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Universe of G-Minor - Ghibbore Title

Chapter 40

Durin chewed thoughtfully on the stem of his pipe. “Are ye sure this is the last of yer Ghibbore gifts? Might there be more? Not that this one didn’t come in handy,” he hastened to add, “but there might be more.”

Ralt finally quit probing at his leg to see-saw his hand in the air. “Every Ghibbore is different,” he drawled slowly, “and according to Gerald, and what little he knew, they could have all kinds of powers. Most of them are just natural-born wizards, but some, have more power on top of that. There’s no way to tell; you might have more,” he told Storm.

Storm shook his head. “No, no. It’s like my sense of danger. I can feel it. This is the last of them,” he said adamantly. He couldn’t take his eyes off Lorelei, drinking in the sight of her up and around, talking and moving once more.

Lorelei smiled brilliantly. “Well, I think it’s a wonderful gift! And if it’s the last one then fine, it was just what we needed, just when we needed it.” Of all of them, she was coping best with the news. She opened her pack to get a comb. Her hair had become a tangled mess while she was draped over Storm’s shoulder and she immediately set about combing it out as if that settled the matter.

Durin shook his head, “Just when we needed it . . .” He puffed furiously on his pipe.

Lorelei stopped in mid-stroke. “What?”

Ralt saw what Durin was getting at. “It’s like you just said,” he told her, “It was exactly what we needed exactly when we needed it. That’s a pretty big coincidence for my taste.” He glanced at Storm who frowned heavily. “It’s almost enough to make you think someone,” – he glanced up – “was watching and helping us.”

“Set right the wrongs of Gaia,” Lorelei retorted firmly, yanking the comb through a tangle of hair with a grimace. “That’s what you said we were going to do. But the gods wouldn’t help us . . . would they?”

“Only the good ones,” Durin answered sourly. “But the Chaos Wars were fought because there aren’t any good ones. All of ’em were, and still are, as evil as the day is long. An’ most da people back then weren’t much better.”

“What about the Lord of Light?” Lorelei asked.

Durin shrugged. “He’s new, I dunno much about him.”

Ralt continued as if Durin hadn’t spoken. “Any group of sell-swords or adventurers could do as much as we’re doing. It’s what most of them do in fact; wander around looking for fame and fortune by becoming heroes, slaying monsters, rescuing kidnapped princesses, and so forth. It’s practically the definition of adventure. By some standards, we could be considered in that company ourselves, just another wandering group of sell-swords.” He shrugged. “I don’t mean to belittle our current quest, but in the overall scheme of things, how important is the soul of one young woman?”

He raised a quick hand to forestall Lorelei’s response. “Yes, yes, the Leader is going to use her soul to complete some nefarious ritual to give him great power. It’s a common enough story. There’s always some maniac who thinks he can vault to prominence by using some rare item or another. Its happened before, it’ll happen again.”

“But this latest gift, showing itself just when we need it the most,” He shook his head. “No, there’s something else going on here. Durin says the gods were all evil,” he paused to glance at Durin. The dwarf nodded once. “And all the history books say the same thing but . . .” He shook his head firmly, a grim expression on his face. “Things like that don’t just happen by themselves. No, there’s something very strange going on here.”

Storm sat frozen, hoping hope against hope they’d let it go – to no avail.

Lorelei had fallen silent, toying idly with her comb. “But does that mean it has to be bad?” she asked quietly.

Ralt shrugged helplessly. “Who knows? We’re in uncharted territory. And, maybe, I’m reading too much into it and working myself up over nothing.”

The smoke wafting up from Durin’s pipe surrounded his head in a miniature cloud bank, giving him an eldritch appearance. “Me father told me the gods made Gaia because they were driven out of Elder Earth by a greater god,” he muttered, “but not much else is known about it. Could he, or she, be doing this?”

At the mention of Elder Earth, all eyes turned to Storm. He tried not to squirm under the combined weight of their gazes. “Don’t look at me,” he protested halfheartedly. “I don’t know this stuff any more than you do.” He tried not to think about the Voice.

“But you know Elder Earth,” Ralt pressed him. “We don’t. Surely there must be something you can tell us that might shed some light on this.” He waved a hand at the discarded bandages.

