Pellan trudged on, heading back toward his home by the feel of the wind. The sun had gone down and the darkness was complete. The few leathers of bitter melon Pellan had eaten near noon were long gone from his body. He was moving on nerve and anger, but the anger was fading in the storm.
He wished the priest was with him, so he could have someone to lash out at. If not the priest, he thought, then let some god appear, so he would have someone to curse.
The snow burned his face; the wind tore at his clothing and all but overturned his hearing. Then there was light, faint light, small in the distance. As he headed toward it, thinking of fire and warmth and food, it resolved into the figure of a man, strong, heavy, wide in the shoulders, dressed for battle with a sword drawn.
God or illusion? Does anyone ever really know?
Pellan spoke his name, “Simicababar,” and the figure nodded. Then he said, “How is it that you are here?”
“You called me and I came.”
“But it is said that you cannot leave your pocket universe, that the Changer locked you there forever.”
“I am here for you, because you called me. I stood through siege of war, unwavering, to protect my brother’s wife. That endurance is what you sought.”
“Can you give me strength to reach my own wife?”
“I can give you nothing. I can only show you what you lack.” And he was gone.
The storm, the cold and the darkness remained. Pellan began walking again, into the storm, toward his hartwa, and his wife and child. He wondered if they were still alive.
Encaritremanta appeared before him next, but he didn’t even acknowledge her presence. He had no need of a beautiful woman, scarcely clothed, to inflame his desire. He had a woman; plain faced, skeletal from hunger, holding his child to her breast. She was the one he wanted to reach. He growled, “Step aside, you glorious bitch, and let me go on to the one I love.”
Next Elmirandel stood by to watch him, but Pellan trudged past without even looking up.
There were other gods in the storm that night, less known to him, faint and half perceived. They surrounded him as he trudged onward. He could see them from time to time out of the corner of his eye. They meant nothing to him, except that he sometimes turned to curse them. Hunger walked with him; death walked by his left hand. He knew that this time he might not defeat them, but he knew that he would never stop trying.
The last goddess was the oldest of them all. She was there before Man was born. The Weathermistress in a green cloak, open to show her breasts, remained unaffected as she stood in the middle of the storm of her own creation. She was not cruel, although many call her that. She was not kind. She poured out the sweet honey of life with one hand and the icy stream of death with the other. She could be beseeched, but she never listened. She was neither kind nor cruel, but she was capricious.
Pellan stopped still before her. Here was the goddess he feared, for she had all power and no mercy. She looked him through with calm eyes. Her names were life and death. Whichever name she answered to tonight, was not his to command. He looked deeply into her eyes of ice and said, “I will not beg.” Final post tomorrow.