This story is an original work of fiction by me, Sati. I own all rights to it. All characters and events are fictional. Any similarities to any persons, living or deceased, are coincidental. Any similarities to actual events are also coincidence. If you find similarities, though, please inform me immediately!
I've always loved mythology and I've always enjoyed creating my own for stories. Creation myths have a particularly special place in my heart. I have a tendency towards polytheism because for most of human history that was how the world was - and how a decent part of it still is. This is the most religiously detailed stories I've written but it isn't, by any means, a statement on my religious views...it's just a story.
Please read and review. Hope you enjoy!
Chapter #1 – Upon the Fields of Death
Katrelle opened her eyes and stared up into the grey mist above her. Where was she? She looked to either side of herself as she lay on her back on the ground. All around her was a barren plain. Dead-looking grass grew in small tufts here and there, but there was mostly just dirt that looked like it should be rich. A large boulder was a few yards away on her right, down past her feet, and was the only thing she could see that really disrupted the flatness of the ground. There was a single lifeless tree that looked almost charred and seemed to have been that way for centuries. And then there was the mist, which obscured everything else that was more than a hundred feet away. There was nothing else. There were no sounds. There seemed to be no life anywhere. She was absolutely alone it seemed.
So…where was she? She felt mildly confused. Her mind seemed a blur at the moment. As she stared up at the mist above her, she had a feeling she should have been in Teravay Forest, the massive forest that was to the south of the city she lived in. She closed her eyes and shook her head, trying to clear her mind. She felt like the dense fog that surrounded her was trying to creep into her head.
Then… Her eyes snapped open as she remembered. Everything seemed to flash through her mind in reverse so quickly it was only a jumble of colors and sounds…until her memories stopped that morning in town near her home. The laughing, handsome face of Vamel, the count's son, floated into her mind. For as long as she could remember, she had had a crush on him. She had finally gotten the courage to admit to him that she liked him, to ask him if he would possibly consider courting her. She had been sure he would refuse, maybe even laugh at her. She was just a peasant, after all – the daughter of a warehouseman. He was a nobleman, the heir to his father's titles and lands. On top of that, she was not all that pretty while he was terribly handsome. She was sure there was no way he would have any interest in her.
To her amazement, though, he had smiled at her so charmingly. He told her that she was very brave for telling him her feelings and in asking him to court her. So few other women had ever had the courage to come up to him, he said. He took her hand and pressed a gentle kiss to it, which made her blush dramatically. He asked if she could come to meet him in the forest that night, for he thought that the river by moonlight was so incredibly romantic. In her excitement, she quickly agreed.
His charming smile banished any fear she might have otherwise had when he told her to keep quiet about their secret rendezvous. He told her that he did not want his father finding out about what he would deem an "inappropriate match" between his son and a peasant girl. But he promised her that if he thought they would mesh, she and him, that he would tell his father and he would be determined to court her properly.
For the rest of the afternoon she felt like she was floating. Her parents and little brother even asked her the meaning of her nearly giddy expression, to which she responded she seemed to think she might be courted soon. That made her family very happy to hear as that she had not really liked any of the other young men that had come to call on her since her sixteenth birthday a few months before.
After dinner, she told her parents she had a headache and wish to retire for the night early. However, once it was dark, she slipped out of the house via her bedroom window. She took the path out towards the river to the great montraer oak which was a nearly one-of-a-kind tree that stood near the water with a huge knotted trunk and massive branches and roots that spread out wider than any other tree in the forest. As she approached, she saw three lanterns glistening among the roots. Drawing closer to the light, she saw Vamel leaning against the trunk. She hurried towards him and the light, her heart racing from excitement.
Then everything changed from happiness to horror. She had not seen the two other forms that were hiding in the darkness just beyond the reach of the light. One grabbed each of her arms. They dragged her forward into the lantern light. Vamel was smiling at her again, but it was not the sweet, handsome smile from that morning. This smile…it was cruel…it was pure evil. This was not the romantic meeting he had told her it would be. This was an ambush and she knew that it was not going to end well.
Katrelle opened her eyes, trying to banish the remembered scene from her mind, but the grey mist above her made no difference in the vision. The harsh words the nobleman had said to her as they had forced her to the ground still bit at her heart. She was not worthy, he had said. She was ugly and stupid, he had said. And now, he had continued, she would pay for the mere thought of trying to have such a handsome nobleman woe her, of trying to worm her way into his noble family. He laughed when he told her how foolish she was for thinking he would ever want her.
Oh, how she had cried at Vamel's cruelness. Oh, how she had cried at the laughs that came from the nobleman and his two friends. But she could not get away… The two men that had dragged her forward were holding her down. Then, with a motion from Vamel, the one at her legs and stripped her of her bloomers while the other held her firmly to the ground. She tried to fight, but the three of them were too strong for her to overcome.
