Another story from the Forty Isles. This one is not set in any particular location or time period, but acts as an interesting slice of what life is like there.
The door was aged, elegantly carved and as I pushed, it swung silently open. A whisper would have been a scream.
My village had left me as the sacrifice for the God of the Woods. We practiced the paths of the Brotherhood, but with the advent of several natural disasters, some of the people remembered the God of the Woods. Maybe he was angry with them, the townsfolk had said.
Wamocha was his name, though no one remembered it.
I did, but that was because I enjoyed learning about the gods and goddesses around the town. The Brotherhood called me evil and threatened to send me away.
The townsfolk, it would seem, had the best idea - sacrifice me to the god they had forgotten in hopes that he would stop the disasters. If anything, it could prove his reality or something like that. Either way, I would be gone from their lives and no one would fear my intelligence or arguments.
All that had happened two days ago, and here I stood with my provisions nearly emptied, my body aching and my feet sore.
Should I enter or should I find a more hospitable place in deep dark woods, with night falling quickly. While I wasn't certain, I was fairly confident that a wolf or two was on my tail, too.
I entered the portal and the door closed. I knew because the room became suddenly dark then brightened as myriads of tiny dots on the walls began to glow and form into an intricate diamond shape, much like vines growing upon one another.
Turned out, the door led into a long hallway. No matter how far I walked, the path seemed endless. I began to suspect it was a circle when I left my bag on a chair, only to find it sometime later. "Bothersome," I retorted into the darkness. If this is some magical home of a wizard or fae, you would think they could provide directions."
I spun around. Behind me, a man stood. He was both young and old, a head taller than myself and darker than anything I could imagine. His skin was ebony, his eyes galaxies with tiny pinpricks of stars. Around his head he wore a garland of leaves and over his body he wore a robe belted at his waist. The garment was beautiful even as it was mysterious. It was a shade of black or blue, and appeared to be made with living stars.
"Ah, you like the robe," he rumbled. "It was a gift from a friend of mine. Gwion magic is always the best there is, I always say."
The Gwion were known for their beautiful tapestries and exotic clothing choices. The daughters and nieces of the current head of the Gwion were always on the fashion magazines most stylish list.
"Don't you have godly weavers?"
"We do," he agreed, never bothering to ask why I would assume he was a god. Maybe he knew already. "They charge enormous prices and the Gwion have better taste. Between you and me, I wish Alfny or Aoife would teach them a thing or two, but they can't seeing how the godly weavers are quite stubborn and set in their ways. Problem with being immortal - after two or three thousand years, you don't want to change."
He started walking down the hallway and turned left at a door. "Now, as for you. I would suppose you're hungry. Usually, the ones who make it this far are quite famished. There's food, but it's not the greatest, and I am uncertain what you like."
We entered a room where a table was set out in front of us. Fruits from all over the Forty Isles lay in golden and silver bowls, while the spicy scent of stewed beef simmering over a low flame wafted over from one of the four - four?! - fireplaces. The other three had roasted chicken with a mellow herbal scent, a melodic array of lavender and thyme on a fish, and a sultry pork and rice dish.
My stomach demanded attention and I hadn't even taken three steps into the room.
"Eat, of course, you must be hungry by now."
I dealt with a god, and all gods were never known to provide food. They ate godly food - whatever that was. "Can I?"
"Of course you can. It's all food. The house always provides food for the staff. I, of course, don't eat what the house provides. You'll have to prepare that yourself."
"As the servant, you have to prepare the food for me. I can eat mortal foods, but somehow the way the house prepares it always gives me indigestion." He leaned closer. "Don't tell the house I said that - rather finicky, it is."
I knew how to cook, but I wasn't good at it. Nowhere near god level.
Wamocha didn't seem bothered by it though. Something else did bother him, though. He picked up a clump of my hair and let it drop down. "Are you quite old?"
I slapped his hand away. "I'm thirty-five, if you must know."
"Then why is your hair white?"
"I was born this way. I come from a family of very light-haired people."
He ignored the slap and the anger as he walked around me. "You're white." He looked past me towards the door. "Have I moved? It's been several years since I was beyond the forest."
"No," I sighed. "My father decided to move us into the nearby town because we were closer to other people who followed the Brotherhood."
Wamocha held up his hand. "Who?"
"The Brotherhood," I repeated. "The ones who follow the Most High God. The uncreated one?"
"I follow him as well seeing that he's my king and commander, but I don't understand why anyone would move a family from one place to another because of whom a group chooses to exclude from their pantheon of gods they acknowledge."
Was he jealous?
Could gods become jealous?
"Also, why it does not bother me at all, seeing that you appear to be quite capable and decently human. Why did they send a woman?"
I blinked twice. "You are bothered by the fact I am a woman?"
"Not at all, confused." He started walking to the table. "Are you going to eat, because if you don't the house will be hurt and will not allow you to find anything at all. I cannot allow my servants to become ill."
"About that, what if I don't want to be your servant?"
"Then you can go back out into the forest with those four wolves trailing you."
Four of them!
"What does the job entail?"
Wamocha blinked this time. "Everything - well, the house keeps itself clean so you don't have to worry about housecleaning. You'll have to cook my meals, but the house cleans the dishes. Primarily you'll have to help with the normal mundane things - organizing my writing, keeping up with correspondences, informing the various priests of my decisions, deciding where I need to visit and other items." He picked up a pineapple and sniffed it before putting it back on the table. "My last servant enjoyed himself."
"And when did he leave?"
"He died some years ago. Two hundred years? I was surprised a servant hadn't been sent in until you. Why did you come?"
"There are natural disasters in the town ..."
"Not me. That's the result of the twins have tantrums."
"I have no children. No the twins are actually my younger siblings. Rambunctious little know-it-alls. You'll have to deal with the family as well." He cocked his head. "Not certain what they'll think about you, though." He sighed. "I'll deal with that later. Mother will be pleased."
I rubbed my forehead, not wanting to deal with godly family issues just yet.
"Are you going to remain?"
If my stomach had any choice, gladly.
My brain, however was also working with my stomach - curse it. There were four wolves out there. I had no food. No idea which way to go or anything else. Logically, this was my best option, but I felt like I was being tricked into the position.
Unfortunately, I had nothing to return home too, either. I would have been sent away by the Brotherhood. At worst, they might even attempt to kill me.
I closed my eyes and sighed. "I'll remain as your servant." I opened my eyes. "I don't have to seal it with blood do I?"
Wamocha chuckled. "Just food. Honestly, it's the house's way of ensuring its knowledge of who is in here at any given time. What am I to call you, anyway?"
That night, I learned that the gods did exist, were rather friendly and inclined to forget punch lines in jokes, but could tell a good story regardless. As I gorged on stew, chicken, pineapples, chocolate cake and things I never knew what they were, I listened to Wamocha.
Maybe curiosity didn't kill the cat as the members of the Brotherhood had informed me countless times. Maybe curiosity provided the opportunity to find something better.