(unfinished; not sure if/when I'll come back to it)
The god lay under the spread of trees, a
roughly woven green cloak cocooned around him so that, should anyone stumble
across him, all one might see would be a lumpy sort of sack topped with a
fringe of dark hair. Arista approached slowly. As the god’s chief servant, hers
was the most difficult job in creation. She would be in trouble if she woke him
and in trouble if she didn’t. Bending over him, her long, silver-white hair
spilling around her and onto the sleeping figure, she took him gently by the
shoulder and shook.
A head popped out of the top
of the bundle, and Durandios’ green eyes began to focus. Arista rose to her
full height, which was not inconsiderable and was enhanced by her thin frame.
All Ninatat looked alike,
all having been carved from the same slab of silver, but Durandios knew each
one by name and by sight. And he recognized Arista, certainly, who had been his
attendant since he’d first breathed life into her. His attendant and his bane.
“What?” the god groused.
“You’re sleeping outside
again,” Arista pointed out.
Durandios snorted, and
Arista sighed. They had been together long enough that she was often frank with
him, and though his tongue could be sharp, he wasn’t generally unkind.
“Please, let’s go back to
the Realms,” said Arista. She often requested this, for herself as much as for
Durandios, and sometimes he’d even do it, if only for a few days.
But not today. “No.” He
kicked his feet free of the cloak and fumbled into a sitting position, looking
up at her like a stubborn child.
“Then come to the house at
Durandios was looking around
him as if he’d never seen this place before, the trees, the clearing Arista had
crossed to get to him. There was a river to the west; she could hear it
chatter. No birds, though, she realized suddenly. The forest around them was
Durandios thrust a hand up,
a signal for Arista to help him to his feet. He wasn’t as tall as her, although
he was nearly. She frowned at the cloak, which was covered in dirt and grass, a
few leaves. Unbecoming to a god. Her own robes fairly glowed, and Arista felt a
pang of guilt that she outshone her creator.
“Ah!” Durandios had passed
her to walk ahead of her, and he held up a warning finger. “You know better
“We’ll get you clean when we
get to the house, dress you in—”
Durandios turned, walking backwards
with no loss of speed. “I’ll put on jeans.”
Jeans did not exist in
AElit. And jeans would not exist in any other part of the world for thousands
of years. But they were his favorite thing to wear at home, where no one would
His wearing jeans meant they
wouldn’t be going anywhere for a while. In the Realms, holy robes were
required. And on the small, pastoral island of AElit, one would dress as
Durandios was now in a cloak and tunic, breeches and sandals.
It wasn’t long before Moka
Durand came into view, the higher walls rearing above the trees and its stone
made white by the gleaming sun. It had the look of a monastery. There was even
a bell tower, although Arista wasn’t sure why because they never rang the bell.
“Are you hungry, Ninano?”
“Not really.” He had turned
around again, and they pushed through the little iron gate that marked the
boundary of the estate. As if a god had limits to what he could take if he
The path was straight and
paved with stones. On either side marched the low hedges of a garden that
flared out and around the house. The hedges formed a little maze that
incorporated benches and fountains. Arista had designed it, and as far as she
knew, Durandios didn’t even know it was there.
The mazes at the front of
the house had low enough hedges to see one’s way through, but the maze Arista
had created at the back was much more difficult. The hedges there were nine
feet high. It was not a place to go for an idle walk. Durandios did not walk
there, either; instead he tended to venture off the grounds and fall asleep
beneath trees until Arista came for him. It was happening more and more
frequently, and Arista had started debating (when alone, of course) whether to
But to tell Tithendion,
Arista had to get to Argyros. And even when they did go to the Realms, they almost
never went to Argyros.
Arista didn’t think there
had been a falling out between Durandios and his father; she knew her lord too
well to honestly think such a thing could be hidden from her. But the two of
them had never been close. It was no secret in any of the Realms that
Tithendion adored his son (and hated Durandios’ twin sister, but then, who didn’t);
however, Durandios seemed to have very little affection for anything to do with
Perhaps he’d been made too
well. Tithendion had created Durandios to care for the world, to breathe life
into it and keep it going. What concern of Durandios’, then, was the heavenly
host? Aside from having made the Ninatat, of course.
It wasn’t the first time
Arista had gone through these mental paces. If Durandios heard her thoughts
about him—and he always did—he didn’t seem to care.
And if Arista had a heart, she
was sure it would be broken.