Divine Family

By Ryan St, Stephanie Lauren and The Cartographist.

He at first seemed to me exactly as he appeared - an old man, ignorant of the ways of the cities and the sea, bent by years of toil. He seemed, although not unintelligent, simple, for he had walked with caravan on dusty paths, with his wagons, pulled by ( ) for dozens of years. He wore only a tunic and belt - not even sandles on his calloused feet. I would not have guessed that he had any knowledge of the world beyond the vast dry steppes. Certainly not among these people.

But he knew that I sought. He knew what I sought. He knew what might happen if he spoke, and still he spoke.

"The sages will tell you that the gods are part of a great family; that Jorech fathered Balohn, Upatthia, and Kemmak by Poil. If you listen, they will tell you that Sohebb is mother to Cheneth and Meccon; that Iohai is the son of Abross. They will even tell you that Upatthia is the mother of a thousand children.

All these are lies.

The truth will have you flayed in any city: The Living Gods are sterile, the Living Goddesses barren. Nature does not allow one so vile to propagate, though they have often twisted other creatures into strange chimeras. But no spirits will come to their loins.

Look to their faces: Is Meccon of the same race as Sohebb? Do not trust the paintings of your city - have you seen these gods themselves, unmasked?

When a God claims to have created a new child, know that the babe was stolen from its mothers arms. When a new god appears, know that there was no birth, only tutelage. Unless this is a god in some new guise, what you see is a disciple who has learned the way of the Spirit Eater. In either case, we know their fates - few children of Gods have lived a decade. The Halcyon is unkind to new powers, and even if spared the assassin's blade, Abross would not tolerate these "families" to gain strength.

If you lived out the ages, undying, never aging, and yet could not make life, would this drive you to madness? I think so, and I look to Kemmak, Balohn, Upatthia and Sohebb for my greatest examples. But this absence touches all the Living Gods - do Meccon and Jorech father cities because they cannot father children?"

He said those words far from the cities, but not at all far enough. The reaction was not immediate but that made it no less absolute. I awoke late one day, later than the noon day sun, to find that the caravan had left me. As was their way, there was no track, because a track will tell. But I knew their direction and followed it. Just before sundown, I spotted itthe smoke on the horizonand I knew, and I turned and fled.