Gods and Monsters
Frelgaar of the White Lightning stands upon the cliffs of his clan's white mountains and gazes at the hinterlands below. The little people moving and breathing, their horses and their chickens, their trade and their theft.
"I wonder," he muses in sadness to himself, "if they worry about the troubles of the mountains."
He does not think they do.
He does not think they realize that it is the mountain folks who ward away the storms, who take arms against the thunderbirds and the black howling beasts. So many of his kin have died in this pursuit and yet those who benefit live in ignorance.
Frelgaar watches a little longer. When the disciples of Christ had come through these mountains some time ago, they had taught Frelgaar about God and about angels.
Frelgaar understands the torment of angels. The resentment, the bitterness, and the love for those lowly creatures of the earth.
He breathes in deeply of the sharp boreal air and then returns to his home. His kindly wife greets him and brings him dinner and they do not speak much, have not spoken much since their daughter was taken by the thunderbirds. Taken and ripped apart, fed to hungry chicklings.
Frelgaar does not think of this. He smokes his pipe before the fire instead and thinks about the ant-like scurry of the hinterland folk. His thoughts wind patterns in his troubled mind and he falls asleep in his chair.
He dreams, as all men do, and in his dreams he stands once more upon the cliffs and beside him a great shaggy haired man looks down at the world below. There is ice frozen in his beard and his grey eyes are tempestuous.
"The pettiness of gods," the man remarks. "Worship or we shall destroy you. The foolishness of men... you toil for them and ask for nothing in return."
"I am no god," Frelgaar answers quietly. He turns and looks searchingly at the man, but sees only a tall frame and tattered clothes, unkempt hair.
"All men have godliness within them," the man shrugs. "Receiving tribute, being worshiped, that is what makes a god."
"To be whispered of, to be feared. Perhaps more often than not they are one and the same."
The man meets his eyes: strikes fear into Frelgaar's stalwart heart.
"This is a dream," Frelgaar murmurs. "For I do not know you and hope I never will."
The man's smile is more terrible than his placid expression of contemplation. It is savage and hungry, gaunt and terrifying.
"Tis a dream. A dream is as good a place as any to offer them."
"You offer me a dream? I have plenty of my own," Frelgaar rebukes warily.
The man moves closer to him, gazes down at him from considerable height. "Dreams made real, Frelgaar of the White Lightning. I can free you and your clan from this mandate, this mulct. Those ground worms you protect will become accountable for themselves and you will be free."
"No," Frelgaar answers. "No, that is the talk of devils. I will not sell you my soul, begone."
The man laughs and his laughter is more terrible than his smiles. High pitched and screaming, he laughs with hysteria, howling and cackling; he laughs.
"Demons! Hah! Demons and angels, protectors and destroyers. I am no hellbeast, only a man with the power to give you what you desire. Keep your soul, I have no use for it."
Frelgaar does not understand this dream of his, this madman before him. "Then what do you want?"
"Once, long ago, your people were unjustly punished. Their atonement was banishment in these mountains, was subservience to the ignorant farmers of the hinterlands. I want it undone!"
The man extends his hands to his sides and his tattered robes hang like raptor wings around him and the expression on his face is lost and rapturous. He is a great orator, terrible and inspiring. All around, the cold north wind and the clouds rise up with his voice, responsive to his mood.
"What is your stake in this?" Frelgaar demands. The offer is too good to be true. The priests had warned him of the twisting tongues of demons.
The man breathes in deeply, almost deflating after his exclamation. Snow begins to flurry across the gray mountain landscape, slow and placid.
"My stake?" he repeats carefully, admiringly. "Ah, yes, how else can you trust my motives… you are a quick one, my Frelgaar. My stake? My stake is to show god king Zeus that what he has wrought can be undone by the Devouring One."
Frelgaar wakes and vaguely remembers disturbing dreams. Some time in the night, his wife had covered him with a blanket. He admires her kindness for a moment and then prepares for the day.
He goes to make his rounds on the mountain, and when he comes to the cliffs overlooking the hinterlands, he finds his clan already gathered. They stir uneasily, looking out across the fields.
On the earth below, the cities burn, ravaged by lightning and pelted with sleet and with rain.
Frelgaar's bones ache and he is reminded of disturbing dreams.
"The beasts," a venerable one announces for all to hear, "have by-passed our mountains and taken the cities below. To you, my clan, I put this question: do we ride to their aid?"
Frelgaar does not remember making the dark deal, but in his dreams he may have, in his heart he may have. That great visage of storms may have approached others, may have twisted and manipulated any other fool. As is the way of treacherous gods… and not the way of soul hungry demons.
Within the White Lightning clan, he is respected as a warrior. Frelgaar begins down the mountain without a word.
"Love thy neighbor," the disciples of Christ had uttered, even as they had watched Frelgaar's clansmen die in battle with the thunder-beasts.
Love them? Perhaps not, but Frelgaar will protect them from the petty games of Zeus and Boreas.