30: A Fresh New Day
Oliver woke early; Andrea still slept. He moved gently out of bed so as not to wake her. Silently changed, his nighttime garbs out into his regular darker clothing. He made his way out of the Hidden Occult; for the first time in over a year, he felt safe enough to travel without an escort. Heather was dead or banished. He was not completely sure what Andrea did to her.
Stepping outside, Oliver looked up at the sun-sphere as the heat from the magical sun warmed his bones. A weight had been lifted off his chest, and it was all Andrea’s doing. He walked down the streets of Cormanworth, heading to the cities open markets. Passing the people in the streets, Oliver had the uncharacteristic emotion of greeting many by saying, “Top of the Morning to you.” He had a grin on his face; the feeling was liberating.
Oliver made his way to the central market, the place he most frequently visited. This is Cormanworths most busy market place. Many vendors had outdoor stalls selling fruits, vegetables, and an odd assortment of goods. He searched for a bit, looking at the various odds and ends present until he found Gerith’s Meat Market.
Gerith had a mobile wagon stall. Each day he and his two brothers would come to town. One would take the horse that pulled the wagon back to the farm; the other would stay to help run the wagon shop.
Gerith looked up at being surprised at seeing one of his favorite customers this easily in the morning. “Up early today Master Martin. Nice to see you this early. I was always sure you were part vampire, never here till noon.” Gerith jested with a chuckle.
Oliver checking his belt, thinking he might have left his coin pouch. “Some good news, Heather the Night Queen has been defeated. I think even killed.”
Gerith brows lowered, “Really? The Purifiers finally caught up with her? I know that G’nisleh has been trying to catch her for years.”
Oliver shook his head, “No, she was taken out by the Hand of a God.”
Gerith eyes widened, “You don’t say! We have a god here? I would have heard about that. They make such a ruckus when they walk into town. Bow before me, and rightful so, beings that we serve demand respect and praise. Though I have only seen one, Toluene from a safe distance once was a younger man traveling the world. So did Bhuul come here to smite this demon himself?”
Oliver shook his head again, “No, the Demon Socerous Ka’Azalin, the Hand of Katalina. Did the deed.”
Gerith started to think, trying hard to remember where he had heard the words before, the name. “Wait, Ka’Azalin, that’s the Destroyer of the World. Katalina is the Goddess of the Pit in Floastone.” He looked, worrying at Oliver, “My, this could be bad; I mean, this goddess may destroy all of Zeran! I should think about moving to another islandet then.”
Oliver shook his head again. “I don’t think you have to worry about Ka’Azalin destroying Zeran. Besides, you have already met the hand many times; she just went public last week.”
Gerith was trying to remember when he met a glowing-eyed dragon or demon anytime in the last couple of months. “I don’t know who it is, glowing eyes a commanding presence or running for my life I would remember.”
Oliver decided to get his chicken before he continued with the rest of the story just in case, Gerith would be too shaken to handle who this new Hand of a God was. “I will take the largest bird you got; my worst nightmare died last night.”
Gerith responded, “Sure, sure. He moved back into the wagon and opened up the large, heavy chest. Cold wisps of fog rolled out of the top to reveal several frozen meat packages. The chest had been magically enchanted to keep the stored meat persevered from spoiling by keeping the temperature near freezing. Oliver had built one himself on such a cold box by binding cold spells to make the inside cold to the point of freezing.
Gerith lowered the frozen bird down to Oliver, “That will be a silver today.” Oliver fished inside his coin pouch and produced the coin. “Alright, who is this Hand of God?”
Oliver should not be telling everybody, but for him, a miracle did happen, “You met her several times; just last week, you commented on her outfit just before we left on the trip. You also said her horns were pretty.”
Gerith thought for a moment; the only one he knew had horns was Andrea, his apprentice. Gerith started laughing, “Andrea? No, no. That girl can’t be. She’s sweet and cute. She could not possibly be the Hand of God. I thought you were serious. I can see her being an infernal succubi type.”
Oliver wrong again, “She is a succubus, a Hand of a God wearing a succubus skin, and she has a soul. She is much of a conundrum as you can get.”
Gerith was now rolling with laughter, “I knew you had to have a comedic personality hidden in those dark clothes you wear!”
Oliver just smiled; the world would soon come to know just who Andrea was. “Oh, also did I mention she is my servant? I have a contract with her; I command the power of a god.”
Gerith fell back into his cart, his lungs barely able to get enough air between the fit of giggles he was in.
Oliver moved over to the side door of the wagon and looked in. Gerith had almost turned blue with the lack of oxygen getting to him. “Well, breath, my friend.”
Gerith fit of giggles stopped, and he let out a good exhale. “I have not laughed that hard in a long time. You are really funny.” He reached for the counter and pulled himself up.
Oliver also knew several minor necromancy spells used to preserve the meat to keep the flesh fresh. Necromancy, like almost all spells, had their horrific uses, but also a beneficial number. His own mother is a practiced necromancer. She could have been one of the most powerful necromancers in Negroth, but she decided to take a much different approach to the dead's powers and apply them to cooking. She had used the same preservative spell in her kitchen as a way to prevent the meat from spoiling.
