“We’ll Explain Later…”

“Wait a second!” Rintha blurted out. He pointed at Corax with a trembling finger. “Did he say what I think he said?”

V’vendy snapped her mouth shut, glared at Rintha and huffed.

“I’m sorry, V’vendy,” Rintha pleaded, “but I need to make sure my ears are working!”

He turned towards Corax, who casually picked his teeth with a talon. “Corax Sickleblade,” Rintha said gravely. “Did I hear you correctly? Did you call yourself a Hidden God?”

“Yes,” Corax replied calmly.

“One of the Hidden Gods who created the world?” Rintha asked.

“This world, yes,’ Corax said.

Rintha spotted a grey streak on Corax’s flanke, a mark that marred his green-red scale hide. “You’ve been wounded before,” he said.

“Yes,” Corax said.

“You can bleed,” Rintha said.

“Yes, ” Corax agreed.

“If you can bleed, how can you be a God?” Rintha protested.

“Easily, as it turns out,” Corax said. The Saurian pointed his talon at Uuco the Witness, who hummed as he finished off the goblet of yogurt. “Look,” Corax said. “Aren’t you going to ask him about his life story? I promise it would blow your mind!”

Rintha narrowed his eyes. “If you’re a god,” Rintha said, “then perform a miracle for us.”

“Yeah!” Uuco chimed in, licking his fingers. “Show us a miracle!”

“No,” Corax said.

“Why not?” RIntha demanded.

“Don’t feel like it,” Corax said.

Rintha huffed. “Then for all we know, “ he groaned, “You’re just a maniac with delusions of godhood!”

“Ira, V’vendy, Dragon Face and Uuco saw me work a miracle already,” Corax said. “As you might have heard from them…I used to have body of a Stout.” His tail drooped. “Unfortunately, the Miracle of Transformation acts up when you least expect it…”

“Hold on!” V’vendy said abruptly. “There’s something I need to know!”

Rintha shut his mouth, his expression pained.

“Sorry, Rintha,” V’vendy apologized. “But fair’s fair.” The Deathweaver stood, walked over to Corax and stared him right in the eyes.

“You said you were a renegade from the Hidden Gods,” V’vendy noted. “What does that mean, Corax Sickleblade?”

Corax shook his tail and hissed softly. “We used to be friends, sworn companions, brothers and sisters. But that’s ended now. My friends…the Hidden Gods have gone too far!”

Uuco sat on the edge of the eating couch, swinging his tiny feet back and forth. He nudged Lady Ira. “How about ordering some candied nuts from the kitchen,” he suggested. “Then we could chow down and enjoy the show, eh?” He nudged Ira again. “Eh? Eh?”

Lady Ira’s head slumped. The wine bowl in her hands fell and splattered red on the paving stones of the gazebo.

“Oh Hidden Gods!” Uuco wailed. “Ira’s dead!” The Nobble’s eyes fell on the empty goblet next to him. “The yogurt!” He wailed. “The yogurt’s been poisoned! We’re all dead!”

“Calm yourself, Uuco,” Corax said, a claw on his sword, eyes scanning the courtyard for danger. “If the yogurt was poisoned, your gluttony and stature would have killed you first.”

Rintha held a finger under Ira’s nose. “I feel breath,” he said. “She’s alive but sleeping; probably dosed with the same drug we used on the Roarer.” He looked down at the shattered wine bowl. “Something in her drink, perhaps?”

V’vendy crouched down. She sniffed the steaming bowl of rose-hued water Ira’s feet were submerged in. “The Foot Bath,” she said loudly. “Her chief servant drugged her foot bath.” V’vendy frowned. “What was his name again…?”

Corax drew his sickle sword, sunlight glinting off the blade. “I say we find that servant and ask him some questions–“

The gates to Ira’s mansion shattered inward, splinters raining down on the carefully tended courtyard gardens. A horde of armored thugs and twisted beast abominations charged into the courtyard, led by a red-robed priest bearing a golden staff.

“Kill everyone not awake!” The Priest proclaimed. “Burn this place to the ground, for the glory of the Evolving Eye!”

“Hidden Gods preserve us!” Rintha cursed, loading a stone in his sling pouch.

“I’ll try, Rintha Roarhunter” Corax replied, charging forward at the horde. “But no promises!”

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