Marry into the Voraine Family and conceive a Son
Prion Hanna Sylbol was only hours away from failing her Holy Order.
She would be the first, after more than five hundred years of successes. The first to fail.
Not that she hadn’t given it her best effort, of course.
However, it was rather hard to marry the love of your life and bear him a son when you are locked away in a grimy jail cell.
Her captors, a pair of unruly looking men, stood on the other side of the wrought iron bars. They did not look particularly friendly.
“Only a little bit longer, Prion, and then we’ll let you go,” the man on the left said. He was the kind one, if only by comparison.
“I don’t see why we have to let her go,” said his companion, a harsh man who spoke with harsh words.
“That was what the mistress wanted, remember?”
“I know, but I think that it’s foolish. Surely the Church of the Priarch would pay some kind of ransom for her, don’t you think?”
The kind man looked at his friend, seeming to think over his proposal. Eventually he shook his head and said, “No, Lady Fodien specifically told us to release her after the wedding. We are not to touch a hair on her pretty head…”
Chryssa Fodien. The Lady of House Fodien.
And Hanna’s sworn enemy.
When she had first read her Holy Order, 11 days ago, she had leapt for joy. Imran had asked her to marry into House Voraine and bear her new husband an heir.
Any other House, and she would have despaired.
But House Voraine was special to her. It was where she had spent most of her childhood, after all.
Her House, House Sylbol, was a minor House which had long been a staunch ally of House Voraine. Her ancestors had fought and bled alongside those of House Voraine.
She had grown up side by side with the scion of House Voraine, Fidelis.
They had played in the fields behind his manor, exploring the forests and rivers of the Voraine Estate.
They had shared a kiss in the shadow of a mighty oak tree…
They had sworn to marry one day, once they were of age…
And then she had been called to the Church, and their time together had come to an end.
However, for ten years, that flame in her chest had not wavered. While others in her class had learned about Imran and his Parabils, she had dreamt of their wedding day.
While the Prions taught lessons on civility, she thought only of matrimony.
While her fellow Pre-Prions had laboured with their chores, she had snuck away to practice her wedding dance.
And so, with a joyful heart, she had set out for the Voraine Estate, mercifully a short distance from Origin.
However, when she had arrived, a stranger had been there to greet her.
Lady Chryssa Fodien.
From the servants she had learnt the truth. A few months prior to Hanna’s arrival, Chryssa had appeared bearing a letter signed by Lord Fodien, a consul to the King of Vuria. The letter had claimed that Lord Voraine, before his untimely death, had arranged for the marriage of his son, Fidelis, to the only daughter of Lord Fodien, Chryssa.
Obviously, the news had come as a shock to Fidelis, but, ever the good son, he had not protested his late father’s decision. After a short courtship, they had announced their engagement.
Hanna, helpless, could only watch as her true love prepared to wed another.
However, that had all changed this morning. In a show of generosity, she had gone to Chryssa’s room in order to offer to officiate the wedding as the closest Prion.
Instead, she had overheard Chryssa speaking to her guards, telling them that their plan was almost complete.
The truth, as Hanna heard it, was that Lord Fodien had been fired from his position as Consul and stripped of his land and titles after he had been caught trying to steal money from the royal vault. Destitute, he and his venomous offspring had hatched a plot to marry into the affluent House Voraine using a fraudulent letter of matrimonial arrangements.
Apparently, a short while after the wedding, Fidelis was to die from an “accident”, thus leaving his grieving widow as the sole inheritor of the Voraine Estate.
Hanna had been on her way to tell this to Fidelis when Chryssa’s guards had taken hold of her and smuggled her out of the estate.
And now she stood in a damp cell beneath a house owned by Chryssa’s father, while Fidelis and Chryssa prepared to celebrate the Festival of Flame hand in hand. In the morning, having burnt away their sins –of which Chryssa no doubt had a large amount- they would be married.
Hanna would have failed her Holy Order, her Prophet and most importantly… her Heart.
She would not let this come to pass.
Fidelis was her love. Her long awaited mate. Her other half.
They had promised to marry, had they not?
Long before Lady Chryssa even dared to glance in his direction.
All that stood before her was a measly jail cell, two burly men and a forest full of dangerous creatures.
And before the might of a woman in love, that was nothing…
“If I am to remain a prisoner, then could I at least have something to eat?” she asked, in a carefully manufactured tone.
Innocent of malicious intent yet understandably annoyed by the current situation.
“Fine, but don’t be expecting no Tama Milk Pudding. Its gruel or nothing,” the kind man said.
“Anything to fill my stomach,” she replied in the same tone.
The kind man returned a moment later, carrying a tray laden with a bowl of piping hot gruel and half of a bread roll.
His idea of generosity, no doubt.
After opening the cell, he proffered the paltry meal towards her.
Taking the surprisingly heavy tray with both hands, she motioned both men closer.
“It is customary to offer a prayer of thanks to Priarch before receiving a meal, if you boys don’t mind joining me?”
They shared a look of apprehension, but apparently their fear of Priarch was greater than their fear of her.
That was their first mistake.
She motioned for them to bow their heads and close their eyes.
Against their better judgement, they obeyed.
That was their second mistake.
“Oh Priarch, we thank you for this meal of gruel and bread. May it fill our stomachs and lighten our hearts! And for what is still to come, we beg your forgiveness… and ask for your guiding hand to bring down the hammer of righteous justice on those that deserve it!”
