This is a sneak peek at a short story I’m working on for a short story collection that I hope to publish in 2021. I know, a while out, but I like to get a head start so I can make sure everything is finished on schedule. Anyway, this one is about Enlil, a storm god in an alternate universe who has kidnapped a princess who is supposed to be his Chosen, the one to keep him steady and complete him. Things are…not working out as planned. (But really, when do they ever, right?)

~~~

ENLIL watched Nunael from across the table. She wouldn’t lift her gaze from her food, and they had already passed most of the meal dancing around any real conversation. In fact, she had spent most of her words on avoiding any conversation with him at all. He hadn’t envisioned things going like this. His Chosen was supposed to obey and to adore him, and he was to love and to protect her. Had the ring chosen wrong this time? In his long lifetime, it never had. Still, this mulish, raven-haired slip of a woman wasn’t anything like the others the ring had chosen in the previous millenium. He tightened his grip on his cutlery. He’d been happy with all of the previous Chosen. What was the ring doing? Changing up a working system was madness. He frowned down at the ring, and the ruby set into the intricate metal band stared back, winking in the light. He looked up at the girl again.

She picked at her food with a groan. “Why do you insist on staring at me?”

His scowl deepened. “Why do you insist on giving me a headache?”

She snorted. “I’m not a telepath, so I can’t possibly give you a headache.”

“You most certainly can. There are ways to do it without using any magic, and you certainly have managed it in the short time since you came here.”

“Since you kidnapped me, you mean.” She returned to picking at her food, and candlelight flickered over her high cheekbones.

“You came willingly.”

“I came because I had to.”

“You still chose to come. And is it really that miserable here? Have I hurt you in any way?”

“Not yet.”

His grip on the silverware turned vise-like, and shocks flickered over his forearms. He forced himself to take a deep breath and to calm down. “I’m not going to. Do you know what a Chosen is?”

“An individual sacrifices to a god to act as a consort and a tie between mortal and immortal.” She pushed her plate away. “How is this relevant?”

“You are my vessel’s chosen.”

She sat back and slumped down in her chair with a huff of breath. Disbelief, judging by the expression on her elfen features. “Your vessel’s chosen?”

“The Chosen are picked by the ancestors of the deity.”

She frowned at that but didn’t ask the question that was obvious on her face.

He answered anyway. “We’re not really immortal. But it takes someone or something as strong as we are to kill us.”

“And if you aren’t killed?”

“We live for a long time.”

She stared out at the torch-lit courtyard below their window. “How old are you, then?”

“Old enough. You?”

“Eighteen.” She still didn’t look at him.

He watched her, curiosity warring with irritation. This was the least intractable she’d been so far. But even now, she looked for an escape from his presence. “You know you’re stuck here, right? Stuck in this palace with me…”

Her golden eyes finally shifted to him. Still, she didn’t answer, and stubbornness glinted in that shadowed gaze.

He stood and stalked over to her, pulling her to her feet. “You can’t go. Ever.”

Her gaze lowered, shut him out and blocked his words. “So you have said.”

What would it take for her to get it? He yanked her into his arms and caged her in his embrace. “I mean it. Until you and I are Bound and become one, this place will not let you leave.”

She tore from his grip with a mournful, angered cry. “You lie!”

“I don’t.” He crossed his arms. “Test it if you like. But you’ll only prove me right, Princess. Save us both the trouble and accept your fate.”

“Never.” She spun on her heel and fled out the door, her dress fluttering around her ankles.

He watched her go before shoving his hands into his pockets and following behind her. She rushed down the hall to the grand staircase. There, she paused and looked back. Her gaze caught on him, and she froze for a moment. Then she took off again, all but tumbling down the stairs in her haste. He didn’t rush. Why do that when he didn’t need to? She’d see soon enough.

They ended up in the gardens on the border of the castle’s wall. She stepped out of the gate in the wall, and Enlil waited by the burbling fountain. Moments later, she reappeared beside him, stumbling a bit. A confused whimper escaped her, and he steadied her. She tore her arm from his grip and sank to the grass surrounding his fountain. Her tiny frame trembled. “Go away! You won, so just leave me alone.”

He chewed on his inner cheek and crouched down beside her. “I’m sorry.”

“What for?”

He didn’t know. He just felt terrible about the pain she was in, and he wanted to alleviate it. He reached out to take her hand then pulled back. She wouldn’t welcome his touch. Not right now.

She kept her face turned away from him. “This is your fault. You’re not really sorry for anything. You just feel guilty.”

He wanted to be angry with her, but she was right. He didn’t know what he was sorry for, and he did feel guilty. It was, in some ways, his fault. But not entirely. He stood and glared down at the ring on his ring finger. The ring had chosen her, not him. The ring had decided this headstrong, unsubmissive, and angry woman would be the best match for him. He tore the infernal thing off his finger and threw it into the grass. “If I had my way, I never would have brought you here at all. You’re not what I need, and you’re not what I was hoping for.”

She laughed bitterly. “Then go away! Leave me be. I don’t want you either, so I guess that makes us even. At least we can agree on that.”

He shook his head with a sneer and stalked off. Cursed ring and its wretched judgment. Next time, he’d rather be damned for eternity in the fiery pits of Aratroth’s furnace than let the ring pick another ill-matched, ill-mannered wench. He’d choose his own woman next time, and his ancestors could just suck it up and deal with it. He could make his own decisions.

~~~

Well, that’s it for now, everyone! Hope you guys enjoyed. What are you working on? If you’d like, you can share it in the comments below! I’d love to hear from everyone.

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