Prompt: Two prophets, sent by the same existing god, preach conflicting things.
Glam had, in the past month, aged out of the sympathy of most of his fellow villagers. As a life long orphan, some had told him he was an orphan even before he was born, Glam had relied on his boyish good looks and a few smears of coal dust on his neck to earn him a place to sleep. Sometimes a hay loft. Sometimes a guest room. Sometimes an apple tree and a blanket.
The autumn had been harsh that year, so the village’s sympathy had dried, cracked, and blown away with many of their crops. Winter was coming and while they would happily shelter an eighteen-year-old Glam, they wouldn’t even spare a knotted carrot for a nineteen-year-old one.
Worse still, there were new police in the streets after the appointment of a judge who loved both draconian legislation and punishment. Glam was supposed to be in some kind of poorhouse, and every step he took with the flapping soles of his nearly-dissolved shoes was now a crime. Glam had no choice but to deface the cobblestones with his presence, if he was to find a future outside the poorhouse or the mass grave under it.
It was finally time to ask for a blessing, so he stood in line. The line, after hours, would take him to the central square where all the gods had their fountains. It was a place to wash your prayers before presenting them to you patron deity. Glam, as an orphan, had no god to inherit. Everyone always told him he couldn’t have one, as you had to make proper offerings to be under their care in the first place. His god was supposed to be the charity of the people, only now that had withered and there wasn’t a soul on Earth to turn to.
A patrolman in black, slamming the end of his halberd against the stone with each step, moved along the line. Glam pulled his hood further over his face, but he also had to stand tall to avoid looking like a vagrant. If any of them recognized him he would be pulled out of the line and perhaps jailed. He just needed to reach one of the fountains and drop his gift in. No police could keep a blessing from reaching him, as they penetrated wood, stone, and iron.
The line moved at the speed of prayer, so naturally, when it split into different lines for different deities, the lines with more young people moved quicker. They had less to invest; their fears still lived deep in the woods rather than in the darkness at the bottom of their change purses. A young line would be safer, by being both faster and less conspicuous, but Glam had to consider what kind of gods were at the end.
Bortroz the caltrop-tusked boar always had the shortest line, but that’s because his blessings came with a rather ripe smell that always followed his disciples. Willitent the kind mountain wind also had a short line, but she was forgetful. You could go a decade without fresh blessings, and you weren’t allowed to get mad at gods. There were no altars for grievances.
Glam bit his lip and rolled his offering between his fingers. It was his prize possession: a double-headed coin he’d found at the bottom of a creek. It was his closest companion; he set it down each night so one head could sleep and then flipped it in the morning. Giving it away was giving away his hope, but it was all he had to give.
Glam finally reached the edge of his fountain of choice. Above him rose the white statue of Gridenia: the happy gift-giver. She wore a long hat with many bells and carried a sack full of presents over her shoulder. As fine a god as any. She specialized in gifts you could actually hold; Glam had chosen her because he wanted something to replace the coin he was about to give up. With a deep breath, he held his hand out over the water and flicked it in.
The coin hit the surface with a plorpt! Glam looked up to see whether the statue’s expression changed. He hoped to earn a smile or maybe a wink. Plorpt! The coin came back, spinning in front of his face and spraying drops of holy water. Glam snatched it and almost immediately felt something strange. It moved in his hand. A blessing! He scurried away, off into the marketplace, to find a shadowy corner where he could examine it.
“Hello!” the tiny plump face on one side of the coin declared when he opened his hand. “Ye ask and ye shall receive. You have received me: prophet of the goddess Gridenia. Tell me what you want, and I’ll tell you how to get it. Oohewewewewewewew!”
“I’m finally a disciple,” Glam whispered, stroking the ridged side of the coin. The pudgy silver face nodded. “Okay. I want… a turkey leg. I’ve never had a whole one before.”
“Ooh! Fantastic choice. You’ll have to give me a bite. Let me see with my divine power…” The coin closed its eyes, puffed out its cheeks, and generally looked like it was trying to squeeze a turkey leg out of its bottom face. “I sense one. Juicy. Meaty. Steamy. It is two hundred feet to your left and unattended. Go take it. Ye shall receive.”
“But that’s stealing,” Glam said, even though he looked over his shoulder and focused in on the steam from the leg. It was there. “Unless… if a god tells you you can steal, it’s fine. Right? They’re the ultimate authority.”
“That’s exactly right,” the coin said, barely suppressing a laugh. A minuscule drop of metallic saliva hopped out from between its front tooth gap. “I am a prophet and I have seen a future where you steal so many things. Anything you want. Just take, take, and take some more. Oohewewewewewew!” Glam’s stomach growled. The coin’s laughter seemed to kindle his hunger every time he heard it, so he wasted no time in sneaking over to the food stand and grabbing the leg.
He took a great bite. It was too hot on his tongue, but the taste was too amazing to spit it back out. Glam chewed and swallowed, groaning as he did so. He went in for another bite, but there came a shout. He looked past the crispy skin horizon of the turkey leg and saw a man rushing toward him, weapon at the ready. He’d been spotted, and they were apparently unaware of his god-sanctioned bite. Glam took off running. He held up the coin to yell at it, but he’d turned it around.
“Finally,” the other face said. It was darker and had strong cheekbones, with a beard sharp enough to open tinned food. “Greetings young man. I am the prophet of the god Gridenia, here to advise you.”
“What about the other guy?” Glam asked back in panic. He flipped the coin around.
“Oohewewewewewew!” It flipped back on its own.
“Never mind him. He’s an idiot. He wants you to break the law. I want you to defend your honor. Grab that sword.” Glam stopped, tucked the turkey leg into his waistband, winced when the hot grease hit his nether regions, and grabbed an unattended weapon from a nearby barrel. The man chasing him met him in combat without a hint of fear.
They crossed blades twice, but Glam’s slipped out of his hands thanks to the grease. From there he could only run once more.
“What do I do now?” he asked both sides of the coin.
“Steal the ground he’s running on, then he can’t chase you,” the plump face advised.
“Kill him for this disrespect. Use your righteous fists. Or the turkey bone might be a fine cudgel.” The coins argued back and forth, offering no solution to the pursuit. Some blessing. His only possession turned into two obsessed idiots. Glam reared back and flung the coin as far as he could.
It clinked across the ground, rolling. The pudgy side was drawn towards a basket of colorful fruit. The angry side was pulled toward a drunken altercation in a different direction. The result was a curving path that wound between the peoples of the marketplace. Glam followed, hunched over as much as possible.
By the time the coin fell over, he was in an abandoned alley. His pursuer had lost him. He picked up his blessed coin and flipped it a few times, listening to the growls and laughter of its faces. Now its nature was clear. When he tossed it the conflicting opinions found the perfect conflict-less path when they rolled. He could sneak out of any situation when the sympathy ran dry. All he had to was hear his prophecies in moderation.
Author’s Note: This flash fiction story was written based on a prompt provided by Valask during a livestream. I hereby transfer all story rights to them, with the caveat that it remain posted on this blog. If you would like your own story, stop by twitch.tv/blainearcade during one of my streams and I’ll write it for you live!