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December 2020 Contest Winner: The Contingency Prophecy

This wasn’t the first time Namir had crashed into Sloane’s room and loudly declared some new epiphany. “This has got to be your dumbest idea yet, O Great Chosen One!” But it was certainly the most surprising.

Namir stood in the doorway, panting from the effort of running up stairs. They attempted a scathing look at Sloane but they could tell it didn’t have the sting they were going for.

Sloane, calm and beautiful as ever, simply sighed and set down her brush. “You’re being vague again, Namir.” She smiled turning the sour note in her voice to a teasing one.

“I think it’s perfectly obvious which dumb idea of yours I’m referring to,” Namir snapped. They kicked the door shut and stepped further into the room. Crossing their arms, they continued, “What in Ihtar’s name makes you think marrying the Devil King is what the prophecy was even slightly suggesting?”

Sloane rolled her eyes. “You said I had to ‘take his heart’, didn’t you?”

Literally. You had to literally take his heart from his chest!” Namir threw their hands up in a show of frantic disbelief. They felt on the verge of tearing their hair out in frustration.

Sloane shrugged, which was so casual that it almost caused Namir to scream. “I think you’re worrying too much about the specifics,” she said, turning back to her vanity mirror. “I can handle this.”

Namir took a few giant steps across the room. They slammed their hands down on the vanity, leaning into Sloane’s space for her full attention. “I don’t think you’re worried enough!” they growled. “First you disappear for months without me and now you’re- You’re-”

“Fulfilling the hundred year prophecy my way,” Sloane soothed, placing a gentle hand on Namir’s shoulder. She flashed her most confident grin. “You know I can take care of myself, don’t you?”

“But what you’re doing-”

“Is to get the big final fight as far away from any innocents as possible,” Sloane interrupted. “I’m going to convince him to take me to his fortress and then finish the job there.”

Namir jerked back in surprise. “There’s no way you’re going to catch him off guard like that.”

“Well, he already confessed his love for me.”

Namir leaned in again. “And you believe him?”

There was a pause as Sloane flicked her gaze to the floor in thought. “He asked me to marry him, didn’t he?” She shrugged. “Besides, it’s not like anyone else is confessing their undying love for me. It’s worth a shot.”

Namir turned away just as they felt heat rising into their face.

“Anyway, he’s going to be here soon,” Sloane said, nudging Namir towards the door. “Said we were going to look for someone to help plan the wedding. The sooner, the better, right?”

“You’re going to get yourself killed,” Namir grumbled. Sloane laughed, “Better me than you.”

The door shut behind Namir with a soft click and they were left alone in the corridor of Howlester Keep.

Or so they thought.

As they stood, back pressed against the door, someone cleared their throat a few feet away. They startled out of their maelstrom thoughts. Their stomach dropped.

Faust the Devil King stood there in all his unholy glory, a sharp smirk plastered to his devilish features. His posture was befitting someone of royalty and his long sharp horns nearly scraped the ceiling. “My dear bride isn’t getting cold feet, is she?” he crooned.

Namir gave King Faust a glare. They received one right back.

“I certainly hope no one plans on crashing the wedding,” Faust said in a tone that only resembled concern. “It would just be a dreadful shame if someone were to attack me for my past actions.”

Namir wasn’t stupid. They were able to tell that the Devil King was gloating. Whatever his actual plans were, this wedding was part of it.

“I’m sure dear Sloane would be just devastated if I were to perish before our wedding day,” King Faust continued. “Wouldn’t you agree, Oracle?”

Namir was silent for a moment, weighing their options. To openly defy Faust without any way of defending themself would be to welcome death. But Namir would rather die than allow him to marry Sloane.

Faust waited patiently for their response, pointed tail lazily drifting behind him.

Perhaps, if Namir was clever, they could choose both options.

“Oh yes, my King,” Namir agreed, looking sheepish and weak. “It would be simply awful if anything were to ruin such a momentous day.”

Faust’s smirk grew into a fanged grin. “Excellent. Good to hear you say so,” he chuckled. “As your inevitable new ruler, I value the insight of such a knowledgeable soothsayer.”

