Short Story: The Shrine

"Technicalities do not make me mythological. I am more worried why your people- whose only display of worship is to eat a lot and collect cats- have suddenly discovered the idea of an altar."

"Uhh… Look at this and tell me it isn’t what I think it is."

Adair's whispered comment was loud enough for only his sentinels to hear. Blythe and Etri waited until the chattering Artisans walked past before returning to the front door.

Adair gestured at the small table set up at the entrance. It held a collection of knickknacks, a common sight in the home of artists who filled their rooms with handmade trinkets gifted to each other at every opportunity. Already the trio's home was beginning to fill up and Adair had only a few artist friends. Blythe hated to think how cluttered the place would be if he spent more time around them instead of preferring the company of carnival performers.

Blythe reached down to catch Adair's hand. "Come on. They're going to notice that we're not with the others."

Adair wasn't listening. Neither was Etri who stared down at the table with his mouth slightly agape. Blythe followed his gaze.

It wasn't the collection of mismatched baubles that she expected. Arranged in a circle were a key, a strip of black fabric, a tiny painting displayed on an equally small easel, a few paintbrushes, and, at the center, a sculpture. Blythe had traveled the continent as far north as Etri’s native mountains. One word, unused in their home of Concordia, called out for attention from the depths of her memory. Shrine. To all appearances a shrine devoted to...

Blythe looked up to see if the others agreed with her. Etri’s nearly impassive expression hadn’t shifted, but she sensed that he was mortified to the point of nausea. She didn’t need their empathetic link to tell that the emotive Adair was worried. He clutched his own paintbrush tightly in his hand- always a telling sign- and chewed at his bottom lip.

Blythe cleared her throat. If neither of them were going to say it, that meant she had to. "That's a striking likeness of you, Etch."

"You see it, too! I thought maybe I was seeing things." Adair tapped the brush against his chin as he thought. "I suppose you'd be a good choice as a model, though. I mean, traditionally artists do get inspiration from tales of-"

Etri's sharp words cut him off. "I am no such thing. Technicalities do not make me mythological. I am more worried why your people- whose only display of worship is to eat a lot and collect cats- have suddenly discovered the idea of an altar."

"And placed you at the center of it?" Blythe pointed out. She couldn't help it. This was too ridiculous. It had to be a coincidence. There was no way someone could have sculpted the perfect likeness of her introverted muse without his knowledge.

“That is less of a concern.”

“You mean to tell me you’re not concerned by someone using you as a model and only worried about the philosophical weirdness of the situation?”

“As Atair so tactlessly pointed out, I am familiar with the concept of stories being turned into art.”

Adair’s hissed “I got it!” called their attention over to him. He gestured to the objects on the table with a hand that shook. "Think about it. A key, a facsimile of a painting, dark fabric that could be coincidence or have something to do with being worn by sneaky people, a sculpture of someone who regularly breaks in and out of houses..."

Blythe spit out a curse. She knew exactly where he was going with that ramble. "Someone found out about your band of not-really-thieves. They’re either thanking you for returning what was stolen or setting this up for luck that it doesn’t happen again."

Etri now had a green hue to his already pallid skin.

Blythe tried to lighten his mood. "Hey, what's the worst that can happen? A second culture can throw flowers at your feet?"

That got Etri to turn his attention away from the shrine. Unfortunately his attention became a nudge to her ribs. He was so bony and a disproportionate amount of elbow! "That did not happen."

As Etri turned away from the table, Blythe said to Adair in a stage whisper, “He’s right. He comes from a city underground. They would have just thrown potatoes and mushrooms at him.”

“Oh, good.” Adair grinned at Etri’s retreating back. “Soup.”

Etri’s comment was directed somewhere towards the ceiling and certainly wasn’t meant for the two people following him down the hall. “Some sentinels possess supportive muses. I have a comedy act.”

(The prompt I used for this was "you have broken into someone’s house, and discover a shrine dedicated to you" although I ultimately ignored the "break into" part of it.)



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