Published on 2011/09/25

The Prophet and the Assassin

Victor Garth

The prophet knew that the assassin was coming. The prophet had seen it. Had he not spoken ill against the far away king, he might have avoided it. But the prophet was a man of faith, and he believed in the inevitability of destiny. If he was supposed to die at the hand of an assassin, why should he try to thwart his fate?

The prophet left his home and travelled to the most holy shrine of his god. It was a long and treacherous walk, but knowing the manner of his death, the prophet did not fear the travellers and creatures he came across on the way. He did not fear the harsh winds or crash of thunder. He knew that only the assassin could harm him, and he paid no mind to anything else.

Many weeks passed before he arrived at the shrine. It was a place forgotten to most, where the prophet’s god had stepped down from the heavens to bring goodness to his people. The shrine stood upon a mountain, the tallest in the region, a set of stone steps ascending into the heavens. The stairs were inscribed with the words that the god had spoken when he came down from the sky, now long forgotten, written in the holy language and no longer spoken by the prophets and priests of the mortal world.

The prophet waited at the steps for many days, drinking water from the spring near the shrine and eating the petals and drinking the nectar of the flowers at its base. The prophet’s god had also drunk from the spring and eaten the flowers. The prophet believed that these would prepare him for the journey into the afterlife.

At long last, the assassin appeared. He did not attempt to surprise the prophet or kill him without warning. The assassin came up the mountain path, the only path leading up and down the mountain to the shrine, and introduced himself to the prophet. He was handsome and young, burdened by the unfortunate nature of his post, opposite in every way to the prophet.

“It is the wish of my king that you die by my hand,” said the assassin.

“I know this,” said the prophet. “I have seen it.”

“Is that why you have come to a holy place, so that I might not strike you down upon it?”

“No, my child. I have come to this place because it is here that I wish to meet the Great One. My blood will not stain the dirt or flowers red, nor will it taint the water. I have drunk the water and eaten the flowers of this land. I have lived in the dirt, and I am now a part of it.”

“Are you so unafraid of death?”

The prophet examined the young assassin. “Why did you not strike me down stealthily, as is your practice? A poison dart would have killed me quickly, and no blood would have been spilt. If you wished for blood, an arrow in my back would have ended me instantly. If you wished for my pain, your sword could cut me down and not kill me. I would bleed out until at last I died.”

“You have thought about this,” said the assassin.

“Death is death, and no one can avoid it. Not even your king.”

“I have no vengeance against you,” said the assassin. “But my king wishes punishment for your insolence. He cannot have a prophet foresee his death. It will allow courage and hope into those people that he oppresses. He will no longer be able to strike fear in the hearts of his enemies. He will be overcome, no longer looked upon as a god.”

“Yes,” said the prophet, smiling. “That is his fate. I know how he dies, and by whose hand. You know the truth of this.” The prophet bowed slightly.

The assassin stayed silent for a moment. “You are a prophet of death. Can you tell me how it is I die?”

The prophet took the assassin’s hands into his. He saw the man’s life and death in less than a breath. Part of his life, the prophet had already seen. One that would come to pass soon enough. The vision was the reason he now stood on the mountain, facing this young man.

“Not all my visions come to pass,” said the prophet, opening his eyes. “There are but possible futures.”

“I wish to know.”

“As do most.”

“What do you see?”

“I see a man with a choice. You know the future that I have seen. You are more aware of it than even the king. You will have a hand in his death, and when you end that tyranny, the realm will come to peace. You will end the life you once led, as you have ended so many others. You will grow old, father children, and die a good man.”

“And if I choose otherwise?”

The prophet looked directly in the assassin’s eyes. “You will not. There is remorse in you.”

“I never wanted to be this,” said the assassin.

“I know.”

“I could spare your life. You do not deserve to die.”

“No one deserves death, my child. It is only the inevitable end to life. I am ready to go.”

“You are certain?”

The prophet nodded, closing his eyes.

“I shall be gentle with you.”

He felt the assassin’s hand upon his brow and a prick in his neck. Then he knew no more. His body fell limp in the arms of his killer. The assassin lifted the old man, ascended the stairs, and laid him on the topmost step.

“May you find peace here, wise one,” he said, resting the man’s hands on his breast.

The assassin closed his eyes and whispered a prayer over the prophet, wishing him safe passage to the afterlife. When he again looked upon the stair, the man had gone, carried by the wind into the next world.

Victor Garth lives in southern Illinois with his dog Helo. He has a penchant for epic fantasy and space operas, and writes stories accordingly.