Calling of a God

February 11, 2015 - Short Story

Calling of a God a Fantasy Short Story by Kelly D. Tolman
Through trees and past thriving vegetation, thoughts and prophecies swirled like fading ghosts in the morning mist, bringing with them the old news from far off parts. The sad rumors of long-finished or distant battles found their way into the heart of all the forest life. Memories of past conflict and strife long dead aroused a subtle sadness in Shin’to as he returned to the home he had left because of war. But in this wind, the subtle scent of coming change stirred within him the hope of clam, or victory, or ending that put his troubled spirit at ease.
Shin’to noticed a figure moving toward him along the path. She was clad in dyed deerskins, and spirit charms tinkled softly from where they hung at her belly. The perfect scent of something totally unlike the Sha’gi soldiery or magic he had learned and taught drifted on the breeze, and Shin’to sighed lightly. “Good morning, Sha’gi,” intoned Cha’li respectfully.
“Good morning, Cha’li,” Shin’to said in a serious voice, and then laughed. “What are you doing so early in this part of the village?”
“I was sent to gather acorns. The trees are so much more productive on this side of the village.” Cha’li paused, and then smiled, “and I heard that you might be returning.” Cha’li’s smile faded quickly, and her voice took on a tone of what Shin’to recognized as utter fear, “is it true that you have come to face the purifications?”
“Yes, that’s why I came back, among other reasons.” Shin’to smiled, and hoped she could understand. “Our enemies grow tired of warfare, and our soldiers as well. We need the protection of the gods here, in the village. Kin’fal has called all of his Sha’gi to return in preparations for the coming of the Accepted. You know that no Sha’gi may stay in the village until he ahs been purified of the taint of war.”
Now Cha’li smiled. “Then it’s true, you’ve come for good?”
“If you’ll have me, I’ll stay forever.”
“And if you are the Accepted?”
“That is nonsense. No one knows when the Accepted is coming,” replied Shin’to. “The Sha’gi are only to await his arrival, it doesn’t say in any of the legends that he will be one of us. Besides, even the Accepted must have a soul-mate somewhere.”
“Then you will speak to my father after the purifications?”
“Yes.” Cha’li stood close, and the aroma of her womanhood filled Shin’to with new energy. He brought his arms up to embrace her, but stopped and put his hands on her shoulders.
“Until after the purifications,” he mumbled. Cha’li nodded, and looked as if she would weep, but then she smiled and they parted ways along the village path.
Further along the path, he saw the Semper-fire in the inner ring of huts burning warmly, and he was filled with inner delight as he approached. The familiar glow of the fire god surrounded him, and he knew that for now the village would be protected. The sentinel stiffened as he approached, the sacred war lance took the familiar defensive position, and Shin’to smiled to himself. Shin’to raised his arms, revealing the twisted patterns that formed the signs of the gods printed on his skin beneath the thick outer robe, and passed into the inner ring.
The village elders sat, waiting, in a small semi-circle before the fire. Each ancient figure was fully arrayed in the ceremonial dress. Eagle’s feathers and kalawa hide sewn painstakingly into holy robes for the gods adorned the elders. Shin’to was younger by far than any of them. He could have been grandson to any of them, but as he now looked over the council, he found that the familiar smile of his true grandfather had disappeared from the elder’s face. As council director, Maeke’to was the epitome of solemnity, and the aura of sacred order engulfed Shin’to with awe. “Please be seated,” said his grandfather, “we have much to discuss, and there are many matters yet to deliberate.”
Shin’to sat silently in the center of the semi-circle, facing the council and waited. “On behalf of the village we welcome your safe return, and hope that your experience was worth while.” Shin’to did not respond. Ceremony forbade his yet untried lips from defiling the sacred council. Maeke’to smiled, and the guard approached with a still glowing ember. “To try the lips and purge the follies of untruth,” intoned the council. The guard proffered the coal awkwardly to Shin’to, and he took it in his lips, and waited. The warmth of the fire god spread throughout his body, and joined and diffused the heat of the coal. He could smell the flesh burn, but felt only calm assurances as the coal died away.
“Has the initiate endured?” questioned seven voices in unison.
Shin’to carefully removed the blackened ember, and respectfully answered, “the initiate holds no fear of deception. The inquiry may begin.” To Shin’to’s surprise, the council seemed put off by his response. He couldn’t read the emotions in their faces, but he could sense that something was wrong. “Have I done wrong?” he asked calmly.
