From the eyes of Garrick, it was expected that Sylas would take the order from Keiran and see it through. Without hesitation, without incident. As was the Diviner of Karma's nature; to be calm and stoic. The last thing expected from Garrick was to see the man rebel before his master.
"Well, that's your mission objective! Good luck, man, and take care out there! Oh, and Sylas," The energetic Keiran swirled around to the man beside him, "You're going, too. Surprise!"
But this fated time, rebellion it was. "Keiran, I don't understand." With a voice that teetered with anxious emotion, Sylas' cool demeanor vanished. "I don't – He doesn't need a partner for this. And I shouldn't have to…"
"Don't be sour, dearest. Believe it or not, I'm doing this with you in mind! That… town I'm sending you to…" Lazily setting his chin against his knitted fingers, Keiran suggested carefully, "It should be quick and easy for you, right?"
Sylas paused for a moment, unmoving and mouth shut, desperately holding the unsaid words back. Unfortunately for Garrick, his mind-reading barriers were locked tight as always.
Still hoping to follow along the conversation as an observer, Garrick's blue eyes visited his superior, who was just as impenetrable with his ever-present smirk.
"I refuse." The charcoal-haired Sylas concluded at last.
"I don't care. You're going back to earth to fix that town, and you don't have a choice."
The coldness in Keiran's tone forced Garrick to side with Sylas. "Hey, if he doesn't wanna go, he shouldn't have to, right?"
When Sylas' eyes turned to him directly, the blond man wondered if he had spoke out of turn. After all, he understood little of what Sylas' issue was. Nonetheless, he still felt it honorable to make a stand, and for that, he felt no regret.
"Ah, but he does, my darling. Life is like that sometimes. Certain things just must be done, and certain limits must be pushed and tested." Such a tone hardly seemed empathetic.
Forgetting to bow, Sylas turned to the door, leaving in a hurry. Whether or not he would return was up to him, but both men present knew his decision.
There was a moment when Garrick and Keiran both shared heaved sighs. Surely, Garrick always thought of Sylas to be calm and responsible, and so seeing him upset and hesitant was new to him. Almost frightening.
While Keiran began organizing around his desk – tampering with things as he went - the curious Garrick took initiative to question the man, "You think I need help? Is that why you're sending him with me?"
"No." The supreme god answered simply; brown irises raised in amusement. "And it's not as if he doesn't want to be your partner, I assure you. He's not fond of the humans, that's all. I'm sure you wouldn't want to travel somewhere if you felt the people there were horrible. Potentially, people who would harm you."
Harm? But conversation had to cease there, and Garrick knew better than to meddle.
It only took a matter of minutes for one of Runawynd to descend to earth. When Garrick and Sylas arrived in the town, they were greeted by a golden sunset and cold chill – one that felt rare compared to the seasonally warm weather that Runawynd currently had to offer.
As proposed by Sylas, they wandered the town in search of lodging. After all, the untimely sun had already begun to set, and they needed a headquarters of privacy during their stay. One could only assume they had much yet to accomplish. Keiran's directions were strict but vague, as if he himself was unsure of how to "fix that town."
Upon entering, Garrick attempted conversation. "Dunno why Keiran had us leave so soon. I mean, we couldda stayed at home a little longer. Or at least 'til the sun came up. …So, whad'dya think's wrong here, anyway? There aren't a whole lot of people around, but maybe that's 'cuz it's getting late."
"…" Sylas chose to remain silent, leading Garrick to believe that he had no answer to offer him.
As much as the Diviner of Fate loved earth, he couldn't imagine how contrasted Sylas' feelings were. For a moment, he pondered how long it had been since the other man had last visited earth. Following that, he thought to ask, but decided to wait for something more opportune.
"I think…" Sylas started at last, his gaze still pressing into the ground beneath his footsteps. "It's strange that Keiran would give us a mission like this. Just how long does he expect for us to stay down here?"
"You really don't like it down here, do you?"
A blunt pause was then interrupted by a response, "You shouldn't be talking like that. If the humans were to find out about us-"
"I know, I know." Despite his exasperated tone, Garrick couldn't hide a smile. Sylas remained focused, yet genuinely uninterested in all else. But once again, Garrick found himself strolling spell-bound by the natural beauties of earth around him.
Their surroundings seemed innocent and humble. They followed a line of small homes and shops - already closed - along the cobblestone pathway until they came to a lantern-lit heart of town. A fountain that would otherwise be bursting with water sat idle in the center, adorned with autumn flowers and other decor.
The colored leaves of the trees (as Garrick recalled were just beginning to change from his last visit) had strayed from their branches and were now sprawled against the pathway in an array of color. There was little to no breeze; just the dry, piercing air around them.
"It's so nice out here!" Garrick suddenly burst, chest overflowing with admiration.