Vamel had taken his turn first… She screamed for help and cried for them to stop, but they all only laughed, telling her it was no use. They were far from town and the river was loud enough to deaden her sounds. Then, finally, the nobleman was done…but it was not over. The nobleman's friends began their turns with her. And the sickest part of it all was that Vamel seemed to truly enjoy watching her rape, watching her crying and screaming and trying to fight them off.
By the time the second friend was done, she had no more strength to fight with. She could not yell out for help any longer, for her throat was dry and sore. She also had no more tears to shed, but she continued to sob. Yet…it still was not over. Vamel seemed to wish to be the first and the last.
Did she really deserve such punishment for such an innocent thing as liking the man that was now raping her for a second time? She did not know. All she knew was that she wanted this nightmare to end… And it did…finally. Or so she had thought.
Vamel sat up, still between her legs and held out a hand to one of his friends. An object that shone in the lantern light was placed in his hand. The nobleman drew a silver dagger from the jeweled sheath and looked at it almost lovingly. He leaned down to her and ran the flat of the blade down her cheek. She cringed. He and his friends laughed. He told her it was time to be silent forever as he put the tip to her throat.
In a final attempt at self-preservation, she tried to flee the weapon as he drew it back some to get more force behind his blow. But his friends pinned her to the ground effectively. All she managed to do was keep the blade from going through her throat. The weapon pierced her shoulder instead, just above her collar bone. She silently screamed, her voice still gone. And they laughed at her again. Vamel drew the dagger back out and told her how foolish she was, even in death, for now her death would only come slower.
Once he had wiped the blood from the blade with her dress, he sheathed it and took a lantern one of the other men offered him. And, without looking back at her dying, the three of them wandered through the woods back towards town. She watched as the lights they carried had vanished. Now just the moon, nearly full above, shone down on the place she lay on the forest floor. But, even the moon seemed to be fading away. The only sounds were that of the wind and the river and the insects hidden around her in the darkness singing their peaceful songs. The night seemed to be growing cold. Then there had been darkness…and she had woken here.
Here… She looked around herself again at the desolate waste around her. She was certain she had not woken up at all. She had died. She closed her eyes at that realization. She was dead. Dead… She was barely past the halfway point of her sixteenth year. Now she was here in the Land of the Dead – Fesralde.
Her parents were going to wonder where she was when morning came. Someone was sure to find her body, for during the day the area around the montraer oak was a popular spot frequented by families and lovers picnicking. And only now did she remember that several other women had been found murdered there too in recent months. Had they also been victims of Vamel and his two friends?
It did not really matter now… It was not like she could tell anyone who had murdered her. No one would ever know the truth, save the nobleman and his friends and the gods themselves.
There were many gods that watched over the mortal world, but only one ruled over the Land of the Dead. That was Yuchanit. He governed the souls of the dead between lives, along with his charges, the Custodians. The Custodians welcomed newly dead souls in the Great Hall of Therande. But this was no hall. This was the middle of some barren part of Fesralde. Why was she here all alone? Why was no one there to greet her? Why…? But she had no answers.
Finally, Katrelle sat up. She renewed her visual search of the area around her. She had hoped she had missed something, but the landscape around her was the same. The only real color in her surroundings was her own olive green and lavender dress. It was torn from her struggle. It was covered in blood – both her virginal blood and the blood from her death wound. There was also dirt all over it from where they had pinned her to the ground. She reached up and touched her shoulder where the blade had pierced her skin. There was no wound, only the hole in her dress where the dagger had gone through it and the feel of dry blood.
She drew her legs up to her chest and rested her head on her knees. She slowly began to cry. She had been so stupid. She had not truly thought about what Vamel was asking her to do because she had been too giddy at the fact he was accepting her. And now she was all alone in the land of the dead.
Alone… So what had happened? Had something gone wrong? Where was the Custodian that was supposed to help her with the transition from her previous life? Where were the other spirits of the dead? Why was she alone?
Again, she looked around herself. She wanted to see someone. She wanted to know she was not alone. She knew this could not be common. All the stories in the mortal world were very specific about what happened after death. Unless they were all wrong… But she had a feeling they were not. There had to be some reason for this. Someone would come. She was sure of it.
Katrelle sat there for what felt like hours, but as there was no sun to track in the sky she could not be sure of how much time had actually passed. There was light, though. It was dim like the light of late dusk and seemed to just fill the area. There was no sound around her – not wind, not insects, not anything. She just sat there spending her time trying to figure out her situation, wondering if she should wander until she was found by someone. So when there was a sound that interrupted the silence, she looked up. It did not sound like footsteps, but more like the sound of moving cloth that was growing closer.
