The beams and bulkheads creaked as the giant ship lazily rocked, sidling between tropical storm fronts near the Floenry Isles. A weathered Ranger, far from the forests he calls home, but somewhat at home in the high roost at the pinnacle of the world, searched the black horizon for signs of trouble. The weary ship’s captain drew as safe a line between the approaching midnight tempests, out of habit more than need, cares blown past by the winds at his age- and battle-hardened back; underneath his feet, in his quarters below deck, sat Ja’Deir in meditation.
The Ashada had sat like this for most of the night, preparing for his task. Feeling his soul alight on the ground next to him, he knew it was time. He opened his watery brown eyes, bleached white. He spoke to the sea, and although his mouth moved, the voice came from above his head and to the right, from where his Spirit stood.
“I call to the spirits… I call to Roggan… I call to the ethereal for an adjutant. Jarel Is In Need Of An Audience!” the command in the voice could be heard by any in the room, but the spirits who heard it felt a compulsion, a yearning to answer the call. From nearby came a presence, closer than Ja’Deir had expected. It entered the sanctified séance circle, and replied.
“Yes, I come. Who is there? Who calls me?”
“Yes, I have heard of thee, Ja’Deir.”
“With whom do I speak?”
“Ah, yes! I know of you, Darakh’zan. I bonded with the mind of your son. He misses you greatly!!” A smile spread on Ja’Deir’s unseeing face as his spirit looked around for any sign of the disembodied voice.
“It pains me to see him wallow, but I understand! Please, tell him that we did not suffer greatly. Tell him that the gods did intervene on our behalf. No member of the Etrinan killed that day in the caverns faced Anubis’ judgement after death. Our souls were taken straight to Ma’ip, to the loving embrace of the Mother of All.” The voice sounded like the Minotaur was smiling, but there was something sad in the timbre. Like someone whose loved ones are sleeping in the gutters, while they sleep in the lap of luxury.
“I will tell him. It will make him happy, I am sure! I am so sorry that you had to go through the terrors you have.” Ja’Deir’s body shuddered at the thought – being destroyed at the hands of worshippers of death.
“It is nothing compared to the horrors that the loved ones of CrIsis are going through now at the hands of the Agents of the Dark. Our suffering is over, while theirs seems to them to be all of eternity.” Though Ja’Deir could not see the spirit of Darakh’zan, he felt her double up on herself as if in real pain. The spiritual trauma surrounding those poor souls must be agonizing. Ja’Deir was thankful he didn’t have to endure it.
“I wish there were more that I could do to help them, but CrIsis has reluctantly decided to ignore the taunts of the dark, to pursue ultimate victory, as have the Gods. The worst pain is of those that send their loved ones to be martyrs, knowing they could save them if only to doom the world.” Though she was referring to CrIsis, Ja’Deir saw how that spoke to so many things that the Gods had to do. They know all, and know which sacrifices are needed for the good of the whole.
“Might I ask a question, Priestess? We spoke with Father Phillip, though he was unsure of the answer. It is said that the Gods can see through the eyes of their champions. As it is in the Book of Ma’at, I am sure it is true. We have been tracked, though, by the Agents of the Dark, and we were wondering; can Anubis and Set see through the eyes of any follower of the church?”
“They can see through the eyes of anyone who has claimed fealty to them. A member of the Church can worship the pantheon without being a vessel of the gods, but when someone worships a god, they devote themselves, and can then become an instrument in their hands.”
“And do you know what happens if the worshiper has a change of faith? If someone were to stop worshipping Bes, for example, and start to worship the Lady?”
“The Gods can see through anyone’s eyes that worshipped them. If there is a way to cleanse them of that, I know not. Only the Gods would know such things.”
“Thank you, Darakh’zan.”
“You are welcome, child. Did you summon me just for these questions?”
“Wha? Oh, no. I wished to commune with Roggan, the worshipper of Apis whose soul is trapped within this vessel.”
“Ah. Yes, such a sad story…” The voice became quiet, as if it were going from one room to the next. “Yes, I feel his presence. He is here with us, though he cannot speak.”
“Oh… I wanted to see if I could communicate with him, besides the method which seems to strain and pain him.”
“No, unfortunately you have not the skills to do so. All forms of communications have been limited, and his interactions with Palladium as well. He no longer ‘dances with rock friends’ as he says. He sacrificed much!”
“He has – is there anything that I can do for him? Xerx’ses and Cava brought him ‘rock friends’ from the Baalgor Wastelands, but I have nothing.” The otter’s blind face twisted in concern, and two white minks bounded around his nigh-motionless body on the bed, seeing if he was ok.
“… Yes. He longs for the earth. He loves the freedom of the open sea, and has become friends with much more than the stones and dirt, but it is an ache in his soul.”
“Would it help if we put him in Drydock at New Crests? Would that contact calm his troubles?”
“… Yes. I think it would.” The ship lurched up and then down, and Ja’deir had a feeling it had nothing to do with the roll of the ocean.
“Fantastic.” Ja’deir’s face started to break out in sweat, and he knew he had to return to his body. “Thank you, Darakh’zan, for all that you have done for me and CrIsis this night! Travel well!”
“You are welcome, youngling. Rest, and prepare yourself. There is a stirring in the world of spirits. A storm is coming.”
The voice of the maternal Minotaur faded like the last shadows before dawn. Ja’Deir’s soul lay back down in its home, and Clyde nipped at his nose, and Ja’Deir chuckled at the animal. “Ha ha, you rascal! I’m ok. I’m ok…” and he gave a reassuring pat on its head. Ja’Deir went over the night’s events in his mind until the warm, comfortable weight of ermine fluff on his chest put him to sleep.
Picture: Soul Fit