Others, 53

Some People Wait for the Gods to Talk to Them, Other People Are Less Patient

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Grey Rain couldn’t get Sky Heart’s antlers right.

Antlers were really hard to carve on a fetish and Sky Heart had really big ones that were thick and curved and had a lot of prongs and Grey Rain kept getting them wrong and that was probably why the stupid fetish wasn’t working.

He tossed the useless carving on the floor and resisted the urge to cut its stupid antlers off. Sky Heart might not like that even if they weren’t going to visit the fetish. Dammit.

A hand on his shoulder made Grey Rain look over, and Snowball was there, looking worried. “Are you okay?”

Grey Rain immediately felt bad. He’d made Snowball worry about him. He shouldn’t do that. Snowball worried about way too many things already. Grey Rain shouldn’t be one of them. “I’m okay,” he said, leaning in a little. Snowball had had a scary dream last night and then hadn’t been able to go back to sleep because Gold Stork had died, and he smelled tired. “I’m just trying to make a fetish for Sky Heart to help Gold Stork go to the sky castle.” Humans in Tree Kingdom went to a big castle in the sky when they died. Grey Rain had never been there, but Gold Stork had lived in a castle when he’d been alive, so he would probably like it. Grey Rain wanted to make extra-sure he got there, because King Cat was so sad and he’d get even more sad if his dad got lost and turned into a heavy one.

That happened sometimes when people got killed instead of dying the normal way. They could get angry or scared or lost and not be able to find where they were supposed to go, and they could become dangerous. It was extra important to make sure the spirit was shown off properly when someone died the wrong way. Everyone was sure Gold Stork had been murdered and they didn’t know who did it. Grey Rain was really worried he might become a heavy one if he didn’t do something. He couldn’t solve a murder but he could make sure King Cat’s father got to the afterlife. Or at least he was supposed to be able to make sure of that.

Snowball nodded, picking up the one Grey Rain had just thrown on the floor. He looked at it, then sat it down standing up. “Why don’t you like this one?”

Grey Rain sighed. “The antlers are wrong. Sky Heart’s are bigger and wider.”

“I thought the fetishes were just shapes,” Snowball said. “The gods don’t really look like that.”

Grey Rain couldn’t help but smile even though it made his bruised eye hurt, his tail wagging at that. He’d bored Snowball to death talking about the gods a few times. He’d been thinking about them a lot more lately. “Yeah! But Sky Heart is really important, so I need to do a good job to get their attention.”

Ever since Grey Rain had been living in Tree Kingdom, the gods had had a harder time getting to him. He understood why; there were a lot of werewolves at home who needed them, and Grey Rain was only one person, and he maybe didn’t talk to them as often as he should. But he was also supposed to be a Speaker and the gods were supposed to listen to him, especially when it was important.

“I thought Sky Heart was a he,” said Snowball, sort of asking it like a question.

“Sometimes they are! But they change their mind sometimes!” Sometimes Grey Rain wondered if that was what made invoking them hard.

“Oh. Okay. I think you’re doing a really good job,” said Snowball.

“Thank you.” Grey Rain hugged him, feeling the shark dragon tooth Snowball had given him press against his chest. He felt a little better, and he probably shouldn’t have gotten so angry. “I’ll try again.”

Snowball nodded, and let Grey Rain carve another fetish, watching him whittle the wood into the shape of an elk, leaving the head for last. He was very careful with the antlers this time, trying to get them into the shape he could feel in his breath. They still didn’t come out right, but he could see Snowball in the corner of his eye, watching Grey Rain but also drawing because he wanted to make a nice picture of Gold Stork so nobody would forget what he looked like. Grey Rain stayed calm even as his tail twitched. He carved Sky Heart’s epithets into the sides of the fetish, and rooted around for a small tallow candle, which he lit with a match. He also took a feather from a black bird and a little piece of fabric torn from one of the blankets in Gold Stork’s bedroom, which Grey Rain had snuck into earlier.

