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Two Trails - Title

Chapter 60

At a fork in the road, consider carefully which one you take.
– The Proverbs of Shedey’uwr

The pain of his broken ribs and bruised body woke Storm out of his exhausted sleep. He groaned as he raised himself on one elbow, hissing as broken bones moved inside his chest. There was no sunlight on the sides of the tent so it had to be night. He cudgeled his brain, trying to remember what happened after Adrammelech’s death. It took him a long moment, feeling as though his head was stuffed full of cotton, before it came back to him.

Shock and stunned disbelief were the primary reactions from the Abeytu in the immediate aftermath, but when the Minninnewah began to cheer, the Namida turned angry and hostile. Adrammelech’s passing was like the death of an eccentric uncle or overbearing parent; relief they wouldn’t be around to bother you anymore but grief for the passing of a family member. When they saw the Minninnewah cheering and celebrating the death of their god, it stirred them to resentment followed quickly by anger. Lorelei helped him to their tent, surrounded by a phalanx of Minninnewah protecting him from the growing rage of the Namida, whose fury reached further heights when their shamans discovered with Adrammelech’s passing, all their magical powers were gone as well.

Storm vaguely remembered collapsing on their furs before everything went dark. It had been the middle of the day when Adrammelech died, it felt like many hours had passed since then. If he had to guess, it was probably early morning, maybe an hour or so before sunrise. The thought completed some process and he realized he was full of healing power once again.

Thank God, he thought, then bit his lip at the memory of the Voice helping him in the midst of his fight, giving him just enough power to win. He pushed healing power at his injuries, sighing with relief at the cessation of pain as his body was restored. Then, for the first time since he’d come to Gaia, he rose to his knees and prayed, thanking God for all He’d done.

“What are you doing?” Lorelei’s sleepy voice interrupted him as he was finishing.

“Praying.”

She blinked and sat up. “Why? The Lord of Light has already granted you victory. What else is there left to pray for?”

He chuckled. “Praying isn’t just asking for stuff, it’s also for saying ‘thank you’.”

“Since when?”

Now it was his turn to blink. “Hunh?”

She gave him a strange look. “No ever says ‘thank you’ to The Six, uh, The Five,” she amended, remembering. “You’re just glad not to be noticed by them. Why draw attention to yourself when you don’t have to?”

He smiled gently. “The Lord of Light, the Ancient of Days, isn’t like them. He’s also called Our Father in Heaven because He loves us and wants the best for us.”

“Loves us?” Lorelei’s voice was full of doubt.

“Sure.” Storm sounded more confident than he felt. It had been a long time since he’d tried to convince anyone of God’s goodness. “He made us, He’s our father, and we’re His children. We’re family.” He could see the idea was alien to her way of thinking about the gods. He waved it away to ease her mind. “Let’s worry about it later. So, tell me, what’s it like out there? What did I miss after I passed out?”

She gratefully accepted the change in subject and perked up. “I thought we were going to have a war on our hands at first. The Namida were so angry they couldn’t stand it. I mean, you killed their god.”

He shrugged.

She shook her head at his display of indifference. “All in a day’s work, is that it?”

“Hey, what’s done is done. They need to get over it.”

“Get over it?” she echoed. “Is that another one of your Earth sayings?”

He grinned crookedly. “Yep. Now, go on, what happened?”

The blankets fell away as she sat up cross-legged, leaving all her beauty on display. “I don’t think the Namida ‘got over it’ but eventually they quit trying to break into our tent. They went back to the meadow and mourned for Adrammelech. After that, they started breaking camp and leaving.”

Storm leaned forward. “Leaving?”

She nodded. “The tribe is breaking up. I don’t think the Abeytu exist anymore. Now there’s only the Minninnewah and the Namida. You’ve been acclaimed as chief of the Minninnewah,” she added.

A quick smile quirked the corners of his mouth. “Yeah, I guess that makes sense. Who in their right mind would challenge me now?”

She punched him the chest, hard enough to knock him off his heels onto his back. “Don’t get too full of yourself.”

He sat up cross-legged, mimicking her. “I’m not being proud, just stating the obvious. You’d have to be an idiot to challenge a guy who killed a god, a fake god,” he amended. He gingerly touched his healed ribs. “It was like fighting a demon all over again.”

She leaned forward, resting a hand on his check. “You did it all by yourself,” she said admiringly.

