Act II - Chapter 12: The God Betrayed by the World

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I swore my sweat was drying and evaporating before it even hand the chance to hit the ground. My once comfortable corner of the ship was sweltering. I could see the air move. Steam escaped my pores. I didn't have enough water left in my body to remain cognizant to really determine how accurate any of these thoughts were.

The closer we got to Eastern Ilfiria the hotter everything became. All light that managed to seep into the hull painted everything red.

"Everything okay, Assassin Man?" said Ali. I thought I might have seen Ali throwing his backpack over his shoulders.

"Is the sea made of lava out here?" I said, attempting to ring the sweat out of my suit jacket.

The wavering image of Ali approached me through the steam cloud that we called air. He dropped something into my lap. It very likely splashed into a puddle of sweat as he did so. 

"You're exaggerating, man. Every place isn't an icy tundra like your Assassin's Guild homeland," he said.

I was able to tell that it was a black drawstring duffle bag. As it sagged to a comfortable position against me, cateens, canned food, and any other items we had from before sounded and collided inside. He plundered shipments we'd slept among to put together traveling gear. I would have thanked him for the thoughtfulness, but I needed to save what little energy I could for more deserved words.

"But I get it, there probably weren't a lot of important targets to kill way out here in the burning boonies. Like, no politicians and stuff," he said.

"Honestly," I said, gazing up to the shifting air, "I rarely knew anything about who I was sent to handle: 'this is the target, he looks like this, he'll be here, the Great Goddess will be pleased'."

"Welp, you're gonna have to start caring about story now," Ali said, and he threw himself on top of a crate in the center of the room just in time for the ceiling hatch to begin clawing itself open. Prying wide, it unleashed an even thicker, more scalding cloud of heat into the hull as if some great god of steam now found me cowering within the vessel and let out a mighty breath to end my life. Large red beams of light from his eyes cut into our darkness to create the intimidation of sitting within fire itself—the light burned. I lost all sense of depth. I just wanted it to be colder.

"I can hearing you complaining from here, Assassin Man, even though you're not saying anything. But if you just soak it all in, you'll be free." Ali was unable to pass up the opportunity to pose at the center of this spectacle: a cinematic swell of steam, intensely dynamic blood light, and his silhouette at center with two hands above his head with his staff raised into the sun beyond the red.

"Bring me burning heat and bring me death. There is no sun, there is no sky, there is no continent that can match the winds of my passion. With this staff in my hand, I shall clear these clouds of steam and free this continent of flame. It will stand back to the might of my name. Lutus, the First Chain of Ma'atya, prepare yourself. The hull has drawn open. Ali Alhaven has returned."

I guess at this point, maintaining our cover wouldn't matter quite that much. I mean, our stowaway trip was over. It's pretty likely the some of the crew had seen him upon them opening the hatch, and it's highly likely that everyone on the ship had heard him. I think what might have actually surprised him though is the sound I managed to produce from my corner of the hold. Two hands against one another in my darkness. I was impressed with the kind of bravery his stupidity could create, and him standing in the heat: I clapped for him sardonically, doggedly, and full of fatigue, but, yes, sardonically.

I figured that enough inspiration to stand up, and so I did.


We walked right off the ship. The crew was too confused with Ali to react, and we lucked out in there not being any superiors or supervisors around to, perhaps, be upset at the two stowaways revealing themselves and walking off the ship. After the long trip the underpaid crew was probably too exhausted or truly indifferent.

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