Sunday, November 13, 2016

Week 37 - NaNoWriMo Week 1 - Gods of Creos, Part 1

Michael Salsbury


It's been pointed out long before I've written this novel that it bears some similarity with Terry Pratchett's Small Gods. Although I am a fan of Pratchett's work, I've never read that particular novel. Any similarity between my book and his is truly a coincidence.

This book started when I watched a documentary about an ancient building created as a place of worship for a god. I wondered that if the gods existed, what did they think of this kind of thing. Were they honored and humbled by it? Did they wish their followers were putting that effort into taking care of the sick and the poor? Were they the ones driving their followers to build that gigantic temple?

Later, when I overheard someone pray for a relatively minor thing like getting to a family gathering on time, I wondered what the god hearing that prayer thought of it. I imagined the god thinking "There are thousands of sick and starving people in the world, and you're praying because you're running a little late?" That thought brought others, like if you were the god, why is that you answered some prayers and not others? What do you do when two of your followers pray for the opposite thing, like one follower wants his sports team to win, and another wants their competitor to win? Do you pick sides, or stay out of it?

Slowly, ideas began to form in my head. What would it be like to be a god and have followers? If you were a god, where did you come from? Are all gods equally powerful, or is their power determined by the size of their congregation and the depth of its belief? Are there things you're able to do, and things you can't?

The story you're about to read is my way of processing some of these ideas. I hope you'll find it entertaining. Please know that while I do draw on ideas from actual religions (both past and present), in no way do I intend for this story to insult anyone's religious beliefs or the lack thereof. It's meant as humorous entertainment and nothing more.


Chapter 1

Kallon hadn't asked to be created, but then no god had. He came into being when Milton the Elder, lost in the darkening woods, felt his stomach growl. Absentmindedly, he prayed to the gods for something to eat and someone to help him find his way home. Stumbling into an apple tree, Milton mistook this for divine intervention and providence. His failing memory provided no name for a god who might feed a weary traveler. The name Kallon sounded good to him. It was appropriately powerful-sounding and god-like, so Milton thanked Kallon for the feast of apples and for the passing stranger who helped him find his way home.

That was four hundred years ago. No one alive today knew Milton, but many in the village retold his story to their children. Typically, prayers to thank Kallon for his bounty and to help them find their way in life followed the story. Each time it happened, Kallon felt his supply of mana increase.

For gods like Kallon, mana was everything. Mana allowed you to act in the Physical Plane. It allowed you to create miracles, smite unbelievers, and manifest into the physical world. Most gods pursued mana the way dogs pursue squirrels, coaxing their followers to spread the faith to other villages, decreeing that they have large families, and jealously protecting their villages from believers of competing faiths.

Kallon didn't care that much about expanding his mana. For hundreds of years, he'd been able to keep his people safe and healthy. Most of them believed in him, and their belief replenished his mana. He didn't need a larger territory or millions of followers. That would take a lot of work, and keeping those followers happy and believing in you would take even more. This lack of ambition meant that the other gods tended to leave Kallon alone, perceiving him not to be a threat. Still, there was this village to the west that had no god watching over it. Surely, Kallon thought to himself, they could do with just a little religion.

Kallon felt that sensation again, the one he got when one of his followers prayed to him. He shifted his consciousness in the direction of the sensation, and found a young girl kneeling beside her bed. He didn't know why they knelt. He didn't ask them to do it. It seemed like one of those little rituals his priests liked to invent. Something about making the believer acknowledge the superiority of the god and such. Inventing the rituals gave priests something to do, it seemed, and since it didn't hurt anything, Kallon didn't object.

"Please, lord Kallon," the girl whispered, "watch over mommy and daddy, and help me to get a good grade on my exams tomorrow. All praise be yours." She dipped her head slightly, then crawled into bed.

Kallon watched her as she drifted off to sleep. He appreciated the little shot of belief the girl sent his way. While he appreciated her prayer, he would do nothing to help her with her exam. It's not that he couldn't, but more that he felt there were some things followers should do for themselves.


