"Their coming will spark a contest of the Gods."
Excerpt from The Descent (Ancient Jal-nar text).
"Master, I will kill one in our world, where we have divine jurisdiction and power."
Their arrogance galled her. Did they think that they were unheard, or did they really not care. The discourse of the Gods was never silent. They assume... she thought ...far too much.
"That's more like it! Fate is an artificial construct, and as such, we must guard it. Now, that is, very much, what I like to hear. I do not care which one of the six you kill, so long as it is not the one marked by my sister."
The mention of her cousin gave her pause. So they fear her too. Her wrath was legendary, even amongst their kind. These two were wise not to interfere with her will.
She moved away from their presence, having heard enough to know what it was she must do. Humankind bent prophecy to suit their needs, for the divine to meddle so was a mistake. She would thwart them.
And so it was that she began to speak to her chosen.
"She comes. It is my will that you protect her, and that which she carries. Do not fail."
Altair awoke with a start. The message still reverbrating within his skull.
His very being thrummed with the energy of the contact. He rose from his bed and began preparing. The understanding of what was required of him at once both exhilerated him and filled him with dread.
His skin tingled much the same as it had the last time he had been touched by the divine, many years ago.
"Altair, what is it? What rouses you so?" His wife spoke sleepily from their bed. "Was it a dream?"
He spoke without slowing in his preparations. "I must go for a time. There is something I must do."
"What!?" Dagmar came suddenly alert. "Why must you go? What has happened?" Her voice was sharp to Altair's ears.
He paused for a moment and turned to look at his wife. The years had done nothing to still the fires that awakened in his heart when he looked in her eyes. "She spoke to me again, Dagmar. I must go, and quickly." Her eyes grew wider, and he turned away from the fear he saw growing in them.
"How do you know it wasn't just a dream. Maybe you were remembering... from before." Her voice held a note of pleading.
He busied himself again. He was dressed and he began gathering items he might need as he spoke. "When a God speaks to you, there is no mistaking it."
"But why you? Why now?"
"The red and the blue were in eclipse yesterday. That hasn't happened for millenia. It is the sign of momentous happenings. Does it surprise you that the Gods still have a use for me?" He allowed a little anger to creep into his tone.
She paused for a moment, considering her words. "No... only, you have done much already. Surely there must be another to take the call."
"It is not for me to question the will of the Gods. It is for me to obey. I have been honored, not burdened."
She nodded at this, sitting silently for a short time before getting up herself. She went over to their little kitchen and began bundling food for him. Altair stopped for a second to watch her, marvelling again at the good fortune that had befallen him with her. He lifted his eyes and gave thanks for his blessings.
It took very little time before he was at the entrance to the cottage, saying goodbye to his wife. He embraced her, and then stepped back to admire her one last time. He stooped and kissed the tear that spilled down her weathered cheek, and then gently stroked the greying hair away from her face and kissed her softly on the lips.
"Goodbye my love."
"Come home to me"
"I will try."
With that he opened the door and strode into the crisp air of pre-dawn. Leaving Dagmar saddened him, but he focused on the joy of purpose and did not look back. It had been long since the world of men had remembered that he still had power, and he was glad that the Gods had not forgotten.
His pack felt light on his back and he had an energy in his step that he hadn't felt in years. He knew that the pack would soon feel very heavy indeed, so he tried to enjoy the first hours of his adventure, before he felt the course of time in his old bones.
He reviewed the images that had flashed into his mind: a young woman falling from gently from the heavens not far from here, and the creatures that had been compelled to seek her out and consume her. He had the knowledge that she carried a child within her, and that it was his duty to see it born safely.
Again he felt a pang of sadness for Dagmar. The young woman in his vision did not seem to be heavy with child, so this was to be a long undertaking.
He shook his head at his foolishness and again gave thanks. He knew the blessings of the God. Most men did not live one century, let alone his 146 years, and he knew the power that he channeled was only partially responsible for that. He had been rewarded for his service ninety years ago, and that was the only reason he had outlived all who had once known him.
Dagmar had come into his life much later, still drawn to him despite her youth. He knew she had been a gift from the Gods as well whether directly or inadvertently was a question that he had mulled many times. His face creased ina smile as he thought once again of the eventual answer: it did not matter.
He walked on, his mind picking over the pieces of his life and the wondering at the trials before him. First the red and blue suns rose above the horizon, still very close together in their celestial dance. They brightened the sky, and the birds heralded their arrival with ever increasing lustre. He marvelled at the vibrancy around him as he strode every towards his mission.
As he neared what he knew to be his destination a scream pierced the sounds of the forest. Her scream. Was he too late?
Despite his age he broke into a run. He could not fail.