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The Sacrificial Lamb and the God-Chosen
“This dress is scorching,” Genevee whispered through her frozen smile, sweat beading her upper lip.
I kept a smile on my face too as I leaned towards her. “At least you don’t have to wear this frivolous curtain.”
Genevee snorted, and my mother shot her a sharp look.
But she was right; the sun was casting its bright rays down on everything and making me sweat right through the delicate silk of my dress. We were right in its path at the top of the palace stairs, waiting for the prince loitering in the carriage to step out and greet us.
“Mother.” I looked back at her. Despite the heat, she was cold to the touch when I tapped her slender wrist. “What do you suppose is taking so long?”
She narrowed her brown eyes, the ones I bore, and shot her eyes to the fidgeting king beside her. “Perhaps we should make the first move, Majesty?”
He shook his head, graying black hair shining in the sun. “No. We bear the Sacrificial Lamb. He must come to us, in a show of goodwill.”
I sighed inwardly, wilting in the sun. It was custom to wait for visiting royalty to extend kindness when the kingdom they were visiting had Sacrificial Lamb offered by the Gods. No matter that each kingdom, if their chosen king or queen was worthy, had one to swear the next generation to the throne. You still had to do it.
And the prince seemed to be refusing.
Genevee’s cold gray eyes brightened with anger and I extended my hand to her, “Remember; a queen is calm.” I said, squeezing her sweaty hand. “You are worthy. Your Sacrificial Lamb says so.” I puffed out my chest and raised my brows haughtily.
Genevee fought another snort, “I know, Makoto. But if the prince does not accept me… If his report to his father is less than favorable…”
Then the other kingdoms might question whether Genevee is actually God-Chosen. If she was, then it is stated in the Golden Books that every kingdom would automatically accept her, by the will of the Gods.
“Don’t worry, Gen, you are God-Chosen.”
She raised her chin and nodded, “I am God-Chosen.”
Every king or queen on the thrones of every kingdom where God-Chosen. If not, then they would have no Sacrificial Lamb during the monthly blood testings, to see if anyone’s blood ran gold. Usually, A Sacrificial Lamb would be one of the first dozen tested. If they were not found…
I straightened, remembering my blood testing. They had cut my palm and how shocked I had been when I saw the gold liquid sliding down my fingers. My mother, ever the opportunist, had taken moving to the palace in stride, but I had struggled amongst dignitaries, dukes, and even the princes and princess. But, gradually, Genevee and I had formed a friendship. It was necessary for the God-Chosen, the princess or prince whose hands were marked by golden eyes, and the Sacrificial Lamb to be united.
That way, when the Lamb was cut open on the altar and the God-Chosen drank their blood, the Chosen’s body would not reject it.
I had only heard that ever happened once. To a God-Chosen from far-off Egypt. The golden blood had poured out of his eyes, ears, and mouth and he had died on the spot.
“Makoto, here he comes!” Genevee dug her nails into the top of my hand.
I looked up and forced another tired smile onto my face; the carriage door was opening slowly but surely, and the prince poked his head laden with brown curls out of it.
“He’s sweating too. We managed to smoke him out! If only that snake of a king had come and died from the heat.”
I shot Genevee a hard glare, “Gen, don’t.”
The prince stepped fully out, midnight robes spilling over the hot marble at his feet, which, I noted, were bare. How he must have suffered.
“Prince Cantos of Elyria!”
A man to the prince’s left gestured to him, and he bowed his head.
The king grinned, “Cantos, welcome to Gaia.” He extended his hand, and the prince stumbled up the stairs to take it.
Genevee had offered colorful descriptions of her intended to me, saying he was like a beanpole that had no roots in the ground.
She had been right.
Cantos was clumsy and extremely tall, with skinny arms and legs and a too-flat stomach. I coughed into my elbow so as not to flat-out laugh at him. Between Genevee and me, I was the kind one.
She, however, barked out a sharp laugh, which made the prince drop the king’s hand and jump at the noise.
My mother grabbed her shoulder. Hard. “Genevee welcomes you, Cantos.”
He nodded warily and inclined his head. “I apologize for the wait. My advisor was… informing me about the customs here.”
Genevee barely kept her laughter in check at the cracking of Cantos’ voice.
“And here is my daughter, the Sacrificial Lamb.” My mother’s hand moved to my shoulder as she made the introductions. The king barely noticed how she was taking over. He was too busy giving his utmost sorrow about the sick king to the bald advisor in front of him.
Cantos eyed me like a child might a sweet, “My father spoke the truth of your beauty. Gold all around, he said.”
I faked a flush, surprised the king remembered me from nine years ago. My hair had been dirty blonde before my mother got it in her head to dye it golden blonde instead, to match my olive skin and metallic dresses.
“Thank you, Your Highness,” I curtsied prettily while Genevee smiled at him mockingly.
“Shall we go inside?” The king suggested, tucking his daughter’s arm into his. “My sons are eager to see you, Cantos. Young Remy remembers you from childhood.”
Eager for the shade the palace offered, I turned quickly away and nearly jogged after the king and Genevee. My mother, with a sharp shake of her head, forced me to slow and walk quietly beside her and the prince.
“I hear,” Cantos began, fidgeting awkwardly with a sundial pendant around his neck, “that the Sacrificial Lamb’s blood has special healing properties.”
“Yes, that’s true,” I responded. “Have you yet found yours? Uh, I mean, your Sacrificial Lamb?” I had heard the crowds filing into the testing stations were thinning. If he had not yet found his Lamb, then I doubted he or she was coming. But perhaps a miracle was on the horizon. I surely hoped one was.
