Areyanna, Faynecian goddess of wisdom, tries to find out who Burtrend really is.
So many people concern themselves only with mortals. Truly, gods have more influence than many realize or are willing to admit. I understand that there are skeptics doubting the existence of gods. I ask those; what defines a god? Must they be otherworldly, spirit creatures? Simply put, a god is a being, mortal or immortal, worshiped by the masses. Although it may seem like an outrageous thing, being able to study the memories of gods, putting godly influence into our historical perspective is necessary. And so, we dive into their memories as well.
Areyanna, the Faynecian goddess of wisdom, walked up to a drieah, a large crystalline screen that allowed her to see mortals that worshipped her. The drieah freed her to watch them without leaving the Empyrion so that she might send visions to guide and help. She had several drieah to watch as many people as she could to properly care for them, but due to the limited availability of video and audio sources, many still fell through the cracks.
The Empyrion kept a record of all visions and their contents, only viewable to the pantheon that god belonged to. She supposed it was to help promote an open, honest atmosphere. One of her worshippers, Darline Devonshir, had received a vision while at sea. It informed her about a man floating about the ocean on a crate and ordered his rescue. Being an honest and devout worshipper, she obeyed and saved him. The vision was from Jorack, the god of war, and that was very disconcerting. After working with him for a thousand years I learned well that I can't trust him. There were no visual or audio feeds available inside the ship and the man never came above deck, so she had patiently waited for a few weeks for the ship to finally reach port. It should be docking today.
After she inserted her activation crystal into the drieah's pedestal, silver and gold light swirled in the screen. She entered the coordinates for the Port of Sobeck. She brushed her white hair off her aging grey face and tied it behind her neck while she waited for the image to focus. Color and shapes came into view and sharpened until it became discernable as an aerial view of the port city. After some adjustments and searching, she finally found the frigate, still off port, would be docking within the hour. The sails were furled but smoke billowed from the steam engine's two smokestacks. Seafarers preferred the steady, adjustable speed of the propellers over the unpredictability of the wind for navigating through coastal waters.
She zoomed in to get better look of the deck. There she saw Darline, watching as they drew closer to Sobeck. Near her stood the mysterious man, shackled and chained to a mast. The unusually tall Vitarri man stood with pride despite his haggard, filthy appearance. Areyanna adjusted the angle as much as she could and looked closer to see if she recognized him, but it was no use. The face was unfamiliar. Who are you? She thought. Why is Jorack protecting you? What is he trying to accomplish? She recorded the image of the man onto a crystal memory-shard and pulled it out of the drieah's stand. She wondered where she could take it to cross-reference his image in the hopes of discovering his identity.
She walked out of the shadows of her personal room to seek out Jorack for answers. The Faynecian pantheon's common room greeted her with its cold steel pillars supporting a sky of pure, crystalline light. The room was full of quiet chatter. Scattered about the room small groups of various gods discussed worshippers, troubling situations, personal issues, or anything else worth talking about. They all had the same basic physical features that defined a god; white hair, blue eyes, and pale grey skin that barely showed the blue blood beneath. Areyanna scanned the room, searching for her prey. Finally, she saw him stand up from a seat across the room. His purposeful stride sent his white, braided hair swinging. She moved to intercept him before he could leave the room.
"Jorack!" she called out. "May I have a word in private?"
"Is something amiss?" He asked in his gruff voice. The light grey skin of his face wrinkled, and his pale blue eyes squinted with suspicion. Even so, he turned from his path and approached her.
"I was looking into the vision log and noticed that you gave one to a dual worshiper of ours, a young woman named Darline. You asked her to save a man that was lost at sea."
"I did," he replied, obviously irritated by the subject. "You, of all people, should see the wisdom of showing compassion."
"Of course!" Areyanna replied "It's wonderful that you finally want to save people instead of kill them. I hope you don't mind me asking, but who is the man you asked her to save? Is he one of your personal worshipers? A spy for our army, perhaps?" Areyanna tried her best to sound curious, but not overly suspicious in his meddling. He studied her face for a few moments as she looked as sincere as possible.
