Chapter 12: The Stand (draft)

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Niht stood in rapt disbelief at the world before him. Three gods offered him power, and all he wanted to do was flee.

In a way what they were saying made sense. Such power should not be entrusted to those greedy to have it. This didn't feel like the best way for them to make that determination.

How could he judge a god for the way they acted? How could he judge anyone? After all that's what they offered him and his companions, the power to bring judgment upon others.

He was no judge, and he doubted he could be anyone's executioner. Then he thought about the people who killed his parents. What would he do if they stood before him now? Would he strike them down, imprisoned them? Who was he to meet out any kind of justice against anyone?

On the other hand, there was so much suffering in the world. Suffering didn't justify vigilantism. And that is what they were asking him to become, a vigilante.

"Actually, we are offering you the ability to save others, and prevent future suffering.” Rath said.

"And all we have to do is trust you." Niht said.

"Actually, you would have to trust me." Nortia said sternly. "I can foresee the ramifications of the actions you take. I can judge the probability of good or bad outcomes. I know the twists and turns of the threads of fate that bind the cosmos together."

How was Niht supposed to argue against that? She was literally the goddess of fate. If anyone had the ability to not only foresee the future but to know what the best outcomes could or should be, it was her, right?

"But how are we supposed to know that what you believe is best is actually what we desire or require?" Niht said.

"Because I am not stingy with my gifts. Do you think I have the time or the inclination to tell you specifically what you should do? I am offering you the ability to see the results of your actions before you take them, and to know the most likely results."

"Do we have to make an unanimous decision?" Amhran asked.

"No. You were each free to make your own decisions."

"Then I accept your offer. I cannot refuse and live my life knowing that I might have been able to prevent the suffering going on around me."

Niht stared at Amhran, and time stood still. He understood why she agreed so quickly, but fear still nagged him about whether or not he could trust him self with such power.

When he got on that shuttle, all he wanted to do was escape the war. Now, he had an opportunity to really make a difference, to make up for his life of cowardice. He ran away from everything, every challenge, every relationship, everything that scared him.

Nothing could possibly frighten him more than this. How would this power change him? What would he become if he allowed himself the ability to see the threads of fate as they operated in the world?

"You are not a coward." Rath said in the annoying way he had of reading Niht’s thoughts without asking for permission. "You are not a soldier, so how could you fight? We are not calling you to be a soldier, or a warrior. We are calling you because all you want to do is what is right.”

"And if I ever stop wanting what is right?"

"Then what is given can be taken away." Nortia said.

"I suppose that means I will have to kill.”

Rath stepped closer. "No, you will orchestrate the means of your own demise. It is the way of things. Once you start playing with fate, it has a funny way of playing back."

Niht turned and around and walked away from the shore. He wanted to say yes more than anything, but the fear strangled the words before they can get out.

It was hard to argue that he was unworthy when three gods stood before him tell him that he was. So he told himself all the reasons the power would go to his head. He imagined the corruption that would take over his life, and the pain and misery he would bring into the lives of others.

Part of him still wanted to run. Why did he want to run? He knew all too well that they were a part of him, and there was no where he could go to get away from them. So what was the point in running. He could never escape himself.

He didn't want to acquiesce because he had to. Something like this needed to be his choice. Wait, they chose him. Maybe that negated his own free will? Is that how fate worked?

"But you did choose us." Rath said. "We would not of heard you calling if you hadn't. You have always wanted to know the best way to do everything. You always wanted to do what is right. All we are doing is offering you the ability to do just that."

Niht turned to face Rath. He had seen that face so often in his dreams. The spirit took the form of every person he had ever imagined being with.

"I thought I knew you. You are literally the man of my dreams. A composite of everything I have ever desired or long for. You are trying to blind me to the circumstances I now find myself in so that I will willingly follow you to the ends of time."

Rath shook his head. "You're wrong. I was born from those dreams. Your mind gave me form. If I look like everything you have ever desired, it is because I am everything that you have ever desired. I am your confidence, your logic, your reasoning, your passion for justice. All of that gave me form. You called me into existence, and now you turn your back on me because I am everything you ever wanted."

Niht staggered back. All the heavens, the Hells, the gods, and the devils resided within. "But you exist outside of me."

"In part, yes I do. But you invoked me to stand before you now. I stand with you as the embodiment of all that you are. If you reject me, this me ceases to exist."

"You were just trying to manipulate me into believing that if I don't make the decision you want me to make that I am killing you. I see through you." His voice quivered with uncertainty. "You know I don't want to be a killer, and you're using that against me."

"No, I'm not. While yes this form will die, I am eternal. I existed before you came into being, and I will still be here long after you were gone. But this incarnation was born from your mind, from your very spirit. It is unique to you, and yes if you reject it, it will go away. I, on the other hand, will be just fine."

There had to be a trick to this. It couldn't be this easy. All he had to do was say one little word and all his dreams would be fulfilled. Life didn't work like that.

"I never promised to fulfill any of your dreams. All I said was I am the power you have always longed to have. Willingly, I offer it to you to use as you see best for the perfection of the worlds.”

"All I have to do is say yes then, and you become my slave, my servant, what?"

"I am no one's slave!" The ground tremble with the force of his words. "Do you think that you own me? You never will. Like I told you, you don't belong to me, and I don't belong to you. But together, we can do amazing things."

Niht froze. All his bravado drained out of him at the sight on an angry god. "I didn't mean to offend you."

"No, you just wanted to drive me away so you didn't have to realize exactly how special you are."

"Fine! What do I have to do sign something, or just say yes?"

Rath smiled.

Power surged into Niht's body, and his head swam in an endless sea of possibilities. He saw his life flicker before his eyes. All the choices that he made, all the choices he abandoned. Each thread distinct in and of itself weaving into the tapestry that made him who and what he was. 

Everything became so clear. He chose this, his whole life led him to this moment. Every whispered prayer, every terrified moment, all the plans that he left undone, all of it led here.

He remembered being nestled in his mother's arms listening to stories about the masked heroes that protected his people, their people, and in that moment whispered a prayer that one day he would have the courage and the strength to be one of them.

The path his brothers walked wasn't his, which is why he could not join them. It wasn't fear, but deep down he knew it was not right for him. He mistook that feeling for fear. All this time he thought he was anxious, but he could just feel the cloud of possibilities swirling around him, but he couldn't see the one that he should take.

He gasped as the clarity forged his mind and the fire went out. He knew who he was now. He like his companions was one of the hands of fate. They walked in the dark places so they might save the light from the dangers that lurk in the shadows ever trying to extinguish it.

Amhran and Iarann stood beside him. Their fates tied together. If he hadn't offended her, she never would have dared to receive this on her. Iarann would have Live the simple life as a priest and never known the satisfaction of his heart.

The light of fate shone brightly around them, and the masks protected their eyes. They were the Ifreann Tan, the hidden hand of fate. They took each other's hand, and even under the mask knew that each other smiled. The path was clear. They knew what must be done.


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