Title: The Lost Children: IV. The Old Gods (Ten)
Character/Pairing: Ike, Soren, Mist, Oscar, Boyd, Sephiran, Sanaki, Naesala with cameos by Caineghis & Ranulf.
Rating: PG? I think Naesala's appearance might have pushed it to PG-13
Chapter Summary: The troubles of mortals have aroused some curiosity in the gods.
A/N: 19. tangled in a thousand strands The Gauntlet. Merry Christmas, Myaru. II haven't forgot this story, life just came up. Hopefully the next parts will come along sooner.
The Old Gods (Ten)
"I'm really tired of this forest," Boyd said.
What had once been full of wonder and magical creatures was even starting to wear down the youngsters. They no longer looked with excitement under every new stump or leafy abode beyond them. There was no longer any newness to the green world about them. The exoticism turned into the familiar and thus became boring.
Soren lead the way, no one asked but his sense of direction hadn't let them down yet. It as uncanny his the way he could discern directions even beyond wind and moss and the shadows from the sun. It was instinctual, almost intrinsic his way with maps. Should he ever bore of a job as a scholar, he could become a fine cartographer, for more than direction, he seemed to have a memory of places which he could jot down easily. For all purposes, Soren might as well been a living, breathing map of all countries, that changed at will when the need arose.
"A few more miles and there's a break," Soren said. No one questioned his knowledge now, for he had proven to have a precognitive sense of lands.
They stepped out from the shade and leafy palms of branches extended towards them and into the light of the day. This seemed only a break for now, but it was a welcome one.
There was a fork in the road. Oscar was poised for the left, while Ike and his little band were determined to go to the other side. They stood there, at an impasse, their separate destinations spread out before them and waiting.
"Where will you go after this?" Oscar said.
"We're going to find father," Ike said, steeped in determination.
"I admire your drive, but do you have any idea yet where you are going?" Oscar said in his most delicate way.
"Soren will find a way. I believe he'll help us find father."
"I hope he is as adept at finding food as he is finding his way," Oscar said.
"You're leaving, really?" Rolf said, his voice squeaking a bit. "Can't you come with us to find your father?"
"No, I've got to find him too. If I leave Ike alone he'd go and do something stupid. I can't have that happening," Mist said.
Soren cleared his throat. "He'd hardly be alone."
Rolf and Mist embraced tight, his head for a short moment, laying on her shoulder like a couple long older that had known each other many millennia of partings and findings.
"I'll find you again, Faerie girl."
"We'll never be really that far away if we remember each other. Then we can just keep that memory safe until we meet again."
Boyd rolled his eyes. "Any longer and they'll be in tears and knitting things for each other."
"Boyd," Oscar warned.
"Boyd, you jerk!" Mist and Rolf cried in unison. Mist even added to the moment by sticking her tongue out.
Ike and Soren's goodbyes were far more restrained, especially Soren's. Oscar entrusted to them a bit of their food. And then, they parted.
The group were again lost on their journey to a place where world meet, a place with some unseen door where his father had been taken to.
But their presence was not forgotten by the king of the land. A great lion stood through his territory, with hundreds of eyes of every color peeking out to the intruders.
the intelligent looking blue cat came before him, gave a bow and rose. A beastman sprung forth from the feline creature. His eyes were two different shades, a trait he'd inherited from his mother.
"There's intruders here, but they're just children. There's others walking with them, older ones."
The king considered this.
"Have they destroyed the forest as they went, or killed wantonly the creatures? Have they attacked our kind?"
"No. I let the tyke have a rabbit and he didn't even eat it in the end. Something about his sister eating berries. The scaleling saved them. Do you think it was that old fox again?"
"I would not be surprised if it was," the beast king said, his voice a rumbling roar over the still forest. "There are very few things he does not have his hand in."
"Let them pass, then. If they stay too long we will escort them from our domain, but in a gentle manner. We don't wish to have hoards of humans coming to slaughter us and killing children to keep our secret would leave a bad taste in my mouth."
His minion nodded, the grin never leaving his face.
"Well, I'll just have to keep Lethe from eating them alive. You know how she despises humans. I think she'd even eat them all if she wasn't so opposed to having them becoming a part of her."
Sephiran arrived at the hallowed gates of Begnion. Two winged lesser attendants, personal attendants to Sanaki herself regarded him with some derision. He suspected that Sanaki had spent some time laying out all of his faults, tardiness high amongst them. Both women were protective of their lady, almost to a fault.
