An abridged short story based on the centuries of lore written down in notes, based on my book in progress. A fantasy story regarding the gods of my world and the role they play, centering around one Orrencis, a soul sorter.
In the heavens, far beyond the reach of any society, great or small, there sat a god named Orrencis, as lonely as the willow under which he lazed. Preferring to work in silence without company of another, he chose to weigh the value of a hundred souls in peace. His plane is a floating isle like the rest; an acre field speckled in wild flowers whose horizon clutched the whispy clouds with a gentle breeze always rolling in, smelling of fresh grass and roses. The blazing sun in the dusk ridden ether backlit the floating isles out in the far distance stretching to infinity, petals and leaves float along with every gust and travel for many miles, giving a breathtaking view to the others out in the vast heavens.
He is a type known as a Liaison, a lowly god amongst the true gods who gloriously rule over all that is. Above the Liaison are the Arbiters, creatures that extend the gods’ far sight, beings of many shapes and sizes, relaying deeds to the gods and carrying out earthly tasks. Then there are the Grand Mediators above them both, often referred to as demigods, those who keep peace for the mortals when evil claims grasp over those of the realms.
Orrencis looked down to the parchment in his hand, quill in the other, vial of impeccably black ink beside his bare feet basking in the sun kissed grass. Atop the list is a man most foul, spiteful, bitter, and above all, a murderer. Orrencis hatched a line through his name without hesitation or moment’s regret. Beside his name appeared a black dot, nothing more, nothing less, yet a symbol for The Void, and thusly, his soul forever doomed to an infinite black abyss. The fate of those whom defied was nothing short of unbearable agony, souls of The Void cannot see, cannot speak, cannot hear, nor feel, their only liberty is to think.
An ӕthyr butterfly landed atop the feather of his quill, boasting its blue and silver patterns before fluttering off, a sign of good luck to the immortals. Orrencis watched it fly away and lethargically put his sight back to the list in hand. Before the quill tip could glance the next name on the parchment, trotting in the grass called his attention and made him look up. He ignored duty for but a moment and spied a fox with a glassy-eyed stare roving his way.
“How do you fare, Arbiter? Have you another soul for me?” asked Orrencis. The delicate creature stepped forward and nudged the back of Orrencis’ parchment, making a new name appear at the bottom of his already long list.
The nosey little fox watched with beady eyes and spoke, “A poor woman, she was, overcome by a fire whilst she slept. The envoy whisked her off as the family grieved over her body; it was my mournful task to oversee her passing.”
A wistful sigh escaped Orrencis’ dry lips. “And then it falls onto me to pass judgment upon her soul. Such is the clockwork. Thank you, but ne’er shall I sleep until my task is done, I shall see you later.”
“Good day, Liaison,” the fox bid, and padded away.
“One moment, I have a question to ask of you,” called Orrencis, gaining the ears of the little Arbiter. “What news is there of your fellow Arbiters? Word spread quickly of an uprising underground. The gods are anxious at the very inkling of such a turn.”
“I’ve heard nothing but rumors,” it replied. “If an upheaval comes about, I’ll surely keep my tail from sight. Only the gods know what wrath awaits those who rebel.”
“Thank you for your time, I shan’t keep you longer,” Orrencis said with a whimsical smile spreading across his pale face. He pulled a hand through his hair and resumed his tedious task, the day encroaching upon its end.
Nighttime loomed in on the heavens like a blanket drawn over the atmosphere, the sky transitioned to a vivacious purple growing darker as the moments slid by. Second from last on Orrencis’ list of souls is a man whose deeds of good far outweighed his sin, his might is great and his mind sharper than a blade. Courage brought him to outwit a masterful Shade Lord and deliver freedom to a town in chaos, only for a grand sacrifice in the end; he was fallen in the arms of his love and passed into the warming embrace of an envoy. Orrencis tapped his quill upon the man’s name three times, and before his position below the willow, the man to whom the soul belonged materialized in a hazy white mist.