He burned the feather and the fabric and let the candle drip tallow onto the fetish, then smeared the ash onto it. Snowball watched him carefully, and Grey Rain breathed in the smoke before putting the candle out. He put the fetish down. “Sky Heart, the One Who Takes Us, I invite you to this place, for you are needed. Gold Stork is dead, and he needs guidance to his castle in the sky.”

The smoke swirled around the room for a second, and Grey Rain felt a presence enter…and then leave. Like Sky Heart had looked in the window and decided they didn’t want to help. He growled.

“What’s wrong?” Snowball asked, getting Grey Rain’s attention.

“They left,” said Grey Rain, snapping his hands. “They came and decided I wasn’t important and they left.”

“I’m sorry,” said Snowball. “Maybe that means Gold Stork doesn’t need help?”

Grey Rain shook his head. “Maybe. I think it means they’re ignoring me. Gods do that sometimes.” That was what they were like. Sometimes they didn’t think things were important even when they were. They thought about the world differently than people because they didn’t live in it anymore. “They aren’t here for a very long time, so it’s hard to make them understand what you want because they don’t have a lot of time.”

“I’m sorry,” Snowball said again.

“It isn’t your fault,” Grey Rain promised Snowball. “It’s theirs.” Gods were supposed to listen.

And, he thought, he knew what to do about it. “I’m going to try something else. I need to go get some stuff.”

Snowball nodded, and Grey Rain got up, determined. He went to the door, then paused. “Is it okay if I go?” he asked. “I don’t want you to be lonely.”

Snowball came over and kissed him. “I’ll be okay. This is important.”

It was important, but Snowball was important too. “As long as you’re sure.”

“I promise,” Snowball said. “I’ll sit with King Cat and Red Wolf until you get back.”

Grey Rain nodded, feeling a little bad again. He should be with his family, not trying to fight with a stupid god who didn’t want to do their job. But he’d promised he would get Sky Heart’s help, and Sky Heart wasn’t helping. “Okay. I won’t be long.”

He ran out, pausing to promise King Cat he’d be back very soon, and went to the kitchens. There, he asked a cook named Moonlight Shard to help him find the right powders and herbs and stuff, and then once he had those, he looked for the butcher and, though she couldn’t talk with her hands, managed to explain to her that he needed to kill a bird.

She let him help with a hen they were going to cook tomorrow, and even though it was mean and he felt bad, Grey Rain cut its head off, draining the blood into a bowl. Then he got a fish liver and pig’s thigh bone too. He thanked her and carefully carried the bowl, the body parts and the powders back to the apartment and into his room. He went outside and looked up at the crescent of the moon. The snow from yesterday was mostly unbroken, which meant it was still technically rain, and he collected some into another bowl. Then he dug down into the snow all the way to the frozen mud underneath. He took a breath and transformed his hand into a claw to scoop some out.

Back inside, he used the thigh bone to mix the blood, the mud and the snow together with a bunch of the powders and herbs, adding some ashes from the hearth and some more tallow. Snowball came back in while he was rolling the fish liver in the rest of the herbs. Grey Rain looked up and saw that King Cat and Red Wolf were in the doorway. “We’re going to go to bed,” Red Wolf said.

Grey Rain nodded and got up, wiping his hands on a rag. He went over and hugged both of them. “I’m still trying to make Sky Heart pay attention to me,” he said. “But they’re going to.”

“It’s okay if you can’t,” King Cat promised. His eyes were so red and he smelled like tears.

“No, it isn’t,” Grey Rain promised him. “They’re a god and they’re supposed to do their job. I’m going to talk to them, I promise.”

“Okay. Thank you, Grey Rain, you’re very sweet.” King Cat kissed his head.

That made him smile, especially when Red Wolf did it too. “I’m very sorry that Gold Stork died. I liked him a lot and he seemed like a really good dad.”

“He was,” King Cat. He smiled again, and he hugged Grey Rain, and then Snowball. “And it matters a lot to me that you’re working so hard on this for him. Thank you. Goodnight.”

“Goodnight,” Grey Rain said. “I’ll tell you what Sky Heart said in the morning.”

