The hood of my cloak rests comfortably around my head. I stand in a room bare of decoration, furniture, and people. Besides me, the only ones present are gods. Deities. They have come at my request, though they would say it was out of curiosity if asked. They hate what I am doing. They think themselves above me, and perhaps they are.
But it is the one at the bottom of the totem who decides whether it stands or topples. These gods assume their foundation to be as solid as the Doctrine of Universal Belief, as unyielding as the laws of Existence. They will soon find themselves doubting all three.
“He is so tiny,” one of the present Deities remarks, bending down to peer into my hood.
“My privacy and hidden identity were guaranteed by the Council, Ashak,” I say evenly. “Are you going to make liars of them?”
He growls, much like a wild beast, but moves back. As he straightens, another Deity steps forward. This one is Fahyen, goddess of something unimportant, like the harvest, or new growth. She has little power over such things, and only exists as a product of the uneducated superstition of farmers.
“You would do well to remember your place, mortal,” she says scornfully, throwing one corner of her dark purple cape across the opposite shoulder. “This meeting is only being tolerated in memory of your nation’s former loyalty. Speak, and be finished. Then we shall leave you to your brief lives of pain and petty worries.”
Her words and tone anger me greatly, but I do not show it. These beings will see my reactions as ‘so very mortal’ – though they would react no different – and what little respect I have amongst the few of them would be lost. I center myself, focusing on the purpose, the goal.
“Then let us address the point without further ramblings, Fahyen. The reason I have requested this gathering,” I continue, not giving her a chance to respond. “Is because I wanted to make a deal.” They all share curious glances which each other. What could a single human offer them? “I require assistance in a matter of great import, and only a Deity is capable of providing it. In return, I can promise a surge in Belief unlike any you have ever witnessed. Your Faith would grow by numbers you can scarcely imagine, your power multiplied, your potential influence increased infinitely.” I can tell that most of them are dismissing my claims outright, certain they are lies. One Deity, however, is staring at me with a strange intensity I just can’t put my finger on. It unnerves me, but I must portray only confidence and power if I want to make an ally. He has a hawkish face and pale, luminous skin. He too wears a cloak, though his is woven shadow, darkness turned to cloth. It hides the rest of his body like the night hides the sun. I look away.
“I will be waiting outside. Those of you who wish to speak with me regarding my proposal can come speak with me. Those who do not, I have no more use of you.” I turn and exit the plain structure, trying not to look back as the door shuts behind me. I hope that the ones who are not interested in the deal do not take me seriously. The last thing I want is a Deity marking me as potential opposition.
I stand outside for twenty minutes before I am forced to admit to myself that I have failed. I was sure that one god was interested, but it seems I was wrong. The dirt beneath my feet blames me for its lack of water, and I am reminded that if the drought it not ended soon, my people will perish.
Back inside, I find a surprise.
“If you do not hold to your end of the deal,” the hawkish Deity says jovially, “I will send you to Hell and tell the Archangel of Death that you slept with his sister.” He smiles at me and holds out a long-fingered hand, and I suppress a shiver.
I reach out with my own hand and we shake. He skin is cold to the touch. “What is your name?” I ask, my voice calm.
He shakes his head and winks. “That wasn’t part of the deal. Now, what trivial task must I perform for you to receive my prize? Make it rain? Your crops seems to be in a bit of a slump. Yes? Very good. What next?”
The sound of heavy rain hitting the roof is enough to drown out his quiet cackle, though I am sure that is what he’s doing. This god is utterly mad.
“Do you know how I was sure you were telling the truth about what you can give me?” He asks secretively, leaning in as if we were co-conspirators in some humorous prank. He keeps leaning closer, until the tip of his bony nose is right between my eyes, and his deranged pupils stare down into my own. “Because you weren’t lying.”