Roan awoke in a dimly lit room he did not recognize. Light filled the underside of a doorway and hushed voices were barely audible.
“What,” he spoke with a lump in this throat, “what is going on?”
“He’s awake!” A voice shouted from the darkness. An unknown number of boots scuffed against the tiled floor and ran to him.
“Roan, can you hear me?”
That voice was all too familiar.
“Grandpa? What have you done?” Roan asked.
“I’m doing my job. Just as we all are in getting Comesh it’s meal and bringing an end to the red sky,” Grandpa shot. He sounded tired, angry.
“That’s enough,” said Sheriff Dunn.
“Dunn? Dunn, help me!” Roan called for his friend.
“This is the only way, Roan. The only way to save the town is by you playing your role,” Sheriff Dunn replied.
“You too? This whole time? You helped us; Flint, Celia, just to help us die?” Roan felt a single tear roll to his cheek.
“It’s not that simple, Roan,” the Sheriff tried to explain.
A loud thud came from behind him and the room flooded with light.
“We can continue now,” another voice called.
Roan looked the room over. It appeared to be a court room. Etched into the ceiling and floor were the cauldron, the flower and the scepter that had been the focus of his quest. Before him the cauldron bubbled over and popped boiling water around. The others in the room wore cloaks and hooded robes similar to those of his dream from what felt like a lifetime ago.
He looked for an escape route, a weapon, anything that could help him from his confines. He looked at the robed figures, hoping to put names to them and potentially weaknesses. It was a popular past time for Eastman and Fletcher children to plan out how to best harm elders of the opposing clan. He hoped those plans from his youth could come in handy now.
He guessed his legs could probably kick over the cauldron, creating a distraction so he could grab the scepter and with luck club a few of the robed elders. It was all he had, but it was enough. He waited for the right moment.
The robed people circled around him and chanted.
“You are really just going to let that thing eat me? What about family? What about loyalty?” Roan tried to appeal to their rational sides, before realizing how great a miscalculation that was.
“This is your role, Roan. Your duty to family, to loyalty, is to end this scourge and bring our town back. With your sacrifice, we will remember the importance of keeping our heads and tempers cool around each other.”
Roan turned his head to confirm his fears. The voice that replied to him belonged to his father, standing to his right and holding the scepter.
Roan was not sure if his pulse was racing or stopping as he realized the extent of the network against him.
“So you sent me here with instructions on how to call the demon to me?” Roan asked.
“It is the only way to stop this, son. You are our only hope in stopping any of this,” his father replied.
The chanting stopped and one by one hoods were removed.
Elder Eastmans, uncles and aunts from the Fletcher’s, and of course, Grandpa, stood in the circle surrounding the cauldron.
Roan felt his moment was approaching. He readied himself to kick the cauldron and run. He took in a deep breath. As his chest pushed out, his head went up and all at once he lost hope.
Two new figures joined the circle. They did not wear robes or chant like the others. Flint and Celia took their places around the cauldron and stared Roan dead in the eye.
Roan whimpered, “no.” He mouthed, “why?” He could create no sound. His heart shattered and his eyes welled with tears.
“If you had read any of the family history, you would know Comesh feeds on the broken and weak. You were too strong at the start of this. We had to play our part, Roan. You have to understand that,” Flint said.
Roan was furious at the betrayal of his cousins. Celia, for the first time Roan could remember, was silent. He looked between them both trying to make sense of it. He hoped they could provide a real answer.
His arm throbbed with pain for the first time since his grandfather cut him. The back of head stung from whatever clubbed him earlier. He was in pain in both body and spirit. He was tired and he was angry.
“Summon the beast,” Grandpa said. His tone was heartless.
Roan’s father began chanting once more and placed the scepter in the cauldron. The others joined the chant.
Roan pleaded for them to stop. He shouted there must be a better way. None listened.
When the chanting ended, the robed Eastman and Fletchers walked single file out of the court room.
“You are saving this town, Roan. Know that,” his father said.
The door closed and Roan was alone.
“We can fight this thing!” He said through tears. He tried to kick the cauldron again and again before knocking his chair over.
On the tiled floor of the courtroom he felt the thunderous rumbling against his face. He looked for its source, frantically darting his eyes around the part of the room he could still see.
A roar shook the room and the one wall he could see turned to rubble.
He saw terrible claws. He saw a horned head. He saw a snout long and dripping with drool. The room smelled of sulfur and rotting flesh.
Comesh had come for its tribute.
Roan fulfilled his role.
Thanks for reading!
Here’s the rest of the story: