Sodorrah was the most tremendous city Ash had ever considered existing. It was more than what they taught in school. He had a vision of Sodorrah where there was a mansion atop a hill with many large huts down in the valley. He imagined there being wooden carts set up for a market and a seaport so close the king could use it personally.
The actuality of Sodorrah was more reminiscent of ancient Rome, a humongous working stone city that Ash had no knowledge of. There were paved streets with stone buildings down every one. The markets were housed within humongous open air temples where the wooden carts were set up free from rain. There were wooden huts on the outskirts of the town where people lived. There were businesses set up for nothing more than entertainment. There were play houses, bath houses, an arena for sports battles... There was everything and more that ever entered Ash’s mind.
When he first got off the train the first thing he saw was the mansion on the hill. It was a tremendous structure. It had an outer wall that surrounded the entire building, but peeking out above the wall he could see the main part of the palace along with four spires that were each adorned with a flag showing the Penta Diamond.
He stared off into the great white stone behemoth of a castle, forgetting reality when he suddenly realized that it was his destination. The guard he had chosen to latch onto began to walk off towards the mansion and as Ash almost lost himself in his view of the building he almost lost his buddy guard also.
They walked quickly and loudly through the streets. He witnessed people dancing, cleaning, talking, kissing, fighting… It was a whole new world where privacy had a different meaning.
Life in the city was not the life of servitude he knew in Listerbourne. Back at home life was nothing more than doing your duty and having the few moments at the end of the day to spend with family and friends. Sodorrah appeared to be the life that was lived for excitement. Things could be done there that were offensive to God and people’s personal morals. It was the worst place a newly free teenager could go.
The sights of the city were awe inspiring, but they did not compare to the approach of the palace. The solid white stone walls housed a door that was at least thirty feet tall that looked to be made of trees the size of mountains.
“Ho! Magisterial guards!” The guard shouted with enthusiasm just moments before the mammoth door slowly swung open.
The vision beyond the threshold left Ash’s mouth agape. Marble and stone structures fed into the spires, the ones visible from outside the wall, seemed to rise up into the heavens. They surrounded the palace which presented its face with a large staircase that led up forty steps to an open room where he could enter the home of the king.
He followed his guiding guard to the top of stairs where he could see hallways at the top of more stair cases on the side of the room and a green and white marble dance floor that lie straight ahead, down a small set of steps.
Before he could say anything a guard dressed in a golden suit of armor approached. “Ash?” The golden man did not pause long enough for a response. “Your room is up the stairs to the left. No work today, boy. There is a celebration tonight and you will be needed as a guest. But, remember you work for the king, so any conversation you may have tonight better benefit him.”
Ash was left with a strange mix of fright from the threat and excitement from the news. He did not know what to do. He decided to let his mind rest and go see his room.
Patricka’s arrival to the city was not the eye opening experience it was for her brother. At her age the immensity of the city was not impressive and the feats of man were nothing more than expected.
She also followed a guard to the palace, but she did not enter the ball room or get boarding within the mansion itself, but instead was sent up to the top floor in one of the four spires. There she was presented with a library that had all the knowledge she would need to begin her duties as an information bearer.
She rummaged through shelves of books expecting to see the same books that she grew up reading in her school. She thought she would find books about the duty of man to God, the history of man’s destructive obsession with power, and praise for the white king.
She did not find anything like that. What she found were books that told her a history she had not known. After only looking at one book her entire view of life had changed.
The book she read in the first few hours on the job was called the book of magisterial ledgers. It itemized all the transactions between the five kings.
Each page listed an item being purchased, the cost in human currency, and the kings involved. It was not the basics of the book that shocked her. She knew that the kings used their citizens as their money and that they would barter back and forth. What surprised her were the items being purchased.
The black king purchased an assault on the red king at the cost of one hundred men to the yellow king. The fat king purchased one year’s worth of food for him and his magisterial companions for the cost of two hundred men to the black king. Just the day before Patricka received her calling the white king had purchased safety from “the forgotten” at the cost of three thousand men to the fat king.
She did not understand what the forgotten was, but it must have been serious if the white king had spent such a large amount on it. But, the question that kept coming into her mind was why they were buying such things from each other. According to everything she was taught by her priest father, God would provide all those things. Food and security were divine duties and the kings should not have to purchase them. The only things she had previously thought of as purchasable were supplies, buildings, entertainment, and materials.
There was something amiss. She started digging through the bookshelves to see what else she could find when a guard entered the library.
“Miss Patricka?” He stood at perfect attention hiding anything descriptive about him behind his silver armor.
“Yes.” The word came out timid and weak, she regrouped and restated. “You are speaking with her.”
“There is a celebration in the magisterial ball room. Your attendance is requested.”
She wanted to reject and go back to the books, but any party in the palace was most likely being attended by the king himself. She couldn’t reject if he had been the one to invite her.
“I will need directions to my room. I have not yet seen it and am in no attire to go to a party.”
The guard turned and marched out of the room. Patricka was confused and annoyed, but rushed after the guard not wanting to be blackballed for missing a party.
