Monday, December 2, 2013

Second Look -- God School

Here is the second part of the preview of my next novel, God School. Enjoy!

The next day, Ev was walking around Seraphim City University. He saw Central Quad, the student union, the polished granite clock tower in the center of campus, the various departments, and Cherub Field, home of the Fighting Angels. An angelic figure wielding boxing gloves and clearly ready to fight was displayed on the wall above the bleachers.
            It was all so very…ordinary. No, perhaps a better term would be a deception. He now knew the world wasn’t as simple and peaceful as this. How could he pretend otherwise?
            He couldn’t, and he knew it. He had seen the truth, and he could never turn his back on it, could never forget the reality of the thing that almost killed him last night. Those gyrkahs were out there, preying on humans.
            He realized there was only one thing to do. If he truly believed in justice, he had to take Brandon Strong up on his offer. But first, he needed to know if the mysterious man had been telling the truth.

* * *

He sat on his metal throne within the dark ruined building, surrounded by debris and other things the humans had abandoned. “I don’t see the kid with you,” he told them. “Why is that?”
            One of the many refghasts in the room shambled forward, its long, stringy legs struggling to hold the body aloft. They were truly pitiful creatures, he thought. “So sorry, Lord Belial,” it rasped. “Our brothersister was attacked by the god before it could siphon the human’s energy. Against a deity, what could our brothersister do?”
            “I don’t care much for your excuses,” Belial said. He wore a fiery red trench coat with matching pants and shirt, and he had spiked orange hair. “No more of that. Tonight we’re going to get him, understand?” The refghasts wheezed the affirmative. “Good. There’s just one more thing.” He made a fist. The refghast that had tried to make excuses exploded into bright fragments. “The rest of you will fare the same if you fail tonight.”
            He reclined back in his oversized chair. It was a bit awkward, but he didn’t care. As the boss of these monsters, it was his job to do whatever he wanted. And he loved his job.

* * *

Ev knocked on the door. It opened to reveal Brandon Strong. “I knew you’d come, Ev. We gods are pretty good at seeing the future.”
            Ev entered the hotel room.“So you’re…what’s the word…om-ni-scient?”
            Brandon laughed. “No, not really. Some gods can glimpse the future. The rest of us have simply been around long enough to understand humans pretty well. But none of us know exactly what will happen.”
            “Let’s cut to the chase,” Ev said. “Where exactly is this school of yours?”
            “I’ll show you,” Brandon replied. He led Ev to the table by the window. On it was a map of the world. On the left side of the map was the crescent continent of Morovia. To the right of that lay the Murnau Islands. Much farther to the east lay the Stangea mountain chain which cut the rest of the world off from the continent of Chrichton. Stangea’s sister mountain chain, Rangea was directly west of Morovia. The two chains each ran north to south from one pole to the other. Finally, at each pole sat a massive continent; the chilly Faust Kingdom in the north, and the Tru Kingdom in the south.
            “All right; so where on the map is this god school?” Ev said.
            Brandon pointed to a mountain, located halfway between the Murnau Islands and the Stangea mountain chain, only a little further south of both, called Mt. Oleia. “Here.”
            Ev scrutinized it with suspicion. “Mt. Oleia? Never heard of it.”
            Brandon said, “Nor should you have. It’s not on any map except this one. We use our powers to keep it hidden from the rest of the world, especially the fallen gods. They’d love nothing more than to put us under their thumb.”
            Fair enough, he supposed. “But what exactly do you do at this school?”
            “As I said, we train you to become a god.”
            “So…what? You infuse me with your power?” Ev asked.
            Brandon shook his head. “Not exactly. Part of the reason we protect Mt. Oleia is because it’s a focal point.”
            “Focal point?”
            “That’s right. You see, there are areas of the universe where vast reserves of energy left over from the Big Bang collect. If someone hangs around that energy long enough, they’ll become a god. We have to make sure they’re sufficiently prepared to become divine.”
            Ev almost found it funny. “So gods are basically superheroes?”
            “Not even close, kid. We don’t save the life of everyone in danger. We have to judge when it’s that person’s time. Gods have far more responsibility than comic book characters. We must listen to the prayers of millions, and decide how to answer them.”
            “Yeah, but—”
            Ev’s words were cut off by the power being cut off. The room was plunged into darkness. Only the lights outside the window provided any illumination.
            “Looks like we’re out of time,” Brandon said. “They’re here.”
            Ev was about to ask Who’s here? when a strange rasping began throughout the room. It didn’t take him long to remember where he’d heard it before; indeed, he would never forget it as long as he lived. It was the same rasping he had heard when that refghast tried to kill him last night.
            Only now there were more. A lot more. From all over the room they appeared, some coming up through the floor, some through the walls, and some floated down from the ceiling. “Bethos be damned.”
            “You shouldn’t take the Lord’s name in vain,” Brandon said. Ev thought he detected humor in the other man’s voice.
            Suddenly the windows of the room exploded inwards, and Ev was showered with glass. He felt it biting into him, even through his clothes. He brushed it off as best he could, but he knew he couldn’t get all of it, not in the time he had.
            A figure appeared outside the window. He was just floating there, many stories above the ground—on fire! He gave them a sadistic grin.
            Brandon said, “Belial! I should have known it was you. What does Carnivál want with Ev Bannen?”
            The fiery man called Belial said, “Ah, Brandon Strong—that is your name these days, isn’t it? We Old Gods in Carnivál feel no need to hide our true selves.
            “What we want with Ev Bannen is none of your business. Let us take him and we won’t have any trouble.”
            “And if I say no? Will you sic your pets on us?” The refghasts were all around them now, and Ev was terrified Brandon wouldn’t be able to save him this time.”
            “On you?” Belial said. “No, my ‘pets’—as you call them—are only for the human. I’ll deal with you myself.”
            Strangely, Brandon only responded with, “Ev, get out of the way of the door. Though scared to death, Ev managed to move over a few feet, coming closer to the nearby refghasts. Brandon then crouched, stretched his legs, and without further warning, rocketed through the window at Belial.  

