Killian's Prophecy

Image of Long Story Short Award - 2022
Image of Short Fiction
Killian stood in front of the bridge, breathing heavily.
This was it. After months of traveling through the mud and rain, he was finally at the Gates of Orr. His nose ran from the cold, but he didn't move. He was tired, so tired.
And now that he was finally here, he couldn't stop thinking of home. Not with fondness or longing—but of the questions he had never dared to ask.
What was it all for? All the years of being told that he was a failure—all the years of lost love from his father—all the years of being shunned and despised by his people—what was it all for? Why would the gods condemn him?
Yes, he admitted, his journey to the Gates wasn't completely for selfless reasons. The prophecy overshadowed his life in the way people of Kentz treated him with pity or disgust or loathing. And when the call came... no, he wasn't sad. He feigned nobleness, but it was with relief that he packed his things and left behind the only home he knew.
But none of it really mattered now. He was at the Gates—ready or not—to offer himself as a redemption for his people. A people who didn't care for him.
"Greetings, Seeker," a raspy voice called out.
A figure emerged from the fog in the middle of the bridge and Killian saw a goblin standing before him. She was very ugly; her lower lip drooped to her chin and her eyes bugged out from her face. And yet... the way she walked seemed to command respect from even the wood she walked on.
"I am honored to be in your presence, Keeper of the Gate," he answered. He stood still, heart beating heavy and slow, aware that even their greetings could be considered a test.
She bowed her head briefly in acknowledgement.
"You seek to cross the Gates of Orr."
He nodded.
"By continuing forward, you agree to the conditions the gods have set before you. You will be required to undergo a test as a token of your loyalty and worthiness... and as redemption for your city."
Her eyes seemed to say, Yes, Killian. I know why you're here.
"Your test will be chosen by the goddess Tisus. She will determine if you are worthy of her favor"—here she paused, and Killian felt the weight of her words—"but no matter her decision, that will be the end of your life as you know it."
Killian nodded again, but when he opened his eyes, the Gatekeeper was gone. He looked around for a moment, confused.
And then the memories overtook him.
"My son." Torvald smiled at the gurgling baby in his arms.
"You're our saving grace, Killian. May the gods continue to show their favor to our people through you."
He turned his head to see his wife at the door of their bedroom.
"The ceremony starts in a few minutes. We should go now," Marian said. "No reason to give the gods any reason to take away Killian's prophecy before they've had a chance to give it."
Torvald looked into his son's eyes. "You hear that Killi? The gods can curse and bless, but if we don't listen to Mama..."
Marian rolled her eyes and smiled. "Make fun of me all you want, Tor. But let's not be late to his prophecy telling. Right, Killi?" She cooed at their son as his little hands reached for her.
The memory shifted.
The door to the throne room opened. Though it was quiet, all immediately stopped and turned to see Erdgaard enter, his cloak ruffling in the slight breeze.
"Erdgaard. Welcome." Torvald dipped his head to greet the priest. The priest nodded, his cloudy eyes resting on Torvald's son. He strode to the center of the room as the guests took their seats. Marian handed Killi to Erdgaard, fingers lingering on his clothing. She glanced at Torvald, biting her lip in an unusual sign of nervousness.
Torvald took a breath as he eased into the throne next to Marian, clenching the arms. So much of Kentz's future hinged on the words that would be spoken in this room.
Please, Torvald prayed. Not that they really needed the prayers—the gods had never led them astray.
"The gods thank you for your attendance today," Erdgaard began in a low voice.
"Few are given the honor to witness a future king or queen's prophecy and blessing, and even fewer believe the words given from the gods. Today we honor Prince Killian, son of Queen Marian and King Torvald, rulers of Kentz and subjects of the gods Ibaar and Tisus." He paused, voice lingering in the silence and raised Killian in his arms.
"One day, Kentz will stand in need of redemption and the boy will run, called to the Gates of Orr. And there, Kentz will fail the tests set by the gods."
There was a vacuum of silence in the room. Torvald felt frozen.
"The gods have spoken."
The memories faded from Killian's eyes and he found his cheeks wet with tears.
"Why would you show me this, Tisus?" He cried at the gray sky. "I have known this all my life! Is this to torture me? Punish me for some wrong my father or my father's father has done?" He crouched on the bridge and covered his face with his hand.
"I thought this would be a redemption. That I would prove everyone wrong. And still, you mock me! My own father scorned me, and why? What was it all for?"
He felt something brush his shoulder. He whirled around to see the Gatekeeper standing close.
"Killi, they called you?" she asked gently. "Yours was a calling too great to bear. You have done no wrong." She paused. "And you are not Killian."
Killian just blinked at her.
"Your life was the test. And because Kentz rejected you, they have failed."
She grasped his hand in her knobbly fingers. "Welcome home from your journey, Ibaar."