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     Eirik surveyed the impressive façade of the Temple of Myralo with concern, brow furrowed, fingers worrying the loose leather strap that kept his dagger in its sheath.  It was certainly a pretty building.  Everywhere he looked there was beauty to behold – from the intricately detailed vine-and-leaf patterns carved into the cloud-white exterior, to the elaborate mosaic of Prismeryl, Twin Deity of Beauty dominating the archway above the temple’s entrance.

     Hanging next to the ornately wrought gate into the temple’s courtyard was a “Help Wanted” sign.  It, too, was beautiful, written in a light script by a steady hand, and assuring any applicants that the pay would be more than sufficient.  Eirik didn’t doubt it.  If there was one thing the Prismeryllian priests and priestesses were known for (and there were many things they were known for) it was being as free with their pocketbooks as they were with their bodies.

     Still, he was reluctant.  He’d always made it a point to stay away from what he called religious jobs.  “Too many people in the faith business barter in ‘eternal salvation,’” he’d say, “and that currency doesn’t pay the bills or buy supplies.”  Still, job opportunities had been slim since the war started, and he needed the money.  As this thought crossed his mind, he felt the leather strap he’d been fiddling with come away from the sheath, and cursed under his breath.  There was nothing for it.  His gear was falling apart, his supply of arrows was running low, and he could feel the spots under his heels where his boots were starting to wear thin.  He needed the money for repairs.  With a sigh, he headed up the path through the courtyard.

     The inside of the temple was, if possible, more impressive than the outside.  This was due in large part to the presence of a massive circular dais which dominated the center of the chamber, illuminated from above by a brilliant blue-white pillar of light pouring through a circular opening at the apex of the domed roof.  On the dais, eight statues showed handsome young men in various poses – some in states of repose, others participating in various forms of physical activity, but each one was designed to highlight the beauty of the male form.

     A priest of Myralo appeared from behind the statue and approached Eirik with an easy stride and a knowing smile.  “Welcome to the Temple of Myralo, traveler.  I see you’re admiring our statuary; see something you like?”  As he said this, he leaned against the statue and his loose-fitting robes fell open a little, exposing a hard-muscled but smooth chest.  He was in many ways a living representation of the temple’s many statues – but then, any priest of Myralo would have to be.

     “No, thank you,” Eirik said with an apologetic smile.  “I’m here on business.  Your sign outside—“

     “Oh, you’re here about the job,” the priest said, his voice falling.  “Follow me.”  He turned, almost dejected, and led the way across the chamber.  Eirik could understand his disappointment.  The war had hit everyone hard, cliché as it might sound, and money was tight all around.  He imagined that most people probably didn’t have the funds to devote to the more lighthearted distractions the priests and priestesses of Prismeryl were trained to provide.

     “So, what kind of job is this?” Eirik asked, curious.

     “You’ll need to talk to High Priest Elduin about that,” the priest said over his shoulder as he led the way through the semi-dark corridors.  Presently they came to a set of richly engraved double doors, and the priest of Myralo knelt and knocked gently at the door.

     “Enter,” came a voice from inside.  The priest stood, opened the door, and  gestured Eirik inside.  The High Priest’s chambers were surprisingly understated compared to the ostentatious central chamber.  Well lit by wall sconces at regular intervals, the room was sparsely decorated – a well-made, but not overly decorative desk cluttered with paperwork; a small sitting area with two chairs; a bookshelf.  Eirik’s impression of the room must have shown clearly on his face, for the High Priest said, “Not what you thought it would be?  You were expecting, perhaps, an orgy of young men writhing at my feet?”

     Eirik sputtered out something resembling a reply, eliciting a mirthful laugh from the High Priest.  “I can’t blame you.  The elaborate decorations, the torches, the scantily clad young men – these all serve a purpose.  Visitors to our temple are paying for an experience.  But, thankfully, I am under no obligation to endure such excess in my personal space.  Myralo appreciates understated beauty as much as he appreciates overt beauty.  But, come.  What brings you to the Temple of Myralo?  Aldau, the priest you just met, is one of our finest.  If he didn’t have what you were looking for, then you must be here for some reason other than entertainment.”

