Can a human kill a God?
The eight men stood in a rough circle. The swollen red sun that had beaten on them all day now sat behind a dune the size of a small mountain. The eight stood in the middle of an outcropping of jagged rocks, drenched in sweat. Sand stuck to their bronze skin, in their intricate, beaded beards. Their bodies rapidly cooled in the coming darkness, just like the desert that surrounded them. They had ridden hard to reach this place. Some had journey for days before coming here. Their horses were tied up nearby at the edge of rocks, trembling with exhaustion.
“I still don’t know how you talked me into this insane idea Tandor,” said one of the men. He was the only one still wearing his robe. His hooded face was concealed, standing in the shadow of the rocks. Tandor didn’t understand how the man stood the heat.
“I’ve done nothing but wonder how you came up with such a plan since the day you approached me,” said the warbling voice of Pasceto. “Now that we are here, I think we should get this over with.”
Tandor had summoned the other seven tribal leaders within the past few months. His visions told him they all had to meet, at this spot, at this time. Now that the sun had set, a luscious, round moon was rising. It shone a shimmering blue. Its light combined with the heat still rising from the desert floor made the world around them look vaguely like they were standing in a ocean.
It had been hard to get all of the leaders to agree to meet him. They had all been at war with one another at different times in the past. Taskil, the hooded one, was still at war with Tandor’s people. All were suspicious. Most thought Tandor insane. It had taken threats, bribes, and even worse measures to get the seven other tribal leaders to agree to this meeting. He looked around, his heavy black hair dragged across his shoulders. He had been successful, he had done it, all were here. He took that fact as a sign from God that he was on the right path. Tandor was ready to begin.
“Each of you knows something about the visions I have received,” boomed the deep set voice of Tandor. It echoed among the rocks. “What some of you would call a dream, some call madness, I say is a message.” Tandor paused, looking each man in the eye, even Taskil who had dropped his hood, and measure them. Confident he had their attention he continued.”Instructions. From the one who created us. He told me that if we would come together, away from distraction, the petty divisions, and prayed for him, he would visit us.”
“Pray?” asked another of the eight men. “What does that even mean?”
“Created us?” Pasceto’s voice dripped with contempt. He looked down his thin nose at Tandor. “We have always existed and we always will. That is the teachings. Just as the trees and the sand. The water and the camel. We are born, we live, we die.”
Tandor spoke with a finality that it would be futile to challenge. “They are wrong. Does the saddle come from nothing? Does the house you live in spring up from the land complete? No. Neither did we. Someone had to make us. The world. It is to him we must pray. He has shown me how. To pray, we must simply kneel and put all of our thoughts, our mental energies, into asking the creator to come before us.”
A man would had been silent so far spoke up, his voice raspy like it had been seldom used. Unlike Tandor and most of the others, his hair was of a soft brown color, thin and short. “Does this creator have a name?”
The seven murmured and whispered among each other. Tandor watched them all, a smirk on his face. Let them think him mad. Let the strange words such as pray and God roll off their tongues. He would be proven right. He knew it was more than a dream. The visions, each the same, had come to him several time over his life. The last time, a few months ago, had been the most vivid of all. It had shown everyone who stood before him now. It had shown the place where they were now standing. It had given him the words he now used.
“We’re out here. Let’s just get this over with,” Pasceto said. He was a smaller man, more merchant in build than warrior. His belly had grown soft and flabby with age. He patted it now. “I want to get back to my wives. Have them scrub the sweat and sand of this foolish endeavor off of me.”
Tandor was just as eager to begin. The anticipation of seeing the God of his dreams standing before him made him dance up and down on the balls of his feet. Oh how he would be rewarded by his maker! To prove all the others wrong would be as sweet as the nectar from a cactus.
“Let us form a complete circle then. We will all kneel down, look to the sky, and call down God to stand before us. You must all want it with your soul.”
There was moaning and groaning. Open whispers of madness and lunacy reached Tandor’s ears. Tandor had to give a few men a stern gaze, to remind them of what he could still do if they didn’t. Some made a show of great reluctance but in the end they all complied The eight made a wide circle and knelt down in the sand. Tandor started the prayer he had heard for most of his adult life. The others mimicked him as he repeated it.
