by ID Locke
My head pounded, and I was sure the sun was going to burn right though my eyelids the second I turned my head in the direction of the windows. I moaned softly and silently swore never, ever to drink as much as I had the previous night. With all the power I had, I hadn’t seen what would await me come morning; although going by previous experiences, I should’ve. It wasn’t like I’d never overindulged in a little of the grape before and known what a hangover felt like. I frowned a little and thought that it was really rather unfair that I, Fate, couldn’t see what would happen in my own life.
A warm hand ghosted over my belly making me start in surprise. I didn’t remember going to bed with someone the night before, but I had been spectacularly tipsy off some god-brewed honey wine. I cautiously cracked an eye open, ready to squeeze it immediately shut against the glare of the sun. Instead of searing pain from the rays of the sun, gentle light filtered through the room. I opened my other eye and blinked at the vaguely familiar room. It wasn’t mine, but there was some recollection in the back of my head of seeing the room the previous night. I turned my head and stared for several long seconds into the very pretty face of a woman I’d known for thousands of years. A surprised squeak slipped from me when I felt the gentle press of lips against the side of my neck. I turned my head to stare into the eyes of a man I knew as well as the woman. I’d gone to bed with not only two people but these two people? That was some mighty potent honey wine we’d all been drinking.
The woman woke and smiled at me. She brushed her fingers over my cheek before leaning forward and kissing me. With the kiss, heart-felt and soul-stirring, the left-over alcohol haze cleared from my mind, and everything from the previous night rushed back into my head. I barely suppressed the groan that wanted to leave my throat.
“Did we do what I think we did last night?” I asked even though I already knew the answer to that.
“It was our pleasure to help. Truly,” Maat said with another soft smile. “You deserved it. Your soul, for all that mortals and gods alike curse you for your actions, is not filled with chaos and strife and the desire to do evil. You, like me, seek to create order. You weave a tight, complex fabric of reality that I am in awe of. Thoth and I helped you get what you most desire because I have weighed your heart and it is lighter by far than my feather. You are most worthy of this gift.”
I stared a bit at that. I knew I wasn’t evil despite what so many said. I was probably the most neutral of all the gods. I created the Tapestry of Life, balancing the good with the evil although, at times, it likely seemed to mortals that there was more evil around than there was good. The two couldn’t exist without each other, and while it was within the scope of my power to squash evil until it was barely a knot in my Tapestry of Life, that would upset the warp and weft of my work and actually lead to more problems than it would solve. Also, I was only able to shape the lives of those in my pantheon, and while that was large, I was not the only being setting lives along particular paths. I had to work in consultation with the other gods that wove Tapestries of Life to make sure we all maintained balance and a seamless story through all the Tapestries. We each had our own followers, and it was our job to guide them in the path they needed to travel, but they all shared their lives together and interacted with each other on a daily basis. Thus the Tapestries we wove as individuals needed to blend together seamlessly into one large whole.
“I admit to quite a bit of surprise,” Thoth said as he sat up behind me and leaned against the ornate headboard. “We have known each other for thousands of years, yet never once did you mention the desire for a child until last night. What brought this on? And why ask us to help you? Why not seek out another god or even a mortal to get you what you wished for?”
I sighed. “There is a story behind all this. You remember my telling you about that thoroughly vexing Fatebender and how he tangled all the threads around his and that I perhaps not-so-gently pushed his threads toward Rhas-Khan, the God of the Abyss, to get him out of my weft?”
Thoth chuckled, and Maat laughed before patting my shoulder and crawling over me to snuggle next to her husband. Maat understood perfectly my irritation. She held a similar position to mine in her pantheon. Thoth, like Maat, maintained the universe for their pantheon, and while he wasn’t the one who created order out of the chaos of creation like Maat had, he was the God of Knowledge and helped to maintain that order. He understood completely what it was that Maat and I did. It was one of the reasons that we’d become such good friends. I took their humour at my words as a yes and continued.
