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Essence 6
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Paladin, Part 3: Ashes, Ashes

19 Sep 2007, 12:39

The Carnival of Meetings had come to Yu-Shan again, and the streets were filled with revelry. Gods, elementals, and Exalts thronged the courtyards and buildings of this area of the great celestial city, alongside fortunate or powerful mortals, stranger creatures, and the occasional Fair Folk who was taking advantage of this strange time to join the beings of Creation in their celebrations.

Adran made his way through the wonder, his attention frequently drawn by a marvel that he never would have imagined existed. In some ways, it filled him with a part of the infectious joy that was spreading through the quarter. In others, it simply made him angry. While mortals toiled below, the gods lived in splendour and ease. But then, this was a single festival. He admitted to himself that he had no idea how they lived and worked the rest of the year.

Instead of furthering his musings, he drew out the holy amulet that he kept tucked beneath his cloak. It had cost him a great deal of time and money to have it made, but the thaumaturge Resplendant Sky had promised him that it would lead him to Hadol. And indeed, it was now glowing faintly, a soft white light that gathered along one rim as he watched. Following the light, he made his way through the crowd. If his god would not speak to him by prayer, he would do it in person.

He found his God in one of the lesser Courtyards. The Croplord was close to seven feet tall, his skin the colour of golden wheat, with deep brown hair and a resplendent suit that seemed woven from green silk. He did not notice the mortal approaching, busy as he was with a trio of water nymphs, laughing and at ease. It was one of the nymphs who noticed Adran, pausing long enough for Hadol to grab her. He started to swing her up, then, noticing that she was not reacting particularly wholeheartedly, he followed her glance. Then he let go of her with a heavy, rumbling sigh. “I know you, mortal. You are of the Andavi people.” He stepped forwards and leaned down, until his face was even with Adran. “When I did not respond to you, that should have been a sign.”

Adran took a half-step backwards from the great god, and then stood his ground. “My Lord, I have come here, during the Carnival of Meetings, to beg a question of you. I have worshipped you loyally for my entire life. Please, answer my question.”

“No.” Hadol turned his attention back towards the nymphs, who were glancing nervously from him to Adran, and started towards them. After a moment, he glanced back. “You’re still here?”

“I will not leave until you answer, my Lord. Why did you let my wife die? Why did you never answer her prayers for a son?”

Hadol growled softly. “Do not push me, mortal. My ways are my own. Leave.”

Adran remained silent, watching the god. Hadol’s eyes narrowed. “Do you think you have some right to this, mortal? Do you think you are somehow special?” He let out a barking laugh, filled with anger. The nymphs, Adran noticed out of the corner of one eyes, were backing away, apparently deciding that this was not the right place to go for entertainment. “You are not. You are nothing, just another mortal in a world that teems with them. Just as your wife was.”

Adran swallowed heavily. “She was loved. Everyone in town…”

“Oh, I know!” Sudden resentment filled the god’s voice, and he spun to face Adran again. Adran took another step backwards as the god’s voice rose to a dull roar. “Everyone loved her. They practically worshipped her, and she let them do everything that she wished. She took their attention from me, and then she had the gall to ask me for a gift?” His voice dropped. “I never granted her a child because it pleased me to see her finally fail at something. And when she fell ill, I was not about to waste my time helping a mortal who dared to rival the gods.” He turned away. “Now leave, before I change my mind about letting you.”

Adran simply stood, stock-still, the god’s words echoing in his mind. His voice was a whisper. “She loved you. She worshipped you loyally.” Sudden rage filled him, and his hands darted into his cloak. “Every night for ten years, she begged you for a gift, and even as she died she never blamed you! And you let her because you were JEALOUS??” The last word was screamed, loud enough to echo over the music of the Carnival for a moment, and he leapt forwards, consuming by rage at this creature, this monster that dared to call itself a god. His claws lashed out, fueled by his wrath.

But this was no bandit he faced. It was a god. Hadol turned without a thought, grabbing Adran’s outstretched hands in a single motion and squeezing. Metal and bone shattered under the impact, and Adran dropped to the ground, blinded with pain. “I told you, mortal. You are nothing.” Hadol’s voice dripped with scorn. “Do you think I care what you think? What you do? Pah. No one will miss you.” He kicked out, catching Adran in the chest and sending him sailing across the courtyard. The man landed on his back, and everything was black as pain exploded through him.

It seemed as though he lay in the darkness for an eternity, waiting to die. Some part of him wished to struggle, to force his way free, but he couldn’t see why. It was for nothing. His wife had died for no reason at all.

“Rise, brave warrior.” The voice was soft, but filled with strength. Adran could not speak, but his thought rang out.

‘Why? Let me die.’

“Is that what she would have wanted, your wife? For you to give up now?”

‘I have nothing left to live for.’ The thought was surrounded by bitterness. His life had been torn away. Better that it end.

“What of justice? Righteousness? If you cannot live for yourself, live for others. Live for the salvation of Creation.”

‘What could I do?’

“The only thing needed for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing. You have passion in your soul, and a desire to do good. Rise, my son, and join me. Live for what is right.”

And Adran knew, somewhere deep inside, that he would. His life had been shattered, but that was not right. He felt something flowing through him, his wounds fading to a dull ache, and his fists tightened as broken bones knit themselves together. Slowly, his eyes opened.

Across the courtyard, the body of Hadol lay in six pieces, as though sliced cleanly through. The god’s expression was frozen in shocked disbelief and pain. Adran turned his head with effort, to the man kneeling next to him. He was thin, his skin weathered and tinted with the hues of the Air Aspect, and his beard trailed behind him. He shook his head, following Adran’s earlier glance. “He was corrupt, and cruel. I had hoped, when you confronted him, that he might see the truth, but he was too far gone.” He then smiled, a smile filled with a paternal affection and sternness. “That was bravely done of you, but also foolish. You will have to learn patience, if you wish to seek justice.” He held out a hand. Adran took it, letting the stranger pull him to his feet.

“Thank you, Master, for saving me.” Adran tried to smile, but he found that there was little to be joyful for. “May I ask your name?”

“Of course, my son.” The man started to walk, and Adran moved to follow him. “I am Iselsi Thelos, and I am much like you – I seek justice in this world. Join me, for a time, and I will help you find a purpose.”

Adran looked back at the dead god, and then nodded. Perhaps, now, he had found a path to follow.
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