Vrin Ten Mortal Gods(10)

By: John Michael Hileman


“I’m fine,” I replied through clenched teeth. “I am-- merely experiencing-- entrance fluctuations.” Entrance fluctuations? That was a pitiful excuse. Gradually my head cleared and I took a long hard look at the figure in the chair. Who was this man? Why had he frozen in place the night I arrived? And more importantly, what did that book have to do with it? I needed to know more but didn’t want to let my guard down in front of Sajin. “Sajin, what is your understanding of Davata Notrals?”

He furrowed his brows. “It is a gift.”

“Is that all you have to say about it?”

He thought a moment. “I understand it is alien to our world and that its text is ever changing.” His eyes took on a distant look. “It speaks of lands which do not exist and of great men who have no history in Vrin. It has puzzled our scholars for centuries. They have sought after an answer to the singular God depicted within it. This God is referred to as the God of All, perhaps inaccurately, by our sky searchers.” He gave a slight pause, perhaps hoping I would step in with some universal truth. He appeared disappointed and continued. “We have used it as a guide to living a pure life and have utilized its principles in the development of our world’s government. Although we have seen the stories of the people in it change, the message of the law does not. It is this law which has kept Vrin at peace for centuries, that is, until the gods returned.” He stopped abruptly. “I beg your pardon for my frankness.”

“You speak the truth. I will not hold that against you.” I looked him in the eye. “You’re right. War has returned to Vrin and for that I am sorry. But you have to understand, not all the gods wish it. I can’t change what Rath has done, it is tragic and criminal. But a new threat has surfaced which is far more menacing...” Again I wondered how much I should disclose.

“Lord?”

I threw caution to the wind. “Gaza is on the verge of destroying Vrin. We are gathering forces against him.”

He stood dumfounded. “I-I do not understand. He created this world. Why would he want to...”

“We do not know much at this point. We’re not sure what his intentions are, but we can’t allow him to follow through with the threat. We need your help.”

“My help?” He looked surprised. “What could I possibly do to help the gods?”

“I’m looking for Humphrey. Do you know where he is?”

“I don’t. But I know someone who does.”

“Can you bring him to me?”

Sajin looked doubtful. “I can bring her to you, but I cannot guarantee she will cooperate; she is a refugee of the war. Before the war, she stayed with Lord Humphrey for a time because her father died in his service.”

“I thought Humphrey was a hermit?”

“He is. That is why her father’s services appealed to him.”

I waited for him to continue. Then asked, “What do you know about Humphrey?”

“Sir?”

“Tell me everything you know about him.”

Sajin again appeared puzzled by my lack of knowledge. He furrowed his brow and began. “Humphrey was always too stubborn to use his power for even the smallest pleasure or necessity. So every time he went into town the people gave him a hard time because he wouldn't bless their community with treasures. Humphrey swore he would not use the power and was not willing to make any exceptions. He had decided to move on but that’s when he met Janod, Thana’s father.” Sajin hesitated. “Is this what you wanted to hear?”

“Yes. Go on,” I said, eager to learn as much as I could.

“Janod was a local businessman and fairly well to do. He approached Humphrey with a proposition. His only request was that the old god bless his daughters with a touch. In return he would bring supplies directly to Humphrey's cabin. Humphrey informed the man that his touch would not do the children any good, but that did not matter to Janod; he believed in his heart that it would protect them.

“And so it was. For four years Janod brought fresh supplies, and often Humphrey invited him to sit and talk. The children would come out and play near the river and over time a bond developed between Humphrey and Janod’s family.

“But then one day Thana came in the place of her father. She told Humphrey her father was ill. Humphrey went with her to see him. He was indeed very ill and the local healer said there was a good chance he would not survive. Humphrey sat with him for several days providing what comfort he could but it was not enough, and on the sixth day, Janod died. Janod’s wife knew Humphrey’s convictions yet she could not bring herself to forgive him. So she packed up her belongings, and her children, and moved away. After a time Thana returned to let Humphrey know that she was not angry with him. Like her father she believed Humphrey was a good man and she understood his convictions. He invited her to stay as long as she wished; he missed the company of her family very much. She stayed for a short time but soon left to go back to her mother and sister.”

