Fifteen

Fifteen

A Chapter by Isemay

The door the monsters had spoken of seemed more like a curtain being drawn aside and every fiber of Cellindir’s being told him not to go through it. 


He had no choice, however, as the Rook asked in a teasing tone, “Which one of you is the bravest? I bet it’s Virilla.”


“It is not!” Rivoril stepped forward with an incredulous look.


“First one through proves it.” The Rook shrugged with a nod to Virilla.


Both of his children darted into the dimness beyond the curtain that was being held back and Phiphla let out a small squeak, following them. He forced himself to go after. Letting his wife and children go to a dark and dangerous place alone… 


The other side of the curtain looked like just another part of the world. The sun was setting in shades of red, gold, and purple behind clouds and the rocky ground looked like any other rocky ground. A peculiar low cave in one of the nearby outcroppings didn’t look unnatural or particularly terrifying.


“I thought it would be more…” Phiphla looked around with vague disappointment.


The monster that had followed them through laughed quietly. “This is the doorstep. Inside, beyond the threshold, is more impressive but you aren’t intended to see that yet. We should-” He stopped and bowed, “Divinity.”


“I wished to see them.” A sharp featured man in shades of rich deep blue and black, who looked neither old nor young, walked out of the cave with a curious smile, “You live good lives, simple and honest, you have nothing to fear here, even in death. You are the songbirds?” He looked at Rivoril and Virilla. 


“That’s what Master Odos calls us.” Virilla tilted her chin up. “Who are you?”


“His uncle.”


“Master Odos is old, I didn’t know he had an uncle, and you look…” 


Rivoril eyed the god as he moved closer and Cellindir could do nothing but stand frozen in shock. The cursed god of death stood before them and his children were approaching as if he were any other man.


“You look younger than he does.” Virilla finished the sentence. “Are you teasing us like Master Odos does? Is he your uncle?”


To his surprise the god began to smile and even laughed softly. “I am not teasing. Master Odos is my nephew. What are your names, little songbirds?”


“I’m Virilla and this is-”


“I’m Rivoril.” The boy folded his arms, “I can introduce myself.”


“Do you know my name?” The god smiled down at them.


“Hevtos,” Phiphla breathed, and when Cellindir looked at her she was pale and had her hands clasped so tightly her knuckles were white as bone.


“No.” Virilla smiled back up at the god.


“Hevtos is my name.”


“You’re Rook’s uncle too, Hevtos?” Rivoril’s question made the god smile again.


“She is the daughter of my nephew, and I call her my Golden Rook.”


“I liked her.” Virilla nodded, “But she was nice to us. Master Odos said she was bullying mama.”


The amusement on the god’s face made him look vaguely like Odos as he looked first to Phiphla and then at Cellindir.


“Syreilla wanted them to be safe, Divinity. There was some argument about leaving their things and their friends. She would have stolen the children before she allowed them to come to harm.”


“So many only realize as they cross my threshold that the only important things are those you carry,” the god tapped his chest and looked down at the children who looked pensive.


“But my Neia is important.” Virila gave Hevtos a stern frown.


“Neia?”


“Her doll.” Rivoril scoffed, “She can’t go to sleep without it.”


“Master Odos gave her to me and you have Blankie!” She crossed her arms and glared at her brother.


“Blankie is a blanket! Everyone needs a blanket to sleep!”


Cellindir stared in amazement as the god began to laugh again. “If I had not promised to send you to Zyulla I would invite you into my home, little songbirds, to help you understand. She will enjoy your company. Perhaps you will sing for her instead of quarrel?”


“We were practicing for the Festival of Song.” 


“Sing your best for Zyulla.” Hevtos smiled warmly, “It has been a long time since any came to sing for her and she is always kind.”


“Why does no one come to sing for her if she’s kind?” Virilla reached to take the god’s hand and Hevtos bent his knees to come close to her level.


“She loved two brothers but she was only permitted to be with one. The second brother could not bear to be without her and in secret persuaded her to be his as well. The brothers fought and she was locked away alone by one who was meant to love her. Her children are permitted to visit her, and their children. Her temple cannot be found by anyone else, they must be taken there.”


“But he can find it?” Rivoril pointed at Vezar.