Storm felt his resolve slipping and bit his lip pensively, “It’s been a long time since Sunday School,” he muttered.

“What school?” Lorelei asked.

He waved it off. “Long story. Look, you talk about Elder Earth like it was something that happened a long time ago, but it’s not. It’s just Earth and it’s still there. But . . . it’s not like you think. There’s no magic, no dwarves or elves or dragons or any of that. And there’s certainly no gods. Well, there is, but only one . . .” He stopped, not sure how to go on.

“Only one, what, one god?” Ralt pressed.

Storm nodded reluctantly. He’d avoided talking about Earth over the years even as the need to do it burned inside him. Even if people might believe him it would still be too awkward. The differences between Earth and Gaia were just too stark, too extreme. He’d had to tell these three he was from there but it still didn’t make it any easier to talk about it. There were some things that were hard to discuss even with family.

Durin was puffing furiously on his pipe and Lorelei had given up all pretense of combing her hair. Ralt bulled ahead stubbornly. “Don’t try to avoid the subject. You’ve been doing that ever since you told us you were from Eld … from Earth. Do you know anything, anything that might help us understand why you’ve been given these gifts the way you have? Do you know anything about the gods and why or how they left Elder Earth?”

Storm found himself grinding his teeth in frustration. “Of course not! I told you, there’s only one God on Earth, there was never any more tha…” He ground to a halt as long-ago memories began to filter back. Oh fiddlesticks, he thought.

His three friends were leaning forward expectantly. “Yes?” Ralt prompted.

He sighed. “There’s a story, well, more than a story,” he began haltingly, “about angels that rebelled against God and were thrown out of heaven. They came down to Earth and married human women who gave birth to something called the Nephilim. Maybe they were the ones who . . .”

“Nephilim!?” Durin interrupted him, nearly dropping his pipe. Ralt was clearly startled as well.

Lorelei looked back and forth at them. “What?” she demanded.

“In the Old Tongue, Nephilim is the word for giant,” Ralt told her. “It’s not a word most people know anymore.” He gave Storm an odd, searching look.

“It means giant,” he agreed reluctantly. He paused, then took a breath. “This ‘Old Tongue’; you’ve mentioned it before. Was it called Hebrew?”

Ralt shrugged but Durin’s head came up like a shot. “Yes!”

Storm felt himself starting to tremble. Lydia’s death from cancer had been a terrible thing, drawn out and degrading. It took her dignity, her hair, and her weight one step at a time until nothing was left. Then it took her. The night she’d died he’d gone a little mad, shouting and cursing at God, daring Him to come down and fight. Since that night he’d had nothing more to do with Him – or so he thought. But how could he explain people or dwarves knowing words from Hebrew without bringing God into it? How else to explain his Ghibbore gifts popping up at just the right time? How to explain the Voice? How to explain Gaia, for that matter?

Lorelei laid a gentle hand on his shoulder. “Storm?”

He looked at her with troubled eyes. “When my wife died I blamed God for it because He wouldn’t heal her. I swore I’d never have anything to do with Him again, but all this . . .” He shrugged helplessly.

“Well, of course, a god wouldn’t heal her,” she tried to comfort him.

“He did it for lots of other people,” he snapped bitterly. “Why not her?”

Ralt leaned forward, a puzzled expression on his face. “The gods don’t heal people,” he countered. “They never have.”

Now it was Storm’s turn to be puzzled. “But you were taking Krista to Lamriack to be healed,” he argued. “He’s a priest.”

Ralt shook his head. “A priest to the new god, the Lord of Light. He’s different than The Six. Healing just isn’t something the gods have ever done. Wizard can create healing potions, but priests and the gods?” He shook his head again. “Never.”

Understanding dawned on Storm. “He’s not new,” he sighed. “He’s the oldest living being in all creation. He’s just new to you because you haven’t heard of Him until recently.”

Durin squinted at him in the firelight. “The oldest?”

Storm nodded reluctantly, desperately wishing for an end to the conversation. “He doesn’t have a beginning or an end; He’s . . .” he paused, licking his lips, reluctant to say the name that sprang to mind, then another surfaced in his memory, “He’s . . . the Ancient of Days.”

“The Ancient of Days,” Ralt repeated slowly, rolling it around in his mouth. “Interesting title, but how can he have no beginning and no end. That doesn’t make any sense.”

