Far Off Unhappy Things
Chapter Eight: DEER GOD
By Renko Doremi Rodenburg
DEER GOD is a chapter leaning on some interface screws that work best in Light Mode.
Second of all, Content Warnings for DEER GOD are slightly heavier than usual. CW for mostly-offscreen but heavily (heavily) implied rape.
Kind regards, Renko Chazakiël Doremi Rodenburg.
I will make no pretenses this is anything but a story. But I am a god first, and a fairytale second- so I will address you as my equal, without the pretense of stageplay or script predestined.
I am the oldest deer in the forest- the first stag to wander the Forest of Forever Fall, the great woods around Lost Luson, since long before I was me and before the lands were lost, in the first spring the world ever saw.
I am DEER GOD, whom the mortals call Autumn. On the high steps of Luson I make my throne, in a temple older than mankind. Inspect my palace and my court, and inspect the spire where my magicians and sages gather. The foundations, the stonework, all are beyond compare.
The great spire of the two-cities-that-are-one houses such minds that only mine compares to them, alchemists and students of magecraft and great mathematicians. In its many halls secrets are whispered considered lost to the wider world, and things uncovered that were never meant to be uncovered.
My grand palace houses my court- those beings that I’ve deigned to let into my circles. They are most of all wealthy sycophants, wielders of worldly power through which I enact my word and my law. Unbeknownst to both spire and court, I have a third troupe- an inner circle of loyal followers I keep close to my heart. They are each unparalleled, and I would demand no less from those who would dare to call themselves my companions. Warriors, poets and artists all, the only ego that eclipses them all is my radiant self.
Still- my power is not absolute. Despite the Death of Seasons, the fall of Eden and the halting of causality, my sister SUN GOD rules supreme in the south, where it is still Summer. She rejects my courting, my calls for her submission, my yearning for her to yield and take her place at my side, and sends her soldiers, her damnable worshippers of light to attack my lands.
I am DEER GOD and I will regale you about a hunt. I arm myself- my bow carved from the bone of giants, strung with sinew from angels- the bizarre spawn of my brother DEATH GOD, who always looms in the distance but cannot ever get closer.
It will never become Winter.
I arm myself, and call for my companions to do the same.
My right hand is Tintenzunge, whose wit with words is only rivaled by his elegance with bow and arrow.
My left hand is Gunthilde, who wields the enchanted greatsword Gutachschwert, a blade alleged to be too heavy for any man to bear, and is the only of my consorts I have slept with more than once.
With us rides Alexis, the alchemist. Far too bright to be left and waste his talents with the academics of the spire, and far too dangerous to be allowed to roam free in my court, the only place he belongs is at the side of the DEER GOD.
At dawn we ride from the far gates of Luson, away from common folk and uncommon spies. And as we ride to the southern border of my magnificent forest, the land that eclipses all of the other lands that were lost, Alexis speaks to Tintenzunge .
“The mirror-girl has vanished, did you notice?”
“She is beneath my notice,” Tintenzunge answered.
“I had hoped she would join us one day.”
“Never. Her kind is strong yet she is not. Personal accomplishment casts our fates in bronze- never endowment.”
“A shame, the mirror-girl has potential.”
“Do not mistake potential energy for potential greatness, alchemist. She has only one of those things.”
With our steeds swifter than any not found in the royal stables, we reached the area where the damnable soldiers of the SUN GOD had breached my inviolable territory within hours.
“Here?” Gunthilde asks as I gesture for my group to dismount. “There’s nothing here. No towns, no villages, no ruins.”
“I am the forest, the soil and the wind, I am what nourishes the trees and I am the trees, and I am the wind that topples them, too,” I reply.
“Sounds alright to me,” Gunthilde says. I do not keep her around for her brains.
Alexis cannot help but pause to take bits and pieces from a colorful patch of moss and put them in a small glass tube.
“What?” He says as I watch him work. “They’re samples. I’m going to run tests on them.”
“I don’t see anything indicating this is where we ought to be.”
“Look again, and tell me what you see.”
I see him look around, his octarine irises dilating and contracting as he takes in every last detail of the scene before us. The trees, the earth, the patches of snow, and the wind playing with the leaves, almost falling from their trees but not quite yet.
“I don’t- ah, I see. It’s what I don’t see. What is it?”
“It’s snow,” I tell him. I don’t need to put on a show, play theatrical with my voice. The words are enough.
“How can there be snow,” Alexis says. “It’s late September. We’re way down south.”
“The Silver Prince,” Gunthilde says.
DEATH GOD, my brother.
“There’s worms here,” I say, grim and menacing.
“Servants of your brother. You said you sensed the faithful of your sister- are they conspiring?”
“No. It’s a trap.”
“What are worms?” Alexis wants to know.
“I cannot explain that to you, for the knowledge would be your undoing.”