Without anticipation, a numbing gust of wind brought the leaves spiraling around the two men; reds, yellows, and browns rushing around them. And just as quickly as they rose, they fell. Garrick could swear he felt a few brush against his sensitive skin… In an odd manner that made him think of only one suited person…
Upon realizing where this "miracle" came from, Garrick yelled to the skies, "Shiiiit, that was cold!"
"…Be grateful there's no one here to witness your idiocy." And with that, Sylas commenced his walking pace once more.
Blushing? Is Sylas blushing? Interesting. A full-grown, unintentional smirk spread across Garrick's face, which he attempted to hide by lowering his head. He can be kinda scary and annoying sometimes, but maybe I just need to take the time out to get to know him better.
As if fed up with the childish nonsense, Sylas interrupted all oncoming thoughts by pointing out a particular building further off. Amidst the various brick buildings, Garrick noticed the words, "Inn & Tavern" etched in a wooden sign. They approached the establishment.
The smell of crisp foliage was replaced with that of liquor and grilled fish. The coldness gratefully eased from Garrick's body as soon as he entered the dimly lit room. He shot a relieved look at Sylas, hoping to get a mutual response, but that straight face never once wavered.
Such a welcoming place, and yet there were no humans in sight. Confused and slightly anxious, Garrick spoke up, "Hello? We're looking for a place to stay! Think you could lend a hand?"
Quickened footsteps. Behind the far counter, a stocky man briskly jogged from a staircase beneath the floor – apologizing all the while for his absence.
Once situated behind the counter, the stylishly-unshaved man greeted his new customers with a soft smile and a coarse voice, "Travelers, huh? I'll be damned. Where do you hail from?" Without being asked, the bartender readied two glasses of water to offer the guests.
Taking up the opportunity, Garrick made himself comfortable in the seat in front of the man - Sylas following suit. "Out of country. We're just here to check on you guys." Ambiguously, the Diviner of Fate took a quick glance around the room. Were there honestly no other guests? Maybe they're sleeping already…?
"I don't mean to sound nosy, but are we the only guests you have right now?" This time, Sylas spoke. Not only did he have keen eyes, but it seemed he had read Garrick's thoughts exactly.
"Well, you know, it's that time of year again…" The man rambled off, his smile melting slightly.
That's it. You hear that, Sylas? Discreetly, Garrick communicated before responding to the bartender, "We came at a bad time, then?"
"More or less. First off, can I get you anything special tonight? What kinda drink are ya in the mood for?"
"Anything'll do. We're hoping to stay the night here, too, if we can."
"Sure, we've got room. It won't cost ya much."
Money had never been an issue with Keiran, who graciously bestowed Garrick and Sylas the funds to afford a room and a few drinks. After first learning this, guilt grabbed ahold over Garrick, who thought it immoral to conjure money without labor. But in situations of travel - where it became a necessity - which of the Diviners would argue? In the end, Keiran calmed his unconvinced subordinate by claiming that it was "compensation for a life sentence."
Pleased with the arrangements, Garrick took a hard swallow of the unusual drink. As the warm liquid rushed down his throat, he noticed Sylas take a sip, but only for a moment before returning immediately to business.
"Getting back to topic, you mentioned that this time of year is distressing for you people. Why is that exactly?" Careful enunciation and perfect posture, Sylas was the image refinement.
"It's the storm, you know. Since you guys aren't aware, there's this thing that happens, and it… well, pretty much wipes out the town. As in, by tomorrow, none of us here are sure of what'll still be standing. If given the chance, that goddamn storm'll get the crops, as well as some livestock, 'n such. Nowadays, we smarted up and built our houses stronger and found hiding for the people and animals… But the first year was a whole lot worse."
"When does this usually happen?" Garrick asked, attempting to match Sylas' seriousness and thoughtfulness.
"I told you, once a year. One day from today, actually. Tomorrow night."
Thoughtfully, the man stroked his sandpaper stubble. "Hm… Around midnight, I suppose." Master of conversation, the bartender could sense their interest and deepened the details. "Hence why it's been quiet here. Everyone generally locks themselves indoors, holding their breath. Or praying. You know, they say it's the 'will of the gods' for this place to get destroyed every year like this. Not sure what kinda gods they are, but hell if I can say why they'd be bored enough to keep at it for so many years."
Perfect. We'll fix the problem while they're sleeping, then.
Sylas nodded. 'Sounds like a plan.'
"Sylas, do you hate me?"
Fresh after a shower, Sylas – still holding his towel – studied the childish question carefully. "No. …What makes you say that?"
Garrick had waited patiently for the other to step out of the bathroom to approach him with that question. Not only did it bother him that their partnership seemed not-so-mutual, but in all the time he'd known him, the immovable Sylas simply wouldn't open up to him. Because Garrick wanted answers, he questioned, "You must have a very different image of earth than I do."