     “I saw your sign outside.  I’m here for work.  I understand you’re in need of a courier.”

     “Indeed I am.”

     “Well, then I’m your man,” Eirik said confidently.  “Eirik Fleetfoot,” he said, cringing inwardly as he extended his hand.  Fleetfoot wasn’t really his surname, but he’d found out very quickly that the best way to get work was to sound more appealing than the competition.  His real surname, Greenwell, didn’t sound like the name of someone who makes his living delivering packages swiftly and safely.  Fleetfoot did.  It was just terribly cliché.

     “High Priest Elduin.”

     “So, what’s the job?”

     “We need you to deliver a package to our sister temple on the other side of the Mirror Fields.”

     “What sort of package?”

     “The contents of the package are of the utmost secrecy, but suffice to say the package contains a relic that is sacred to the followers of Their Beautiful Holiness.”

     “I must admit,” Eirik said with a grimace, “I am reluctant.  I don’t know if I feel comfortable being entrusted with something that you and your followers consider significant to your faith.”

     “I understand your concern.  But we’re willing to pay very, very well.”

     “How well are we talking?” Eirik said.  Whatever his other misgivings, Eirik understood business.  Money was money, as long as he didn’t have to do anything too far outside of his ethical boundaries.

     “Ten-thousand anbars.”

     “. . . ten-thousand . . .”

     “Ten-thousand,” the High Priest said firmly.

     Eirik was stunned.  Ten-thousand anbars.  That would be enough to repair all of his gear and pay up a few debts.  Hell, that would be enough to buy all new gear and repay all of his debts with a couple thousand anbars left over.  Recovering himself, Eirik cleared his throat.  “Couldn’t you save a lot of money and hire a local to transport it?  Or just send one of your priests?”

     “Well, there’s an issue with that.  You see, the road across the Fields is . . . not safe.  Prior to the war we had a regular contingent of Imperial guards who patrolled the road, keeping it clear of wild animals and protecting travelers.  In recent months, however, the guards have been withdrawn to help in the war effort, leaving the road susceptible to encroachment by all manner of hazards.”

     Eirik frowned.  “What makes you think I’ll fare any better than your priests would?”

     “My men aren’t fighters.  They’re trained in a very specific set of skills, and those skills don’t include transporting sensitive goods or fighting off wild animals.”

     “Fair enough.  So, what sort of hazards will I be facing out there?”

     “Oh, nothing you can’t handle I’m sure.  Sunshell Crabs, Razordogs – things like that.”

     “Sounds easy enough,” Eirik said.  But still, he thought, why pay so much for such an easy job?

     “Good.  Do we have a deal?”

     Ten-thousand anbars.  Ten-thousand. Ten.  Thousand.  “Yes.  Yes, we have a deal.”

     “Good.  Then sign this,” the High Priest said, unrolling a scroll and indicating a line with an X next to it.

     “What’s this?” Eirik said, suddenly suspicious.

     “Just a simple contract.  You must understand, we must protect our interests.  This contract states that if you die on the journey, you are solely responsible for your death, and we are under no obligation to make any sort of compensation to your next of kin or immediate family.  Also, should you fail to deliver the package, or should the package or its contents become damaged in some way en route to the Temple of Prisma, you forfeit any claim to your payment.”  The High Priest, previously cordial, almost flirtatious in his bearing, was suddenly all-business.

     “Fair enough,” Eirik said warily.  After giving the contract a once-over, and ensuring himself that he fully understood its contents, Eirik signed.

     “Excellent.   We’ll prepare the package for you tonight.  There’s an inn located in the town.   I’ll call ahead and let them know you’re coming and that your tab is paid for,” he said, his demeanor once again friendly.  With a gracious bow, the High Priest sent him on his way.

