Today’s short story is from my current work. There’s a few concepts that are introduced prior to this that are just thrown at you here. I’ve linked to them where I can if you’re interested in furthering your reading on the setting of this world.
Of Things to Come
He was trying to let it go. After all, it did not matter to him who he was married to. Any of the possibilities he might be faced with were pretty much the same. Spoiled girls with bad attitudes wrapped up in expensive dresses and pretentiousness…it was best not to think on it for too long.
His intended sat with him in the parlor and talked non-stop about herself. He was uncertain if she was trying very hard to convince him that she was worthy of his affections or if it was simply a matter of poor upbringing. He closed his eyes briefly and took a deep breath. “My dearest Katherine…I’m afraid I must return to my duties. The evening has gotten late before either of us took notice of it.”
That was a lie. The minutes had been dragging on for him since he entered the room.
The girl’s eyes flashed, “Oh my, of course. How embarrassing would it be for me to delay a Templar from his duties? We could not have your soon to be wife tarnishing such a promising career.” She appeared concerned that she had erred.
Eric knew the concern was only for his standing and position within the Central Government. Katherine’s family had fallen on hard times recently and her betrothal to a promising young Templar would go a long way to returning her family to prominence.
“Certainly not. It has never the less been an…enlightening evening.” He forced a smile and bowed slightly to the young woman. She replied with an exaggerated smile then blew a kiss in his direction. From the parlor door her parents appeared almost immediately. Eric was certain they were eavesdropping the entire time. As he made his way towards the exit, her parents joined him and lavished the Templar with undue praise.
Eric did his best to be courteous but the entire ordeal was trying beyond belief for him. Only once he had made his way back out into the streets of Britania did he feel alive again. The entire experience left him feeling as though a terrible weight were pressing against his chest. The thought of a lifetime with those people made him short of breath.
He felt disappointed for resorting to a lie in order to take his leave of them, but that feeling soon passed as the sounds and chaos of the streets flooded his senses. Eric was a calm, collected, and thoughtful man. He saw people, places, and events in a unique way that allowed him to quickly understand whatever he was dealing with. He did not even have to try, it was a skill that came to him effortlessly. So long as he kept his composure and sorted out the obstacles in front of him, there was almost nothing he was unequipped to deal with.
This insight into people and the world around him was the reason he had been able to achieve the rank of Templar so early in life. He was even-tempered. He was thoughtful. Eric was a natural.
Most young men who enter into the service of Britania’s Templars carry an ego with them so large that it takes years for the training to break them down and rebuild them into something respectable. Where Eric was concerned, ego was never an issue. He absorbed the training, took his failures in stride, and encouraged his peers. In return, he was hated by those peers at every step of his training.
He had come this far in life by setting his sights on the next goal. Always looking ahead allowed him to shrug off much of the ugliness and petty behavior of those around him. Recently though, it was becoming more and more difficult to see the point in anything he did. Only the lively sounds of the streets and the people going about their lives helped to shake him out of the melancholy that increasingly dogged him.
He resolved to have a cup of strong tea to get his mind off of things. It would help to settle his nerves and to get the awful taste of whatever it was Katherine’s parents had served them out of his mouth. He found his way to the small tea house that he favored and stepped inside. At least the owners were always pleasant and genuine with him…
The drunken voice of a slightly belligerent woman greeted him, “How long was I supposed to wait for you here? You finally show up and I’m already drunk!” The small woman slammed her flask onto the table and pointed at Eric defiantly. Next to her was a thin man wearing a strange pair of glasses. He smiled at the woman’s behavior and idly shuffled a deck of cards.
Eric looked around confused. He pointed to himself wondering if perhaps the woman was yelling at someone else. “Of course you! Come over here Mr. Templar. Come over here!”
He shook his head in confusion but never the less approached the pair. “They do not even serve alcohol here. What in the world is wrong with you?” Eric was curious now. Something was different about this woman.
The man next to her kicked a chair forward for Eric to sit down in. “Care to play a game of cards?” the strange man asked.
“No thank you.” Eric sat down with them, his curiosity getting the better of him. “I can’t say I have a fondness for gambling anyway.”
The man lifted an eyebrow. “He’s the one alright.”
The woman shook her head in agreement. “He’s the one. Doesn’t look like much, that’s for sure.”
“You clearly have mistaken me for someone else.” Eric was still uncertain about this unexpected meeting but he could not sense anything remotely dangerous or threatening about the pair. Instead there was something familiar about them, at least as far as the woman was concern. It was then that the woman asked him a question under her breath that cut him deeper than any wound he had ever endured during training.
“How long Eric? How long will you go on pretending?” Any hint of intoxication fled from the woman and she leaned in closer to him at the table. Something powerful and frightening was in the air.
Uncertainty filled his voice and finally Eric asked, “W…who are you? What the hell are you talking about “pretending”? Further more, how do you know my name?”
The man answered first, “Her name is Dori. Mine is Julian. She thinks you’re something special. Some business about the stars being aligned right when you were born or some such nonsense.”
“It isn’t nonsense Julian. You know better.” Dori scolded him.
“As strange as this has been… Let me reassure you in case you didn’t happen to think this was odd, it was. But me? I am nothing special. Another one in a long line of Templars who are here to do a job and nothing more.” Whatever frustration had built up in Eric’s heart over the years was coming out in full force now.
“But you’re better than the others, are you not? I’m not asking you as a matter of pride. I want to know your professional opinion…is there a better warrior among Britania’s Templars?” The woman’s eyes were lit up with a mischievous gleam to them that told Eric that the question itself was a trap.
“I’m just an ordinary man. Templars are not measured against one anther but against the threats we face down for your protection Miss. Now if you’ll excuse me.” Eric stood up, turned his back on the pair and walked off.
Julian looked at Dori knowingly. Dori stood up from the table and shouted so that everyone in the tea house could hear her. “The time is coming when ‘ordinary’ will not be good enough! When that time comes, you will remember this day! You can not hide from fate!”
The Templar was gone.
Dori flopped back into her seat and looked to Julian, “Do you think it will help?”
“Hard to say. I’ve seen what hopelessly lost looks like…it just sat down with us.”
“He doesn’t have a choice in the matter. He’s the only one who can match her…”