Prompt 1: Change – 501 Prompts

The Prompt

The barbarian girl from the north arrives at the school for priests.
In: 5000 Writing Prompts by Bryn Donovan

My Story

Every adept rushed to get to the garden in front of the monastery in time. Nobody wanted to miss the grand arrival of the barbarian princess. John was in the crowd gathering near the old iron gate. It was wide open in anticipation of their newest arrival.

Father Brighton had announced the news a few weeks ago. Talks hadn’t ceased since. To end the unrelenting war in the north, the leader of the remaining tribes wanted to forge a bond between his people and the kingdom. So he sent his daughter to learn the way of the church.

Nobody expected much of her. The tribe’s women were said to be fierce warriors equal to their male tribesmen. Savage, wild and brute. Without any sense of decency or morals. The idea alone had sparked inappropriate fantasies among the students who were expected to dedicate their lives to the teachings of the church alone. Others gave her a week at best before she’d pack up her stuff and leave.

John didn’t take part in any of those talks because they distracted him from his mission. But he wouldn’t want to miss her arrival. He liked to make sense of things on his own. Relying on the words of others alone seemed foolish to him.

A figure emerged from the winding road that led up the mountain to their compound. As the traveler drew closer and closer, John noticed that her step was surprisingly light and fresh, considering that she had just finished the long climb. Some had suspected she would bring her weapon sisters. Even talks of an ambush had made rounds. But she came alone.
The abbot went to meet her at the gate.

“Welcome, Lady Avia.” John could hear his voice clearly because everyone else fell silent in anticipation. He made his greeting sound awkward because he wasn’t sure how to address her. So he defaulted to the proper way of talking to one with similar birth within the kingdom.

At first glance, John knew Avia was an experienced veteran. The way she held her body – head high, shoulders back- made the abbot look small in comparison. Even dressed in a loose penitential robe that every new aspirant had to wear, her muscular frame was apparent. Her calm gaze scanned the crowd before she focused on the man before her.

Everyone gasped when, in a move no one had anticipated, Avia bowed her head. Her tightly braided hair fell and covered her face.

“I was told to leave my old name behind. From now on, I am on the path of the Seven. They shall give me my name, Father.”

She spoke perfectly without any accent or slip up in her choice of words that folks commonly ascribed to the plain’s people. The melody of her voice even resembled the one only people native to Lavale, the Holy City, had.

But more importantly to John, her words, even though they were not a word for word copy, hinted at the ancient oath. She knew of the old customs. When joining the church, they had to leave their worldly bond behind. Only then they could forge a new purpose under the observing eyes of the Seven. In this day and age, no one spoke of the code anymore. Corruption and decadence had infected even the most devout in the kingdom.

John would never forget the image of her, bowing to the abbot, who looked visibly concerned. His colleagues didn’t notice. They were too busy eying the young woman with obvious lust in their eyes. Others were joking and howling, already planning to make her life here miserable.

It was the very moment John just knew the Seven hadn’t abandoned them, as many had been murmuring behind closed doors. John smiled and bowed his head in silent acknowledgment. Change had finally found them.

My Comment

Preparation time: 5 minutes
Writing time: 20 minutes
Editing time: 30 minutes

I thought it might be interesting to talk a bit about my thought process behind my story. So here are some ideas that led me to write it the way it is.
For me, the appeal of this prompt lies in the opposites that it’s raising. Barbaric vs. educated. Warrior vs. priests. There is a lot of tension and story to find in those alone.

At first, I thought of the girl as a character bullied in a supposedly sophisticated but hostile environment. My idea was that she isn’t as simple as they perceive her to be and that there is wisdom in her ways.

That initial idea didn’t feel right and somewhat stale to me, so I gave it a twist. Avia seems to be forced into this situation at first but reveals to be in total control. She is a proud warrior and educated in a way nobody expected her to be. I went as far as making her kind of a savior figure to the narrator.

I settled on a narrator that sits in between those conflict lines. He is a priest but not interested in the ways his colleagues behave. Rather frustrated with the path his church has taken, he sees the need for change.
Is Avia the god-sent savior he believes her to be, or is he just projecting his wishes on her?

Last but not least, I sprinkled some hints at world and scenery building in there: A kingdom at war with its tribal neighbors. A leading religion that is slowly but surely falling apart. A monastery at a remote location.

All things considered, it was a fun prompt that immediately gave me an idea for a concept. I hope you enjoyed reading my little story. What is the story you see in this prompt?

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