"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"
VI. The Closing Gate <=== / ===> VIII. The Tiny and the Divine
“Wants to shut me in, does he?” Maidoyú grinned victoriously and greeted the coming day with a whooping cry of joy. She was standing by the creek rolling through the hills outside of the Eternal City, the one that Mannannan had tinted with green. Ah, yes, a few hours earlier, that pesky god might just have been listening to her and once again pestered her about purpose this, purpose that.
Decirius had ordered the gate closed, so that all the gods were to stay inside the Eternal City. “Forgot about somebody, didn’t you?” Maidoyú propped her fists on her hips and glared towards the glistening city walls. She had been lucky, she knew that. When Decirius had talked to Haguen, given the guardian the new orders, Maidoyú had been in a nearby house, watching the conversation between Darawk and the stranger. She had been wondering whether she should have asked who that old man was – he intrigued her, was somebody new, and Maidoyú really wanted to talk to somebody else. Just for a change, mind you. Only to find out how somebody else felt about all this purpose stuff.
But she hadn’t quite pulled her courage together – and then she had heard of Decirius ordering the abode closed off.
Now that was something she just didn’t care for. She needed to go to the mortal world every now and then, play at being one of the mortal creatures! She really, honestly needed that. As much as she loved the Eternal City, there were too many of her fellow gods about, and they were all so serious, so… ahhhhh, purposeful!
So, after hearing Decirius’ words, Maidoyú had hurried off to the gate and rushed out. It had felt so good standing outside the walls, preparing herself to jump to the mortal world and assuming once more the guise of a gargoyle, to soar through the skies. But just when she had been about to leave the divine area, Maidoyú had realized that she couldn’t leave the gate open. That would have been a clarion call to Decirius that one of the gods had gone missing – and she really didn’t want the chief god to find out very soon. He’d only try to track her down, she was sure. And then he’d be raining another tirade down at her that she was irresponsible.
No way she would accept that. Neither then nor now. So, she had angrily gone back inside and barred the gate again. Slamming a hand against one of the valves, she had cursed the fact that only Haguen and Decirius knew how to open and close it from outside, then Maidoyú had quickly hurried off to the midrealm, to the elven forest. She had stayed only a few moments, then jumped over to the mortal world, back to the heavens, over to the midrealm, then to the doors of a foreign divine abode, sticking out her tongue at the trio of gods standing guard, only to leap to some other location.
Maidoyú herself had lost track of all the places she had gone to in a very short sequence, and that alone was proof to her that Decirius would have an awful time trying to follow her. Then, as a coup de grâce, she had come to the Eternal City’s area – sure that this would be the last place Decirius would ever start a search.
And, she whooped again, she had been right!
The gate was still closed, although the light of day was filling the area with colors. Haguen hadn’t resumed his guard position, and with a sneaky grin, Maidoyú thought that he might be trying to pursue her right now. “Hah, try he might!” she said smugly and imagined how Haguen would spend a long time searching each of her visiting points for a clue where she had gone next or what she had done.
Whatever. A fun image, all right, but now there were important things to do. The mortal world, Maidoyú reminded herself. Finally, she could enjoy herself!
Not caring to wait any longer, Maidoyú propelled herself on to the skies of the mortal world, reappearing there with the rocky wings of a gargoyle, already spread to fly on the winds. Bright sunlight shone down on her, Lonapal’s blessing warmth creeping through the cold of her stone body.
Yes, this was it! She shrieked, her voice now a harsh and grating sound that seemed to run the course around the world. Far below her she could see the land, a brown and gray mélange of rock and dirt, suitably enhanced by the mound of a volcano slowly seeping dark red flows of lava down its sides. The smell of sulphur rose into her nostrils, its refreshing burn rushing up straight into her silicone brain.
Another shriek, then she swooped down, circling towards a nice patch of jagged rock, a precipice over a stream of lazy lava. Her claws found easy purchase while she tugged her wings in and looked around whether any other gargoyles were in the area, perhaps feasting on the tasty morsels the volcano was spewing.
None were around, despite the fact that there were quite a few of the still warm rocks around. “More for me!” Maidoyú laughed. The words were barely understandable, distorted as they were by the gargoyle throat she now possessed. But Maidoyú enjoyed that sound all the same, particularly when she didn’t have to worry about anybody else reminding her to speak better. Oh, right, just imagine Mannannan now! “You are a goddess, child. It does not matter which form you take, you must always behave like a goddess.”
Very un-divinely she threw herself at one of the rocks, hacked it into maw-sized pieces with her claw and scooped them from the ground greedily. They were terrific. Filling and nutritious. Forget about nutritious, she wanted more!
For a while Maidoyú hastened about the rocky ground, searching for more of the special stones with the singlemindedness of a true gargoyle, focused only on more food. But then she started to feel sated, and only indulged herself with a few pounds more. Enough to give a real creature a bellyache, but goddesses didn’t have to bother with that kind of a nuisance after all.
Eventually she dropped down on an oblong piece of rock, carved out by streams of lava years ago, spread her body out fully, the tips of her wings drooping over the edges of the rock, her head propped up just so on the front. “Take that, Decirius,” she muttered, enjoying the warmth and the sulphuric vapors around her.
The claws on her hindfeet lazily scratched patterns into the rock, while she looked around – and froze all of a sudden. “Now this is different,” Maidoyú whispered, gathered her body up again – the pesky body protesting that a couple more rays of sunshine wouldn’t have hurt – and leaped a couple of yards off from the rock.
She landed on dirt ground, muddy from recent rain and not yet dried. Not all the way, at least. Right before her, there was something very intriguing and strange.
Footprints that looked much like those of a god. Except that this one must have had long claws, on both ends of the foot. And they were pretty big, too.
Maidoyú changed back into her usual form – and regretted it right away when the vapors started to choke her and send bile up her throat. With a curse she forced down the urges – she was a goddess after all -, then she carefully put one of her bare feet into the print in the mud. The print was a goodly two inches wider on each side.
But the shape was roughly the same.
Which creature of the mortal world could have left this print? Not gargoyles or dragons or any of the others she had seen so far.
Maidoyú whooped with joy, switched back to her gargoyle appearance – better suited to this environment, anyway – and started to follow the footprints. There was something new to see, something new to play with!