Somehow with everything that was going on I assumed that whatever Lucile learned or did with the necromancy-tained items, I would at least be able to witness it. In particular, I had some hope I'd learn what the ring with the glyph did. But no, after I explained what was going on in brief, she took the items, shooed me back to my job, and took care of delivering them to the mayor herself, all without answering any more questions or even letting me ask.
That left me back at the docks. Now that I was less preoccupied by the whole name thing, I noticed the shipwrights were back at work disassembling the derelict hull. I considered marching over to oversee things, or even just to let them know I was back at work... but all things considered, I figured nobody there would want to see me, and I didn't see or sense anything wrong that I would need to rat on them for.
Still, there was only so much I could do with Manne's office. I'd gone through all the papers he left and found his secret stash, so now it was just a room, with no secrets left. Instead of sitting in there and brooding, I dragged a short bench outside and sat on it, to watch what was going on in the port more comfortably.
It wasn't much, and I passed the afternoon quietly. Just as the sun was settling down onto the waters, I felt someone approaching and turned to look. It was Felli; her wound was treated, at least as much as I'd ever seen it, and she was approaching meekly; so meekly, in fact, that she seemed startled that I immediately turned to see her, and I had to remind myself yet again that reacting to things I only knew through godly means was a bad idea.
When it was clear that she was coming to see me, in particular, I stood to wait for her. Somehow, that only seemed to bother her more, and when she got close enough, she just said, "Please, sit."
So I sat, and to my surprise, she sat next to me. It wasn't a very big bench, so she was pretty close. We sat in silence for a moment as she watched the sunset. After a moment, I turned to watch it as well, although I kept an eye on her as unobtrusively as I could--mostly without my godly senses.
"Thank you," she said, and I could feel a deep well of emotion behind the words, something that spoke of a woman who saw a dismal future for herself, even as she--we--fought against it. I turned my head to look at her, but she didn't make eye contact.
"You going to be okay?" Given her awful luck, I knew she would be pessimistic about it, but it helps to ask.
And she just shook her head sadly. "I don't know what's going to happen," she said. "But I have nowhere to go, nothing left... I can't stay with the Temple, can't afford a trip overseas, but there are only so many places where humans are safe here ...fewer now than I thought there were." Something in the ocean--I want to say a jumping fish--caught her attention, and she watched that spot for a bit, before turning her eyes back to the sun. "I ought to..."
She paused on the word, but I knew she was going to argue that she should give up. I looked at her for a long time. She was a pretty woman, and she reminded me of people I knew in high school and college... the kinds of people who ended up married young, forcing a smile and resigning themselves to being a housewife and mother as years slipped slowly by. I could see in my head the pictures of those women later in life, still forcing a smile, never happy, never fulfilled. Even the ones that landed a good husband usually ended up giving up their own dreams to do so.
The thought of it upset me, then as now, and I suppose it showed on my face, because she turned and looked at me, measured what was showing on my face, but wasn't quite sure what it was. Or, maybe she was, because she looked back out over the beach and just sighed. "No," she said, "it won't make me happy. But it would be better."
I just shook my head. "What did you do? Before?"
"Helped at my mother's shop. She was a baker, and she had an apprentice already. I helped, but I didn't learn what I should have learned." Felli looked down at her hands. "Until I heal... if I heal... I won't be much good even assisting. Cortnee said some wounds never heal."
I laughed at that, which startled her. "I think," I said, "she was talking about wounds in your mind. Do you ever see yourself being free from the fear you feel now? After everything that happened?" I set a hand on Felli's, to forestall the rising tide of despair I felt in her, and gave it a squeeze. "I don't mean to say that you can't. But wounds of body heal, with time. To find a way to heal your mind, to learn to trust again, that requires good health that goes beyond the physical ...it means feeling safe and secure for so long that you forget that you were ever hurt. That good fortune is hard to come by, even in a place like this."
Felli's eyes met mine, and I felt that she was searching them for an answer. "How do you know these things?" she said, quietly. "You spoke so much about gods..."
"I was... lost." I looked away from meeting her eyes. "I found myself in the wildnerness, far from... my old life. And in the darkness, in the night, a god appeared to me. He said that there was so much more to this world, if you only had Eyes to See." Somehow, I spoke words as proper nouns in a very religion-ish way, barely meaning to. "It was... strange. Since then I have Seen things. Known them. I know nothing about this god, but... I feel that he meant well."
Felli's eyes remained on my face, and I felt a strange feeling from her. "What do you see?" she asked, finally.
I looked back at her, trying to word it carefully. "Only things that are. ...I don't know. It led me here, but I don't understand it. ...Maybe I need to find the right question, the right thing to search for."
