That afternoon, even before the smuggler had docked, I admit I had a sick premonition. It was an odd thing; looking at the horizon made me feel ill, long before I caught sight of the ship that was coming.
It was an ugly ship, but they were all ugly in their own ways. Large enough to support six masts, it had a number of cannons on deck that were manned even as the ship pulled into port. They took on only food and water, but sold a variety of things, just enough to come in at nineteen golds total trade. Their cargo manifest said that was all they had, and their ledger suggested they didn't even have enough gunpowder to fire two cannons, let alone the ten that were pointed at me.
Under the circumstances, it was no surprise that Manne was willing to overlook the ship. But the awful feeling that I had was strong, and I couldn't help wanting to stop them, sink them, anything to make the awful feeling go away. So I prayed to Alanna, to know what it was I should be doing.
As a goddess of knowledge, she could somehow just know some things, and as a goddess of light, there were some things she couldn't overlook once she knew them. But more than anything, she was also the daughter of a storm god. A goddess of light and knowledge might not pose a great threat to a ship, but there is no sailor on any sea who doesn't quake in dread at the thought of angering the skies.
As Manne turned to walk away from the ship, dragging me along in spite of my hushed prayers, a rumble echoed out from the seas, and a beam of light shot into the heavens from the temple in town. The light, to my chagrin, came down on me, in answer to my prayers. The rumble also came to me, but it remained up in the skies, arriving somewhere above me with a thunderous crash.
All attention turned to the heavens, and two deities floated there; one a woman emitting light from every pore, such that no man could look upon her, and one man wreathed in storm clouds, holding in his hands two thunderbolts.
The old god was not the stooped figure I had seen in a shadow. He was at least ten times that man in proportion, the kind of body build that was muscle upon muscle, as though he lived only to increase the size of arms, legs, chest, and neck. But more importantly, he was large enough to rip the ship in half with his bare hands.
He threw down his thunderbolts and descended from the sky to do exactly that.
The panicked pirates fired cannons at him, not to mention pistols and harpoons, but Alanna's burning light stole their sight, probably forever, and they ended up tumbling into the shallow waters of the bay, now intensely choppy as a storm rolled in from nowhere. Many, I suspected, swam the wrong way and drowned at sea, when they were only a dozen feet from shore to start.
I watched, marveling, as the old god picked up the massive pirate ship and placed it on dry ground, then with a firm shove, snapped the keel of the ship in half, and emptied its contents onto the shore. Already, dozens of people from the town had rushed in to see exactly what was happening, including every man at arms that the small town had.
What they discovered were two very different, very awful things.
The first was exactly what I had feared; they were human slaves, naked but for their bindings, emaciated and exhausted. At my distance, I could make out no other details, but it was enough to make my blood boil. The few slavers who were in the hull along with their captives had a moment where they might have thrown themselves on the mercy of the gods, but when that moment passed, Alanna herself smote them with enough light to burn their flesh and snuff out their life.
The other was, to my surprise, a very different horror, which I discovered was the true cause of my awful feeling: a necromancer had been in that same hold, turning the slaves that died into some kind of disgusting meat puppets. In my god's sight, I saw awful, disgusting black flames shrouding him and several bodies. Out of all the creatures on that ship, I knew immediately that this thing was the worst.
He was the only one with the audacity to stand up straight and curse the gods who had come to destroy him.
"Foul! Fie!" I watched the black flame within him rise up. "Creton should have taken his wrath upon you all! You shall not stop my vengeance, and you shall not stop our--!"
What I felt next was very different from what the mortals who witnessed it saw, I would later learn. Alanna and her father, both together, unleashed blue fire on the necromancer and his puppets, destroying that awful black flame with something that felt much, much less awful. The other onlookers, blinded by the light, could only see lightning and pure white holy light eradicating the twisted evil man, but none of us missed the screams. The screams, like so much else, were not natural. They had an unholy echo to them, like a disgusting stench of rot and disease made audible, and they were not to be forgotten by any who heard them.
After a minute, during which they seemed to be making sure all the black fire had gone out, Alanna finally turned to me, and I immediately knew to kneel, supplicating myself to the goddess who had descended in response to my prayers. Gone from my mind was any sense that this woman was my equal; I could not beat a squirrel to death with a sword, much less smite it with divine fire, and she and her father had made a crew of hardened pirates look like ants.