Emerging from the mist was a form cloaked in black with a hood covering their face. She thought this might be a Custodian, but for only a moment. There was something different about this person that made her think this was no normal soul. She searched out a face within the hood but found none, even as the figure came closer. Something in her told her that she should be afraid of this person…but what is there to fear when you are already dead, she told herself.
When the person was within twenty feet of her, she shivered. It was not a cold shiver. It was more from an electrified, energized feeling that was filling the air. And for some reason it was that reaction that made realization start to dawn on her and her eyes widened when she realized who this was that was approaching her. This was Yuchanit himself – the god of the dead, the lord of Fesralde.
As he walked up to her side, she looked up into his hood. There was no face there. What she saw made her feel like her breath caught, even though she had no need of breath any longer. Within the hood was a dark, swirling form that she knew was looking down at her.
He stopped when he was right beside her. He crouched down and reached out toward her. When her eyes found the end of his sleeve, she gasped as a dark energy quickly morphed into a deeply tanned hand as it moved through the air between them. The god's hand looked completely normal when it touched her cheek. She could not help but close her eyes at his touch.
But what was the God of the Dead doing coming to greet her himself?!
"Kamithe," he said as more of an echo than an actual voice.
The word made her spirit tingle – and she had a feeling if she had still had a heartbeat that it would have sped up. She knew what that word had to be – her soul's name. It was the name the gods themselves had given her when she was formed from the Essence. She leaned into his hand and nearly sighed.
"I am sorry," the god said in his echo of a voice.
That made her open her eyes. The God of the Dead was apologizing to her for something? She looked into the depths of his hood and wished there were eyes to look in to, for she felt very uncomfortable looking into the darkness of the god's true form. "What could you be sorry for, my Lord Yuchanit?"
"I am sorry because I could not keep you from reincarnating the last time you were here. I was too slow in acting before those damnable sisters took you away." His hand caressed her cheek as he spoke and it was oddly comforting and her eyes closed again.
"Was I not supposed to reincarnate," she asked, her mind feeling a bit jumbled from his touch.
The god's hand withdrew and when she opened her eyes, she found he was settling himself on the ground beside her. That made her feel like she was blushing furiously – possibly more than she had that morning when Vamel had kissed her hand. From all she knew about the gods, she knew that they did not act like this. But Yuchanit was different. Everyone knew that.
"You are supposed to have many lives left to live, but I wanted your cycle to end. You see, Kamithe," and she got that same feeling through her spirit again at the sound of her soul name, "you have had so many lives where you were poorly treated or died painfully, more than anyone should have in all their lives. And the Guides are the ones to blame for that."
The Guides… They were the twin sisters Miyuna and Tiansoe. They were the goddesses that ferried souls back to the mortal world for rebirth as well as the ones that drew up the destinies for those new lives. They were supposed to be fair and just goddesses when it came to their latter duty. Apparently that had not been the case with her.
"I had planned to keep you away from them the last time you were here, but they took you back only days after that death. That was the last straw for me. They know better than to force a soul to reincarnate that quickly. They know better than to abuse their rights that I gave them. Now they will suffer the consequences.
"That is why I had to have your soul appear outside the Great Hall of Therande. That is why I had to come to you quickly. I could not let them take you back to live another horrible life." He shook his head. "All I knew was the age at which you would die and so I have been on edge these past months waiting for your soul to free itself from its current life. And now you're here. And now I won't allow them to take you again."
"But…why?" She found it so disconcerting to continually try to find something to focus on in the swirling mass beneath his hood. "Why could a Custodian not greet me and tell me all this?"
"It is because the Guides frequent the Hall and might have seen you and whisked you away the moment they laid eyes on you."
Eyes… She wished she could see his eyes… She bit her lip. "Forgive me, Lord Yuchanit, but I feel so ill at ease that I cannot see your face."
The god drew back from her then his head lowered. "I do not truly have a face. If I associated with mortal souls more, I might. I often forget how unsettling my appearance can be." He looked back up at her, though still did not have a face for her to look at. "I can take on any face that I wish, as can any god. Is there a face you would like me to show you? Is there a face you have loved above any other in any life you can remember?"
She did not remember any of her other lives yet, though stories said spirits remembered them as they stayed in the Land of the Dead before the next incarnation. And, sadly, there was only one face that she had loved in her most recent life. It had been the last face she had seen before she died. It had been the face of the man she had liked for years…who had become her murderer. She closed her eyes, wishing some other face would come to her, but Vamel's was the only one she saw, for she had loved his so much.
Katrelle shook her head. "The only face I loved that I can remember was that of the man that killed me and…" She wanted to cry for she could not rid her mind of his face now.
