“Good to see you again,” Beladia said from behind the round desk overlooking him. Once again, Garth found himself surrounded by gods, the larger-than life individuals looking down at him like a bug under a microscope.
All around him the room was black, with no visible sources of illumination, and somehow, each god was perfectly lit in that black void.
Eight of them, in fact.
Garth recognized Hastia and Entramond. The god of luck and greed seemed to be wearing a new shirt with shiny obsidian buttons, and he played with an American half dollar between his fingers. Probably to appeal to Garth’s nostalgia. Entramond scowled.
Hastia seemed to be wearing living fire that just barely covered her lithe body – when you were looking – at times he thought he saw the fire flicker teasingly aside for an instant out of the corner of his eye. She watched him with a bemused smirk.
Other than the three he knew, there were another five gods.
A man wearing a mad-max outfit consisting of a bunch of black leather and piercings, along with a mohawk. He seemed dark skinned and wide-jawed, covered in scars. Indian perhaps?
A white haired man wearing a billowing grey robe made of clouds flickering with electricity. His hair was uneaven and frayed, even burned in some places, and he had an intense look to him.
There was a raven-haired woman with ruby lips wearing a dress that seemed to be made of latex, bumping out with her nipples, and seemingly open around her belly button and below. The rest of her was blocked by the desk.
A brown haired man sat beside her, wearing an odd assortment of furs and rags, with sunken cheeks, patchy hair and regarding Garth with a rotten-toothed grin.
At last was a person who seemed to be cloaked in shadow, form barely differentiated from the darkness behind them. Garth couldn’t get any hint on the god’s identity other than that ther was a dark form and a pair of eyes staring at him.
Since they were reading his thoughts, the introduction process was swift.
“Delipas,” The mad-max guy said. “God of anarchy and freedom.”
“Gorn, God of storms.” The guy literally wearing a storm said. At least made sure people knew who he was, even if they didn’t know who he was.
“Munasei, goddess of lust.” Said the vacuum sealed woman.
“Jerry, god of revelry and intoxication.” Said the unhealthy looking man beside her.
“Pala, god of enigma and shadow.” The shadow on the far end of the table whispered.
“You’ve come here to petition a Patron, and we are the ones who find you interesting,” Entramond said.
“Is this replacing my link with Beladia?” Garth asked, glancing around the room with a frown. “Because her patronage has been agreeable with me so far.”
“No, your contribution to the effort against the Kipling has been recognized. We are able to tell exactly how many people were aided by your actions thus far, and attribute a fraction of their contribution to you. We now also feel that you have a good chance of living long enough to pay our investment in you back.” Hastia spoke.
“Is there a limit to the number of patrons?” Garth asked.
“None but the limit of mortality.” The shadow in the corner of the room spoke, barely above a whisper.
“Three is usually the limit.” Jerry offered.
“Alright, what have you got?” Garth asked. Might as well start figuring out who Patron #2 would be.
“Not so fast.” Beladia said. “There’s rules you need to be aware of.”
Entramond clicked his tongue.
“You are allowed to select more than one blessing, in exchange for a permanent decrease in an attribute’s capacity.” Beladia said.
“How much?” Garth asked.
“Five points each.”
Ouch. Five points was half a person’s weight in power, roughly.
“Wait, why didn’t it cost me anything with you?”
“Because I felt like it.”
“Beladia has yet to recoup a small fraction of the energy she has devoted to you. But such selflessness is in her nature,” Hastia said.
“Hummm… Do I get to choose what attribute is lowered?”
“Can I receive more blessings during communion, in exchange for attribute points?”
“Now or never, huh?” Garth said. All right, lets figure out who we’ll be going with.
Delipas offered a literal get out of jail free card, a boost fighting the powers that be, enhanced chaos magic and a resistance to mind control.
Gorn offered a quickening ability similar to a barbarian rage, lightning resistance, enhanced weather magic, and a voice of thunder.
Munasei offered an empathic cloak, the ability to keep a clear head, enhanced emotion magic and an ability to influence people via touch.