“Oh,” Alexis replies. He knows better than to pry.
I cannot explain the worms to you either. If the brightest mind of Luson stands no chance in the face of grim weight and dark scope of the concept, what hope would you have?
“Alright, you said it’s a trap. You also said you sensed soldiers of sunlight. Then I can make the assumption these worms are somehow hiding inside summer forces. If just knowing about them can be one’s undoing, it makes it a possibility that they’re conceptual beings. Ideas with agency. Am I correct?”
“All ideas have agency, Alchemist,” Tintenzunge feels the need to reply.
“You are close, but still mistaken. Worms are closer to physical creatures. Closer still than you and I,” I explain.
“That makes no sense, Prince. None at all,” Alexis says.
“Can we stop talking about worms and hunt down the scum already?” Gunthilde replies, eager for bloodshed.
“Draw your weapons and follow the trail they left. Tintenzunge, put away your bow and rapier. Words are mightier here.”
“How are we-” Alexis begins a sentence, but cuts it off as Gunthilde starts moving out. I walk with her, and the alchemist and the poet follow closely.
We do not walk far before the scenery takes a turn for the worse. A clearing with trees, dead from hoarfrost. The river frozen over. The wind blows unobstructed through the wintry landscape, making a howling noise. Across the river, amidst the frozen vegetation, sit three soldiers of sunlight.
Their faces are gaunt and stiff with the coldness of unlife. Their wounds are black, festering. With rigid, jerking motions they turn their faces towards us.
“What the fuck is happening,” Alexis groans. The strain on his mind is apparent.
Gunthilde is unaffected, and Tintenzunge has coping mechanisms. I do not worry about them. The young alchemist will grow stronger here- more resolute. The DEER GOD has chosen him, and I am always right. My faith in him is my faith in myself. I do not have to worry about him either.
The soldiers get up from their dead encampment, from the cold and long-dead fire they might have made in another time and place. Before and perhaps parallel to when and after the worms got them.
“They are long dead. They are no longer soldiers of my sister- there is no reason to give them a swift or merciful death,” I say. “But they can infect everything they touch. Tintenzunge, I want you to prevent infection. Burn it out if you have to.”
I turn to the young alchemist. “Alexis, if you can stand and bear to look at them, take up a sniping position with your crossbow. Do not forget we’re walking into a trap. This isn’t all of them.”
Gunthilde charges forward, over the frozen river, swinging her greatsword Gutachschwert at the first of the frozen dead. He blocks with his left arm, and it’s as if she’s hacking away at frozen granite instead of flesh. With stilted, staggering motion he moves forward, unfazed, as she blows armor, frozen flesh and a skeleton of ice to smithereens with blow after blow of her cursed blade.
She can handle him, but the second closes in and will get to her before she can finish her prey. I draw my bow, and one of the golden arrows sticking through my toga. I nock the arrow, and as I let it fly, it catches fire it strikes the second ghoul in the head. His head is incinerated on impact.
I look at Tintenzunge. “Ugly,” I say. “You can do better than that.”
His only reply is a wry smile.
The first of the worm-soldiers has been crippled beyond repair. It attempts pitifully to crawl towards Gunthilde, who crushes its head with an overhead swing.
The death of the worms starts to weaken their weakness, turning it into strength.
Next to me, Tintenzunge coughs up blood.
“Do not engage them directly. They’re stronger than you are.”
“Nonsense,” he replies.
“Don’t be an arrogant fool. They’re stronger the way granite is stronger than man. Use your head instead of bashing it into your opponent’s forte.”
Gunthilde engages the third of the withering dead, alternating stabs and swings to keep the worm-soldier from advancing. Alchemist- who I admit I lost track of for a moment- has positioned himself up a tree and fires a golden arrow from his crossbow. Enchanted by the young magician, it zips through the pale and rigid arm of the soldier as if it had the consistency of rotten vegetables instead of ice.
As my cohort makes short work of the three soldiers, I turn around to face the real threat. Sixteen of them are approaching from behind, commanded by something I recognize. No frozen ghoul, but a woman with short black hair and pointed ears sharp as knives.
The bait now dead, Gunthilde and Tintenzunge regroup behind me. Alexis reloads his crossbow.
The woman looks at me but does not speak. I wonder which of them this is- the witch who is rumored to live on the heath up north perhaps, who calls back the dead for them to serve her.
“One of the sisters of the mirror-girl,” Tintenzunge feels the need to point out.
“All four of us have eyes,” Alexis says from his vantage point up the tree.
“You think you can kill God, naive little thing?” I ask the woman.
“I have not come here for you, your grace. I am here instead for the poet with the ink-stained tongue. It is imperative that he dies.” Her voice is raspy, grating. Unpleasant and ugly.
