The Deities Bargain

Kasha, goddess of Light, was not the preeminent deity of her pantheon. It was a simple statement of fact that had never previously bothered her. She had her place, had followers and temples, was gifted with acolytes who would become her priests and priestesses. She sent out paladins to protect those under her sway whether they were particular devotees to her or not. Afterall, when one was simply a part of a whole, one deity in a pantheon, one could hardly expect every person within one's domain to be particularly devoted. Those who sought to avoid justice, who did not wish their deeds brought to light were, understandably less likely to make offerings at her temple or offer her prayers. Similarly those whose work brought them closer to other deities, craftspeople, sailors, mothers, all were more likely to have another as their favourite. But she played her role in their lives nonetheless.

Now, however, Kasha had a reason to wish she were more prominent, more powerful within her pantheon. She had a reason to wish that she could be certain that her fellow deities would listen to her. That reason was the encroaching hordes. So many of the other gods and goddesses were so absorbed with their own concerns, the immediate affairs of their devotees, that they paid little attention to just how dangerous those hordes truly were. She had been told of their inferior weaponry, their inferior culture, their inferior battle techniques. Valrar, the god of Destruction and War, had boasted of their own people's superiority on the field of battle. All well and good, to Kasha's mind, but simple numbers and ferocity were telling.

The truth was that the hordes outnumbered the available warriors within their land. A settled and civilized society, so long at peace with others, with longstanding trade agreements and established trade routes, they were no longer a warrior society. Yes, there were still warriors. There were knights and soldiers, guards, paladins and assassins. But there were more craftspeople, more farmers, more traders. Artisans had little use for military training. Nobody went out in the world to teach the poorer folk how to defend themselves. That was supposedly what trained soldiers were for.

Well, those soldiers had grown fat and lazy. They paraded and feasted. Too long since a true battle had occupied many of them. Some had never seen more fighting than a skirmish with bandits. In contrast, every man born to the hordes was a warrior. It was their primary occupation, anything else being secondary. Even the women were taught to fight although from what Kasha had seen few were allowed to do so. She found it rather backward of them, but they had little enough need of the extra numbers. They were mobile, driven, and would never surrender. They had crushed other civilizations, ones that her own people had barely heard of. They simply rolled right overtop of them and wiped them out. Some people were saved, converted, others who resisted were slaughtered. Many became slaves. But those other civilizations were nor more, and their deities had likewise disappeared.

Admittedly those troops on the border had seen some fighting, had seen some hints of just what the hordes could do. The battles were bitter, but rarely pitched. Patrols were destroyed, towns ransacked, caravans pilfered. All men were found later, either dead in battle or dead of extended abuse. The women were rarely found, although a few found their way free. They were no longer the same, however. Kasha had sent a few paladins to help try to protect those people who lived on the borders, but it was a bitter thing and she tried not to leave them there too long.

In those hordes Kasha saw the future downfall of her people, the end of the reign of her pantheon. What happens when those who worship a god are dead? Deities draw power from those who pray to them, those who give offerings and perform their rituals. It was a much more symbiotic relationship than mortals were allowed to know. Only a few were granted such knowledge, and only for the purpose of ensuring that worship would not flag. Because a god who has lost followers will rain down destruction in order to regain them. It was not a pretty sight. Chaotic, unpleasant. Messy. So Kasha had a vested interest in preserving those who looked to her for protection aside from the simple fact that she was their deity and they belonged to her. To lose them, either to slaughter or conversion, would be a devastating blow. And gods wanted territory as much as any mortal, just for reasons much more similar to those of rulers than those of farmers or householders who sought a place to belong and land to till. Gods sought power and influence, importance, adoration. To be landless and unworshipped was to fade away.

It was with all those things in mind that Kasha sent an emissary to seek whoever guided the hordes. She had requested a meeting on relatively neutral ground, under a temporary flag of truce. What she could gain had yet to be seen, but she hoped for a possible diversion of their path. A bargain, a treaty, an alliance. Whatever she could get. At the very least a delay would be useful, give her time to convince her people to take the threat seriously, to properly train the warriors, to increase fortification, to call for aid. Time was what was needed. For time she would sacrifice much.

And so here Kasha waited in a neutral space, neither divine nor mortal, a place of limbo claimed by none.

The End

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