Jerry offered immunity to the nasty side effects of drugs and resistance to poisons, a deeper understanding of both, the ability to create an area of effect when imbibing any drug, and a reduced need to sleep.
Pala offered a resistance to scrying and truth-telling magic, enhanced illusion magic, a talent for deceit, and a shadow affinity
Hastia again offered beauty, enhanced fire magic, strength, and a knack for destroying things.
Entramond offered luck, business acumen, Enhanced Chaos magic, and discounts at various Entramond worshipping temples and businesses.
Cheap, the last one’s not even magical. Garth thought as he mulled over the choices. Is it just me or are most of the gods that like me not necessarily…good? Kinda neutral, I guess.
Crap, I think I feel a bout of decision paralysis coming on.
“May I ask some clarifying questions?”
“Delipas, does it bother you that I’m making a government on earth?”
Delipas shrugged. “Your world order won’t last long.”
“Will your blessing interfere with creating and administering a new Earth government?”
“To some extent, yes.”
Delipas nodded, reading Garth’s intention. With a wave of his hand, the deity disappeared from the room.
“What is the empathic cloak ability?” Garth asked Munasei.
“It aligns others with how you are feeling, making them more…receptive.” She said.
The lust goddess’s powers were incredibly useful for manipulating people and getting laid, but to Garth, it felt just a bit…disingenuous. Damn. Why do I have to pick just one?
“Because that is the way it is,” Gorn said.
Garth glanced at him. Weather magic, like the treant had. It paired well with plant magic. The other abilities weren’t immediately helpful, although the quickening ability could certainly help win a fight or two.
Jerry synergized well with his plant magic as well. He could create more potent, complicated drugs and poisons, all while having a resistance to their ill effects. The area of effect ability was interesting, too, giving him the ability to indirectly drug a group of people by dosing himself. Garth supposed it was his revelry domain, allowing him to start a party anywhere he went, whether they wanted to or not.
“Did I get anything from the mutant Heartstone?” Garth asked.
“It’s still being decided,” Beladia responded.
Pala began to grin as the gears in Garth’s head turned.
“If it’s in Beladia’s nature to take extra care of me…Then it can be surmised that the rest of you will follow your nature in your dealings with me.” Garth said.
“Yess.” The shadow hissed.
The problem was, Garth didn’t have anything more than a vague idea of their nature based on their domains.
“Would you lie to me, Pala, or perhaps give me a blessing other than what I asked for?”
“The blessings themselves are at face value, though I do appreciate your suspicion. It makes the anticipation sweeter.” The androgynous voice whispered into the room.
Okay, he or she is creepy. That leaves me with Hastia and Entramond.
Hastia seemed as cheerful as ever, but her gifts were unsuited for Garth now, given the road he’d taken. The enhanced fire magic was useful, but the rest of it didn’t really appeal to him anymore.
Entramond was cutting corners by offering Garth two nonmagical benefits, but luck could be very helpful….
“When you said the roll of the dice would favor me, did you just mean you tilt the odds of games of chance in my favor, and not constant luck at all times?”
Entramond smirked and vanished.
Don’t need to make money gambling, damnit. The god of greed was stingy, go figure.
That left Garth with five people to choose from.
“Ma’am, I’d love to pick you as my next patron, but I believe your power would most likely turn me into a monster in the long run.”
“Maybe next time,” Munasei said before vanishing.
Reading his thoughts, Hastia gave him a nod before leaving.
That left Garth with three.
Gorn, Jerry and Pala.
Gorn would help his city-building by allowing him to better understand and control the weather, along with a decent combat boost.
Jerry would help his business by raising his ability to design drugs, as well as give him an interesting, exploitable utility ability. With those abilities and double plant specialization, Garth could probably aim for the top of the luxury consumables world.
Pala wouldn’t directly help his business or his city building, but gave him protection against other magic users using the Scry-and-fry method on him, and the ability to lie to anyone. Useful if he ever found himself embroiled in Inner Sphere politics.
“What’s an affinity for shadow?” Garth asked Pala.
“The dark will welcome you into its embrace with open arms.”
Awfully vague. “Any penalties for that?”
