’Your Grace?’ Dee thought to herself with surprise. For a short moment she thought about playing along and pretending as if she knew what the priestess was talking about, but finally she figured that she would gain more information by admitting her ignorance.
“I’m afraid I’m not quite sure what you’re talking about. Mind explaining me the ‘your Grace’ bit?” Dee asked trying to play herself as an innocent and confused person.
The priestess’ eyes widened a bit in surprise, before a light of understanding shone through. “I see, you didn’t get you blessings the usual way. As a result, there wasn’t a high priestess present to read your blessings for you.”
“Quite correct.” Sarfina mumbled in a rather subdued voice from the side. Sarfina still remembered that Dee had snuck in to perform the ceremony.
The priestess gave Sarfina a sideways glance, not quite sure how to interpret the tone in the templar’s voice. “I must say, it’s rather rare to see someone blessed by two deities, and even more so two diametrically opposed deities from the big ten. That I haven’t even heard of happening before. Now add on top the fact that you are the future champion for both goddesses. I’m fairly sure there has never been a person who was the champion of more than one deity. Though I suppose you might not become one either.”
‘Two blessings? Since she said diametrically opposed, then she must mean Lumen and Umbra, but what about the old man? Can she not feel his blessing for some reason?’ Dee thought to herself. Something else suddenly pulled at her mind. “Could you explain that last part in a bit more detail?”
“Ah, right. First you need to understand that you can’t become a true champion of a deity until you reach a certain level of power. What that level is depends a bit on the deity and the people around you. For example, you yourself wouldn’t really be able to defend your title and the honor of your deity with your current level of power. Hence you are marked as a future champion, not a current one just yet. Secondly, and this is just my speculation, there’s a chance that you might be forced to choose between the two deities in the future. Seeing as it can be a bit hard to be a champion of light and dark at the same time, that would make the most sense.” The priestess explained.
‘Well that makes sense. I didn’t really think I would be their champion, but when you consider the missions they want me to fulfill, it makes sense. I even have that weird wing color courtesy of Lumen. She mentioned something about having a direct mandate from her.’ Dee thought. ‘I think the priestess is wrong about having to choose though. She isn’t aware of the missions Lumen and Umbra want me to fulfill, and that the two aren’t mutually incompatible.’
“I don’t suppose you can tell me any details about my blessings? A priestess I met before mentioned something about that.” Dee suddenly asked, remembering Mazatl’s teachings.
“Well, even we can’t tell all the details since it is something between you and the deities, but we can get you started on the path. The blessing of Lumen carries the title ‘Body and Mind of Light’ and I get the feeling it has something to do with speed. The blessing of Umbra carries the title ‘The Queen and Lance of the Dark.’ I think the queen part refers to control, while the Lance refers to the weapons both protecting the queen as well as working as her iron fist of sorts. I’m sorry, I can’t tell you more.” The priestess herself seemed a little frustrated at her lack of knowledge. Usually she could tell more detail, but then again she didn’t get to see blessings from the big ten that often.
“So close yet so far.” Umbra said with a wicked grin after hearing the priestess’ words.
“I can’t believe she tried to reduce my blessing to just speed.” Lumen pouted.
“Quiet, both of you. We have a visitor.” The old man said, finally getting some emotion in his voice. The emotion being a mix of frustration and anger. He also made the image of Dee disappear.
The two goddesses looked sharply at their surroundings, but as usual it was difficult to feel anything beyond the slow decay of time in their father’s domain. They heard a cold and remorseless voice that seemed to be coming from all around them.
“So this is where the two of you have been hiding. What could fascinate the three of you to come here and bury your enmity? Maybe something the rest of us should be aware of?” The voice coalesced into one place, where the faint outlines of three other deities could be seen.
Unlike the three that had been here originally, two of the three newcomers didn’t have a permission to be here. As such, they couldn’t quite manifest as solidly as the original three. The third newcomer didn’t have a permission to be here either, but unlike the others, she didn’t need one. The only solid figure of the three silently walked to where Dee’s image had been earlier and brought it back, conveniently placing herself in front of the image so the two indistinct figures couldn’t see anything.
