There is a story of a young woman who worshiped a forgotten god. They say that when she died, the god drew up her soul and remade her into his immortal servant. In his stead, she walks the earth, scouting ahead for land for her Master to claim.
Beware, the people say. Beware the woman who steps lightly, dancing among the crowds. She hides in plain sight, even with her cloak of red, blending with the crowd, unseen until it is too late.
Be kind always, for you never know when she is listening, and if she finds you rotten or cruel — pray the gods will have mercy on your soul. For she will skip back to her Lord, whisper your deeds in His ear, and He will tear you and all you hold dear asunder.
For the one she serves above all else, is a monster of a being.
He is made of blackened stone; carved from the earth when it was new. He commands the earth to part, mountains to shake and pour fire, His breath creates storms that flatten forests and drag civilisations into the dark depths below the earth. He is a deity of the land, and through churning it, He commands water and fire to move with merely a thought.
He hungers for destruction, for blood to sate His long-burrowed rage. No one can beg for mercy or forgiveness, for all have forgotten His true name. Except of course, for His loyal followers, His chosen immortal servants.
Long ago, perhaps He had been kind, but the long centuries have taken their tole, and now, His soul is as blackened as His flesh.
So the people say. But really, who knows what goes on in a god’s head?
Her cloak swishes around her, a splash of color in the otherwise dreary landscape of withered flora and dry earth. Dust rises beneath her heels, not all of it ground from stone and dirt.
In the distance, screams continue to echo in the night air. She sighs, her breath a puff of smoke as she pulls her cloak closer, suppressing a shiver not entirely caused by the cold. Her hood casts her face in shadow, a fact she appreciates as she comes to an opening in the trees. She stops, standing along the edge of one of the forsaken towns.
Raising her head, emerald eyes catch in the flickering light of the fires, causing the orbs to shimmer with shadows. She sighs again, lungs filling with ash and copper and the horrid stench of burning flesh. She coughs once, twice, before descending. Walking the broken streets, unimpeded by the glass, wood, and rock that block her way. Gracefully, as if following a well worn path, she flits over the debris, the corpses, the abandoned objects these people once held dear. Off to the side, shadows clash and cackles fill the air; other servants of her Lord. She avoids them, not fearful, but eager to flee their sight regardless.
An inhuman whine calls from her left, and she pauses, following it to find two horses tied to a pinned wagon. She moves to them, hushing the frightened animals before untying them, watching with a small smile as they flee into the woods.
Once out of sight, her smile falls, and she continues on her way.
Ash falls like snow upon the lost village, coating her cloak and clinging to her lashes. Beneath, her hands tighten on the material as a grimace paints her pale lips. She moves faster, darting into the shadows, scenery passing by in a blur. She finds more corpses, and her breath catches at the sight of children.
Fire burns in her belly as her eyes prickle. She swallows a sharp breath of air, then rushes down the path, pressure building with the number of bodies she passes, until finally, she bursts from the treeline, nearly tripping in her haste to stand at the mouth of a massive dark mountain. She collapses to her knees, skin scraping, and screams.
From her lips spill curses, darkly, venomously she spits her grievances, she calls Him out; her salvation and destroyer. She cuts her own tongue with words mortals could never speak, crimson paints her lips, but she does not stop. Her voice rises like a tsunami, and she tells Him of the death and destruction He has wrought. Of the horrors that now play in her mind, she calls upon past errors, even the ones she has long forgiven. She asks why they had suffered so. What had called upon His supposedly holy wrath?
And over and over again she cries; ‘Why?!’
When she runs out of words she’s heaving for breath, curled, head pressed to the frozen soil, her beloved cloak pooling around her like blood pouring from a wound. Her chest is cool and empty, and all she is left with is the burning pressure behind her eyes. She whimpers, forming crescents against pale skin as she clutches at her arms, willing tears to come, terrified by her dry cheeks.
Then, a rumble answers her. A hymn fills the quiet air, one she had long ago taught Him, and she can breathe again. She raises her head and looks her Lord in the eye, and finds no anger, no oncoming punishment for what she has said. For this was not the first time she has cursed her God, and would likely not be the last.
With a voice as deep as the dark depths, as old as the stars, her Lord speaks; “My child, my chosen beloved Emissary, cry not for those forsaken souls. They do not deserve your tears.”
“But why?” She strains, pressing her hands against the warm black stone beneath, she sits, raised on her Lords hands, hands that had not so long ago been cruel and relentless. “There were children there, innocents! Did they deserve your wrath?” Her Lord is silent, but in the depths of His eyes, she sees guilt, and her shoulders drop. She breathes slowly, caressing the smooth stone.
“You are better than your anger.” She whispers, standing, her head held high as she addresses Him, a tear finally slipping down her cheek. “You are more than what they think of you. You do not have to appease your followers, your chosen who kill for you. You do not surrender to their hunger, they surrender to yours.” She sniffs, His eyes glistening with tears He will never allow Himself to shed. “You are a God, command them. Call them from their task and listen with your own ears.”
He closes His eyes, and she feels Him listen, knows that he is displeased with what he finds. She feels no joy in her triumph but knows her point made. No one else will fall tonight, if the fire that now burns in her Lord or the grimace that paints His sharp features is any indication.
It is then the dam bursts, the tears she had been waiting for, fall. She tastes salt as she chokes on sobs, collapsing once again, cradled close to her Lord. She weeps for them both as her Gods heart beats beneath her palm. He starts the hymn again, a soothing sound that surrounds her, soothing her tears with the ghost of hands upon her cheeks. Like a father soothing his child.
She sighs and closes her eyes, listening to the rumble as He rises to His feet, turning and making His way deeper into the wild.
“You are right as always my faithful. I have called them back, no more will fall tonight. And there will be words with my warriors. The souls will be cared for, I swear it. I am sorry for causing you such pain little one.”A smile pulls at her lips as sleep creeps in. “Rest. For you will be needed again.” She falls into dreams, tended sweetly by the love of her God.