Things get hinky when more than one god is in the room. I’ve been in situations where there were four, and the energy was off the scales. Indubitably, in the case of Kithri, Mother Crone, The Green Lady, and of course, my first and truest god, Semaunzilla (may she show up and explain a bunch of things to me about the missing two years), none of them were direct rivals. I see them more as neighbors in the pantheon of deities. Here Thunder Jack and Old One-Eye vied for the same worshipers, or so they believed. I can see why there was a thought that they should be rivals, but I’ve experienced the fact that it is not a zero-sum game. A rising tide lifts all boats, and all that.
The older dwarf god squinted at his rival and threw up his hands. “Bah, anger carries too high a price. You are not worth that much of my energy.” Then he sat down on one of the benches, crossed his arms and scowled at the wall.
I think that was the best we were going to get at this time. I rose to my feet and walked to the newcomer. “Been a while since I saw you last,” I said, holding out my hand. He grinned and shook it.
“What happened to your other arm, boy?”
One-Eye grunted and Bob sat beside him, one hand on his hunched shoulders. There wasn’t really any fight in him beyond righteous indignation.
“That’s a long tale involving demonic vines, a broken well, and some ancient elven dung eaters that didn’t know enough to die when their time came.”
Thunder Jack laughed, holding his belly and bending nearly double. When he recovered, he leaned against me, one hand on my shoulder, to keep his balance.
“I tell you, boy. I haven’t laughed like that in far too long.”
“After what you’ve been through, I’m glad to know you can find joy in my misery.”
He eyed me, his face stony, then he saw that I grinned at him. This brought forth his own grin once more.
“And, how are you?” I asked.
“I’m right as rain, boy. Now that you have set me free once more. I have drunk much ale, and bedded many women.” He winked at Raucous who blushed, but did not look away. “But in the end, it was you boy, burning your way across the world, shouting into the dark corners, mending the broken places that called me back to my duties.”
He seemed much saner than the last time I had seen him. I had drawn on his power only rarely and I remembered well that pulse of earth magic, a russet energy that tasted of bitter ale and smoke.
“You are one of mine now, boy. May the celestials help you. And I mean to make amends for my arrogance and pride.” He looked over at me, expecting a reply, so I nodded at him.
That seemed to be enough.
“You lot need to get back to your ship,” Thunder Jack said with a nod. “Time to leave this island and let poor Lisbeth and Arden sleep undisturbed.” He walked behind the alter and pushed a series of runes. Each glowed as he touched them. They were burned into my vision as they glowed in the dark. It took me a moment to realize they were the runes that spoke of Freedom from Tyranny.
One Eye grunted and muttered just loud enough to be heard. “Show off.”
Raucous looked both confused and amused at the same time. When I raised an eyebrow in her direction, she grinned. “He’s a cute one,” she said. “Can we keep him a while?”
I nodded and she clapped her hands. “You do know how to show a girl a good time, regardless of what Sparkle used to say.”
I rolled my eyes and turned to Thunder Jack. “Something led us here besides a need to refill our water and provisions. There was something one of us was supposed to find here.”
Thunder Jack shrugged and Bob spoke up. “I was searching for news of an ancient temple out in the vast sea when I was captured,” he said. “I had a lead to this place in a small village called Inky Harbor northwest of Skyfell. That’s where my group was wiped out and I was captured.”
Old One-Eye stood then, pulling Bob to his feet. “This young’un killed eleven of the Hand, including a bishop. They couldn’t decide if they should hang him, or draw-and-quarter him for daring to touch one of their high and mighty.” There was so much derision in his voice, Thunder Jack gave the old dwarf a grin.
“Who died?” I asked, worried about my friends.”
“Three hobs, six goblins, and two of the brigand lads,” Bob said with a heavy sigh. “We were ambushed plain and simple. I should’ve seen it coming. Their blood is on my hands.”
Old One-Eye squeezed Bob’s shoulder. “Dragon dung. Every man one of them was a volunteer. They knew the mission you were on.”
Bob hung his head, and muttered. “Their deaths were for naught.”
Thunder Jack walked across the room and pushed a few runes on the reliquary which caused the top to slide to the side. “You were probably looking for these,” he offered, pulling a pair of hammers from the depths. “It was with these that I slew the dragon, Agamemnon.” He walked and handed the hammers to Bob. “If I am not mistaken.”
The hammers glowed with a ruddy light, the runes that graced each of the sides of the square heads giving a pale blue glow. Bob took the hammers from Thunder Jack and held one in each hand. The look that spread across his face was pure ecstasy.
Old One-Eye looked over at Thunder Jack, his own face writ with awe. “Those are what Arden and Lisbeth sought,” he said.
Thunder Jack nodded. “Aye, and I woulda seen them into their hands, had they managed to reach here alive. Why do you think I laid them to rest in his hallowed hall?”
Bob hadn’t moved, well, his lips were moving as he said something over and over again. It took me a minute to realized what he was saying.
“Hope at last,” he muttered over and over. When he saw me studying him, he grinned and held the hammers out to show me, like a child with a new toy, or two.
“Oh, Merric. Now we have a chance against Gargath.”
Who is Gargath?