There were always doves in the temple. A symbol of God’s grace, it was said. If you were very good, a dove might alight on your shoulder.
Anya was twelve when she was first presented at the temple. It was a very holy place, she had been taught, so everything that happened there must be very holy indeed, and the further inside, the more secret, the more holy it must be. The priests were the holiest of all men, and they seemed to like Anya, to like her a lot.
Anya did not like them, and she did not like the holy rituals that were performed there, but her mother would not hear her.
One night, she stole into the temple dovecote, with a bag of rags soaked in a stolen bottle of the priests’ holy oil, a pocketful of dry leaves, and her brother’s tinderbox. It took her a long time to strike sparks to set the tinder glowing, and blow gently on it until it would light a leaf, for no-one had taught her, and she had to secretly watch how her brother did it.
At last she set light to the oily rags. When she was satisfied that the fire was taking hold, she left and made her way home through the deserted back streets, quietly climbing in through her bedroom window.
After a while, she began to hear a commotion in the town. It woke her mother, and from a window they watched the leaping flames already spreading to the rest of the temple complex.
“Look, the doves!” Anya cried.
The white doves wheeled above the houses of the holy, and fled into the night.
Tura Brezoianu has been writing 100-word stories for Crap Mariner’s 100 Word Challenge for nearly two years now, and has an intermittent blog at http://turabrez.blogspot.com.