Sanaki folded her dusk and velvet wings. They were a deep shade of purple with gold tips, a most royal color, almost like a sunset. She had grown several inches since he saw her last, and he had to blink to realize that it was not a tiny runt of a girl but now a young woman. One who was not pleased with him, this Sephiran could tell.
"You're late. You said you would be home far sooner," she said.
Sephiran bowed, as if he didn't outrank her by far. "Apologies, I met up with an unexpected delay."
"Hmmph," she said.
"I should be here a long while," he said as a compromise.
She turned her back on him. Sephiran knew it would hours, perhaps days before she would forgave him.
"And what have you been up to?" He said, making conversation despite the steady feel of her anger in this room, smouldering like an unchecked fire.
"Things," she said.
"Things involving Kilvas?"
"Maybe. If you'd be around here more then once ever century you wouldn't have to wonder," she spat out.
Sephiran made a mental note to remind Kilvas again what amount of pain would be heaped upon him should he deflower her. She was at a difficult age, just barely into her teens. She'd been ten the last time he'd seen her, but time flowed fast for her. She was already fourteen and far different than the tantrum-throwing girl he'd left behind to manipulate the affairs of humans. Now she was a tantrum-throwing almost-woman with budding curves and a impetuous manner to boot.
Naesala gnawed on a piece of gold that had been left to him by a generous follower of his. Being the god of thieves did have its advantages. His followers were never the stuck-up, overly pious types that clung to churches like bad mold. They were completely unrepentant finicky lot. They far preferred rum and dancing to prayers and fasting; His followers usually only asked for his help during chases that had taken a turn for the worse. Often they promised him a share of the gold when they had lived through this. Really, it was enough simply to have ample excuse to play with guards but gold as well? That only made his job all the more appealing.
One girl from a very dedicated group of thieves had even offered herself on the altar. She had been dark and wiry, but with enough curves and reasonably attractive. He'd given her the wish she wanted and more. Not only would she carry his child, he'd given her the best night of her life. It was more a curse than a blessing, really, for now she had been ruined for all mortal men.
Oh well, that was the breaks of dealing with mortals.
Unlike most of the other 'gods' of this group, Naesala didn't watch the humans over benevolence (or ignore them altogether as the dragons gods had taken to) but out of amusement. His followers were the kind of people he liked, and they offered beautiful, delicious gold at small out-of-the-way altars. Or as that girl, their bodies.
A noise like a clatter, a sound of metal wings drew Naesala from the mirrorlike pool he had been watching from. The loss of his attention made the image shatter back into blankness of an otherwise innocuous looking pool. Damn. It had just been getting interesting too.
He sat back, not quite up to the task of bowing and scraping at her feet like so many of the others indulged her. She held up her chin, defiant, waiting for his compliance.
"Oh, damn it all," she muttered.
"I see the Empress herself isn't above swearing like a commoner."
He turned and found himself caught in the cold glare of that little princess Sanaki. She tossed her head regally. He didn't mentally call her The Empress for nothing. Naesala knew he wasn't the only one to give her that title either. She walked around as if she ruled the place simply because Sephiran thought himself her father figure. And of course Sephiran was their self-proclaimed leader who was constantly away with some bleeding-heart manipulation of the humans. Should one starving child cry, Sephiran was off with another disguise to pass about bread.
As if that'd cure all the hurting in the world. When he wasn't about feeding starving children, Sephiran snuggled kittens and was generally Loved By All.
"What are you doing?" She asked.
"Attending to my believers."
"Sephiran says that once I reach sixteen I'll gain my own goddesshood. I wonder what I will receive."
"You still have a good three years which you should spend learning from him."
"He never said I couldn't help others. Besides, he's never here to learn from."
"I'm quite fine doing my duties on my own," Naesala said coolly.
She raised a brow. "What, are you afraid of Sephiran's wrath?"
"Cautiously aware. It'd be fool to get on his bad side, even with his guard dog away."
"What about my wrath?"
He tweaked her nose. "You're too young to do more than throw tantrums and run to daddy."
"You! You're horrible! Incorrigible! Dastardly rogue!"
Naesala bowed. "You're too kind."
She balled her fists and growled in frustration. Then, she promptly stormed out, slamming the door behind her.
Well, wasn't she a feisty one.