The men squired at hearing the condemning words, with the mean man’s eyes flitting open for a second.
He no doubt only had a moment to take in the scene before him.
Hanna, arms raised high, about to bring the tray down.
He had no time to react, let alone scream.
The tray fell hard upon him, knocking him to the floor.
The kind man, eyes still closed, fell a moment later.
“You underestimated both a Prion of the Church and a woman in love, that was your third mistake,” she said, giving each man a few more whacks to ensure that they stayed down.
A few minutes later, Hanna left the basement, hope renewed. Her captors, now sleeping peacefully in her former cell, would doubtlessly have a hard time explaining to their employer how they let a single woman overpower them.
But Hanna had no time for imagined punishments.
She had a wedding to stop.
Two hours later, Hanna arrived at the Voraine Estate. From the sounds coming from the great hall the Festival of Flame had reached its peak.
Chryssa and Fidelis would be there, if anywhere.
Marching past the stunned guard, she threw open the wide double doors leading to the hall.
Inside, friends and families loyal to House Voraine encircled a dance floor made from a thousand candles.
The Dance of a Thousand Candles.
“I wasn’t ready!” called a shrill voice, “Let me try again!”
In the centre of the dance floor were two people.
Chryssa, wearing a dress of unflattering gold thread.
And Fidelis, looking tired yet dashing in his father’s old ceremonial robes.
Around them were dozens of smoking stumps of wax.
Clearly, their dance had not gone well.
“I’m sorry, my love, but tradition dictates that you only get one attempt…” Fidelis said, trying to cool her temper.
“Mind if I give it a go?” Hanna announced, causing every pair of eyes to turn and regard her with a mixture of surprise and amusement.
Every pair, except Chryssa.
She, instead, went as white as Tama Milk and started stammering something unintelligible.
“Hanna! I was wondering where you had got to?” asked Fidelis, smiling.
“Forgive me, Fiddy, but I was… held up…”
“I see. Well, I’m glad you could make it,” he said, stretching out his hand.
Taking it, she took great pleasure in subtly shooing Chryssa out of the way.
Even though she had just spent two hours running through a dark forest after escaping capture, Hanna felt no exhaustion.
All she felt was him, and the warmth which flowed from his touch.
Nodding, she let him take the lead.
They danced as they had in their youth, laughing and smiling and without worry or fret.
She did not care if she snuffed out a single candle, or all of them.
In that moment, all that mattered was that he was near her, and she was near him.
“Fiddy, I have some unsettling information for you,” she said, leaning in close.
“What is it?” he asked, looking confused.
“Chryssa is only marrying you in order to claim your fortune. Her father was exiled from the capital after stealing from the King, and House Fodien plans to return to a position of good standing with your gold… I’m sorry, that I had to hurt you like this…”
Surprisingly, he laughed.
“Oh thank goodness,” he said, “I had prayed to Priarch for guidance, hoping for a sign that my questioning heart was justified, but I never thought that he would send a Prion!”
“You knew?” she asked.
“I suspected, but I could not confirm my suspicions. In truth, I wondered if my hesitation with marrying Chryssa was based on my lingering feelings for another…”
She looked up into his eyes.
He was giving her a look she hadn’t seen in a very long time.
Not since that night when they had shared their first kiss…
“Fidelis, that promise that we made… I would have you honour it, if that would suit you?” she asked, moving her lips closer to his.
“Nothing would make me happier,” he said, matching her action.
“Don’t believe anything she tells you, my love!” Chryssa screamed, marching towards them.
“You have no right to call me that, as you well know,” Fidelis replied, keeping a level tone.
“Wha? What do you mean, my love? What has this snake whispered into your ear, my pet? What lies has she uttered, in order to drive us apart?”
“She spoke nothing but the truth, Chryssa,” Fidelis said, with a sterner tone.
The look on Chryssa’s face, as she realized that her whole scheme had come undone, was one that Hanna would never forget.
It was too precious.
“Curse you!” Chryssa screamed, suddenly leaping towards her.
However, as she did so, her foot caught the hem of her overblown dress, sending her crashing to the floor.
Which, unfortunately for her, was covered in hundreds of candles.
In seconds, she was alight, her precious dress and well-kept hair burning brightly in the evening gloom.
Immediately attendants rushed forward to put out the blaze, but it was too late to save either her attire or her golden locks.
This, unsurprisingly, did not elicit a great deal of sympathy from Hanna.
“My love,” Fidelis said, pulling her close, “Look…”
Turning in the direction that he was pointing in, Hanna saw something impossible.
Every candle still burned bright.
Just like her love.
A moment later, Fidelis captured her lips, eliciting a great cheer from the audience.
Apparently, Chyrssa had not been well liked…
One year later, Hanna lay in her bed. Bustling around her was a legion of servants and midwives. Hovering impatiently at her side was Fidelis, her husband.
Hanna was exhausted, but happy.
After a long and tumultuous labour, her child was in the hands of the head midwife.
“May I present to you, Lord and Lady Voraine… your son,” the kindly woman said, handing the newborn to the eager couple.
Taking her son into her arms, Hanna offered up a silent prayer of thanks to Prophet Imran for allowing this to come to pass.
Truly, she could not be happier.
Leaning forward, she kissed her son’s forehead, and whispered, “My guidance has ended…”
Read Be Good to find out what impact Prion Sylbol’s descendants had on the fate of the Flamelands!