Namir gritted their teeth but forced themself to bow humbly anyway. They were determined to keep up the act. Just long enough to put a blade in King Faust’s chest, at least.

King Faust hummed in consideration. “You know what? Since you are so knowledgeable and trustworthy, perhaps you’d like to be put in charge of planning the whole wedding?” Just when Namir thought Faust’s grin couldn’t get any wider, the devil appeared to just grow more teeth to accommodate it. “I- I couldn’t possibly-” Namir tried.

“Nonsense!” Faust boomed. “There’s no one else I’d prefer.” “But I-”

“You will happily accept and meet with the peasants preparing in the courtyard immediately?” Faust’s tone turned dark as he leaned over Namir. “I’m glad you’re so agreeable, Oracle.”

Namir was glad that they had the self control not to scream at the top of their lungs. “Yes. Sir.” they ground out. “Good. Now,” Faust patted them on the head with a clawed hand and nudged them aside, “my beloved and I have some of our own plans to attend to.”

Namir stepped stiffly away from the door of Sloane’s room.

“Run along now, Oracle.” And with that, Faust disappeared behind the door and Namir was left, properly, to their own devices.

Namir walked briskly down towards the courtyard. As they went, the gears in their mind turned steadily. They were not going to just let the Devil King get what he wanted. Not without a fight.

Then like a candle flaring to life, a thought that was not their own popped into their head; Namir stood in the Chosen One’s place. They envisioned themself standing over the dying King Faust, Sanguine Dagger in hand. To anyone else, this thought might have been a frustrated delusion. Namir knew better. This was a new prophecy directly from Ihtar.

This prophecy was a backup plan.

Namir gained speed as they rounded a corner into the courtyard.

More than a dozen heads turned to greet Namir. The townsfolk all had expressions of worry and fear. They had put their trust in Namir and Sloane.

Shame made Namir hesitate. It wasn’t their fault Sloane had made such a rash decision without telling them. But they were Ihtar’s oracle. It was their job to know what was supposed to happen. They took a deep breath.

“Citizens of Howlester,” Namir began in as confident of a voice as they could manage. “I have received a new vision of what is to come.”

There was the sound of frantic murmuring and panicked whimpering.

“Ihtar has told me that I am the one who will slay the Devil King and usher in the next hundred years of peace,” Namir declared.

The bubble of panic burst into a whirlwind of shouted questions. No matter the wording, the questions all asked the same thing: what about the Chosen One?

Namir tried not to hesitate. “The Chosen One has decided to take a risk that Ihtar seems to think shouldn’t be made. So I am taking her place.”

They stepped into the circle of worried folk and shushed them gently. In a much lower tone, Namir continued, “Many of you may not be aware but while the Chosen One was being trained to destroy evil, I was training alongside her. I can fight just as well as she can. We can defeat the Devil King. I just need your support.”

There was a brief exchange of doubts but ultimately, the townsfolk came to an agreement. They offered Namir whatever help they could.

Preparing for a wedding was a daunting task on its own. There was much that needed to be checked and double checked to ensure everything went without a hitch or a hiccup. The assistance of the townsfolk made a few things easier for Namir, who had no real idea how to plan a wedding, but there was still a constant stream of nonsense in the form of King Faust’s minions.

The devils kept a close eye on Namir and the townsfolk. Namir reasoned that this was probably because King Faust didn’t trust them for a second. Luckily for Namir, the hellspawn minions weren’t nearly as clever as their King.

While the townsfolk worked tirelessly on the decorations, Namir took to protecting them from the devils. They were sure that Faust wouldn’t notice if a couple minions turned up dead. After all, he regarded his minions with the same warmth and care that someone might give to a piece of garbage. Anything that wasn’t useful anymore got thrown away.

The day of the wedding swiftly arrived and in a last ditch effort to ensure King Faust didn’t suspect them of plotting, Namir offered to assist the Gulaboli with cooking the post-wedding feast.

The King, likely distracted by his own plotting, agreed without so much as an argument. “Fine, fine,” Faust huffed as he fidgeted with his cufflinks. “It won’t really matter once all is said and done. But if it will keep you busy, be my guest.” He stomped off after that, grumbling something about how small mortals were.

