A continuation of this story.
Esperance did not worship the elves’ gods, though he pretended to. There was one diety in particular that enraptured him. Her name was Idoine and every few decades she would appoint a young and beautiful mortal man to speak to the people of Astraeus on her behalf. And to be her lover.
When Esperance heard that story, he felt a pang of want. How wonderful it sounded to have your greatest duty be coupling with a fierce and lovely god. But the jealousy ran the other way, too, for as nice as it sounded to be the man, it sounded even nicer to be the god.
There was also Yulla, god of miracles; Didn’t that sound nice? Seros, god of beauty; He lived up to the epithet, Esperance could confirm. Asus, god of revenge; How he wished he could have wielded her blessing many a time.
But these never felt quite like they were “his,” just as Laféron never quite felt like home. The language rolled off his tongue strange sometimes, but only to his own ear. He experienced the festivals and traditions and Holy Days always with an unwanted sense of detachment, even if Laféron was all he’d known for the past two decades.
The thing he clung to, the thing that represented the home and family he’d been torn from, was Nyasis, the ancient god of the felidae people.
He’d cradled against her bosom, figuratively, for comfort during his darkest nights. He’d called out for her in his moments of despair and anguish. And she would answer–not all the time, not right away, but always when it mattered. He could not say why.
Esperance did not think himself a good person, and yet Nyasis listened to him, comforted and counseled him. With her, he could speak his native tongue. In her golden eyes, he saw the grassy cliffsides and forested hills and sparkling waterfalls of his homeland. She would call him by his birth name, and hearing it would stir in him longing, fondness, and, worst of all, guilt.
Khida, my child. Keep fighting.
Please, keep fighting.
Lying in bed, Esperance let his blissfully cloudy mind swim to warmer places. He pictured a dance–not the stuffy, formal kind they loved so much in Laféron. No, a fiery dance where loose clothes permitted loose limbs, deft movements, and free passion. Skin pressed to skin, body heat and warm breath. Cool sheets, slick hips, aching desire. Dark hair splayed out on his mattress, dark skin beneath his fingertips, white teeth and a devilish smirk–
Of all the people Esperance could have had such a daydream about, it had to be the evil witch who’d very nearly killed him with his godsforsaken magic.
Thinking of Noel forced Esperance to confront things he did not want to. For instance, the fact that the Fal Order was most certainly plotting to do something very sinister and he had absolutely no way of stopping it.
Noel was right; Esperance was nothing. A skilled swordsman who could kill with both style and ease, yes, but… what could steel do against eight of the most powerful sorcerers in the world? And then there was their leader, the High Seer. Esperance knew absolutely nothing about him–or perhaps, her?–aside from the fact that they had an impeccable taste in men. How much power did they possess if their underlings could nearly kill a man just by raising a hand?
And then Esperance had to wonder if it were even his place to try to stop them, even if he could. Maybe they would not be able to open a voidrift. Maybe they’d fail and fall victim to the depthless Abyss themselves. Maybe Noel spoke true and those ominous books really were just for the shelf.
But then, maybe the Fal Order was going to summon the Abyss and maybe they’d doom all of Laféron–all of Rimegard, all of the Western Continent, and then perhaps all of Astraeus–in the process.
Gods, it all felt hopeless.
What troubles you, my child?
Esperance lazily turned his head to see a black cat perched atop his windowsill, its golden eyes watching him with care.
“Disaster may very well loom on the horizon and I fear I haven’t the power to stop it.”
This is true. You alone do not.
Esperance’s heart sunk, even as he rolled his head back and laughed.
“So there is a looming disaster?” He shook his head. “And who will I call to for help? The Fal Order, they have the King’s ear and his heart. They do not fear the Church or the nobility or politicians. Of course, those groups despise me and would not help even if there were any reason to ask.”
There was a spell of silence, and then Nyasis said:
To whom do mortals build statues?
Esperance’s brow furrowed. “…The gods?”
Who do you honor within the pages of history?
“Kings and queens? Mighty rulers?”
Whose glory inspires nations? Whose strength and will stirs fires in the bellies of the people? Who protects and conquers and suffers while the privileged sit upon their gilded thrones?
Esperance’s head was spinning. The drug made it difficult to hear his god’s voice and he closed his eyes tightly against the strain. “Warriors…?” he guessed at last.
Warriors, yes. Heroes. You will not find them in Laféron. Your gaze must stretch across all of Astraeus.
“How? Am I to send invitations to every soldier in the realm and hope they begin flocking to Laféron? If they have any sense they’ll likely dismiss me as a raving madman–because that is surely what I will be if I go around shrieking about doom and conspiracies and the damned Abyss.”
Nyasis jumped down from the window, landing without a sound. Esperance’s eyes followed her all the way to do the door. She turned back to him and perhaps it was his foggy head, but he thought he caught a gleam in her eyes.
Silence your petty whining, child and let me guide you.
If anyone is wondering where the title of this comes from:
Photograph by bella67 via Pixabay