"Humph," he grunted and turned to leave. Looking back, he said, "I wouldn't dwell on it, Areyanna. The man is one of mine. Of course, I would try to save him." With that he left. She followed him with her eyes until he finally disappeared into his room. Lies. All of it. He is definitely hiding something. Her thoughts scattered when a messenger burst into the common room.
"The Vitarri god, Korhan," the messenger called out, "requests a peaceful assembly with the Faynecian Pantheon to discuss the release of one of his worshipers being held by your people as a prisoner!" His voice may have carried across the room, but it was what he said that caused the shocked silence and stares from everyone there. "He wishes me to express his concern over the urgency of this matter and his desire to meet as quickly as possible." Over time numerous Vitarri had been prisoners of war, most dying in Faynecian prisons, but Korhan had never asked for an audience before to discuss the release of even one. Whoever this worshiper is, he's certainly important, Areyanna thought as she watched everyone sitting in the room stand at the same time.
"Thank you for your message," Areyanna replied. "Please return to Korhan and let him know that we will see him in the Grand Meeting Room by the end of the hour." The messenger gave a quick nod before turning on his heal and walking out.
The lesser gods in the room scattered, no doubt spreading the news to those not present to hear the message. Areyanna and those that remained gathered near the door and waited for the others. She refused to acknowledge Jorack when he walked up, fuming and glaring at her as if the whole situation was her fault. After all nine of the major gods and most of the minor gods were present, they filed quietly out of the Faynecian sector and into the maze of hallways.
After several minutes they finally arrived at the Grand Meeting Room. It was a neutral space where gods from different pantheons could meet peacefully. Despite being called "Grand", the room was smaller than many other neutral rooms she could have chosen. What made it special was the domed ceiling, a giant window to the expanse of space beyond the Empyrion. Today, Ithmere and its moons weren't showing, so only stars dotted the black expanse of space above their heads. Only the brightest stars remained visible when the crystal lights brightened. Stationed around the edges of the room sat several chairs sat in front of crystal screens, their purposes long forgotten. In the center of the room stood tables and chairs, quickly arranged into an arch surrounding a single chair for Korhan.
Within moments everyone was in their seat. In the very center of the arch sat Silvris, ancient god of Knowledge and oldest of the Faynecian gods. Beside him on each side sat Mortimar, god of death, and Areyanna. Jorack sat next to Mortimar and stared at her with obvious animosity. The rest of the major gods, Montey, god of merchants and thieves, Olstad, god of seafarers and storms, Anliker, god of hunters and farmers, Fisk, god of art and chaos, and Sue, goddess of love and beauty, filled in the remaining seats according to their rank. There other minor gods, like Jayde, goddess of flowers and Willard god of the wind, stood in the background and watched anxiously. A silence fell when Korhan entered and sat in his chair. It felt as though the breath of life had been sucked from them in anticipation of what Korhan would say.
"Korhan," Silvris' aged voice broke the silence, "great and powerful Lord of the Vitarri people, you asked to speak with us as a pantheon, to arrange a formal meeting in the hopes to free one of your worshipers. To my knowledge, we do not hold anyone important enough to gain your favor. May I ask who it is you are searching for?"
"Faynecian Gods, you possess someone of great value to my people and I want him freed."
"We cannot help you without a name." Silvris said as patiently as possible.
"You are not worthy of his name." Muscles bulged in the large god's neck and disgust showed plainly on his face. "One of your frigates rescued him from an ocean storm. He had been tossed overboard by the fury of Tres. I am sure she knew of his presence there on the ocean and created that storm for him. Still, your people rescued him. Now he is bound in chains, like a prisoner. He just arrived at the Port of Sobeck on Asikarra. Does that help?" Korhan seemed to have calmed slightly. Areyanna watched Jorack grow anxious and restless out of the corner of her eye.
"That is not a name," Silvris replied, "but it does help locate him. If it was a rescue, and not a capture, that would explain why I could not find any records of him."
