Friday, January 22, 2016

Beyond the Rim Installment 22

Thurgod was suddenly interrupted in the midst of the story. He and the child were only one terrace from the top of the final descent to the Sixth Mine, preparing for the long and level journey along the causeway. As they approached the last turn there appeared a sudden flash of brightness before them, and after the flash an altogether more amazing sight.
A human shape between seven and eight feet tall stood before them, its form made of twisted vines of blue, just slightly deeper than the sunniest of skies, and a color altogether foreign to those within the Rim. Obscuring his woven blue interior was the wreath of flame, blue at its base and green at its tips, which robed every part of its body save for the face and hands, and the face was obscured by a red-flame beard. Oorgo jumped back behind Thurgod, unexpectedly called out of the story which Thurgod told.
"Thurgod, thrall of Cyllgod, and Master of Smiths, you are summoned at once to the Queen's Court." The demigod's voice betrayed not even a hint of the flame that surrounded him, but was interrupted with frequent noises of snapping.
"I will come," said Thurgod. "Tell our mistress I shall come when the child is returned to my compound."
"The walk is long. You will not then be to her court by nightfall, and will make excuse to come another day. She says you must come at once."
Thurgod inclined his head slightly to be pointing his face at the messenger. "Is this how I have been in the past? When has the smith god said one thing to the Queen and then done another? Am I now suspected of deception?"
"You should be silent and do as you are commanded, thrall. It is not yours to ask questions."
"Nor is it yours to command me, nothing-god."
"I am the emissary of the queen. You are to come at once."
"I will come when the child," Thurgod tugged on the chain that connected him and Oorgo, drawing the child close to him again, "is safely returned to the compound. You know that evil men do wicked things to children caught on streets at night."
"I will take the child home; he will be in my care." The demigod spread his arms wide, a sight which caused Oorgo to stand beside Thurgod's leg, peering out at the mosntrous arms that might have embraced a dozen men at once.
"Tell the Queen this, that the smith god will come to her court when he has taken his servant safely home, and then come to her at once."
"It will be late. The stars will be bright before you could arrive."
"Has the Queen learned to need sleep? Are we not gods, free of being ruled by daylight? Did we not once..." Thurgod did not finish that sentence, clenching his jaw.
"You dare the question the queen's power of divinity? To her own emissary?" The green flares of the god's flame increased, and he stepped toward the diminutive pair.
"Emissary is a grand word to describe a nothing-god. Stand aside, and the child will go home with me."
"I will not return to my Queen without your consent to come at once."
"Then you will walk with us, and be yourself late on your return."
The demigod completed his stride toward them. "It appears your servant is a distraction to you from your duties. I will take him home now."
Thurgod stepped forward to meet the demigod, leaving only two more of his own paces, or one of the messenger's, between them. "And if I disallowed it? What then, nothing-god?"
The demigod swung his elongated limb at Thurgod, grasping his shoulder and tightening the grip, with crackling and snapping intensifying as his flame beard changed to white in fury. But the smith god stood still, his metal-wound countenance unflinching.
Thurgod opened his mouth to speak, but snapped it to again, forestalling words that would have caused him pain. He reached up and flung the arm off his shoulder, and then said, "It is now you who delay me. Leave me now to return my servant to his home, or I will have the Queen know it was your own vanity that delayed me."
The messenger leered, glancing at Thurgod for only half a moment, and then rested his eyes on Oorgo. He said the boy, "We will meet again, child," and then he started, as though to leap at the boy. Oorgo  tried to run away but the line that held him to Thurgod caught him, and he fell backwards onto the seat of his trousers.
With a flash the emissary disappeared, with only half a laugh in the air.
Oorgo ran to Thurgod, sobbing. He gasped for breaths, "He had fire and...." "How did you..." " scary..." "...why did he..." "what did he..." "I hate..." but Thurgod clapped his hand over the boys' mouth.
"Have you not seen, child, that the business of gods is beyond a boy? Then it would be better if you cared not for it, no more than it affects you or your human kind. If I and a god should disagree then it would be better if you did not think of it until you may learn from it, and you are small child. The hour grows late, and we are far from home."
Somehow the words quieted the boy, though they were little comfort. The thought of the bed of straw and waking to Thurgod's hammer on an anvil latched onto the boys mind. Within five minutes he was running ahead of Thurgod again, nearly dragging the smith god forward.
"Why do you live so far from the mine?"
"I live very far from the Sixth Mine. I live above the First Mine."
"There is a mine under my bed?"
"Then why don't I hear picks and golems, and there are no carts?"
"There are none who mine there now."
"The causeway is like a big spine, if the city were a really flat animal."
"Yes, child."

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