"A place where you belong?" Felli's hands found mine, and I felt that she felt a strange kinship with me, as another person who had been lost. That... wasn't where I had been trying to lead the conversation, but at the same time, I can't say that I didn't feel the same need for companionship. Especially as long as Alanna was pushing me out of other business...
But I pushed her away, slightly. "A way to survive," I said. "Right now I am depending on ...Lucile and the Temple of Alanna." Didn't get it wrong! Great. "But even if she would let me stay forever, and she won't, I know that I would never wish to live my life in someone else's shadow." I looked at Felli, seeing the hurt woman. I ...felt that this was wrong, but it was what I wanted to ask. "Do you not feel the same?"
Felli's eyes fell, and she looked away, back to the beach. After a pause, she said, "I know I can never escape living in someone else's shadow. I am only..."
"I hope you don't mean to say 'a woman'," I said, a bit more sharply than I meant to. Felli looked to me in surprise. "How many women have you met here who do not stand in a man's shadow? Lucile, Nency, Mel, Cortnee. I am a quiet man, Felli, a small man, but I hope to always see things as they are. Perhaps that is why the God of Eyes blessed me. I do not turn away from these things." I stood up. "Before you cower and accept your fate, look around you. There may yet be signs of a path forward."
I was about to walk back to the Temple, to give her time to think, but I stopped. The whole conversation had frustrated and confused me, but I could tangibly sense something in the shadows of the city. Felli had just this morning been assaulted, and the man who did it got away. But I felt, perhaps knew, that Felli did need that time to sit and think, without me there to pressure her.
So I didn't walk back to the temple. Instead I found the first convenient alleyway and tried every type of magic that I'd read of in books, trying to make sure that I had at least some way to fight.
Because I intended to keep Felli safe, and this evening, that would require fighting.
By the time Felli had cleared her head enough that she began walking back to the temple, the sun was down and most of the light from it had gone away. She stuck to the most direct route to the temple, but ...that had gotten her in trouble before, hadn't it? And there was someone in the dark waiting for her, down a side street in the middle of town that was loud enough that he could get away with murder, if he tried.
It is difficult to describe exactly how I knew. Perhaps because I was a god, or perhaps I was the same as a human, I had ...what was really a very general sixth sense. Before I'd remade my mind, it was just a single solid blob of feeling that represented the "background feeling" of the world around me. I might, once or twice, have felt that the feeling was different "in front of me" and "behind me", but nothing more nuanced than that.
But now I could tell that my sixth sense was an antenna for ...something, maybe emotions, that others gave off. Sensitivity to souls is what Alanna called it. Adjusting the antenna slightly let me put a general direction to things, but it didn't make the antenna into a camera. I couldn't turn and point towards a place in town and say, that's where the bastard is... but I could definitely say that he was in town. And just knowing the general direction would, eventually, lead me right to him.
And I knew from blocks away that what he felt was sadism. He had enjoyed seeing pain. He enjoyed the thought that he would again. He was anticipating it, it ran through his head, over and over. He needed that intense feeling in his soul, that intense wrongness, that feeling of getting away with it, of having enough power to take what he wanted. I could See his dirty soul, even if I couldn't... "see" it.
So when Felli started moving, I ducked from one back alley to the next, trying to figure out a way to use the few magic tools I had available to make up for not having any way to fight. I ended up behind him, ready to get the drop on him. His body was ...honestly not that different than I'd looked when I first arrived. Bearded, ugly, filthy, and his muscles twitched as he used a knife to clean his nails. This close, there was no confusion in my head. He meant to rape her at knife point, and kill her when he was done.
So I closed my eyes and focused on the magic Gift that I had been practicing.
They called it the Magic Cloth. Basically, if you envisioned a shape in your head, a fake version of that made out of magic appeared in the world. I only needed it to do one thing, but I had to hurry. So as soon as my eyes opened, I wrapped a Magic Cloth around the man's knife-hand, and used it to plunge deep into his own eye socket.
It was over before he knew I was there and he screamed in pain, loudly enough to attract attention. I reformed the cloth behind him and pushed him forward and down, hoping it would look like he fell on his knife, but either way, I hurried away, scared I would be caught. My godly senses said that although the scream attracted attention, it was a minute before anyone dared to go looking for the cause, and by that time, it was too late to save him or figure out who was at fault.
Instead of going all the way to the temple, I decided I would stop a block away, and pace back and forth in the intersection until Felli arrived. It was a good cover for being late to arrive at the temple, and it was good cover for me being so stressed out, since I was genuinely concerned about Felli. But mostly, I just hoped someone would find me there and be willing to believe that I had nothing to do with the murder I'd just committed.
Justified, I reminded myself. Justified murder.