Sajin stopped and furrowed his brow. “But when she reached home, she found both of them dead.”

“Dead?”

“Yes. Because of the war between Rath and Armadon.” Sajin shook his head. “And now she is the leader of the resistance group called SCAR. I believe you remember Dirm. He is one of them.”

I let out a small laugh. “It’s hard to forget a guy who points a crossbow at your head.”

Sajin gave an apologetic smile. “So I realize Thana is unstable, but I know of no one else who could lead you there. Given the circumstances she would be foolish not to help.”

“Do you think she will refuse?”

“We won’t know until we ask.”

“That is acceptable. Where do we find her?” I was anxious to get on with my mission.

“I will have to bring her to you. She will most likely want to meet in a public place, perhaps in the square.”

“That will be fine. Lead the way.”

The town square was bustling with merchants and peasants. Anything and everything was for sale and barter was alive and well. Sajin was unsure how long he would be but I told him not to worry, I would amuse myself.

The alleyway in which I found myself was filthy, but I paid no attention; I was engrossed in my conjuring. The fragile blue threads glowed around me, filling the air with a web of blue. I waved my hands through them and the strands became brighter. The power created by my thoughts spoke to the threads in a language which communicated need and imagery. From thought came energy, and from energy, substance.

I pictured a balloon in my mind and with a subtle shifting of perception the web responded to the thought. The threads filled the air with their ghost-like essence and at once began to bend and form to the shape of my desire. A solid frame appeared before me, balloon-like, but empty inside. I knew as soon as I added texture to the glowing frame the balloon would become real. I willed the balloon shape toward me. It responded.

My intention was to test the theory behind the threads. First was a test for substance. I made the balloon solid rock and it fell hard into my hands. It had the look of a bright red balloon but was heavy and solid with a rough stone surface. I studied it for a moment before stripping the texture, returning it to a hollow wire frame.

Next I turned it into an actual balloon. It was much lighter and the surface appeared smooth and shiny. I let it go and tried to keep it afloat with my mind. It did not respond. Apparently once the texture was applied it reacted to the laws of physics governing this world. I thought back to the magic carpet. How did it work? Perhaps in order for an object to have magical qualities it needed to be created with special material which would react to thought energy.

I started from scratch and applied a new texture to the balloon frame, a material that was an approximation of what I thought flying carpet threads would look like. It was ugly but would it function? When I let the balloon go it floated awkwardly. When I willed it to move, it did. Quite pleased with myself I moved on to the next test.

I wanted to know about an object’s inner space, whether it was solid or hollow, after the outer material was added. I stripped away the magical texture of the balloon and brought the wire frame back to my hands. How about a balloon apple? I mused. The texture became red and glossy and its weight seemed correct for an apple of its size. I lifted it to my mouth and took a bite. It was sweet and juicy.

I examined the reaction of the threads to my physical influence. New threads formed to make up the shape of the bite mark and a new texture appeared, simulating the apple’s interior. Carefully I turned the apple around and stripped away the skin opposite the bite mark. I peeked inside. Nothing but darkness. The apple was hollow. Without the threads glowing on the surface the large balloon apple looked real but I now knew, that it was not. It seemed this entire world was made up of material being simulated by an unknown source. It gave me chills to think about it. Hollow apples.

I continued fiddling with the threads and time went by. Then something very odd happened. A thread passed by very close to my face and suddenly I was aware of something. Something was inside the thread! I pulled it closer and examined it. Amazing! Inside its dark center, so tiny and easily missed, something was moving. I squeezed the thread between my fingers and it flattened. I looked closer but still could not make out what it was. I needed to stretch it to increase its surface area. But how? I visualized the thread becoming flatter and thicker and with much reluctance it reacted to my desire. I pulled at its sides until it was finally wide enough for me to make out the object of my interest. My jaw dropped. It wasn’t possible! It just wasn’t possible!