They called themselves gods but what were they really more than guardians? They had stemmed off from the Zunama but their lives were long and old age did not take them as swiftly. They had powers and senses that were a mere dream to the dulled, blind and helpless humans. Thousands of years later from their birthing they remained in their prime. They were to watch over the humans, they were there to fill the absence the goddess had left.
To something as frail as the humans, they might as well be gods.
Sephiran was the oldest of all of them, he had once been a companion to the goddess. Most of them had been born after, only Sephiran, Rafiel and Dhengesea could recall her voice and what she had looked when not asleep. Humans needed something to worship, so they set themselves up as their pantheon. It was surely as their goddess would have wanted. Thus they became the Gods the people made them into. Tibarn allied himself with war, but not simply the brutes – the noble wars fought out for justice. His closest companion set himself up with honor and law – and revenge. The holy revenge of the wronged. Together they were fierce, even if Reyson's kind was that of nonviolence, his mere request to Tibarn was almost more feared than simply facing Tibarn, for then the hawk king, god of war would be livid.
Leanne took herself in feminine matters. Love, women's prayers, she liked mischievous things like that. Naesala took on the thieves for there was no other place for him to fit. Ravens were always prone to stealing and materialism. Everyone had a role in life, and theirs was to be the designated 'gods' of the enigmatic ones. Never had a race so weak been so cruel as the humans, and without them, they would surely have killed each other in their endless wars.
Sanaki came to him much later, when dusk encrusted the skies like ice. She was haughty and unrepentant as always, but he knew that she had forgiven him for the time being. He was in the large chair in the Manithal Cathedral, a place wherein he had read many a story to her in the younger years. She sat on his lap without being ask to or asking, and he set aside the book he had only been halfheartedly reading.
"Tell me, the story of how I was born," she said.
"That story?" Sephiran said. "But I have told you many times already."
"Tell me again, then," she replied.
"I found you wandering on a cloud. You had no parents, they say you were born of a tear of the goddess, but I suspect you were a fragment of her anger that fell to the sky and broke into life. It would explain your temper."
She harrumphed.. "The goddess can't create anymore, she's asleep."
"Not true. Sometimes she dreams things into being in her deep slumber. If you sing enough, she might hear your plea and answer it."
"Have you sung to her? And tell me of your past! You said you'd tell me when I got older!," Sanaki said.
"....now, now, isn't it your bedtime?"
Sanaki scowled. "I'm not a child anymore. I should be able to stay up far longer than this."
"If you wish to go dawn catching with me tomorrow you'll want to go to bed early."
"...fine. But I get to stay up twice as long after that!"
"You can stay up all day and night if you want and I won't tell you no."
"But you will tell me 'I told you so' when I fall asleep in my dinner," she said.
"Ah, yes. But it won't be a no."
She snorted and went off his lap, tossing her head indignantly and walking out. She didn't need him to tuck her in anymore.
When Sanaki was safe asleep, he left to seek out Kilvas in the watching room, for night was his time. He took up other's at times, but it was more to watch some lurid affair than true helping. Kilvas was a god who could only be won over by coin – and perhaps offerings of a carnal nature.
He was predictable like that.
"Funny, your pawn hasn't been about recently," Naesala said, firing the first shot in their verbal battle.
Sephiran was blank to this, but Naesala noticed a twitch at the side of his mouth, a tightening. Interesting.
"I hear you've taken to tutoring Sanaki. I think it would be best if you left such duties to me," Sephiran said.
"Are you threatening me, o high lord?"
"I have a long memory, Kilvas. I'm sure Reyson would be interested to know about what occurred in the Serenes with Leanne oh, seventeen years ago. I'm sure Tibarn would be intrigued as well."
"Are you blackmailing me?" Naesala for once was dumbfounded. Blackmailing was his thing, all the others were too high and virtuous to get their hands dirty with such things. He couldn't believe the old man would be using his trademark reflected back on himself.
"Call it what you will," Sephiran said. "You do know what happened to the last person who angered Reyson, don't you? I believe Tibarn has turned their spine into a fine necklace."
He'd underestimated the high lord's sources, and his ruthlessness. It was easy to do, to underestimate that soft-spoken fragile bleeding-heart – he wouldn't do it again.
"What do you want, Sephiran?"
"Stay away from her," he said.
"For your information, it is her who seeks me out. I was spending a perfectly good day attending to my worshipers. You act as if my main goal in life was to deflower her, but never take into account that she might be the one to try and seduce me."
