Chapter 1

704 18 15


We all grow up learning about the gods. They have existed long before us and will keep doing so long after we are gone. It's fascinating.

Of course, that is not the only reason we study them and their gifts. After all, you'd want to know where your abilities came from as well, right? That's the thing, each mortal is gifted by one of the gods. There are twelve gods, or thirteen if you believe in myths, each with individual gifts or powers.

There are the gods with the ability to control the elements. Sol; god of fire, Galatea; goddess of water, Favonious; god of wind, and Terra; goddess of earth. They are the most common, along with Diana; goddess of animals, and Vulcan; god of metal.

Then there's Pelios; god of emotions, Minerva; goddess of wisdom and justice, Fraus; goddess of deception and fraud and Carmenta; goddess of prophecy. You don't encounter many people gifted by those gods in a lifetime and, skies, if that isn't a good thing. They're scary, seriously. Depending on how strong their bond with their god or goddess is, they can influence you or read you way too much for my liking.

Finally, there are Aion; god of time, Aether; god of light, and Scotus; god of darkness, Scotus being nothing more than a myth, of course. Could you imagine if he weren't? Skies, let's not think about it. Now, when I say mortals gifted by one of those are rare, I mean maybe one in a few hundred years. Even then the bonds are mostly really weak. If I'm not mistaken, which I never am, mark my words, the last mortal with strong powers of light lived six hundred years ago.

Powers are not inherited. Children are gifted by the gods seemingly randomly, so it has nothing to do with your parents. I don't know the science behind that, just like I don't know why some people have strong bonds, and therefore strong powers while others don't.

But how about I introduce myself before we go into it any further? My name is Reia- or Rei- and I live in the kingdom Dionata. It's pretty much a massive island with some smaller ones nearby surrounded by an endless sea. I don't think anyone knows what's beyond our horizon.

A chain of frost-covered mountains stands tall in the north of Dionata while the south is mostly drylands the color of fresh blood. The center of our land is where our cities stand in all their variety.

Some are clean, safe, and progressive. That's where you'd find the people with strong bonds to their gods or goddesses. They're snobs. The buildings in our capital, for example, are built of bright marble. The streets are wide and alleys are lit with never-dying lanterns. The citizens are clean and dressed in colorful clothes. It's where you'll find the government's headquarters.

Just to give you an idea of what our social system is like, here's the outlay of our government. There are three seats, all occupied by old bastards that should be long dead. They're two women, one gifted by Minerva and one by Fraus and a man gifted by Aion. Him being the reason they live way past their due dates. Don't ask me for how long they've been in control or what their names are, I don't know. I don't care either. What I've been told is that the original three governors were chosen by the nation a long, long time ago. They were meant to ensure order and safety and they supposedly did. For a while. Those are stories that have been passed down from generation to generation though. All that the people that are currently alive have ever known is what kind of shitshow our current three are playing.

What a beautiful combination to rule a kingdom though, don't you agree? Justice, deception, and time, where justice is apparently asleep at all the meetings and time is simply making sure no one will ever take over.

Now back to our previous topic. The majority of our cities are on some kind of middle ground. It's friendly enough for you to know your neighbors but it's not recommended to be outside alone at night. Some guards are patrolling to keep order. Their clothes still look decent though most can't afford anything of color.

The farther you get away from the center the shabbier the villages get. The buildings turn from made of stone and wood to dirt and trash. In the end, the people that aren't well-off will use anything as shelter in the brutal months of winter or devastatingly warm summer days.

Take my village as an example. Zeugmi is your average far-off outer village. No guards bother trying to keep these districts remotely safe. Out here you are on your own unless you know how to make useful friends. Just a heads-up, I'm not one of those people.

My mother died when I was six years old and as far as I'm concerned, my father is dead. I have a little brother, Dex, and that's enough. We look out for each other and know how to survive this charming hellhole.

We've been managing on our own for a little over three years.

Suck it, dad, am I right? He used to tell me I should be grateful to live with him, that I could never survive on my own out here and therefore had no choice but to stay with him. He was wrong. Would have been nice had I known that earlier but what's there to do about it now, right? At least I have scars to tell a story.

Dex is gifted by Diana, but his powers are weak. He can't do much more than order bugs around for his entertainment. At least he has a bond at all.

I haven't yet mentioned that some mortals aren't gifted. Maybe the gods did not deem them worthy or forgot about them, who knows? By the way, it's me. I'm them. One of the unmarked, unimportant, useless- you get the point.

All infants need to get tested as soon as possible since it is not safe for unmarked people. The tests are quick and pain-free and determine which god or goddess you are blessed by. Then you get a permanent mark on the inside of your wrist where everyone can see. People with no bond to a deity don't get marked which means they don't get listed. You don't get listed, you don't exist, and are therefore on your own. Unmarked citizens are not protected by the law. We are worthless and no one will step in to help us when we're in danger or look for our bodies in the end. It's rare for kids to fail the test and most of them get killed by their parents after they receive the results.

Don't think them cruel. If you knew your child would live in a world that's out for their blood, would you not want to spear them the suffering? Them and yourself? My mother didn't have the guts to do it and look where I am now. Living in an unused ruin of an old house, always on edge, always hungry, always terrified for my brother's and my life.

In Shadows We RiseWhere stories live. Discover now