The exhausted, pajama-clad man sat in momentary comfort on the edge of their bed. Aside from his usual, cleanly scent, Garrick also caught a whiff of the moisture that still stuck to Sylas' hair and skin. "It's not really the place, per say." Sylas breathed with disinterest.
"It's the people?" Garrick finished, squirming his way from sitting to lying position.
For a delicate moment, neither man spoke. While Sylas thoughtfully folded his towel, then joined him atop the mattress, Garrick made himself comfortable beneath the thick, warm blankets. In the oversized bed, the slender man kept his distance with the unwanted second presence beside him and turned his back to him.
Just before Garrick assumed the conversation had ceased, Sylas' quiet voice spoke from behind, "Humans are selfish. That's all I'm going to say. Keep your wits about you or one day you might get stepped on. Like humans, we have that fire in us that warns us. Follow it, and you won't go wrong, Garrick."
Garrick hated how he said it; it was like he was predicting his future. That's MY job. "If you say so. I'm sure you must have a hell of a reason for saying the things you do." Outwardly, he sighed then unintentionally breathed in the damp warmth of the person beside him. He must've been hurt pretty bad.
"It's not as if one incident made me think the way I do. It's through many experiences. Many encounters. You've had them, too; you've lived a lifetime. I've just learned that all humans are self-centered and have no interest in the welfare of others."
"Well, Keiran likes people."
"If you've noticed, he only watches them. He chooses not to mingle or be with them. They keep him entertained, I think. And you know it's his job to monitor things down here."
"You could be right about all this. But how can you judge the whole human race like that? I mean, just 'cuz you might've met some-"
"You can't change my way of thinking, Garrick. Don't try." Though his words were prone to sting, they were not filled with hateful emotion, but of exasperation of topic.
Predictable. Attempting to seem unfazed, Sylas' temporary partner heaved a disagreeing snort, then huddled back into the depths of his cozy blankets.
"This town… just brings back interesting memories, that's all. Keiran knew that. Though I don't know why he'd pair us up for this. And he promised me I wouldn't have to return to earth, but…" Sylas' continuations became distantly theatrical, and he ended them a whisper, "Here I am. I suppose he wanted me to have some 'fresh air'."
Except for the whir of the radiator, no other sounds were present. Truly, the entirety of the town felt ghost-like. For a moment, the Diviner of Fate wondered how or if the town had changed since Sylas' last visit. But he knew when not to pry. He's such a delicate kinda guy… I feel like I should watch what I say or I might break him. But seriously, I know that's not the case with Sylas; that guy can be more stubborn than me. …Thank god… Keiran… whoever for mind-reading barriers.
Changing topic and steering back towards their mission course, Garrick mentally mapped out what he thought to be a sound strategy, which he verbalized to the Diviner of Karma, "We'll sleep tonight, hang out in here tomorrow, and wait 'till midnight to try and stop that storm. Um, Sylas?"
A soft moan came from beneath a heap of blankets. "Hmmph?"
"How are we going to do that, anyway?"
"What about your foresight? You really don't know how this will play out?"
"Can't read my own future, you know. Plus, that stuff's harder for me to tell when I'm down here. Don't know why."
"Hm. Have a little faith. I'm sure we'll figure it out when the time comes."
"I guess you're right."
'Almost here, almost here…' When Garrick panics, his mind-reading barriers become weaker. It's just another something I notice.
From where I was standing, I could see him shaking with anticipation and autumn chills – most likely, in equal measure. As much as I tried to hide it, I was also failing horribly at maintaining my composure; the wind chilled to my core.
The storm was coming. We could both feel the air become unbearable, heavy, and shrouded. Standing at the edge of town, the two of us took a look at the deserted scene. Even though things may have changed since then, it was all-too-familiar to me. The town itself, the human race, even the scenario itself… I wanted out.
It was then that we could see the small houses become enveloped in pitch dark. The wind picked up and the fall leaves scattered all around. Assuredly, it left me and Garrick's insides quivering again.
With lack of anything better to do but wait, my eyes followed the leaves. They spun across yards, gardens, and twirled over rooftops. As I watched, my eyes beheld something off in the distance that was unforeseen. Something that perked our senses and left us feeling a little alarmed.
A small boy with messy hair and shining eyes had quietly stepped out from one of the houses. He froze as we made eye contact. It took less than a glance for me to notice Garrick's sudden concern for him.
'Fuck.' Predictably, it was my partner that made the first comment. He spoke like he was trying to sound calm, but I could sense the anxiety pouring from his words. "Hey, what's up? You know it's dangerous out here, right? You should stay inside where it's safe."
