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The room I found myself in was one of the countless unfinished rooms which found within Fastidious House. There were large windows overlooking a formal planned garden, this one filled with a mix of blue and purple flowers which were just starting to bloom. That ubiquitous perfume which filled the air only at a slightly overpowering level.

Beyond that, the room was empty other than six chairs sitting on a simple navy blue rug. The floor around the rug was the basic simple stark grey stone. Instead of being ornately decorated, the walls here were a simple creamy-brown colour. And the celling, that was stark grey with a rigid grid of lights illuminating the room beyond the limited sun which was doing its best to shine in from outside.

Two of the chairs were grander than the other four. These two were facing the door. It was upon these that my regal Mother, Number Three Piety, and Red Frog, my Brother’s traitorous wife, were sitting. The other four, with their backs to the door, were aligned in a semi-circle facing them.

Red Frog looked reasonably pretty, with her wavy brown hair and pale face. But the look of hatred which filled her eyes was really off-putting. My Mother was better at disguising her disgust, but through my traits I could see she was masking her true feelings.

I was lounging on the throne I created from the stone from the floor. My eight elite soldiers were lining the wall behind me. I could tell that these were having an impact by the way that the four people who had been paying attention to my mother were now glancing between me and the soldiers.

Three of the people were men. One was elderly and dressed in neat, but plain clothes. The other two were wearing flashy clothes, and I was sure that my Brother had introduced them to me as someone either of being of this House or from a close ally. The fourth person was Exalted Pine. Her dusky tanned face broke open into a wide smile as she saw me.

She alone stood up and went to stand next to me, her hand reaching for the one tapping on the arm of my throne. I gladly took her hand in mine and held it. Then, thinking better of it, I guided her round the front of the throne and had her sit on my lap.

This was the first time we had been so close together, her lithe body snuggled into my lounging muscular form. I gave her a kiss on her hair. She then looked at me in shock, and I took the opportunity to give her another kiss, this time on her lips.

She returned the kiss. I could taste the wine and soft white bread she had for breakfast on her lips and breath.

After a while, I broke off the kiss with a peck on her cheek.

Mother had a furious red flush on her face. Her flinty eyes were staring at the two of us.

‘So, Mother, you never answered the question I asked of you? Just what—’

‘Just what do you think you are doing there son ,’ she spat out, ‘that is no way to treat a woman of high standing. She is not a mere mother—’

‘Oh, so you are going there, mother , I know that without me or my brother you would be simply another bit of skirt to chase, another woman to breed, all for the glory of the goddess. Lay back, spread your legs, and pray to the goddess.

‘Whom else did you pray to the goddess with, mother ? How about, umm, Radiant Flute? Did you enjoy it when you two prayed together? Or did you just moan like common whores, mother?’

I could tell from the way my mother was clamping her mouth shut, and from the way my Exalted Pine’s grew rigid on my body that maybe I had gone a touch too far.

‘No, Exalted Pine, if she so desires it, will become my wife. And if she so does desire, I hope we will form a strong unified team together, and not one which would send out soldiers to assassinate me because I am inconvenient.’

Exalted Pine shifted her position slightly so she could look at me. There was an odd look in her eyes, as if she was evaluating me. ‘You are a strange man, People’s Defender. A strange, kind, and powerful man. I will be glad to be your wife, and to work to your directives.’

‘Not my directives, beloved,’ I said to her, ‘ours. When I say team, I want to work with you. Yes, at the moment I have a goal, a purpose, something I want to do. But I hope you would accept this as your own. If not, I want to help you do something which is important to you.’

‘What’s important to me is—’

‘Enough of this madness.’ My mother said, standing up suddenly.

I heard my soldiers shift position. Two spearmen now stood next to my throne. My mother sat down in her chair.

‘Go on, My Exalted?’

‘What’s important to me is being able to spend time with you, to discuss interesting topics, and put them into practice.’

‘Then, My Exalted, I’m sure we’ll have lots of difficult and interesting discussion now and in the future as I attempt to reform Fastidious House into a House that will act as a beacon of how else those within the Heartlands can live.’

Exalted Pine snuggled back into my lounging body. I gave her another kiss before turning back to the pain, which was my mother.

‘So mother, why did you send assassins after my Brother and myself?’

‘Why,’ she screeched at me, her regal facade failing, ‘why? Because you’re leading Fastidious House on a path against the teachings of the goddess.’

‘Oh, this will be an interesting discussion to have later, My Exalted,’ I said to Exalted Pine before facing my mother again, ‘admittedly I’ve not had much religious teachings over the past decade, but from my previous readings of her holy scripture the goddess has little to say about running a country, a House, about servants, and discrimination based upon tiers.’

‘Is it not clear that us who have much should be given much—’

‘Ah, yes, that saying. So, you’re saying that me, a Tier Nine, should be given more than you a Tier Seven?’

‘You are not a Tier Nine, I was there when you were deemed a Tier Three subcitizen. You do not deserve to walk around free. You should be shackled and sent to die like the subcitizen that you are.’

‘Are you a Tier Three, My Defender?’ Exalted Pine asked me.

‘No, I’m a Tier Nine.‘ I thought for a moment as for what I wanted to do now. More than anything, it was imperative that ease my future wife’s mind. ’Come on, yet’s go on a little journey. I think it’s time that we see our new chapel here in Fastidious House.’

‘Chapel?’ My mother interrupted again. ‘We have no heathen chapel within our walls, only a sanctuary dedicated to our saviour, the Sanctuary of Peace.’

