Of Gods and Madness: The Faithful

Chapter Sixty

Pryor moved from room to room like a phantom trailing after his lost love. His eyes worked over the stones, his will souring with each step. Turning a corner, he stopped in his coronation hall, amidst the tattered banners and his throne at the top of the dais.

Moving behind his throne, he stared at the steady stream of the underground river as it pooled in the crudely etched basin. Did Oki have the presence of mind to watch him, to size him up after the events of tonight’s meeting? Keenly aware of the water now, he wondered how it slipped his mind. She’d spied on him, knowing exactly what he planned.

They could all die.

The image of the light pouring from Dawber’s mouth still haunted his vision, leaving a trail of light in front of everything he saw. He’d seen many of the gods die dozens of times, but it was always as simple, misleading, just like any human. This was different. He put a hand to his chest, drew in a sharp breath as the skin separated underneath. He thought of that brown lump the girl had extracted, wondered if it rested in him as well.

He turned, stared at the unfinished temple.

He’d watched the Great Warrior die right in front of him and he had done nothing.

The war had started and he cowered in the darkness once again.

Pryor’s body sagged.

“Don’t worry.” Journey placed a careful hand on his shoulder. He heard the moisture of the touch, blood slipping through fabric, but she didn’t retreat. “It’s lovely.” Pryor put his hand on hers, nodding though he couldn’t believe her lies.

“What do we do now?” He felt weak around her, like all his planning had fallen through, couldn’t live up to her scrutiny. Barely within earshot, Kanya sang to herself as she darted between rocks, dipping into caves, playing pranks on all the mindless followers. She might as well be on the streets instead of buried under the mass of Sandhyanen.

“The other gods outnumber us. Kanya’s too simple to realize what we’re going up against. I can’t even imagine who’s next — most of us can’t stand each other on the best of days. Now that psychos like Theon and Daw—” she caught herself, took a deep breath and continued, “like Theon has a convenient way to silence those in his way.”

“Fuck.”

“Exactly. What do you think Liam’s excuse is?”

“I doubt he even knows something’s changed.”

Journey laughed. “It’s good to see you.”

Pryor smiled, eyes lighting up. Then he turned serious. “I’m so sorry, I know it’s been decades. I wish we could’ve se—”

She moved up to him, ignoring the destruction of his body, pressing close. “There wasn’t any other way. But now —”

“We can die.”

Her body went rigid. “Yes,” she whispered.

“What do you think Raine will do?”

“Nothing good.”

Pryor nodded. “And the girl’s out there too.”

Journey pushed from him, eyes locking with his. “Who was she?”

“Honestly, I have no idea.”

“But you said —”

“Lies.” He paused. “I had to be in control of the situation.”

“Maybe we should’ve grabbed her before taking off. Who knows what she can do.” A rumble shook the cavern. Journey held herself, stared into the darkness. “How do you live down here?”

Pryor shrugged. “Not like I had much choice. Since you’re asking me all these questions, I have one for you.”

“And?”

“Why did you come back?”

“You know why. The kid, Raine. We’re always called when—” Journey dropped her head, turned to the pool, blue eyes tracing the foundations of the temple.

“It doesn’t matter.” Pryor placed his hand on her, willing the skin to stay, to not hear that sound of his skin separating, his muscles on display for all to see. “I’m just glad you’re here.”

“It’s no excuse.”

“Listen, you didn’t do this to me. Everyone else did.” The old hatred filtered in as he said, “Oki.”

He felt a spark, something change in him, almost as if lashing out but — not here. He shook his head, retreating from Journey as he turned back to his construct.

Journey misread his movement. “Pryor, I —”

He shook his head. “Come on.” He motioned her forward. “Let me show you the rest of my temple. Then we can talk about what needs to be done.”

 

“Where is Kanya?” Oki sat on the edge of the dock, feet skimming the water. Tendrils lifted from the waves, licking her soles, a whisper against skin. “Theon?”

“I don’t know. Good riddance.” A smug expression settled on his face, annoyance filling him. “You could fool yourself into thinking she’d just wandered off, but you know she’s with him.”

“What about Liam?”

“Who cares about that sad sack ginger? He’s the most useless god I’ve seen.” He usually had more couth than this. He shook his head, trying to force away the anger, but it boiled beneath his skin. “We’d be better off killing him ourselves.”

Oki watched him.

“Oh please, like you haven’t thought it. We’re at war and we can’t trust anyone. He has to choose a side. Do you really think it’s going to be ours?”

“I did not realize we were allies.”

Theon paused, reflecting on his words. “It always had to be us.” The heat in his chest subsided for a moment. He moved up to the water god, kneeled next to her. “I’ve got a confession.”

Oki’s eyes moved like waves over his face and then she turned away. Her hair cut across her features before framing her face as she stared out across the water. “Go on.”

“I’ve made an ally. A human. Although I don’t think he thought much of my little present.” He looked at his hand as his smile grew.

 “Another one?” Anger hit her husky voice. Theon flinched, his own rage crowding his senses again.

“He’s one of Raine’s enemies. He’s so eager to kill the pest, he reeks of it. You might be too withdrawn to see it, but we need any help we can get.”

“That is not fair.”

“And what’ve you done?” Theon stared, pushed up, retreated to the railing behind her. “Who was the old man that came with Raine? He was a god, right?”

“I do not know. I have never seen him before.”

“And I thought you were the great, all knowing god.” Theon’s voice dripped with sarcasm. Seeing her this weak drove him insane. No god should be this depressed.

“None of us are all knowing,” she said in a whisper.

“We need a plan.”

“Of course.”

“So what’s in your head?”

She looked at him. “Kill Raine.”

 

“What do you mean?”

Journey’s eyes hardened. “Just what I said. He’s the loose cannon. And he’s got the girl with him. Marise, wasn’t it? Since he’s figured out how to become one of us — something we don’t even know how to do — what’s to stop him from making her one of us? An immortal who knows how to dispatch others?”

“Technically,” Pryor said, “Theon made Raine. I doubt the boy knows his ass from his elbow.”

“Both you and Theon have had your claws in him and he slipped past.” Pryor was silent at this. Journey continued, “There’s no recovering the boy, especially now that he knows no one is safe. Not even us.”

Pryor looked past her at the shifting, changing temple. It had darkened, become thick with light barely permeating the stone. Desperation seeped in, nipping at his heels, all too evident in his works. He turned, hoping she wouldn’t recognize it.

“We’ve got to figure out how she did it, then,” she looked him square in the soul. “Raine must die.”

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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.