Sanctuary – Part 1

You are a small god, with very little power or influence. But you are happy, and take care of your few worshippers as much as you are able. An extraordinarily powerful being stumbles bloodied into your sacred place, and cries “Sanctuary.”

Jaeshra was sweeping the forecourt of her temple. It was a task far beneath most of her fellow deities, but she had few worshippers and they had things they needed to do. Besides, she rather liked the calm, repetitive work, it was quite meditative.

The chimes at the entrance gate jangled, frantic and discordant, she looked over, startled.

She was even more startled by the figure staggering over the threshold of her sanctuary. He was tall and handsome, and glowed with power. He was also bleeding from multiple wounds and staggering.

He dropped to his knees as she hurried over. “Sanctuary.”

With that, he pitched forward, and lay, unmoving, on the ground.

She reached him and laid a careful hand on one muscled, bloody shoulder. He groaned.

“Oh dear. Oh dear. Well, we’d better get you inside and cleaned up then.”

She paused as she remembered his request, and activated the wards around her home. None with ill intent towards her guest could now enter. At least until they overwhelmed them. She may be a deity but she doubted she was one who’d come off well in a fight against whatever it was that battered this man, if he was a man. Most men didn’t glow. Gods did. Oh dear.

She called her power and carefully lifted him, slowly drifting him inside and, after another look over his filthy form, into the bathing room.

She turned him and settled him into the bathing pool. She’d purify it later, once she’d worked out how to get his clothing off. She probably should have removed his weapons first too. Oh dear.

Her wards shuddered. It must be the other one then, the one who made the cuts in this one. She darted a worried glance between the unconscious being in her pool and the doorway. If she left him, he might drown. Did gods drown?

She sighed, levitated him again, and left him resting on the floor near the doorway, padding the area around him with prayer mats and towels, just in case he rolled.

She brushed off her robes and returned to the forecourt. The being at her gate beat at it again.

She halted in front of it and folded her hands in front of her, calling on her centuries of quiet and calm. “If you wish to pursue the one within. He has claimed sanctuary. By the power of the Oldest, I cannot permit harm to come to him while in my home.”

The one outside, who looked rather like the one inside if she thought about it, bared his teeth. “You are harbouring a traitor little goddess, I come to bring him to justice.”

Oh, philosophy, she enjoyed these conversations. She sat and arranged herself comfortably.

“Please explain to me the nature of this treachery, and the form of your justice.”

He looked at her, disconcerted. “He betrayed our father and must be brought before the courts to be tried, flogged and exiled.”

“And how did he perform this betrayal?”

“He murdered our eldest brother.”

“Murder is often a bad thing. How did it occur?”

The man at the gate was looking more and more confused. “He stabbed him in the back.”

“I am told that is most cowardly, yes?”

The man scowled and nodded.

She tipped her head in thought. “And why did he do this?”

The scowl deepened. “To become our father’s eldest and heir.”

She frowned. “Why would anyone want that? It always seems to me being an heir is far more trouble than its worth.”

She caught herself. “I’m sorry, I should not be sullying your account with my views.”

She smiled at him encouragingly when he simply stared at her.

He said. “You’re strange.”

She shrugged, and waited expectantly.

He pushed a hand through his hair. “Regardless, he has murdered our brother, betrayed our father and must stand trial.”

She nodded sagely. “Ahh, yes, so that he can be beaten bloody, and chased away from his home.”

She looked up curiously. “How is that different from now?”

The man’s mouth opened, but no sound came out. He tried a second time, pushed his hand through his hair again and finally said.

“Very well. He has claimed sanctuary. I’ll leave him with you. But fair warning, I will be posting watchers, and will pursue him the instant he leaves.”

She smiled as she stood. “Of course. Thank you for a most interesting conversation. Do please tell the ghost of the girl your murdered eldest brother raped and killed that she is safe now.”

The man choked. “He what?”

She blinked. “You can’t see her following you?”

He spun. There behind him was a faint impression of a young woman. The man dropped to his knees. “No.”

The ghost tipped her head. Jaeshra decided to leave them to it.

She returned to her temple, leaving a man, possibly a god, sobbing in the clearing outside her gate. She hoped he’d be done before evening, it would be very uncomfortable for her worshippers to have to pass him, and the ghost, in order to attend evening prayers.

The injured one hadn’t moved. She managed to remove his weapons and clothes, then wafted him back into the pool.

It was a nice one, with deep healing and soothing properties. Many people from the nearby area came to use it, even those who didn’t worship her. It was nice to have visitors and they always had lovely stories to tell about the adventures of their deities.

It would be rather exciting to have a story of her own for a change.

She found a washing cloth and carefully dabbed at the murderer’s face. She wondered how to wash his hair. She always felt nicer with clean hair.

She stepped into the pool and pulled him until he was floating, his head in her arms.

When only his face was free of the water, she frothed it up. It felt so nice and the people who used the pool said the bubbles were as soothing as the waters themselves.

Soon enough, he was clean, and she could take a proper look at his injuries. They were already starting to heal. A few bandages to keep them clean and he would be well on his way to health again.

He’d been unconscious for an awfully long time though. She ran her fingers carefully over his head, had she missed a head injury under those thick locks of hair?

He grimaced and moaned. “Don’t make me wake up yet.”

That made her smile. “You don’t have to if you don’t want to. You might want food soon, though. That healing you’re doing takes quite a bit of energy.”

His eyes cracked open. “I shouldn’t have come to you, my brother is chasing me, with all my father’s power behind him. It will be too much.”

She replied. “If he looks rather like you and scowls a lot. He’s already been by. We had a very nice conversation. He had no idea about the ghost behind him. I think he was rather upset by it.”

The man was still floating, but he frowned at that, then winced. “Ghost? Was it a young woman?”

“Oh yes, do you know her? I suppose you must, given her history with your other brother.”

She sighed. “I was sad to see her, she seemed like a soul who loved being alive. And she misses her child.”

The man bolted upright. “Her what?”

She blinked at him. “Her child.”

He scrambled for the side of the pool. “I have to go after him, he won’t know. He can’t have gone far.”

She checked her boundaries. “No, no, he’s still just outside the gate. But he did say he’d take you for justice if you left here. He had a funny idea of justice though, I think he hadn’t thought it through properly.”

He grunted a thanks of some sort and limped towards the door. She wondered whether to mention his lack of covering but, really, he did look rather nice naked, so maybe he was happy that way.

She followed him outside and watched as he hobbled across to the gate, stopping just inside and calling out. “Daren. Are you there?”

A misery-wrenched voice answered. “Dragos, you thrice-cursed cur. Why didn’t you tell me?”

Her one sighed. “Who would you believe?”

The outside one appeared at the gate again, eyes red and swollen. “She’s dead. He killed her and you didn’t tell me.”

Dragos straightened and glanced back at her. “Which is why I have to tell you this. The goddess of this sanctuary just told me her ghost misses her child.”

Daren choked, then howled. Jaeshra hurried forward. “For pity’s sake, don’t do that, you’ll scare the animals.”

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