He leaned into her hand for a moment then shook his head firmly. “Not hardly. I had help from God. He gave me my Ghibbore power to heal or harm. Without that, I wouldn’t have had a chance. Then, when I ran out of power and had to use my swords, He rescued me by giving me just enough power for that final blow.” He paused, and for the first time since it happened, he told her the full story of his vision and the Voice he’d heard the night he first received his healing power in the bear’s cave in Ingold and how he’d heard it again during the fight with Adrammelech. “And don’t forget, Adrammelech nearly killed himself with his own power when it ricocheted on him,” he finished.

She nodded slowly at his recitation, understanding how hard it had been for him to reveal the full extent of his vision. “But how did you know his power would bounce off me?”

“I didn’t. It was an educated guess.”

Her eyes widened. “What?”

He nodded. “I already knew he had enough power to flatten me like an elephant stepping on mouse so there was no way to win unless I could turn his own power against him. Since those monsters can’t attack anyone who doesn’t worship them, it only makes sense that their power would bounce off if they did, even by accident.”

Lorelei was aghast. “But what if you’d been wrong?”

“Then we would have died together.” He smiled and took her hand. “Listen, Lorelei. I already lost one wife and had to go on living without her. I don’t want to suffer through that again. Ever.”

Her eyes misted. “Then you won’t,” she whispered. She threw aside their blankets and pulled him down on top of her.

* * * * *

The sun had risen when they were woken up by the mirror-phone making noise. Storm pawed through the blankets and clothes until he found it. He flipped it open and found himself looking at Ralt and Durin’s worried faces. “Hey, long time, no see.”

Lorelei sat up beside him, holding a blanket across her chest. She pushed her hair out of her face and smiled sleepily. “Good morning.”

Storm took in Durin’s armor and crown but before he could say anything, Ralt launched into a verbal assault. “Where have you been? I’ve been trying to call you since yesterday. All of Adrammelech’s priests have lost their powers and there are rumors the Chaos Wars are starting again. We were worried something had happened to you.”

“I killed Adrammelech.”

Storm flat assertion stopped him in his tracks. “What?!”

He and Lorelei took turns bringing their friends up to date, culminating with the dissolution of the Abeytu tribe into two hostile factions with Storm as chief of the Minninnewah.

“So da boom we heard weren’t from Thangadrim but from Adrammelech dyin’?” Durin mused when they were done.

“I’m afraid so,” Storm told him. “Sorry if that puts a crimp in your legend.”

Durin waved it off. “Nay, lad. I led me people in wiping out a whole camp of Frost Giants, even killed one of ‘em in single combat in da last fight. Me legend is safe fer ages ta come.” He jerked a thumb at Ralt. “His too.”

Lorelei had retrieved her comb and was running it through her hair. “Why? What did he do?”

Durin glanced at his companion. “The lad killed a Storm Giant, all by his self.”

Storm was astounded. “Those things are real?”

“Aye, lad. Dat dey are, ‘an I wish dey weren’t. Dem beasties are fierce. Dat one by his self come near to beaten’ all me people wit his magic.” He shook his head then told them on all that had happened, including hearing the rumble in the ground from Adrammelech’s death. “All de world musta heard it,” he finished. “Gerald called us from Zered and said they heard it.”

Storm was curious. “What about Aram? Has he heard from any other temples through their magic? Did other places hear it too?”

“We’ve only heard from one so far,” Ralt answered. “The High Priest of the Temple of Light in Thorginbelt, in Fleyniria, Rymorn. According to Aram, Rymorn said everyone in the whole kingdom heard it. If they could hear it all the way out there, you can be sure the whole world heard it.”

Lorelei was pensive. “Is that where the rumors about the Chaos Wars starting again came from?”

Ralt shrugged. “Probably.” He fixed them with a hard stare. “Which brings me to my next question.”

Storm felt his heart skip a beat in anticipation.

“Now what?”

“Hunh?” Storm gave Lorelei a startled glance at Ralt’s strange question. “What do you mean?”

Ralt leaned on his staff. “You killed a god. How long do you think it’s going to take for that kind of news to spread? Durin,” he gestured at his companion, “has plans for the future, he’s going to lead his people to Thangadrim but what about you? Are you going to be content to be the chief of a Biqah tribe for the rest of your life? What about the Army of Light? What are you going to do when people come looking for you? And you know they will. What are you going to do when they find you, when they want your help? What are you going to do about the rest of The Six? They’re bound to know it was you who killed Adrammelech and that makes you enemy number one in their eyes.” He shook his head grimly. “Your life has come to a huge fork in the road and any decision you make is fraught with danger. In your position, even doing nothing is dangerous.”

He paused to survey them.

“So, like I said, now what?”


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