As stated yesterday, I have been working on a collection of short stories. To those who are curious, here is the beginning of one of my stories from A Treasure Greater and Other Short Stories. This is a story that is very special to me. I present for your reading pleasure, the beginning segment of Twilight of the Gods.
Twilight of the Gods
Twilight was steadily encroaching upon the tall stone fortress that sat upon the grey cliffs and snow topped peaks of Mount Jybok. Upon the balcony of the stronghold stood what was once the imposing figure of Gyshtak, greatest of the gods. At one time he was a slayer of serpents, gargantuan three-headed wolves, dragons, and giants, but now he leaned tiredly upon the railing, his body worn out. The gold-jeweled winged helmet that he wore upon his head, which once felt light, now felt heavy. The setting sun bathed the chain of stony mountains in a faint gold. He looked straight down into the canyon, much of it obscured by clouds bathed red like wine, and thought of throwing himself into the abyss. It would certainly be a quicker way to die than to wait for the inevitable.
His kind were slowly dying.
In bygone days, bards sang praises to Gyshtak and the other gods in tavern halls, and poets in the forums recounted their tales in a poetry of words woven together like a brilliant tapestry coming to life. Children once prayed to them for their protection, and men and women sacrificed their cattle at the altars in which the smoke rose up as a sweet savor into the heavens. But those days were slowly vanishing. Seldom did people call on Gyshtak the Good, the god who molded men out of clay and breathed life into their souls, while giving them wisdom. Nor did people anymore appreciate his son Torgis, who spread his light among the world by riding a chariot pulling the sun. The lesser gods feared even worse, many of them sick, some already deceased due to unbelief.
“My Lord, my Lord,” cried a voice behind Gyshtak. It was Rubloh, the messenger.
Gyshtak looked wearily at the messenger god. “Why is it you disturb me? Cannot the Father of the Gods have this evening to himself?”
“My Lord, I pray forgiveness, but it’s important.”
The Father of the Gods addressed the messenger’s concern by averting his gaze into the sky. The remaining sunlight was now a faint sliver stretching across the horizon. Above the clouds the stars were peeking out, the jewels of Mydona’s tiara flung into the sky to give a little light for mankind.
“Tell me, Rubloh,” the old god slowly said to the messenger, “when was the last time you beheld the sky goddess’s jewelry?”
“I can’t remember,” the messenger god said at a loss.
“Of course you can’t,” Gyshtak sighed looking at him. “You’ve always been running, delivering messages to and fro, never giving yourself a moments rest.”
“What else could I do, my Lord? It’s my calling.”
“But it won’t be much longer, and you know this to be true. Our days are dying. Science and reason have brought so-called enlightenment to the people below.”
Rubloh cocked an eyebrow. “What do you mean by so-called enlightenment? Forgive me for being perplexed, my Lord, but are they enlightened or are they not?”
“They are enlightened in the sense that they now know how to cure most diseases. They are enlightened because they have made advances in science, finding out ways in which the world works. Yet they think worship is archaic, being the cause of past wars.”
“Has it not?” asked the messenger god.
“Aye, lad, it has,” Gyshtak god nodded gravely. “Yet in their arrogance they have assumed that just because they stop believing in us that war and hatred will cease. Many of the people have ceased to believe in us, and yet they still kill using some vain philosophy, or by a term called eugenics, and more often than naught in the names of greed and politics.”
Rubloh cleared his throat, eager to run again, though he couldn’t run as fast as he used to. It wasn’t long ago, in which he could run fast as twice as a cheetah, without tiring. Now he only ran half as fast as one. “My Lord, I hate to cut your ruminations short, but we have been called by Galdis to help fight off an encroaching group of giants. These beasts are enclosing in on the town of Hearthfire.”
“Galdis needs our help, does he?” said Gyshtak walking away from the balcony and into the throne room. The pillars, the floors, the walls, the ceiling, and the throne, were all carved and polished out of marble, and etched in different designs and symbols. White curtains cascaded down, like wispy waterfalls, from the ceiling. Wearily he sat down on his throne, his arms resting upon the lion carved out of the right arm of the chair, a wolf to the left.
“That’s what he has told me,” reiterated Rubloh.
