Cleric Journal Book Seven: Day One Hundred and Three

 

 

Oy vey, the Man in White.  Of course, I know him.  If I was a betting man, my money would be on that individual being the heart of all our woes.

“I met him once when we freed the Stronghold of Kithri’s Fist from a demon horde.”

“He’s a wicked one,” Old One Eye said.  “Where there is great mischief, he is sure to be close at hand.”

Bob and I shared tales of our great demon battle, and the hodge-podge of allies we had in that clash.  It was truly the first time I saw hobgoblins and others like them as not just allies, but as being worthy of consideration.  Too often our first reaction to those who are different from us is to ridicule or cast aspersions.  The hobs that helped us in the great battle bled just like I do.

By the time we finished, Phineas had woken and watched us all with a dubious paranoia.  It was obvious we were not exactly enemies, but he had no idea who we were, or how we’d gotten there.

Audrey, however, he knew intimately, and after a moment most of us left to give the two of them a bit of privacy.  I glanced at Phineas with the green sight just to make sure he had no internal bleeding and caught a glimpse of Audrey.  What I saw caused me to stumble, drawing both their attention.

She had a sickness, the wasting disease, where the body fought against itself.  The end of that battle was always terrible and my heart ached for her.  Gone all these years, only to return to a death sentence she may not even know about.  She caught my eye as I pulled the door closed, her gaze appraising.  I smiled and she nodded before turning to gaze upon Phineas adoringly.

We checked rooms along the hall until we found one several doors down from the Princess’s room where we could rest.  Old One Eye offered to watch over us as we slept, and Bob plopped down onto one of the twin beds without saying a word.  I sat on the second bed and watched the old god, observing just how tired he looked.

“Are you sure it isn’t you who needs resting?”

He smiled at me and shook his head.  “What ails me can’t be remedied by a few hours sleep.  You need to refresh yourself if you are thinking to raise those poor hobbit folks.”

He was right, of course.  I rolled onto the bed and fell asleep immediately.  It has been a long time since I was this bone tired, and the world faded the second my head stopped moving.

When I woke, I found the house quiet, but Bob was gone.  Old One Eye sat in the kitchen, drinking a mug of ale, and talking with Scrabble.  I leaned against the door frame, watching the two of them chattering to one another, and it was a couple of minutes before they would acknowledge my existence.  When they did, Scrabble squealed and danced around until I walked to the table and allowed him to jump on my shoulder.

“Sleep well?” Old One Eye asked.

I sat next to him and poured a mug of whatever he had in the pitcher.  The ale was cold and frothy.  “This your specialty?” I asked, taking a sip.  I’d really only had elvish beer, preferring wine myself, but this had a nutty flavor that seemed to settle smoothly into all my nooks and crannies.  Once I started drinking, I tilted the mug until I’d drained it.  I sat back with an audible sigh and wiped the foam off my lips.

“That was excellent,” I said.  Scrabble seemed to have gone to sleep on my shoulder and I poured myself a second ale.  This one I planned to sip.

Old One Eye poured one for himself and took a large swallow before licking the foam off his mustache.  “I was called upon to insure a goodly brew,” he said, staring into the mug.  “The golden richness of the ale reflected the prosperity of my people.”  He drained off the remainder of the mug and immediately poured himself another.

“How many of those have you had?” I asked, noticing that the pitcher never emptied.

He shrugged.  “Not enough, I can tell you.  Not nearly enough.”

We sipped our beer in silence for a long, long time.  When the last rays of the sun slanted in through the opened back door, I looked around.  “How long did you let me sleep?”

Bob walked in at that moment.  “Two days,” he said, shaking his head.

I stood quickly, and immediately regretted the movement.  The ale had gone straight to my head, and the world spun.  I braced myself against the table and gingerly sat back down.

Old One Eye chuckled, and motioned for Bob to join us.  “Your friend here is a bit of a light weight,” he said.

I didn’t mind the jab, because it made him so happy.

Bob sat and reached for the pitcher, but Old One Eye pulled it back.

Suddenly the mirth of the room faded and a chill permeated the air.

“You worship the halfling wench.  This is not for you.”

Bob glanced at me and shrugged.  “Seems you will share with a human who worships several deities, but you’ll deprive one of your own?”

They stared at one another for a long time, long enough for my head to settle.  Old One Eye was a jealous god.  Not spiteful, as far as I could tell, good hearted, but somewhat bitter about the loss of his people.

“I honor you, grandfather,” Bob said.  “I would bear your token had I one.  My great mistress Kithri believes that many hands make light work, and the work ahead of us is mighty indeed.”

Old One Eye seemed to contemplate this for a long while.  Eventually he poured a mug of ale and slid it to Bob.  Then he produced a talisman and slid it across the table as well.  It was a stylized beer barrel with crossed hammers.  Bob slipped the golden chain around his neck and tucked the talisman under his shirt.

“I will call upon you when the need is great, and honor you when there is joy.”

Old One Eye nodded once, and pulled another mug out of thin air.  Once he’d filled it he held it toward us.  Bob and I held our as well, and the old god nodded.

“Beat the bastard,” he said, and knocked his mug against ours.

“Skoal,” Bob said.

“Salud,” I replied, and we drank.

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