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Thread: Faith United

  1. #1
    Thayneslayer

    EXP: 181,959, Level: 18
    Level completed: 63%, EXP required for next Level: 7,041
    Level completed: 63%,
    EXP required for next Level: 7,041


    Breaker's Avatar

    GP
    11,615
    AP
    186
    Name
    Joshua Breaker Cronen
    Age
    29
    Race
    Demigod
    Gender
    Male
    Location
    Corone

    Faith United



    “It is a delicate game of chess these Thaynes play,
    and we are only the pawns.”

    ~ Always Return ~

  2. #2
    Thayneslayer

    EXP: 181,959, Level: 18
    Level completed: 63%, EXP required for next Level: 7,041
    Level completed: 63%,
    EXP required for next Level: 7,041


    Breaker's Avatar

    GP
    11,615
    AP
    186
    Name
    Joshua Breaker Cronen
    Age
    29
    Race
    Demigod
    Gender
    Male
    Location
    Corone
    My goddess struck me down, like an axe landing the final blow that fells a tree, like a horse swatting a fly so effortlessly. I did not attempt to fight back, or flee. I deserved all that her wrath would bring to me.

    The walls of water that my will had held back collapsed upon me, driving me downward to the bottom of the ocean. Salt water filled my lungs as my back pressed against the rocky floor.

    Why would you bind me? Am’aleh’s voice boiled in my ears.

    I drowned without thought of resistance, inhaling the sea.

    I entrusted you to bring me the Thaynebinder, she raged, and instead, you used it against me!

    The relic swam into view, an adamantine collar and manacles. The dark metal hoops opened and fastened themselves around my wrists and neck. The weight of the artifact drove me down ever harder into the stony bed.

    I remained conscious for a long time, trapped in the darkness of Am’aleh’s clutches with no air to breathe. I did not require oxygen like a mortal. Pain wracked my body, my chest spasming, trying to expel the water in my lungs but unable to do so. My manacled arms thrashed, fighting to swim, but the weight of the goddess’ anger smothered me. Eventually everything became black.

    The waves breaking on the beach roused me. Alive. I lay on the sand, next to the haversack containing the book on the Thaynebinder. The collar and manacles were splayed across the sand, bone dry and shining darkly. The adamantine bracer remained on my right forearm, where it had become fused when I’d collared Am’aleh and temporarily stolen her power.

    I attempted to seize control of the Eternal Tap, to draw the water out of my black sifan clothing and dark brown hair. I may as well have attempted to grasp a handful of smoke.

    “You no longer bear my blessing,” Am’aleh appeared in the shallows, a woman woven from water, a shimmering statue of liquid movement. “If you wish to wield the Eternal Tap once more, you must prove your devotion to me anew.”

    “I am yours to command.” I staggered forward and fell on my knees in the surf, reaching out a hand to touch the shimmering liquid of her leg. “Let me prove my love for you.”

    For a moment she refused to look at me, and my world ground to a halt. The waves did not crash on the shore, the breeze did not trifle in my hair, and the seabirds did not swoop or cry. Time did not pass without Am’aleh’s attention.

    She cast her gaze downward, and the world began again. Her azure eyes, endless and everlasting, examined me as if waiting.

    “I was confused,” I explained, “when you sent me after the Thaynebinder, I questioned why you used me rather than seek it yourself. And the pirate I wrested it from put thoughts in my mind… he told me that the treasure hunters who found it placed credit for the discovery with you. I thought you tried to deceive me. I erred. Forgive me.”

    “I did assist the seekers in finding the Thaynebinder,” she said, voice as smooth as water in a stream, “but only so that I might dispose of it in transit. That was your task.”

    “Did I not succeed?” I asked, again clutching at smoke, “does the relic not lie on the bottom of the ocean?”

    “Only after you used it on me,” she hissed like steam leaving a kettle. Her aqueous form shifted and swelled, growing as her rage towered. She raised a great hand to smite me, and then reached out to caress the Y-shaped scars on my cheeks.

    “What did you learn while you wielded my power?” She asked as gently as a swirling eddy.

    “That the Elder Thayne Khal’jaren seeks the binder as well, and that he may mean to come between us.”

    “Is that something we can allow?” Her fluid fingers flitted beneath my chin and lifted me to my feet.

    “No,” I said, my hazel eyes becoming steel, “no, it is not.”
    Last edited by Breaker; 09-27-2017 at 05:00 PM.