Being the god of food had certain advantages to it that being a different god, such as the god of war, did not. Kallon could stockpile mana until he needed it. This allowed him to accomplish things that gods with a similar number of followers could not. A god of war, trying to keep his people alive on a battlefield, would be constantly expending mana to alter a bullet's trajectory, help a soldier notice his enemy was nearby, heal the injured, or help the generals see a valuable strategy. As long as Kallon's people were eating, there wasn't a lot for a god of food to do.

When his mana supply was good, as it was now, Kallon liked to indulge himself. He would find a lonely believer somewhere in the village and manifest himself in front of them. This gave him a chance to really interact with the believers. Perhaps it was a bit of conceit, but he also saw it as a reward for the truly faithful.

Manifesting was something a god had to be careful about, though. When any believer actually saw his god manifested before him, it changed their relationship. The believer no longer saw the god as this mystical, mysterious force that might or might not answer a prayer - but as a real, living, breathing entity. A follower who know their god existed no longer generated mana. Their belief was replaced by certain knowledge of the deity's existence. Manifesting in the middle of a congregation in your temple could be disastrous, cutting your supply of mana to a trickle. Without mana, a god was limited to the Ethereal Plane. If that god didn't take action occasionally in the Physical Plane, people reasoned that he couldn't be bothered with them anymore - and they with him. Belief ended, the flow of mana stopped, and the god popped out of existence.

Kallon chose his target carefully. Harvey Belgrave had been a loyal follower of Kallon's from the moment he was old enough to understand what a god was. Harvey had read the scriptures, visited the temple regularly, and had been a good and kind person. With a village of followers like Harvey, Kallon believed he could do anything. Kallon decided to see if he could convince Harvey to visit that godless village to the west.

Kallon watched silently and invisibly as Harvey prepared a fish dinner, ate it, cleaned up, and poured himself an after-dinner whiskey.

"Harvey," Kallon said softly. "This is Kallon."

Harvey jolted, then looked around the room. Satisfied that he was alone and imagining things, he took another sip of whiskey.

"Harvey, I am here. I would like to speak with you."

Harvey looked in his whiskey glass, examining the contents carefully. He put it down and began searching the room. "Whoever you are," Harvey said, "This isn't funny, and I don't believe you."

"Perhaps you will in a moment," Kallon said. "Please sit down and keep your eyes on the sofa next to you."

Harvey shrugged and did as he was told. As he watched the sofa, the bearded, white toga-clad form of Kallon began to appear on the sofa. From Harvey's perspective, it was as through Kallon had been sitting there all along and had only begun fading into view.

"Kallon?" Harvey's eyes were open wide.

"Yes, my son. It is me. I've come to talk with you."

Harvey picked up his glass of whiskey. His hand was shaking so badly he had to grab it with the other to steady it. He took a large gulp of whiskey, then began to cough when some of it went down the wrong pipe.

"Please, Harvey, relax. You've nothing to fear. You have done nothing wrong, nothing at all. You have been a model follower. That's why I wanted to visit with you."

Harvey's coughing subsided. "Ah, well... you see... it's not every day one meets his god."

Kallon nodded. "I do not appear before many. You are the first in decades."

"But just last week, Mrs. Rager said you appeared to her," Harvey said. "And before that, Dana Tompkins."

"I know. Mrs. Rager was just looking for attention. I never manifested to her. And Dana Tompkins, well... let's just say he had been smoking a plant that made him see lots of things that weren't really there. Take my word for it, you are the first person I've manifested to in a hundred years."

"Oh..." Harvey said. His face flushed.

"Rest assured, in your case, that I am really here. I am really speaking to you. I am not something hidden in your whiskey. Speaking of which, might you be willing to pour me a glass? I've never tried it."

Harvey looked at Kallon, eyes wide, then hurriedly got up and went to the liquor cabinet. He pulled out a clean glass and filled it with whiskey. Looking back at his own nearly empty glass, he brought the bottle back with him. He had a feeling he might need it, and wanted to save the walk back.

Kallon took the glass from Harvey's hand, tilted it toward him, and looked inside. "It's a beautiful brown color," Kallon said, and held it to his nose. "I like the aroma, too. Wood and a touch of vanilla. Very nice." He took a sip of the liquid and rolled it around on his tongue. "Oh, yes. I like this very much. Thank you, Harvey."