“Cannot the people in their infinite wisdom help themselves?” Gyshtak pondered aloud.
“Shall I tell Galdis that he won’t have the honor of your presence?”
The Father of the Gods thought for a moment. “No,” he finally said. “I shall answer the call.”
True to his word, Gyshtak readied his chariot, hitching it to his best steed, the gold and silver stallion Jerot. With a crack of the whip, he flew over the mountains into the night towards Hearthfire. It took Gyshtak very little time to reach his destination. There were six giants surrounding the town, and yet everyone was oblivious as they rode their horseless carts, polished their store windows, and went about their business. On an overlook to the valley below, Galdis was standing vigilant, spear in in his right hand, and battle-axe on his left hip. From head to toe in armor he gleamed under the starlight.
Gyshtak brought his steed Jerot to a stop not far from the God of Battle.
“Hail, Father of the Gods,” Galdis saluted him, as Gyshtak dismounted off of his chariot.
“Hail, God of Battle,” said Gyshtak solemnly, for Galdis, like himself, was not in prime form anymore. The old god of battle was just that; old. His once tawny-copper beard was now white, and wrinkles creased his battle worn face. Years past, Galdis had been rejuvenated after each battle. But now it looked as though his days of rejuvenation were over. He was growing worn out, not from battle itself, but from disbelief.
“What’s the situation thus far?” asked the Father of the Gods.
“The giants have been stomping in a circle on the outskirts of the town, getting ready to pounce,” Galdis scratched his beard.
“Have not the tremors alerted the people to their awful plight?”
“In a way it has, my Lord. But they don’t chalk it up to giants. No, rather they see it is caused by earthquakes.”
“Earthquakes!” exclaimed Gyshtak incredulously.
“Yes,” nodded Galdis. “Right now they say they are just experiencing some light tremors, but they are worried that the quakes will grow in intensity.”
“They will if we don’t put a stop to those giants,” cried Gyshtak, withdrawing his huge broadsword from its sheath. He had won the sword in a battle of wits against a giant, and what a prize it was with its engraved hilt of golden leaves, its jewel encrusted pommel, and its silver blade that could cut through rock and stone.
He paused a moment. The blade was much heavier than he remembered it. In fear, Gyshtak didn’t know how many swings he’d be able to take until he lost all strength.
“Tell me, Galdis, do we alone have the power to stem the onslaught?”
“Nay, my Lord,” said the God of Battle. “Yeroon and Cuawalyn have said they plan to enter the fray.”
“Why are they not yet here?”
“I am unsure,” Galdis shook his head.
But the question didn’t need to be asked. Both knew what caused their delay. Yeroon the God of Waters had aged even greater than many of the others had. It wasn’t any wonder why. The people had built steam-powered vessels that could dive like whales underwater, in hopes that they’d find Yeroon’s kingdom. But such was not the case, so they disavowed him as a false god. It was much harder now for Yeroon to ride his chariot pulled by sea serpents, as even the serpents were aging. But that wasn’t all that wore on the god of waters. For he was also the husband of Femelda, the sea goddess who sent out dolphins to save sailors, and who cared for the life of the sea. Yeroon spent many days and nights tending to his sickly queen. Though both felt dismayed by the lack of belief, Femelda took it even harder than her husband, to the point that she just stayed in her bed of seaweed. As for Cuawalyn, the Goddess of storms and steel, they always thought Yeroon sent his water up to her so that she could rain it upon the earth, but since they couldn’t find him, they figured she was a false goddess as well. Cuawalyn, who once used her cloak to fly through the air, bringing rain, had slowed down considerably. This was of no consequence to the people, though, as the storm clouds travelled without her regardless. What did they need a goddess for when clouds could make rain on their own? Cuawalyn was now primarily worshipped for teaching the people how to make steel weaponry.
“Father of All Gods,” spoke up Galdis. “We can’t dely. The giants are already shaking the city.”
“Yes, I suppose you’re right,” Gyshtak sighed. “Let’s put an end to these demons of the abyss.”
If you like what you have read, then check out the full short story on https://www.booksie.com/475017-twilight-of-the-gods on Booksie.com.
(C) Jonathan Scott Griffin