Sundering the Gods

On the Eve of Snows,

come heavens or hells,

war will rage.

Meridi of Modon

In Chapter 10, Dead Man’s Message, High Priest Woxlin speaks of Meridi of Modon, but doesn’t go into detail of her story. In the first “final cut” of Eve of Snows, he gave a short retelling of her tale for the congregation. This is a piece I cut originally when I thought I’d pursue traditional publication, and I was trying to drop the word count for sensitive agent and publisher eyes, and for some reason I didn’t stick it back in when I said to heck with wasting a year or two chasing pubs and agents and went the indie author route.

I hope folks enjoy this extra taste of world building.

***

Chanted prayers droned, enveloping the senses beyond simply the ears. Elilês had never felt the powers of the gods when praying, but from bass to soprano these gathered voices brought drifting energies to wash over her skin, the unison vibrato easing the warmth of the gods into muscles and bones to relax the body and soul. It was a peace difficult to deny, to not fall in line with.

She sang with distraction these past three mornings, fighting the chant’s tranquility, her eyes searching every hood for a face, but she’d yet to spot a stranger in the congregation. The lord priest’s entourage could be hiding in their cowls, no doubt, but every face she managed to spy was familiar.

The droning prayer came to an end and High Priest Woxlin stood, taking center on the dais, a spear plated with red-gold in his hand. “Let us end this morning with a rumination upon the pilgrimage of Meridî of Modôn, who lost her faith and four children, before rediscovering the truth in Sôl’s Fire.”

The congregation spoke, “Sôl’s Fire.”

“Meridî of Modôn was a lady of great faith, who prayed four times to Tunûlê, goddess of life and the fruitful womb, to bless her with children, and each time Tunûlê answered with generosity, giving her and her husband four healthy babes, two boys and two girls. In the one hundred and thirty-third year of Remembered Time her devoted husband died from a Fever Snake’s burn, and she wept and prayed for his soul, and thanked Mômêmu, goddess of the fields, for the bountiful harvest that would feed her and her children through the winter. Three weeks passed, and her eldest son died fighting in a war between clans, and she wept and prayed, thanking the gods for her remaining children. A month later her eldest daughter was raped by warriors of her clan’s enemy, and in shame the girl leapt from the cliffs of Drômun Gorge. Poor Meridî wept and prayed, but this time could not think of anything to thank the gods for.”

Woxlin paced the floor, his brow wrinkled and head bowed. “Only a week later her second son died protecting their farm from warriors of their own clan, who hungered for the family’s chickens and grain. Meridî wept and prayed to Anzelôk, the bloodied sword next to the guardian shield of his twin, Janûel, to strike Meridi’s enemies dead. But these butchers loaded their wagons and left Meridî and her youngest daughter to oncoming winter, and in the first snows she lost her final child to starvation and disease. Meridî wept and cursed the gods for taking the children Tunûlê had gifted her with, and in a fit of rage she took up the shovel she’d buried her young daughter with and marched through snows until she reached Sol’s shrine.

“This once pious woman raised her shovel to destroy a symbol of the gods who she believed had forsaken her. She screamed and swung, but let go before it struck, and collapsed into a heap. As she lay dying from sorrow, the voice of Sôl himself spoke unto her: ‘Why have you lost faith, my child?’ and her weeping stopped, the will of the King of Gods giving her warmth and strength.”

Woxlin banged the spear’s butt on the stone floor four times. “And Meridî answered, ‘My most holy king! My four children have been taken from me and not one of the gods whom you rule answered my prayers, protected my children or our crops we needed to survive, nor did they smite my enemies dead in revenge.’ And Sôl in his Fire and Wisdom answered, “Why do you blame the heavens for your woes, my child? What hand have we taken but to give you the children you desired?’ A vision of a banner, a field of blue with a raging bear passed before her eyes, and she bore witness to the truth, it was Clan Côerkin, indeed, all the Silonê clans, she should blame for her loss.