“I’ve never dealt with a Fatebender as powerful as Eilam, and if there is any mercy in the realms, I never will again. I wouldn’t wish that level on frustration on any Weaver. I did feel a tiny bit guilty because I was cutting off his chance to have children by placing him with Rhas-Khan when I could see that he wanted children. Several of his paths could’ve provided him with many children, and he would’ve had a fulfilling and joyous life based on what I could see in his tangled threads. But, pushing his threads toward Rhas-Khan showed the best pattern for him, as difficult as it was for me to make that pattern out.
“Honestly, twisting his threads with the God of the Abyss was also the only option available to me given the way his threads kinked and raveled because of his Fatebender nature. Eilam is a good man, and it wasn’t his fault that he was born a Fatebender, but they are extremely difficult to place in the weft as I’m sure you know, Maat. Fatebenders tend to cause maximum disruption to the overall pattern of those around them because of what they are even when they aren’t actively doing something to disrupt the weave. There was also the fact that it irritated me to have an incomplete section of my tapestry where Rhas-Khan’s threads dangled and that they resisted all attempts to weave them in with other threads because of what he is.”
“Working a god’s threads are always challenging since we are so very headstrong and sure of our supremacy,” Maat said with a knowing nod.
I snorted softly. That was an understatement of epic proportions, and I was as guilty as any other god in thinking that very thing.
“Putting Eilam’s threads with Rhas-Khan did clear the area of my Tapestry concerning both of them, which was actually quite a significant area, but it obscured their joint pattern beyond anything I could unravel. There is some sort of pattern to their threads, but it gives me an absolutely brutal headache to try and make sense of it. It’s truly beautiful and complex, and I have to admit to a little twinge of jealousy that I had nothing to do with the outcome of their pattern.
“In the beginning, I tried to put order into their joint pattern, but after months of frustration, I gave up, removed their pattern from the Tapestry and into a piece all their own, and let the threads work themselves out with minimal input from me. Which, I see in hindsight, led to them ending up with a child of their own, which perhaps was what was meant to be. It certainly happened in a way I never even dreamed was possible, so I suppose even one as old as I can learn something new.”
“They took in a child? What is the problem in that? It seems a noble thing to do. You have said before that they love each other very deeply. To the point where Rhas-Khan bestowed his god-mark on Eilam. I would think that would only lead to a very happy and secure childhood for the lucky child,” Thoth said with a puzzled look.
“The child is theirs and not one born of another and taken into their home,” I answered.
“How is that possible? They are both men,” Maat said with a frown. “Even for a fertility god, such a thing would be extraordinarily difficult to do. If I remember correctly, the god of gods in your pantheon strongly discourages the creation of new godlings or demi-gods unless he decrees it. Last I heard, he’d gotten annoyed over the actions of some demi-god and hadn’t allowed any new ones to be born in at least a thousand years.”
I chuckled. “Indeed, and it was even one of his own demi-gods that vexed him so. However, we are talking about The Abyss and a Fatebender. Their combined power would probably rival that of the god of gods although I doubt they’re aware of that. Rhas-Khan might be aware, but he is the Abyss. He holds all the possibilities of everything that was, is, and could be in his hands. Eilam can turn the very warp and weft of my work in odd or even seemingly impossible directions. Nothing can be discounted when dealing with them.”
Maat gave me a sympathetic look and patted my sheet-covered thigh in consolation. “So how did this wondrous thing come to pass?”
“A Phenocryst Giant travelled to the Abyss with her geode. She sought to protect her geode from one of her own who wanted it. She gave it to Rhas-Khan, begging him to safeguard it. Apparently it was kept in their bedroom where there was a good deal of love and passion released on a regular basis. Neither knew that new Phenocryst Giants were born from geodes. They are a rather secretive species not given to sharing information with other species. Honestly, I had no idea that what happened was even possible for a being that wasn’t a Phenocryst Giant. To use the geode as a means to create a child of their own... It’s quite likely that if anybody else tried, the attempt would fail. As I said, their combined power is roughly on par with or possibly even greater than, the god of gods of my pantheon.
“They have an adorable boy, Malachite is his name. They are so much in love with each other and the child....” I sighed softly. “I cannot see my own destiny, something you probably have to deal with as well, Maat. But, after seeing the two of them dote on their boy, deep inside I feel it is important that I have a child. I feel that there is a purpose waiting to be fulfilled and that my role is to provide the world with that child. After seeing Malachite, I also feel like my bearing a child is something that must be done now. I wish I could see why this is so or that another Weaver could tell me, but we both know that’s not how our godhood works for us.”
