But wait! Have you read Godstorm pt.1: Clouds like Murder?
Ephea, god, servant, is on his knees in his king’s bedchamber. Before him lies Kraius, the godking, run through with a writhing sword of blackest, churning smoke. The sword is as long as Ephea is tall and as it twists and shifts it tears the flesh it is embedded in, spraying blood in cruel, crimson spurts. Kraius twitches, his mouth gasping in a silent scream, and then he is still.
The godking is dead.
Even through the thick walls Ephea can still hear the high-pitched clamouring of the black shrikes. Kraius’ tower is the tallest in the city and the whirling, tornadoing flock runs the height of it; there must be every shrike in Vallya drawn by the death. They only gather when lifeblood is spilt and they have been gathering since before Ephea began climbing the stairs. He dare not imagine what it has been like for the godking, his father, to have lain here, dying violently, for all that time.
Ephea realises he can hear other sounds too. From inside the tower. He gets to his feet and shakily steps back into the corridor. The doors at the end, to the armoury, are open.
Ephea has never been in the armoury. The closest he came was only a week earlier, when Kraius had bid him wait outside. The godking had returned with a short sword in a rigid scabbard of mottled white. He had presented it to Ephea with a simple statement.
“This is a gift I do not give lightly. This is no practice sword. This sword you wear only at ceremony or war; you draw only when life is to be taken.”
Ephea had nodded dumbly. Kraius had made him the only god who was a servant, a grand insult, and yet had then given him a sword, from his own armoury no less, an unwarranted honour. Ephea wishes he had the sword with him now, but he is permitted no weapons in his daily duties.
He forces himself to approach the open doors and look inside.
The walls of the armoury are lined with weapon racks; the only other feature in the room is a stone plinth at the far end with a stand for holding two swords, one above the other; the stand is empty. Many of the weapons are out of their racks, knocked down or taken down.
In the room two gods face each other. The godqueen, Elenor, stands with her back to Ephea, she is crouched in a defensive stance, her white wings drawn up tight onto her back; this is too enclosed a space for her to fight as she might otherwise choose. He can see she has a jade warhammer in her right hand; the head of the hammer exudes moss-green droplets that evaporate before ever reaching the floor. Nearby he can see the singing spear Valkyrie, the queen’s spear, but the haft has been shattered and something like blood oozes from the remains.
Opposite her is a cobalt-skinned god with bone-plate armour and eyes like burning coals. Ephea can see that the black bones of the armour are the god’s own bones, torn out through his blue skin, and from his forehead thrust two jagged, curving horns. Ephea has never met this god before but he recognises him. This is the dark god Khao who sided with the demons and re-shaped himself in their image.
The demons are all dead, but Khao, it seems, survived the great war. Khao’s voice is angry, guttural, and black spittle sprays across the room with every word.
“Where is my reward, bitch queen? Where are my swords?”
The queen’s voice in reply is steely, strong.
“Your reward will be death, Khao. Just tell me why, before I kill you.”
“For Thunder and Lightning. For the new godking that will emerge from the coming storm.”
“You, Khao? Vallya will never take you back.”
He laughs. “Not me, but I will return to Vallya to stand by the new king’s side, and I will wield the twin swords.”
They eye each other warily, calculating, looking for an opening.
“You have been lied to, Khao. Thunder and Lightning will only accept the hand of a Starborn. You could never wield them.”
Thunder and Lightning: Kraius’ twin swords. The swords Kraius destroyed the Star Father with and bested the Archon with; the swords he was wielding when he cut the twin demon princes down, both in a single move. The two swords missing from the stand at the far end.
Ephea edges into the room, looking for a weapon, hoping Khao is distracted.
“There are more Starborn than you know, whore. And you, whelp, don’t think I can’t see you.”
The queen turns to look at Ephea and Khao leaps at her, snagging a golden long sword from the floor in the same fluid movement. The Queen’s eyes widen as she hears Khao’s attack, and she twists back, reacting. Ephea grabs desperately for the nearest weapon, fumbling it in his haste. He knows he is too far away.
Khao is a fearsome warrior with a dark reputation amongst gods. He is called Demonlord, Betrayer of Anjels’ Gate, Blackling, Traitor. He is fast and he is brutal. And for his actions, for the sheer scale of the atrocities committed against his own kind, he is known by another name: Godslayer.
Come back next week for Godstorm pt.3: Blood Rain
In the mean time... some recommended reading:
Illumination by Chrysoula Tzavelas. Serialised urban fantasy. Well-written and well-paced and always leaves me wanting more (in a good way).
iRapture by Jason Sullivan. The title kind of says it all... the digital revelation is here... ;)