“He is the son of one of her children. The sons she gave to the second brother were cursed by the brother who won. They were torn from her and made monstrous in appearance and covetous.”


“He’s cruel!” Virilla stamped her foot. “You don’t curse children! They didn’t do anything wrong!”


Hevtos touched her face with a sad smile, “I agree, little songbird. He cursed them to punish his brother and to punish Zyulla. Her beautiful, loving sons changed to monsters in the blink of an eye. Be very kind to her, she loves children. She misses them.”


Both of the children nodded solemnly. Cellindir risked a glance at Vezar who was standing with his head bowed. It felt as if he were looking at someone else, and not one of the Beasts of Brosa. He shook his head and rubbed his eyes.


“Something troubles you, elf child?” Hevtos was looking at him curiously and Cellindir cleared his throat nervously. 


“I… I was thinking that it’s strange he could seem so… He’s one of the Beasts of Brosa. The things they did, the wards, the wounds of the dead and injured…” 


“What I did, I did for Syreilla. She nearly died trying to protect me.” Vezar lifted his head and looked at him without a trace of remorse. “I took the life from anyone who threw themselves at me and poured it into her. She,” the monster glanced to Hevtos with a rueful tilt of his head, “cast wards to defend me and frighten away the men. Even before she was divided and became the Golden Rook, Syreilla had a reputation for breathing dragon’s fire and being a woman no one wished to cross, for good reason.”


“She said…” Rivoril frowned, “It’s difficult to tell monsters and people apart sometimes and that sometimes they’re both at once or one at a time.”


“It doesn’t excuse the harm done.” Hevtos smiled faintly. “She has much to atone for. In atonement, Vezar Edra and my Golden Rook serve me by making the land of the living safer. The lost and lingering dead are brought here where they should be, where they cannot harm or frighten the living, to be judged.”


“Rook would be good at it.” Virilla nodded. “She caught the men who tried to steal me and she was laughing when they cast lightning at her.”


Hevtos straightened and looked proud for a moment, “They say my Golden Rook goes through wards like a wraith and breathes dragon’s fire.” Pausing he continued with what sounded like irritation, “If I could trust her not to steal anything that hasn’t been nailed to the floor without her screaming about being kept in a prison I would have only praise for her, but she is Odos’ daughter.” 


The children began to laugh and Cellindir found himself smiling.


“I assumed he adopted her.” The words came out before he thought about them and the amused look from the god as Hevtos placed a hand on each of the children made his stomach knot.


“Few of the gods choose to create children with mortals. It requires them to offer what you might call a blessing at a particular moment. These children have mortal parents and a piece of the divine within them. My Golden Rook was split in two, her mortal half was allowed to live out her life with her family in the mine, and the immortal came into my service.


“Odos does not raise his children but he watches over them.”


“Poorly.” Vezar muttered. 


When Cellindir looked the creature was smoothing his fine robe.


“If he looked after them poorly he would not have given me two favors to have these songbirds kept safe.”


Phiphla looked as if she might faint and Cellindir wrapped his arms around her helping her to sit upon the ground. 


“Master Odos isn’t there often.” Virilla was frowning as she studied Vezar. “Is that what you mean? Mama and Papa watch over us.”


“He allowed horrible things to happen to Syreilla as a child. She isn’t fond of Withia, there was once an elf there…” 


Cellindir lifted his head and blinked, the man’s mouth was moving but he heard no sound for a moment, “She was one of us?”


“You know of the elf I speak of?” Vezar frowned down at him.


“Maeluin Achathent… it was his death that freed me.” Cellindir shuddered and looked to Hevtos. “If I thought he were here, Divinity, I would beg you to…” He shook his head. “He was known in Withia for…”


“He harmed children.” Vezar interrupted explaining in a pained tone. “Elvish children and half-elves as well.”


“How long was she… was she there?” Phiphla wrapped her arms around him and he sat next to her leaning against her side.


“Odos allowed her to be harmed?” Hevtos’ face eyes narrowed and his lips pressed thin. He looked like a man holding his temper by a thread.