  3. #3
    Thayneslayer

    EXP: 181,959, Level: 18
    Level completed: 63%, EXP required for next Level: 7,041
    Level completed: 63%,
    EXP required for next Level: 7,041


    Breaker's Avatar

    GP
    11,615
    AP
    186
    Name
    Joshua Breaker Cronen
    Age
    29
    Race
    Demigod
    Gender
    Male
    Location
    Corone
    “What else did you learn?” Am’aleh asked, her silvery hair dancing against the breeze.

    “Little of use,” I said, “and little of fact.” Waves broke around my ankles, filling my black metal boots.

    “Then we must work with what information we have.” The goddess’ azure eyes became whorls of water that threatened to draw me in forever. “We must stop Khal’jaren from coming between us by striking where he is weakest… at his followers.”

    My mouth opened in horror. “Surely you would not ask me to murder those who worship at the altar of the Sage.” The call of the ocean surrounded us and the breeze played between us, tugging at the wet tails of my shirt.

    She laughed as musically as raindrops on windchimes. “Of course not. Understand this; a great portion of a Thayne’s power comes from those who pay them tribute. Without worshipers, even the Sage’s might would wane.”

    “So we infiltrate his temples,” I mused, catching on to her scheme, “and find ways to dissuade his followers?”

    “In a sense, yes.” Am’aleh smiled and took my face in both hands. Bliss washed through my body. “But to stand a chance at toppling a Thayne as powerful as Khal’jaren, we must do more than just remove his followers. We must convert them to follow… another deity.”

    Her form of still water and flowing ice shimmered, and for a moment became the well-known symbol of the sea goddess. She morphed into a creature with the scaled head and neck of a lizard, and the long sleek tail of a fish. For a moment she lingered in that shape, and then turned back to the Am’aleh I knew and loved.

    “I will do this for you,” I smiled reaching out to touch her the translucent skin of her arm, “I will seek out temples to Khal’jaren all across Corone and convince them of a far greater, far wiser Thayne’s might.”

    “Seek out all of the temples to every Thayne,” the goddess advised, “for though Khal’jaren’s power is great; we may require the energy of every Thayne-worshiper on Corone to achieve our end.”

    “And what is our end?” I asked, combing callused fingers through her silken hair.

    She slid her hands down to my chest. Shivers danced across my skin in their wake. “To build a Corone where we can be together forever,” she whispered in my ear, “where we will rule. A god and a goddess, equal and everlasting.”

    Hope swelled within me, but in the dark corners of my mind doubt lingered. I took a step backwards, breaking my electric connection with the deity. Salty waves whirled about my feet as I stood on the cusp between land and sea.

    “Will you not return my connection to the Tap? Displaying the magic you lend me would make converting the masses much easier.”

    “This task is not meant to be easy,” Am’aleh said, “it will be a test of your faith in me, and in yourself. You must sway them using only your own brand of might, and your cleverness. Only then will you taste the magic of the Tap once more.”

    In a puff of steam she vanished, leaving me alone with the harsh cries of seabirds and the salt smell of the ocean.

  4. #4
    Thayneslayer

    EXP: 181,959, Level: 18
    Level completed: 63%, EXP required for next Level: 7,041
    Level completed: 63%,
    EXP required for next Level: 7,041


    Breaker's Avatar

    GP
    11,615
    AP
    186
    Name
    Joshua Breaker Cronen
    Age
    29
    Race
    Demigod
    Gender
    Male
    Location
    Corone
    For a moment I stood rooted, as if my boots had become a part of the beach. After a deep, steadying breath I turned and picked up the Thaynebinder and the small paperback volume explaining it, slipping both into the haversack laying next to them.

    The rising sun shone on my back as I pursued the familiar path through the forest. Leaves and pine needles swirled in my slipstream as I ran, faster than any horse, faster even than the steeds of Suravani’s Oasis in Fallien. Branches whizzed past on both sides in a blur, and dusty cyclones sprang up behind me.

    With movement came meditation, and the events of the previous night replayed in my mind. Restlessness had urged me up out of my mortal lover’s bed, and into the ocean. Am’aleh had bade me steal the Thaynebinder from a pirate ship making the passage from Scara Brae to Gisela. I had swum out and met the ship, climbing aboard and cornering her captain. Marigold the Freebooter and I had exchanged both words and blows, and I took the relic from him.