"Most welcome, lord," Harvey said, and sat down. He put the bottle next to his glass.

"You're probably wondering why I'm here," Kallon said, taking another sip of the whiskey. A smile crossed his lips.

Harvey nodded, and drained his glass. He began to fill it again.

"All of my followers live here in Antrea. There is another village to the north. They have no gods to believe in. They have never heard of me. I would like you to go there. I want you to tell them of me."

"Why don't you go there yourself?" Harvey asked, then immediately regretted it. It sounded impertinent. "I'm sorry," he said quietly.

"Don't be. It's a fair question. The truth is, Harvey, that where I have no followers I can only observe. I cannot act or influence. I need a follower to travel there in order to spread the word. I need the presence of a true believer like you there."

"Surely, one of the priests would be--"

Kallon held up his left hand. "No. They would be too intimidating. They would wear elaborate vestments, quote scriptures, and frighten or repulse the people. What I need is someone like you. You are a fisherman, a trader. They'll listen to the message from you without being intimidated. Do you understand?"

"I'm not sure. Why me? Surely others have more faith, or would be more persuasive."

"You have always been true to me. You have always believed in me. You have always lived according to my wishes for you. When the people in Fryburg see you, they will see exactly what I want them to see... a good and decent man, willing to share his beliefs without forcing them. I have considered the entire village, and believe you are the best choice. Will you do it?"

Harvey took another drink of whiskey. "I don't think I can."

"It's a lot to ask, I know. The trip is long, and a bit dangerous. But you won't be going alone. I'll be with you every step of the way. I'll protect you. I'll help you when you need it. No harm will come to you. I won't allow it."

"Do I have a choice in this?" Harvey locked eyes with Kallon.

Kallon could see that Harvey was struggling with the idea. "Of course you do, Harvey. You have the gift of free will. You may refuse the honor I pay you,"

"But you would be angry."

"No," Kallon said, chuckling. "I would be disappointed, certainly. But I am not a vengeful god." Seeing that Harvey was about to open his mouth, Kallon held up a hand. "Before you say it, that's something the priests put in the scripture, it's not something I ever said."

"Then everything in the scripture isn't true?"

"Most of it... the important parts. Over the centuries, the priests have embellished it here and there, added a bit to serve their purposes, and occasionally removed a phrase or two."

"You don't use your power to stop them?"

"My powers are not unlimited, Harvey. I cannot force my followers to do anything. I can ask them to do something. I can plant the idea in their minds that it might be a good thing to do. I can do many things that might influence someone. But I cannot force them. They always have free will, just as you do now."

Harvey felt scared. He didn't like traveling, didn't like being away from home. He didn't like public speaking. Still, he didn't want to say no. This was Kallon, after all.

"Why don't I go," Kallon said, draining the whiskey glass, "and leave you to think about it. Know that this would mean a lot to me, Harvey. It would make me very happy, and it would allow me to do more for my followers."

"More? But aren't your powers unlimited?"

"No," Kallon said, standing up. "You know how the scripture says that you were all created in my image?"

Harvey nodded.

"You cannot be everywhere at once, or do everything you might like to do. Neither can I. I do have limits."

Harvey puzzled over this. It flew in the face of all he'd been taught, but it must be true. It wasn't some priest or book saying it, it was Kallon himself.

"I'm going to leave you now, Harvey. I'll come back tomorrow for your answer."

Harvey watched as Kallon faded out of existence. He picked up his whiskey bottle, which seemed heavier than he expected. He was surprised to find it was full.


High Priest Brubaker watched Harvey Belgrave fidget and mumble to himself throughout the sermon. Although he'd known Harvey since he was a child, Brubaker had never seen him so distracted during a sermon. Harvey had always been attentive, focused, and calm. When the sermon was over, Brubaker quickly weaved through the temple to find Harvey. To his surprise, Harvey was standing patiently in the back corner of the room.

"You don't seem like yourself today, my son," Brubaker said. "What seems to be troubling you?"