Storm shrugged helplessly, “How should I know? I’m just a soldier.”

“So where does that leave us?” Lorelei asked uncertainly.

“It leaves us sitting in a dead bear’s cave halfway to nowhere,” Durin interjected.

They all laughed at the sudden change in the mood.

Storm wanted to kiss Durin for it. “Look, obviously something is going on, but until we know what it is, there’s no point in worrying about it. For right now we’re all alive and healthy. Let’s just be glad for that.” He prayed they’d accept the end of the conversation – before he remembered that praying involved God. Angrily he dismissed it, waiting for their reaction.

“Ever the pragmatist aren’t you?” Lorelei giggled merrily. If it sounded forced no one was indelicate enough to point it out.

Storm shrugged at her with a grin. “I spent so many years ignoring things I couldn’t explain and focusing on what was right in front of me, what’s a few more weeks doing the same thing?” Inwardly he was worried though; Gaia was slowly but surely cutting through all the barriers he’d erected around his heart when Lydia died. But the die had been cast so there was nothing to do but see it through to whatever lay ahead. “Alright,” he went on lightly, “let’s get some sleep and tomorrow we’ll see what can be done about that outpost up there.” He gestured vaguely in the direction of the head of the valley.

The mood in the cave considerably improved by his words, they all bundled up in their blankets and were soon fast asleep.

* * * * *

The next day dawned bright and frigid. Roused by the cold nipping at his nose, Storm climbed out of his blankets to fire up their camp stove and cobble together as much of a fire as he could from the remains of the dead bear’s bedding. His movements woke up the others. Soon they were all huddled around the tiny fire and the stove, rubbing their hands briskly over the flames.

Over steaming cups of tea, they discussed their next step.

“Shouldn’t we try to skin the bear and use its fur for cover?” Ralt asked, waving a hand as the snow-white pelt.

Storm and Lorelei shook their heads at the same time. “We don’t have any way of curing it,” she answered tartly. “Even if we did, it would take too long. Best just to leave it.”

“What a pity,” Ralt murmured, running his hand over the soft fur. “It’s a shame to leave such a beautiful pelt behind.”

Durin shrugged carelessly. “It didn’t look so pretty last night when it was trying to kill us,” he rumbled. “Came near ta tear’in me arm off it did.”

“I’m sure it didn’t,” Ralt laughed, letting it go. “But speaking of your arm and all our other injuries too, do you have any more healing power, Storm? Or was it a one-time shot?” The others turned quizzical looks on Storm, interested in hearing his answer.

That was an easy one. He could already feel the power surging inside him. It wasn’t as strong as it had been the night before but it was growing. He had no doubt that soon it would be back at its previous level. Concentrating on it he somehow knew that he could also slow down the progress of any poison they encountered, or dispel it entirely if it was weak enough “I still have it,” he said gruffly, addressing all of them. He went on to tell them about his ability to counteract poisons. Ralt raised an eyebrow at that.

“This doesn’t sound like anything I’ve ever heard of before,” he mused, sipping slowly at his tea. “This Ancient of Days must like you.”

Storm shrugged uncomfortably, not sure what to say.

Durin pulled a twig from the fire to light his pipe. “Makes it easier to plan our attack though,” he mumbled around it, puffing furiously. “Knowing we’ve got a healer with us gives us an edge. We can take chances we normally wouldn’t.”

Storm grinned at the pragmatic dwarf’s choice of words. That was more like it. To the Abyss with unsolvable mysteries, he thought. Just do what’s in front of you and worry about it later. “Then let’s go see how close we are to that fort,” he chuckled, standing up to drag on his furs. His friends laughed and followed his lead, trailing behind him as he led them out of the cave into the brilliant morning light.

Lorelei gasped at the blinding sun bouncing off the crystal white snow. It was so bright it burned their eyes and made them water. She squinted against the brilliance, shielding her eyes with her hand even as she shivered, her breath frosting in front of her.

Storm scrambled up the short slope he and Durin had tumbled down the night before. His eyes widened in surprise when he reached the top. He yelped as he dove for cover. “Get down, get down!” he whispered urgently to his friends as they came up behind him. “We’re right on top of them!”

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