The Father’s Warriors

The day started as any other. I woke from a dreamless sleep, hair a ratty mess of curls. Stretching my arms, I released a yawn and surveyed my bedside table, finding a glass of water. Though the drinks had seemed weak at the time, the blistering headache suggested otherwise. I gulped down half the glass before returning it to the table. The water rippled once, twice and continued dancing as the entire room began to shake.

A mix of confusion and anxiety overtook me. Ripping the covers off, I jumped to the window only to find myself faced with the unimaginable. From the mountain capped in mist, twelve glowing lights descended. Even with the sunshine, their radiance was unmatched and I found myself blinking away tears from gazing at them too long. Trailing just behind the lights, figures cloaked in smoke bounded down the mountain. _Not again._

Gritting my teeth, I reached for my sword, propped against the outer door. There were few things that could ruin my day. Having to defend the towns people from vengeful Gods was high on the list. Even higher, was having to do it with a hangover.

Luckily I had passed out in my fighting leathers. So with the buckling of my sword belt, I was ready for battle. As I opened the door I was met with utter chaos. Children cried and women bid their husbands farewell, praying they would return. The street was littered with broken glass and the smell of fire wafted in from the edge of town. Walking turned to joggging as the distant sounds of fighting dwindled. I hoped I wasn’t too late.

Sweat slicked my forehead as the oppressive heat grew nearer. I could just make out the shapes of the militiamen being consumed by smoke, one by one. Pulling my sword free, I prepared for the onslaught.

“Why have you come here, Shalia?” Boomed an unearthly voice above me.

Peering up, I looked into the burning eyes of The Huntress and tried to stifle my terror. Though I had been her patroness for years now, there was still something unsettling about meeting her on a battlefield.

“I have to defend these people. Without me, they are helpless.”

“Perhaps if they had given a better offering, we would have not needed to go to such extremes.”

“Please, the harvest has not been fruitful this season. If you could just give us more—“

“Silence. Nothing can excuse this insult. We offered our protection and in turn, have been stilted. Now, you all will pay in blood.”

I raised my sword just in time to block her assault, staggering with the impact. She whistles, summoning her pack of Hellhounds. Within the blink of an eye, I’m surrounded, smoke clouding the air around me. Eyes watering, I lash out as they lunge toward me. One goes for my ankle, but I kick it away as another leaps for my arm. It’s maw dripping with the blood of another, it latches onto my sleeve, just missing my flesh. Slamming the pommel on its head, Ilet out a scream as an arrow pierces my shoulder.

“Shalia, I’m coming. Just hang on.”

I cut down the closest Hellhound and run toward the voice. Nearly crashing into Ashara, I clutch her arm to steady myself.

“About time you got here. We need to find The Father and convince him to call this off.” I croak, my throat burning from the smoke.

“I know, I know. But how do we find him in all this?”

“Listen for the sound of a God laughing at the weak towns people?” I offer with a shrug.

“Ha ha, I don’t thin—“

A maniacal cackle sounds from our left. I give Ashara a look that says _I told you so_. She rolls her eyes. Readying our weapons, we turn and race in the direction of the cruel laughter.

“Well if it isn’t Ashara the Damned and Shalia the Relentless, what brings you to me? Should you not be trying to save these wretches?” The Father watches us. His all-white eyes boring into our souls.

“We come to bargain with you,” I say. Stop this and we will offer ourselves to you.”

“Wait, what?” Ashara gawks at me.

“This is an interesting proposal. Two decorated warriors to do my bidding.”

“Make that three, if you agree.” Out of the smoke, Thanar joins us. His light hair coated in black blood, though he appears unharmed. He gives me an arrogant smile.

“Thanar Stonebreaker, first of his name and heir apparent to the throne, what a prize you will be.” The father’s wicked smile makes my skin prickle. I try not to think of what nightmares await us.

“Do we have a deal?”

“Deal.” With the snap of his fingers, The Father’s children and Hellhounds evaporate. Leaving us standing in a field of broken bodies and blood stained grass. Bright green bands form around our wrists, etched with The Father’s name in the Holy Language. “We have much to do, my children. Say goodbye to your families and meet me at the base of the mountain. Bring only what you need.”

The Father disappears in a blinding surge of light.

“A little warning would have been nice.” Ashara says, gritting her teeth.

“I’m sorry. There was no other way he’d agree.”

Thanar turns and strides away. “If you two are done bickering, I’ll see you in an hour at the meeting location. Don’t be late.,” He shouts.

With nothing but the sword at my hip, I head toward the mountain, hoping The Gods have a magical hangover cure waiting for me at the top.

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