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Nathaniel knelt.

He had been kneeling like this for hours, he and fifteen other initiates, preparing himself for this last step in his training. This was the most important step, the swearing of the silent vow. Equal parts oath, and test, it was the swearing of this vow that would set him apart and mark him as one of the Brotherhood. He surveyed the fourteen other initiates arrayed in a circle. There had been forty-six of them the previous day, and only twenty when they had knelt down in a circle in front of the low, stone tables they now faced. Every class had initiates that ran away before the swearing of the silent vow. They had come seeking the training, but in the end had been unwilling to pay the price. Twenty had knelt down to pay that price (both price and blessing, the elder brothers had told him), and fifteen remained. Two had made their vows successfully, and three had not. The corpses of the three failures lay motionless where they had fallen, the stumps of their necks still weeping life's blood sluggishly onto the stone floor. The Brotherhood did not accept failure.

The Brotherhood were famous, or perhaps infamous was the word, throughout the known world. They worshiped a god known as "The Four Fingered God", and their acolytes were trained in all the arts of theft, burglary and assassination. They were skilled with all known weapons and poisons, but could kill just as easily with their bare hands. If you wanted someone dead or something stolen, the Brotherhood was your surest chance. Their price was exorbitantly high, but they were known to have never failed in a commission.

Nathaniel had come to the temple as a boy of five. He had been found wandering the streets of a village where no one knew him, and with no recollection of who his parents were, where he'd come from, or how he'd come to be there. The villagers had sent him on to the temple the first chance they'd had. Now, ten years later, he had almost completed his training. All that remained was the silent vow and he would be a full brother.

He glanced down at the items arrayed on the stone table in front of him. Each initiate had an identical table with identical items. A razor sharp dagger with a two inch blade, and a small brazier on which bubbled a small pot of pitch. He glanced up and once again looked at the other initiates. They, like him, knelt motionless before their tables. Behind each of them stood a brother, blindfolded and holding a drawn sword. At the slightest sound the sword would swing and the test would be over. It was not called the silent vow without reason.

He had spent the past several hours preparing himself, using the mental techniques he'd learned, to do what he must do and to do it without making a sound. He looked at his hands. His right hand was missing the smallest finger. That had been the price of his admission into the temple, and the brothers had taken it without asking his leave. His left hand still had all of its fingers. His hands were steady and his body felt distant, as if it no longer belonged to him. He was as ready as he was going to be. The finger on his right hand had been taken from him, but the finger on his left had to be given freely. Freely and silently. To worship the Four Fingered God, a brother had to remake himself in his God's image.

He picked up the knife in his right hand and pressed down, slicing cleanly through the skin and in between the bones of the third joint of his little finger, severing it cleanly. Moving calmly, but swiftly, he dipped the freely bleeding stump into the pitch to stop the bleeding and cauterize the wound. He was still alive, so he must not have made a sound. That was good. He rolled backwards and to his right, coming to his feet behind the brother who had been listening for him. Still maintaining his silence, he turned and walked from the Hall of Vows, heading towards his chamber and his bed. He would need to be well rested for tomorrow.