     Back outside, in the glaring white light of the noon-day sun, Eirik gazed out across the shimmering plains of the Mirror Fields.  He couldn’t escape the nagging worry that he’d made a mistake signing that contract.  He took a deep breath and blew it out in frustration.  “I suppose I ought to find this inn,” he said to himself.

This is the first part of a short story I'm working on. It's the first piece of prose-work I've worked on in a while, having devoted most of my writing to poetry in the last couple of years. I've had a lot of people asking me if I'm going to write more to this, and the answer is yes. There's a lot more story here than what I've written down, and I've been making steady notes on what comes next. So far I have enough information to get him through this scenario in the desert, but not much more than that. We'll see what happens.

Fun Fact: Because I could not for the life of me figure out how to indent in Sta.sh Writer, I just used the spacebar on every line that needed indenting. Tedious and stupid. Sta.sh Writer shouldn't be as difficult to use as it is if the staff wants us to take it seriously.

EDIT: Oh my goodness. A Daily Deviation. Thank you so much `Halatia for the suggestion and ^lightningmonkey for the feature. I am deeply appreciative.
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Daily Deviation

Given 2012-01-23
The Courier by *phoenixofthenet is a great example of a successful introduction to a story, easing the reader in gradually and engaging the reader into its world. ( Suggested by Halatia and Featured by ikazon )
:iconapocathary:
:bulletgreen: Firstly, double-spacing after periods will drive most editors up the wall. It's an antiquated practise that practically no-one uses any more. Save yourself the headache of having to edit them yourself and just use a single space. Just a heads-up there. :P

:bulletgreen: "Hanging next to the ornately wrought gate into the temple’s courtyard was a “Help Wanted” sign."

I don't think 'Help Wanted' quite fits in the fantasy context. When I read 'help wanted' I think of a diner. Maybe if you just say that there was a note/parchment/scroll advertising work?

:bulletgreen: "The High Priest, previously cordial, almost flirtatious in his bearing, was suddenly all-business

I don't think you need that hyphen there.

:bulletgreen: “Fair enough,” Eirik said warily.

If this is to be his catchphrase, then fine, but if not he's said this just a few dialogue lines before, so perhaps consider changing it up.

Other than those little nitpicks, this is really good mate. I'm keen for the next bit! :D







...what are you still doing here, get writing! :poke:
What do you think?
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16 out of 16 deviants thought this was fair.

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:iconheronwolf:
heronwolf Featured By Owner Jul 10, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
Hey there, I've just featured you in my journal! fav.me/d6ctzcr
Have a great day ;-)
Reply
:iconphoenixofthenet:
phoenixofthenet Featured By Owner Jul 20, 2013  Student Writer
Thank you very much for the feature!
Reply
:iconheronwolf:
heronwolf Featured By Owner Jul 21, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
You're very welcome ;-)
Reply
:iconheronwolf:
heronwolf Featured By Owner Jul 26, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
Very nice. Can't wait to see what's next.
Reply
:iconphoenixofthenet:
phoenixofthenet Featured By Owner Jul 26, 2012  Student Writer
Thanks!
Reply
:icontheterrorofthedeep:
TheTerrorOfTheDeep Featured By Owner Jan 23, 2012
:eager: Great story! I need to watch you to catch the next bit. I loved the concept of the whole thing, the priests and there purpose, and you had just enough detail so not to bore the audience. You execution was great and I look forward to more!.
Reply
:iconphoenixofthenet:
phoenixofthenet Featured By Owner Jan 24, 2012  Student Writer
Thank you very much. I shall try not to disappoint.
Reply
:iconaxe-cell:
Axe-Cell Featured By Owner Jan 23, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
Must... read... the... next... PART!! :squee: The introduction made me giggle like HELL. :giggle: And I'm still giggling as I type this comment.