    I churned around a corner in the path, loam and dirt flying from the force of the turn. The sun rose higher and the air warmed. The breeze carried the earthy scents of new spring.

    The Thaynebinder had brought a surprise with it, in the form of the adamantine bracer fused to my right forearm. It was a conduit for the powers of whoever wore the collar and manacles. With Am’aleh’s might flowing through it and into me, the indestructible metal had heated to such a degree that it melded with my thick skin.

    Wielding the potential of a Thayne, I had stepped across the ocean to Scara Brae, and found the treasure hunters who had located the adamantine artifacts. From them I had learned of Khal’jaren’s involvement, by listening in invisibly on a conversation. Horrified that I had bound Am’aleh for no reason other than my own paranoia, I returned to Corone and released her. She had punished me as she saw fit… surprisingly little.

    A smile creased my face, making the Y-shaped scars on my cheeks dimple. My furious pace had carried me to the meadow where McKinley Parish’s cottage stood. Smoke billowed from the stone chimney and sun spilled off the shingled roof. Some of my happiest moments in recent memory existed within the cobbled walls of the quaint cottage. My mortal lover had a way of making me feel complete, different than the bliss of my goddess, but no less sweet.

    I knocked on the front door and then opened it and stepped in. The smell of cooking eggs with melted cheese greeted me, along with a lunging dire wolf. Kinley’s pet Nymeria placed her paws on my chest and attempted to lick my face.

    “Down girl,” I chuckled. She dropped back to all fours with a disappointed huff.

    “Josh!” Kinley came out of the kitchen almost as fast as her wolf. She whisked her long auburn hair behind her shoulders and stretched up on tiptoe to kiss my lips. I returned the gesture with some force, scooping the tiny woman off her feet and indulging in her flavours and sensations. After a moment we broke apart.

    “I’m glad you came back,” she said, taking my hand and leading me into the kitchen, “I made enough for two, and I don’t like feeding Nym eggs. Or cheese.” Kinley grinned. Cheesy eggs were her favourite breakfast.

    I ducked into the water closet at the back of the cottage and crouched, wedging my fingernails beneath a floorboard and jimmying it loose. A small space yawned beneath, not quite large enough for the haversack. I pulled the Thaynebinder out, careful to cradle its links lest they clank, and slipped it into the space and replaced the floorboard. As I moved back toward the kitchen I stuck the paperback in a pile of other books and dropped the haversack atop a pile of dirty clothes.

    Kinley continued cooking.

    I sat at the small square table in the corner of her kitchen and watched my lover cooking the eggs and toast on a pair of skillets atop her pot-bellied iron stove. She selected a pair of plates and glasses from a cupboard, arranging them on the oaken counters surrounding the stove. I stood up and moved to the icebox, fetching a jar of cold sweet tea. I placed it on the table and carried the glasses over as Kinley loaded the plates up with food.

    We sat and enjoyed the meal, talking of Kinley’s dreams and her plans for the day. She had become habituated to my vanishing on occasion at night, and did not ask where I’d gone. As we finished the savory food I took a sip of tea and cleared my throat.

    “I’m going to have to go away for awhile,” I told her.

    Kinley’s lower lip pouted. “For a few days? Or-”

    “Longer.” I said. “Months, likely.”

    “Why?”

    I inhaled deeply through my nose, considering what to say. “I’m to raise an army, one which will defend all worshipers of the Thayne.” I watched her blue eyes widen, and a flush painted her pale skin.

    “People in armies get killed,” she whispered, hugging her frail shoulders, “it’s bad enough when you go out prizefighting, but at least then I know you’ll come back alive. Who will you be fighting?”

    “We won’t be going to war,” I assured her, wrapping my long arms around her slender form, “it’s just a standing force to dissuade any who would harass the faithful. Army was probably the wrong word for it.”

    “Then what is the right word?” She looked up at me, pupils dilated, tiny hands resting on my chest.

    “I’m going to call it the Faith United. Worshipers of all deities will band together to defend our right to devotion.”

    Kinley smiled, her plush lips pressed together. She placed her delicate palms on my neck and massaged in slow circles. She knew of my love for Am’aleh, even if she did not understand the exact nature of our relationship.

    “Well then,” she said, “if you will be gone for months, I must make use of this time.” She kissed me hard on the mouth, pulling me down the hall. She laughed as I plucked her off the floor and carried her swiftly to bed.