“Thank you.”

“Try not to stay up too late, okay?” Red Wolf asked. “We had a long day and the next few days are going to be pretty hard.”

“I know.” Grey Rain remembered how hard the days had been after Elk Fang had died. “I’ll try. I love you.”

“We love you too.”

They said goodnight to Snowball as well, and once they were gone, Grey Rain shut the door and sat back down. “This might take a long time and it’s going to be kind of gross for a little while,” he said to Snowball. Snowball didn’t like blood and stuff. “I’ll go in the other room.”

Snowball shook his head, sitting on the bed. “It’s okay. I don’t mind.”

He’d gotten so much braver since Grey Rain had found him in that snow. Grey Rain loved him so much. And he didn’t want Snowball to be afraid for him. “I don’t want you to worry about me.”

“I’m going to anyway,” Snowball told him, very plainly. “What’s going to happen?”

Grey Rain looked away, but only for a second. “I’m going to go to where the gods live. I’ve never done it before, but I saw Titan Heart do it once. It’s going to seem like I’m dead, but I won’t be, I promise. And sometimes when you don’t use your body for a while a spirit might try to use it so I might start being weird.”

“You’re always weird,” Snowball said affectionately. Grey Rain blushed, feeling warm in his belly. “I know sometimes you have to be alone. But if you don’t have to be tonight, I’d rather you weren’t.”

Well, Grey Rain couldn’t argue with that. He got up and hugged Snowball tight, kissing his cheek. “Okay,” he said, once he was done. “I don’t know how long this is going to take.”

“I’ll wait for you.”

“You should get some sleep.”

“I have to work on my drawing anyway. The last one I made wasn’t good enough.”

“It looked just like him,” Grey Rain disagreed. “I saw it.”

“I got his beard wrong. I’m going to try again.”

“King Cat will care more that you tried than that you got it perfect,” Grey Rain promised.

“I know. Just like Sky Heart.”

Well. Grey Rain couldn’t disagree with him now, so he blushed. “You should still sleep.”

“I’ll wait for you,” Snowball repeated, the set of his shoulders just like King Cat’s when he wasn’t going to do as he was told.

Grey Rain smiled at that. “Okay. It’s going to be okay. Please don’t touch my body while I’m not here.” There wasn’t a magical reason for that. He just didn’t want Snowball to get scared if he wasn’t breathing much. “I’ll be back before the sun comes up for sure.”

He sat back on the floor, pulled out a knife. He felt a little bit bad about carving the floor up, but this was important and they could put a rug over it later. Grey Rain had found a whole room full of rolled up rugs once when he’d been looking around the castle. He carved a five-sided map of the world and overlayed it with a ten-sided map of the gods’ world, and in the gaps between the shapes, he carved the Greater Invitation. He took off his necklace so it didn’t get dirty. Then he took the bowl of blood and mud and melted snow and dipped his fingers into it.

It was hard to write on his own body and Grey Rain had been rapped on the head so many times for not doing a good job, but he made sure all the glyphs were perfect, circling his arms and legs, up his belly and chest, on his cheeks and forehead. He used the pig’s thigh bone to do the ones on his back and then checked them all over in the mirror twice to make sure they were right.

He used the last of the mixture to trace over the five-sided shape, and then painted a big glyph in the middle, his own name. So he’d know how to get back. He looked up at Snowball, who was watching carefully. “I’ll tell you all about everything tomorrow, if you want,” he offered.

“I’d like that,” Snowball said. “I’d like to know about what you do. You don’t do stuff like this a lot.”

“It’s because I used to hate it,” Grey Rain said. He put his necklace back on now that some of the writing on his chest was dry. “I never liked that they were making me do it. I guess I only learned why it was important after I came here.” Now that he had a family that loved him, he understood why it was important that someone be able to talk to the gods.

Especially when they were being little bitches and not doing their jobs.

Grey Rain lit a new candle, a tall one. “If this goes out, can you light a new one? You can’t relight this one, it has to be a new one that’s never been burned.”

