The Godstorm so far...
Part 1 - Clouds like Murder
Part 2 - Wailing Winds
Part 3 - Blood Rain
And now... part 4 - Dark Thunder
Gods and more are gathered for the godking’s funeral.
Ephea stands beside the altar on which Kraius’ body lies. He has never seen so many gods gathered in one place. All of Vallya is here, and many foreign gods, lords and guests. He has never felt so self-conscious either; attention has always been on Kraius, while Ephea has always served quietly, invisibly, beside him. Now he stands up here with only the body of his king and the godqueen Elenor.
Elenor’s wings are spread wide and Ephea can feel the chill from where one passes behind him. Over her crisp, white skin sits the silver armour she wears in battle and she is blinding to look at. Ephea knows the armour is for more than show, the godqueen is expecting challenge, she is expecting poisonous conspiracy to reveal itself.
Ephea himself wears black armour. It is a little loose on him. It is forged for war but has never seen it, like Ephea, who has been trained to fight but never experienced real battle. Strapped to his side is the mottled white scabbard of the sword Kraius gave him not a week before his death. The queen has told Ephea he will be blooded before the day is out, that he will have a chance to serve his king one last time, in vengeance, and then she has promised he will be free.
Kraius’ corpse is dressed in his own armour, all but the breast plate. The dead god’s chest lies revealed, his gaping, ragged wound on display. Gods do not shy from death, they are prepared to stand witness to all its horror.
To the sides of the altar Kraius’ honour guard stand, Vorka and Shin on one side, Haftagg and So on the other. Besides them are Kraius and Elenor’s children, the legitimate ones; some sixteen gods. The eldest, Brattur, has returned from quelling dragon rebellions and a fresh scar puckers his face from brow to chin. Brattur has always looked angry whenever Ephea has seen him; with the scar and his father’s murder he looks furious. The youngest son, Shailan, still centuries older than Ephea, is glaring at him. Ephea wonders if perhaps what has always seemed like an insult, Kraius taking him as a servant, the only god to be such, was something more. Since he came into the godking’s service he has seen more of Kraius than any of his other children have.
The hall quiets and Elenor speaks of Kraius; of his strength, of his conquests and triumphs, of his greatness, of their loss. Then she announces what only Ephea is prepared for: that Kraius can have no replacement, that he has no equal, that there will be no godking after Kraius. That she alone will rule.
There is a moment of silence and stillness like fresh snowfall. Then the hall is in uproar. Ephea hears cheers, but he hears dissent too, and anger, and challenge.
There is commotion to the side, Brattur has pushed Vorka and Shin aside and is mounting the altar steps. He has something like a smile on his twisted face and Elenor nods at him warily as he approaches. It is good that he will show his support, Ephea thinks. He is very much his father’s son and the other gods respect his word and his power.
“Mother,” he says, with every bit his parents’ strength and presence in his voice, “I cannot allow this.”
He backhands her with such ferocity and unexpected speed that she can barely react as she is flung violently backwards.
He turns to the hall and raises his voice.
“And this.” His hand rests on the hilt of his sword, “Proves that the stars burn as fiercely in my blood as they ever did in my father’s. This proves my right to the throne.”
He draws the sword. An ear-splitting blast shakes the hall. It begins with a crack like splintering bone followed by a round, deep boom that Ephea feels to the core of his being. He knows the sword, though he has never seen it before. Every god knows that sword. That sword is Thunder. No god not born of the stars should be able to hold it and yet Brattur does.
He gestures at the ripe scar on his face.
“I have destroyed Archon, lord of the dragons. I have finished the job my father was afraid to. And I broke his magic, allowing free entrance to his chambers. I am greater than he.”
There are gasps and murmurs from the crowd. This is bigger than most of them can grasp. Brattur turns to where his mother is lying, covered in mortar and dust from her impact with the back wall. She is shaking her head to clear it.
“We will have war with the dragons. It will be glorious, and I shall lead us as godking, unchallenged.”
Thunder rumbles in Brattur’s hand.
Ephea knows he cannot defeat the godprince, but he does not think twice, he served the godking, his father, and now he will serve the godqueen. He will give her the chance she needs to recover, the chance she needs to stand and face Brattur on equal footing, to avenge Kraius.
He leaps in front of Brattur, braces himself and reaches for the sword Kraius gifted to him. He has never drawn the sword before. As it leaves the scabbard a blinding flash illuminates the hall, so bright that no shadow is left unpierced, so bright that every god in the room flinches. Bright as lightning.
Next week, part 5... Bright as Lightning
Black Door, Part 1: Softly Does It by the lyrical Stephen Hewitt.
Meet Mr. Softly... "Nothing sees him coming, nothing sees him go."
And read more fiction serials (and serialised fictions ;) ) at Tuesday Serial.