Lost Prophets

© 2004 Drhoz

Phoenix Oasis, 12th Day of the Fishman, Year 428 of the Living Ra

    R'raschd Dghurz and his sister were digging dune vipers out of the sand when it happened.

    Dune vipers were easy enough to handle, with practice. One long hooked stick to drag across the dune, and a friend nearby with a forked staff if you caught one. He stabbed the tines down around a nice fat one, missing the flesh, but that didn't matter. One twist of the staff and its spine was broken.

    "Hah! Look, sister! A cubit at least! Another like that and we all have meat tonight!"  He looked over towards her, wondering at her silence "Sister?"

    She was staring slackjawed into the sky. He turned, fur rising on his nape.

    Something HUGE was coming towards them. Bigger than any bird, vaster than any ornithopter. Silent and dark, its underside glossy, like the wings of a desert beetle.

    The young gnoll grabbed his sister's arm "Run! Run!" but she could only stand and point, paw shaking.

    There was somebody on the thing. Standing at the beak-like forward end. A gnoll, grey-furred. Barely visible against the glare of the sun. But his cloak stood out like jewels. Long and flowing, every colour of the rainbow. R'raschd heart was filled with shock, then explosive, growing overwhelming joy.  He turned and ran, all else forgotten, towards the line of trees and buildings below.

    He cried out the news, heard it echoed by the people, made himself herald of Vitus's homecoming 

    "The Prophet! The Prophet returns!"

Within the Aura Flow, 32nd day of the Warrior, Year 424 of the Living Ra

    He was loosing his grip on the higher realities. The alien, organic walls of the place they had found were bleaching out of his vision, as the *thing* on his back dragged them both back into... somewhere else.

    Even through the pain, the awful, bonewracking pain of the thing's tentacles dissolving into his skull, he tried to fight. Sword and staff lost, even his dagger gone in the melee.  paw scrabbled at his belt, as his other tried to force the thing away. Closing on the short, thin rod of ivory he now kept safely unused in his belt.

    He couldn't say the words. One of the thing's tendrils lay foul and rubbery across his tongue, gagging him. Turned the wand anyway, held like a knife, and stabbed backwards, into the monster's eye

    Maybe that saved him. The dark tunnels forming around them flickered, and round stones were under their feet, an impossible sky overhead. He screamed, rage and pain cramping his muscles as he forced the wand in deeper, feeling flesh and cartilage tear, and the creatures brain quivering around the point. It's claws sank deep into his arms, then fell away, as it flopped boneless across the square. Vitus swayed on his feet, staring around him at the crowds of the mildly interested humans, and other things.  His weapon dripped clear blood. He stared at the body of the mindflayer, dead or unconscious, at his feet.

    His vision darkened, and he fell forward to join it.

Phoenix Oasis, 13th Day of the Fishman, Year 428 of the Living Ra

    His followers were gathering. Already messengers had been sent to Cynidicea, and north to the other desert tribes.  Even with only a fraction of the gnolls followers of the New Faith, there were already hundreds of them outside his home. He had concealed his surprise at the state of it. He'd never expected to have a shrine dedicated to him.  Especially when he was still alive.

    The Usimagarites murmured as he emerged. Many had brought bowls of thick and delicious foods, platters of fried meats, stacks of the sweet pancakes he had missed so badly in the long years lost beyond the stars. He tried to ignore the disgruntled rumblings of his stomach, raised a paw to address them. "Friends. Followers of Usimagarus Reborn. I have returned, as the prophesies fortold."

    He didn't know if there were any such prophesies. How could he? But now he was back he would make damn sure that there were.  Every little bit helped, after all.

    No point in pausing longer  "I have been beyond the stars. Seen the strange sights that exist there. Learnt of the world from the beings that dwell there. Met the very servants of the Gods!"

Sigil, Year 425? of the Living Ra

    Vitus didn't think much of the beer they had around here. Too thin. Too watery. None of the lumps real beer was supposed to have.  He peered cross-eyed into the bowl in front of him. And it was nearly all gone. Tears filled his eyes and matted the fur on his cheeks. No more beer. Utter tragedy.

    "More beer! More beer!" called his new and bestest friend.

    "And some more Cat'sblood for me" slurred the voice of his other new and bestest friend under the table.

    Vitus turned with difficult to face the giant manta ray on the next bench.  "You know... you know you know... you things aren't too bad. Not really. You might go round eatin' people. Sometimes.. I suppose.. I think... But once you get a few drinks down you're not so bad.  Haveanotherbeer. On me. You're my best friend you are."

Phoenix Oasis, 13th Day of the Fishman, Year 428 of the Living Ra

    "There are gnolls out there. And humans, and all the other races. And some of them have never heard the word of Usimagarus. You wonder why I spent so long in the voids beyond the stars? How could I not, when there are so many of our lost brethren out there, aching to hear the news of the Reborn God?"