Harvey held up a finger. "Not here. Can we speak privately?"

"Of course," Brubaker told him. "Come with me to the rectory."

They walked back through the remnants of the congregation, toward the door to the rectory next to the altar. Harvey waited for the priest to open it. He'd never been into the rectory, but had seen the priests go into it many times. Brubaker opened the door, put his hand on Harvey's back, and gently ushered him in.

Harvey looked around, curious to see how Kallon's priests lived. The room was spartan, yet somehow as inviting and attractive as any home Harvey had ever visited. He noticed a statue of Kallon on a counter, surprised to see that the image didn't resemble the real Kallon he'd met.

"Have a seat," Brubaker told him, gesturing to one of the more comfortable looking chairs in the room. Harvey sat down.

"Thank you," Harvey said, dipping his head slightly in respect.

"You're welcome, my son. Please, tell me what's troubling you."

Harvey's eyes darted around the room. He hoped Brubaker was the only one who could hear what he was about to say. It made him feel uncomfortable, and slightly crazy. "I... had a visitation last night."

"It's good to have friends, my boy. Who visited you?"

"Well, that's the troubling part. It was... well, it was Kallon."

"Kallon? As in our lord Kallon?" Brubaker knew he was doing a poor job concealing his surprise, and took a moment to compose himself. "You mean, you saw symbols of his divine presence?"

"No," Harvey shook his head. "I was sitting in my living room, and he appeared on the sofa in front of me."

"I see," Brubaker said, leaning forward. "What did he say?"

"He asked to try my whiskey. Then, he asked me to visit Fryburg to the west. He wants me to spread word of him there. He says they have no gods."

"I have heard this as well. Priest Smythe, Priest Garrett, and I have discussed this. We have debated visiting it."

"Kallon doesn't want you to," Harvey said. "He is afraid that you'll frighten them with... how did he put it?  He said you'd intimidate them by quoting scripture and wearing vestments."

Brubaker leaned back. "Did he? You're sure about this?"

Harvey nodded.  "Yes. He was very clear on that. He said that he needed me to do it. He said I was his best choice. How can that be?"

Brubaker sat back, rubbed his chin, and looked closely at Harvey. "Kallon's wisdom is beyond question, of course. You're sure you were awake? You mentioned whiskey. You couldn't have had too much of it and had a dream?"

"No. I'd just finished eating and sat down in front of the fire. I hadn't even sipped the whiskey yet."

Brubaker nodded, pursing his lips, and rocking slightly back and forth. "It is said that Kallon works in mysterious ways. Perhaps this is one of those. Did he say anything else?”

“Just that he would protect and watch over me on the journey.”

“If you’re certain you saw Kallon, then perhaps you did. If you did, and he has asked this of you, then you have been offered an incredibly opportunity to serve lord Kallon. Were he to ask me, I would go immediately.”

“Yes, but you’re his high priest.”

“And you, my son, are one of his loyal followers. He has asked for your help. Gods do not do this sort of thing lightly. If he needs your help, how can you refuse him?”

“But I’m just a fisherman. How can I spread his word?”

“In many ways, Harvey, you are better suited to do it than I. When others hear me speak, they look at my vestments and consider my position. They see me almost as one selling goods. They wonder if they can trust the word of one whose job is to serve a god. You are not a priest. You make your living catching, selling, and preserving fish from the river east of town. You wear no vestments. You come to temple because you believe in our lord Kallon, out of a sense of true belief and a desire to deepen your faith. Do you not?”

Harvey nodded.

“That is why others will listen to you. They will see that you do not serve Kallon because it puts food in your mouth, provides you shelter, or fine clothing to wear. You serve because you believe, because it means something to you. Others will see that you have no ulterior motive. In that way, you could be a more effective messenger for our faith than anyone else.”

Harvey sat quietly, staring at the High Priest and thinking. He had hoped Brubaker would tell him this was some sort of misunderstanding, or that he would talk with Kallon and find another way. Instead, he found the priest taking Kallon’s side.

“Have you considered how you will make the journey, Harvey?”