  5. #5
    Thayneslayer

    EXP: 181,959, Level: 18
    Level completed: 63%, EXP required for next Level: 7,041
    Level completed: 63%,
    EXP required for next Level: 7,041


    Breaker's Avatar

    GP
    11,615
    AP
    186
    Name
    Joshua Breaker Cronen
    Age
    29
    Race
    Demigod
    Gender
    Male
    Location
    Corone
    The congregation at the temple to Y’edda consisted mostly of humans, although occasional elves and half-breeds dotted the crowd. Perhaps sixty in number, they wore simple cotton robes, shirts and trousers, all in pale shades of grey. Idols and paintings looked down on them, all depicting the sky goddess they worshiped. Y’edda was always represented as a woman, sometimes wearing a cloak of feathers, others with almost angelic wings sprouting from her shoulders. Oil lanterns set in wall sconces illuminated the vast chamber, casting deep shadows behind its long oaken pews.

    “And the rain fell, and the farmer’s crop did flourish,” the pastor was saying as I moved through the large double doors, “for Y’edda rewarded his righteousness in refusing aid. As we all know-”

    “Y’edda is a mighty deity,” I interrupted in a voice that echoed across the vaulted stone chamber, “but Am’aleh is the goddess of the sea, and every drop of water that flows across Althanas comes from her. It is she who nourished the farmer’s crops, and to her we owe our highest allegiance.”

    A chorus of gasps and mutters ran through the congregation as they shifted in their seats to face me. The pastor cleared his throat.

    “You have no right to make such insinuations, sir,” he said, “especially in this place. The story of the righteous farmer is well known-”

    “And credit for the miracle was falsely attributed to Y’edda.” I paced slowly down the aisle between the pews, my hands raised to show I meant no harm. My boots made soft pinging noises on the polished stone floor.

    “Do not cast such aspersions on Y’edda!” The pastor exclaimed, and the buzz of the crowd became an angry rumble, like the sound of a kicked beehive.

    “I do not mean to demean the sky goddess, whose powers I admire and respect,” I said, “only to state fact. Am’aleh is leader among the Thayne, and I shall be leader among her followers.”

    “Sacrilege!” A man cried, standing in the middle of the crowd.

    “Heretic!” Chimed a wild-haired woman, throwing her shoe in my general direction.

    I smiled and stepped up onto the dais next to the pastor’s podium. The middle-aged man looked nervously at me through horn rimmed spectacles.

    “I mean you no ill will,” I assured him, “in fact, I offer protection.”

    “Protection from what?” The pastor demanded.

    “Is it not true that this temple was desecrated only two weeks ago?”

    “Aye,” came the answer, “those very doors you came through were bashed from their hinges, and slander was painted across the pews. Many of us toiled for hours to remove the damage. The door was only just replaced.”

    “I have heard tell of other such incidents, in other temples to Thaynes across the country.” I scowled. “Respect for the faith is not the same as it once was. Fear of reprisal is non-existent. I propose we change that.”

    The murmurs among the crowd became like the rumbling before a quake. The pastor raised his hands and eventually silence returned to the great hall.

    “What is your proposal?” He asked, “And make it quick! I suspect I need not remind you, you are interrupting a sermon.”

    “I propose we form a militia under my leadership - the Faith United. We will serve many purposes, but foremost among them will be the protection of all temples to all Thaynes, and the people who freely choose to worship them.”

    The conversation in the crowd seemed mixed, but the pastor tightened the waistcord of his robe and frowned.

    “You interrupt my sermon,” he stormed, “you insult our goddess, and now you dare to ask us to follow under your banner? A militia? How mad are you?”

    “Madly in love with my lady, Am’aleh,” I smiled and spread my hands. “If my proposal is such an intrusion then I suggest you forcibly remove me. I will offer no resistance. But if I cannot be removed, let it be a sign from the Thaynes that my plan is indeed a sound one.”

    For a long moment, no one moved. I’m sure they knew who I was. The Y-shaped scars on my cheeks, the lithe muscular frame, and the flowing way I moved betrayed my identity to many Coronians. None were eager to lay a hand on the Granite Phanom, a prizefighter fabled across many lands. But my calm demeanour and promise of non violence swayed the pastor.

