Okay, I said I'd put this up, so here's the full story. This is the first place I've written the ending down, so let me know what you think. Be aware that this was just me fooling around in character, so don't expect poetry. I came up with the whole story over the course of about two hours, give or take. Also, you should be aware that the story is being told by Dash, my Half-Orc Fighter, who used to be an Invoker, but now distrusts and even hates the gods. Someone with a different background may have told it differently, but this is how he told it to a young woman who was looking for something to believe in.
I hope you enjoy it!
In another age, there was a beautiful princess who was betrothed to marry a handsome prince. They both desired marriage, for their parents had all died, leaving them to rule their separate kingdoms, and prince and princess isn't nearly as important-sounding as king or queen. The princess was beloved by her people. Though it was also a land without priest or god to protect it, the princess was determined to keep them safe.
One day, terrible news comes to the princess: her beloved prince has been slain. She cries for days, leaning over the side of a well, and letting her tears collect at the bottom. After she has cried for several days, she hears a voice float up from the bottom of the well. It is a voice as warm as fire and has a tone that speaks of redemption just out of reach.
"Maceen," says the voice, for that was her name, "Maceen, why do you cry?"
The princess leans over the well and says, "My beloved has died, and I know not where he has gone."
Well, the voice has an aura of certainty about it; one that comforts the young girl. "Fear not, priestess, for your beloved is, even now, safe in the realm of his god."
Maceen wiped away her tears and leaned in further, "Why do you call me priestess?"
The voice receded, as if it grew tired, "Because, such you will be." As the voice warm as fire faded, the princess felt the fear in her fade. She began to rejoice, and, over the next week, visited the well each day. "Who are you?" asked Maceen one day.
"I am a god," replied the voice, "and I watch your land, and you."
"May I not speak to you in other places?" Maceen asked.
The voice was silent a moment, considering. "Retrieve the bucket from the well." Maceen reached for the rope, excited, and drew up the bucket. Inside, she found a coin from her beloved's country, bearing his face, no less. From the coin, floated the voice warm as fire, and with a tone that spoke of redemption just out of reach.
"I will always keep it with me," the priestess replied.
"What is that you have there?" came another voice, this one brimming with heat, and a touch of hatred. Behind the princess stood a succubus, a devil of seduction and pure evil. "Why do you speak to that coin?"
Maceen stood defiantly against the devil. "God is in the coin," she responded, holding it out like a holy symbol.
"A god, eh?" said the devil, rubbing her hands together and smiling excitedly. "My master is a god, and a trapped god might be of use. I will buy it with whatever you wish for."
Well, Maceen didn't fancy herself a fool, so she replied, "Trapped in it? No. It is merely how he speaks to me." No longer excited by the coin, the devil left, cursing the priestess as it did.
The next day, the voice spoke from the coin, "Your people are in danger," it said. "If you will help me retrieve them, they can live in my realm with me." Fearing that the devil might seek to make good on its curse, Maceen gladly turned to the coin.
"How?" she asked. "How might I lead my people to safety in your realm?"
The voice warm as fire then gave its first commandment, "Enlarge the well," it said. "Your people must all be able to enter it at once." The voice began to fade, as it did each day, like an echo down a well, "Enlarge the well."
What would you have done? What could you have done? An angry devil, a mysterious voice, and the lives of your people in the balance!
None can truly fathom the gods. Indeed, many gods, even good gods, demand strange things to work their miracles. ... And not all miracles benefit the worker....
The princess sent a decree throughout the land, calling her people to assist her. She tells of the god who will save them and the devil who will destroy them. She tells of their new work and their desperate plight. And the people come, of course, for they love their princess. They come in droves to assist her, and, before long, the well is far deeper and far wider. Houses that stand in the way are burned, and much of the old castle is torn down to make way for the well. And every day, the voice warm as fire grows a little louder, "Enlarge it further," it says. 'I will take the whole town or none at all.' And the people, fearing the loss of their souls, dig faster, deeper, and harder.
Finally, the day comes that the well is finished. The people go home to rest, for they are weary, and the priestess, alone, is left to stand by the enormous well. "What is that you have there?" asks a voice brimming with hatred and hot as fire. "Why do you dig the well so deep?" asks the succubus.
Maceen turns again, holding the coin out for protection, and says, "God is in the well. We go to join him."
The devil rubs its hands excited and smiles, "The well is deep," it says. "I can come and go to my master with ease. I will buy it from you with anything you wish for."
Maceen, again seeking to be wise, responds, "Down to your master? No. This will only bring us to god." Well, the devil loses excitement again, and curses the girl and her people as it leaves.
The next day, Maceen is worried for her people, who are now a part of the curse. She pulls the coin out and asks, "What am I to do? The devil threatens my people!"
The voice warm as fire considered the problem a moment, then replied, "Build a chain, my prophetess, light and strong, thin and unbreakable, so that none will lose their way when they come down to enter my realm."
The priestess responds with confusion, "Why do you call me prophetess?"
And the voice answers quickly, 'Because such you will become."
The following day can't come soon enough before the priestess has sent out another decree. She tells of the curse moving onto their heads, and the chain that will tie them together for safety. She orders that the swords, shields, and armors of their land be gathered to form the chain. Then, for one final measure, she throws in the coin as well. As the links are formed, she hears the voice that is warm as fire and has a tone that speaks of redemption just out of reach coming from the chain. "Stronger," it says. "Lighter," it beacons. "For I will take the whole town, or none at all." And, when the priestess tells the people this, they work ever faster, for the fear of their souls.
