The sun wakened just enough to greet Mariel to the new day, who had been awake early enough to sing to the stars before they faded. She continued her song as she tended to her family’s field, being taught from a young age that music was the secret to growing healthy plants. Wiping her brow, Mariel looked towards her home, expecting to find her brother calling her back home for breakfast. Their morning routine was the same for years. Amon would come out, scold her because she got so dirty before their meal, especially her long white hair, that she forgot to tie it back again. A smile grew on her face as she fiddled with the hand carved beads braided into sections of her hair.
“Mariel! Breakfast is ready!” Amon shouted, running towards her. “How are you this dirty already? And your hair too? You should clean up first.”
Her cobalt blue eyes shined with her laughter. “You’re too predictable, brother.” She slung an arm around his shoulder, slightly pushing him forward from the impact . Mariel was tall for a woman. Even as a child, she towered over everyone. Her warrior like body primed for a battlefield she had never seen, sun-kissed muscles displaying unyielding power and stamina.
Amon, on the other hand, was prone to sickness and his body never allowed him to live up to his sister’s might. He’d complain sometimes that he didn’t like the dark hair and eyes that he inherited. It seemed so dull compared to what Mariel received from the gods. As the pair turned to return home, he caught sight of a local villager rushing over.
“Isn’t that Mr. Finley? What could he want this early?”
Mariel rolled her eyes. “Something annoying probably.”
The very round middle age man stopped in front of them moments later, lungs burning, sweat dripping into his mustache, and panic in his eyes.
“Mariel! It’s terrible. That damn boar has cornered Clarence in the woods! It means to kill him.”
“I’m sure it does. I’ve told your dumbass son several times to leave Alboda alone.”
The father winced at her words. “Please, I know my son is a failure, but I just can’t bury him. You’re a Paladin, the boar will listen to you.”
Mariel crossed her arms in response, her brother scoffing at her. “The gods chose you to protect the people.”
“I don’t give a damn what the gods chose me for. Besides, it doesn’t seem like the gods want him alive. This is the third time this month that idiot has been in some life-threatening predicament. I say let natural selection take its course.”
“Y-you don’t mean that! Our families have known each other since before you were born. Please have mercy!” Mr. Finley cried.
“Of course she doesn’t mean it,” Amon reassured. “She’s just grouchy because she hasn’t had breakfast. Come, we have no time to waste. You can borrow one of our horses.”
They took off much quicker to the barn the Mariel did. Grumbling as she walked her way there, with the sound of hooves quickly following. “Hurry Mariel!” Amon yelled as the horses flew by.
“Hurry? If I’m lucky, he’s already dead, and I won’t have to deal with him again,” Mariel said, stepping into the barn.
“That’s no way for a Paladin to talk.”
Mariel sighed. “It’s too early for a lecture, Yula, especially from one of the god’s bitches.”
Her guardian sat on the gate to Mariel’s gray dappled horse, Major, stroking his nose. “When did your mouth become so foul?”
“Shouldn’t you know? You’ve been hovering around me since birth, haven’t you?”
Yula became accustomed to the Paladin’s sour attitude, especially as she grew more to hate her position in the eyes of the gods. Mariel scowled at the minor god’s soft smile, one he gave her so often. Though it was hard to stay in a bad mood around Yula, he was always the most successful in cheering her up. Today, like every day she could recall, he was radiant. His alabaster skin glowed in the morning light, dark lavender eyes lifted her, and his grass green hair almost made her laugh. He was beautiful, especially in combination with his elegant robes.
“I see you changed your hair again.”
“I’m so glad you noticed. I thought it would be suitable for spring.”
“You look stunning, as always,” Mariel said playfully. A snort came from Major, demanding attention from his rider.
“Why thank you, darling. This is why I always come to see you.”
“Oh? It’s not because you’re bound to be my link to the gods as long as I live?” She asked, quickly jumping onto the bare back of her enormous horse.
“That’s beside the point, but you really should hurry. I doubt the beast will tolerate that human harassing him for much longer.”
“Alboda probably won’t kill that moron. He knows Clarence is a coward who wouldn’t actually risk his life. I hope the boar took the chance to maim him though.”
Yula shook his head as Major bounded forward, reminding himself that humans should to be easier to handle as they reached adulthood.
“She has been mature for a few summers now, Yula, but she still has some growing to do.”
The voice resonated in the small barn like a storm, despite the whisper from the god. Yula instantly kneeled before his master.
“Lady Edona, what may I do to serve you?”
“There is no need for such formalities when we are alone. You know that. Rise.”
He smiled. In the many days he had lived, there was never anyone more beautiful than Lady Edona, one ruler of the Heavens. Her raven hair draped behind her like dark silk, her eyes as green as the leaves of the strongest tree. Yula couldn’t help but admire her perfectly sculpted body that drove many human artists to madness trying to recreate her image from visions gifted to them by one of her lovers, Oarus.
“My apologies my Lady, I didn’t expect you in the mortal world.”
“Oh, I am here more often than most realize. It is so cold to watch my beloved creations from so far. Today, however, I am here to ask for your help.” She still spoke softly, so that her power would not wake the slumbering animals nearby.
“There is no need to ask me to do anything. I exist to serve you.”
She laughed softly. “Dramatic as always, young Yula.” Her face grew worried. “Many years ago, the stars told me that one god would betray me and bring a terrible war to the human world. I feel that time is approaching dangerously close.”
“That I do not know, nor do I know their plans.”
“What can I do to help, then?”
Her smile returned. “Do not worry, Guardian Yula, I have made preparations. In two days, Unir will come with her Paladin, Jana. You and Mariel will leave with them for the Capital for the Champion Selection.”
Yula’s eyes grew wide. “But my lady, she has refused to attend since she matured. She will not go willingly.”
“She will go. I saw it in the stars. Stay by her side Yula, she will need you now more than ever.”
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