"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"
XXII. The New Villagers <=== / ===> XXIV. Council of Shadows
XXIII. The Eagle's Flight
“Whatever is he doing up there?” Koultirsp muttered. For a change she had taken a humanoid form, albeit one that had three arms, the additional limb growing from her belly, with a brown skin that resembled a tree’s bark. Now she was craning her head back, gazing up into the blue sky over the Eternal City, peering at two small specks that were circling high above her.
“Having fun?” Shenaumac suggested. He was seated on a pile of rubble that had once been a building, before Koultirsp had decided she hated its appearance. The god was toying with a small piece of stone, throwing it into the air and snatching it right away. Sure enough, the perpetual motion was annoying Koultirsp.
The goddess shook her head and snarled, “What do I care about the fool? This Lonapal should never have been a god in the first place, he doesn’t have the brains to do anything worthwhile. Air and light, wonderful tasks for a deity! Put a sapient in his place, and the sun would still rise the same.” She glared at Shenaumac. “As for you – why don’t you go play with your stupid cat? That’s all the two of you are good for. Playing.” She twisted the word in the air, spelling it out in twisted, red letters that danced around the god’s head for a moment before fading out.
Shenaumac looked at the spectacle with a soft smile. “You haven’t found anybody to torment, have you? All locked up in the Eternal City, with no sapients or creatures to torture. How sad you are, Tirspie.”
“Don’t call me that!” Koultirsp raised her middle arm, ready to throw lightning.
The god laughed. “You know that you can’t hurt me. We’ve been through that already.”
She stared at him angrily, then made the third arm vanish, huff and start walking off. Up above the eagle cried happily, flying a circle around Lonapal who joined in the cheerful cry. Koultirsp stopped and glared at the two of them, tapping her fingers on her thighs.
“There’s one creature right here that I can torment,” she muttered. “Are you going to protect that one as well, Shenaumac?”
“Tirspie, Tirspie, Tirspie,” the god shook his head. “That’s Lonapal’s pet. You have to take the matter up with him. But, come to think of it, haven’t you already measured your strength with his in the midrealm village? Let me think… Who was the victor in that combat? Could it be, mmh –“
“Shut up!” the goddess yelled and flung a ball of fire at him. The flames dissipated around the god, flaking down to the pile of rubble. Shenaumac chuckled, while Koultirsp groaned in sudden frustration and stormed off. A short while later, a rumbling noise started when she tore down other buildings in the vicinity.
The god picked up a couple of pieces of rubble and threw them at the nearest wall, hitting a statue’s head perfectly each time. After he’d thrown the last piece, he casually strolled down the pile of rubble and walked in the direction Koultirsp had gone. “My, you’re angry,” he smiled and whistled when he saw the zone of destruction the goddess had left behind her. Entire blocks had been leveled, smoke rising from a few of them. A fountain had been smashed, its water dripping over the remains. Mannannan would not be happy about this, he thought and frowned. Perhaps he could extend his game?
“No,” he sighed. He was already juggling with plenty of balls, one more might be too difficult.
Besides… Shenaumac turned invisible, masked his presence, and hurried up a slope of rubble towards a single surviving spire, rising like a flagpole from the debris. On its top, claws dug deep into the stone, was a small, gray-and-black cat, its eyes peering intently into the distance – directly at a new site of destruction. The cat bared its fangs and hissed.
“You know, Taurk,” Shenaumac said as he snatched the cat up into his arms, “a cat has a terrific sense of smell. You could tell that I was here, invisible or not.”
The cat hissed in his face, then cried in Taurkémad’s voice, “Put me down!”
She fought against his grip, but Shenaumac quickly grew a third arm and stroked her back in gentle motions. “Try this first, all right?”
“Put me down!” she repeated, but her voice had grown more mellow. Twitches ran through her fur, as the cat’s muscles started to relax. Involuntarily, she started to purr.
“See? That’s a good kitty.”
“I am not a cat!”
“Right now,” Shenaumac grinned, “you are. Thank you, by the way, for choosing this shape. It’s pretty good for hunting, isn’t it?”
The Taurkémad cat stretched and yawned, while he continued stroking her, then she said, “You’ve added claws and fangs, God of Sharpened Things. That’s what’s made the cat shape so interesting. But did you – mmmmh – have to do this purring and stroking thing?”
He shifted her weight around so he could scratch under her head. Obligingly Taurkémad stretched out her neck. “Really,” she whispered, “I’ve got to go, she’s –“
“Tirspie isn’t going anywhere,” Shenaumac assured her. “You can always find her again. Just look for the nearest disaster area.”
The goddess mewed in response, arching her back for some more stroking. While Shenaumac obliged her, she whispered, “I’ve been following her for two days now. She’s been changing shapes more rapidly than ever before. Damn her, she likes fooling around with shapes.”
“True. And she’s angry about Lonapal having found a pet of his own. Did you notice the eagle?”
“Yes, I did,” Taurkémad moaned – suddenly slipping out of the god’s hands at the first moment of inattention. She leaped to the ground and immediately resumed her normal appearance. Self-consciously she straightened her clothes, trying to keep from using her tongue to clean the vanished fur. “Well,” she shrugged, “that was an interesting experience. Thank you, Shenaumac. I had no idea you could be this kind.”
“I like cats.”
“Obviously,” Taurkémad nodded. She glanced up into the sky. Lonapal was still flying with the eagle, drawing curved lines over the sky. “Koultirsp. He’d better watch out before she changes his eagle into a turtle or who knows what else.”
“She might just kill it.”
Taurkémad folded her arms under her breasts. “Do you really think so? What would hurt him more – and what would give the shape-shifting lady the most pleasure? She has to alter creatures. Like my dwarvies.”
Another building fell to Koultirsp’s wrath. But this time its destruction wasn’t the only sound, for a voice started yelling furiously. Mannanan. The goddess must have destroyed one of his houses, or his fountains.
“Better watch out for your cat,” Taurkémad warned. “You never know whom she’s going to hurt next.” She shook her head quickly, clearing the cobwebs away, then she changed back into a cat and raced across the rubble towards Koultirsp and Mannannan, to observe unnoticed.
Left alone, Shenaumac smiled. “Thank you for your attention,” he said and bowed graciously. “But I directed her fury towards more pleasant targets.” He shrugged. “Like yourself, for instance.”