The Priory was all that was familiar to me. No matter how much blood we shed, how many lives we watched slip away, or how many mornings I spent wondering if I would go to Hell for what I’d done, it was my calling.
The sunset before me was beautiful, unlike any other. Without knowing why, I took a moment to appreciate the orange and pinks swirling in the sky as the burned circle sizzled against the horizon. Our lands were the most beautiful of the six territories the Priory guarded, and also the most dangerous. My father led the people of Ona, the oldest of them all.
Glass clinked together downstairs, and the noise snapped me back to reality. It was likely Father, already awake and organizing supplies. Father was respected, admired, and feared, and as many nights as I had spent watching him slay monsters, I didn’t question the devotion that Onans felt for him. After all, I felt the same.
My father was the strongest man I knew, and often I wondered if he would live forever. Nearly seventeen, and standing five foot eight, I was strong and tall for a girl. Father still towered over me, his burly arms thicker than my waist.
The sun slipped behind the snowcapped mountains in the distance, and my fingers began to twitch. Sunset meant time for hunting—a duty I tried to love but secretly despised, almost as much as the extravagant red gown worn by the metal dress form in the middle of my bedroom. The layers of scarlet fabric had been taunting me for weeks, creating a fury inside me that multiplied every time I laid eyes upon it.
Seventeen meant many things. More freedom, more respect, but it also meant the announcement of a young Onan woman’s betrothal, and there was a loathing inside me that I had never sensed before. As was customary, Father hadn’t yet told me whom he’d chosen. His faith to the tradition was just as well; knowing would make me dread it all the more.
I had as much enthusiasm for being promised to a man as I did for killing.. It all felt like chains, weighing me down and holding me back from being whom I was meant to be—whoever that was.
I crept from my bed and padded down the hall in my bare feet to wake my brothers. They more than accepted our station, relishing the advantages that being Priory brought, and who could blame them?
Everyone who lived in the clearings along the edges of the vast forests that made up our lands daydreamed about what it would be like to be a Prior. Old women wished for their daughters to marry into our family, and young men sang songs about dreams of being born into the Priory. They all sought to be one of us. Everyone but me.