Fate doesn't work that way

It started with three drunk gods, and one drowning mortal. It snowballed into a quest for destiny with bound gods, sky prisons, mazes of death, and far too many disasters.

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15. Story of a Goddess

“Lot on your mind?” Jinea’s voice came softly.

Lir nodded. “Yeah.”

“You want me to tell you a story to help you relax?”

“I’m not a child,” Lir said distractedly. After a moment of silence she added, “Sure. Anything to take my mind off what’s coming up.”

“Alright. I’ll tell you how I became a goddess then. You should like the story.”

“Sure, sure.”

“Alright, close your eyes.”

Lir let her eyes slide shut. “Okay, they’re closed.”

“My story isn’t as impressive as some,” Jinea began. “I was a nobody, from a family of nobodies. This was before technology, and my mother worked herself to death trying to provide for my family. There were three children, all girls. No boys to help with the income. We were nobodies, so my mother couldn’t even hope to find good marriages for us. We worked hard, but we never earned enough. So I took to gambling.”

“Gambling?” The interjection seemed appropriate. Lir hadn’t had many stories told to her in her life, and she just did what felt right. “Why?”

Jinea sounded thoughtful when she replied. “I was the youngest. Too young to get a proper job. Too wily to follow rules. And I was desperate. We were flailing, struggling to stay afloat. I think you could understand that kind of situation.”

“I do…” Lir murmured, her mind flashing to the dark parts of her life that represented her past. She shut it out, focusing on Jinea’s story.

“Anyways, I learned really quickly that gambling wasn’t always just about luck- it was about skill. I found out quickly enough that nobody took me seriously as a kid. So I started giving them something to talk about. I taught myself how to gamble. I watched the best, and learned from them. Then I started challenging people.”

“Were you lucky?”

“No, I wasn’t,” she laughed ruefully. “I always drew the wrong hand, played the wrong cards. But then I started learning that there were other ways to win money. And that’s how I discovered cheating. I got pretty good at it, as a matter of fact. It took only a month, and I could bluff out the best gamblers in the town. People always guessed wrong with me. They looked at me, and all they saw was the little kid. Barely a baby, in their terms. But then I started proving myself. I was the best gambler in the town. Money started flowing towards my family. My mother knew how I was getting it. She wasn’t ashamed of me. She was impressed that I was so good at what I did. And time and time again she warned me not to get caught. She warned me that people didn’t like to be shown up by a child. They’d beat me if they found out, she always said. I guess I got too eager to win. Too eager to prove myself. I always wanted fame. This mattered to me. So I got more and more daring. I kept winning. My family’s circumstances got better. And then… well… something happened.” She paused, as if she was collecting her thoughts.

“It had been nearly a year and a half since I’d started gambling. I was a master at it, able to fool the masters. I’d nearly been caught three times, but I’d slipped out of it every time. And then… a stranger came to one of our gambling houses. He challenged our best gambler, and wordlessly everyone pointed him to me.” She sighed. “He was obviously from the city. I could have turned him down. It probably was safer to turn him down. Our town was small. Strangers were rare. Strangers looking for gamblers were rarer. Maybe they figured he was an official and would arrest me or something. Instead, he invited me to a game. I should have said no. But the amount he offered… we could buy a new house. My mother wouldn’t have to work so hard. So I took his bet. I figured I never lost. I could bluff anyone. What made him different?”

“What did make him different?” Lir murmured. The words came through a faint haze. It was… comfortable.

“He was incredibly lucky,” she sighed. “And not just that, I was unlucky. I had the worst game I’d had since I started gambling. I swear every time I set down my cards for a moment, they changed. I couldn’t understand it. I thought I was cursed. But I had my family to think of. Everything I had was at stake. If I was defeated, I lost everything. Not just my earnings, but my credibility too. I’d go back to being a no one. I couldn’t let that happen. So I bluffed him out. I cheated worse than any devil could ever imagine. I bluffed. I slipped cards. I stared him down, even as he played hand after hand. We were matched. It was terrifying, but it was exhilarating too. When we finished, neither of us had managed to win anything from each other. He congratulated me. Brought me a drink.” She let out a little laugh. “Even then, it wasn’t legal to buy a child a drink, but no one cared. Not when I’d become such an established gambler. We drank, and he gave me the reward he’d promised. He said I’d done well. Then he looked at the cards I’d played. I could see the shock on his face. I wasn’t sure what I’d done, but clearly I’d impressed him. He said something to himself. Something I didn’t understand then. He said ‘most mortals take the bait… but how did this one swim away with it?’” I thought he was crazy. I used the money to buy us a new home. My mother didn’t have to work as much. We had an easier life. And then… weird things started happening. I began to develop these strange powers. I could change things. Cards. I could change my own shape. I freaked out. I thought something was going terribly wrong. I was in the marketplace, frightened. And then that’s when Kanat came in. He was involved in Nith’s choosing too… but he came to me, and explained what was happening to me. I was shedding my mortality. Becoming a goddess. I didn’t understand it. I told him I wouldn’t leave my family. I talked him in circles, until I made him swear to leave me alone with my family until they died. He didn’t stand a chance. So he left me.” Her voice was distant, and Lir found herself relaxing. There was something soothing about listening to her talk. The darkness behind her eyelids darkened some, and she felt the tension go out of her muscles. “In time, my mother died. I sat at her bedside, and held her hand. Kanat came to me again, trying to convince me to leave the mortal world. Again, I refused. My sisters grew up. They had a family. Children. I stayed with them, until they had died too. I made sure their families were well off. Then, finally, I retreated to the realm of the gods. But before I left, I did my family a final service. I took my mother’s favorite necklace. It was simple string, with a polished bit of shell. I made it for her when I was maybe seven. She always kept it. I took it, and with Kanat’s help, I placed her soul in it. I took two rings, and placed my sisters’ souls in them. When I need advice, I still speak to them. Later I learned that the strange man I’d gambled against was a god. He had changed the cards in my hands, made me unlucky. He rigged my deck, and yet I still fooled him. I impressed him, so he slipped some nectar into my drink. It started to destroy my mortal form immediately, though I didn’t notice. It took a lot of work, and betting all I had. Now, get some rest, love.”

Lir’s consciousness fled, and she fell into a deep sleep.

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