“Ahh, I see. You came to us because you trust us and knew we would understand,” Maat said with a nod.
“And because you know I could give you the child you believe needs to be born,” Thoth said with a shrewd look. “You are sterile like Nut are you not?”
I nodded and hoped that, despite being friends for aeons, I hadn’t just offended a god in not only his own house but also in his bed. I hadn’t set out to trick them or abuse their trust. It had only been a vague idea in the back of my brain of approaching them to ask if they’d help me. At least until alcohol became involved in the mix. Gods only knew what I’d said to them to convince them of the need I had to bear a child.
Thoth snorted a laugh. “So you come to us under the guise of celebrating the turning of the year and gamble that what magic I worked for Nut would work for you as well. Fate is a sly bitch.”
“Thoth,” Maat said with a little smile as she swatted his arm. “Have no worries dear friend. You will have what you need. All we would ask is that the child also knows us as his or her other parents.”
“If you wish that, then of course. Thank you, my friends,” I said before kissing them both on the lips.
“You thank us now, but in five days hence, you will birth a child. We will see just how thankful you feel after the hundredth feeding in the wee hours of the morning or the thousandth diaper change. We would like the child to know us, but the care and feeding will be all on you as it is a woman’s duty to raise and care for a child,” Thoth said with a smirk.
He yelped and started to laugh as Maat and I turned on him and started lightly slapping his arms and chest. We knew he was teasing. He adored his children and had shared in all the parenting of them, including the less than glamorous bits like diaper changes and dealing with temper tantrums. The slaps ended up turning to caresses which further evolved into a bout of slow, gentle sex. If our initial encounter the night before hadn’t gotten me pregnant, the second one surely did.
While I hadn’t intended to stay beyond the first night, Maat insisted that I stay until I birthed the child. I accepted quickly and gratefully. I’d been a little nervous about going through the process alone especially since I wasn’t sure what to expect. Fortunately for me, Thoth, as the God of Knowledge, knew exactly what to do when the time came. Maat held my hand and encouraged me while Thoth knelt between my legs playing the role of midwife. After several hours of intense, unrelenting pain and effort, the child who I knew with the certainty of a god needed to be born joined the world.
Thoth looked at me, his expression odd. “We have a boy,” he said softly. Thoth looked back down at the baby, his expression unreadable as he cleaned the child.
I waited to hear the cry of an infant, and the blood in my veins ran cold at what the silence might mean.
“What’s wrong? Why isn’t he crying?” I asked as little bubbles of panic started to rise in me.
“He has no reason to cry. He knows he is safe and already adored beyond reason by not one or two gods, but by three. We have a very special little boy, Fate,” Thoth said with a little wonder in his voice as he placed the baby on my belly.
I looked down and sucked in a startled breath, instantly and utterly smitten. I was absolutely sure that I’d just birthed the most beautiful child ever created in any of the realms. He already had a full head of hair, white as new fallen snow except at the nape of his neck where it was the pitch black of a starless night. His skin was the white of the inside of an oyster shell with the faintest of pink blushing. He moved his head to look at me, and I was sure my mouth fell open in surprise. I was one of the elder gods yet, there were apparently things left to see for even one as old as I was.
Two pupilless eyes the colour of a pale mauve water lily rimmed in heavy black lines forming wedjat eyes stared at me. In the center of his forehead was a third eye of pale gold with a slit pupil in a darker shade of gold. The third eye was also rimmed in heavy black with three thin lines tracing down from the bottom lid and three joined crescent shapes on either side of the upper lid. Delicately pointed ears stuck out from between the wet hair on his head, and he had shockingly dark red lips. As he stared at me, I felt the most wonderful sense of warmth, calm, and peace flow through me. All that I’d ever accomplished as a god paled in comparison to giving life to this child.
“Oh my,” I said quietly as I brought my hand to rest on the back of his head. Thoth flashed me a smile, likely knowing exactly what I was commenting on.