The figure might have been solid but it was also covered from head to toe in a black cloak almost as dark as the fabric making up Umbra’s clothing. She also exuded a cold feeling that gave even the other gods cold shivers, not entirely due to just the temperature. You could only barely make out that the form was female, due to the faintly outlined form under the cloak.
“Death.” The old man greeted the black figure in a level tone.
“Eternity.” A faintly feminine voice came from under the hood of the cloak in a return greeting just as level.
“What do you have there Death?” One of the indistinct figures asked in almost commanding tone.
“None of your business.” Lumen replied almost sullenly.
“Death!” The indistinct form demanded in a rather pompous manner.
“I don’t think you’re in a position to make demands of me Order.” The level voice of Death replied deflating the figures pomp. Death then once again sent the image away knowing full well that she was the only one able to operate freely in Eternity’s domain, and that the other two could not recall the image anymore if the old man was against it. “Interesting.” She simply mumbled to herself.
The ten most powerful deities aside from Eternity and Death had their own names, such as Lumen and Umbra, but usually they never used them when talking to each other, preferring to use their domains instead. Eternity and Death might have had names as well at some point, but only the two of them were old enough to remember them.
“Why are you here?” The old man asked in a demanding tone.
“It’s time for the gathering of the gods. There are issues that need solving, and challenges to be met.” The third figure who had been silent so far spoke.
The deities gathered rather frequently for various reasons. Although frequent was a relative term when talking about almost ageless deities. When there were major matters to discuss, the presence of all the major gods was mandatory. Their presence was also mandatory when they were challenged for their position or mastery of their domain.
The old man replied. “You know I don’t attend your little social gatherings.” He was something of a hermit after all.
The third voice replied. “We know. And the only person capable of forcing you to attend doesn’t care to do so.” They all looked at Death with a quick glance. “The other two however…” The voice made a small gesture towards Umbra and Lumen.
“They have both been challenged.” Order said with clear pleasure in his voice.
“Well isn’t this nice. I’ve been itching to smack around some upstart who fancies themselves worthy of my attention.” Umbra said with genuine joy in her voice. “Please tell me it was you Order. I would love to teach you a lesson.”
Order gave a small chuckle. “Not quite yet. Your time will come though, don’t worry.”
“How dull. Well let’s get this done.” Umbra said getting ready to go.
As Dee exited the room with Sarfina and the dwarf priestess, the same templar was waiting for them outside the room. “Well?” The man asked the priestess.
“Her blessings and power warrant the rank she received, but she doesn’t yet have the skills and experience to utilize them to that level. I would estimate that gold level would be appropriate for her at the moment.” The priestess replied. The ranking was something that the three of them had agreed on before leaving the room. The priestess had also sworn to keep all the information to herself, though admittedly her deity would know what had happened. Whether that deity kept quiet was an open question.
“That is still a great achievement for one so young. I will take you back to the testing, although I’m fairly sure you will make it through regardless. The first testing is about to end, and we are ready to start with the second part. Follow me please.” The templar said looking impressed. That said, he also realized that he didn’t actually know how old Dee was, as she was already taller than he was.
He led them towards the edge of the Radiant Sun headquarters, where there was already a large crowd gathering. There were thousands of applicants and several times that many guardians and relatives, not to mention the curious onlookers and those that were here just for the entertainment. There were also representatives from the various chapters of the order, looking for future potential to recruit.
Dee had made quite a splash with her first test, so she naturally drew quite a bit of attention and a lot of people were discussing about her with quiet and less than quiet voices. While Sarfina stayed back among the rest of the crowd, the templar took Dee to her position near the front of the group of applicants. Dee noted with interest that both the Lacademonian girl and the silvery white wolf-beastman were also close by. The wolfman gave her a friendly grin, while the girl simply ignored her, though probably out of genuine disinterest and not due to intentional snubbing.
