In the Shadows of Gods – Episode 1

Epic fantasy |


Dark Quarter, a forest near the imperial city of Sahrdon,
capitol of the Empire of Darklaw.

“I know what you’re planning.”

“I doubt that.”

“Rook told me.”

“Well then.” A grim smile spread across Avestine’s scarred face. She glanced across Kami’s naked body. “I’ll have to speak with him about that.”

“I won’t let you do it.”

Shadows hid Kami’s brown eyes, but Avestine knew how dark they were. How angry. Kami hadn’t changed much. She was as defiant with the god in her as she had been when her only power came from spreading her legs. “Of course you won’t. I expect nothing less than to see your beasts devour my army until they’re sated. The men that remain when your horde leaves will finish their work, and you’ll have murdered thousands and still not defeated me.” Avestine shook her head. “Do what you must, Child. And so will I.”

“It doesn’t have to be this way.”

Avestine was a woman of masculine proportions, and she used her size to intimidate. Kami stiffened defensively when Avestine stepped closer. The effect thrilled Avestine, but she restrained herself. She had never been able to control Kami. Even as the Avatar of Arujan, with his power of tyranny, Avestine was unable to push Kami, who had a unique self-possession long before Bala entered her.

Earlier that day, Kami had come to the military camp of the kingdoms allied against Darklaw. As a falcon, she found her way through the tents and soldiers. The confrontation had been brief, and Avestine followed Kami into the forest far from the presence of men. Now, night was falling, and the Blue Sun was low in the cloud-streaked sky. Avestine glanced around assuring herself they were still alone, that neither her soldiers nor Kami’s beasts lurked.

She rested her palm on the hilt of her sheathed sword and slouched. “Still,” she said, returning her attention to Kami. “I wonder why you send wolves and flies instead of arousing the vermin you said were in our guts.” She closed her eyes at the memory of insects devouring her men. She didn’t want to think of it, but she had to put this idea in Kami’s head. She shook off her disgust. “So, we’ll fight tomorrow.” She reached out a hand. “But we still have tonight.”

Kami grunted with disbelief. “You’re going to burn the Dark Quarter to the ground tomorrow and think I’ll share your bed tonight?”

“What does tomorrow have to do with today?”

“All that life wasted, and it means nothing to you.”

“Life?” Avestine’s nostrils flared. She leaned closer. “You mean the filthy vermin that eat the flesh of children and decimate the security of empires? Go pity the avaricious beasts, Child, but I’ll save my pity for men who pray for mercy from gods like you. Because we all know Bala has no mercy.” 

Kami’s jaw flexed. Avestine wished she could see the dismay in the shadowed eyes. She relished reminding Kami of her mindless and murderous rages, of those times when the ecstatic expression of a chaotic deity became a thing of horror.

Although there had once been thousands, only six Essanti remained. Each was the last votary of a priesthood. Kami was the last of those who served Bala. She was the last Essanti of Instinct. When all the parts of the god finally resided in her, the god had returned to the world. She held within her the god of the Wild, a champion of chaos with the power to control those who served the Emanation of Instinct. Kami was the Avatar of Bala, but she was still Kami. Bala was a god obsessed with radical freedom, but reason and compassion drove Kami. Avestine wondered if Kami ever recognized the contradictions.

She touched Kami’s arm. “How long has it been? Two years since you left me at Renegade’s Sea? Two years since you lay under me?”

“You must give up this ambition.”

“This war of attrition will force Sahrdon’s surrender. Darklaw will belong to me very soon.”

“And once you have Darklaw, then what? You won’t be satisfied until you have the other four empires of the world.”

Avestine smiled. “Oh, Child, I won’t stop there.” She seized Kami by her shoulders and drew her into a kiss.

Kami pushed, but Avestine didn’t let go. She managed Kami’s struggles with practiced ease. “Give in now,” she said, holding Kami’s wrists as she fought her, “and we’ll have more time for pleasure. Eat my troops tomorrow, but I’ll eat you tonight.” She forced her mouth roughly against Kami’s.

When Kami bit her lip, Avestine slapped her. With ferocious hands she seized Kami’s narrow shoulders and shoved her backward against a tree. She kissed and chewed on Kami’s neck until a red snake dropped from above and coiled around her arm.

As its mouth spread with dripping fangs, Avestine stumbled backwards and shook herself free. She was immortal, but she wasn’t content to let an animal ravage her. She drew her sword and sliced the snake in two.

Her icy blue eyes flashed, and through clenched teeth, she said, “I’ll send that bitch back to hell. Then all you’ll have is me.”

Kami took a step back, collapsed into the form of a falcon, and flew away.

Copyright © 2015 Teresa Wymore. All Rights Reserved.