It was a only few minutes before Felli arrived, and I let myself feel relieved. "I was worried," I said. "I didn't think you'd want me to wait for you, but... after this morning..."
Felli's eyes were dark when she looked at me. "It was fine," she said. "Something happened along the way, but nothing happened to me."
I raised my eyes and stepped to the side so we could walk the rest of the way together. "Something?"
"A suicide, said the barman. Didn't see who." She shook her head. "I thought this town was so peaceful..."
"Not one of the refugees, I hope." I knew many of them had wished for death. For all I knew, the man with the knife was indeed one of them; I hadn't paid that much attention. But, for now, it was better not to think about it. "Let's get inside."
The refugees in the Temple were, again, collectively eating donated items, but this time there was no fruit, and it was more obvious to me that the bread was stale, likely unsold bits from the bakery. One way or another, they weren't getting much of a free ride, even if most of them were still recovering. Still, the temple was warm and safe, and even Felli seemed in a better mood after getting inside.
I didn't take much food, contenting myself with a little less than what Felli took. I made a pass around to see if anyone needed anything, then I retired to my room.
Without even going to sleep, I found myself in my Little Gods' Room. But it was odd, because I knew I wasn't being called there. I was in the hospital room... but I wasn't. I was outside the temple... but I was still inside. I was in Olesport, but that wasn't really it, either. Who was I? What was this place? What was I supposed to look like? If Felli came here, she would see too many similarities, so many hints...
My mind went back to that cliff, and the scene shifted. Now there was a man standing on the cliff, by the waterfall, looking out over a sea of trees. I stood in the air next to him--to Me, looking down at myself and the scene. But what did that have to do with eyes? With me? I shook my head and looked again. In the distance was Olesport. Perhaps this waterfall led there... perhaps not. The river just kind of got lost in the trees between here and there. Still, what did this mean to me?
But I found myself at the base of the waterfall, looking up. It was a scene I'd never actually seen; nevertheless, I knew it. And at the top of the cliff, rather than a tiny mortal, was a much larger man, sitting with his legs dangling off the cliff and staring at the horizon, always at the horizon. But when his--My--eyes swept down, I got the impression that he could see so much more.
Strangely enough, the Me at the top of the cliff spoke to me. They were my words, and I heard them clearly. "A god," he said, "need only be a leader, who can tell people what they need to hear, put them where they need to be, show them what they need to see, give them problems they can solve. A god should inspire people to be great leaders, make use of them. A god isn't responsible for everything their people do; even a god would be crushed by the weight of it."
"Perhaps," that Me said to me, "you exist only to serve as an example for others."
I smiled to myself and repeated what I had said at the beginning: "I hope so." Then, the two of Me were the same again, and I felt like I'd gotten something off my chest that I'd been meaning to say for a while. Something that needed to be said.
Felli didn't keep me waiting long. I found myself atop the cliff, looking at the horizon, because in the end, wasn't that just how I was? Wasn't that what I wanted, to see the bigger picture of the world? But she was there, and she had a concern she didn't know how to voice.
I shouldn't look down on her, I thought. I want to elevate her, to show her perspective. To show her that she can do great things. But with no power to do miracles, what could I do? How could I possibly help her?
And then she was beside me, looking out over the horizon. From here, Olesport was so small. Another place, a place she knew and I didn't, appeared in the distance. They were small, the world was large. But Felli also felt small. As far away as those things were, as small as they were, she was smaller.
But it wasn't just about size, was it? I took Felli and in a moment, we were standing over Olesport--the real one, not the half-finished one from my Room. The pattern of daily life was laid out there, things I didn't even know that I knew; the local baker and his bad knees, the fisherman and his alcoholism, Mel and her struggle to escape her past, Lucile and her broken heart--both I and my powers were careful to omit things here--Phinn and the abuse that had created him, Bard and his adult son... I cut off the vision after a bit, raising Felli up even more above the town. I tried to show those relationships as strings, to show that they were connected, even tangled together. The patterns, I tried to say. If you only have eyes to see them...
Felli dropped out of the prayer, I suppose overwhelmed by being shown too much. But she left a tangle of flame that was small and multicolored; silver, blue, and green flames all mixed together, and all vanished into me.
But I was still in "debt". These flames reinforced the Key within me, maybe added to the "atmosphere" that would support future flames. But they weren't enough; I still had nothing.
I retreated to the cliffside and split in two. The Me atop the cliff looked down, to ask why I wanted my own advice. And I wasn't sure, except I felt like I needed the perspective.
"What do you believe God is?" he asked, once more in my own words. "Do you believe that gods have perfect judgement?"
I laughed, and the two of Me were one again, and I left the Little Gods' Room to get some sleep.
Support "God of Eyes"
- 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...