“Okay,” Snowball promised, looking at the box where the candles were. “I will.”

“Thank you. I’ll be back soon, promise.”

Grey Rain sat on his glyph and took the fish liver, which he put in his mouth. It was pretty big, but he had a lot of experience swallowing pretty big things, and he swallowed it whole. It tasted terrible and made his head woozy, but he did it. Then he took a breath. “Skatech Skanel Skoul, I invoke my right to walk in the moon’s true light. I claim my right to speak with the real. I demand my right to enter the world.”

The glyphs on Grey Rain flared painfully for a second, singing his skin. They wouldn’t scar. The ones he’d carved in the floor started to glow too, and the room got very cold for a few seconds, all the fires except his tallow candle going out. Grey Rain’s nostrils filled with the scent of iron.

Grey Rain stood up. His body fell to the ground. The room was so grey it was hard to make much out, but he could see Snowball on the bed, shaking. From here, he looked like a turtle, a heavy shell on his back. He was probably so scared. Grey Rain should have insisted on going in the other room. He should have done this another night. But it was important that it be done soon after death or else it might be too late. There was no point in doing it tomorrow. Gold Stork might already be a heavy one by then. He might already be—it had been almost a whole day since he’d died.

He was on all fours in this world, his wolf taking over naturally. Grey Rain turned around.

And stopped. Taking up the front half of the room, their back half through the wall, an elk the size of a small whale was staring at Grey Rain, totally still. Their antlers were curved and many-pronged, and hung with black feathers. You are loud, Speaker.

I have to be, Listener, Grey Rain said. Nobody talked with mouths or hands in this place. You didn’t hear me.

I heard you. You dare invoke me for a trifle. A human soul.

He’s my grandfather, Grey Rain said, and the world around him sharpened a little.

Thus, he matters more than others? Sky Heart asked. They weren’t moving, but as they spoke, Grey Rain felt something like a cracking of glass, and his necklace grew warm.

No. But he matters to me and to us. Please take him where he’s supposed to go.

Sky Heart was silent for a moment, giant black eyes piercing Grey Rain. I will not.

Grey Rain’s hackles rose, but he held in a growl. You are the Bright Star of Middlenight. You are the Guide for the Departed. Sometimes gods needed to be reminded of who they were supposed to be.

And the soul you intercede for is a human. My purview does not include his kind. Nor does it include this land. Do you think your audacity in invoking me here will charm me?

Fine. If Sky Heart wanted to be a jerk, Grey Rain would be a jerk too. I am Grey Rain of the Sunwood Pack, and if you won’t take him to his castle in the sky, then I will take him myself.

Sky Heart’s presence got larger without their form increasing, filling the whole room as the grey faded away and was replaced with a transparent black. All Grey Rain could smell was birds. Do you believe yourself a better god than I, Speaker?

Wait a minute. Why were they asking Grey Rain questions? Gods shouldn’t do that. Especially not a unifying force like Sky Heart, it wasn’t their job to challenge…


Grey Rain didn’t need to say or think anything. As soon as he realized he wasn’t talking to Sky Heart, the god’s form changed, becoming a boy Grey Rain’s age but bigger, his eyes empty and heavy antlers growing from his head, a bird’s nest nestled in them. Aside from those things, he looked exactly like Grey Rain’s brother Elk Fang, who’d died two years ago. Clever Speaker.

Grey Rain wanted to step back as the god came closer, but he didn’t. If I invoked you by mistake, I apologize, he said. He had to say something. He didn’t know who this was. I didn’t mean to bother you.

I am not bothered. Elk Fang’s copy was walking in a slow circle around Grey Rain. I am entertained. You have become quite powerful, little brother.

This was not Grey Rain’s brother. Grey Rain’s only living brother was sitting on the bed behind him, invisible in the darkness. My teacher always said that our power comes from the people who need our help. My family needs my help.

Your family? Our parents are all alone. They’ve lost both of us. The god petted Grey Rain’s flank.