“What? No. I can’t go. I can’t leave now. It’s the height of fishing season. This is when I catch the most. If I leave, I may not have enough fish preserved to get through the winter. The village could starve. I could go broke.”

Brubaker rocked back and forth. “Those are important concerns. How about I speak with members of the congregation, and ask them to take over your work while you travel?”

“But who could do it? Who would want to?”

“There are other fishermen in our village. There others who can smoke the fish for you. Let me reach out to them. If I could promise you that you’ll have a sufficient stock, and that you’ll have enough money to get you through the winter, will you reconsider your position?”

Harvey sighed. “Yes. I’ll reconsider. I’m not saying yes.”

“I’m not asking you to. I’m only asking you to reconsider.”


Kallon watched over the conversation between Harvey and High Priest Brubaker. He’d given Brubaker the idea to recruit others in the village to take over Harvey’s business while he was away. Part of his consciousness would follow Brubaker around as he convinced the others in the village to take on the work as a holy responsibility, a duty to one of the congregation.

The rest of his consciousness stayed with Harvey, considering other ways to nudge him onto the journey.


Harvey checked his fishing nets and poles for problems. Satisfied that they were ready, he grabbed his bait bucket and loaded everything onto his boat, then rowed to his favorite fishing spot. He was grateful to be away from the village for a while, to be out here in the water alone and doing what he loved to do.

He cast the net onto the water, waited for it to sink, and hauled it back in. It felt unusually heavy. Out of the water, Harvey saw that it was full of fish. He wondered how the net hadn’t broken. This one cast had brought in more fish than he often collected in an entire day.

When his bin was full, Harvey stopped casting the net and put it aside. He took out his pole and attached bait to the hook, dropping it over the side of the boat. Almost as soon as the bait vanished under the water, he felt a tug.  Setting the hook, he began pulling in the fish. It was one of the largest he’d ever caught. So were the next five.

“Harvey,” Kallon said. “How is the fishing today?”

“It’s excellent, I’ve never caught so many,” Harvey beamed. “It’s like they want to be caught today.”

“Yes it is.”  Kallon waited for the thought to occur to Harvey.

“Wait,” he said, baiting his hook again. “You’re doing this? You’re helping me?”

“I am,” Kallon told him. “I want you to understand how important your journey to Fryburg is to me. I want you to see how grateful I will be to you, and how I will take care of you for the rest of your days.”

“Ah,” Harvey said, dropping his hook into the water. Within seconds, he’d landed another large fish. What had been his best fishing day in thirty years suddenly felt like a handout. “Well, I’d better go back to shore. I’ve got more than enough fish here.”

“As you wish.”

Harvey rowed the boat back to shore. It took several trips to unload all the fish from the boat and into the smokehouse. It was exhausting work, but helped to ensure the life of the villagers and put coins in Harvey’s pocket. As much as he appreciated Kallon’s help, he found that he resented it a bit, too. It took some of the challenge of fishing away.

Harvey wondered if he could really say no to Kallon, despite all the talk of free will. It seemed that High Priest Brubaker and Kallon himself were determined to convince him.


From his position in the Ethereal Plane, Kallon sensed something wrong in the village. Something seemed to be disturbing the flow of mana into his spirit. He searched for the source of the disturbance. It wasn’t any of his followers, but seemed to be happening in the vicinity of several of them.

Kallon focused part of his consciousness on the area.

A woman Kallon had never seen stood in front of a group of villagers, talking to them. Kallon sensed a mana flow from her, and traced it back to the Ethereal Plane. At the other end, he found his fellow god, Mintra.

Kallon and Mintra had long had an uneasy truce. Mintra wanted followers in Antrea, because the village sat next to the Argasse River. Being a water god, Mintra preferred her followers to live near lakes, rivers, and oceans. It cost her less mana to act on water, just as it was easier for Kallon to act on food.

“You’ve sent a prophet to Antrea,” Kallon told Mintra. “You will urge her to leave at once.”

“I will not,” Mintra said. “My followers have as much right to be in a village as yours.”

“This is my home village. She must be urged to leave.”

