This is a story set in the same world as “To the Knife-Cold Stars,” which ran in Escape Pod in February 2015.
Of Blessed Servitude
By A. Merc Rustad
The sacrificial cross threw a long shadow across the road at Bishop’s dust-caked boots. He halted sharp at the sight of it. Wind hummed through wildseed bushes strung along the ditch, yellow buds as bright as radiation seals. Bishop clenched his jaw and looked along the shadow to the cross itself. It gleamed in the sunset, a steel post with a fused crossbeam, packed dirt the color of old blood at its base. And the cross wasn’t empty.
The offering was a pretty one—young, work-muscled body, a day’s stubble scuffing his jaw. He’d been shackled naked to the cross, arms spread against the top beam. The dusty wind tugged unkempt hair across his eyes.
Bishop slapped the film of red dirt from his duster, his shoulders tense, and checked his knives from habit. He knew he shouldn’t have traveled past Providence Circle. If chokevine hadn’t overrun the only bridge across Unrepentant’s Canyon, he’d never have come near this territory. He’d never have come within sight of the town of Blessed Servitude.
He hadn’t been home in ten years.
“You should get off the road, stranger.”
“Mighty courteous of you to warn a man,” Bishop said. He shouldn’t look at the man chained against steel, shouldn’t stir up old memories. He never saved the offerings, and he didn’t try.