Grey Rain tried to hold still. He wasn’t going to let some asshole god bait him into getting mad again. May I call you something, Listener? That was what he was supposed to ask if he met a god he didn’t know. Then the god would tell him their name.

But this god just laughed. Why didn’t you try to invoke Sky Heart when I died, little brother? Why do you love your new family more than you loved me?

I helped the Sunwood Speaker perform all the voyage rituals. Elk Fang went to the Moon Glade. Grey Rain insisted, still refusing to move as the god kept walking.

You aren’t answering the questions I’m asking, the god accused.

You’re not asking real questions. You’re trying to upset me. Grey Rain thought about that. A god shouldn’t do that, it wasn’t their job. Unless it was. The god wasn’t hurting anyone. He was just…trying to make Grey Rain explain himself. You’re a Coyote.

The god wasn’t like Stone Paw, though. A Coyote’s job wasn’t to be mean or scary, it was just to make sure everyone was making the best decisions they could. It was to make sure nobody was lying when they said what they wanted. Grey Rain sat down. The god crouched in front of him, leaning in close. The necklace got warm again, and they stopped getting closer. Why haven’t you ever tried to go home, Grey Rain of the Sunwood Pack?

There was no point in lying to a Coyote. The whole point of what they did was to make people not lie. Because my parents sold me to monsters. They didn’t love me and Red Wolf and King Cat do.

For love you deprive your pack of a Speaker? Titan Heart grows old. The god wasn’t moving anymore.

Grey Rain exhaled. I feel bad about that. But they’ll find another one. It’s a big pack.

You invoke Sky Heart because your new father is sad. What about the sadness of your old father? What about the sadness of those who think you dead?

It isn’t my job to make everybody happy, Grey Rain insisted, as much as he hated that. He wanted everyone to be happy. And my happiness matters too.

You are very selfish, aren’t you? The god tilted their head, the nest in their antlers shifting. Abandoning your pack, taking what they taught you and using it only when you want something? Do you think gods exist only to do you favours?

The grey in the room was darkening further, the outlines of everything getting crisp. Grey Rain swallowed. No. I don’t think that.

Are you certain? You’re having so much fun living among humans. You’d rather only be a wolf when it’s convenient.

You’re wrong. Grey Rain did like living with humans. But he’d never felt like more of a werewolf than he had since he’d started living here. Nobody here was like him, and that was okay. But it meant he had to be more like him to make up for it.

But he hadn’t been, he realized abruptly. Being more like himself meant being who he was supposed to be all the time. Not just when something bad happened. That was what the Coyote was trying to make him see. No, he said, because the god hadn’t said anything. You’re right. I haven’t been doing a very good job as a Speaker. I never wanted to be one and I liked that I didn’t have to be now that I’m here. But I am one and I haven’t been doing my job.

That was why Sky Heart hadn’t come when Grey Rain had invoked them. Not because they weren’t doing their job. Because Grey Rain hadn’t been doing his. It wasn’t a hard job most of the time. It was just some rituals and offerings and stuff and most of it wasn’t even every day. He shouldn’t be so lazy.

But I’m not selfish, Grey Rain added, looking the god in the eyes they didn’t have. Maybe I am about some things, but everyone is. It’s not selfish to want to be happy. It’s not selfish to want to be with people who love me.

No, the god said, standing. It’s not. They offered Grey Rain a hand.

Grey Rain took it, taking his other form and standing on two feet. The god looked much kinder than they had. Thank you.

We all have a function, Grey Rain.

Nodding, Grey Rain letting out a breath even though there was no air here. May I call you something, Listener?

The god smiled, and they leaned in and kissed Grey Rain.

An eagle crashes against a tree with a hawk perched in its branches, buffeting it with powerful wings. A dragon emerges from underneath the tree, spewing fire at the eagle. A pod of whales is circling, creating a whirlpool. The eagle circles the tree to swing its wing at the pack of small dogs behind it, a writhing mass of flesh that is hard to see through. In a flash of lightning, a sea monster appears, crashing against everything and creating darkness.

Look deeper.