Long ago, the gods reached certain understandings with one another. One of these was that they would designate a particular location as their home village. Other gods agreed not to send prophets and priests to this village. They would not encourage their prophets and priests to visit other gods’ home villages.

Kallon followed the prophet’s journey backward through time. He watched for signs of Mintra’s influence or involvement in the trip, but there were none. The prophet had come to Antrea of his own free will. The rules didn’t cover this situation. Mintra was right. She did not have to remove the prophet, because she had not placed him there.

“I will not remove Bella,” Mintra said. “She came of her own free will, as you have seen.”

Kallon had to get rid of this prophet quickly, before Mintra had roots here. Once she had followers in his home village, Mintra could destroy him. Kallon knew that Mintra had thousands of followers in many villages, so her mana pool would undoubtedly be much larger than his own.


Harvey had just cleaned his breakfast dishes when a knock came at his front door. He dried his hands and opened it.

“Charlie,” Harvey said. “Nice to see you.” Charlie Baker was one of three other fisherman in Antrea. Because of his larger boat and three strong sons, Charlie was a far more successful fisherman than Harvey had been, or at least wealthier.

“May I come in?”

Harvey stepped back, opening the door wide. “Of course.”

They walked to Harvey’s living room and sat down, Harvey in his favorite chair and Charlie on the sofa.

“High Priest Brubaker came to see me. He said that you will leave us for a while, and asked my family to take over your fishing duties while you’re away. I wondered why you didn’t ask me yourself?”

“Well,” Charlie looked down at the floor. “I’m not sure I want to leave. Besides, you have a family to support. It’s not right to ask you to support me, too.”

“Doesn’t Kallon’s word say that we should not allow our brethren to starve? Is not that his teaching?”

“There’s a difference between starvation and providing someone with income.”

Charlie nodded slowly. “Yes, that’s true. But as the priest explained it to me, you’ll be doing something for the glory of Kallon, something very important. That’s worthy of my support. I doubt you would do any less for me.”

Harvey sighed. “I would not allow your family to suffer. That would not be Kallon’s way.”

“Exactly. So please accept our help. It is not a charity.”

“How can you say that?”

“My eldest, Eric, is ready to take on a boat of his own. We’ve nearly put aside the money to get one. If we take on your fishing duties, using your boat, it will be great experience for him. You will be doing my family a favor, just as we will be doing one for you. Eric will learn to operate his own fishing boat, and you’ll continue to earn income while you’re away. Both families gain. Neither loses.”

“I see. That is very kind of you both.”

Charlie shook his head. “It’s not a kindness, Harvey. It’s the right thing to do, and it happens to serve both households.”

“I would need to teach you how to use my smoker. My customers will be used to the same flavor and texture.”

“I’ll bring Eric around tomorrow, if that’s acceptable.”

“Well, I haven’t made up my mind yet.”

Charlie smiled, patting Harvey on the shoulder. “You’re a stubborn one, Belgrave. You have been called to action by our lord Kallon, and you refuse. In your position, I would not hesitate. I would not want to seek his wrath.”
They walked to the door and said their goodbyes.


Harvey checked on the fish in his smoker and removed those which were properly preserved, moving the rest around to ensure they were heated evenly. After the previous day’s harvest, his smoker was nearly full. He hoped to finish filling it today.

He grabbed his bait and walked to the dock, where he found Eric Baker already waiting for him next to his boat.

“Mr. Belgrave,” Eric said, holding out his hand, “I’m excited to work with you today.”

Harvey shook young Eric’s hand.  “Well, I… I didn’t know you were coming.”

“My father said you needed our help, and he wants me to learn what I can from you.”

Harvey felt a tinge of concern. While he and Charlie Baker were both followers of Kallon, and members of the Antrea community, they were also competitors of sorts. There were customers who preferred Charlie’s fish over Harvey’s, and others who found Harvey’s better. Teaching young Eric his secrets would give the Baker family the advantage. He could return home to find himself out of business.

Harvey heard the voice of Kallon in his head. “Fear not, Harvey. I will not allow you to be driven out of business. After the trip, you’ll find that you have more business than you do today. This I promise you.”

“But I’ve not agreed to go. Everyone just assumes I will,” Harvey said.