Sigil, Year 425? of the Living Ra

    He looked up at the building. Carved and polished wood, carefully shaped stone, and crowded on all sides by the tall buildings of the ward. Above THAT were the endless expanses of the Outer Planes, spreading off dizzyingly at a sharp angle to local gravity. He ignored the blasted landscape Sigil was currently looking down upon, and stared instead at the cluster of stars carved over the door. "Celestian? Celestian? His name is Usimagarus!"

    "Hey. Berk."

    The gnoll sighed. THAT was a familiar tone of voice.

    Three young humans were grinning at him. "Yeah, you, dog-face. Owner let you out for a walk, has he?"

    Vitus gritted his teeth. It had been dismaying enough to learn that the summoning worlds had actual, concrete existance, instead of the shadowy unstable half-life he had always assumed -  and that were hundreds of thousands of them, at least, besides. But the discovery that everywhere else his species were dangerous barbarians and cannibals had exceeded that shock, easily. What awful calamity had affected the rest of the known universe to keep his kind away from their natural social and technological place - on top of the heap?

    And here he was, sans staff, sans spell-scrolls, being patronised rigid by teenaged hairless monkeys.

    "We're not going to rob you, dog-face... little experiment like you wouldn't have no money, would he? So tell you what... you roll over for us and bark like a nice doggy and we'll let you go on your way."

    Vitus closed his eyes. He supposed there were fringe benefits. Stuck here amongst these supposedly civilised creatures, assumed by the locals to be either a wizard's pet or a pathetic loner thug, they probably wouldn't be too shocked if he did something like this.

    The human's nose smashed satisfyingly against his fist

Phoenix Oasis, 13th Day of the Fishman, Year 428 of the Living Ra

    "And thus I tought them. But what did I learn, amongst the gods? That there are three pillars of the faith - Faith, Hope, and Charity..."

Sigil, Year 425? of the Living Ra

    "...six hundred and sixteen, six hundred and *seventeen* "  He scooped the coins back into a secret pouch inside his robes. The gold felt satisfyingly heavy.

    That should be enough, finally - enough for a replacement scrollcase, a passable staff, suitable inks and spell material, perhaps even enough for passage back to his home universe. Assuming that the Church of Celestian weren't lying through their teeth about the possible routes to do so.

Phoenix Oasis, 13th Day of the Fishman, Year 428 of the Living Ra

    One of the desert humans, the child of some soldier by the looks of things, reached out to touch his cloak.

    "Wise One.. Tell us.. tell of the other worlds"

Rock of Bral, 1st Day of the Archer, Year 427?

    The horizon was only a few hundred yards away, here. Beyond that, a black sky, a few faint lights struggling against the dock lanterns.

    "You call this a world? This isn't a world. It's a godsdamned rock." He pointed a finger, trembling with rage, at the 'stars' "What kind of Creator makes a universe where stars aren't the great statue-beacons, standing in the sphere of cosmic water? And why in the seven names of Hades does there have to be so many of them?"

Phoenix Oasis, 13th Day of the Fishman, Year 428 of the Living Ra

    "But now i am returned - you have your navigator on the path to Enlightenment once more!"  He smiled beautifically - now there were only the little problems of his religion being banned as heretical, getting his paws back on all the stuff he'd been forced to leave with his college however many years ago it had been, organising a trade pact with the skymerchants, and dealing with the likely hordes of demonkin that infested his ruined capital.

Phoenix Oasis, 12th Day of the Fishman, Year 428 of the Living Ra

    Vitus was feeling grudgingly impressed. This 'skyship' had managed to pass through the walls of the universe dry and intact. And at least it wasn't powered by rodents.

    He looked ahead, at the world where he had been born.  At first he hadn't even recognised the Pharos Sea - so tiny on that vast and mottled globe.

    The Soulwind Desert looked so small from up here. Everything he had known until his clan had sent him off to be a wizard. He'ld come a long way. It had never been easy. Grasping the secrets of magic with two fierce paws, surrounded by idiots, gnolls and humans wasting all their time not *listening*. Finding the Lost City, and rebuilding a civilisation as a new High Priest.

    "Zloty for your thoughts?"

    The gnoll glanced back at the ship's captain. "Hmm? Nothing... just thinking.  No black stain of infernal darkness over Cynidicea, which is nice. And Heiropolis still seems to be there. Why do you ask?"

    "No real reason, friend gnoll - you just seemed less angry than usual."

    "Quite. And why should I be so?"  He turned to his world again, staring down at the tiny smudge of green in the dune sea.  "I'm coming Home."