A lion in a wooden circlet directs an army of carved soldiers against a tall fortress. Fire rains down from the fortress walls, and the lion sprouts wings and moves back to a river camp. A wolf takes his place, doing as he orders. Standing with them is a figure whose head is ringed with birds and a leashed animal, surrounded by admirers. A king with no face marches towards them on the back of a snake, with an army of shadows behind him. A statue with a sledgehammer rallies others to help. None of them see a metal bat flying towards them with an invisible creature atop it. A cat with four faces flicks its tail and a city collapses. Snowball is standing on top of a tall tower with a man cast from silver. The fortress splits open and a figure made of light strides out, bound by a long chain and flanked by several huge fighters, one of them with a barbed sword. They ignore those who oppose them and begin wrapping chains around the world.

Look deeper.

A winged creature, a man made of music and another man rooted to the ground stand in a circle around a hole in the ground. Opposite them, someone made of paper sits, rocking back and forth while they write the past. Underneath them, everything shakes. A writhing mass of black forms into the shape of a bird and circles the world, eclipsing the sun. Eight baby eagles are fighting in the sky, and the black bird begins to consume them, their feathers landing all over the world. Two hyenas with iron skin and a boiling man wearing feathers break a storm and spread blood everywhere. A boat made of salt spears the bottom of the sea. At the top of the world, a boy with sunlight in his mouth cracks open the ground and skeletons begin pouring out of the hole. A spider’s web drapes over the world, and everyone its web touches starts fighting the skeletons. A boy disguised as a bird flies away and comes back with a burning rod in his talon. A hive of bees bursts from the belly of a golden dragon and begins consuming everything.

Look deeper.

In a cavern filled with centipedes, something huge rolls over. The whole world is on top of them, but not for long. A creature opens one eye, and then ten thousand more. Blue light fills everything, and a man with a sword in his right hand swings and misses, falling from the sky and into the spiderweb. The creature sits up, and everything is on fire. Fractures in the world show another world, more fire, and everyone fleeing a searing force that wipes them all away. Something empty like the dark spot left behind by a bright light rises from the ground and starts to spread over the fires, but not before looking directly at Grey Rain.

You are not supposed to be here.

Grey Rain stepped back from the god, staring at them. Their breath was filling his mouth, their name stuck in his throat. Moonbreaker.

Moonbreaker smiled at him. Do you understand, Speaker?

Grey Rain thought about it, as hard as he could, for what felt like a long time. No, he finally said. But I’m going to try to.

Thank you. Moonbreaker gestured behind them. You still have work to do.

They made no effort to move, so Grey Rain walked around them. Don’t bother Snowball, please.

You have my oath.

That was a powerful thing to have, so Grey Rain took it and went outside. It was a simple thing, ten steps and he was in a dark copy of the castle’s grounds, the grey taking over the world again. He looked up at the moons.

The world people lived in had used to have two moons, but when the gods had left, they’d taken theirs with them. Now the real moon only existed here in this place, and it hung low in the sky beside the red crescent of the second moon, always full. Seeing it made Grey Rain fall back down onto all fours, and he didn’t hesitate in leaping towards it.

He landed on a shining surface surrounded by iridescent trees. Grey Rain sniffed the air, getting his bearings. He’d never been to the moon before. But he knew where to go. He walked to his right, for a hundred long paces, feeling the presences of all the gods who lived here. They could feel him too, and he felt their curiosity, why a visitor would have come all the way here.

They didn’t bother Grey Rain and he left them alone, heading for one tree that seemed like all the others. When he got closer, it had black feathers hanging from its branches.

At the base of the tree was a small, undecorated carving of an elk with antlers that were too small, standing upright.

Grey Rain sat down.

You have come very far, Speaker.

This is very important, Listener.

All things are. You wish your grandfather’s spirit commended to his sky castle.

Did you send Moonbreaker to me? Grey Rain wanted to know.

The carving seemed to smile. Coyotes go where they are needed. As do we all. Make your request, Speaker.

