Sneak Peak of Jom III!!
The third and final Jom book will be coming out soon! To tide you over, here's a sneak peak! Enjoy!!
Interlude: Dream of the Heavenless Sky
Jom woke to a loud crash. It took his dream eyes a moment to take in his surroundings. He was in a small, wooden walled room. A low fire simmered in the hearth to his right. Another crash and the room lit up from without. He jumped at the sound even as a number of figures rushed into the room from an adjacent chamber.
“Tis a big storm,” the matron, plump and ruddy-faced, announced, smoothing down the wrinkles in her night dress. “Tis only a storm.” Her words were meant to comfort the litter of little ones that clung to her legs.
“Nay,” the father said, peering through the shutters. “Tis the gods.”
She waved her hand in the darkness at his words. “There ye go again with the gods. Always the gods.”
“Do not blaspheme, woman!”
But she tutted. “The gods are the reason for the drought. The gods caused the flood two harvests back. The gods took our youngest…”
“Aye. And they’ll take more if you don’t hold yer tongue.”
Just then the door blew open. Outside, the wind was fierce and biting. The children shrieked. As the mother herded them into the other room, the man went to shut and fasten the door. When he got to the threshold, however, he peered out into the storm. Something grabbed his attention and, without a word, stepped out into the tempest.
Jom followed, unable to stop himself from entering the deluge.
His breath was stolen by the gale. Together, he and the man looked up into the angry sky. Light flashed back and forth across the black thunderheads. As the lightening split the air, immense silhouettes of warriors could be see among the clouds. Swords slashed through the sky, clashing with shields, the thunder of the collision rattling bones and windows. Their screams were the winds, their sweat the rain. Together, Jom and the man watched, their vision blurred by the downpour, as gods battled.
“I told ye! I told ye!” the man yelled but his words were lost in the storm.
A sword as long as half the sky bounced off heavenly armor. Another thrust. Blade and shield sparked. Lightning split the dark sky. The celestial blade slid between enchanted metal and divine flesh. A god screamed. His death cry echoed off the mountains far in the distance. He fell from heaven. The ground shuddered when he hit. The seas churned as another god fell. The world shook as deity slaughtered deity.
The man wept, backing back into his home. Jom watched as the man, with an infinitely sad last look at the heavens, turned his back on the war and shut the door. Jom looked back up at the battle, watching until the rain washed away his vision.
Despite the sinking sensation that the world was ending, the sun did, in fact, rise the next morn. The clouds silently moved apart, as if embarrassed or guilty. Jom heard a tiny squeak and turned. The door to the home opened a crack. Fearful eyes peered out. Seeing nothing moving, the door opened more and the man stepped out into the light of dawn. He looked up at the sky. With a shudder, he quickly looked away.
Pointedly ignoring anything above a rooftop, the man concerned himself with picking up the pieces from the storm. Coops needed tending. Branches needed clearing. Roofs needed mending. Time swirled around Jom and life around the town took on a semblance of routine as the people went about their chores. But there was little laughter that morn. Words were hushed and quick, spoken with only a quick glance upward. Eventually, repairs were well underway and stomachs needed tending as well. The man wandered to the town hall where others were already sitting, mouths full and stories rampant.
“Twas the biggest storm I’ve ever seen!” one stated.
“Tweren’t a storm. Twas a giant, walking the land,” another announced between bites of chicken.
“Giant! Hah! And where was this giant going, pray tell?”
A shrug of the shoulders. “I am not privy to the designs of giantkind.”
A round of laughter rippled through those assembled, growing as it went.
“Twas the gods,” the man from the house said, finding a place at the long table with the others.
Eyes rolled and ale swallowed wordlessly. The man scanned the faces of his neighbors, seeing their disbelief.
“I saw. I saw them battle. Up among the clouds.”
“Sure ye did. Sure.”
The man opened his mouth to argue but something stopped him. Instead, he tilted his head and looked, for the first time since the storm, to the sky above.
“Don’t ye feel it?” he asked, his voice barely above a whisper. The others didn’t hear him, instead continuing their own conversations. But after a moment, the man spoke again, his voice rising.
“Don’t ye feel it?”
“Feel what?” one of the others asked, annoyed at the interruption.
The man pointed up, towards the empty sky above.
“The gods. The gods.”
“What about them?”
The others stopped and, despite their disbelief, looked up.
“Heaven is empty,” the man said. “Can’t ye feel it?”
Someone further down the table let loose a thin chuckle but it was sickly and quickly died. The others shifted uneasily in their seats, glancing up while sipping their mead.
“Yer daft,” someone finally declared. “Yer rattled from the storm.”
“Aye,” another agreed. Soon, heads were nodding. But in their heart of hearts, they knew the man was correct.
A change came over the town over the next several days, gradual yet insistent. Bickering over the price of a horseshoe took a nasty turn. Taunts that cut deeper than normal grew in number. Jostling at the well became commonplace, despite the women knowing each other like sisters. Small things, really. Barely noticed at the time. Yet there was a difference, those days after the storm. The man saw it. He knew why. Everyone knew, although few could put it into words. Now that the gods were gone, why bother with common courtesy? There would be no punishment, no taking to task for their slights. His neighbors claimed not to believe him but their behavior was that of those that did not fear heavenly wrath.
Windows were left dark at night, the once ever-present votives that welcomed the gods into heart and home were no longer lit. The small shrines, a common sight atop every hearth, grew dusty. No one would admit it, but all knew; the sky above was empty. Heaven was deserted.
Jom watched the man go about his chores halfheartedly. The man would occasionally glance up into the empty sky and shudder or sigh, but otherwise stayed quiet. Jom looked up as well, when the man did. Together, they felt the vastness of the universe and felt too how small they truly were. How alone.
Time swirled around Jom. The man grew older, his children did too. The town turned violent and raw. Two of his offspring were killed. His wife died. Finally, the man looked up from his bed for the last time and into the eyes of his last remaining child, now grown into a man himself.
“The gods have gone. We must grow to fill their place.”
And then he breathed his last.