"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"
VII. Mortal Concerns <=== / ===> IX. Dwarven Mystery
“Do you know what this is?” Shenaumac grinned, his squat figure seated on a couch in his large, airy home. The entire building he had claimed for himself consisted of only this single room, eerily reminiscent of Decirius’ study – except that this place was bathed in light, the walls clearly visible, their stark walls rising to a ceiling hundreds of feet above them. On Shenaumac’s lap, a ball of orange fur lay curled up, purring sounds issuing from somewhere within the ball – presumably where the head was.
Koultirsp hissed, “It’s a cat, that’s all.” She raised up her lithe figure, let her three tails beat the ground behind her restlessly. “Little good-for-nothings, that’s what they are. Couldn’t make it in the mortal world more than two or three heartbeats. Herbivores! They can’t even hunt for their food! Whoever was so foolish to create these – these things?!”
Shenaumac smiled, stroked gently the cat’s fur. “Oh, they are worth something. You know, Tirspie, I’ve made a few enhancements to them. Just a few. I’ll ask Decirius whether I be allowed to take care of them. What do you think?” The latter he hadn’t addressed to the goddess but rather to the cat, holding it up by its forelegs and grinning into its little face. The cat hissed, disappointed that the stroking had ended, but Shenaumac nudged its little nose with his own. In gratitude, the cat buried its teeth in his nose – unable to pierce the god’s skin, of course.
Koultirsp didn’t pay any attention. She was shaking her head, her tails intertwining nervously. “Would you stop playing with that? There’s more important business at hand!”
“Business?” Shenaumac asked, let the cat drop back into his lap and patted it softly on its head. “Has something happened that I should know of?”
“Has something happened?!” Koultirsp screamed angrily. “Decirius has locked us in! We’re not to leave the Eternal City for sixty days! Sixty bloody days! We can’t even go to the midrealm – and those villagers there, I’ve still got some issues with them!”
The cat started to purr again, hesitating at first, but then it grew more comfortable, and its noise grew louder. Smiling, Shenaumac stroked its head. “Well, is there a reason?”
“How can you be so calm?” the goddess whirled around and pointed a finger at him. “Haven’t you understood what I just told you? Are you dumb? We can’t leave! I’ve spent all morning trying to find an exit, but that idiot Haguen has sealed up the entire circumference. We’re stuck here!”
“Oh, Tirspie, it’s –“
“Don’t call me that!” Koultirsp exploded. “You know my name! And you will use it! Or shall I destroy your little plaything, your cat? You know you can’t stop me!”
Shenaumac calmly continued stroking the creature. “Would you prefer me to grovel for its survival? Is that why you’ve come here? You can’t play with the beings in the midrealm, so you pick on me. Get it over with, I’m busy.”
“You won’t be busy for long!” The goddess raised her hand, ready to throw a lightning bolt at the cat, burning it out from Shenaumac’s lap. “I thought you had some common sense, but you don’t, you fool. Now pay the price!” She started laughing, then twitched her fingers and sent gleaming fire shooting through the air, straight at the cat.
The lightning bolt dispersed before it hit its target, flaking apart into tiny sparks that burned black holes into the couch and the walls. The cat looked up at the disturbance, without any real interest in the lightshow, then started licking its fur. Shenaumac clucked happily, watching the cat’s every move enthusiastically.
“How…” Koultirsp muttered, glancing down at her hand as if it had withered away. “You’re the weakest of all of us, you’re just the God of Sharpened Things. You couldn’t have –“
Shenaumac rubbed his nose on the cat’s head, mumbling, “Looks like I did, though.”
Emptily the goddess shouted, “But you can’t!” She knew it was futile, but she tried to fire another bolt of lightning. It fared no better than the first. Enraged, Koultirsp turned around and rushed towards the exit – remembering halfway there that she had a better way of leaving and vanished into thin air.
The moment she had disappeared, Shenaumac sighed painfully and raised his head. Beads of sweat were gathering on his forehead, a grimace of pain embedded on his face. “Thank goodness she’s gone, little one,” he muttered to the cat. “The next one would have fried the both of us.”
Ignorant of the meaning of the words, the cat rolled around on its back and offered its belly for some good scratching. Shenaumac took a deep breath, then obeyed the cat’s commands. “What I don’t do for you, my little one. Well, now,” he then said, rolled the cat back over – it mewed petulantly – and put it on the ground. A protesting stare from the feline later, Shenaumac gave his right hand a twist – and a mouse appeared dangling from his fingers.
The cat immediately perked up, focusing its eyes on the mouse.
“Can’t hunt,” Shenaumac repeated Koultirsp’s words sarcastically and flung the mouse a few feet away. The rodent immediately skittered away, piping in nervous fright.
For good reason, it turned out a few heartbeats later when the apparently lazy orange cat suddenly transformed into a streak of lightning shooting over the floor, claws clattering on the marble ground. The mouse zig-zagged, tried to escape, but the cat wasted little time before one of its paws landed heavily on the mouse’s tail. Fangs bared, the cat proceeded to sniff the creature, before letting it go again. For a few moments, the mouse resumed its frantic course, then the cat shot into action once more, just as determined and effective as before. This time, though, hunger won out, and the fangs sunk into the mouse’s flesh.
“Herbivores!” Shenaumac laughed. “You should have asked me about the enhancements I made, Tirspie. Poor little Tirspie, you have no idea what ‘sharpened things’ can be good for!”
The mouse had vanished by now, and the cat looked back towards Shenaumac, as lazy and immobile as it had seemed before. Shenaumac chuckled, twisted his hand twice, then he flung two mice in opposite directions. At first the cat was entranced by the skittering, wild movements of the mice, looking in vain for some hiding place. Then, slowly, the cat got up and trotted in the direction of one rodent – suddenly leaping on it.
Holding his aching side, Shenaumac settled back on his couch and watched with utter glee how the cat played with the mice before devouring them.