‘Oh, mother,‘ said Exalted Pine with a mockery of a sigh, ’how foolish it makes you seem when you open your mouth without knowing the truth. Even within these walls, there is evidence that the goddess and her followers deliberately misled and then obliterated those who followed other gods and goddesses.’

‘Those cursed heretical books. It was bad enough that my husband brought them, read them, and taught me about them. But he had to infect not only what should’ve been the blessings of the goddess which I brought forth for her. Those books have also tainted a pure and innocent woman.’ My mother stood up, looking all the more regal than she had ever before. ‘Guards, as the head of Fastidious House, I demand you arrest the subcitizen heretic and help me rescue the wrench whom he has deceived.’

I was proud of my guards, as I didn’t hear them move.

‘Guards, I am giving you an order.’ My mother shrilly ordered again.

‘Guards,’ I said. ‘I’m taking my fiancée to our chapel where we shall be married immediately.’ I looked at Exalted Pine. ‘If that is okay with you?’

She smiled at me with a bright, eager expression.

‘When I depart, those who wish may follow. The rest will remain within this room until…’ I focused upon the connection I had with Fastidious House. With that connection, I altered the wall with the window in forming a solid wall. ‘I come back for them and decide what to do. As we don’t have a cell, this room will be their cell until I unlock it. If any follow me and decide to escape, your orders are to kill them.’

With a slight variance in timing, all eight of my guards stamped their feet.

‘And mother,’ I said. ‘You are not the head of Fastidious House. I am. So far I haven’t reformed the laws of this House. And I do remember the laws of Heartland saying that anyone claiming to be an Heir, or the Head of a House, when they were not would face capital punishment.’

I called up her status.

Name: Number Three Piety

Concept: Fanatical Follower of Sanctuary of Peace

Traits:
Member of Fastidious House: ?
Follower of Sanctuary of Peace: ?
Citizen of the Heartlands: ?
Citizen of Fastidious House: ?
Motherly Duties: ?
Matron of Sanctuary of Peace: ?
Wife of Lord Conqueror: ?

System Traits:
Standard Broadcast Receiver: ?
Standard Broadcaster: ?

‘By what of your seven traits do you claim the right to being the head of this house?’

‘I need no trait. I only need the will to follow through with the holy mission which the goddess has graciously given me.’

‘And you, there, Red Frog.’ I turned to look at my Brother’s wife who had been silent all this time. ‘What of you? Where do you stand?’

‘Until I know how my husband fares,‘ she said with surety, ’I cannot tell you where I stand. For I am his wife and his words and dictates are my own.’

With a gentle tap on Exalted Pine’s arm, I got her to move. I then got up out of my throne and made my way to kneel in front of her. ‘I am afraid to say this, but he was indeed assassinated by six soldiers who were after the both of us. It is to my great shame I was not there when he died, but like a true soldier, he did not accept his death easily. Alone, unarmoured, and unarmed, he defeated two elite guards by himself. I know there was little love between you two, for that was not your relationship, but he was proud of the work you had been doing.’

I squeezed her leg. Tears welled up in her eyes.

‘Guards, allow Red Frog pass if she so desires it, and Red Frog, I’ll unlock your chamber for you to have some privacy. I’ll come and check on you when you’re ready.’

‘No,’ she said, tears still rolling down her pretty cheeks, ‘I will come with you. My husband talked much about you. Though—’ She broke off into sobs.

Exalted Pine walked past me and wrapped her slender arms around Red Frog’s more stocky shoulders. ‘Come here, sister, until you decide your path, I’ll help you as I walk on mine.’

I gave Red Frog what I hoped was a reassuring squeeze on the leg. After I got up, I gave Exalted Pine a kiss on her hair, and then went to stand in front of my mother. She was standing up tall and proper, but with her hands behind her back.

Even with her hiding them, I could see the faint stirrings of the dark mist of death gather around a small knife which she had pulled out of the folds of her dress. With an impressive speed, she stabbed me in the neck.

The knife skittered off my bare flesh as it failed to cut into neck.

‘Mother,’ I stepped in close to her and held her in a cuddle. In a gentle voice I whispered into her ear so only she could hear me. ‘Your goddess is scared of me, and this is the second time she directly tried to kill me. And it is the second time she failed. Do you know why, mother? No, I guess you don’t,’ I said without stopping for her to answer, ‘that is because I am the God of Death and you cannot kill death, you cannot defeat death, for death comes to everyone, even other gods.’

With that, I activated my trait Demi-God of Death and stopped her heart. I let her lifeless body flop to the floor.

I turned to face the room.

All of them, my soldiers included, were looking at me wide eyed either in shock or fear or awe.

‘I am not a follower of the goddess. I never have been. The goddess is frightened of me, not only because of who I am but of who and what I represent. I am… Since the moment I came to awareness in this world, I’ve been tied to a new deity. It is they who have afforded me their protection, and it is to them who I have dedicated our chapel.

‘So, please, come with me and we shall see what the god who has afforded me protection can do for you.’

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About the author

volcanicMole

  • England

Bio: From the outside it may seem like vM is plain and boring. From the inside, though, he is anything but: he is an inquisitive explorer who constantly hunts for ways to burst out of the constraining confines of the ordinary world we find ourselves in. To fulfil this longing he creates vast and wondrous worlds full of adventure where the burning brilliance of heroes stands strong and bright against the almost all-consuming darkness of the world.

Those vast worlds of adventure are not his only siren call: he is a loving father and husband (even if he is accused of being a bit too silly at times).

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