#15 Star Gods
Melora’s robes swished around him.
Or so he imagined. In reality, they were so new that they merely hung, creased and awkward, like the apprentice he once was.
It was his turn to go before the gods and listen. This night, he would do so not as a student, but as their priest. One day, his robes too would swish, once age and experience had softened both man and fabric alike.
Would age and experience quell the doubts he felt whenever he read the stars? His teachers approved his findings, but the messages he saw in the stars’ twinkling lights felt nothing more than lucky guesses. It felt like there was something missing.
“Go now, Priest,” the Elder bade. “Bring back whatever message the Gods have for you this night.”
Melora nodded, drew up his hood, and left the warmth of the building. He kept his eyes to the ground, as was taught to him, both to watch his way and to prevent reading the stars until he was ready.
Of all nights, please let this one be true, he thought. Of all nights, don’t let this one feel like a guess.
He found his position, took a deep breath, and threw back his hood. The vastness of the greeting sky awed him. It humbled him. The sheer immensity drove his lessons from his mind even as the chill air licked as his scalp.
“Concentrate, Priest,” Melora told himself.
He let his eyes relax as he waited for a position in the sky to draw his attention. A place did so. His eyes locked on it.
Or had it? Now that he looked, he saw nothing at all. No messages in the waves of light. No portents in the pattern.
Panic blocked whatever message might have been there. He would be found out as a false priest this night. The stars said nothing to him.
Motion in the corner of his eye caught his attention. Melora shifted his gaze. This was surely the true message. What was at first a tiny star–no more than a pinpoint of light–grew brighter and bigger, and it did so far faster than anything Melora had ever seen in the night sky.
A tail grew from that point of light. It traced the sky. Almost too soon, Melora realized that it was getting bigger because it was coming at him. He jumped to the side as a bright flash of light plummeted to the earth in a crash of heat and soil.
Melora paid no mind to the dirt and leaves that stuck to his garments as he got up. He crept forward, staring at the small crater in the ground. Steam rose from it. The ground glowed a dull red.
Inside he beheld a chunk of what looked like scrap metal from the smithy. It was no bigger than the size of his fist. The glow came from the metal itself, almost as if it had been just removed from the forge and was ready for hammering.
He looked to the sky where it had been. Its place was empty.
If stars were but metal in the sky made into gods, what did that say about men and their teachings?
Melora ran naked through the night. The old gods shimmered above him. His robe would soften as water and weather assulted it, but there would be no man in it.