    “Oh, come on then!” He cried, “Henry, Geoffrey, and you four over there!” He waved at a group of brawny men with beards that named them lumberjacks. “Take this pretender outside where he belongs.”

    As the powerful woodsmen approached I activated one of the enchantments in my boots. Their soles adhered to the dais, which was carved from the same stone as the immovable floor. I crossed my arms and tensed every muscle in my body, steely sinew standing out beneath my black clothing.

    The first two lumberjacks took a leg each, and the third wrapped his arms around my torso. They tugged as one, but I didn’t move an inch. The man on my upper body muttered curses and signalled to his remaining friends. Like a well-oiled Alerian lifter they all found space to grip me and heaved with considerable collective might.

    I had to strain my muscles, but I stayed absolutely still.

    Eventually the woodsmen broke away, panting and wide-eyed. Surprised murmurs echoed from the crowd. The pastor look as though Y’edda herself had waltzed through the doors, wearing a naught but a sheer nightdress.

    “Now will you listen?” I asked, spreading my arms wide. “Individually, our churches are vulnerable to all who scorn our faith. United, we stand strong. United, we are invulnerable! Who will follow the Faith United?”

    My thunderous voice echoed off the vaulted ceilings and then died in the far corners of the building. If a single thread had dropped, its impact might have been heard in the silence.

    “I will fight for the Faith United,” one of the lumberjacks said at last. “I should like to crush those who desecrated our temple.”

    “I will fight as well,” chimed in his comrades, and suddenly men and women throughout the pews were standing, voicing their desire to participate. The pastor looked somewhat shaken, and uncomfortable, but did not attempt to dissuade his flock.

    In my mind’s eye, I ticked this temple off a long list. Only several dozen more to go.

  6. #6
    Thayneslayer

    EXP: 181,959, Level: 18
    Level completed: 63%, EXP required for next Level: 7,041
    Level completed: 63%,
    EXP required for next Level: 7,041


    Breaker's Avatar

    GP
    11,615
    AP
    186
    Name
    Joshua Breaker Cronen
    Age
    29
    Race
    Demigod
    Gender
    Male
    Location
    Corone
    Over the next few weeks I visited temples and churches throughout the barony of Yarborough. The same trick worked many times over, and where it failed I substituted other feats of might, bending steel and breaking iron with my bare hands. Some resisted more than others, but most of the Thayne worshipers rallied to my cause. Those able-bodied and willing gathered a single haversack and a bedroll each, and joined the growing encampment in the sparse woods north and west of Gisela.

    I found the work of persuading so many folk exhausting, and while I slept soundly each night, I never woke feeling rested. Still I pressed onward; the adamantine bracer fused to my forearm reminded me of Am’aleh’s task.

    Rising from one such dreamless sleep, I slipped out of my nondescript tent and paced down a long line of similar accommodations. My plain black clothing, tailored to my athletic frame, gathered the afternoon sun’s rays. Men came to attention as I passed, acknowledging my presence despite the lack of a formal salute. I had no need for conventional military protocols. Once I had the numbers, I would train them, and they would become a fighting force like no other.

    A large communal tent dominated the center of the camp, standing next to the cookfires with their bubbling pots of porridge. Men and women milled around on the wooden walkways they had constructed to avoid the inevitability of mud paths. Torn up training yards surrounded the sleeping quarters, and beyond that wooden palisades with watch posts protected the area. I passed the gate guards with a friendly nod and headed north toward Kinley’s cottage. I had not seen her since leaving to embark on my mission.

    At first I meandered through the loam and around the trees, enjoying the birdsong and natural smells. The clean air could almost wipe away the exhaustion engulfing me. Desire hastened my steps, and my pace quickened until my black boots had carried me all the way to her doorstep.

    A somber silence seemed to suffocate me as I stepped inside. The Thaynebinder sat on the table, it’s dark manacles and chains piled neatly. Kinley sat staring at it, and then lifted her sapphire gaze to me.

    “Josh? What is this?” She wrung her hands, looking at the artifact like a live serpent. “I found it while I was cleaning. I didn’t think you would keep secrets from me…” tears welled in her eyes.

    I swept around the table and knelt in front of her. My mind raced, finding only one possible explanation.

    “I’m so sorry you found this, Kinley… before I had a chance to show you.”

    Her expression changed from sorrow to surprise, eyes and mouth widening, hands twitching toward the Thaynebinder.