Namir hurried off to the kitchens. They were glad that Faust was too distracted to realize that he had sealed his own fate. The smell coming from the kitchens was foul; sulfur and ash mingled in Namir’s nose. They wrinkled their nose as they passed what looked like a bubbling pot full of tar. A massive pile of raw meat sat slowly attracting flies on the central counter of the large kitchen.

The Gulaboli, a large hideous devil, hummed to itself as it stirred away at another huge pot of some sort of thick and sour smelling stew. It looked over its shoulder as Namir approached. “Whaddya want, maggot?” it snarled, brandishing its spoon somewhat threateningly.

Namir simply smiled. “King Faust sent me to assist with the cooking,” they supplied eagerly. “And judging by the state of this place, you’re in dire need of assistance.”

Gulaboli gurgled deep in its belly, “Shove off, oracle. The King wouldn’t have sent ya. He’s not stupid.”

“I’m just here to help,” Namir said, holding their hands up in surrender. “King Faust made it seem pretty urgent that this food be prepared before the ceremony. I certainly wouldn’t want to upset him.”

Gulaboli considered this for a moment. “Alright. Fine.” It waved its spoon in the direction of the meat pile. “Get to choppin’ then.”

Namir’s smile grew a tiny bit wider. “With pleasure.” They knew the layout of the kitchen well. As they dug through the drawers in search of just the right implement for the job, Namir also took the time to tip the contents of a pot out the nearby window.

Gulaboli looked over with a nasty grimace. “What’re ya doin’ with my soup, Oracle?”

Namir flashed a grin as their hand closed on the desired handle. “Oh I was just thinking it smelled a little… Over cooked.” They pulled the large kitchen knife close behind their back.

That seemed to strike a nerve. It stomped up, leaning over Namir in an attempt to be imposing. Gulaboli bellowed, “You little rat! It was barely burnt! You don’ know anythin’ about fine dining!”

Namir took a deep breath, closing their eyes.

“Are you even listenin’, runt?” Gulaboli grunted.

They swung.

Clatter-clunk! The top of the Gulaboli’s spoon hit the floor. “So that’s your plan!” The Gulaboli grabbed a pot lid and hurled it at Namir’s head. It bounced off with a series of clangs. “Good try, Oracle. Sportin’ try.”

Namir groaned, clutching the side of their head. Their vision spun as they adjusted their footing. They gasped. A rolling pin smashed into the wall behind them.

“The King’s gonna give me a medal when I present him with Oracle Stew!” The Gulaboli lumbered around the kitchen after the retreating Namir, swinging a soup ladle.

Namir brought their knife up just in time. The metal twang reverberated through their arms. “The King,” Namir hissed through gritted teeth, “is going back to hell where he belongs. And you with him!”

Gulaboli laughed, deep and gurgling. “I wonder what roasted Chosen One tastes like!”

Namir lunged with a furious growl. The knife sunk deep into the Gulaboli’s belly but the creature seemed unfazed. Instead, the beast grabbed Namir and wrenched their knife out of its massive body. It lifted them over its head. “Good try,” it belched.

Namir was thrown into one of the stoves, causing the bubbling pots to rattle against each other.

Namir’s ribs throbbed as they pulled themself to their feet. Their knife remained in their white knuckled grip.

The Gulaboli twisted slowly around, chuckling the whole way. It patted its stomach. “There’s gonna be good eatin’ toni-” Namir cut it off.

They stepped to the side as the head of the beast rolled from its shoulders and the body tipped forward. Dark red blood oozed from the stump.

Namir let out a sharp huff, tugging their clothes back into line. “Now then, better not waste any time,” they pulled up their sleeves and got to work.

They collected the blood of the deceased Gulaboli in their empty pot. They set the pot over the stove to boil. “Garlic cloves, a pinch of iron shavings…” they muttered to themself as they tossed ingredients into the bubbling liquid. “Aaand nightshade berries.” Then they dropped their kitchen knife into the pot.

The liquid began to foam and bubble violently. The knife rattled against the sides of the pot. Foul black smoke billowed out. Namir had to cover their nose to stop themself from gagging.

It only took a few minutes for the pot to stop