“At the age of ten her mother sent her to be a maid in Withia, the woman loathed her because her elvish father shunned them both. Within a year she was alone and starving on the streets and a thief used her to gain access to that elf’s home…”


With a shudder Cellindir nodded. “I remember. He was furious after the theft and the new girl he’d bought and barely had time to… she’d been taken as well. She was so young…” 


“She did not ask me to punish her mother when I asked what she would have as payment.” Hevtos’ brow furrowed.


“Perhaps… Perhaps she thought better of her mother, that the woman didn’t know what she had-had inflicted on her child.” He exhaled with his eyes closed as Phiphla pressed close to his side. It was what he had always told himself even though it tasted like a lie.


“No.” Vezar looked angry and hurt as Cellindir opened his eyes. “Syreilla believes herself discarded. She loathes elves, and says that humans can be decent, but dwarves have always been good to her.”


“She was going to send us to a mine.” Rivoril was frowning as he took his sister’s hand. “Because the dwarves would be good to us.”


“Yes.” The monster’s face softened. “It was the first place she knew as a safe home. She does not trust easily but she trusts those at Delver’s Deep. Syreilla has said she would have become a monster if… if Batran Hammersworn had not bought her from the headsman’s block.”


“I would ask you to forgive whoever murdered that elf, Divinity.” Phiphla came onto her knees. “You’re not what the priests say you are, I can see that. And I’ll include you in my prayers and offerings…” 


The god smiled and inclined his head, “I will discover who slew him and see they are not punished for it.”


“Divinity,” Vezar sounded almost amused, “It was Syreilla. She went back once she had the skill and killed him painfully.”


Cellindir began to laugh, covering his face, “I had always hoped it was one of us who’d killed him. She cut off his manhood and shoved it down his throat. He was tied to a chair with a large wooden-” He stopped himself remembering his children were present. “The state of his corpse was so shocking his kin kept the details a secret. I only know because I crept in to get the key to free the others before they arrived. We scattered and fled the city.”


“She should have made certain you were all free and safe.” Phiphla shook her head angrily.


“If we’d seen her, one of us would have said something. We would have praised her, thanked her, immortalized a vengeful goddess in song.” Cellindir smiled ruefully, “They would have hunted her and killed her for it. She stopped him, it was enough.”


“She can be a monster…” Rivoril sounded as if he were thinking deeply and Hevtos gave him a speculative look, “But that doesn’t mean she’s always a monster.”


“If she’s a monster she’s a good monster,” Virilla corrected him. “She’s a monster that monsters are afraid of and we don’t have to be.”


The god began to smile again, “When she is returned to me, I will make certain she remains a ‘good monster’.”


Some of the words itched at the back of his mind, “She loathes elves? All elves?” Cellindir looked to Vezar and the man inclined his head.


“Her father shunned her-”


“And half-elves who aren’t acknowledged by an Elvish house aren’t treated well.” Phiphla winced. “It always makes me glad most of them stay in Orileria.”


“I will not allow them to say cruel things to our children.” Cellindir kissed her cheek.


“Syreilla could teach them dwarvish insults…” Vezar was smiling faintly and his peculiar eyes almost sparkled. “Most of them seem to center on the lack of a beard.”


He couldn’t keep from laughing and buried his face in his hands. “I can teach them some that are more clever and will sting for longer.”


“Or I can kick them in their hammer and pockets.” Virilla tilted her chin up proudly.


Phiphla broke into laughter at that and he couldn’t hold his back either. For a moment the mood lightened as if they’d simply gone to visit a long lost relative.


“Vezar, I would have you stay with them to keep them safe. They may return to my doorstep if my nephew attempts to take them from his mother’s temple.”


“Yes, Divinity.”


“Laughter on my doorstep is a pleasure I have seldom had.” Hevtos smiled and inclined his head before turning to leave.



© 2021 Isemay


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Added on January 30, 2021
Last Updated on January 30, 2021
Tags: thief, dwarf, elf, dragon, gods

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Author

Isemay
Isemay

Germany



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Spent some time away from here but I've come back to peek in and post again! Review my writing and I will gladly return the favor! I love reading other people's stories, and I try to review hone.. more..

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One One

A Chapter by Isemay


Two Two

A Chapter by Isemay


Three Three

A Chapter by Isemay