“Oh God. The creator. Most powerful being of all. Our Celestial Lord. Visit us. Lead us into a golden age greater than any ever witnessed. Give us your wisdom and your blessings. Reveal yourself to us.”
Tandor was the leader of the largest and most powerful tribe in all of Anurkai. That wasn’t enough for him. He envisioned something greater for his people since he wrest power from Albisin. Albisin was weak. He had led Tandor’s tribe to loss after loss against the other tribes. What should have been easy victories became sound defeats. That wasn’t the case anymore. Not since he became Anu. Albisin he sent into exile, as killing him would have turned the tribe against Tandor. That was just his first step to glory. He had tired of the attacks from Puu Oo to the west and Elias from the north. Once in charge, he crushed them. Tandor wanted his people strong enough to defend against all future attacks and perhaps even stretch out, ending any threats to his tribe once and for all. Once he became Anu, leader, that was when his visions began. Now his goal was to unite all the tribes into one force that would create an empire. Together the tribes would be one. They would grow stronger and accomplish greater things.
This was on his mind as Tandor led the chant on and on. All his spirit and all his will was bent to bringing forth God. To have God answer his call. His fervent pleas influenced those closest to him. They seemed to chant with more vigor. That spurred Tandor on to increase his own. How long chanted, kneeling in the sand, mind, body and soul tuned to the heavens Tandor didn’t know. All other thoughts and sensations left his mind except for the one. To see his God. He was snapped out of prayer just as he felt a strange sensation around him by a shout from Pasceto.
“I’m am done with the foolishness. I expect your tribute to be sent to me promptly Tandor.” Pasceto rose to his feet, brushing sand from his skirt.
Tandor was about to speak when a sharp whip crack broke the air. The sound made the rest of them jump to their feet. Looking up towards the source, Tandor saw a bluish lightning like bolt hang ten feet above them in the clear sky. It coalesced into a ball the size of a coconut. It grew at the same time it sank to the ground. Tandor began to chant again. The others murmured in frightened awe. Pasceto rejoined the circle, mouth agape.
The ball of crackling light reached the ground. It sharply collapsed to something the size of a grape. It’s brightness intensified and a smell that reminded Tandor of cleanliness after a rainstorm filled the air. A wave like pulse of energy erupted from the ball, bathing the circle. All the men looked about, trying to see if the others were hurt. They were all panicked but there seemed to be no effect to their persons.
A sound like two swords being clashed violently together snatched there attention back to the center of the circle. The blue light became brighter than the midday sun. All had to turn away from the glare. Tandor still had the afterimage of blue spots in his vision when he turned back around. It dark again. Tandor fell to his knees.
“Tandor! What have you done!” One of the men shouted, his voice breaking in fear.
“Is that God?” another asked, backing away, tripping over his robe and falling into the sand.
While the others recoiled Tandor rose and took a step forward. Where the light had been now stood a man. He was taller than them all, standing about eight feet in height. He was naked and appeared a perfect specimen. His hair was a close cropped midnight black, not to different from the shade Tandor’s was. His eyes were black, with no pupils. While all eight of them had beards of one kind or another the newcome had none. His face was smooth and he seemed to be of an indeterminate age. Not young but not old either. He stood there looking around. Tandor could see confusion on his face.
“Where am I?” the figure spoke, in a masculine voice that somehow instantly commanded respect and loyalty. “Who am I?”
“You are God.” Tandor looked up to the man. “You are with us here. On Anurkai.” Tandor spread out his arms wide.
“God,” the figure spoke. He tried on the word like it was a garment. “God.” Confusion still dominated God’s tone. He looked down at himself then back at the circle of men.
Tandor dropped to one knee and bowed his head. “I am Tandor. One of your faithful servants. We have brought you here from the Celestial Heavens to lead us. To guide us with your wisdom and powerful. You are God, the most powerful being in the world. This is your world. You created it. You created us.”
“I created all of this?” the figure asked, incredulous.
Pasceto spoke up. “I don’t know what is going on. If this is a trick of some kind, I do not know how you did it. It is black and foul. You will pay for this. I tell you Tandor.”