"If we truly possess such a powerful person," Jorack cut in, "Why would we just hand him over to you?"
"I was expecting you to say that." Disgust sounded in Korhan's voice. "I have several of your worshipers as prisoners of war, I'm sure you would like them returned. Believe me it is in your best interest, do not refuse me." Turning away from Jorack, he addressed the rest of the gods, "I'm not asking you to persuade your worshipers to do the unthinkable and send him home. He is not going to spy on your people, or even harm them, unless they try to hurt him first. I am merely asking you to set him free."
"If we were to set him free," Silvris responded, "we would need a guarantee that he would not engage in espionage. Other than being a powerful spy I cannot see any reason for a Vitarri to be on our land."
"That is a reasonable assumption, but I assure you he is an adventurer wanting to investigate the lands beyond your own. He is only passing through. Perhaps," Korhan stressed firmly, "if he happens to find something more worthy of our attention, Vitar will no longer engage your people in war."
"Very well, we will free him." Silvris ignored Jorack's indignant disapproval, "I ask that you free three prisoners of war that reside in your dungeons in exchange. Jorack will give you the list of names. I also ask for one of our people to travel with this man to insure that he is not spying or conducting any other espionage."
"My word is not good enough?" Korhan's face flushed blue in anger. "If we weren't already at war we would be now!" Korhan exclaimed furiously at Silvris.
"Lord Korhan," Areyanna interjected, "I believe I know the man you've spoken of." Jorack gave her a sharp look she decided to ignore. Korhan calmed down considerably, and she saw a hint of desperation in his eyes she had never seen before. "I have a worshiper that has been traveling with a Vitarri man that she rescued from an ocean storm a fortnight ago. I do not know who he is, but he fits the description you gave us. Even though he isn't a spy, as long as he is in Fayneland, he will be in danger. Perhaps she could continue to travel with him and help him, at least to Fayneland's border." Slowly Korhan nodded, his eyes lost in thought as he considered her words. Silvris gave her a small nod with a smile. She then turned to Jorack, the anger she saw in his eyes could have consumed her if Korhan hadn't spoken and broken the trance.
"I will agree under the condition that she does not follow him beyond your border. I am as uncomfortable with the idea of you spying on him as you are of him spying on your people. Also, I do not want him to become distracted by her, so keep her on a short tether." Sudden mutterings and whispers exploded through the pantheon as the idea of a god enforced peace between their peoples exploded into excitement.
"Wonderful," Silvris said, "I'm glad that we could come to an accord. I hope we shall have more of these meetings in the future, and may they be as agreeable." He then turned to Jorack, "Now, why don't you think very carefully about what three soldiers we want back from him. Go on." Jorack unwillingly turned to leave the table. He shot another menacing look at Areyanna.
"You will doom us and our people with your meddling," Jorack whispered to her right before he left.
"All of you, the meeting is adjourned, you are dismissed." Silvris looked out at the rest of the table. His piercing gaze seemed to linger on Areyanna, although that was probably because she stayed longer than the others did. Finally, he left as well, leaving her alone with Korhan. Korhan had stayed sitting, lost in thought, and had taken little or no notice of the Faynecian pantheon's departure.
"Ahem," Areyanna cleared her throat to get his attention, "I was thinking..."
"Women in your culture think?" Korhan rudely broke in.
"Well," she struggled to come up with an appropriate answer, "we do occasionally." She ignored his indignant snort. "I believe that Jorack already knows who that man is. The problem is that Jorack is being very secretive."
"Most gods of war are," he interrupted. "Get to the point."
"It might be best," Areyanna continued, "for your worshiper if I know who he is so that I could better protect him from Jorack's mischief."
"Ha!" Korhan's laugh hit her like a slap in the face. "If you know who he is, you will want to keep him too. I'm shocked Jorack didn't tell you, if he really does know. That way Silvris would never agree to let my worshiper go alive." He got up and left to his own realm, leaving her there alone. After a moment, she returned to her sector of the Empyrion, confused over who the man could possibly be.