Cursed

The temple was silent, the rock beneath her, cold and damp. She trembled against the icy stone and clung tighter to the statue's feet.

Beyond the thick doors, she could hear the faint cries of dying men and the sobbing screams of women and children. The victorious army raped and pillaged, claiming the spoils of war owed from nine years of bitter war.

Her father's city was stained with blood, filled with the corpses of a thousand men who died to protect it. Her brother's body was among the dead, buried on a hillside among the other fallen who failed to understand the warning in her words—her useless, empty words.

She took a deep, shaky breath and looked up to the lonely, narrow opening on the upper wall. Through the small window, she could see darkness falling. The sky, caught in the throes of a dying day, was a violent crimson.

The night would not end the massacre.

Outside, voices approached, growing louder. She closed her eyes, imagining their sharp, foreign features and lilting accents. There were five of them, each with dirt-stained faces and blood-covered swords. They laughed and smiled, strutting with the arrogance of a conqueror. She resented them and their conceit, but she feared them, too.

If they knew what she knew, they would fear her.

She pressed herself further against stone, praying to the goddess above her that they would not seek her here, that they would not defile this holy place with another act of violence. Their footsteps retreated, the voices diminishing until the silence returned.

The streets were filled with bodies, empty faces and staring eyes. Against the fiery sky, grey smoke wafted to the heavens, a savage offering to the mercurial gods.

One night ago, that sky was filled with a bright, clean moon and the cries of jubilation and drunken merriment, drowned in the illusion of victory. But the men succumbed to their wine and slept, ignorant of the threat hidden inside their own walls, waiting docilely for their slaughter.

She knew what fate awaited them, what danger had lurked in the guise of a gift. But it was her curse to know and despair, to know and change nothing. She had learned long ago that her words would not be heeded. Her foreknowledge was a lonely burden.

While the others reveled, she fled to the temple, watching and waiting for when the laughter would turn to screams—and praying to any god who would listen to spare her.

They called her insane and laughed at her absurd notions. Even her father dismissed her premonitions as a woman's paranoid fantasies. And now he was dead. Those that remained would never remember her words, never taste the regret and despair that filled her.

The peaceful quiet that surrounded her was a temporary, misleading peace. The gods' favor was a fickle and perilous honor. The Sun-bearer had once praised her for her beauty and blessed her with the future before ripping from her the power to change it.

Somewhere among the men pillaging her city was a man who would spend years at sea, buffeted by the gods shifting favor. Even the conquerors, blessed with victory, would not escape their tempestuous fury.

Her own fate would not be denied.

She knew the end that awaited her on a distant shore, the violent death that was to be hers. Tonight, he would come and take her.

Through her narrow window, she could see the stars twinkling above her. Night had come. Only the torches along the walls illuminated the dim chamber.

An eerie quiet had descended outside, and beneath its oppressive weight, she could barely breathe.

From the door, she heard a shuffling noise. The heavy doors quaked and began to open, and a single man appeared in the small opening. His bright eyes immediately found her, and a smile spread across his familiar face. She dug her fingers painfully into the hard stone, praying that this was another vision, another dream.

Her fear was real as he stalked toward her, and the fire danced across his face.

"Cassandra," he whispered.

She closed her eyes and prayed, filled with the despair that once again, no one was listening.

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Written for The Review Game's February Writing Challenge Contest. Vote for your favorite between the 8th and 14th.