“What will be his name?” Maat asked as she reached out a hand and stroked her finger gently over his cheek. Her eyes widened in surprise, and she echoed my earlier words of wonder.
“I would that he has my name in some form,” Thoth said firmly as he continued to work between my legs to clean me.
“Not as a first name. Everyone deserves something that is his own,” Maat said in a tone that forbid any arguing with her. “Choosing what he is to be called by those closest to him is the right of his mother. As for another name, Zehuti-sen shall be his other name.”
I nodded absently. Thoth-child was absolutely correct, and I had no issue with that. But what should his first name be? It should be something that spoke of the person he was. Words held power, and the naming of a god, for he most certainly was a god, even more than most.
“He is very sweet and gentle. A warm and giving soul despite what he knows or will come to know about the world and people around him. He has a purity to him that is extremely hard to corrupt. While I do view myself as one of his parents because of how he came into being, that is not proud-parent-speak. I speak as the goddess Maat when I declare those words.”
“You do not have to name him this very instant, Fate,” Thoth said as he finished dealing with the by-products of the birth. “A few days while you sort out what our boy should be called will not harm anything.”
Logically, I knew that. But I felt like he needed to have his name now. I was a touch frustrated that his threads, while brilliantly golden like spun honey and easy for me to see around him, faded out of sight not far from his body just like my own did. There would be no sure seeing of his future. How was I supposed to protect him from harm when I couldn’t see everything about his life? I was suddenly more frightened than I’d ever been in my very long existence.
As if he could sense my rising panic, my newborn tilted his head back, closed his beautiful mauve eyes, and held my stare with his golden eye. I had no idea how a sense of endless patience and massive calm could come from one that was literally minutes old, but it did. My fear eased immediately, and his eye closed as if exhausted. As quickly as that, he was sound asleep.
“What just happened?” Maat asked as her hand gripped my shoulder so hard it actually hurt. Thoth looked as startled as I felt.
“I have no idea,” I said. “I was starting to feel afraid of what lay ahead of me in raising this child, and then... it was gone, and I was calm. I’ll do fine. I don’t know where that surety comes from, but it’s true. I feel it from the bottom of my soul.”
“Perception would seem to be his godhood based on what just happened,” Thoth said with a thoughtful look. “It is astounding that he could do that as he just has. I am afraid that your threads have been tangled far more with the birth of this child than what the Fatebender Eilam could ever do if he tried for millennia.
“I am the God of Knowledge; my wife, who had a hand in the creation of this child as well, is the Goddess of Balance, Justice, and Truth and the Bringer of Order from the chaos of creation. You are Fate, an elder god and older even than we are. You control the lives of not just mortals but also the lives of gods of your pantheon to a degree. It would appear that in this tiny child, we have placed a portion of the power of three celestial beings of immeasurable power. To affect one such as yourself is unexpected for a babe only minutes old. Regardless of him being my child as well, he will have my protection as I am sure he will need it. Watch over him carefully, Fate. There are those in the world, both mortal and god, that would use him for their own goals.”
“He is a peace-maker and will seek balance. I have no doubt that the world will need one such as him several times over. While I do not interfere in the workings of the mortal world and only strive to keep the gods from leaning too far in any one direction, I will watch over him as well and warn you of anything untoward,” Maat said.
I blew out a soft breath. Well, this was certainly an unexpected turn of events. The world could certainly use more peace in it and more people working to that goal. I thought it was an unfair thing to burden a babe with, but the hows and whys of his birth were entirely on my shoulders. I would have to see about getting some guardians for my new son. I trusted Thoth and Maat implicitly, but they did have their own godly duties to attend to, and I couldn’t rely solely on them. I looked down at my sleeping child and gently ran a hand over his silky hair, suddenly knowing his name.
“Ammiel. His name is Ammiel. It means one of the family of god, for he most certainly is that. Part of his name, with some tonal variations, also means honey in several languages. I think that is most fitting; don’t you? Honey is considered a gift of the gods and to the gods in several pantheons, both of ours included.”
Thoth laughed softly. “Ammiel Zehuti-sen. I like it. It sounds pretty and is fitting.”
