"Call of the Dragon, Part I"
"Call of the Dragon, Part II"
"Ruins and Hopes"
"Shield Maiden" Cornell #3
"Warrior Eternal" Cornell #4
"Childhood of a Fighter"
"The Pledge" Cornell #5
"The Rock of Discontent"
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"A Tale of the Gods"
"The Miracle of Solstice Day" Cornell #6
"The Pilgrims' Trial and Faith"
XVI. Birth of a Race <=== / ===> XVIII. A Goddess Defeated
Caltraya sat on an outcropping over a field and threw a pebble down. It fell on a a patch of blue grass. Often had she wondered why some of the grass here was blue when it was green almost everywhere else. (Except for that purplish grass growing a mile off, near the burrows of the manlings. But that grass grew to her shoulders, so it wasn’t really grass, was it?) Had the gods disagreed on what the proper color was?
“No,” she frowned and dropped the pebbles she held in her other hand. Slowly she got to her feet, brushed her dark red dress down. “I never thought of it that way,” she said to herself as she wandered down from the outcropping to the village green.
Before, she had thought that the gods must have had a special reason for the blue grass, one that a mere villager like her could never understand. It had seemed so right, like everything else about her existence. The gods had made her, they had made the village and all her friends there. The same was true of the manlings, of the creatures in the air and on the greens – like the deer that cautiously grazed several hundred feet away from her. Something as perfect as all of this, how could there have been disagreement?
Yet Caltraya had learned something new three days ago. She had seen how gods were admonished by another. The good lady Alyssa had been forced to bow before Decirius. Against her will she had been forced to leave the village and return to her abode.
The memory hurt her, as if the world had come apart in that moment. In a way, it had. But Caltraya wasn’t sure what that way was, and how her life had changed.
The village wasn’t as perfect as it had been before. Several houses had been destroyed by the goddess Koultirsp. The people living there had been burned to death. The day after they had come back home, from the place where their death had put them, and they had thought that their houses would have been restored, the same way it had happened every time before.
Only that the houses were still ruins. Voldert had asked Caltraya if he could stay at her home until the gods rebuilt his. She had agreed, cautiously so. It was strange sharing one’s house with somebody else. Voldert was a nice fellow, and she liked being near him. Yet to have him sleep under the same roof? Eat every meal with him?
To be honest, that was the reason why she had come to the village green. Her house felt so small with Voldert present. Out here, the world still looked as she knew it. That was reassuring, even though she felt very different.
Why had none of the gods repaired the damages? Why had none of them spoken to them through the blue flame in the plaza? The villagers had convened there for worship as they had always done. (Caltraya hadn’t mentioned the events of that night, so they had no cause for worry. None except for the still smouldering houses.) Most of the time, a god would answer. Sometimes one from the abode of Decirius, sometimes one from another abode. They all deserved equal worship, all five of the abodes that she knew.
Voldert said that there were more abodes than that. He’d spoken often with Lonapal, the bright God of the Games. When she’d first heard about this, she had wondered why those other abodes never spoke to the villagers. Didn’t they like their creatures?
“What has become of me?” Caltraya shook her head sadly, then sank to her knees and looked up to the perfectly blue sky. “I am questioning the gods! Please, oh great creators, strike me down now for I am failing my faith in you! Please!”
The words echoed emptily into the air. The deer looked up in sudden fright, then rushed off to the forest. There was no answer. Caltraya was alone.
Tears started forming in her eyes. How could she be alone? The gods were always by her side, weren’t they? The villagers were not supposed to ever be alone!
“Please,” she whispered. “Show yourself.”
Nothing happened. Not even a wind that would start bending the grass, twirl up her hair. No sign from the gods.
Caltraya huddled down, pressed her arms against her legs and prayed with all her devotion to Alyssa that she would show herself. She had been so nice to her, she had called her Callie. Yes, she wanted to speak to Alyssa. The good lady would explain to her what had happened, and she would put things to right.
“Except that she can’t.”
Caltraya bit on her lip. Why had she spoken those words? How dared she doubt the omnipotence of the gods? Perhaps that night had only been a test of her faith! And she was failing.
That had to be the truth. The gods were testing the villagers. Yes, that was the only explanation.
Then why didn’t she believe in that? Was her faith weakened that much?
She couldn’t return to the village like this. The others were still waiting for the gods to come back. They still went to their hours of worship, praying as if nothing had happened. There was no reason why they shouldn’t. If this was a test of faith, then they were doing exactly what the gods wanted.
But she no longer had that faith. It could be that she had been chosen for a special test.
She had to learn more. Had the gods shown themselves to the other beings in this world? What about the manlings? Caltraya had been to their burrows only once, a long time ago. The curious little beings had been likable enough, but her place was in the village.
Voldert would not understand her doubts. Maybe the manlings wouldn’t ask why she had left her home.
“I shouldn’t doubt you,” she spoke to the sky, hoping in vain for an answer.
Finally she shook her head, wiped the tears from her eyes and set out in the direction of the manling burrows.
She didn’t know what else to do.
She was alone.