At last, the chain is finished, and it stretches from one end of the town to the other, thin as twine, and strong as astral diamonds. The people go to rest after their hard work, and the priestess is left alone with the chain.
"What is that you have there?" comes the expected voice of the succubus. "Why do you take such time to build an enormous chain?"
Well, the prophetess turns to the devil and responds, "God is in the chain, and with it we will surely reach him."
In excitement, the devil rubs her hands together and smiles, "With such a chain, I could bring many souls to my master," she cackles. "I will buy it from you with whatever you wish for."
Maceen thinks to herself, I am no fool, and she responds, "Binding souls? No. This chain can only bind the living." Well, the devil is frustrated by this, worse than ever before and she curses the prophetess, her people, and even the soul of her beloved prince before fleeing back to the darkness.
Her beloved, who she thought was safe, now under a curse! Why, had anything so horrible happened to a princess before? I think not! What could she do but follow the voice warm as fire in the chain? But the voice warm as fire had a plan for that too ....
Agonized by worry over her beloved, Maceen cried to the chain, "What am I to do? My beloved is sure to suffer under the curse of this devil!"
But the voice warm as fire was clever above all and quickly knew what to do, "My realm is safe; you must bring him here."
"How?" asked the Prophetess, leaning over the enlarged well, sobbing down into the darkness.
"Sculpt idols bearing his image and hang them upon the chain. Stone and precious metals will call him to my domain." The voice faded away, but, this time, Maceen could not sleep. She ran to her people, calling them together. Easily, they flew out of bed, tired, but trusting the prophetess. She told them of the plight of her former beloved, of the devilry that would surely destroy him. And, of course, they went to work right away, caring little for the darkness, for working in the well had prepared them. They worked through the next day as well, ignoring the heat of the sun, for the chain's forge had prepared them. And all the while, the prophetess heard a chorus of voices from the idols, warm as fire and with a tone that spoke of redemption just out of reach. "More stone," it warned. "More jewels," it reminded. "More precious metals," it threatened. "For I will take the whole town or none at all!"
And the people began to hear the voices too, quiet at first, but growing. In fear, they worked faster and faster until they had worked for six days without rest, and the idols lay forged to the massive chain. Too tired to return to their tents, the people lay down together next to well and slept, leaving Maceen the only one awake.
"The well is deep," said a voice, and Maceen turned, expecting the devil. She saw nothing. "The chain is strong," the voice continued, and Maceen realized it was coming from all around her. "The idols are perfect," the voice rumbled from the idols, the chain, and the well. It was warm as fire and had a tone that spoke of redemption just out of reach, and Maceen smiled. "The whole town is ready, my goddess. Tomorrow, you must journey down the well to my realm."
"Why do you call me goddess," asked Maceen, smiling broadly. But, if there was an answer, Maceen never heard it, for she saw something in the evening mist. The figure of a man. It was her beloved! She stood and moved toward him, but each step she took forward, he took backward, hiding his face in the mist.
"You must be patient," the voice crooned, "you will see him more clearly tomorrow." Suddenly weary, Maceen fell beside her people and slept as if she had not slept in months.
On the morrow, Maceen awoke her people before the sun rose, and, locking themselves to the massive chain, they lowered each other into the well and began to climb down. Somehow, the well had grown deeper and, by the time the sun's rays hit the well, Maceen's people could only see their glimmer in the distance.
They climbed all day until they reached the stone bottom, wet with the tears of their princess. It was dark and hot, but the people feared neither, for the voice had prepared them. Ahead they heard a voice warm as fire and with a tone that spoke of redemption just out of reach, and, recognizing it, they followed.
As Maceen followed her people through the caverns, she saw the form of her beloved behind her in the dark. Oh! It was torture to see him, but she was unable to leave the chain or her people, so she decided to be patient, still.
They came, at last, to a vast chamber where the voice seemed to come from all directions. To their horror, the people found that they could see in this darkness ... and that it was not what they expected.
A horned figure sat on a thone of coins and chains, and smiled. Maceen, fearing she had went the wrong way, called to her beloved, "Turn back, my love! Turn back!" But he did not turn back. He followed and walked past her to the figure in the chair, and leaned against it.
The figure in the chair spoke with a voice warm as fire and with a tone that spoke of redemption just out of reach, "Well done, Maceen." The figure stroked her beloved and, as she watched, he became the succubus, smiling with demonic glee.
Grasped with fear, Maceen gasped, "You said you were a god."
"I am," said the voice. "And now that I have bought your land and you, you will give me everything I wish for."
Maceen and her people tried to run, but the idols were too heavy. They tried to scatter, but the chain was too strong. They tried to escape, but the well was too deep.
That, however, was long ago, in another age and far away. The land is still there, though. So, if you should ever find yourself in a village burned by its own people, one where the castle is stripped away to make space for an enormous well, do not taste the water. It may be brimming with clear liquid, but know that it is only filled with tears.
There is, however, one thing you must do. Listen. Listen, but do not heed, and you may hear voices. Hundreds of voices warm as fire and with a tone that speaks of redemption just out of reach.
- Jared Glenn