Dread Flash


Photo credit: Al Forbes, A Mixed Bag

Djura stepped back from the altar, staggering.  All the times he’d prayed to Sambar for his holy blessings, he’d never received a spell he hadn’t planned on.

He recognized it, of course.  When he’d advanced far enough, they taught him to pray for lightning, as befitted a Mighty Hand of the great sky god.

Djura touched the blue hand emblazoned on his tabard.  Palm out, fingers up.  The sign of the protector.  Until now, he had protected from the back of the line.  Organizing.  Managing.  Helping those he saw as true soldiers of Sambar.

Had he unconsciously asked for lightning, dreading today’s expected attack?  Or did Sambar overrule his requests?  Either way, Sambar endorsed it.

The faint rumble made his heart skip.  Here already.  Shouts roused the camp.  The pounding of those terrible horse creatures came closer, carrying the war droves from the north.

Others rushed around him, clanging, calling orders, running.  Djura walked slowly toward the front, oblivious.  Each step forward required all his concentration, all his willpower.

There.  They were coming so fast.  He readied the spell.  His hand shook, but he kept it raised.

Lightning rained down upon the enemy from all sides.

Nobody noticed Djura’s tears.

Written for this week’s Sunday Photo Fiction challenge.  Thanks to Alistair Forbes for hosting it and providing the photo! Click here to see the other stories and to post your own.


27 thoughts on “Dread Flash

  1. Djura is a wise man and an empathetic human being. It would be horrible to see the enemy slaughtered by Lightening from the sky god. For the enemy is human too. It seems Sambar has a vicious streak as a god. Well told tale!

    Liked by 2 people

    • I agree — I think most people find it hard to kill other humans, especially the first time, even if that is your job. I’m not sure Sambar is any more vicious than most gods. Smiting your enemy is a pretty common god behavior in most religions (although not all, it’s true).

      Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, I imagine that’s so even if you feel certain that your god has endorsed it by literally giving you the weapon. Military training has to be very intense to override this natural reluctance. These days militaries also have more resources in place, and deeper understanding of the effect on the vets, but clearly the vets still need more support than they are receiving. It’s so tragic to think of what it must have been like for all those wars before people understood and recognized PTSD — which is most of history, and a LOT of poorly or untrained soldiers.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I think the experience is traumatic because modern people have trouble grounding it in some narrative. Ancient human sacrifices for example were often grounded in magical thinking type belief systems, e.g. appease the rain gods so that land can be fertile. Tribal warfare were often ritualized into sports in order to reveal who the gods favored. Now the narrative has turned to national pride but this i feel this insufficient for any individualized person.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Interesting idea. Although if people in more primitive societies did find it less traumatic to kill people, it seems unlikely to me that it’s because they had better propaganda. Gods have been supposedly justifying people killing each other since there have been religions, and that hasn’t stopped. I find it more likely that it would be due to the brutality of everyday life (e.g., seeing criminals and peasants regularly beaten and killed) and more familiarity with butchering animals. Being surrounded by death and blood and guts would probably alter your perspective.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I have read a lot of Fantasy books, most of them being Dungeons and Dragons novels. The way you described the casting of the spell was like it was in those books. But your description of what was on his mind was fantastic. The feelings going through him being more of a buff priest and a healer, then being thrown in as a death dealer must have really shaken him up. Sambar felt he was ready though.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Al! It’s always a fine line to make something like spell casting feel familiar and true without seeming cliched. As I say on my “About the Author” page, I originally created the rudiments of Eneana as a game world when I was a DM running a long series of D&D campaigns. So the distinction between divine and arcane spells originally came from the D&D rules, although I changed an awful lot about the rest of the magic system.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks Joy. I think I may have asked before. What words did you run? I used to run three worlds. Dragonlance was the first, then the Forgotten Realms and finally a world of my own creation. Although I did have help from the other players creating the maps, Gods, local fauna etc.

        Liked by 1 person

      • It’s so cool to talk to other old school RPG’ers! As DM, I only ever ran Eneana. It was very vague at first, as you can imagine — I started with a generic homebrew city and forest and worked it up from there. I played for a long time before I DM’d though. As a player, I played in Dragonlance and various Shadowrun and GURPS settings (and Car Wars, Champions, etc.), plus many short campaigns with either homebrew or one-off worlds. And of course, those purchased dungeon adventures that involved a lot of 10-by-10 rooms and a different type of monster somehow hanging out in each one. 😉


  3. Excellent scene, Joy. You’ve presented the character of Djura so well. We can feel his struggle and visualise the distress on his face as the ‘horse creatures’ carried the enemy closer. He is definitely a character we can empathise with.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you Millie,I’m so glad it worked for you. Yes, the “terrible horse creatures” were unknown on this whole continent until this series of wars with the magruks, who brought them down the coast. Which makes it interesting (and challenging) to envision these cultures’ “medieval” periods without horses, knights, jousts, etc. Also, it’s fun to imagine how terrifying that must be, to see not only the bizarre enemy attacking you (magruks are humanoids but not humans), but charging on these fierce, amazingly fast beasts, when all you’ve ever known are donkeys and oxen.


      • The introduction of the horse had a great impact on all societies. You’re right – it’s very hard to imagine the medieval period without horses. I read a wonderful short story many years ago about the arrival of the first horse to a tribe in either Central America – could have been Aztecs or Mayans.(The horse came with the Spaniards. They revered the animal as a god. It was fiction, of course, but interesting and thought-provoking.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I can certainly imagine people revering horses as gods — they’re majestic and fierce creatures. And yes, Medieval-ish tech + magic – horses = something quite different. Plus my major empire at that point in the time line worships an androgynous deity and eschews what they consider to be “unnatural” gender distinctions — so that means gender-neutral terms for rulers who are just as likely to be female as male, not a big market for damsels in distress, and a whole different take on princes and princesses.


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