Where winter has gripped the rest of the county, driving rain has pounded down on the town of Hornbay for four days. The sky is thick with clouds, the thunder rumbling with laughter as I walk into town. The rain doesn’t touch me, which tells me enough about it to make me worried. The ghosts that called me here told me more but I’ve been travelling with the wandering magician long enough to like confirmation when I can get it.
Besides, I have no idea how accurate the ghosts of gods are. Or what they could be forced to say.
“You murdered eleven other gods; there are easier ways to get my attention,” I say, not raising my voice. I can’t do what the magician or Jay can, but I can put power into my voice when I have to. I don’t bother; the wind about me has died, the thunder rumbling overhead like vast stones grinding together. I don’t even flinch at the lightning that arcs down from the sky and splits before touching me. I’m a god-eater and the powers of gods cannot touch me like they do others.
“They call you Charlie, and claim you are the last god-eater in the world,” the god inside the thunder rumbles.
“I am,” I say, not bothering to claim I’m only responding to the first: other species have god-eaters still, and the order of god-eaters may be training other human ones; I’ve no desire to reveal that. “Your point?”
“We are not afraid of you; you have neglected your duties,” the god who calls itself Ibraxis says.
“God-eaters are meant to police gods; we can help as well as harm.”
“That is not your function.”
I smile at that. The god inside me stirs, anger mirroring my own. “You don’t get to decide that, Ibraxis. Few gods have true power in this age: that you subsumed so many others means you have done that, and nothing more.”
“You have allies: the magician and a boy.”
Jay is far more than ‘a boy’ but I nod. “I do; you will notice that they aren’t here.”
“Their power makes you weak!”
I blink as thunder rolls through the sky. “Having allies doesn’t make one weak, though I can see where you’d understand that.” And I let the god within me out, a thing of nightmare claws, blood-tinged fur. Under every bed, in every closet – not all gods are nice, and the one that terrified my childhood not kind at all. But the wandering magician had bound us together – for reasons I think not even his magic understands – and it had been months since I let the god out.
“This isn’t an ally,” I say, the god’s voice rumbling with my own, and we reach up and tear the entire storm apart and yank the god down to the earth.
Gods of rain are common, and this flows in the air like a living puddle, something more elemental than humanoid at all. “You dare? You dare,” it shrieks.
I reach out, god-eater to god, and it whimpers in agony as my power brushes the edges of its own. “I could eat you now, Ibraxis. You devoured other gods for power, but that’s nothing next to my own. Which I think you must have known, so why this?”
“A test; there are others who think you weak. Old gods who think you do not stir yourself often enough.”
“Murdering gods isn’t strength,” I say, stepping back. I speak five words, a reverse exorcism, and the ghosts of the murdered gods tear into Ibraxis. “But I can be an agent for justice.”
I turn and walk away as the god tries not to beg for aid. There were gods trying to test me, and I had no idea why – or what they thought they could gain at all. I wonder how many elementals existed that are gods, or had been gods, and how they’ve managed to hide from me. I travel with a magician, but I have duties of my own and sometimes I forget them.
This was a reminder. I make a mental note to never need one again and head back toward the hotel the magician and Jay are in. Anger is easy, but the god within me can be far more than that. If he wishes to be, and if I allow it. I consider options as I walk, the sky behind me changing as it begins to snow on the town, and I find myself wondering just how terrified gods are of me, and if there is anything I can ever do to truly change that.