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The Chosen Ones

Will Shadbolt has been dreaming up stories for as long as he can remember. His short fiction has previously appeared in Daily Science Fiction, Nanoism, and other venues. You can read more at willshadbolt.com and follow him on Twitter at @W_Shadbolt.
Demons slaughtered the first chosen one.
The monsters appeared one autumn day, when the leaves turned red. Soon forests, fields, hamlets, nations fell under the might of their horde.
In response, the goddess of those lands marked a newborn baby as her champion.
When the chosen one was old enough, a priest guided by the goddess sought her out. Only she could stop the relentless invaders, he explained. The beasts were from a different world than theirs. A hole had opened between the two lands. She had to travel to five temples, pray in each, and unlock a magical spell stronger than any world had ever before seen. Anyone else attempting to use the magic would be reduced to an ashy pile the color of midnight skies; only the mark of the goddess would protect her. This magic and this magic alone would defeat the creatures and seal the hole.
She and a plucky band of adventurers set out immediately, crossing jade woods, purple rivers, blackened deserts.
But beasts were drawn to the chosen one. They sensed the goddess's mark on her. The adventurers made it to three of the shrines, bizarre monstrosities chasing them the whole way, before they were defeated.
The second chosen one died young.
He was born in a small, nondescript fishing village and passed away when he was young enough to lay in a cradle from a plague that struck the whole region. The disease claimed both of his parents as well.
The goddess had chosen poorly.
The third chosen one killed himself.
In a dream, the goddess came to him and he saw his destiny, saw the previous ones. Saw the beasts hunting down the first. When he awoke, he put a knife to his wrists.
There had been chosen ones before him, why couldn't there be ones after?
The fourth chosen one was a shy aristocratic girl. For her, rumors of approaching monsters were as distant as the stars. She had heard of them all her life; however, they never impacted her life.
But the goddess had picked her: monsters attacked a caravan she had joined and the chosen one knew if she wanted to live she had to finish the quest the first chosen one had begun a generation ago.
She prayed at the two remaining shrines and a great flood of magic swept into her body. Lights red and gold and green flashed around her and roared out across the entire continent. The hole was sealed, and the monsters felt themselves weaken: they had all become impotent and weaker, easier to pick off.
But her tale did not end there.
The monsters ceased multiplying, but those that already roamed the lands continued to do so, and she was still blessed by the goddess. To the creatures, the mark might as well have been a lighthouse's glow.
People everywhere spoke of the chosen one's bravery. Only she understood that she had none. Bravery required a choice, and the only choice she had made was to try and stay alive. Only she understood what she was doing when she accepted a king's request to settle down in a villa. And when monsters attacked her estate, only she understood why they were so far from their normal territories as she met her true fate, the one she knew she had been destined for ever since the goddess had chosen her.
The End
This story was first published on Wednesday, July 1st, 2020
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