“What?” Eric asked.

“Nothing,” Harvey muttered, clearing his throat. “Just talking to myself.”

“Oh,” Eric replied, “What can I do to help?”

Harvey took a deep breath. “Load the nets over there,” he said, pointing to his shack on the dock. “I’ll load the bait and poles.”

Eric rushed over to the shack and brought all of Harvey’s nets with him. They reached the boat at the same time and climbed aboard. Eric untied the mooring lines and they pushed away from the dock.

Harvey, still not convinced he could trust the young fisherman in the boat with him, decided that he would not fish in his best spots that day. He would keep some of his secrets in reserve, just to be safe.

Throughout the day, young Eric proved to be a very capable fisherman, nearly as good as Harvey himself. Harvey began to understand why the Baker family had been as successful as it had. They had clearly mastered the use of net and line, and were adept at finding good fishing spots. It wasn’t long before Harvey’s boat could hold no more fish and they returned to shore.

Eric helped Harvey tie the mooring line, unload the nets, and carry the fish back to his house. Harvey showed Eric how to prepare the fish for smoking, how to mix the right combination of wood, and rotate the fish. He showed Eric how he determined that the fish was properly preserved, and where he stored them. The boy seemed to grasp everything quickly and asked the right questions when Harvey didn’t provide all the information he should have.

Harvey asked Eric to take the extra fish that couldn’t fit into the smoker. Eric tried to refuse, but Harvey said that it was the right thing to do. Kallon would not want them to go to waste, and Harvey wanted to show his appreciation for Eric’s help. With some reluctance, Eric took the fish and returned home.

As much as he hated to admit it, Harvey knew that leaving his fishing activities to Eric would not leave him starving and destitute. In fact, he suspected that Eric’s youth might mean he would be better off. The young, strong man might just harvest more fish and do it more quickly. He debated asking Charlie if he could hire Eric as an assistant – or a partner. Then he thought better of it.

Harvey cleaned a couple of the fresh fish he’d caught and took them inside to cook for his dinner.


Mintra’s Prophet Donatella Batali stood in the center of Antrea’s town square, sharing the word of Mintra with those assembling around her.

Kallon could not interfere directly with her, but listened carefully as she spoke. He could sense belief shifting slightly away from him, for at least some of those present, and toward Mintra. He could not allow this to continue, but needed to choose his actions carefully. The other gods would be watching, and would step in if he violated the ancient agreements.

“Mintra is a kind and just goddess,” Batali told the crowd. “She will see that you have the rain you need for your crops. She will ensure your wells do not run dry. She will keep the river from flooding. She will keep you safe and healthy.”

Kallon noticed High Priest Brubaker walking nearby. He used some mana to ensure Brubaker heard the murmur of the crowd, and to heighten his curiosity. With some relief, Brubaker turned in the crowd’s direction and began walking briskly.

Brubaker stood and listened respectfully for a bit, as Batali explained that there could be no better goddess than Mintra. When he had heard all he could stand, he cleared his throat.

“Excuse me, miss,” Brubaker said, “but we have a god in Antrea.”

“Yes, I know,” she said. “Kallon. Others have told me of him. He is the god of food, and of lost souls. Isn’t that right?”

“That’s correct, and we have no need of your goddess.”

“I don’t believe that’s for you to decide, sir.”

“I am Kallon’s High Priest Brubaker. It is certainly my right to decide.”

She held up a hand. “No, it is not. It is the right of all these assembled people to decide for themselves.”

The crowd turned and stared at Brubaker. He tugged at his collar.

“That is true, but they have already decided. Most of these people appear in my temple on a regular basis.”

“Then you have nothing to fear from them listening to the word of Mintra. If your god is so powerful and good, then they will not be swayed. You are welcome to stay also.”

“I intend to,” Brubaker told her. “I will not allow you to blaspheme Kallon. If you do so, I will personally escort you from the village.”

“We’ll see about that,” Batali said, and began sharing parables about the goddess Mintra.

As he listened to her, Brubaker began to worry. The woman wove interesting tales, and held the audience spellbound. If he could not find a way to undermine her message, his congregation might diminish.

