Short But Sweet #004

This week’s prompt: Damnation, such obsessed faith and flawed education!


Damnation, such obsessed faith and flawed education! What did that woman do to my little girl?

Jovian seethes as he watches Penny prostrate herself before a seventh, seventh, altar. He’d been led to believe that prayers for a good harvest would only need to be made at one such shrine, but evidently his daughter decided to combine the task with her daily devotions to the gods. He knows what she is about. She thinks that perhaps if he actually sees her religion in practice that he might change his mind about it. She’s wrong. It only serves to entrench his hatred further.

It’s the fatuous lie of it all that galls him the most. The idea that this quaint, isolated, weird little village is somehow chosen by a pantheon of absent, yet all-powerful, deities is flatly delusional. Yet the high priest and his ever dwindling cadre of faithful acolytes continues to perpetuate it year after year, decade after decade, in the face of ample evidence to the contrary.

Jovian has seen beyond the sheer mountain walls of their valley. He has seen a world unfettered by the ever-watchful eye of imagined gods. When he was a boy he wondered why those who leave never return. No longer do those questions plague him. Were it not for Penny, he might’ve counted himself among the disappeared and duly forgotten.

To see her grovel now in a temple built to idols who’ve never had to prove themselves is… almost more than he can bear.

She’s nearly done now, at least, and not a moment too soon. Jovian’s blood itches the longer he stays in this place. The very walls seem to taunt him. We may be but bricks and stone, but we’ve done more for the daughter you left alone.

“Jovian, what an unexpected surprise!”

It’s Rassalas, excrement in vestments, all sneers and pious superiority. His longish, graying hair is slicked back with oil and his already drooping eyes are crinkled at the corner in what he no doubt believes is a warm smile. Jovian would like nothing more than to punch it right off his face.

“What brings you to our humble house of worship?”

“I do,” Penny says, suddenly appearing at man’s side to forestall the crude comment her father was sure to make (guilty). “Do not mistake his presence for a change of heart, my Lord.”

Rassalas looks kindly on the girl, too kindly, and ignores the bitter, yet accurate, second statement. “Ah, yes, the first day of harvest, of course.” He lifts a hand and lays it among the nest of Penny’s dark curls. “I, too, shall pray for a great bounty. That way, I might actually get a taste of your famous jam, before it is all snatched up by the masses.”

“My Lord!” Penny exclaims, her eyes bright and lips beaming. “All you have to do is ask! I would be more than happy to set aside a jar for you.”

“I would never rob the flock of such a treat to sate my own tongue,” Rassalas replies with the air of great sacrifice, though the wink belies his true feeling. He turns then to Jovian, his smile undeterred by the other man’s scowl. “What a nurturing father, you have Penny,” he says, and Jovian can feel the lie of it like tiny pinpricks across his heart, “to come to offer his support in your worship. Not many are as lucky as you.”

“I know,” Penny says.

Jovian can stand it no longer. “It’s time to leave,” he says abruptly, putting an end the air of warmth that had started to permeate the conversation. “I need to be at the market board by morning bell.”

Penny doesn’t seem surprised, or even disappointed, in his outburst. Only weary. “Of course, Papa.” She offers the parasite priest a final bow. “Lord Rassalas,” she says by way of farewell.

“Penny,” rejoins he. “I trust I shall see you for afternoon service?”

The girl nods, the corner of her mouth lifting. “Yes, Lord. And, if the gods are kind, I shall have a sample for you.”

Rasalass beams.

Jovian stomps from the chapel without a backward look.

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