He pulled his reagents out of one of his pouches and cast the preservation spell on the dead pale chicken. He then thought of something, his dream he had last night, and he had an idea. He would have to do some research, though. "String of fate, potential visions. Not all visions are set in stone." Looking up at Gerith's sobering face. "Thank you; I think you might have just saved my life."
Oliver turned to see a man with sandy blond hair, a thin frame. He was placing wooden buckets at the stalls. The buckets are labeled, Property of the Cormanworth Waste Management. "Hello, again Master Martin. Could you tell Andrea I got a job that does not involve stealing or being thuggish."
Oliver nodded, "Will do." Oliver recognized him, he did not remember his name. He remembered him looking much more like a walking corpse. He was a thief who stole money from Andrea about a month or so ago. She ended up visiting him and providing him horrible nightmares until he returned her money.
Oliver continued his way, shopping throughout the market. He knew Andrea liked vegetables and fruits, though she really did not need to eat them. He knew she liked the flavor and texture. Oliver was going to treat her tonight, and the thought made him winch, also Charmeine.
The sun-sphere had risen to midday position. Gerith had already sold more than half of his stock. He was sipping on a bit of wine he had in a small metal flask. When he spotted Toluene's holy warrior, Charmeine held hands with Andrea as they walked through the crowded market place. "Charmeine, Andrea!" He waved them over to his wagon.
Having grabbed their attention, both Charmeine and Andrea moved closer; Charmeine was the first to respond, "Hello Gerith, good afternoon."
He had a smile on his face; he was going to enjoy retelling Master Martins's crazy story to them. "I see you too, young ones looking more like a couple today."
Charmeine beamed, "Yes, this is my bride."
Gerith surprised, "Well, congratulations. I take it that I am speaking to Mr. and Mrs. Vestule?"
Andrea took a bit back about the term, "You know, I really never thought about the last name. I mean, I don't think I have a last name anymore. Though I think it might go more like Charmeine, husband of Ka'Azalin or something. Oh, I know, Charmeine first husband of Ka'Azalin."
Charmeine grimised, "I think I like Ka'Azalin Vestule better."
Andrea quickly pulled him down a bit, kissed him. "I am sure you would."
Gerith was trying to process this information in his mind and decided to skip it. "Oh, you know what? I did not think that Master Oliver had a funny bone left in his body. I have not seen him smile for years.
Andrea looked at him, "How so?" Oliver smiling; that is something she would like to see again.
Gerith grasped both hands on the counter of his wagon, looking down at the two. "He came by this morning, the first time I have seen him out before noon without a bodyguard. He was thrilled, he made a story up about the Night Queen Heather being defeated, and he was saying you. Master Oliver claimed that you are a demon, and he is your master. I find his story a little high and mighty, Oh and to top it all off, he said you are the Hand of the Goddess of the Pit. I never had such a laugh in a long time. One should never compare themselves to a god or go claiming to be one. He might get you smitted, or he might get smited by this foul evil god."
Andrea's eyes flashed a bright red for a moment, somebody laughing at her Oliver. She quickly composed herself before her rage went overboard, and she tore the man apart. Had she been a true demon, she would have. "Well, it's true. I am Ka'Azalin, the Hand of Katalina, also known as the Goddess of the Pit."
Gerith paused for a moment.
Andrea continued, "And last night I did defeat the Night Queen in a battle in the streets. I call myself the Demon Sorceress Ka'Azalin for a reason, and Master Martin IS my Master. I have a contract with him."
Charmeine rested his muscle-bound arms on the counter next to Gerith, "It's true. I have married a goddess. I have seen her in action; she defeated hoards of demons by herself and even me."
Gerith started laughing again, "This is one heck of a joke. I know gods; they demand praise, worship, respect, and sacrifices. You are not a god."
Andrea wondered what she was going to have to do for respect, "There are three ways I know of earning respect. Fear, you fearful of the one, knowing that you will fall on hardship if you disrespect that person. Trust, you have earned the loyalty of those around you; they will respect your decisions. Show of Force, this follows the line of Fear, your display such power that you earn the respect of others."
Andrea looked at him, placed her bare hand on his. She mentally pushed her will into his head, Gerith heard her thoughts. Say what you will of me, the goddess I serve but don't disrespect Master Martin or Charmeine. The gods walk among you, and you don't know it; only when we want to be seen do we put on a show. Andrea pulsed a bit of fear into him.
Gerith went pale for a moment. Andrea let go of his hand.
Andrea, cheering in her most girly voice possible, "I hope I make myself clear. I am not mad at you; don't make a fool of yourself."
Andrea dragged Charmeine along to other carts and shops, "Come loverboy, let's go see the town. Show me where you like to go." She put her hand to her mouth and giggled.
Gerith was stunned for a moment; he felt the power in her touch. He concluded that she truly was a god. He was making fun of a god's servant, one that she felt was special. He gulped. He realized that he was not going to die. He felt a whole lot better about the entire encounter.