M L Gammella’s Picture Choice: 2
Title: Righteous Revenge
Sha'donar was approaching as the sun sank toward the horizon. The night before a major battle was a holy celebration for the Strijela people, especially for warrior and head priestess Mirja'a. It was her responsibility to bring the blessings of Upinde to her people.
The upcoming battle had special significance for her as well. She was finally going to exact revenge for the death of her parents at the hands of the Bijeszlo. Many years ago, the Bijeszlo swooped down from their settlement in the northern ranges and brutally attacked the Strijela. The Bijeszlo focused their attacks on the priests and priestesses, decimating the holy people of the Strijela.
Mirja'a's parents died protecting her, shoving her into a hidden panel in the wall of their bedroom as the Bijeszlo stormed the temple. She remembered hearing the screams of her mother as a Bijeszlo soldier cut her down, only after murdering her father, the head priest of the Strijela. Mirja'a stayed her hidden spot, shaking and terrified, even after her mother's blood seeped into the space.
The Bijeszlo weren't able to kill off the entire priesthood of the Strijela before the people rose up and fought back, but the damage had been done. The majority of the senior priests and priestesses were dead, leaving only a few elderly priests and laypeople. The Strijelaist people mourned for months, black bunting hanging from flag poles and totems until the cloths became worn and frayed.
During this time, a young Mirja'a, still a child, tried to fulfill the roles her parents held with the help of the remaining priesthood. It was very difficult. She often cried out to Upinde, questioning why their god would allow this to happen to the Strijela. Through many a crisis of faith, Mirja'a finally realized her calling to her people and threw herself into her role as the head priestess.
She trained with the war chief for years, growing strong while learning the art of war. She would revenge the deaths of her parents and the others that the Bijeszlo butchered. Their blood would flow as a sacrifice to Upinde.
Now was that time. Her training was over. She was the Strijela, the arrow, that would strike the Bijeszlo.
As the setting sun reflected off the water, Mirja'a stood on the stone-filled shore with her bow in hand. Her instrument of revenge would be consecrated with the blood of her enemies. Soon, she would need to return to the village before Sha'donar started. Now was her time to pray to Upinde, to seek the calm presence of her god and the blessing of righteousness.
Mirja'a strung her bow with a tipless arrow, and drew the wood back toward her jaw. Tomorrow, her arrows would be tipped with the finest arrowheads the Strijela people could make, but today, her arrowhead would be her supplication to Upinde. Arching her back, she pointed her bow up into the sky. With a soft word of prayer, Mirja'a closed her eyes and released the arrow. She listened to the faint whistle of her arrow through the air and continued to pray.
A gust of wind caressed her body and she opened her eyes. "Thank you, Holy Upinde," she murmured, kissing her bow and settling it across her body.
After a final look across the water, Mirja'a turned and walked back toward her temple where her people would be waiting. It was time for Sha'donar, the Holy Blessing. With Upinde's grace, they would be victorious.
M L Gammella lives in Ohio with her husband and their three pets. She is currently working on her first novel, a paranormal suspense based in Maine. Please follow her at @MLGammella and visit her website at Onward to the Written Word.