There were weeds in the cabbages, and another messenger from the King’s Seat was standing at the gate.
“Go away,” Georich growled. He tugged up one of the offenders, a spiny thing thrusting through the block of round green heads. The other offender fidgeted nervously in her embroidered robes. Her eyes were fixed on his forehead, on the Mark there that proved he was a Chosen One.
The Mark that left him unable to enjoy his garden in peace.
“Go away,” he repeated.
“Sir — ” she began.
“Is it go or away you don’t understand?”
She blushed at his rebuke, but pressed on. He should admire her for that. “The Calthraxyn army draws closer to the King’s Seat every day, Georich of the Circle. We need you to throw them back.”
He should admire her persistence. He didn’t.
“If I’m throwing anyone anywhere, it’ll be you out of my garden. I’ve told you people before, just because I’m born with the Circle of the Gods on me, doesn’t mean I can help you. Go away.”
“I can’t go,” she said. “Without one of the Chosen Ones, we are lost.”
“What about the other Chosen Ones? Have you asked them?”
She fussed with her signet ring. “The ones I went to… have all refused.”
He started chuckling. The tickle grew in his belly, and the chuckle grew, until it became a full-fledged laugh. His face grew hot with mirth, except for the circle of flesh on his forehead that was marked by the Gods. He felt it, cool as if traced in ice.
It was good to see the rest of them had finally put their feet down. His rash words to that other Chosen One in the tavern of the capitol last autumn hadn’t gone unnoticed, it seemed. All the stares and gossip around the fire had turned into something.
Or maybe he was taking too much credit. It was a common trap for someone marked by the Gods to fall into.
“Look,” he said when his breath returned, beginning to pity her, “I think the King’s Seat has someone better than me, or any of those other old Circle fogies, in its service.”
“You.” His smile turned softer. “Look at you. You’re determined, courageous — perhaps you even have a good head on your shoulders, if anyone cares about that in the King’s Seat.”
“But — but I’m not a Chosen One!”
Georich reached down and pinched a smear of earth between his fingers. He rose, pulled the messenger in front of him, and traced a circle on her forehead.
“Now you are. Chosen by me — a Chosen One myself — so that’s as if you were chosen by the Gods once removed, isn’t it?”
“But… I can’t stand against the Calthraxyn — ”
“But you think an old farmer can?” He clapped a hand on her shoulder. “Relax, girl. The Gods find a way, don’t they?”
The corners of her mouth slowly turned up, from a frown to an uncertain smile.
“That’s it. Go on — and don’t trample my petunias on the way out!”
She went, a look of half-finished wonder on her face. Somewhere past the gate her shoulders began to straighten out. Good shoulders, broad and strong, able to carry much more than shriveled old Georich’s ever had. The petunias were left untrampled.
Georich turned back to his garden, humming quietly beneath his breath.
Therese Arkenberg is a student from Wisconsin, though she studies only in the most extreme circumstances, and many of her works are penned in the classroom. Her fiction has appeared in the Thoughtcrime Experiments anthology; Things We Are Not, an anthology of queer science fiction; and the anthology Sword and Sorceress XXIV. Several of her short stories are also available at AnthologyBuilder.com.