"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"
XXVII. Prey <=== / ===> XXIX. Predator Revealed
Haguen was screaming and pounding against the walls of his prison.
Alyssa smiled and prodded the tiny, translucent ball hovering next to her. “You can’t get out, so don’t waste your strength, my dear,” she told the god caught within the ball, quite visible through the shimmering walls. Truth be told, she rather liked the powers she now possessed. Never before could she have dreamed of doing this to Haguen who had been about her equal.
Well, she corrected herself, she had dreamed of this. Of course, should she have voiced her previous thought, her brother would have been quick to mention her various and quite varied fantasies about this.
“Shall we?” Darawk asked and pointed at the dark tower of Decirius ahead of them.
“Just a moment, please,” Alyssa said. She looked around, took in the sight of the vast city – all so very visible to her, every detail, every nook and cranny, all at the same time. More than she had known before. And there, there was the city wall, with Haguen’s blockade ensorceled into them. Her smile intensified, then she waved at the wall and removed the blockade. “No more boundaries,” she whispered. “Yes, brother of mine, we shall.”
Darawk nodded, then opened the door into the chief god’s home. The two of them entered, the trapped Haguen trailing them inside his jail cell.
Alyssa frowned when she saw the interior of the tower. It had always seemed so foreboding, with the mists of darkness covering up the contents, with the sense of constant change – like the furniture that seemed to change place every now and then, perhaps all the time.
Now, though, she perceived the tower as clearly as she did the City. The mists were no hindrance at all anymore. Right away she saw Decirius, seated behind his desk, scanning a few sheets of paper before him. The desk was shrouded within a bank of clouds. She knew that at her old level of power, she might have spent all day searching for the chief god without ever finding him.
Now she turned her face towards him right away. “Decirius, we will have words with you.”
The chief god looked up from his desk. His black eyes tightened, his pasty face appeared to manage a yet whiter shade. He didn’t say anything, as if secure that the newcomers could not see him.
Darawk waved his hand. The mist vanished, and there was a clean line of sight between them and the chief god. “Like my dear sister said,” the God of Knowledge nodded, “we have to talk.”
“Indeed we do,” Decirius slowly said and rose from his desk. “Darawk, did I not warn you about disobeying me? I said that you would be cast out of this abode.”
Alyssa sensed her brother’s heartbeat quickening. His voice, though, was calm when he answered, “Things have changed. We know about your plan.”
The goddess reached out a hand and clasped her brother’s, just for a moment before she stepped forward, to take over the conversation. “You are endangering our peace. Casting sapients into the mortal world, turning them into multiplying animals. For what? To raise your own grandeur?”
She paused, giving the chief god a chance to answer. He did not take it.
“More power for you, that’s it, right?” Alyssa shook her head. “Or perhaps you think it’s just. What is just about bringing us to the brink of war with other abodes? I nearly killed Lógrims, over a few dwarves and harsnetts. There is no justice in this, Decirius. You’re failing your own task.”
The chief god slowly walked around his desk, towards Alyssa. His face was back to its normal appearance, unperturbed. “Then do you challenge my position?” he asked neutrally. “If you believe that you may easily stir up trouble in your own abode, go ahead. But you need to be aware that one cannot claim to be a peacemaker if that one does not care for peace before her own doorstep.”
“Don’t confound the issue!” Darawk muttered. “Explain yourself! You’re threatening your own under-gods, you’re willfully endangering our peace. Face the truth.”
“I don’t have to,” Decirius shook his head. “I make decisions for the abode. That is how it always was. There is good reason for this, one that you no longer remember, yet it stands as firm as before. You will accept my decisions.”
Alyssa closed her eyes briefly, then she hurled a gust of wind at Decirius.
She utterly enjoyed the shock on his face when the chief god found himself thrown from his feet, carried back until he crashed into his desk. He was back on his feet momentarily, studying with sudden interest the two under-gods.
“Explain yourself,” Alyssa repeated her brother’s words. “It’s about time.”
Decirius crooked his head. “You are right,” he nodded. “It is time.”
The goddess became aware of power coalescing around the chief god. Automatically she built a shield around herself, signaled Darawk to do the same. What was Decirius trying to do? Attack them? The sibling gods were powerful now, powerful enough to –
“It is time to teach you a lesson,” Decirius continued calmly. “I do not know where you have obtained this power. For your sakes, I will assume that you did not steal it from slain deities. It does not matter. You have challenged me, and I will respond to that challenge.”
He grew, not only in size, quickly filling out the interminable heights of his home, but also in strength and force, reaching a potential that Alyssa had never realized – a magnitude that she had never suspected in the chief god.
It made her tremble, despite all the strength that the villagers’ worship gave her.
“Learn the lesson well. I will teach it only once.” The gargantuan god raised one hand, and Alyssa felt herself shrink. Her size diminished, and walls grew around her, outside her own shield that could not defend against the outside force. A bubble formed around her, so very much like the translucent ball in which Haguen was trapped.
“You are no longer of this abode,” Decirius said in a voice that sounded like two planets colliding. “Return to the village of which you are so fond. See what lives you have left. You are still deities, but you no longer have a home. That is my lesson. It is taught – and executed.”
Alyssa lost her bearings. She felt herself tumble backwards, her mind and body seemed torn in every direction at the same time. Everything blurred around her. The only thing she could perceive was Decirius’ still face, his black eyes consuming her awareness, his voice, and his determination.
Caltraya leaped backwards when two shapes appeared before her, two people cringing in pain. Her eyes widened when she recognized Darawk and Alyssa.
“Help them,” Olmawi shouted, already by Darawk’s side and lending him a hand.
Caltraya swallowed her sudden fear, knelt by Alyssa and carefully grasped her shoulders. “My lady, what –“
“It’s over,” the sweet lady answered, slowly raising her head and directing her beautiful gaze on Caltraya. “We’ve been cast out of the abode. It isn’t our home anymore.”
The villager woman didn’t understand. She only knew that Alyssa was hurting. The goddess who had been so immensely powerful a few hours earlier, now reduced to a weakened person too much like herself.
Next to them, Darawk got to his feet, aided by Olmawi. “Thank you, old man,” he said softly, panting lightly. “Decirius is stronger than we thought. And more vengeful.”
“He didn’t see reason?” Olmawi asked.
“He didn’t even consider it,” Darawk responded drily. Alyssa rested her head against Caltraya’s bosom. The villager woman slung her arms around the goddess’ head, wondering what she could do to ease the deity’s sorrow. The God of Knowledge loosened himself from Olmawi’s hands, walked a few steps towards the window and gazed outside to the plaza with the blue flame of worship. “Decirius said we are still gods, but we are outcasts. The worships powers me still, so it isn’t all over.” He smiled grimly, turned towards Olmawi. “You were right, after all. We have joined you on the outside.”
“I am sorry for that,” the third god said.
“Don’t be,” Darawk shook his head. “It was our choice, and now we have to see what we can make of it. There are…” He paused, looked back at the plaza. “There are always possibilities. We will find them.”
Read on in Part XXIX!