I felt the aura of her above me, and I heard her voice proclaim for the whole town to hear it. "It is known to me, that this man, in the care of my Church, has located and reported the existence of these impure and evil people. And it is known to me..." the voice receded, and I realized suddenly where she was going, "that this man knew of these people... and did nothing."
"Lady Alanna!" Manne's voice was panicked. "I swear to you, I meant no wrong doing! I only... for my own safety...."
"I can see into your heart," said Alanna, and I felt a cold wind sweep out from where Manne should have been standing, not far away. "You have known, and done nothing. If you cannot confront them, then they must be reported. There are two heavy sins upon the hearts of these pirates, Manne of Olesport. The sin of slavery, wantonly trading of innocents, is enough of a sin to condemn these men in the courts of men."
"But that man has committed a sin against the gods, for Necromancy, black-hearted and evil, defiles the souls of its targets. If you had truly known nothing of this, your life would not be forefeit."
"I, Alanna, goddess of light and knowledge, have measured you and found you guilty of assisting this necromancer."
The cold that I felt was swept away in an instant. Although I did not look up to see it, I felt a burning light like I've never felt before... followed by a more mundane burning, as from a fairly close, fairly intense campfire. The smell reached me then, and I had to struggle to hold down my stomach. Finally, blessedly, Manne's burning body fell through the remains of the dock and into the ocean, where I could no longer smell it.
The gods postured for another few moments before vanishing, leaving the wrecked ship on the sandy beach, along with many naked people in chains. When I dared look up, I found nearly the whole town kneeling, with a few people finally standing and rushing off to attend to the slaves.
The rest of that day was awful. The storm that had rolled in off the coast was no illusion; a cold rain started within a few minutes, and it turned into a downpour that sent most of the town residents back into their homes and businesses. I felt obliged to stay out and help, together with the town guard, mayor, and a few others. Many of the former slaves laughed into the sky... but some of those laughs were a plea to the heavens for death.
I remember vividly trying to help a woman, whose dead and rotting daughter she had kept clutched to her chest, perhaps to hide the fact that she was dead from the necromancer. In her eyes was a pain beyond all reckoning, and there was no thought that she was free. I couldn't look away from those eyes, even though she could not see me.
But when she did, when she caught sight of me, her eyes latched on to mine and wouldn't let go. I felt like she was a living ghost, haunting me, and just as quickly, I felt a very different feeling, as though she knew I was a god myself, and one bony hand grabbed the back of my head in a sudden movement, and she pulled herself to my ear.
"Let me die," she whispered. "Let me die." And, without effort on my part, she did. She sagged in my arms, and I felt something odd, something I could not place, enter my body.
For the rest of the evening, I couldn't help anyone. I huddled miserably on the shore, eventually being shepherded back to the church by one of the guard.
Nency was waiting there. There were many cots already laid out for refugees, many already filled, but she took one look at me and dragged me over to the staircase that led into the depths. Somehow, in spite of needing the wheelchair, she got me down one flight of stairs and threw me bodily into Alanna's rooms, before (I assume) going back upstairs to help with the others.
Alanna was there, along with a stooped figure that I realized was the everyday form of the storm god. Both seemed withered, as though they had spent more of their godly energy than they should have dared, but I also got the sense that thin streams of energy were even now coursing into both of them.
They both appraised me for a long time. Finally, Alanna just looked at her father and said, "You do it," and put her head down the desk.
So the old man approached me, grabbed my by the shoulder, and manhandled me into a chair. Then, he drew up another chair right in front of me, and settled into it.
"You," he said suddenly, his voice sounding very tired, "are now in desperate need of a lesson in godhood, young man. Or else, I fear you will destroy yourself, and very quickly."
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- Pseudonymous bastard
A lost soul looking for a path through life. My history has not provided a stable foundation quite yet, so who knows when it will all collapse. Hopefully not soon!
I have been writing stories since I was a child but I wasn't really encouraged or taught. I have developed bad habits and gotten lost inside myself, but still intend to keep fighting and trying to get myself set upright. Fortunately and not, I am not quite alone, but it's always hard to have the wrong kind of help, isn't it?
Best of luck to anyone silly enough to find this page. Work hard and don't end up like me. It has its upsides, but it's really not worth it...