The god's thumb pressed to her lips and she looked up at him. She froze when she saw him…saw his face. It was Vamel's, but it was set with the most amazing pair of purple eyes. The god then tossed back his hood and he revealed black hair, not the light brown of the man she had liked. She blinked in awe. While the face might be that of her murderer, she was definite that this was not Vamel. The god seemed to wear the face so much better and if she had a heart it would have been hammering.
"I hope it will be acceptable for now," he said softly, his voice actually a voice now – a voice that was not the one she associated with the face the god wore. It was deep and commanding and suited the deity that he was.
She wanted to tell him it suited him very well but she could not find the words to say it so she ended up nodding dumbly. When the god smiled, she looked down, feeling awkward that he should give her such an expression…an expression that made her remember the feelings she had had for Vamel that did not belong to the god and were wrongly placed even upon the mortal she had liked.
After a moment of silence, the god spoke again. "You are free now, of your cycle of rebirth. You will not suffer as you have in so many lives ever again."
That made her look back up at him, at the face she had loved the most in her last life. "I'm free of…" But that meant she only had two choices left to her – to return to the Essence, where all souls come from and eventually return, or to become a Custodian. She did not like either choice but returning to the Essence was far less appealing. "Then...am I to be a Custodian?"
But the god shook his head and for a moment she feared that he was about to banish her to the Essence without giving her a choice. "You have another option before you as well, Kamithe." And she shivered at the sound of her soul name again. "Though I have rarely offered this to any soul, I would like to offer to you to be my Emissary."
Katrelle's eyes widened. His Emissary?! His messenger to the mortal world. His servant to do his bidding, who would have powers above even those of the priests of the other gods. "Why should you bestow such an honor on me? I'm a nobody. I'm sure I'd be –"
"You are not a nobody." And he said it with such conviction that she was struck into an awed silence. "Yes, in your most recent life, in the memories you currently only have, you were a simple peasant girl. But you have been more than that. You have been a noblewoman before, in more than one life. You have been a priestess, again in more than one life. You have been just as rich and important during your lives as you have been poor and worthless. Even Vamel has been the same. Everyone must go through lives were they are rich, poor, victims, criminals – even male and female, though some souls are more partial to one sex or the other, like you being much more female in your nature.
"You are a strong soul, Kamithe." And he took her hands in his. "When you remember your past lives you will remember your education, your life lessons, your loves and enemies. You will also remember all the times you have been here and the soul-friends you have made. It just takes time. And all souls are supposed to have that time. That is why I am so mad at those damn sisters for taking you far too soon, and it was not just before your last life, but they were not as blatant about it the times before."
Katrelle could think of nothing to say to this. She just looked at her hands in his. A god holding her hands… And he had asked that she become his Emissary, which was the second highest honor a mortal soul could receive. Only the gift of godhood was greater and that had not been bestowed upon a mortal soul since nearly the Beginning.
There was silence between them for a long time – which was just made more pungent by the fact there was no sounds around them in the field. The god continued to hold her hands even through that silence as she thought over what he had told her. She wanted to remember all those past lives so she felt like she was important, so she felt like she actually deserved to be given the chance to be his Emissary.
His Emissary… She had never heard of the God of the Dead having Emissaries, though he had said he used to have them, had he not? Yuchanit was practically autonomous in his control of mortal souls between their lives. No other gods helped him in those duties. The Custodians were not divine and could move on to the Essence if they ever grew tired of their duties. Only the Guides – Miyuna and Tiansoe – had any control over mortal souls beyond that of Yuchanit, and that was only in returning them to a new mortal life.
The Guides… He had said that he was the one that had given them the ability to set destinies. She was sure he had. She had a feeling they would not be able to do that any longer after what had happened to her.
"Will you be my Emissary," the god suddenly asked, his voice quiet, so not to startle her after such a long silence.
His question brought her back to the issue at hand… From the few stories she had been told about Emissaries, they were usually chosen for a reason – usually because they had pleased the god that had offered the position or they had shown exemplary piety to that deity. She could think of no reason for him to offer it to her. What was the reason he had chosen her? Pity?
"Why did you choose me," she asked in a whisper.
The god pursed his lips – those perfect lips of Vamel's that she had thought many times that afternoon about getting to possibly kiss. If a spirit could blush, she was sure she did.
"I chose you for reasons you do not yet remember." He looked at her with his beautiful purple eyes and she rather thought he seemed disappointed by her not remembering. "But you once served me in a mortal life with more reverence than any other that ever served me. I hope that you will remember that life soon and understand why I chose you for this." He stood up, looking down at her. "You do not have to accept or refuse now since you don't understand why I offer you this. You may have all the time you need to decide. And you certainly deserve rest." He held out his hand to her. "I will take you to my home and let you find new clothes and comfort."