We scattered. Luckily, while the shot was targeted accurately, the range was not adequate. The fiery pitch splashed down in the water a dozen strides beyond dry sand and steam rose while it frothed and boiled. At least it wasn’t Greek Fire. That stuff burned on top of the water. This pitch would grow inert quick enough.
The gods were picking themselves up with more than a bit of indignity. She Who Rules the Waves appeared to be the most put out, as her seafoam and shell accoutrement was jostled violently when she dove away, revealing certain assets that the rest of us could only appreciate from afar.
“Looks like first shot to me,” I said, not bothering to turn away. I’ve seen beautiful women, bedded some, worshiped with more. Not that I didn’t appreciate how handsome she was, rather I just wasn’t in the mood to care. My friends were in danger and I needed to do something. “Is it in your natures to let such a provocation go unanswered?”
“We can’t interfere,” She Who Rules the Waves said, the once laughter a hallow echo in her voice. “Indirect help is one thing. Direct intervention always upsets things in ways none of us want to deal with. Again.”
Thunder Jack blushed at her words and looked away.
It was Old One Eye who clarified things. “His interference with the rings is what opened him to the attack by he you name Devil Pete. They have a long history together. There is taint in this young whelp that festers, a doorway into his soul.”
Thunder Jack opened his mouth to say something, but stopped himself. Instead he lowered his head, tucked his arms in his armpits, and walked away. He did not argue the point.
She Who Rules the Waves did not follow him. Funny enough, it was Raucous that hurried after him, following him into the woods. Why not, after all they had spent a day and a night exploring the insides of each other’s mouths with their respective tongues. Not that there was anything wrong with that.
He didn’t look defeated, more sullen. An air of remorse and embarrassment followed him as he disappeared. He seemed more a moody teenager than a god.
“How old is he?” I asked as Raucous caught up to him and took his hand. Just before they disappeared, she had her head on his shoulder, and her arm around his waist.
She Who Rules the Waves shrugged and looked out to the ships, ignoring the whole thing. Did gods get jealous? Okay, stupid question. I can’t believe I even wrote it. What I meant, to be more accurate, was are the gods monogamous, or possessive of their lovers? She Who Rules the Waves and Thunder Jack were lovers, right?
I glanced at Old One Eye and he twisted his mouth into a sideways frown. He didn’t understand much here either.
“Depends on the context,” he said, sort of answering my question. “He’s been a god for tens of thousands of years. Longer than your favorite bread maker, Kithri.”
I thought about it. “How old was he when he ascended?”
No one answered right away. I’d just about given it up as a rhetorical question, when Bob chimed in. “He was forty-nine when he ascended. Third child of a piteous ruler with a kingdom destroyed and a people scattered on anything that could float.”
The others turned to look at Bob who continued. “He fought the two-headed dragon of the Black Isle, killing it with these,” he held up the hammers he’d been given. “After that, he hunted down and slew three demons, rescuing many who had been made prisoner in the cataclysm. Unfortunately, most of those he freed were not dwarves, not his people. He had not come of age according to our customs.”
I appreciated the information, and for the gods, I don’t reckon they cared a whit. By custom, and based on life-span, he is actually slightly younger than I am. Not in true years, of course. Interesting. That began to explain a few things.
“About those ships,” I said, going back to the original subject. “My dear sea god, beauty of foam and wave, how is it that you raised that wall of coral to cut of pursuit?”
She looked at me and blinked. “Coral grows naturally, sometimes faster, some slower. If my actions impeded that ship’s progress, it was purely unintentional.”
I know my eyebrows disappeared into my hairline at those words, and she blew me a kiss before turning and walking toward the sea.
Old One Eye shrugged. “I gave you free ale, unlimited, and you dumped it out. Not sure what else I can do to help.”
He wasn’t being facetious or anything. Bob actually looked embarrassed by the response. After a breath, he turned to follow the old god northward along the edge of the jungle.
Which left me standing in the middle of the beach, alone, without a plan.
Where are Emad, Dorn, Scrabble, and Angelo?
I dropped my pack in the sand at my feet, rotated my neck to relieve the tension, and began to walk to the shore line.
It was only then I realized how refreshed I felt. Power stood ready at my fingertips, the weaves of my gods burgeoning.
Ships are wood. Those jerks like to play with fire. I thought perhaps I’d try my column of flame thingy I’d cast previously.
The enemy ship may not be the one Angelo commanded, but I’d examined one exactly like it back when we’d first come to this island. There were fore and aft onagers, each throwing burning pitch. That meant they had a store of pitch to load and light before firing it.
I took up the symbol for Thunder Jack, felt his need to prove himself, recognizing it for the first time, and called down fire.
They couldn’t directly interfere, but as burning men and women began to jump into the ocean, I saw the tell-tell fins of feeding sharks.
Definitely not direct intervention. Only indirect for these folks.