“I like it as well. Come, let us leave Thoth to the changing of the sheets before you take a well deserved nap. As well behaved as Ammiel has been these first few minutes, that will not entirely last, and you should catch your rest wherever and whenever you can,” Maat said as she helped me to stand, Ammiel cradled in my arms.
I stayed with Thoth and Maat a few more days, grateful for their help and support. Despite Maat’s warning, Ammiel was the perfect baby, sleeping well, and I’d yet to hear him cry. We all thought that was a little odd, and Thoth said he knew nothing about a child that never cried, god or not. Most times, Ammiel’s third eye rested at half mast or was entirely closed. When he did open it and stare at you, the most amazing sense of serenity flowed through you like warm honey. It wasn’t just maternal pride that had me believing that my little boy was very special.
I walked on the little path through the forest that led to my home, Ammiel slung in a blanket tied across my chest, sleeping peacefully. I could’ve simply appeared where I needed to be, but the day was lovely with birds singing and small animals scampering through the leaves scattered on the forest floor, chittering away to each other. Flowers nodded their heads in the gentle breeze, perfuming the air with their delicate scent. It was a day that demanded to be appreciated.
Heart-wrenching sobs broke the calm of the day and woke Ammiel. His little face scrunched up, and his third eye opened wide. He flailed his arms, and for the first time since he greeted the world a few days ago, he looked upset. I moved forward a little cautiously, Ammiel’s upset making me wary. I was an elder god and had more power than most celestial beings. I could deal with almost anything. I could also be harmed if someone had the right tools just as any god could be. I also had my child to protect, and despite him also being a god, he was still fairly helpless at this stage in his life.
Tucked slightly off the path where the forest ended and the expanse of my lawn started sat a creature next to a bundle of fur. The creature must’ve heard me walking and jerked its head up. Golden eyes stared at me from the face of a very young fox. Tear tracks matted down the short fur of its face. It was no ordinary fox though. I had a very young Kitsune sitting in front of me. Although, on a closer look, he wasn’t entirely Kitsune. Something else was mixed into his blood.
“You need to help Mama. She said you’d help,” the Kitsune said in a watery, young-sounding voice.
I glanced down at the bundle of bloody and matted fur next to him and knew there was nothing I could do to help. While I held immense power, bringing the dead back to life was not something I could do. I knelt in the leaves and gently touched the fur, surprised to find the body still slightly warm.
“I’m very sorry, but there’s nothing I can do for your mama now. What’s your name little one and what happened here?” I asked gently.
“Dashiell. Mama said we needed to come to you to be safe. Some of the other Kitsune were mad at her because she loved Papa so much. They were mad because of me, too. I heard them talking to Mama about me. I wasn’t supposed to hear that stuff. They said she needed to get rid of me and Papa or they’d do it for her.”
“Where’s your papa now, Dashiell?” I asked as I tried to sooth Ammiel with one hand as his little arms and legs flailed and kicked within the blanket, his upset becoming more pronounced.
“I don’t know,” Dashiell said as he started to cry again. “He was gone one day, and Mama was really scared when she couldn’t find him. She looked and looked and looked for him for a long time, and when she finally came home, she’d been crying really hard. She put stuff in a bag and said we had to go right away.”
That was odd. Generally, Kitsune didn’t care what lovers their kind took. It was well documented that they often took human lovers, and that was completely acceptable. Something else had to be going on here.
“What about your papa’s family? Can I bring you to them?” I asked gently.
“Papa is a Coyote. Me and Mama are his family. His other family is far, far away, so there’s nobody else,” Dashiell said around a sob, his little fist clenched tight in the fur of his mother.
Well, damn. That explained a lot. A Kitsune would pair with another Kitsune or a human, but they didn’t, to the best of my knowledge, pair with other animals, not actually being animals themselves. I imagined there was a good bit of disbelief and outrage among the Kitsune over Dashiell’s mother’s actions. Assuming, of course, that Dashiell’s father was a coyote not a Coyote. If his father was one of the Trickster’s pack, I could still see the other Kitsune getting their fur ruffled over what was probably perceived as tainting their bloodline.
To the Kitsune, it was fine to dally with humans and even have children with them as human blood either completely subverted the Kitsune blood or the Kitsune blood overwhelmed the human blood. Creatures walking with a foot in both worlds didn’t happen from that mix. But stir together two Otherworldly creatures, and you had something entirely new on your hands which might not be a good thing depending on what mixed together.