Chapter II: A Little Late for Introductions?

Brandon collided with Belial in mid-air, and the two proceeded to fly across the Sepaphim City skyline, exchanging punches, kicks, and any physical attacks they felt like giving one another.
            Punch. Belial said, “I didn’t expect you to abandon the human like that.”
            Punch. Brandon replied, “I didn’t abandon anyone. I simply deferred the task to another.”
            Kick. “You mean…?”
            Punch. “That’s right. I didn’t come to Seraphim City alone. Freya is here.”
            Elbow. “Tsk! I should have known,” Belial said, spitting out blood.

* * *

The refghasts reached out to Ev. This was truly the end, he thought. Brandon had left him to fight that other guy, and now he was alone with these monsters. He screwed his eyes as tight as he could make them; he didn’t want to see it coming.
            Without warning, however, the hotel door exploded inward. It flew across the room, creaming two refghasts in the process.
            “Sorry I’m late,” said a beautiful woman with long blonde hair and a magnificent golden necklace, as she entered the room. She wore a dark coat and matching pants.
            Ev stood there, gawking at her. “W-Who are you?”
            She entered the room. The refghasts turned their attention to her. “Sorry about that,” she said sheepishly. “My name’s Freya. Along with Brandon, I’m one of the Lost Gods.” Morovia worshipped the god Bethos, but most of the world followed the Lost Gods, deities believed to be holdovers from the previous universe. No one knew their names since they came from another world entirely, but believers had faith the Lost Gods continued to guide them in modern times.
            “Please tell me you’re here to save me from these things,” he said, generating faith of his own.
            She smiled. “That I am.” Freya then put fingers to her mouth and whistled. Her chest suddenly began to glow, and before Ev’s astonished eyes two figures emerged from her midsection. They were shimmering golden tigers. “Protect Ev Bannen,” she commanded them.
The tigers nodded their assent and leapt at the two refghasts nearest Ev. They proceeded to tear them to fleshy pieces.
            The other monsters shambled towards Freya, moaning, “Not fair. Inteference.”
            The goddess held out her hand and said, “Come to me, Hildesvini.” A golden spear materialized in her grip. She held it above her head. “Foul creatures. I shall cleanse thee from this world.” She had evidently decided now was the time to get serious.
            The refghasts lunged at her. However, she swung her spear in a wide arc, incinerating each of them instantly.
            All the while, Ev stared dumbfounded at the spectacle. So this was the power of a god, he thought to himself. And if Brandon could be believed, the power could be his.
It was an intoxicating thought, but one he didn’t have time to indulge. The remaining refghasts came at him in a last-ditch effort to accomplish their mission. Fortunately, Freya rushed in and cut them down in the most graceful manner he had ever seen. It all seemed effortless to him.
When it was over, she asked him, “Are you all right?”
He nodded. “Yeah, thanks to you. You saved me.”
The sheepish smile returned. “That’s what I’m here for. Now, we just have to wait for Brandon to return.”
Ev said, “Are you sure you shouldn’t go help him? That other guy looked pretty tough.”
Freya shook her head. “Brandon can handle himself. Besides, my job here is to protect you. Unless, of course, you’d like to be left alone.”
He frantically dismissed the idea. “No, no, no, no. Some more of those things might show up.”
“Then we are in agreement, then! I’ll stay here with you until Brandon returns.”
As it turned out, Brandon returned rather quickly. Ev said to him, “What happened to that fire guy?”
Brandon shrugged. “He ran off after he found out I brought Freya along. He knew the odds were stacked against him.”
“We’ve got to get Ev to the Academy before Belial has time to plan another attack,” Freya said.
“The Academy?” Ev said, dumbstruck. “I just want to go home.”
But Brandon said, “Bad idea. You’ll just be putting your family in danger. The safest place for you is the Kami Dios Academy.”
“He’s right, Ev. At the Academy we can train you to defend yourself against Carnivál,” Freya added.
Ev opened his mouth to argue, but no words came out. They were right, he knew; the only way to protect himself and his family was to accompany these two gods to their mysterious school and take them up on their offer. “Fine. Let’s go before the hotel staff shows up to investigate this mess.”
“Oh, you don’t have to worry about that,” Freya said. “I used my powers of illusion to hide all the commotion from them. As far as they know, nothing has happened here tonight.”

Another convenient power. Ev wondered what kind of powers he would have as a god. However, a far more important question occurred to him. Am I even cut out to be a god?


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