The boat swayed from side to side causing horrendous pain in many of the people who were being shipped out. Moshe felt healthy as far as the movement of the ship was concerned, but the vomit and retching of the people around him challenged his stomach.
They all stood on the deck waiting for more instruction. The scents of bile that stung their noses were only half as bad as the pain in their eyes from the thick salty air that the ocean blasted in their faces.
The scene was horrific, but there was nothing they could do but endure. After an hour or so on the deck one of the crew stood up on one of the sail supports. He was a short, but powerful looking man. His beard had grayed, but the hair on his head had left him entirely. His skin was one of the darkest grays Moshe had ever seen, the life on the sea had taken a toll on his youthful looks. “Listen up! This is a one way trip to your new home. You want to make it easy, just do what we say and you can continue to wander the deck, eat when you want, and…” The man trailed off as one of the men in the crowd began to scream.
It was not a scream of confusion, but a scream of anger. Moshe was shoved to the side and nearly crushed as a group of men became entangled in a swarm of fury.
The crew member chuckled to himself and then whistled down to the dock. In just a few moments there were guards shoving their way through the mass of people on the ramp in an attempt at getting some real estate on the deck. They had swords in hand and armor shining in the falling sun.
The surge of violence quelled a bit, but one man did not relent. He charged one of the guards and was met with the hilt of the man’s sword smashing into his face. The man crumpled as his motion was stunted by the force of the metal into his skull.
The crew member gave an evil smirk as he announced, “I guess that says it all. Food, then it is off to the beds until we get there. Going to be a long trip in the cabins.”
Random groans and swears emerged from the deck, but no one had expected a good trip. Most of them were just hoping to live through it.
The line of people coming up the ramp onto the ship stopped as the cook came out of the stairs from the lower deck. He had a huge vat of some sort of stew in his hands. The people on the deck quieted down and smelled the rich thick scents of the stew, happy to take their nasal focus off the vomit stench.
The cook was used to responses of disgust to his food, but when it was a deck full of prisoners they were happy to eat. He looked up at the short man on the sail support who gave him a thumb down gesture. The cook shook his head knowingly and headed back down to the kitchen.
The man shouted at him as he disappeared into the stairway, “And make it quick we have a whole ‘nother cabin to fill after we get these below deck.
When he came back up the stairs he had the same vat of stew, but the smell had soured somehow. It did not matter. The people waiting to be sold were going to ingest anything that seemed edible.
The cook made his way through the crowd quickly allowing everyone to just dig their hands into the vat and feed themselves like they were children with cake for the first time.
He barely made it all the way across the deck before men began to collapse into a lifeless mush. Those who were still conscious began to panic, but their efforts were futile. Just minutes later they also would fold from their stances.
Moshe laid down on the wood of his own volition in an attempt to avoid later injury. Looking to the sky he tried to pray to God as he lost consciousness.
The ball was an elegant affair. Wyndsoria had been given the pampering of her life. Her hair was cleaned to a soft fluttering feel that she didn’t know was possible in adults. A green and white shimmering dress was given to her that matched the decorations in the hall and she had been covered in a white makeup to give her the skin tone of the king.
She was standing in front of the table of honor with the others from the train. They watched a jester perform a show that was obviously not written for them, but for the king who had yet to show up to the party.
Wyndsoria kept looking into the crowds of people who were standing around the floor hoping that her children were there in celebration of their callings. Unfortunately, she could not tell if they were there or not. All the women had such an amazing amount of makeup and all the guards were in full armor.
After more entertainment and multiple speeches about the importance of being steadfast in your calling, the king came out to meet the celebrants. He stopped at each person’s place at the table and spoke with them.
When he reached Wyndsoria he reached out his hand to her and she kissed it with as much grace as she could supply. Just the touch of his hand gave her the impression that she was suddenly special. The skin to skin contact with someone as important as him, someone who was not grey gave her a rush of excitement.
He leaned over the table and spoke with quiet security, “Congratulations. You have accomplished what only one in a million can. You have been released from your calling and are free to own your life from here on out. But, after looking at your beauty I would like to ask you to rededicate your life to me.” He slowly took in a breath and let his gaze drop from her eyes to her long slender neck to her breasts, tightly bound in the elegance of the dress she wore.
Wyndsoria flushed as she heard the forwardness of the king. She felt trapped and tricked, if it had been anyone else she would have stormed out in disgust, but she could not be so rude to her representative of God. She tried to reply, but the lecherous look she saw in his eyes blocked her voice.
Just as she was about to stand in defiance of her king trumpets blared from all sides of the room. The attendees hushed and all eyes fell to the stairs that led up to the open air landing between the interior and exterior of the building. Even the king broke his sinful glare to watch what would happen next.
The golden guard bellowed an announcement from the center of the dance floor, “In celebration of the achievements today we would like to welcome surprise guests from the celebrants’ pasts.” As the words echoed throughout the room seven people appeared at the top of the steps.
The trumpets played a slow yet uplifting song as they all walked into the ball room to the beat of the music. It was almost a ceremonial dance that lead them down to the floor.