    “Show me?” She said, playing with her auburn locks, “show me what?”

    “This… is for you.” I stood and picked the Thaynebinder up in both hands. “I want you to wear it.”

    Her cheeks and neck reddened, and she covered her mouth. “Joshua…” She gasped, “I had no idea you could… be interested in such… things.”

    I cast my eyes down, feigning shame. “I was afraid you would find it repulsive… that’s why I hid it away. Of course, you don’t have to-”

    She stepped forward and touched my hand, and then caressed the chains. Her eyes were full of innocence and understanding, and sliver of fear. Her voice trembled as she lifted her palm to my chest.

    “If this is what you want…” she took the artifact from me, clutching the heavy collar and cuffs, “I’ll prepare myself for you.” She unbuttoned the top of her dress and slipped into the bedroom with a sultry glance over her shoulder. The scent of her desire hung in the air.

    I took a deep breath, and then followed. The things I do in Am’aleh’s name.

  7. #7
    Thayneslayer

    EXP: 181,959, Level: 18
    Level completed: 63%, EXP required for next Level: 7,041
    Level completed: 63%,
    EXP required for next Level: 7,041


    Breaker's Avatar

    GP
    11,615
    AP
    186
    Name
    Joshua Breaker Cronen
    Age
    29
    Race
    Demigod
    Gender
    Male
    Location
    Corone
    We lay on the sweat soaked sheets, the Thaynebinder gathered between us. Kinley cooed as I twined my fingers through her hair and trailed them down her naked back. Birdsong filtered through the open window and sunshadows played on the opposite wall. A sense of absolute peace washed over me as I relaxed in my lover’s bed.

    A distant rumble awakened me. Had I slept? I rubbed my eyes and rolled to my feet as Kinley awakened, glancing first at me and then at the Thaynebinder.

    “Josh? What was that noise? Are you going?”

    “An explosion,” I said with dark certainty, “it sounded like it came from the camp.” I slipped into my dark tailored clothing and stepped into my black boots and kissed Kinley on the cheek. “Hide that back under the floorboards where you found it.” I smiled. “It will be our little secret.” The woman blushed crimson as I turned and raced from the room.

    Rapid steps carried me out the door, through the meadow, and into the forest. Branches cracked and grass gave way beneath my boots as I sprinted toward the encampment, blood pulsating through the veins on my neck. What had happened? It couldn’t be a training accident… we didn’t keep any gunpowder weapons on hand. Yet.

    An attack. It was the only rational explanation. Who would do such a thing? The faces of potential suspects swam through my sleepy mind as I bolted into the clearing surrounding the tent village.

    The earth gaped in the center of the camp, as though a giant hand had reached down with a great spoon and scooped out a swathe of earth. Moans of soldiers injured and dying filled the air, interspersed by awful smells. The acrid odor of gunpowder hung heavy, seeping into my nostrils to stay.

    “Sir,” one of my lieutenants came to attention as I passed him by. He was a compact Salvic man with a grizzled orange and grey beard and bald pate. “The explosion came from your tent. We believe they used at least twenty pounds of gunpowder… it seems they were targeting you.”

    I nodded, and gripped the bracer fused to my right forearm through my sleeve. “How many dead?”

    “A round score, and twice that many wounded.”

    “Too many,” I said, looking up at the banner I’d designed myself. It featured the sigils of every Thayne in the pantheon, as well as those of several other deities. The beast-man of Hromagh, the winged woman of Y’edda, the scales of Jomil and of course the pitcher of Am’aleh. At the center stood the four-armed figure of Khal’jaren, its hands seeming to wave as the flag flapped in the wind.

    How could the Thaynes allow this? How could I allow this? We must grow stronger, and more vigilant.

    We rebuilt and recovered from the explosion. Soldiers delivered the dismal news to families of the fallen while others toiled to fill in the crater left by the blast. In the days and weeks that followed, more recruits signed up than ever before. Many young men and women who heard about the attack wanted to help defend their faith. The tent village expanded into a small town, with spiked wooden palisades, guarded gates, and regular patrols. Even so, I forced myself to stay awake and alert at all times. I prowled around the encampment, training warriors and always keeping an eye out for would-be attackers.

    My fatigue felt heavier than a mountain, but I would bear the burden of many mountains for my lady. Once the wooden walls were finished I felt secure enough to leave the camp for a short time, and journeyed through the humid forest to the coast, where earth met sea. Am’aleh was there, waiting for me. She rose from the waves like an angelic specter, taking the form of the woman of water.