He was a brother now, one of the Brotherhood, and he knew that tomorrow he and the other newly raised brothers would be given their first assignment. They would be sent to track down and kill the twenty-six initiates who had fled. They had betrayed their brothers and betrayal, like failure, was not acceptable.
Written for :iconallartsupport:'s Brotherhood contest
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:iconpinballwitch:
pinballwitch Featured By Owner May 24, 2012
Intense. Fascinating idea...congrats on DLD :)
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:iconmonstroooo:
monstroooo Featured By Owner Apr 22, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
Good stuff :) As others have said, this is a really compelling starting place for a longer ficiton. I'd love to read more!
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:iconmummywriter:
MummyWriter Featured By Owner Apr 22, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
Creepy but stunning! This piece is very interesting and thoughtful.
Reply
:icondailylitdeviations:
DailyLitDeviations Featured By Owner Apr 21, 2012
Your wonderful literary work has been chosen to be featured by DailyLitDeviations in a news article that can be found here [link]
Be sure to check out the other artists featured and show your support by :+fav:ing the News Article.
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:iconzasafar:
zasafar Featured By Owner Sep 29, 2011
Amazing piece of fiction Mike. I hope you do get around to writing this particular novel. Just remember I expect you to sign my copy of it. ;)
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:iconshabboth:
Shabboth Featured By Owner Sep 29, 2011  Professional Writer
In the midst of plotting it now, actually. I have to say I'm surprised you have a dA account, although I'm glad you do - I just changed all my writing to a mature warning to prevent Google from scraping it which means that non-members can't read my stuff now.
Reply
:iconmoonlitemeadows:
MoonliteMeadows Featured By Owner Sep 12, 2011  Hobbyist General Artist
Wow.... I have no other words.
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:iconshabboth:
Shabboth Featured By Owner Sep 12, 2011  Professional Writer
Glad you enjoyed it (I'm assuming that's a "Wow I liked it" not a "Wow this was crappy"). :D
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:iconmoonlitemeadows:
MoonliteMeadows Featured By Owner Sep 12, 2011  Hobbyist General Artist
Oh of course. It was amazing. Once I started I couldn't stop until the end ^^. Beautiful
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:iconagnes-arelia:
Agnes-Arelia Featured By Owner Sep 6, 2011  Hobbyist Writer
I love the concept of this. It reminds me of other such "brotherhoods" I've read in various books or seen in games I've played, but at the same time it has an air of freshness around it; it doesn't sound like same old, same old. It left me wanting to know more, haha, which is a very good thing. :)
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:iconshabboth:
Shabboth Featured By Owner Sep 6, 2011  Professional Writer
I hope to avoid the same old, same old problem when I write the novel, mostly by grounding it firmly in realism. I'm a firm believer in the idea that good fantasy can be realistic.

I'm very glad you enjoyed it.
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:iconleyghan:
leyghan Featured By Owner Sep 3, 2011  Hobbyist Writer
Wonderful! Love the element of mystery/secrecy, the pacing is near perfect and the ending is satisfying while making me want to read more. :+favlove:
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:iconshabboth:
Shabboth Featured By Owner Sep 3, 2011  Professional Writer
:iconslipperyhugplz:
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:iconxlntwtch:
xlntwtch Featured By Owner Sep 1, 2011   Writer
This is the start of big ideas, at least for me. My imagination is given a very free rein (to reach farther into the future of the Brotherhood) and I like that a lot. Readers often find it wonderful (at least I think so) to have that room, to savor a good, short piece like this and 'run riot' with it after reading it. :+fav: Thank you. PS. You don't need to make all these pieces novels, you know. Yeah, you already know. :nod:
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:iconshabboth:
Shabboth Featured By Owner Sep 1, 2011  Professional Writer
But I do! I do need to make them all novels! My mind runs riot with them as well, and I just have to get the "rest" of the story down.

I may actually have to put a bunch of my projects on hold and write one of these novels exclusively for a few weeks. I'm starting to get a bit paralyzed by the variety of things on my plate.
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:iconxlntwtch:
xlntwtch Featured By Owner Sep 1, 2011   Writer
Ah. "Paralyzed" isn't good. Drop a bunch of stuff for a while, eh?

I had to (well, I wanted to) and it really cleard the air here.
Then write ONE novel.
See about regular publication, and best of luck.

I hope you let me know which story you choose to continue, so I can read it if I haven't yet.
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:iconwh0rem0ans:
wh0rem0ans Featured By Owner Aug 29, 2011
This is quite compelling.
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:iconshabboth:
Shabboth Featured By Owner Aug 29, 2011  Professional Writer
Thank you. As with most of my flash fiction pieces and short stories there's a novel in this one, as well. :( Where am I going to find time to write all these novels?
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:iconwh0rem0ans:
wh0rem0ans Featured By Owner Aug 29, 2011
I, too, am inundated with ideas and possibilities. To stop flying about aimlessly, I decided last week I would use a random selection process and then stick by the choices, devote time to them exclusively. I listed all the possibilities, some of which I liked better. The results surprised me and also made sense. Third on the list of three is to finish my first novel, which I have visited and researched for the last 3 years.
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August 29, 2011
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