“You shouldn’t be here.” The words came from behind me, and I froze upon hearing them. How had I, nervous as I was, not heard anyone approach me? Fear rose in my chest. If Thul’s minions had found me, then he had found the others, and everything was lost.
“This is Bloodblade territory, and you, my friend, are not a member.” My assailant pressed his knife firmly into my back. “The way I see it,” he said, “you have two options. You can hand over some gold for temporary membership, or I can gut you here and now.”
Well, that was a relief. He wasn’t one of Thul’s, and that meant that the knife digging into my back was mortal iron.
“I’m not going to take the first option, so if you would like to gut me, by all means, feel free.” I turned to face him and he panicked, thrusting the knife deep into my side. The blade slipped through layers of skin and muscle.
“What are you?” he asked. I suppose he was right to ask, but the question surprised me at the time; I had forgotten how mortals reacted to my kind.
“What do you think I am?”
His expression changed from one of fear to one of terror as my flesh, quickly knitting itself back together, expelled his knife from my body. It clattered to the cobblestones, and he stumbled back. Without giving an answer, the would-be thief turned tail and ran.
I put a hand to my side and felt around for a wound. My fingers passed over smooth skin. Normally I would never have checked, but nerves were getting the better of me. Keeping my wits about me, I continued on towards the tavern.
The Brass Bear was a squat, ugly building smashed in between a brothel and a butcher’s, yet I hurried towards it like it was the Gate of Heaven. I kept my head in a swivel as I approached the door. The encounter with the thief had rattled me; not because he had posed a real threat, but because he had been able to sneak up on me. I reached the door without incident.
The taproom was quiet. The patrons had finished their drunken shouting and fallen into an inebriated slumber. The only unimpaired eyes were in the far corner, and they were on me as soon as I stepped into the room. Six pairs, all full of fear and worry and anger.
“There you are, Althis,” Caliun said. The goddess gestured impatiently for me to sit. “We were worried something had happened to you.”
“Nothing I couldn’t handle.”
“So there was something?” Opin asked. He was nervous and twitchy, as he had been since we had been expelled from Heaven. “Thul’s minions? Are they here? Do they know about us?”
I raised a hand to cut him off. “We’re safe here. It was only a thief from one of the local gangs.”
Opin sighed, but didn’t really relax.
“Did he recognize you?” Caliun asked.
I shook my head.
“Then we should be safe.”
“And we can begin to plan our revenge on the being who cast us from Heaven.” The new speaker was Davir, the largest and angriest among us. “Thul must suffer for what he did to us.”
“He will,” Caliun said. “I have something in mind.”
Whatever she had in mind I never got to hear, because as she leaned in to tell us the tavern door burst open and ten men in black armor stormed in. After a quick scan of the drinker patrons, they approached our table.
“I heard quite the tall tale from a member of a local gang,” said the leader of the group. “He told me that he just met a man who could walk away from a knife in the gut. Have you seen anyone like that?”
Caliun opened her mouth to deny it, but Opin’s reaction was faster. He squeaked and shot a look at me, terrified.
The armored man noted the reaction. “That’s what I thought,” he said, and plunged his sword in Calium’s breast.
I sat there, stunned as Caliun fell to the floor. I was dimly aware of Davir exploding with anger around me, and the other three gods and goddesses leaping into action. All I could focus on was the sword buried to the hilt in Caliun. How was it still there? Why wasn’t she healing? Then I noticed the dark metal it had been forged from. Thul had given his men godsteel.
“Get up Althis.” Davir pulled me to my feet. “Leave Caliun. We have to go.”
The tavern was leveled around us. The floor was littered with dead bodies and the ceiling was nowhere in sight. Eyes locked on Caliun’s body, I allowed Davir to drag me away.