Photo credit: Neuner Stein
Taen Hirani returned from his religious retreat before his enemies could stop bickering long enough to coordinate. He brought exotic creatures, fierce but loyal. Fabulous gifts from the gods. They resembled tigers with round markings, like the sprouting beans that symbolize Entovan’s grace. The taen’s hair had turned shock-white: a sign of his transformation, he claimed. Any low-level modder can cast color spells, but no dark roots grew in. Perhaps he wasn’t lying.
Hirani gave soft, sweet speeches about change, unity, renewal.
No more purges, we thought. No more torture.
For a while, I believed. Even the worst sinner can repent.
Then I started noticing the missing. Sent on faraway assignments. Retired from public life. Worse were those who mysteriously changed their minds, supporting Hirani’s policies with gusto.
Some of my closest allies became strangers overnight.
When it was my turn, I knew. Seeing who was in the room, and what they held, I cast quickly while I still could. My pendant cracked.
My husband’s matching pendant would crack. I prayed he understood: We are betrayed. Run.
I was a fool not to recognize a tiger spell-dyed with spots. And more so, to believe a tyrant could change his colors.
Word count: 200. Written for this week’s Sunday Photo Fiction challenge, hosted by the stalwart Alastair Forbes. Click the link to read other stories inspired by the original photo (below) and to join in!
Setting note: The term “modder” is short for body-modification mage; these are low-level wizards who couldn’t advance far enough in their training to become very powerful, and instead took jobs as the personal servants of nobles. It started with them making the nobles look younger (hiding age spots and wrinkles, dying graying hair, filling in bald spots, etc.) but over time they developed elaborate hairstyles, weird cosmetics, temporary tattoos, floating clothing, and the like. Parties for nobles get pretty crazy toward the end of the Pyanni Empire, believe me…