Tandor stood and marched right up to Pasceto. He was almost screaming in the man’s face. “How can you not believe, even still? He has come to us from his seat in the celestial.”
“I see a man. A strange man I give you that. One I’ve seen entirely too much of. Don’t forget my tribute Tandor. This changes nothing. I still intend to collect it.”
Tandor turned back to the figure and bowing his head in respect. “God they doubt you. Show us your power. Show us your magic. How you create. Give us a place to worship you, greater than this world has ever seen.”
The figure rose his hands to his chest and looked at them. He looked at Tandor and then at Pasceto. Tandor felt a strange tingling sensation in his mind. The others must have felt it to as they started rubbing at there temples.
The figure then rose his hands above his head and closed his eyes. The ground began to tremble and shake around them. The circle broke and all of the man clustered before the figure, who now seemed to shimmer in the night. Like a haze formed around the moon.
Behind the naked man, the land began to change. Off in the distance an enormous ziggurat began to rise out of the ground. It rose complete, sand pouring off of its sides. Then around it a city arose, complete with canals and walkways, roads and palm trees. Around that massive walls of brick encircled the city in a square. Every twenty feet a low tower arose. Two immense bronze gates were set in each of the four sides.
Around that water began to seep up from the sand, becoming a large lake that surround the entire structure a mile in each direction. The last thing to arise were bridges of stone that crossed the lake to each of the gates. With a quiet finality everything froze into place. A complete city fortress stood where only dunes had been moments before.
The being lowered his hands. The haze around him vanished. He turned to look at his creation then to his hands. He seemed as astonished as the regular men. Tandor smiled at the splendor of God’s creation. Pasceto jaw hung low. He crossed in front of the being and dropped to his knees.
“God, I am yours. Command us. Lead us to greatness.”
The rest followed. They praised God and they praised Tandor. Tandor smiled as his mind raced with possibilities. His dreams had become real.
Looking up to God then down to the others Tandor proclaimed, “Behold, the city of Tandorlorn. Behold our God, The Celestial Lord.”
Daon was a Bronze Man. Trifles like the hot desert wind whipping at his body were beneath him. The coarse sand stung his body and made his arms and legs feel like raw meat. A Bronze Man didn’t complain about such things. Daon was a Bronze Man. His body ached. Sore and weary from marching in full armor with spear and shield in hand. Daon didn’t complain about such things. Daon was a Bronze Man. He felt as if his bronze breastplate would melt into his skin. The punishing sun would fuse his body with his armor. He would be a Bronze Man indeed. A Bronze Man didn’t complain though. It wouldn’t do Daon any good if he did.
I didn’t ask to be a Bronze Man. Daon thought as he followed the squad mate in front of him off the bridge to Tanderlorn and down into the dunes. The sand sucked at his feet, already heavy from the bronze and leather boots he wore.
Ahead of him Daon’s squad of eleven other Bronze Man crashed into the crowd of people between the road and the lake. With rough shoves, smacks of round bronze shields against bodies, and the occasional butt to the head with a spear shaft, the Bronze Man soldiers parted the Water Cult. The soldiers cursed the brown robed men, it was only men, as they made their way through. The violence was one sided. Anyone who attacked a Bronze Man died where they stood.
Daon flowed through the opening created by his brothers. He didn’t engage any of the cult followers. He certainly wasn’t going to take pleasure in inflicting violence against the Water Cult. As his brothers did. Maybe the other squad mates were taking out their frustration, Daon thought. He knew they were angry at having to collect the water themselves this time. If it wasn’t for the Water Cult crowding the shores of the Blessed Lake, Daon’s squad would be in their normal position. Standing guard over the caravan wagon that now waited for them on the road. Shaded in the canopy built on top of the wagon.
Daon didn’t feel any reason to inflict additional pain on the Water Cult. He already pitied them. The men spent their whole lives trying to be as pure as The Celestial Lord. Now, at the New Year, they came from all across Anurkai to bath in the supposed pure waters of creation. It was thought this would heal them of any sickness or impurities. Of the body or of the soul. The more foolish among them, the priests who thought they had achieved this pureness, would attempt to drown themselves tonight. After The Celestial Lord made his rare appearance and led the country in prayer. Daon was thankful he wasn’t going to have to be the one to pull out the bloated, water filled bodies once the Water Cult left this year.