“With this wisdom blazing in her heart she took on the robes of the priesthood and preached to every ear who’d listen, preached of the sins of the clans, and how their defiance of Church and gods was to blame for the desperations of the small folk. As we pray today, look back to the pains you’ve suffered and the trials yet to come, and decide for yourself who is truly to fault.” Woxlin banged his spear. “In Mighty Sôl’s name, ruminate and pray, and walk your devotions this day.”

The congregation spoke, “Sôl’s devotions.”

The Death of Guntar (Gundar)

I suspect that all novels lose chunks of their page count as they go into edit, and while listening to the audiobook of Eve of Snows tonight, one such segment came to mind. Then, my wee li’l brain thought maybe it’d be kind of fun to post these bits of book that were lost. The first one of these is from the very beginning of Eve of Snows. You will notice that he also experienced a name change before the final version. I hope you enjoy that which was severed from the final product. This is pretty raw writing, I haven’t edited this in many moons… best guess it was written 3 years ago, and boy does it show!

This section is from Chapter 3: Unseasonable Snows, and once followed Tokodin’s lapse into unconsciousness.

***

Gundar leaned heavily on the exhausted pony’s neck, twining his bloodied hands in its mane for grip and warmth. Nightfall was nearly upon him, and despite having reached the foothills where snow had yet to collect, darkness promised to bring with it a frigid cold.

His prayers were as weak as his body and barely able to keep him alive. He feared if he stopped to make a fire that he wouldn’t have the strength to remount, and afoot he was assuredly dead. As he swayed in the saddle, fighting to retain consciousness, his mind often wandered to the leather tube strapped to his side.

What was it that he was going to die in the effort to deliver? He knew only that some event of magnitude was occurring in the Treaty Lands, or so he had pieced together from slivers of conversations he was likely not supposed to hear.  Then the lights and thunder deep in the Crack of Burdenis, somehow those must be connected. Every time he thought of that sealed tube, some part of his mind promised he would open it before he made the journey down the Road of Living Stars to the House of Sôl and take its secrets with him. His other half argued that Sôl would seal the doors against him, condemning him to the Slave Fields, for such a transgression.

It would only be fair for a man to know what he died for, wouldn’t it? Would Sôl really hold that against him after so many years of faithful service?

The pony stumbled, and Gundar would have tumbled to the ground and found his final resting place if not for the straps that made sure he and his message remained with the pony. He checked his tethers, pulled them so tight that he knew his legs should ache, but there was only a vague pressure. 

Gundar mouthed a prayer of healing and a tiny surge of energy sparked within his being, but it was so much less than he had hoped. He reached for his canteen, but when he lifted to pour, he found only ice. Until that moment, he hadn’t realized how thirsty he was.

He lulled to his pony’s neck and thought perhaps he should name this faithful beast in whom he entrusted his life. A silly thought, he admonished himself. Undoubtedly someone had named it before.

He blinked. Or had he just reawakened? Full night was upon him, and there was no longer pain. His arms dangled past the pony’s withers to rub its legs as it walked. Not only couldn’t he feel his hands, he could barely move his fingers.

He raised his head a fraction and saw lights in the distance. Ervinhîn, the pony must have brought him to Ervinhîn, Sôl’s praise to this fine beast. 

The next time he blinked, he was inside a small palisaded town where a woman cried out.

“A rider! Wounded rider!”

He had no strength to call out, to say yes, I am here, help me. Before his eyes closed again, he saw men running toward him, men who wore the cloaks of the Côerkin Patrols.

“What we got here?” He heard a voice ask.

The next voice was right next to his head. “An Istinjôln man. A priest with a message judgin’ by the straps on his legs.” He felt his head lifted by his hair, and his eyes opened for the last time to see a balding man staring back at him. “But he won’t be finishin’ this delivery unless we prop him up with a stick.” There was a chuckle amidst the muttered prayers from others, and his head was dropped to rest against the pony’s side.

Gundar stared at the dirt until his vision faded, his final thought that he really should have opened that scroll and taken its secrets with him to the other side. But it was too late now.

Background Art by Jon Gibbons

© 2018 L. James Rice