“Okay, I’ve made my decision.” Garth said.
All the gods except Beladia and the shadow in the corner blinked out of existence.
“Interesting choice.” Pala said.
“My end goal in life isn’t to make the best beer or cigars in the multiverse, nor is it to babysit my city by managing the weather every day. It’s to bring the world together so that it can withstand the Inner Spheres, so it doesn’t have to be the property of some clan. That’s going to make enemies. And I bet there are very few out there who can help me avoid powerful enemies like you can.”
“What blessings do you wish for?”
“All of ‘em,” Garth said. “I’ll pay ten from strength, five from Endurance.”
In the inky pool in front of him, a bright white smile emerged, like the Cheshire Cat. It wasn’t inhuman though, far from it. It was as if someone pasted a normal human mouth on a shadow, which made it all the more strange. There were even a couple crooked teeth. “I see why Entramond likes you, greedy child. Very well.”
“Time for the ritual.”
The barrier dividing them vanished, and the humanoid shadow stepped forward, standing in front of him, alongside Beladia.
“After you,” Pala whispered, motioning to Garth.
“I’ll take it easy on you this time,” Beladia said with a wink. The goddess wrapped in leaves leaned forward, and planted a kiss on Garth’s forehead, in the same spot Ellanore had placed hers. I wonder if that’s a coincidence or not. garth thought as Beladia’s wobbling boobs hung in front of him.
He felt the energy flow through his skull, tickle against his sinuses like honey before burying itself in his heart.
“Stronger than ever,” Beladia said in satisfaction, admiring her handiwork.
“We don’t have to…” Garth trailed off.
“I figured you needed it last time.” Beladia shrugged. “You seem a lot more relaxed now.”
I really hope this isn’t painful. Garth thought as the shadow stepped toward him. contrary to his expectations, the shadow didn’t grab him or pierce him with some kind of shadow substance.
Nope, instead it walked right through him.
Garth felt a comfortable chill suffuse his entire body, like a cool nook on a hot day. The chill first settled on his skin, then it turned inward, cooling his flesh, then his bones, until the only place he could feel it was in his skeleton. It wasn’t painful, and it wasn’t anything more than cool. The chill of a shadow.
Garth felt like a creature of shadow, cool on the inside, wearing a meat-suit to prove he was still a real boy. God I hope this wasn’t a mistake.
Pala turned around behind him and traced fingers over his brows, and the chilling sensation dribbled down into the corners of his eyes before sinking into his brain.
“There is nothing that we can give you that you could not have achieved yourself, Apostle. Do not fear what already exists inside you.” Pala said.
“See you tomorrow night!” Beladia said, waving.
Garth’s eyes opened, revealing a green lizard the size of a dog sleeping on his chest. The homespun curtains were bright with the dawn, spilling golden sunlight onto the floor beside him.
The crystal Heartstone was gone, and Garth was naked under the sheets. Did I absorb it or did someone take off with it? Garth was willing to bet it was the former.
With a few glances around, Garth spotted his homemade Status band and put it on.
Apostle of Beladia & Pala
Blessings: Photosynthesis, Temperature resistance, Empowered Plant Magic, Pheremones, Hyper-fertility, Unscryable, Empowered Illusion Magic, Deceitful, Shadow Affinity
Class: Journeyman Phytomagus
Skills: Mana Boost, Mana Channel, Mana Wielding, Spell Theory, Delayed Spell, Recursive Spell, Enchanting, Divine Lantern Style
Spells: Control Plants, Design Plant, Force Armor, Forestwalk, Create Fire, Haste, Plant Growth, Teleport, Polymorph, Fly, Shrink, Summon Nature Spirit, Force Shield, Fireball, Telekinesis, Magic Jar, Heal, Illusion, Floating Eye, Scry, Stone Shape, Wall of Stone, Create Water, Warding, Charm, Clarion Call, Operant Conditioning, Bark Skin
Evolutions: Mana Sight, Resilient Mind, Mind palace, Memory Lane, Plant Biology, Control Weather
Oh, geez, that’s a lot to unpack.