“Gods! Where am I? Am I alive? And who are you?” he sharply hollered. The man named DuVarian scanned about nervously, his hands did tremor and his eyes darted about like directionally challenged bees.
“I am Orrencis, your Liaison, and you are not alive, not on the mortal planes. You stand here with me in the heavens. This, DuVarian, is your afterlife,” Orrencis offered to the panicked man.
The man’s face turned grim and he looked down steadily. “Will I be sent to The Void?” he weakly gasped. “Or at least . . . is my wife alive?” He brought his head straight up. “Please, is she alive?” he snapped.
Orrencis stood to his feet and rolled his list half way, placing the quill into the bundled parchment. “Worry not. For your mind’s ease, your love still lingers on, celebrating her freedom, but grieving for what it cost her. You, DuVarian Ruther Edderwick, your soul is safely with us, this is your home now, not The Void.”
A smile brightened the man’s face, not of joy, but of contentment. “What now, Liaison Orrencis? Where do I go from here? Is there something I must do?”
Orrencis set a gentle smile on his face, for the gesture was contagious. “Your actions and intellect have defined you as a mortal more than most. You can mingle amongst the gods if you do so wish. But if you wish to rest, I can send you to your afterlife.”
“I crave to move freely with those whom my life was devoted, is it possible for me to remain here in the heavens? I would do anything to see my lord Devin, maybe even just shine his boots! Even that would bring honor to the Edderwick name!”
Orrencis could not help but snicker and gave a frail nod. “I am not sure exactly, but I do not believe Devin would mind his boots cleaned, get enough influence and he might even speak with you.”
DuVarian raked at his hair and parted it. “Have you ever spoken with Devin himself?”
“My, no, no. I am but a mere Liaison, a soul sorter. The gods have very little business with us lowers, and rarely ever do I even get a glimpse of my gods. But, for you, there is luck to be had; you are bound for an opportunity that some mortals dedicated their life to get a chance at.”
“What is this ‘opportunity’? What is asked of me?” he excitedly rambled
Orrencis lazily pointed in his direction. “Your skills qualify you to be a demigod, a Grand Mediator.”
DuVarian raised a brow. “I am sorry to look a gift horse in the mouth, but may I ask what exactly this is before I decide?”
Orrencis placed his list onto the fork in the trunk of the tree and let it totter in the breeze. “Fair enough, let me start at the beginning. I am the first of four, lowest on the chain of command, a Liaison, a soul sorter, for those of the mortal realm who are exceptional at judgment. Next above me is a soldier of the heavens, a Divine Blade, suited to those who love the thrill of battle. Third and higher still is the Arbiter, Arbiters are the eyes and ears of the gods who reside on your plane, often disguised as ordinary creatures.”
“So, these Arbiters give the gods information on people? Is that how you judge a soul? My soul?” DuVarian interjected.
“That is quite correct. The information an Arbiter gathered upon you gave you this opportunity.”
“Frightening to know my soul is in delicate balance between so few. . . ,” he uttered.
Orrencis wiggled four fingers to indicate the number. “Second only to the gods are the demigods, acting out as their hand of justice on the mortal planes. To my beliefs, you distinguish yourself as capable of such, a very rare quality to find.”
DuVarian’s smile only broadened. “I would be honored to take up this spectacular offer!”
Orrencis gathered the rolled parchment and his divine silver quill, he unraveled the list and eyed down to the man’s name. “DuVarian Ruther Edderwick, by your acknowledgment, and by the gift granted by the gods, I hereby place you as demigod.” Beside his name, Orrencis drew out a design DuVarian could not see from his stance a few feet back. “It is done.”
“I- I don’t feel any different. . . . Is this how it’s supposed to be?” DuVarian questioned, staring at his flexing hands, half expecting his skin to crawl and shift.