Wyndsoria let everything she was just feeling from the king sink away into insignificance. Her children were approaching her, she could tell from the moment the music hit that it was time for her to reunite.
There was no possibility of her smile being washed away, she was in the middle of such elation that she felt she could end her life and live in the afterlife in a shadow of that moment.
Ash was in a magisterial robe that flowed with his every movement. The thick purple wool was supplemented with feathers and jewels that were more valuable than the entire city of Listerbourne. He had a surprised smile on his face that warmed Wyndsoria’s heart.
Patricka was dressed to match her mother. Still small from her age she looked like a child trying to imitate their parents.
All three embraced. Patricka sighed. Ash laughed. And, Wyndsoria cried.
All the celebrants were congratulated and spent some time with the people from their past who had been lost after their callings. It was a time for rejoicing and mending of hearts.
After Wyndsoria’s initial tears of relief from the few hours she was without her children they began to ask her what is next. She laughed and looked at the table, “I think the king wants me here.” She swallowed hard as she attempted to keep her mental state away from where it was just minutes before.
Ash was shocked, almost lost his balance when he heard the words come from his mother’s lips. His instinct was to reject it, to send his mother home. He wanted to return her to his father and keep her away from his adult life, but as the words barked in his head he caught the eye of the king who was now half way across the room, but still staring at Wyndsoria.
He remembered the order for all his conversations to benefit the king. It forced a lump to emerge in his throat, but he knew that as an adult he had to do some hard things. He forced a smile, looked his mother in the eye and said, “He is a great man. You can’t pass that up.”
Wyndsoria looked at her son with perplexity. It was not what she expected when she mentioned the king. She had hoped her kids did not even understand that her insinuation was holding back a disturbing lust that she could not morally disclose to them.
Patricka tugged at her mom’s dress to draw her attention. “It might be a good idea. I am learning that things may not be right at home. I don’t think we have been told the truth of everything. I am learning things. You may too if you stay, momma.” Her voice was an unstoppable force to Wyndsoria. The soft, high pitch of her adolescent daughter was like that of a command from God.
She looked at the building she was sitting in and thought to herself, ‘I could do worse. I could be at home with Moshe.’
She nodded as she coughed out some tears. Her enormous smile told her kids not to be worried about her. Ash could feel evil laughing at his attempt to sway his mother while Patricka felt indifference.
They all sat at the table and watched the citizens dance through the night. Eventually Patricka leaning against her mother allowing her hair to be tousled by Wyndsoria’s hand asked a question that was nothing more than a homesick admission of change. “What about papa?”
Ash removed himself from the table at the sound of his father’s title. Wyndsoria continued to play with her daughter’s hair as she watched her son leave from heartbreak. “He has God. His duty to God is not done yet and maybe one day his calling will be complete and he can meet us here.” The sentiment was nothing more than an attempt to soothe a worried child, but it verbalized Wyndsoria’s fear of having to return to the man that she never loved. As much as she appreciated that he had chosen her to be a part of their family, she wanted to live her own life now.
As the night wore out its welcome everyone retired to their rooms. Ash returned to the guard’s barracks and Patricka began her first night in her new home inside the library’s attic. Wyndsoria found herself the last guest of the party still inside the ball room. She looked at the ornate decorations hanging from the high ceiling and let the realization of her new life sink in.
The king re-entered the room from a hallway in the corner and walked straight towards Wyndsoria. He wore determination on his face and let his stride seep power. He reached the table where she sat and was pleased to see joy in her eyes.
“I am supposed to wait until morning to present you with the other callings you can assume, but I wanted to present them to you in private. I have a personal stake in one of them and would rather not be humiliated in front of my court.” The king spoke the words without malice, but with the shame of a man who knew his position.
Wyndsoria attempted to show her decision without being presumptuous with a simple, “Thank you, lord.”
“Then, you have three options that are set for you. You may return to your village be a caretaker for the Children of Choice where you will watch after the children before they have been chosen into a family. You may go to the seaport and feed those who are unfortunate enough to be sent to another land. Or…” He looked into her eyes desperately searching for wantonness for him. “You may choose me as your new god. You can live within my mansion and be a concubine to me. You could live with my other concubines and possibly birth the next king of this land. You will have the life that all people desire with no rules and no boundaries. You will serve only me when I ask and only yourself when I do not ask.”
She looked at him after only hearing what she wanted and spoke, “Show me to my bed?”
He gave her his hand and helped her to stand face to face with him. He placed his left hand behind her head and pulled her in for a kiss. His other hand squeezed hers as he led her in the moment of passion.
He pulled back and led her to one of the side hallways. “No, my wonderful. Not tonight. Tonight, you will see my bed.”
Wyndsoria was breathless, the king had kissed her and only moments after choosing him over her old life he was going to have her. The world swirled as she followed him down hallways and upstairs. It was an unreal point in time which she could not grasp the reality of.
When they reached the door to his bedroom she took a deep breath and looked at the colorful tone of his skin. She stepped over the threshold while her mind said, ‘Ok, I give my life over to him, my new god.’