"Because you are such an innocent, Kilvas of the thieves," Sephiran said, narrowing his eyes. "In the end it is a simple bargain. Keep it in your pants and you get to keep your head."
"Oh, but I'd be careful, o high lord. Everyone has secrets...even you. Especially you."
Naesala paced about him, his black boots making rhythmic sounds upon the stone floors. "I have a theory that has proven quite true over the years. No one keeps secrets unless they have something unpleasant to hide. Something that they don't want to come to light..."
Sephiran said nothing in response.
"Sleep well, Sephiran. Take you many secrets with you but oh...know that I will find them out."
Naesala walked out, his black wings folded. The room was cast to darkness and silence.
Maybe that'd give the old dullard something to think about.
Sephiran studied the waters. He saw the travelers he had so followed now leaving the wood, cats staring out at them. They came to a town, an opportunity called. Perhaps, he could be there in a night's time and feign emergency— For technically, it was. A building emergency, a time to proof against threats of the future. He pulled on his cloak, it would be short. Surely he'd be home before morning.
The door opened behind him before he could begin the descent. He looked back to find Sanaki looking at him, pinning him with her incensed gaze.
"You're supposed to be sleeping," Sephiran said.
"You're leaving again?"
"Only for a short while. There is one small detail that must be rectified."
She crossed her arms. "You said you'd be here a while. So you were lying."
"No. Something unseen arose. I'll attend to it and return as soon as possible."
"Unseen things don't happen with you."
Sephiran smiled. "Call it a slight miscalculation. Those do happen from time to time. I thought the forests of Gallia would keep them longer, but it seems they were faster than I expected. How did you know where to look for me?"
"I struck a deal with Kilvas to notify me of your whereabouts."
Sephiran's jaw set. "I thought I told you to stay away from that charlatan."
"I believe you did. I, however, didn't care to listen."
Sephiran sighed, longsuffering. "What am I to do with you?"
"You could keep your promises for once," she said.
"It doesn't count as breaking if I was only gone for a few hours time, now does it?"
"It does," she said flatly.
He bent to kiss her forehead, and held for a moment at both her cheeks.
"Stay away from Kilvas," he said. "And I mean it. I don't want to have to call Tibarn into this. I won't be gone long, merely to make a delivery. Then, we can go dawn catching. Alright?"
"Fine," Sanaki said grudgingly.
Sephiran nodded and made his descent. Feathers stirring, winds shifting and the clouds beneath until he felt the coldness of the middle regions. People who had scaled mountains believed the higher altitudes to be cold, but it only went to a certain point. When one reached Begnion, then everything became balmy, and there was never winter.
It was a paradise, to be sure.
Ike had run ahead towards a food stand. They were running low, but for all his severity, Soren couldn't deny Ike food when he looked like that. Ike didn't even have to do a Mist-like pout with cute expression. All he had was that sort of look where sadness fell around the edges and Soren was already giving in and spending money they couldn't truly spare.
He thought to himself of attempting to convince Ike to winter over in a place. It would increase their funds and decrease their chance of frostbite and death by cold, or starving to death. Also, if they came to a place with a diverse enough library, he might be able to find it via research. One winter might be enough to discover the works of a phantom come from thin air.
"Boy, I have a deal for you."
Soren looked sharply to a peddler, black-cloaked and huddled as he was.
"I'm not interested," he said.
"But oh, you are," the peddler said. He withdrew a large stone, many faceted and clear with a red shine. It was a fascinating stone to him, hypnotic. It even seemed to sing, a clear note as his fingers made their way to touch the stone, to grip it in his hands and call it his own.
"Soren! Are you going to come eat?" a familiar voice called through the ether.
Soren shook his head and the spell was broken. In a flash of self realization, Soren drew back from the draw of the stone.
"It's likely a bewitched fake. Stay away, you charlatan."
Soren backed away from the draw, the man in black who called for his attention.
"Oh, I assure you of its veracity. It's quite real. And you can hear it, can't you? You see I'm not here to sell it, I'm here to give it to you. Father Radolphus entrusted it to me."
Soren wavered. He gaze kept going to the stone, its deep color, its song. There was a warmth to it, one that Soren wanted desperately to possess.
"Soren, come one!"
Finally, he grabbed the stone from the peddler's hands and shoved it under his robes."
"That's a good boy. Father Radolphus would be proud of you."
Soren gave him one last suspicious look before turning on his heel without another word to return to his little group.