I looked at Dashiell and followed his threads back. His mother died protecting him. His father died trying to lead the other Kitsune away from his mate and offspring. I picked up his father’s thread, and he was indeed one of the Trickster’s pack. There was going to be some bad blood going on when the Trickster learned of what the Kitsune had done to one of His own for nothing more than daring to love a Kitsune and have a family with her. I had no doubts that the Kitsune would be back to finish what they started. They were vengeful creatures, and honour was extremely important to them. Dashiell was likely seen as something that sullied their honour.
The angry wail from Ammiel startled Dashiell and me. Dashiell leaned forward at the same time that Ammiel managed to wriggle an arm free of the blanket and looked at Dashiell. Time seemed to freeze for several seconds, and I was oddly helpless to do anything as Dashiell reached out a clawed finger to Ammiel. Ammiel grabbed the offered finger and stared at Dashiell, the angry cry immediately stopping and a beatific smile lighting his face.
“He’s so pretty,” Dashiell said with a little awe in his voice. “This is why Mama brought us here. For him. I’m supposed to be with him. To help keep him safe. I know it.”
I looked at Dashiell sharply. Sure enough, the threads of his life and Ammiel’s now wound tightly together, and while I knew that I could eventually untangle them, it would take a lot of time and effort. I was also very sure that as soon as I untangled one area and moved to the next, the threads I’d just separated would twist themselves back around each other. I sighed softly. There was no helping it. Dashiell was supposed to be with us.
I turned my head at the sound of rustling leaves behind me. I stared into the faces of half a dozen Kitsune ready to tear Dashiell apart. They looked between Dashiell and me and obviously wanted to attack him but knew who and what I was. They bowed their heads in respect to me. I needed to put them in their place and cement the relationship Dashiell had with Ammiel and me.
“Leave and do not return with the murder in your hearts that I can plainly see. Dashiell is part of my household now, and to harm him is to bring my wrath on your head. You know who I am. You know what I can do. You know your goddess cannot protect you from my anger if I so wish it.”
“My Lady, it is an abomination and not fit to live. There’s no telling what havoc it may wreak. The taint of it needs to be purged. It is in the best interest of everyone to kill it,” one of the older Kitsune said.
“My son feels differently. Their threads are already entwined to such an extent that even I would have difficulty picking them apart. You say there’s no telling what havoc he will cause, but I know what’s in store for him because I am Fate.”
I let that sink in to their brains even though I was lying through my teeth. Now that Dashiell’s threads were tangled with Ammiel’s, I couldn’t see more than hazy, frustrating glimpses about their futures. I could see happiness for him and Ammiel though, and that was more than enough for me.
“I will not warn you again. To threaten Dashiell is to threaten my son, and that would be extremely unwise of you. Ammiel is also the son of Thoth and Maat. If you thought risking the displeasure of one god was worth the high cost of carrying out your mission, I highly doubt it’s worth having three godly parents in addition to the Trickster himself angry with you. I will be informing the Trickster of Dashiell’s existence. I’m sure he will be interested in knowing of the addition to one of his pack. ”
The Kitsune all took a collective step back. They’d taken the chance of pissing off the Trickster to get to Dashiell, but no sane creature wanted to attract the ire of four gods. They bowed and melted away into the forest. I turned back to Dashiell and rested a hand on his silky head.
“My spiders will wrap your mother in the finest silk, and she will be buried wherever you wish so you can visit any time you like. We’ll leave them to their work for now. They’ll tell me when they’re done. Come with me, and we’ll get you settled.”
Dashiell looked at the pile of fur that was all that remained of his mother and nodded. I stood, and Dashiell’s finger slipped free of Ammiel’s grasp. Ammiel fretted, and I shushed him. Dashiell slipped his hand into mine, and we started the walk across the lawn to the house. Ammiel closed his eyes and quieted. To say that I’d had a very eventful week was a massive understatement. Oddly enough, I felt as if the majority of the excitement was past me now and that life would settle into a calm routine. Or at least I dearly hoped it would.