“No, child,” responded Kor’ti, elder of Ain’la, goddess of air, “you have done nothing wrong. It is only that you have endured so the ordeal. Many initiates do not speak for a time after the trial of lips. We commend your fealty to the god of fire.” The elder finished, and Shin’to waited in dumbfounded silence as the council prepared itself.
“Let the inquiry begin,” said his grandfather at last. “The Acceptance is to involve seven tests, one for each of the seven Elder Gods. There were to be seven purifications preparatory to the seven purifications to come, and seven tests. How fared the initiate?”
“Seven purifications prepared seven tests. Seven tests prepared seven purifications. I come before this council purified, tested, and ready for the purifications to come.” Shin’to worded calmly the prepared response, and smiled inside. He could fell the approach of the gods as he spoke. The earth beneath him softened, the air around him cooled, the clouds cleared, the fire dimmed, and the sun slowed its steady course on the horizon. He knew that the god of death and spirits, as well as the goddess of feelings were near by, but their part of the ceremony had not yet come, and would not approach for another moment.
“There lack yet two purifications,” intoned the council. “Is the initiate prepared for the purifications of heart and spirit?”
“May my soul and heart be cleansed to match only the cleanliness of the gods.”
Shin’to felt a tingling begin to rise within his body as the two gods approached. The elemental gods and the god of time slipped away from him at their coming, and Shin’to smiled to himself. The guard approached once more, and motioned for him to rise and present himself to be purified. Shin’to rose as commanded and stood with his arms outstretched to his sides and waited. A wisp of spirit light descended from the heavens, and he could feel himself being consumed by the power of the Gods. Before him a quiet vision opened, and he could see Cha’li standing before him, her beauty revealed. Dim memories of childhood happiness returned with awesome force. He could see in his mind past joys, and feel in his heart something he had only known before in dreams. A sudden desire to approach her overcame him, and he could feel himself stepping forward to embrace her, but somewhere a voice told him that it was not right yet. He stopped. The vision wavered. “I will be gone forever,” said the vision, “do you not love me?”
“Wait,” he cried.
“The image paused. “Come with me,” said Cha’li, “come away to the possibilities that could exist.”
The same power that overcame him before returned now with greater force. Shin’to could feel himself being drawn toward her, and he relished in the joy of the moment. But in the depths of his battered psyche, something warned him of some imperceptible danger. Shin’to wavered.
Desire filled him with the power of a tidal wave, and for a moment he was unsure. “I must refuse,” he answered, “or my heart will be broken forever. How can I take you and refuse the Gods. They will yet give you to me.” Before him the vision wavered once more, and then disappeared. He could feel the energy rising within him, the burning of the spirit power.
Shin’to’s arms dropped as the vision closed, and the sweat began to drip from his exhausted limbs as the energy faded from his body. A nervous murmur rippled through the council, and the guardian spirits withdrew their invisible presence. Shin’to could no longer fell the support of the elemental gods. He realized now that he would face the final test alone, with only his own powers to support himself. He sighed deeply, and faced the council. The withered elders sat impassively before him, the golden beams of firelight reflected in their tan faces, and Shin’to drew strength from their strength, and found the resolve to continue.
Suddenly, the elders’ faces faded into nonexistence, and once more a vision opened before him. He found himself surrounded by thick blackness. Noxious vapors abounded, and he could feel the suffocating weight of death overwhelm his senses. Breathing became deadly difficult. The pressure grew as the vapors condensed. Shin’to could feel himself being crushed by the power of the darkness; could feel himself being lost. “Kin’fal,” he cried out finally, “rescue me from this darkness. Bring light to this desolation, Lord of Spirits, and safeguard my journey through thy deadly realm.”
The darkness lifted slowly, unwillingly, and left him alone in a dreary wasteland. Lying about him were the scattered bones of a war-torn plain, and the silent stench of death. Far off to his right he could see some few broken hills. To his left he saw a murky stream flowing from a filthy fountain. Beside the stream wound a broken path to a lonely mountain beyond the fountain of filth.
Shin’to stepped onto the path, and with ragged steps began a journey toward the menacing lonely mountain. The way was twisted with thorns and briars, broken by stones, and wound indiscriminately through the desolation of the plain, but Shin’to was determined to follow its painful course. As he traveled, he prayed, and as he prayed the way was illuminated, and he could see the stumbling stones before he tripped, and the pain left his bleeding feet. Before him the mountain rose like a tired monster skeleton in the distance. Shin’to shuddered, but he knew that somewhere on that mountain was his only hope.