“No,” he sighed, “but my father is optimistic.”
“As he should be. You are God-Chosen, after all. Your Lamb is coming, Your Highness. I feel it.” I grinned at the small smile on his face.
Once we reached the dining hall, a blast of chill air hit me; the hall was made of stone and how grateful I was for that.
“Cantos!” Lacston, Genevee’s eldest brother, swept his old friend into a hug. “Remy is anxious to see you!”
Cantos patted his back awkwardly. “Uh, as am I?”
Genevee scowled at his back and tugged me to the table. The king and his children sat at the head while I was off to Genevee’s right and my mother sat beside the king. Visiting royalty often sat beside me, as they were lower than me but still high enough to garner a seat close to the king. But Cantos was ignorant of this and tried to sit beside my mother instead. His advisor quickly directed him to the correct seat on my left-hand side.
“Where’s Remy?” I asked Genevee, trying not to grimace at the scent of sweat heavy near her arms.
Genevee looked about, only now noticing he was missing, “I’m sure he’s somewhere.”
The king clapped his hands, and, as one, we all commenced eating.
No one spoke, and the prince beside me shifted at the quiet sound of utensils against china filling the hall.
A surge of pity cooled, me and I gently raised my hand to speak.
The king, always the kind, loving man, nodded, “Yes, Makoto?”
“I believe the prince is tired. I can chaperon as Genevee escorts him to his room?”
Genevee nearly spit up all of her soup, turning a furious smile on me, “Well… I… Uh. Can’t Makoto take him herself?” She looked up at her father for an answer.
He shrugged, content to have his only daughter remain beside him. “You wouldn’t mind, Makoto?”
I shook my head with a smile and rose from my chair. “Of course not, Majesty.”
With a lot of loud steps from Cantos, we trudged out of the hall and I began to direct him to his rooms. “The king thought it wise to keep you and Genevee apart. So you are on the opposite side of the palace. It is, of course, for your own safety. Genevee is⎯”
With a sudden wrench, Cantos shoved me behind a pillar. “I’m so sorry, Makoto. But…. you’re wrong, my Lamb isn’t coming. Not yet.”
I frowned, trying to pull away from him, but he kept a tight hold on both of my wrists. “What are you talking about?”
With a heaved breath, he pulled a silver blade from his robes.
And I screamed.
“No!” Cantos shoved a hand over my mouth, freeing my hands.
Quickly, I shoved at him, and he stumbled backwards, tripping over himself. I didn’t pause to see if he had gone down; I ran.
But I didn’t get far before he tackled me from behind. My chin cracked against the floor and I tasted blood. “Listen, Makoto! I just need a bit of your blood!” He braced his knees on either side of me, trapping my arms and legs.
Hot tears dripped down my face. “You can’t! If you take some of my blood, then you defile my sanctity. Genevee will reject my blood and die!” The tears came faster. Harder.
Cantos eased himself off me, knowing I couldn’t fight against him, “It’s for my father.” He whispered.
I nodded, having guessed as much. “I can’t let you take any. Please, Highness! You will find your own Lamb! I know it!”
His blue eyes clouded over with tears. “I don’t have time. My father…”
Despite myself, I felt a seed of pity spiral upwards. He didn’t want my blood to sell it, like other people I knew did. He needed it. Surely a small vial wouldn’t hurt anything? But I knew it would.
It would ruin everything.
It would kill Genevee.
I would die for nothing.
I couldn’t do it.
“Your Highness, I beg you!” I clasped my hands together and shifted onto my knees before him. “Please.”
He stayed his knife, which was imperceptibly moving towards me, and searched my pleading eyes, “You believe my Lamb will come? Truly?”
I nodded, “Yes.”
He bowed his head, the knife twisting out of his hands. “I belive yo⎯”
A furious scream had me falling backwards, crying out when pain shot up my elbow when it connected with the floor.
Genevee shoved her sword through Cantos, her eyes wide with fury.
“Gen, no! He’s not going to take it any longer!” I grabbed at her, pulling her hands off the hilt of the sword. Cantos fell backwards, moaning in pain.
Death was coming. I felt its skeletal hands claw at my dress to reach the prince.
“Genevee, hurry! Get your father! My mother! Get anyone!” Tears streamed down my face as I tugged the knife from his chest, blood oozing around me and staining my dress red.
“He tried to hurt you,” Genevee whispered fiercely, watching my attempts at staunching the blood flow.
“Do something!” I turned my gaze on hers, begging once again, “we have to try!”
She huffed and knelt beside Cantos’ writhing form. She helped him sit up, his screams making me clap my hands over my ears. Then she placed one hand on his chin and the other fisted in his hair. Cantos' eeys met hers and she grinned.
A sickening crack made me scream as she twisted it at an unnatural angle.
“Genevee! You killed him!”
My friend looked up at me with a wild look in her eyes, “I did.”
I let out a shrill scream of terror at the bloodlust I found in the pool of green, and ran. I didn’t stop until I reached the hall, where the king stood abruptly at the blood on my dress. I still felt as though I was running as polite ladies cooed over me and smoothed back my hair. Told me I was brave. Safe.
I don’t know what they told the advisor, but he left later that night with a roll of parchment from the king, detailing his regret at the death of the prince.
Genevee came to me later and begged for my forgiveness. I gave it willingly. She was my queen. I was her Lamb.
But part of me wondered if my blood would put a monster on the throne.