First:

Eyetk: point taken. And I know it well. I haven't been reading much lately, which makes my writing less varied than it would if I was in one of my book-devouring phases. In editing (if I bothered to edit any of this crap) I try and fix the really bad ones up… but really, I let a lot of the small ones slide. My writing itself isn't very strong, that I know- but the story is the reason I write. Thanks for the input, though, glad someone noticed.

Second:

This chapter is two things: extremely important… and pointless. Unedited, rather cruddy, it's only in the story because the main character -and reader- need to know this info. Probably, in a second draft, I would dollop out this information in the first story, where I'd be able to skip such a blatant scene like the one you're about to read. But hell, the whole prologue section is exactly that. All I'm doing is getting the reader to what I really want to write and what the reader actually would want to read. So keep in mind the fact that I'm aware of its obvious crudiness in your comments.

0.2

"Figures."

Vorchay smiled at Morgus' dry comment as they looked upon the Mad God Eondine. He sat calmly in the middle of the desert in a white chair, a small table set next to him. Sipping at a glass of champagne, he looked up as they stopped just out of earshot. Only one chair sat across from him.

"That's your chair, Vorchay," Etrayos said, motioning her towards the God as he put down his pack. "We'll have lunch here and wait."

"Watch out for the boy," she said to Morgus, dropping her bag and going to meet the God for a drink.

At some point, she was never sure when, a threshold was crossed and she realized her dusty, booted feet were stepping on grass. As she lifted her eyes from this realization, she saw around her a sudden paradise, with mountains at the horizon and grand forests stretching tall. The blue sky was dotted by majestic clouds, and the sun was no longer brutal.

"Nyvestein, before the Time of Revenge," Eondine explained, looking around. "Beautiful, isn't it?"

She took off her hat, wiping dirt and sweat from her forehead as she got a closer look at Eondine. The first time she had met him, in Lixunah, she had been too overwhelmed to observe him. He was tall, horribly good-looking, with a constant smile tugging at his mouth, as if he found the world perpetually funny. Only his sky-blue eyes, watching her a little too widely, showed a hint of the strange madness he held.

"I don't bite," he assured her, pouring her a glass of the wine. He wore silk clothing similar to hers, in shades of blue, which seemed to be his favorite color. "Have a seat, there's too much to talk about while standing."

"How come you don't have the same presence as Vesmos?" she asked, sitting across from him, easing her sore limbs into the chair.

He shrugged and offered her the drink. "Vesmos throws her weight around. She loves overwhelming the wills of mortals and watching them flock to her. The rest of us tend to have a bit of mercy for your kind."

She took the glass with a thank you and sipped cautiously. It was, of course, delicious. "Is this all just a desert hallucination and am I really drinking sand?" she said calmly.

He smiled. "No, it's real champagne." He put his glass on the table, tipping his head to listen to a bird's song trickle through the air. "It's a pity, you being chosen."

Vorchay frowned, unsure if she should be insulted. Privately, she shared his opinion.

"See, there were three of you were prepared for this. None of us were sure which one would end up there at the right moment, so there had to be three."

"Who are the others?"

He waved that aside. "You'll meet them. Stop interrupting." He sipped his drink, then continued. "In each case, the potential to defeat Vesmos in battle could only be given if something was taken. In your case, it was your courage which was taken in exchange for it. The other two made similar trades, but since you were picked, they'll begin to regain what they lost."

"So… will I have courage now?" she asked hopefully.

"No." He paused to let that sink in. "But there are substitutes for courage, some of which you've already found. Insanity is one." She winced, remembering her berserker madness. "There's also good old fashioned tenacity, which you have in plenty. Besides, bravery would make you stupid and rash."

"I already am rash," she muttered, looking into her cup, remembering when she had volunteered for the dangerous jobs.

"You were going through some difficult times," he said. "And now that your life has quite a bit more value, I think you'll be smart and think twice before doing those things again."

