Wren sighed as the heavens opened and rain came pouring down from the evening sky.
A perfect ending to a horribly imperfect day.
He had come to the city seven months ago. He was studying at the local university while working part-time as a dishwasher in a small restaurant. Things had been going pretty well… until he had been accused of stealing money from the register. Needless to say, he had lost the job.
He’d been lucky that they didn’t press charges...
As if that were not enough, he returned home to find that his roommate had up and vanished. Their landlord had met them on the stairs, saying that their rent had not been paid for the past three months. Wren had tried to explain that he had given his share of the rent to his roommate to pay the bill, but apparently, the landlord had not seen a penny of it.
In the end, he was told to vacate the premises immediately. He hadn’t thought things could get any worse then, but after that, he’d been mugged as he’d tried to collect what he could of his belongings as they rested on the side of the road where his landlord had left them. By the time he’d woken up, scavengers had already sifted through and taken everything of value.
In the end, he’d ended up on the side of the road with nothing but his clothes on his back, nursing a bump on his head and a bloodied nose, and sporting an empty wallet.
All that in one day…
“Things really couldn’t get any worse than this.” He muttered as he sped up his pace. He eyes fell on what appeared to be a small chapel of some sort. Deciding that it seemed like a good place to get out of the rain for a while, he slipped inside.
His eyes widened in awe as he took in the sight before him. He had never seen a church quite like this one. The interior wood was crafted out of dark mahogany. Crimson cushions lined the rows of seats and a long, crimson carpet trailed down the aisle up to the pulpit. Roses of such a dark red in color that they appeared almost black decorated every corner of the room.
Wren stood trembling from a dampness-induced chill as he took in the scenery before him.
“Hello? Is anyone here?” He called hesitatingly, but no answer came. His nose was suddenly assaulted by a sweet smell, and he noticed a table of food set up in one of the chapel’s corners.
Had that been there a minute ago?
Unable to suppress the gnawing ache in his stomach, Wren moved toward the table as if entranced. He hadn't realized he was so hungry...
When was the last time he had eaten?
Oh, right. Yesterday morning. He had been so busy lately with work and school that he had not found the time.
It really wasn’t that long ago. You can do without a bit longer. He told himself even as the food beckoned. Well, perhaps one bite wouldn’t hurt anything…
"After all, you've already been accused of thievery today anyway..." He muttered to himself as he gingerly reached out and took a small pastry from a dish overflowing with them. Biting into it, he moaned in pleasure as he savored the warm, buttery morsel. His damp clothing and his troubles were momentarily forgotten…
Finishing the pastry, he looked over his shoulder. Seeing no one behind him to witness his thievery, he picked up another. He began eating it as he moved over to the pulpit. There was a scroll and a knife with intricate designs etched into its handle lying on the pulpit. Cocking his head to the side, he quietly began reading the words on the scroll.
The scroll was written in a language he couldn’t understand, but he tried to pronounce the wording the way it seemed to be written. He chuckled when he finished. “I’m sure I wasn’t even close to pronouncing any of that correctly.”
He took another bite of the stolen pastry and reached out to pick up the knife, but he dropped it when something on the handle pierced his skin. He watched as several drops of blood landed on the aged and rather old parchment. Before he had time to panic over ruining the obviously old and possibly valuable artifact, the ink that formed the strange, indecipherable words began to move.
Wren took a step backward, away from the pulpit and the scroll, but the ink swirled and rose from the scroll. Like a snake, it slithered across the pulpit, before striking out at him.
He yelped as the ink snake coiled itself around his arm, a searing heat accompanying it. It slithered its way downward, toward his hand, minimizing in size as it did so. Finally, it coiled about the finger closest to his pinky. After coming to rest, it cooled down and Wren breathed a sigh of relief.
Shaking uncontrollably, he lifted his hand and stared in shock at the intricate, ring-like design encircling his finger.