Of Gods and Madness: The Faithful

Chapter Fifty-Six

Oki stepped onto the cool floor. Tendrils of water flowed from her feet as she moved forward. “I suppose everyone has an idea about what is happening out there.”

Kanya looked blankly at her. Raising her hand, she said, “Miss Oki, has something happened?”

An audible groan came from Theon. Even as Oki shot a glare, he did nothing to curb his disgust with the child god.

“Yes Kanya.” She smiled at the girl. “There is a new one of us about to come up.”

“Really?! Is she young like me? The last one we got was Uncle Liam.” Her voice dropped to a whisper, “And he’s kinda boring.”

“Well, she is a he. And I do not know. Theon?”

Theon turned his head and said, “No, he’s not a brat.”

“Why does Theon know that?” Journey piped in.

Dawber laughed. “What does it matter?”

Journey swept her blonde bangs from her forehead, tucking them behind her ear. “‘Cause that shithead knows something that Oki isn’t telling us. The fresh one should be here, among us. Where is he?” She pointed a ragged finger at Theon. “What has he done?”

“I haven’t done anything, bitch,” Theon spat.

Oki cut in, “Theon sired this boy, but does not claim to know how.” She gave Theon an all-knowing glance.

Theon shrugged. “I’ve got nothing.” A moment of silence passed before shouts rang out clear.

“How did—”

“— didn’t you —”

“—at do you mean —”

“— all the people —”

“Enough!” Oki’s voice cut through the cries. Everyone twisted back to her while Theon took a few steps back.

Theon leaned back into Dawber. “Just like old times.”

Dawber cracked a smile.

“Regardless of who or what brought him about, there is a problem.”

“Where is he?” Liam chirped in, voice quiet, distant.

Oki stopped, the water coalescing around her feet and climbing her legs. “I don’t know. For all I know, he could be with him.”

Clapping echoed through the chamber, cutting through the conversation. A thin laugh filled the air as Pryor stepped from behind a marble column.

“So that’s what I’m referred to as? Him. Well, I guess I should thank you,” he nodded to Oki, “that I’m still male.” He crossed the floor, careful to keep distance between him and Theon.

“Brother Pryor!” Kanya squealed, bounded toward him. Oki stopped her, putting a hand on her shoulder, and shook her head. Kanya looked up, her eyes growing wide. Tears welled in them but she nodded, wiping them away. She turned back to him, stood firm.

He knelt down and grinned. “It’s okay, Little Kanya, I understand. I’m just glad you remember me.”

Her head bobbed, the ribbon sagging pitifully from the previous night’s storm. “I’ve been keeping treasures,” she whispered. Oki’s grip tightened.

“I bet you have. You’ll have to show me later.”

Her body twitched like she wanted to speak, but she bit her lip and remained silent.

Pryor stood once more. The flesh along his side ripped, revealing muscle. He tugged his bandages down, but the damage had already been done. All the gods but Dawber and Theon took a step back. Journey remained silent as she slipped further from the fallen god.

A shadow moved at the back of the room. The gods looked past Pryor, tensing as the intruder continued forward.

Pryor continued on his path, oblivious to the silhouette watching all of them. “Isn’t it sad,” Pryor said, dividing the attention of the crowd, “that your last true follower has come to an untimely death.” He looked over to Theon, their gold and orange eyes locking as they flashed. Pryor turned back to the crowd. “Now you’re just as forgotten as the rest of us.”

“Not as much as you,” Dawber said, focused on the figure beyond.

Pryor’s cynical smile stretched a bit, but the pain from doing so etched his features and it fell. He made a grand gesture, only realizing at that moment that the gods’ attention had found a new target.

Her emerald eyes peered from beyond choppy brown hair. Almost as an afterthought, she brushed her bangs from her face. For a moment, Pryor’s old symbol on the backs of her hands appeared in the light before she dropped her arms back to her side.

Liam, eyes locked on Pryor, turned to Oki. “I thought you said the new one was a man.”

Pryor laughed in response to this. “Oh, he is,” he answered for the water god. No one seemed amused. He watched the girl. Her gaze settled on him, confusion stretching across her features. She looked as if she recognized him.

“Then who is she?” Dawber shot out, his deep voice rumbling through.

“A—a stray I picked up,” Pryor said, hoping the girl wouldn’t take the time to contradict him.

The girl pulled back her sleeve, revealing his symbol.

Pryor had never seen this girl before, but she’d avoided his trap, and had inscribed the real thing on her flesh. He smiled despite himself, unsure of what that meant.

She turned her hand over and slipped a finger under the skin. As blood flowed, she made a quick swipe against Oki’s vein, conjuring symbols. She planted both hands on the vein. Her eyes rolled into the back of her head.

The blue glow of the room shifted to a deep crimson, travelling slow at first then with blinding speed as it snaked its way up the walls. Oki’s eyes dulled, body rigid, and she croaked, “What have you done, Pryor?”

Imbued in the vermilion light, Pryor’s mouth twisted into a wicked smile, fear clouding his eyes. His voice trembled.

“Isn’t it wonderful?”

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Justin D. Herd

Justin D. Herd is a purveyor of the weird and strange. He occasionally squawks at friends and family, but does so only under the cover of night. Okay, that's not true. He squawks in full daylight. Drinking games have been built around his peculiarities, but the truth of it is this: he is a loving husband, with two wonderful dem--children. One growls at things he likes, including pretty women. The other has started to learn hand-eye coordination. Neither had made it to the tender age of three. From there, things will only get more interesting. He spends most of his writing time either at a coffee shop or sitting at one of his many desks around his house. Any other place makes it nearly impossible for him to write. He uses horror movies and rock music to help get the juices flowing. His favorite authors are Jeremy Robert Johnson, Alan Campbell, Terry Pratchett, Justin Cronin, and Patrick Rothfuss. He consumes most of his books through audiobooks, but still loves his personal library and getting lost in the printed word.