Kallon, from his position in the Ethereal Plane, had the same concern. It was now imperative that Harvey make his pilgrimage to Fryburg. Kallon needed more followers or he risked fading into obscurity.


Harvey sat at his kitchen table, a glass of water and plate of food in front of him. He cut a bit of fish with his fork, and put it into his mouth.

Kallon appeared in the chair across the table from him. Harvey nearly choked.

“I’m sorry I startled you, Harvey,” Kallon said. “I need to speak with you.”

Harvey took a sip of water.

“I need your decision now, Harvey. There are things happening beyond my control. I need you to start your journey in the morning.”

Harvey took a deep breath. “I don’t know if I can do this.”

“Please,” Kallon said. “I have done all I can. I have shown you that your fishing business will be safe without you for a time. I have shown you my willingness to help ensure that you always have a good harvest. I know you have spoken with others, and they have pledged their support. I hope you know that I will protect you all the way there and all the way back. I will not allow you to come to harm.”


“Harvey, this is the most important thing I have ever asked of any of my followers. I may not have time to find another. Believe me when I tell you that my very existence is at stake here.”

Harvey had trouble believing what he was hearing. He had never imagined that a god could cease to exist. He had always believed them to be all-knowing, all-seeing, and all-powerful. Yet there was no reason for Kallon to lie to him. He believed in Kallon, and had built much of his life around that belief. Now, it seemed, Kallon needed to believe in Harvey.

Asking him to journey across the forest to Fryburg was not a simple request. Harvey had heard stories of others who had made the trip. They had been set upon by wild animals, attacked by thieves, and met with suspicion by fellow travelers. Taking a trip west was considered by most of the villagers to be far too risky to be worthwhile. Surely Kallon knew this. Since he did, it must indeed be important. Could he let his god down?

“Tell me again, precisely, what you wish me to do, lord Kallon.”

“Pack up your cart. Fill it with some of your best preserved fish. Fryburg is far inland and has no nearby lakes or rivers. They will not have seen fish, or at least will not have seen much of it. This will attract the villagers to you, and explain your being there. You are a merchant hoping to sell his wares. You should be able to sell them at a considerable profit. This is one way that this journey will benefit you. I will see to it that Eric Baker brings in at least as many fish as you would, were you here.”

“But you want more than just me selling my fish.”

“Yes, of course. I want you to dine in their restaurants, drink in their bars, and get to know the people there. I want you to wear my symbol at all times. If you are asked about it, tell them of me. Share your experience. Tell the parables you’ve heard in the temple. Share your scripture with them. Help them to understand that I will care for them just as I am caring for you and the people of Antrea. You don’t need to embellish. Just share your belief and your truth with them. No more, no less. When I tell you, excuse yourself and return home.”

“You make it sound simple, but it won’t be a simple journey.”

“No, it won’t. It will have its share of dangers. I may not be able to prevent them all, but I will heal you if you are injured or sick. I will stop the dangers I can.”

Harvey let out a deep breath. “This is really that important, that you need me to risk my life in this way?”

“It is. I know you find this hard to believe, but I am at risk. Another god seeks to drive me out of Antrea. There is not much I can do to stop it.  If my word cannot spread to other villages, I might return to the ether.”

“You can die?”

“It’s not death in the way that you think of it, but it’s like that, yes.”

“If I refuse to go?”

“You’ll put me in a very precarious situation. I will need to manifest to another follower and convince them to go. My mana is already running low, and the work of Mintra’s prophet is reducing my supply.”

As much as the journey terrified him, Harvey knew what he must do. “I’ll go. For all you’ve done for me, I can’t let you down.”

“Thank you, my son. I will care for you as best I can. I promise that.”

Kallon faded out of view.

(End of Chapter 1 - On approximately November 20, 2016, I'll post the next installment.)

About the Author

Michael Salsbury / Author & Editor

In his day job, Michael Salsbury helps administer over 1,800 Windows desktop computers for a Central Ohio non-profit. When he's not working, he's writing, blogging, podcasting, home brewing, or playing "warm furniture" to his two Bengal cats.


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