The stink of them was almost physical. Some of them had been out in the desert for almost a week. Not to mention the time it took to cross it. They could use a bath. Why the Lord and his Anu tolerated such nonsense Daon couldn’t understand. It seemed like nothing but a waste of life. He kept such dangerous thoughts to himself. His place wasn’t to question. He was a Bronze Man. He was raised to obey. To be the embodiment of The Celestial Lord’s holy judgement.
The Bronze Man cut a swathe through the follower’s ranks until they reached the water’s edge. “Out of my way filth,” threatened the Bronze Man in front of Daon. His name was Nusku. He was a new transfer to the squad. Before the cult member could move, Nusku smashed him in the face with his shield. The man fell in silence. Daon looked away.
Behind Daon was a stream of bloody and bruised cult members. Some cried and sobbed out of pain. Some cried, praising the Bronze Man. Happy at their thankfulness. The attacks by the Bronze Man showed they cult followers they still had weakness in their souls. Some of the men behind him showed this belief by pleading after Daon for judgement. “Am I strong oh Bronze Man?” “Praise The Celestial Lord.” “Am I ready to take my place in the Celestial Heavens?”
Daon did his best to ignore them. He looked at the downed man. The last person in Daon’s path to the shore. They looked about the same age, he and the cult member. Young. His hood had fallen back. His head was shaven. He had a gash along his cheek. It had split open and blood ran rivulets down the side of his face to his ear. Daon thought about offering him a hand up. His arm moved towards the man. Daon jerked it back with a start. Thoughts like that still surprised him. He wasn’t sure where they came from.
Daon turned away from the downed man, his lips twisted. Yes, the cult were fools. Still he pitied them. Despise welled up in him for the Anu and their Divinies. They allowed this and other disgusting acts to happen. The Celestial Lord Daon hated most of all.
By the time Daon took one knee to fill his water skin, the rest of his squad had already finished. “Hurry up, Daon,” Nusku called to him, water dripping from his hands onto the sand. The others squad members must not have informed Nusku yet about keeping away from the strange Daon. The other Bronze Man simple went back up to the caravan. Beating a new path as they went.
The water was a still, austere blue. The wind that pulled at his sand brown hair didn’t disturb its surface. Reaching in with the skin, he remembered another reason why he hated this task. For some reason when Daon touched the water a feeling of melancholy washed over him. Was it something unknown from his past? The way he was trapped in the present? A doomed feeling about his future? Daon didn’t want to think about it.
He looked up at the massive red walls across the lake. They surrounded Tanderlorn, making an impressive and dramatic impression, before you even entered the city. Daon wondered if five hundred years ago you could see the massive stone blocks the city was created with. The wind and the desert, combined with time, had made the walls one smooth, imposing structure.
Daon turned to check behind his shoulder. Nusku had moved on up the slope. Daon reached under his lamellar skirt. There he had tied onto a leather strap around his thigh a second water skin. His deft fingers he made the swap.
Again Daon touched the water and tried to distract himself. Up the wall, between two triangular roofed guard towers, was a five star shaped opening. Here the waste water from the city poured in a cascading waterfall. Magic of The Celestial Lord had formed the Blessed Lake. That magic kept it filled and apparently clean of all the piss and shit as well. Daon had to admit to himself there was at least one good thing The Celestial Lord brought to his subject’s lives. Without Him the city of Tanderlorn would be dry in a day.
Full at last, Daon corked the water bottle. He hung it on his belt and rose to his feet. He faced a wall of people looking at him with a mixture of awe and jealousy. Daon scanned there faces, old and young alike. He was overwhelmed with the urge to yell at them. To tell them to stop wasting their time and lives. To go home and forget about The Celestial Lord. They could be free to choose to do something else. Instead he simply asked, “Let me pass.”
The crowd whispered. It sounded like a sigh of the wind among the sand dunes. The sea of brown robes parted. Daon trundled back to the wagon, glad to be done with this part of the day’s task.