Faded Flag

Kangra Valley India

Kangra Valley, India © Gaurav Goyal, Google Maps



Janari sat on the holy hill, crying out his grief, and remorse.

Last week they’d hung colorful flags and made flower offerings to Kamali, healing goddess.  He’d led the prayers for healthy birth. The taen had shimmered in rainbow silk, her belly bursting.

Yesterday they buried the taen and her heir.  All Janari’s spells were useless without Kamali’s blessing.

“I failed,” he told his acolyte.

“Has Kamali truly abandoned you?” Ni asked.

“I abandoned her.”  Janari sighed, heavy-lunged. “What did I teach you about our enemies?”

“That Kamali knows no enemy, only suffering and relief.”  Ni’s voice softened: sad, but not surprised. “They’d attacked us. The taen ordered you to.”

Anger had defeated Janari. He’d have hurt the prisoners anyway.  Prayers weren’t enough.  Forgiveness must be earned. “I’ll retreat to Deepwater.”

“But–”  Both knew his fate, treating the diseased untouchables.

“Better to die pardoned than live with this shame.”



Word count: 150.  Written for this week’s What Pegman Saw challenge.  Click the link to read the other stories inspired by this location, and to write your own!



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20 thoughts on “Faded Flag

  1. Interesting moral at the end. I good way to spend your end of days, except that sone of the sick may have viruses they pass on to this poor guy. Hopefully, they have some sort of medical knowledge about hot water and keeping things sterile etc. maybe vitamins that are like antibitiotics and can improve this man’s chances of survival. Great read!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Great comment Mandi, thanks! Unfortunately they have pretty primitive knowledge of medicine, and even their magical healing can’t cure all diseases. So I’m afraid going to this hospital for the untouchables is almost always a death sentence. So he is taking an extreme step to try to earn the forgiveness of his god.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I hadn’t thought about how old he is, but not elderly, I don’t think. He probably has been thinking about this for a while, ever since the incident with the enemy prisoners when his goddess took away his powers because he was unfaithful. So he’s been trying to resolve it with praying, and maybe making sacrifices and fasting, but nothing has worked. He might hold out hope that he can do a stint at the untouchables hospital and be forgiven, and then leave before he catches something incurable.

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    • Thanks, Penny! I was imagining that Janari knew what he did was wrong, but he was hoping it wouldn’t be *that* wrong and that his god would understand. In a longer version of the story I hinted that his acolyte Ni tried to stop him from torturing the prisoners, but he out-argued her and did it anyway, and now it’s clear she was right. Yes, the diseased untouchables will welcome anyone who comes to help them, even if they cannot be fully cured.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. He must have done some awful things to the prisoners for his goddess to desert him in that way. And now mother and child are dead and possibly his responsibility. I kind of admire him though – he did something awful and wants to acknowledge and atone for it even if it costs him his life. Good writing Joy
    I spotted one typo – hope you don’t mind me pointing it out. I think you’ve written ‘eared’ when you meant ‘earned’

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks :Lynn! I was going back and forth on exactly what he’d done. This deity might have been sufficiently upset if he’d simply failed to heal the suffering prisoners, but I was having a hard time communicating that. Yet when I made it clear that he’d used his healing magic in reverse to torture the prisoners, that felt too ham-fisted of a message: god doesn’t like torture, yeah. So I left it vague… If I’d had twice as many words, I would have made him even more guilty. Logically, Kamali would have taken away his healing powers after the prisoner episode, so he’s been praying and trying to atone and it’s not been working since whenever that was. So he *knew* going into this birth that he didn’t have any powers to help if something went wrong, and was just hoping nothing would go wrong or that Kamali would forgive him at the last. But then, the mother who died isn’t just any woman, but the taen (ruler) herself — so she was the one who ordered him to hurt the prisoners. In other words, he knew it was bad going in…

      And please do point out typos, thank you! The bizarre thing is that I had noticed and *fixed* that same typo twice in the original, and somehow it made it back in again; I have no idea how.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Karen, I’m glad you thought so! On re-reading it, I realize that I’m assuming a lot about my world that isn’t included in the text, so I’m reassured that it works as is, without those details explained.

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