And that was all it took to cue the storm; its mass of grey swirled dangerously towards us. I watched those dark clouds spread from the sky to the world below. While earth seemed to disappear around us, I felt the air unrelentingly bite into my skin, my hair whip against my face, and my clothing tear at my flesh - assuring me that I was still there. Truly, nature is a greater force than any human – or dare I say, god - can resist.
'Please, gimme a hand here, Keiran. I think… I'll need you.' His thoughts spilled out like a prayer.
I figured I'd leave it to him. Besides, I didn't really care what happened to that town, anyway. I'd rather it have disappeared along with the memories.
But the boy…
The storm arrived. While the wind rushed around us, the storm clouds were fast-approaching the town's outskirts. Garrick - although aware of the duties at hand - was apparently worried about the child, who merely braced himself quietly at his doorway.
As soon as I felt like my footing was being caught in a whirlwind, that's when it stopped. In a rush of spiraling illumination, the black misted into light. For a lingering moment, it dazzled around us, then rose into Runawynd with majestic strength.
It was abrupt theatrics. But then again, that's how Keiran works, I suppose.
Garrick froze. Perhaps his mind was lagging behind reality. After all, I'm sure he'd never done what the mortals considered a "miracle" before. Like the rest of us, he'd always just gone to earth to see things as they are - not to meddle in their affairs. Unless, of course, instructed by Keiran himself.
I said nothing. There was nothing really to talk about, and I was ready to just leave it at that and return to Runawynd.
But it appeared that the boy had other plans. Snapping Garrick from his mental block, the small child walked up to him, looked him straight in the face, and plainly asked, "Are you God?"
With a genuine smile, he replied, "Nah, I'm just a guy."
I don't understand him. Or his childish way of thinking. He's nosy, inexperienced, and has too much energy sometimes. But in all honesty, I'm glad he's here with us.
Following that, the two of them maintained a casual conversation. At least one of us could. "What brings you out here? You're lucky I was able to… get the job done."
"I just wanted to see it. Sometimes I have trouble believing things I don't see. Everyone was all scared about the storm coming, so while they were all hiding, I thought I'd-"
"You have parents, right?"
"You know, you should probably listen to them." Garrick looked at the child for a minute, as if debating what to say to him. I could tell that he wanted to tell him something. Teach him something. Although, I'm sure the kid had figured something out by then, anyway. "Remember the ones who love you and listen to them. Chances are they only want what's best for you."
I watched them talk. Truthfully, it amazed me how Garrick could mesh with so many different people. Moreover, it amazed me how the people meshed with him. …Hell, even I have trouble keeping him out.
Thoughtfully, the boy nodded. "You know, that storm might come again next year. Why don't 'cha stay with us?" Such a soft voice suited such innocent questions. They were filled with simplicity and honesty. In that sense, I never minded children much.
Though Garrick was smiling, I could sense something else at play in his heart. Though I couldn't tell what it was exactly. Perhaps it was none of my business, but I do tend to notice these things, regardless. In order to face the child properly, he knelt down. Garrick's response to the boy was obvious.
Beseeched by Keiran to ready a "celebratory bath", The Diviner of Karma routinely stepped into his bathroom. Only to find a still-hot bathtub filled and a peculiar note sitting on its edge.
Good job out there. You've really come a long way since your last visit down there. I feel proud like a parent of their offspring.
…Although, I do feel jealous. Garrick seemed to warm up to YOU rather quickly. Why does he always bond with people like that? Where's his bonding spirit with me? Ah, but I digress; and regardless, I'm glad. He needed you as you needed him, and I'm glad it all worked out - random as the situation may have seemed.
And by the way, did you notice how much the town had changed from when you were last there? It's amazing; the things that time can change. Not just places, but people, too. Even the young man you remember from that town.
Just to satisfy your curiosity, I will tell you this. The boy you and Garrick met during your stay there belonged to that young man. Even though you gave that poor fellow a bit of trouble in the past, I'll have you know he started a beautiful family without you, and they are all very happy.
And believe it or not, you helped insure that. I'm sure that Garrick could tell you that – by saying no to him and by teaching him that valuable lesson of karma – you altered that man's fate to a better one. You didn't close the door exactly, you chose another pathway for him to follow. You've been forgiven. And surely, such a good man deserved such a happy life.
But who can say for sure? Would you be able to say that you, too, are happy?
But I ramble, darling. Pay me no mind.
Setting that sore topic aside, you realize that not all people will be changed by the miracle you and Garrick preformed. And some will still believe that the storm will come again next year. Of course, people will believe what they want to believe. And that's how they should be. Free will is – admittedly – one of my better ideas.
Sylas, I look forward to working with you in the remainder of your immortality. And won't you be a dear and prepare me some snacks? I haven't had a good spot of tea in two days! The horror!
-All my love and devotion,
Although attempting a convincing sigh, a smile lit up Sylas' face as he slowly began stripping.