    The sand crunched beneath my metal boots as I prowled to the waterline, stopping in front of the face of beauty.

    “You fare well,” she said, pride bubbling in her voice.

    “We have had setbacks,” I said, “but nothing will stop me from completing this mission.”

    “I know of the explosion, of course. You may remember some of the powers I wield from the day you bound me. I have been listening where I can and where I may. I have heard whisperings with truth at their roots. Agents of Khal’jaren plan to stop you and your cause, at any cost.”

    The goddess reached out with both hands and placed the pads of her thumbs on my cheeks. She caressed the slender scar tissue there.

    “Why is Khal’jaren against the Faith United?” I asked.

    “He fears you may upset a delicate balance he himself arranged. He is at the middle of all things, and at the top.”

    “How can I strike at such a god? Would the Thaynebineder-”

    “Do not think of attempting to use that on him. Not yet. We must weaken him first.” Her fluid eyes sparkled. “We must drain the source of his power.”

    “What is this source?”

    “His worshipers. Remove his sigil from the banner, and replace it with my own. Remove memory of him from the temples you overtake, and slowly, you will sap his strength. Then and only then might you clap those manacles onto some of his many arms.”

  8. #8
    Thayneslayer

    EXP: 181,959, Level: 18
    Level completed: 63%, EXP required for next Level: 7,041
    Level completed: 63%,
    EXP required for next Level: 7,041


    Breaker's Avatar

    GP
    11,615
    AP
    186
    Name
    Joshua Breaker Cronen
    Age
    29
    Race
    Demigod
    Gender
    Male
    Location
    Corone
    “Attack me now, with all of your skill.”

    The soldiers of the Faith United were shirtless in the sun, already covered in sweat as their feet shifted on the sandy shore. They formed a circle around me, wielding staves and cudgels. Each breath I took seemed to make them readjust and reconsider. None stepped forward to begin the assault.

    Another thirty soldiers - my honor guard - in leather armor stood at ease in the shade of the nearest trees. They heckled the warriors on the beach mercilessly, calling them cowards for not attacking outright.

    “Perhaps my personal guard needs some personal training,” I grinned at the men surrounding me, and then shouted to those under the trees. “Get over here and assist your compatriots. Bare Steel!” I looked around like a fox taking its pick of the chickens. “A thousand gold pieces to any man who lands a blow.”

    That catalyzed something. I heard a heavy footstep behind me, and the air shifted as a staff whummed toward my torso.

    I ducked and stepped backwards smoothly, using the force of the staff wielder’s swing to throw him over my shoulder. Despite the soft sand and the gentleness I’d tossed him with, the force of the throw left the man breathless and stunned.

    Suddenly staves and cudgels struck at me from all directions. I bobbed and weaved among them like an owl navigating tree branches at night. Wooden weapons whistled by my head and wafted warm air all around me, but none landed so much as a glancing blow. I disarmed and disabled my assailants with short strikes and swift maneuvers, leaving a trail of groaning but largely unharmed soldiers in my wake.

    With raucous battle cries my honor guard raced to join the melee, drawing swords and hefting spears. The lethality of their weapons made little difference; they could not touch me. I floated like a swan and struck like a ram. I was a bear among wolves, a dolphin among fish… a god among men.

    “We yield!” The captain of my guard cried as he swung his sword and missed so badly he spun around and sat down. Only a dozen of the original thirty remained standing, and they swiftly sheathed their weapons and showed their empty palms. “By the blood of Hromagh, Breaker. The way you train us, I’d think you don’t want us around.”

    The men helped each other recover while I flicked specks of dust from the double-stitched lines of my pants. I missed the powers Am’aleh had once granted me, missed the ability to cleanse my body with pure water and leave it perfectly pristine. I had almost broken a sweat during the training, and the feeling was decidedly human.

    A plume of dust announced the arrival of a messenger on a horse. The compact fellow galloped his steed down the earthen trail and pulled it to a stop. The horse remained still as he dropped its reins and slid to the ground, sprinting to the beach with his eyes on me.

    “An urgent message for you, my lord,” he said, “from the encampment!”

    I took the proffered envelope and broke the wax seal, sliding the single piece of parchment out into my hand. My eyes scanned the words, becoming hard as hazel stones.

