"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"
I. The Arrival <=== / ===> III. A New Face
Maidoyú loved walking the streets of the Eternal City at darktime. The marble ground looked so different without the resplendent light of day. The buildings seemed to loom so much taller, their façades dark and almost menacing. Even the gargoyle statues that she found so cuddly and cute in daylight seemed ready to spread their wings and fly off their perches, much like their living counterparts in the mortal world. She remembered the flock of gargoyles she had joined a while back, having taken their shape, and how she had played with them. In form like them, their tough, rock-like skins had felt so soft and pleasing.
A pity that her current form disallowed her that pleasure. Oh, she preferred this shape, much like everyone else in the Eternal City, including even dismal Shenaumac. Mannannan might change into a fish or some of his more bizarre sea creatures now and then, but most of the time he held onto his bipedal form.
As did Maidoyú. She felt most like – well, most like herself with two legs and two arms, two eyes and two ears, one nose and one mouth. Wearing a light yellow dress, white sandals on her feet, and a smile on her face, that was so comfortable and pretty. Some of the others might call her carefree, and Koultirsp had compared her more than once with Alyssa. Not that the comparison was apt, but what did Koultirsp know? She was so concerned with her own business of toying with the mortal creatures, flinging fire their way or enciting them to hurt each other. Oh, yes, Koultirsp was the one to levy judgment on others, sure.
Maidoyú grimaced and shook her head violently. She didn’t want to think about things like this now. Not when darktime was so nice, and when she could permit herself to feel thrilled by the menacing shapes around her. Sometimes she pretended she was mortal, and that she could not defend herself against an evil foe, against a monster, and that she would have to cower in fear. That was fun!
Of course, she thought a bit more soberly, there had been more than one occasion when she had lost herself in that scenario of fright so much that she had truly felt threatened. And then her self-defense had kicked in, so that she had lashed out at her surroundings, leveling several of the blocks of buildings around her.
Every single time Decirius had called her to his place and told her that she should finally stop playing. “Find a purpose for yourself!” he had shouted in the end, throwing up his hands in exasperation. “You can’t just walk around all day and play! You are a goddess, Maidoyú. Try to prove yourself worthy of what you are.”
That had most definitely not been fun. Why should she even want to find a purpose? The other eight had selected their own preferences, and that was fine. Their purposes reflected who they were – Mannannan, the sea lover; Decirius, always oh so just; Haguen at the gate, with his sense of duty; Koultirsp who always enjoyed the pain of others; Darawk who loved knowledge so much that he could spend mortal years studying a single plant; Shenaumac, the brooding one who always blustered about how strong he was; Taurkémad, the frail one; Lonapal, the airy, effervescent one; Alyssa who… Well, she also liked to toy with the mortals – but unlike Koultirsp’s playing, the mortals usually seemed to enjoy her games. As far as Maidoyú knew, anyway, which wasn’t a lot. Somehow that topic – romance, love, and so forth – had lost a lot of its appeal to her once Alyssa chose it for herself.
She walked over to a plaza, adorned by a beautiful fountain, water spewing in magnificent colors from shells. She watched the water rise and then fall in its arc into the pool, its iridescence sparkling in the darkness. “Why would I need a purpose?”
“Because you’re a goddess, that’s why,” the fountain said.
Maidoyú grimaced. “Will you stop listening all the time? I wanted to be alone.”
The water stopped spewing, instead it flowed together into a humanoid figure that slowly stepped out of the fountain and coalesced into the shape of a fully human male, with tanned brown skin that seemed wrinkled by long exposure to light. He wore a dark leather shirt and short breeches of a blue cloth Maidoyú didn’t know. Behind the man, the water resumed its merry flow once again. “You must not forget what you are,” Mannannan said and folded his arms before his broad chest. “That is what we are all concerned about, child.”
“Don’t talk to me as if I were younger than you!” Maidoyú shouted and pointed an accusing finger at the marine god.
“You act as if that were true,” Mannannan replied calmly. Water dripped from his breeches, forming a pool around his bare feet. “Look at yourself. You run around the Eternal City at darktime and pretend that you’re mortal. That there is some reason to be afraid. Why? Because it’s fun?”
Maidoyú rolled her eyes. “You wouldn’t understand,” she muttered and turned away to leave. It was bad enough that she couldn’t have just enjoyed the sight of the fountain, now there was one of her fellow gods pestering her with this endless tirade. If it had been Shenaumac, that might have been well enough. His purpose was so ridiculous, The Great God of Sharpened Things. What good was that for, anyway?
“Try to explain it to me,” Mannannan challenged her. She turned around to look at him with a sneer. He raised an eyebrow, then sighed and said, “Please.”
Maidoyú opened her mouth to speak, but then she closed it again. Pouting, she leaned against the nearest wall, staring past Mannannan at the fountain.
The God of the Sea shook his head, raised his hands exasperatedly – and dropped them when he realized how much that gesture made him resemble Decirius. At least, that was what Maidoyú thought. How could she explain herself to him? Or to any of the other gods. She didn’t quite know herself why she hadn’t selected a purpose to dedicate her existence to. The others hadn’t dawdled much, after all. Not even Shenaumac!
But Maidoyú had enjoyed herself too much to care about that. There was always something new to explore, be it here, be it in the midrealm, or in the mortal world. Her fellow gods were so busy creating new things every day, and she wanted to see them all.
“Please,” Mannannan repeated and sat down on the edge of the fountain.
Again Maidoyú was about to speak, but stopped herself. “You’re annoying me.”
“And that is supposed to be an answer?” Mannannan shook his head. “Don’t you want to do something with your powers. A goddess should not waste herself like that. Child, look at this fountain! You adored it before, I know. So often have you looked at it and enjoyed it, this that is my creation. Don’t you want to give an experience like this to others as well? You have it in you to be a creator! Use it.”
Would I then have time to still enjoy the sights? Maidoyú wondered. Or would I spend all my time being ‘creative’? She shrugged emptily.
Mannannan got up from his perch, slowly came over to her and placed his hand on her shoulder. She flinched a little, but his grasp remained strong. “Try to find something for yourself, child. Please do that. Don’t make everybody worry. All right?”
“Why should you worry?!” Maidoyú exploded and shook out of his grip. “I am a goddess, as you are so fond of reminding me. What need do I have of this fabled purpose of yours? A goddess needs nobody, hear me?”
“And stop that condescending attitude!” Maidoyú yelled, then ran down the nearest road to someplace else. It didn’t matter where that someplace was, as long as it was away from Mannannan. Or any other of her pompous fellow gods.