Thursday, June 1, 2017

Friday Flash Fiction: Just Another Job

This one springs from a very loose prompt from Chuck Wendig. I looked just long enough to see something about a bunch of folks in a bar trying to resurrect a dead god, and took it from there. As for the god, my thoughts on those are probably permanently affected by Terry Pratchett's take on them (see Small Gods). Exactly 1000 words, excluding the title.


Just Another Job

“Gods aren’t supposed to die.”

Distracted from their gawping, the barflies clustered around the corpse looked up at the ranger who peered over their heads at the body, face grim.

“Well, he’s sure enough dead,” said a dwarf, nudging the body with his tow. “So maybe he ain’t a god.”

“Oh, he’s a god all right. Or he was,” declared a rich female voice.

The ranger heard the voice and looked away from the corpse, locating her in the crowd. The elf-maiden nodded at him, and he looked back down at the corpse. She would know. No hope of mistaken identity this time. He sighed.

“If he really is a god, and he really is dead, we need to fix that.”

“How?” demanded the dwarf.

“Why?” demanded the bartender.

The ranger chose to answer the question he could. “Because if a god dies, everything that the god controls dies—or disappears—soon after.”

That generated a fair amount of alarm, and a debate broke out over what the unpromising god might have controlled, and if it would be missed. The ranger took advantage of the confusion to push in for a closer look. Blast the minor gods, anyway! They had no sense. He bent to examine the corpse, hoping for inspiration.

“At least there’s no question what he died of, Emlen.” He didn’t even turn at the elf-maiden’s voice in his ear.

“For whatever good that does, Oolean.”

“How did you come to be too late?”

“Horse threw a shoe. You?”

Oolean was silent, and Emlen at last looked at her. Oolean was blushing with a ferocity he hadn’t known an elf could achieve.

“I wasn’t late. I was here when it happened. I was in the privy,” she added reluctantly. “Something I ate.”

Astonished that an elf could suffer from something so mundane, Emlen started to smile. He sobered again as his glance fell on the dagger in the chest of the defunct god.

“We have to fix this,” Oolean said. “And fast.”

“What is he god of?” Emlen asked, struck by her urgency. He only knew he was supposed to have prevented this death.

“Beer and spirits.”

The ranger’s world reeled for a moment. This minor god held the world in his stiffening hand. They had a few minutes. After that, all the alcohol in the world would vanish.

“How?” He trusted her to understand the question.

“I have no idea. Start by removing that thing from him.”

Emlen returned his attention to the corpse. There wasn’t any blood. Gods didn’t bleed. They weren’t supposed to die by stabbing, either. But a drunk god—and this one was always drunk—followed no rules. Apparently even rules about dying.

Emlen put his hand on the dagger and pulled.

When his head cleared, he was lying on the floor, surrounded by gaping barflies, and the dwarf was offering him a mug of beer. Emlen took a deep gulp, and as his head cleared, noted with relief that it was still beer.

Oolean’s attention was on the dagger that now rested in her lap. She didn’t glance up when he sat up next to her, but said in a voice only he could hear, “It’s magicked. This wasn’t a random bar fight.”

Emlen nodded, immediately wishing he hadn’t. The magic in that thing had carried a backlash that had not only knocked him sprawling but left his head throbbing.

A ranger doesn’t quit. He left Oolean to handle the dagger, and bent again over the corpse. Ten drunken barflies bent in along with him, and their breath made him dizzy.

“Get out of here!” It came out more as a snarl than an order, but most of them got the message. Those that didn’t were dragged back by their companions. “Clear out!” Emlen added, putting a hand on his sword hilt.

The jam in the doorway as they all tried to exit at once took a minute to clear, but when it had, only the ranger, the elf, and the bartender remained.

And the dead god.

The three living beings studied the dead one.

“Any suggestions?” Emlen asked.

“No.” Oolean frowned. “I think it was another god who killed him.”

Emlen made no answer. Her words didn’t offer any solutions, nor, so far as he knew, did the information make it any harder to fix the problem.

The bartender offered, “I didn’t see it all. Some kind of argument, and the guy was lying on the floor dead. The one who did it was just a puff of dust headed out the door.”

“I’ll bet he was,” Oolean said, her attention on the corpse. “Well, it might have been some argument from the divine realms, but the magic on the dagger is of the ordinary sort.”

“So you can reverse it?”

Before Oolean could do more than shake her head, Emlen began to chuckle. The other two looked at him, thinking the ranger had finally cracked under the pressure. But Emlen shook his head.

“I can think of one thing that will bring this guy back from the dead. And if we don’t hurry, we’ll lose our chance.”

“What?” the other two chorused, confused.

Then Oolean smiled. “Of course. Bartender! A pitcher of beer, and a flask of the strongest stuff you have!”

The bartender moved to fill the order, decades of habit in control as he handed over the drinks.

Emlen took a swig of the beer, and nodded in relief. “Still good. Hold him up a bit.”

Oolean held the god in her arms as Emlen began trickling the distilled swill into the slack mouth. When the god swallowed, a rush of footsteps and the door swinging shut marked the rapid exit of the bartender.

The elf and the ranger were made of sterner stuff. They kept pouring until the liquor was gone, followed by the beer. By the time that was gone, the god was on his feet, reaching for more.
Emlen and Oolean left, their work done.
***

©Rebecca M. Douglass, 2017
As always, please ask permission to use any photos or text. Link-backs appreciated!

2 comments:

  1. I like that! I like that a lot :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think I had your ranger in mind while I was writing (the one with issues :D ).

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