It’s about 1k, so buckle up. I present to you…
Sunny lay in bed watching the red-gold sunrise creep up along the walls, her head already spinning with thoughts of tomorrow and what might be. The world was going to change today. Raw anticipation surged through her – as if the floor opened up beneath her feet, sending her heart into her throat, making her whole body tingle. Today the world was full of possibilities, as expansive as the sky and the endless, yawning sunflower fields outside her window. Today her fate would be chosen.
“Sunny – hurry and wash up, we have to leave soon.” The disembodied voice of her father carried through the house.
Nervously excited, quivering down to her bones, she slid out of bed and rushed to the bathroom. It wouldn’t be good to be late today – the Fates aren’t known for their patience or sense of humor.
Elsewhere in the Sunflower Prefecture, the sunrise failed to reach the cool shadows of an abandoned, ramshackle barn. Rayne was already awake, leaning against a rotting post on the upper level, watching the sky and waiting. For her, the ruddy, reddish glow of the rising sun spoke of the blood she would spill later that day. She owed it to them, to all of them.
Their group was small, only six against the burgeoning armies of Fate. And without Tennison, Rayne wasn’t sure how successful their mission would be. Tennison… the bastard. He was always thinking of others. Maybe if he’d thought of himself for once he would have survived. She would not let his sacrifice go to waste.
She unclenched her fists and swallowed hard, her face falling easily into a grim, stone mask. There would be time to think about Tennison later. For now, they had work to do.
Sunny stood in a single, silent line with thirty other kids, a mix of ages and races compiled from the nearby towns. She was near the end, because her last name was Willow; second to last, in fact. The only kid after her was Hammond York, a thin, mousy boy of 12 with a tumble of white-blonde hair and small, round glasses that kept falling down his nose.
On the other side of the park, in the shade of a cluster of birch trees, a small group of adults sat, nervously barking laughter punctuated by the metallic glint of a flask. The only other noise was the wind through the trees.
The Fates were scheduled to arrive at the park in the town of Sol at noon, and they were never late. Rayne knew the events of today would change the world, but she didn’t speak: no one did. The silence of her group was smooth; a shot of whiskey, burning your throat but sitting warm and comforting in your belly.
Stalking through the sunflower fields she allowed herself a tiny smile. They had no idea what was coming.
At exactly noon a gilded, royal red carriage parked near the shoulder of the road and a masked driver climbed down from his perch to open the door for the Fates. Three people of unidentifiable sex slid out; swift, silent and oily, their black gauzy robes fluttering silkily in the faint breeze. Sunny had always believed the Fates to be women, but seeing them now she was not so sure. Each carried a red silk pouch. Inside one was her fate.
A chill twisted through Sunny as she watched the Fates glide to the head of the line. Beside her, Hammond trembled, whispering under his breath. “Stop it.” She barked harshly in his direction, keeping her head and eyes down, hoping the noise wouldn’t carry. He stopped speaking, but his trembling only increased. Sunny didn’t blame him.
One by one, the Fates pulled a hair from each head and mused over it before handing the child a small, tarnished copper coin with a hole in the center from one of their satchels. The kids cried silently or were merely silent as they retreated to the shade and relative safety of the adults.
When the shadows of the Fates fell over Sunny she had to work very hard at not losing whatever remained of her breakfast. A thick, sickly sweet smell radiated from the Fates in greasy waves, pulsing outward on a wave of boiling heat. The beat of a black heart, she thought, swallowing a nervous giggle. From somewhere to the right, a shadow darted across her vision.
The Fates circled, blocking her view, mumbling nonsense words over her hair. The shadow moved again, this time directly towards them. There was no time; a wall of darkness rushed up to meet her. A thousand pinpricks of stars danced across her vision as her head smacked against the earth. The world started spinning.
She kept her eyes closed for only moments, unconsciousness threatening to claim her. The throaty wail of adults screaming and the coppery scent of blood flooded her senses, refusing to let her slip into blissful blackness. One of the Fates lie beside her on the grass, it’s body a lifeless husk slick with blood still dribbling from a half-hewn neck; coins of Fate scattered stark against the bright green grass. Hammond’s body lay just near the Fate, his glasses askew on sightless eyes, bright blood dotting his paling skin. Somewhere nearby, a building was on fire.
From the chaos a woman approached, a sleek shadow against the high-noon sun. She clutched a worn machete in one hand, blood running in tiny streams down the blade, dripping onto Hammonds upturned face and making shallow pools at the corner of his eye.
“What is your Fate?” Her voice was a mountain; unmovable, inescapable.
“I don’t have one.” Breathing became difficult, the realization crushing her, a fathomless pit of unknown emptiness. No one existed without a Fate.
Nodding, the woman offered a blood-soaked hand, her face as impassive as her voice. “Welcome to the Fateless.”
Sunny grasped the woman’s hand and stood, her world forever changed. Her Fate left behind, lost in the grass.