Congratulations on the DLD!! :clap:
Reply
:iconphoenixofthenet:
phoenixofthenet Featured By Owner Jan 23, 2012  Student Writer
Thank you very much. I will definitely be posting the next part as soon as it's finished, so keep an eye out for it.
Reply
:iconj4ckl1n3:
J4ckL1n3 Featured By Owner Jan 23, 2012  Student General Artist
Great start and can't wait to see what comes next :D
Reply
:iconphoenixofthenet:
phoenixofthenet Featured By Owner Jan 23, 2012  Student Writer
I'm glad you enjoyed it.
Reply
:iconxdeadxnxgonex:
xDeadxNxGonex Featured By Owner Jan 23, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
This so far is really interesting! :)
Reply
:iconphoenixofthenet:
phoenixofthenet Featured By Owner Jan 23, 2012  Student Writer
Thank you!
Reply
:iconxdeadxnxgonex:
xDeadxNxGonex Featured By Owner Jan 23, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
You're welcome!
Reply
:icontarorae:
tarorae Featured By Owner Jan 23, 2012  Professional General Artist
Congrats!! A Daily Deviation! <3
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:iconphoenixofthenet:
phoenixofthenet Featured By Owner Jan 23, 2012  Student Writer
:squee:
Reply
:iconblindtothetruth:
BlindToTheTruth Featured By Owner Jan 23, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
This is so good <3
Reply
:iconphoenixofthenet:
phoenixofthenet Featured By Owner Jan 23, 2012  Student Writer
Thank you very much :)
Reply
:iconratterz:
Ratterz Featured By Owner Jan 23, 2012
Really great read!! Can't wait for the follow on..
Reply
:iconphoenixofthenet:
phoenixofthenet Featured By Owner Jan 23, 2012  Student Writer
I've been working on this some more ever since I submitted it almost two weeks ago, so I've got some more material coming.
Reply
:icontr1nks1e:
Tr1nks1e Featured By Owner Jan 23, 2012  Professional General Artist
Whoo...Can't wait for the rest!
Reply
:iconphoenixofthenet:
phoenixofthenet Featured By Owner Jan 23, 2012  Student Writer
:)
Reply
:iconlit-twitter:
Lit-Twitter Featured By Owner Jan 23, 2012
Chirp, congrats on the DD, it's been twittered. [link] :)
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:iconphoenixofthenet:
phoenixofthenet Featured By Owner Jan 23, 2012  Student Writer
Thank you!
Reply
:iconrhoey:
Rhoey Featured By Owner Jan 23, 2012   General Artist
This was a really interesting and fun read, I must say. A great way to start a story, and I'm definitely anxious to read further and know just what the package contains. :) Will this be a novel or a short story?
Reply
:iconphoenixofthenet:
phoenixofthenet Featured By Owner Jan 23, 2012  Student Writer
I'm not sure yet, to be honest. There's definitely a story here, but I'm not sure how much of one. As it stands, I have one scenario worked out for this character, and it will get him across the desert and bring him some resolution on this particular job, but I don't know how much I have left for him after that. We'll just have to see where the story goes after that!

Thank you for your comment.
Reply
:icontheskaboss:
TheSkaBoss Featured By Owner Jan 11, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
1.) World development.
S'good. You're easing into it slowly enough that I feel I know what's going on, without big info dumps interrupting my reading. I feel there's a lot more to come on this front but I'm glad you've not tried to throw it all at me at once. I'm intrigued and want to learn more, but your pacing of information is great. There may be a little bit too much in the first couple of paragraphs, but it's more a problem of long, run-on sentences there. The actual amount of description is fine, it just feels like too much as it's kind of clunky to read. Should be easily fixed though.

2.) Character development.
Not too much to work with but I like the character so far. I know his motivations, I know his feelings about priests and clichés, and he's very relatable.

3.) Plot development.
Again, not much to work with. I like where this is going, though. About all I can say on the matter. I want to read more, I want to know why they're paying so much for such a supposedly easy job, and I have an inkling that that contract said more than first thought. All in all, I'm hooked. :thumbsup:
Reply
:iconphoenixofthenet:
phoenixofthenet Featured By Owner Jan 11, 2012  Student Writer
Excellent! Trust me, there's more to come.
Reply
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