“It is, are you ready to pass back to your plane? You should receive your first task not more than a few hours after passing, use that time wisely to get used to your body. Others tell me the body stiffens after passing back; it is to your benefit to ready.”
“Liaison!” called a voice from a short ways away.
Orrencis sent his sight off to his left, spying his reporting Arbiter still in his fox form. The little beast approached and sat into the grass at his side. “Another name for my list?” Orrencis probed reproachfully.
“Pardon me,” DuVarian pried, “but did that fox just speak?”
The fox sent him a glare, DuVarian’s eyes peeled open wide. Orrencis waved his hand and shook his head. “No, DuVarian is a demigod now, he is above us.”
“No, not anymore! Liaison, I bring you word of revolt, the Arbiters are moving forward to mount an offensive against the gods!”
Orrencis practically bumbled over his own feet “This best be a joke! Hasten, you must tell the gods! Devin must know! If you inform him, you can be cleared of guilt! Go, quickly!”
“I am sorry, Liaison, but I cannot,” grumbled the Arbiter, setting his ears aback.
“Please, tell me you are not part of this!” Orrencis pleaded, only for the Arbiter to remain silent and still looking down. “DuVarian, run! RUN!”
DuVarian decided to not press his luck and bolted on cue, staring at the starry skies as his legs carried him swiftly away, letting his speed rustle his hair and the wind deafen him.
“I am sorry, Orrencis, but I answer to you no more,” said the small fox. The Arbiter drifted its head off towards the retreating back of DuVarian the demigod, eyes aglow. Tendrils of white lunged out and embraced his chest mid-stride, latching to his form and sending him reeling to his backside. “I already warned you to flee, now go before you too are swallowed!” The motionless body of DuVarian melted into the mystic bindings and became one with the ӕthyr without so much as a yelp. The tendrils slipped back below the ground without a trace.
Orrencis staggered backwards with his jaw hanging low while the Arbiter glared heavily. “Th- This criminality shall not pass! By my powers, I condemn you to The Void!” Orrencis grabbed the quill from the rolled up list and let the parchment float to the grass. He pointed the quill to the direction of the Arbiter, the feather gleamed silver and showered glittering sparks that snuffed out in the grass, the Arbiter only stared back coldly.
“This is where we part. Of the Liaisons I served, you were the only one that cared. But under the skin, you are just another slave to the gods. This is not the freedom we signed for, I did not spend my life in piety and pain only to be oppressed by those whom I devoted my tears and blood. Look deep into yourself, how did you use your time?” Orrencis ceased and the quill let down its shimmer. “Take mind, to imagine for but a moment. . . . How would you feel if your eternal job was to watch humans die, it is far from pleasant. I plea for my paradise so my mind may finally rest and worry no more . . . and my devoted time; to be paid off in kind! We do not want war, Liaison Orrencis, we want our eternal peace!”
The skies darkened to black and forth from the horizon of clouds burst a creature of proportions unimaginable. Sizing of a mountain is all aspects, just as tall, as wide, and as ominous. Wings of gray fire, body like the crackling remains of a bonfire, head of a dragon with dreadful red eyes; its shadow alone brought a deathly chill over the plane. It rumbled a guttural roar that shook the ground and nearly toppled Orrencis, a flurry of willow leaves and branches came raining down all over the disturbed Liaison.
“What is this demon?” he shrieked in terror. Under blackened sky and stare of the Arbiter, he tried to calm as the encroaching beast made way at speed, the winds of its beating wings licking over the lands in furling blasts of dirt. “Arbiter, why have you become a part of this? After all these years, you said nothing, how could you join such a rogue cause!”
“I did not join this rogue cause, Liaison . . .” grimly said the Arbiter, “I started it. . . .” The Arbiter faded to silver vapor and drifted to the air in time for the behemoth to open its maw and engulf the essence. The creature blazed overhead and its tail tore the ground asunder where it trailed, Orrencis could only defend himself with raised arms against a tidal wave of dirt and a hail of rocks.