Friday, June 14, 2019

#FridayFlash - Oracle

Margarite stepped from the forest into brilliant sunlight. Temporarily blinded, the young woman paused, taking the moment to catch her breath. Her legs trembled from the climb, and she wanted nothing more than to take a seat on the closest flat surface while she drank from her canteen.

But if she sat, she'd be unlikely to stand back up. If she didn't press forward, Margarite would never arrive at the Oracle's cave before the blood moon rose. And if she didn't speak to the Oracle...she refused to think of failure.

Drawing a deep breath, Margarite began the final leg of her journey.

The trail was narrow, barely there at all, winding up the bare slope of Mount Adams. Summer sun beat upon her head and shoulders, weighing down every step, making her doubt her decision to come up here. It would be easier to return to the village with her questions unanswered rather than trek higher up the mountain.

Margarite couldn't turn back now. Not after she'd made such a fuss to her family about needing the Oracle's guidance. The young woman refused to feel useless any longer, not when their caravans were going missing, the village was ina drought, and there were rumors of war coming across the country. Everyone needed answers, but only she was willing to seek the old woman who lived at the top of the mountain.

Her thoughts faded as she focused on the climb. One foot in front of the other, bracing on the occasional boulder or spindly tree. The sun marched across the sky, relentless with heat and light, and sweat ran into her eyes. Margarite lost track of the hours as she pressed on.

The end was finally in sight. The trail leveled out in a little glen, a black cave lurking at the far side. Shadows covered the stony maw, and a chill passed through Margarite. Walking fifty feet and into the dark portal was suddenly the hardest part of her trek.

But she had to do it. For everyone at home.

Margarite strode across the grass and into the cave, ignoring her aches and pains, determined to get the answers everyone needed. She'd made it! Her family had doubted the Oracle's existence, had been certain she wouldn't make it halfway up the mountain, but here she was.

The darkness brought welcome relief. Margarite allowed herself a moment to rest, taking a long drink while her eyes adjusted to the darkness of the cave. She ate a tiny piece of bread, not knowing how long it would actually take to find the Oracle.

A voice echoed from around the corner. "Who is it that seeks me?"

Margarite shoved her astonishment aside, glad that she did not have far to look. Smiling, relief banishing the stresses of her climb. "I seek the Oracle," the young woman called out as she approached the corner. She rounded it, and the sight before her gave her pause.

The cave was a natural room, bathed in the light of glowing crystals. Furs and moss draped the floors and walls, and strands of something she didn't recognize hung from the ceiling.

Lounging in the middle of the room beside a stagnant pool was an enormous frog with the face of a woman.

Margarite blinked several times, staring with eyes gone wide and mouth agape. Her questions disappeared completely, not just scattered by weariness. Comprehension was beyond her in the face of the creature before her. Could this beast be the Oracle with answers to her deepest worries?

"Not another one." The frog shifted, webbed hands taking new positions on her mossy perch. The crystal light gleamed upon sticky skin, highlighting her warts and mottled flesh.

Margarite shook her head, confusion fading slowly. "Pardon?"

"You stupid humans show up every now and then, asking for me to look into their future. They want me to just give them answers so they don't have to figure it out themselves.

"So I don't want to hear your questions. I'd give you the same advice no matter what. Live your own damn life, and don't let others tell you what to do."

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