“Why are you commanding the servants of The Silver Prince? Just for bringing the worms into my realm I will have you flayed.”
She cannot talk her way out of this.
“I bargained for them as servants. There is a cancer here, in the lands lost. I am purging it. To do that I need soldiers.”
“And Tintenzunge is part of that cancer?”
“You might want to explain what you mean by that.”
“Your art is heretical, part of a rot slowly devouring the lands. If it is allowed to spread, our world will begin to fray and come undone,” the woman explains.
“Petty jealousy. You’re upset your kind has had thousands of years but never learned this Art. Beyond that, I am the sole wielder of it, and I don’t intend to teach it to others.”
“And yet over the past three hundred days I have slain four others who stained their tongues with inks and paints to imprint their words on the fabric of reality.”
“This is why you brought the worms,” I say. “You somehow know the Art doesn’t work on worms well. You then had them invade my sister’s soldiers to lure me here, knowing I would bring my closest allies with me.”
“Your reasoning is sound,” the woman replies to me.
Not only does the woman have knowledge of things she has no reason to know- worms, the domain of winter, and Tintenzunge his Art, she also has knowledge of my inner circle. For this I will hunt her, until her final breath.
“Sixteen corpses full of worms, are you going to throw your beloved companions into that fight? If they kill them all, are you going to watch as dear Gunthilde is infected and gnawed hollow, a shell to be filled with snow?”
I call upon the Autumn Wind, and find that it does not answer me. We are in the domain of Winter, a small part of my brother’s realm overlaid on my own.
My rage boils over. Being unable to flay her skin from her flesh with a word and a gesture right here, right now, infuriates me to no end.
I take one of my arrows.
“Do not do it, Prince. We can come to a bargain.”
“I do not barter with witches,” is my reply as I knock my arrow.
As I let it fly, it splits into filaments of gold, striking at their prey like cobra. Two soldiers of winter bend backwards with an unnatural, jerking motion, evading my arrow. Three of the worms are strangled by wires thin, and cut into pieces.
The woman makes a gesture, ordering her soldiers to attack. With the stilted motions of the frozen dead, they begin to shamble forwards. A second later, she pivots to deflect a shot from Alexis’ crossbow. Expecting to catch or parry it, she yelps in surprise as it zips straight through her hand and then her shoulder. Pale, pink blood spurts from her wounds, and she turns around and bolts away as her soldiers of decay shamble forwards to attack us.
“Gunthilde, can you-”
“Yes, go after her, Prince. Alexis, if they come in reach, go for their head. Tintenzunge, do whatever it is you do.”
I have to get past her monsters, losing me precious time. But I am taller than she is, and I am no son of man. The moment I clear the reach of the abominable worms, I jump. What hits the ground are not my sandaled feet, but four hooves.
The world changes. No longer do I look at it with eyes or godly senses. I smell all the smells of the forest, and feel the currents of the wind. The forest is dead here, but I remind myself it is not my forest. This is my brother’s domain- but the wound will heal when the worms are expunged, the infection treated.
With haste, I start to catch up to the witch. She is quick, and hazy. A fog or miasma hides her- but the stench of dark arts is easy to track. I feel a tinge of pain as I run. Once, I was the first stag of the forest. An enlightened being descended from Eden and molded me from earth, dirt and wood. I shake a tear out of my eyes as I feel a deep nostalgia, a longing for days gone that will never return. It is a deep pain, one that harrows a god and would slay a mortal man. A sorrow formed from almost five hundred years of memories.
A blur, surrounded by foul air moves ahead of me at a jogging pace. She is fast, but not supernaturally so. Whatever magic arts she wields are of no use here.
Waves of smells and sensations wash over me, intense enough to throw me off. I stagger for a moment- we have entered the Lands Lost again, left the overlay. Smells of autumn leaves, rich soil and the decay of mushrooms and molds quickly reinvigorate me, and as I finally catch up to the witch, still hiding in her blur, I jump.
In the air, I call the winds,
And the winds answer. They disperse her miasma, and I command them to take her feet. She screams as she becomes visible and her feet begin to rot into ashes. She stumbles, and falls.
As I land on the ground, I knock an arrow and let it fly. It hits her in the side, barely missing her liver and pinning her to the ground.
She screams, she howls.
Pain, blood and the intoxication of victory overwhelm my senses. I drop to the ground over her, take her small head in my right hand and ask her.
“What in the Lands Lost and all the spheres of the hereafter did you think was going to happen?”
I try to maintain composure, but I cannot. I scream at her.
“Answer me, witch,” I yell.
“Tintenzunge has to die,” she gasps. “I thought I was stronger.”
“You were mistaken,” I howl as I tear her dress.
I have caught her. I have hunted her down and she is my trophy. I have never had a witch before.
Perhaps she will survive- her kind is a hardy one.