    “What does it say?” A familiar, feminine voice wafted to my ears on the wind. I looked toward the ocean. Am’aleh rose from the waves, a liquid personification of beauty, and gilded toward me with flowing, even strides. She stopped just behind me and leaned over to read the letter.

    I looked out at the men assembled on the beach before me. They had barely reacted to Am’aleh’s arrival. Anger burned inside me like a forge’s fanned coals.

    “Ingrates!” I roared at the soldiers, “A Thayne stands before you. Fall on your knees!”

    A wave of sideways glances passed between the soldiers, and then one by one they knelt in the sand. Am’aleh smiled at me, and then faded back into the sea.

  9. #9
    Thayneslayer

    EXP: 181,959, Level: 18
    Level completed: 63%, EXP required for next Level: 7,041
    Level completed: 63%,
    EXP required for next Level: 7,041


    Breaker's Avatar

    GP
    11,615
    AP
    186
    Name
    Joshua Breaker Cronen
    Age
    29
    Race
    Demigod
    Gender
    Male
    Location
    Corone
    I resisted the urge to crumple the letter in my hand, and read it again.

    Lord Breaker:

    We discovered a second gunpowder bomb concealed within the encampment. The man responsible for guarding the area in question will hang soon, unless you intervene.


    It was signed by one of my many lieutenants, a name I barely recognized.

    “Rise,” I called, stuffing the letter back in its envelope and handing it to the messenger.

    “Do you have a message for me to return with?” He asked dutifully, looking back at his sweat-flecked horse.

    “No, you take your time,” I said with a frown, “I’ll be faster.” I let my gaze wash around the assembled soldiers. “Follow behind me at double speed!” I called, “The encampment may be at risk!” A wave of uneasy murmurs ran through the men as I took off, sand spraying from beneath my boots.

    I had allowed myself too much sleep of late. Being the commander of an army meant always being vigilant, always prepared. At least the increased security measures I put in place had worked. They’d found the bomb… and with a chance to examine it, I might be able to track down the bastard who built it. Khal’jaren’s agents could not hide from me forever.

    My boots pounded over the forest floor as leaves and loam whipped in my slipstream. The trees passing by on either side became a blur as I ran, faster and faster, until my feet carried me to the encampment. The guards on the gate let me through with respectful nods, and I walked to the center of the camp as quickly as I could while appearing in command. Shouts and screams drew me to an open area bordered by tall banner poles, each flying the flag of the Faith United.

    A group of soldiers had a lone man pinned to the ground. Despite his struggles and cries for mercy, another soldier looped a noose around his neck, and tossed the coil over a broad pole’s crosspiece. More men gathered round to heave on the end of the rope, raising the unfortunate fellow onto the balls of his feet as he tore at the cord cutting off his oxygen.

    “For the crime of allowing an explosive device to be planted in our encampment,” A lieutenant cried in a frenzy, “you will hang by the neck until dead!”

    “Under whose orders?” I bellowed. My voice nearly knocked the men flat, and they spun towards me, faces guilty and fearful. All except the lieutenant who had called the command.

    “Your own,” he stepped forward to challenge me, “when last you were here, you instructed me that anyone who shirks their duties be put to death.”

    Did I say that? I couldn’t even remember my last conversation with the man. The sleep deprivation was getting to me. I stood strong.

    “Being outfoxed by a clever foe does not mean that he shirked his duties,” I declared, my hazel eyes boring into the lieutenant’s green ones. He looked away, but a defiant scowl stayed on his face. “Cut him down!”

    After a brief hesitation, the soldiers complied. The lieutenant gave me a disgusted look, and then waved to his cronies.

    “Come on lads, let’s away from here. The commander’s gone batshit.” A half dozen men followed him, heading towards the guarded gates.

    “Do you think I’ll just allow you to leave?” I thundered. “Desertion is a far higher crime than shirking duties.”

    “You won’t slaughter us, Breaker.” The lieutenant called back with a sneer. “It’s not in you.”

    I considered having them clapped in irons, but it would only take up space in the cells, and subtract rations from our food supply. I waved to the guards to let them go, and the deserters filed out of the camp.

    “Thank you, my lord.” The man whose life I had saved fell on his knees as if to kiss my metal boots. “I am forever in your debt.”

    “Be grateful by being as valuable to me as the seven men we just lost,” I told him.

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