"True." She drained the glass. "What was that thing with the raven, though? Avin mentioned it was me, but somehow it wasn't me."

"All three of you were the raven," he explained. "The raven was merely the consciousness of each of you melded into a memory-less spirit and sent to Vesmos. Sort of a warning for my aunt which she ignored."

Vorchay nodded. "All right. But what happens now?"

He shifted in his seat and leaned towards her, as if this was what he really wanted to talk about. "Multiple things need to happen. First off, and most importantly, you need to be trained."

"What?" She rubbed her sword hand self consciously. "I'm already trained."

"Trained into one of the best mortal swordsman, yes. But do you really think even the best of mortals could hope to defeat a Goddess?"

She felt a rock settle in her stomach. "Then I don't have any hope?" Impossible.

"No, you do. Your potential for swordsmanship is not your own, it's something that was put in your blood," he said, crossing his legs. "A gift, you might say." He smiled. "Or a curse. It's been used before, about nine hundred years ago, and it was split between you three at each of your births. Now it'll all start funneling into you, and if it's not trained, there will be… problems."

Vorchay had the vague suspicion they were speaking different languages. "What kind of problems?"

"Oh, you might find yourself going on massacres, or something like that."

Her mouth felt dry. "I… see. Who will train me?"

"There will be multiple masters, all of them spirits you'll meet in your dreams. Your sleep will not go wasted," he assured her.

"Wonderful. But what happens while I'm awake?"

He poured himself another glass. "Obviously, you have to find a way to get the mortal realms to fight against Vesmos before they're all destroyed," he said easily. "And, equally obvious, they won't want to."

"There's the ditch in the road," she agreed. "How will I do it? I can't exactly just raise my hand and say 'let's go to war'." She thought for a moment. "Well, actually, I could, but they'd just laugh at me."

He nodded. "There is that. And neither can you raise both north and south at the same time, as it's impossible for a mortal to be in two places at one time."

"Then what should I do?" she demanded. "There's no way all of them are going to follow someone like me in a war against a God. They'll just think I'm mad!"

"Indeed. These Kings will not follow you."

Her eyes narrowed as she caught a hint of what he was getting at. "These Kings? You're not suggesting I replace them, are you?"

"Why not? There will be some who will listen to you, and they are the ones you need on the thrones. Put them there." He took a sip of his wine.

Vorchay stared at him. "You must be joking."

"I'm not. But I'd recommend putting someone in the north to do the same. Vesmos will not just attack the south, as you know." He smiled gently at her as she leaned back in the chair, looking stunned. "Better get over your shock quickly, girl. You have things to do." He stood, and suddenly the paradise was gone with a wave of desert heat. "Go to Emud after Karoneth."

"It will take weeks to get to Karoneth," she protested.

"I opened a hole for Morgus which will only take a few days of overlay," he assured her. "Don't spend too much time up there." He spoke again as she opened her mouth. "Achwymorre is already up there, don't worry. Demons have their own portals."

"When do I get to see Eoliren?" she asked, standing. "He's my patron God. Shouldn't I talk to him instead of you?"

"Eoliren? He's busy with some trouble in Maelurphon," Eondine said with a shrug.

Her blood ran cold. "What's happening?"

"Nothing you should worry yourself about. There are other things to prepare for. Now go and get some food, you're looking a little pale." And, still smiling at his joke, he disappeared.

Vorchay yelped as the chair disappeared and she fell back onto hard turf. Fumbling for her hat, she strapped it back into place and got to her feet. Dusting off her pants, she returned to the others, only mildly surprised as she saw the sun was at the horizon, near setting.

"What'd he say?" Odocorr asked as Etrayos passed her a bowl filled with soup.

She looked into the bowl, her appetite absent. "Morgus."

The old man nodded. "I can open it at any time. But eat first."

Vorchay sighed and tipped the bowl into her mouth, gulping without tasting until it was gone. "There," she grunted. "Now let's go. There's work to be done."