There is one more thing that sets the gods apart from mere mortals. As the name already implies, that is immortality. People may die, castles may crumble and kingdoms fall, but the gods will remain. Except that I have already established that they don’t. Gods may fall too, and when their last follower descends into the underworld, that god will accompany him on that final journey.
And yet, this lie of immortality is expected and nearly always indeed required for godhood. So what is a potential god to do? You could fake it and weave an illusion. After all, with enough people believing in the illusion, it becomes real enough. The alternative is to find another source of everlasting life; some way of cheating death. And who would defy your claim to godhood after you’ve conquered death itself? This synergy is the only way to escape the paradox of immortality.
Grandmaster Tueram scratched his head, staring at the paper scattered across his desk. Interpretations of prophecy were never his strongest point. Wording tended to be extremely vague to the point that it could mean literally anything. Adian and Feria always knew to make sense of it, but still asked him for an interpretation as well.
He was interrupted from his musings by a knock on the door. “Come in,” he said.
A knight entered his chamber and saluted. “Grandmaster,” he addressed Tueram.
Tueram gave the knight a frown. His white tunic was tattered and dirty, his armour dented and the silver ornamentation was clearly unpolished. Even his hair was a mess, and he was breathing heavily. “Is this how we represent justice now?” Tueram asked the knight.
The knight looked briefly at his appearance. “Forgive me, Master, but I bear important news and cleanliness should delay it.”
“Well then, speak up,” he told the knight. For someone in a hurry, the knight seemed neither fast nor to the point.
The knight took a deep breath before he spoke: “Our mission to the east has been a complete failure. Sir Avarron and Lady Mantione are nowhere to be found. The demon responsible escaped. We’ve lost three knights and eight others, including Lord Niéllac, have been mortally wounded. They might not survive the trip home.”
Tueram’s jaw dropped to the floor. “How?”
“An earthquake, sir. It happened just as we entered the old keep that the raiders were using as a base. The entire building collapsed on top of us while we battled,” the knight said with a dry voice. “I… I was searching the dungeons for the captives when the ceiling started to come down. Oh Angels, I don’t know how I got out of there unharmed.”
“Calm down, breathe and sit down,” Tueram told him and gestured at a chair in front of his desk and yelled to the door: “Get this man some water.”
A moment later, someone entered and handed a jug to the knight, from which he gratefully drank. When he was sufficiently calmed down, Tueram said: “Tell me what happened and start from the beginning.”
“We arrived too late at Sir Avarron’s company to protect him. Only a short while earlier, they had been ambushed by an overwhelming force of well organized raiders. While the attackers were ultimately defeated, Sir Avarron and Lady Mantione had gone missing during the battle.”
“That’s no surprise,” Tueram commented.
“We were able to track them and their captors to an old border fort, where the bandits had fortified themselves. That’s where everything went to hell. Lord Niéllac decided to charge the keep. Our assault immediately routed the raiders and we effortlessly penetrated into the fort, where we caught their leader. As we fought him, there was an earthquake and the building started to crumble. Lord Niéllac and many others were caught under the debris. We’ve dug out the trapped and deceased and captured the few raiders that survived, and were still inside after the rout.”
As disheartening as it all was, there was still one matter of even greater concern: “What of Sir Avarron and Lady Mantione?”
“We did not find any trace of them amongst the rubble, nor any tracks leading away from the fort that could belong to them. I have no idea where they might be. I’m sorry,” the knight said, bowing his head in shame.
“You did everything in your power,” Tueram offered as comfort. “Go and get some rest. I’ll make sure those men will come home alive.”
As soon as the door closed behind the knight, Tueram let out a long sigh. “But what does it all mean?” he softly asked. One thing was certain: none if it was a coincidence.
Glancing at the text of prophecy on his table, he figured it was beyond time to hold a council with Adian and Feria. Prophecy or not, strange things were going on and they were not in control of it. People did not vanish without a trace and earthquakes did not come to the rescue of bandits. It was more than just a hint that powerful demons were involved, though how they passed the Barrier remained a mystery.