Owen ducked under the whirling spear, sweeping his war hammer at his assailants legs. The notched face crunched against the knees, buckling the sentry to the floor. Silencing him, Owen moved quickly, favouring his injured leg, knowing the cries would have drawn at least some attention.
As he limped towards the first tent he 'Pulsed'. His rolling gait slowly transformed into a powerful sprint, the cut on his leg forgotten for the time.
'I cant afford to injure myself again' he thought as he ran, 'I only have one or two of those left'.
As he approached dozens of guards spilled from the tents. Some were fully clad and others wearing little or nothing, grasping their spears. They ran in the direction the sentry's scream had come, not even thinking the attacker may have moved location already.
'Mercenaries' Owen thought scornfully. They never were accomplished fighters.
Owen skirted around the edge of the camp, dashing from shadow to shadow, avoiding the intermittent torch light. His black uniform keeping him virtually invisible in the cool night air.
When he reached the western most point of the camp he angled himself inwards. Not toward the middle, where the captives were, but somewhere else. He had scouted the travelling prison for a week and they always set up the servants tents nearer to where the Prison Master slept.
As Owen had expected the guards dashed either to where the fighting had originated or to surround the prisoners. No-one thought anyone would try and liberate the servants.
Owen encountered surprisingly little resistance entering the camp. Only one cowardly guard, thinking to leave the fighting to others, had been in the way. All the others had ran to their posts. Owen caved in the cowards skull even as the man tried to draw his buckler up to meet the crushing blow.
Owen had barely slowed to deal death to the man, however the camp was now waking due to the shouting and screaming. The screaming confused Owen. Maybe in the darkness the guard had been foolish enough to start to fight each other. Owen had left no one to scream.
As lamps were lifted out of tents Owen 'Shook'. This transformed his body to a translucent shadow. Servants bustled past him, unaware, to check on their masters. He stalked down a widened gap of the tents, avoiding the guy ropes, until he saw Her.
He had never seen Her before. No one he knew had ever been this close to Her, knowing who and what She was. He knew he wasn't mistaken though.
She turned, and looked straight at him. The gaze of others slid off him as he was 'Shaking', but Hers penetrated. Owen felt as if She had dowsed his head in icy water.
'Why are you here?'
Owen started. She hadn't spoken, and yet he had heard Her. He tried to project a thought back at Her, but nothing came. She shook her head slightly in annoyance.
'Do they teach you nothing these days, Young One? I see power in you, but it has been misdirected, like a water source away from the crops.'
Servants and guards ran past them both, oblivious to what was happening.
'You must Ground yourself.' It was a command, not a suggestion.
Owen had never heard of that branch of Ya-Maren, yet he felt as if She were guiding him.
He 'Grounded' himself. He felt his consciousness connect with the earth, shoot through the soles of his feet, rushing through the trampled soil and connecting with Her. He suddenly became aware of Her. Her calmness, Her composure, Her Divinity. He felt awed.
'I..... I have come to free you. I have come to start your return to glory.'
She cocked her head to one side, a hint of an amused smile on her face. Owen couldn't help but notice the juxtaposition of Her bearing to that of the camp in panic. Serving girls ran screaming, whores hastily gathering their clothes and guards paying them no heed. Then there was Her. Staring at him.
'Am I captive, Young One? Am I some simpering wet nurse who, without a babe on her breast, feels lost? Has my glory dimmed, Young One?'
Owen felt the weight of her presence thought the 'Grounding'. It threatened to scour away his own thoughts, his own identity.
'My Goddess, your glory to me is as bright as the sun, brighter than my sons first smile. I only seek to serve, and to free you.'
She straightened. The air of amusement gone.
'I am free. No one here can hold me if choose to go. I have my own reason for being here. One that you nor the Order that sent you can fathom. Do you doubt me?'
'No. But we are lost without you. It has been twenty five years since you came to any of us, Two score more since you guided us. It was luck that I felt you here. No-one sent me. As far as I know, no-one but me knows you are still on our world.'
The world seemed in flames behind Her. Owen could hear the screams of horses, held by their pickets, aching to run. He could hear yells of confusion, clashes of steel on steel.
'I am disappointed that my children require so much attention. Maybe I am a glorified wet nurse after all. Come, Young One, let me feed you.'
'Why do you mock me, Holy One? Owen projected. I have risked much to come to you. Your Children are failing. I have not come for reward or favour. I come to free you, as I do think you are bound, and I come to give us purpose again. You call me 'Young One'. I am one of the oldest and most devout of your Children. There are too few of us left who worship you. Can you not feel it?'
Owen had let himself grow angry and felt ashamed for his outburst. The 'Grounding' exposed him to a level of awareness he was unaccustomed to and he keenly felt much that he had left unspoken until now.
She regarded him with cool eyes. Her hair was kept short, blond as far as Owen could tell in the torchlight. She held herself regally, Her stout frame was but a capsule for Her soul. She was beautiful.
'I'm sorry Holy One. I spoke hastily.'
'Yes you did. I do not reward insolence Young One. What right have you to say I am bound? What right to liberate me if that is the case? But I can feel it. I feel....lessened. This disappoints me further. I thought better of my offspring. Go Young One. preach of me. Bring me new Children. For that I do reward.'
The camp froze. Owen could see guards frozen in a tableau of panic, swords half drawn as they charged to nowhere in particular.
The force at which She projected this knocked Owen to his knees. He stared in amazement at his Goddess and the scene frozen before him.
'No? How dare you defy my order. Do you not love me? Do you not worship me?'
Owen struggled to remain composed. The eerie silence of the camp contrasted to the battle preparations of a moment before.
'I do not preach for reward. How can you be so dismissive of me?'
'You are nothing but a gnat to me here. You endanger my plans and are irritating me. Leave, before I burn your soul from your body. I care nothing for you.'
At this callous demand Owen felt something break inside of him. All his life, and his fathers life before him, had been dedicated to a cruel, uncaring being,
'I told you to leave. Why do you hesitate?'
Why did he hesitate? A few moments earlier he would have laid down his life for Her without a second thought and he had never been in Her presence before. But now? She was everything that Ya-Maren was not. She was rude, belittling and callous. She held no regard for Her followers when it was taught family was all.
Just then, as he was preparing to reply in anger, the camp restarted. She seemed shocked. It was the last impression on the Goddess' face ever. A spear jutted from her ribs where there was none before. As she crumpled to the floor Owen skittered over from her knees and scooped her into his arms. She was already gone, and Owen could see her spirit leaking from her like steam. As Owen sat there stunned the steam entered him as he breathed, filling him like too much life. The more he breathed the more he felt like his skin would surely rupture from the internal pressure. His soul grew, encompassing new awareness on levels he didn't know existed.
He had caused his Goddess' death. Had she been deserving of the worship of generations? Had she done as much as a Goddess should?
As he rose to his feet he understood.
"This is my time."
He spoke the words out loud.
"I will do better."
As he walked from the prison camp he did three things. The first thing was he shed Owen and all that Owen had been. The second thing was he 'Grounded' himself firmly into the earth, feeling out the almost limitless new power. He spread himself out thinly, covering as much distance as he can.
'I have returned. I am Maren and I have returned to you.'
He sent this to all followers of Ya-Maren that he could feel.
The third thing was He became a God.