Grey Rain shut his eyes. He took in a breath of nonexistent moon air, and then breathed it out, along with Sky Heart’s true name, the one that went beyond words and ideas. Sky Heart, Bright Star of Middlenight, Guide for the Departed, the One Who Takes Us, The Pathwalker. I am Grey Rain of the… he paused, thinking about Moonbreaker. Of the Swordtree Pack. One of ours was taken from us before his time under the moon was finished, by violence and evil. I invoke you to please guide my grandfather Gold Stork to his castle in the sky, so that he may know rest and my family may seek peace.

Sky Heart’s fetish glowed green. I will do this for you, Grey Rain of the Swordtree Park. As I go, I leave you with a task. You must see your new pack through the calamity to come. They need you.

I promise I will, Grey Rain said, feeling relief. He should feel pressure at the weight of that, but he just felt relief. Gold Stork was going to be okay.

Very well. Goodnight to you, Speaker.

And to you, Listener.

Grey Rain stood up, and he was back in his room. His body had moved to the bed, where it was sitting crosslegged talking to Snowball. Moonbreaker turned Grey Rain’s head as Grey Rain appeared, said something to Snowball, and left his body without hesitation. I cannot fault your choice in mate.

I’d ignore you if you did, Grey Rain told him, smiling at Snowball, who was looking at Grey Rain’s body intensely.

Moonbreaker nodded, and he walked by Grey Rain, touching the top of his head. I will speak with you again.

I know. Thank you for your help.

Moonbreaker disappeared without answering, and Grey Rain sighed. He padded over to the bed and hopped up, into his body.

And Grey Rain opened his eyes.

His stomach felt weird and his mouth was dry, and all his limbs felt like they were going to fall off. “Hi,” he said to Snowball, as soon as he could move. “It’s me, I’m back.”

Snowball rushed forward, hands on Grey Rain’s shoulders, and helped him sit. “Are you okay?”

Grey Rain nodded. “I’m super tired. Talking to gods is really hard. I also feel funny, but I’ll be okay in the morning.”

“Okay. If you have to throw up just tell me. Moonbreaker ate all of our snacks.”

For some reason that made Grey Rain giggle. “Okay. Gods do weird things when they get bodies. I know I’m all gross and covered in blood but can we go to sleep? I’m super tired.”

“We can have a bath in the morning,” Snowball said. He paused. “Did it…work?”

Grey Rain nodded, beaming. “Yep! Gold Stork is going to the sky castle and everything’s going to be okay! Did Moonbreaker say anything to you?”

Snowball nodded, looking nervous. Grey Rain leaned forward. “It’s okay if you don’t want to tell me. The things gods tell us are for us only. But if you ever do want to tell me, you can, promise.”

“Okay.” Snowball smiled. “I will later, I think. I just want to think about it first. Do you think we could sleep in King Cat and Red Wolf’s bed tonight? I’d like to be close to them.”

“Me too!” Grey Rain jumped off the bed, then fell down, and had to be helped up. “Sorry! I’ll be okay, I really promise!”

“I believe you.” Snowball smiled at him. “I’m glad the ritual worked. I know how much it was upsetting you that it wasn’t.”

Grey Rain nodded, leaning down to blow out his candle as they walked out into the main room, where white moonlight was filtering in through the windows. “I think…it’s hard when somebody dies because there’s nothing you can do about it. I hate that everyone is so sad and I thought I could help so when it didn’t work it was really hard. But I’m okay now. I’m still sad, but I’m okay now.”

“Okay.” Snowball took a deep breath outside of King Cat and Red Wolf’s door. It was a little bit open, like it always was. “I’m still sad too. But it’s going to be okay.”

“Yeah!” Grey Rain agreed. Tomorrow morning he’d carve a new fetish for Moonbreaker, too. “It’s going to be okay as long as we stay together!”

He didn’t really understand what Moonbreaker had shown him yet, but he did understand that. They’d be okay as long as they were together. All of them. Grey Rain’s family.

The Swordtree Pack.

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4 thoughts on “Others, 53

  1. !!!

    Well. This is all kinds of metaphysically fascinating.