As he reached the stony foothills before beginning the steeper ascent, Shin’to noticed that the top of the mountain was covered with bright green trees, and that he no longer traveled alone. Before and behind, strange people struggled along the path, people he had never met before, but people he knew somehow. Many stumbled and struggled, a few fell away completely, lost to wander the plain of desolation in the thick vapors of darkness, but Shin’to continued onward.
The journey up the mountain was difficult. Often the slope was steep, and he found it necessary to use his hands on the razor sharp rocks to struggle along the bloody path. Soon his hands and knees were a mass of blood and stinging pain, and as the tears welled up in his eyes he felt his commitment falter. The stream no longer looked so murky to his taste, and the sweltering vapors drained the life out of him. Craving the dark water, he paused for a moment, and contemplated the possibilities. There were no guarantees that salvation awaited at the top of the mountain, and also no guarantee that the water would do him harm or good. Indecision racked his brain for a time, and the way became suddenly very unclear.
He dropped one last time to his knees, at first only to rest and think, but he soon found himself begging Kin’fal, and once more the way opened before him. The path was suddenly clear, and the stones no longer jagged. The wounds in his body no longer bled. He moved once more along the path, passing some who moved slowly, but helping those who struggled. “Do not be tempted to leave the way,” he warned, “there is no life in desolation.” Many did not heed his unwelcome words, and either fell from the stony peaks, or wandered aimlessly back toward the miserable war-swept plain.
Shin’to reached the final summit with a triumphant breath, and looked about him. Far below stretched all the lands he had ever known and much more, villages and tribes, forest and streams, mountains and lakes he had never known. Suddenly he could understand them, know that they were, where they came from and why. Knowledge filled him as the spirit energy had and he was burned with the intensity of knowing even who he was.
“Welcome, son,” said a quiet voice behind him. “I have waited long for thy arrival.”
Shin’to turned calmly, and faced the Spirit Father. Instinctively he dropped to his knees and pressed his face to the earth before the god.
“I have brought the here for a special purpose, and this day thou art no more. The gods burn within thee, and prepare thee for thy special course. Wilt thou accept?”
Shin’to looked up from the ground, and pondered the frightening decision. The history of his life began to suddenly put itself together. The past successes, the battles he should have lost but didn’t, all returned, and he knew that he had always been something more than Sha’gi. He could feel the pressure of responsibility weigh on his shoulders, and he knew the pain and sorrows of those who he was called to serve, and his heart fainted. In his heart he knew there was nothing to really consider. “I accept,” he murmured, knowing he could never refuse, “what would you have me do?”
The weight of the call bore down on him once more, and he cold feel himself being crushed beneath the tasks he knew he would perform. In agony, his body cried out, and the council saw the young warrior cast suddenly to the ground before them. Shin’to’s mind screamed in fear, but he knew there would be no turning back, and the resolve he found emptied all the pain and pressure of all the previous trials, and he entered a quiet spiritual bliss.
“Thou shalt know as I teach,” said Kin’fal. “Go now, having found thyself and conquered, forget not, and lead thy people to me.”
The vision vanished with a blast of dark wind and a clap of thunder, and Shin’to felt the joy leave him before the council. His tattered hands on feet bled only a little now, but the pain returned and he could no longer find the power to stand.
“How fared the initiate,” came the hushed chant of the council.
Shin’to raised his eyes slowly, and their familiar faces gazed back in awe. A new love for them overcame him as he realized that they knew that he knew and understood them as only the Gods could. He willed the exhaustion from his mind and body and stood tall before them. “The initiate comes before you purified and prepared as the Accepted of Kin’fal. I come now to lead this people to the Spirit Father.”
“Accepted of Kin’fal,” intoned the council in quiet awe, “we follow, serve, love, and obey. Led us, they people.”
Shin’to looked quietly over the crowd of villagers that had suddenly flooded the circle. The villager’s faces were awed or filled with tears or confusion, and Shin’to knew and understood each of them, and his heart was heavy. Among the many, Cha’li stood too, weeping, her body shaking in the warm sun beside the dazed figure of her father, and as a cheer rose from the villagers, a dart of the unknown future pierced his heart. But the cheers rolled over him with the force of a thousand voices, and their energy and spirit was his energy and spirit, and the Accepted of Kin’fal realized that the future was his to command.

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