.
“Good.” Raylin’s free hand flashed out to smack Kale’s forehead and his world blurred with the resounding words, “I pray to move from here to there.”
His ears went dead as his vision turned white. Then color flashed before his eyes. Greens, browns, blue and white. The world tilted and Kale hit the ground.
He stared up through trees at the cloud splattered blue sky. The arm around his neck constricted. This isn’t sacred ground. He shoved backward, slamming the priest into a tree, then slid free as he grabbed the man’s wrist and twisted it around. The priest cried out, sinking to his knees. With a smooth, single blow, Kale struck him low on the back of the skull and he collapsed.
“Kale, she isn’t moving.”
He swung around to find Val kneeling next to Raylin’s body. Kneeling beside her, he lowered his cheek near the priestess elect’s mouth. Faint, soft breath brushed his skin. He sank back onto his heels, relieved.
“She’s alive,” he reassured Val.
“She saved us.”
“How?” He still wasn’t sure what had happened.
Even from Val, that was a bit vague of an answer. “Faith?”
“I don’t know beyond that,” she shrugged with an apologetic look. Then she flung her arms around his neck.
Kale held her while she cried. Only now did it dawn on him his sister was safe. Over Val’s dark head, he watched Raylin. What now? Does she need a healer?
Her violet eyes fluttered. Upon seeing him and Val, the corner of her mouth twitched. “It worked.” She muttered. “I’ve never tried moving people. God heard my plea.”
Val turned to look at the priestess as she pushed to a sitting position. “You saved us!”
“God saved you,” Raylin corrected. “I just offered the connection. Like with your dreams, you are the connection to God’s vision. I’m only the connection to his power. Kind of.” She shrugged and winced. “It’s a bit painful.” She looked around, her face falling into an expression of loneliness. “And now I must figure out where to go.” Her words were soft, more to herself than to them, but Kale understood her.
No home, no family. It was no life to live.
“You’ve a home with us if you wish,” he offered, not sure where the words came from. It wasn’t like him to invite people in. “We’re outcasts, but at least we take care of each other.”
Raylin’s eyes went wide. “I’d love that.” She said, longingly.
“First things first, though,” Val spoke up, “you’ve got to cut that hair.”
Raylin grinned. “I can do that.”
P.S. I love feedback, so if anyone has suggestions, questions, or comments on what they like or what doesn’t seem to work, please let me know. Just be gentle to my poor thin skinned feelings. Thanks.