    Are werewolf gods the same things as the spirits that Isaac sometimes sees when he’s using his unveiling spell?

    Are they the connected in any way to the gods of Djyekkan? Which does have the world’s highest werewolf population, come to think of it…

    Those prophetic visions are a trip and a half. A whole ‘nother set of metaphors to decipher…though the Leader imagery gives us a place to start, at least.

    Is the king without a face related in any way to the King of Nothing? If so, who or what is the serpent he rides?

    The all-devouring hive of bees almost has to be Scott, which would likely make Derek the golden dragon, since he’s currently serving as Scott’s vessel and main anchor on Nova. And that dovetails with Meryan’s prophecy that outlines a bunch of apparent threats, but then points out the Dragon as the one to REALLY watch out for…Derek does have a tendency to be underestimated, doesn’t he? So that fits, too.

    Dunno what the skeletons or their summoner is supposed to be (a horde of the undead? That seems too on the nose…), but apparently everyone with Web-derived magic is going to be fighting them. Alternatively, the spiderweb is Klaus’s influence, not the capital-W Web, and he’s going to be pulling a mass possession of all his “assets” to go after whatever the skeletons are. (Resurrected murdered gods? The ziggurat-builders? Demons? Something else entirely?) Or the spiderweb is ley lines, maybe?


    1. I’m glad you think so! I was so excited when Grey Rain won the poll because we never got to see this part of his life in his first chapter, and it’s important, and now really felt like the perfect time for him to dive back into being a mystic.

      To (partially) answer your questions, there is a relationship between the werewolf gods and Isaac’s spirits that will be revealed at a point in the future, yes! If Isaac had happened to be present and used his unveiling spell while all this was happening, he would have seen Grey Rain and Moonbreaker speaking, though he might not have perceived it the same way they did because something that hasn’t been really explored yet is that access to this realm is highly subjective, so different brains interpret it differently.

      There is also a relationship between werewolf gods and the gods of Djyekkan (both for humans and werewolves) for sure! Eventually we will see a story set there which might clear a few things up, but they are definitely occupying some of the same space. 😀

      I’m of course very excited about the brand-new prophetic visions; it’s been a hot minute since a new batch of those has dropped and this one is using a whole different (but occasionally related, maybe) symbol system, which was really fun for me to write. There is definitely some obvious Leader imagery in there which does help, but then of course raises questions about all the figures around them…

      I am of course not going to confirm anything about the prophecy’s figures, but the King of Nothing is a very good candidate for equation with the faceless king. If that is a correct correlation then it theoretically limits who or what the serpent could be, though I will say some (not all) of the figures in this prophecy are a little more abstract than a 1:1 relationship with specific people, which might make interpreting a bit more challenging, especially because some of this stuff is pretty far in the future so we haven’t really seen much setup for some of it yet either.

      I am a big fan of the imagery of the bees personally. I think your interpretation is solid though again I won’t comment on whether it’s correct. If it is, it definitely does align with what Meryan was saying about one Dragon in particular in her last appearance. And of course, dragons are associated with (among other things) House Arkhewer, so affiliating Derek with one isn’t a stretch imo. If this is true I sure hope people stop underestimating Derek before he gets the entire world eaten! 😀

      With regards to the skeletons and the summoner, all I’ll say is that there are definitely things on Nova that should stay in the ground. But anyway, definitely when whatever that is happens, it seems like it’s going to have global consequences either way–either with all of Klaus’s attention, the whole Web or ley lines. Or maybe more than one of the above, since those three things are not wholly unrelated to each other, either. The skeletons represent something/someone we’ve been introduced to at least tangentially in the story so far, but I know that’s not saying much given how much we’ve seen in the story, haha.

      I love all this theorizing, it’s what I hoped for when I wrote this chapter! I’ve been hyped for this chapter since Grey Rain won the poll and I’m really glad you’re so excited too! Thank you so much!


      1. “A lion in a wooden circlet”…King Cat? Gavin, is that you? If so, that would probably make the wolf who takes his place when he has to retreat Owen/Red Wolf.


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