“Your god is dead,” she said. “I killed him.”
The cultists stared at her in appalled silence. What she said was inconceivable, unbelievable – but they only had to look at the blood that dripped from her waraxe and stained her armour to see that it was far from impossible.
She stood at the top of the steps for a few moments while her words sank in, then hefted the axe over her shoulder and strode down. They moved out of her way, bowing in uneasy respect for the woman who had destroyed their world, and they let her leave.
The man holding her horse by the gate looked at her with one raised eyebrow.
“That took you half an hour,” he said.
“I know,” she said with a shrug, pulling a rag out of her pack to wipe the axe clean. “He kept running around. At least it’s good exercise, though.”
“Oh,” he said. “I was beginning to think he was the real thing.”
She laughed. “No such luck. Where’s the next one?”
He took a leather-bound notebook out of his pocket and flipped through a few pages. “Just on the other side of this pass. These cults do like mountain temples, don’t they?”
She nodded as she strapped the axe on the back of the horse. “I hope this one’s a better prospect. I’m starting to get bored of offing egotistical psychopaths. I need a real challenge.”
He closed the book and shrugged. “Well, the accounts seem to indicate this one’s been there at least a century. He is, to be honest, the best prospect that I’ve been able to locate. If this next one isn’t a real god then…”
She swung herself up into the saddle and looked down at him.
“What hurts your faith more,” she asked, “Hunting down gods or finding out they were never real to start with?”
“The gods are real,” he replied with certainty.
“So why do you help me?”
He smiled as he hoisted himself onto the back of his own horse. “I am sworn to you,” he said. “My faithful service will eventually be rewarded, whether that’s by you or by the god that finally kills you.”
She laughed. “Well, we’d better get a move on, then. Your reward could be waiting!”
She kicked her heels and set off at a gallop, and he followed her into the mountains.
© Kari Fay