Dee didn’t have to wait for long before the organizers started to explain the next test. In fact, the same templar that had brought Dee here had marched to the front and started to speak. “Templar and paladins have many roles. Sometimes we are protectors, sometimes we are inquisitors ferreting out conspiracies, sometimes we are holy men. Most often though, we are soldiers. There are many qualities that make a good soldier, but some of the most important ones are speed and stamina.
Often we are required to get somewhere in as short amount of time as possible. Often that somewhere is very far from the nearest teleportation gate. We still have to get there in a timely fashion, and often we have to be able to fight when we get there, sometimes without rest. So it is fitting that today the tests will simulate that. Today we will start with a test of speed and stamina, and for the rest of the day you will carry the resulting fatigue with you. Just so things wouldn’t be too easy, we often also have to carry supplies, weapons and armor with us to get there. To simulate that, each of you will be given one of these.” The man lifted a harness with several loops in them.
“We know all of you are not starting at the same level when it comes to strength, so you are free to attach a suitable amount of weight to the loops. You get to pick the weight. Do note however, that you will be expected to run a fairly long distance with the added weight. Of course we will give you points based on the amount of weight you are carrying as well as the time it takes you to run the distance. You will also have to carry the fatigue to the next tests, so choose well.” With the explanation over, the applicants spread out to several stations surrounding them which all gave out the harnesses and weights.
Dee noted that the weights were ordered from the heaviest to the lightest, with the only difference being the color, the white being the lightest and the black heaviest. The sizes were the same and they all clipped on to the harnesses. Dee knew that she was orders of magnitude stronger physically that the other applicants, so she went straight for the heaviest weights.
“Let me test one of those.” She told one of the templar there, overseeing the process.
The man handed her one of the black weights without saying a word. Dee took it and bounced it on her hand to test the weight. She frowned as the black weight felt as light as a feather. Yet many of the applicants were already struggling with one of the lighter ones and they hadn’t even started running yet. “Is this really the heaviest of the weights?” She asked the man just to make sure.
The man smiled. “It is. I’d say what it weighs, but that’s somewhat irrelevant as they are also all enchanted with increased gravity.”
Dee thought for a moment. Even fairly light weights would become heavy over long distances, but this was stupid. “So how many of these am I allowed to take?” Her question brought a sudden silence to everyone around them.
The man grinned. “You can take more, but you’ll get maximum points for weight with fifteen of these.”
“Well give me fifteen of them then. No point in going under that.” Dee said casually and waved at the man.
The man snorted a laugh and started attaching the weights to the harness. They were attached with a small spell to prevent cheating. Even the man grunted a bit due to the weight, and the table gave a small groan as he dropped the filled harness on it. “There you go then.” He grinned again. “Good luck.”
“Thanks but no luck needed.” Dee said, as she casually threw the harness on her back. The weight was still only barely noticeable, and with so many weights it was also nicely distributed. A single one would be one sided and unbalanced.
The templars at the station where all grinning in amusement due to a single girl showing up all the others. The silvery wolfman walked to the same templar with an equally amused grin. “Give me the same she got.” And the Lacademonian girl just gave a silent wave asking for the same.
“Well this should be interesting." The templar man said to his friend when suddenly several others came to ask for the same maximum weight, although none of them carried it with the casual ease the first three had.
As Dee walked to the starting line, the wolfman walked next to her. “Shall we make a race of it? Would be much more interesting, seeing as the others won’t be able to keep up.” The wolfman suggested still grinning.
Dee saw that the man had the same weights she did, and didn’t seem to be struggling. “Sure, why not. Should we have a wager as well, or just a friendly competition?” She asked.
“We can keep it friendly this time; we have our honor at stake anyway. But if you want, we can make a wager that the winner can take the loser out on a date?” The wolfman suggested.
The suggestion shocked Dee, though she didn’t show it. “No wager. Win or lose, only you will be gaining. I don’t go for sucker-bets.”
“Oh-ho. Only I would be gaining? I see, I see. Well I suppose I’ll have to try and change your mind about that. For now though, honor it is then.” The wolfman replied, his grin only widening.