Jurgus huddled in the snow, naked, shivering violently. His body was so numb from cold he almost couldn't feel the blinding pain in the stump where his left foot used to be. He lay, sprawled, looking at the pathetically short drag marks in the snow. The thugs had cauterized the wound, but only as another means of torture. Once they were done mutilating him with fire and steel, they carried him out to the woods and left him naked to die. He managed to drag himself to a tree, but hadn't the strength to do any more.
"A bit nippy, wouldn't you say?"
Jurgus jerked his head around in surprise to find a man sitting next to him drinking from a skin. He hadn't been there before.
"Could..., could I have your cloak?" Jurgus stammered.
"Oh, not really. I'm more or less a hallucination," the man said.
Jurgus leaned back against the tree and moaned loudly in frustration.
"Of course, I wasn't always a hallucination," the man continued, "I'm sort of a God, you could say."
"Then, you could help me!" Jurgus knew he must be losing his mind.
"Well,..." the man thought for a minute, "I'm not what you'd call a benevolent God. I'm more of an asshole, really."
The God made to hand Jurgus his drinking skin, which slipped right through Jurgus' hand as if it were ghostly.
"You're just here to watch me die, then? I was always afraid I'd die alone, now my mind has conjured some horror to laugh at me while I go."
"Well, you could make living more amusing to me than dying. Hey, I have a brilliant idea!" The God reached over and stuck his hand in Jurgus' head. A blinding pain flashed through the dying man's skull and he let out a horrible scream which sent a nearby bird flying.
Jurgus began to cry after the ordeal was over. He never counted himself a brave man, but he'd never really cried before. Now, the tears gushed cold over his cheeks.
"Just kill me already!"
"Oh, no no," clucked the God, "killing is very uncreative. I never kill. But I'll tell you what; I can let you die, or you can get married!"
"What the hell are you talking about?" Jurgus cried.
The stranger pointed, "over there. Look."
Jurgus raised his head and there, right in front of him stood the most gorgeous woman he had ever seen. Shapely, exotic, naked, with almond eyes which seemed to look right into his soul. But she was blue, and he could see right through her.
"What?" Jurgus felt his strength fading, along with his will and his sanity.
"Isn't she lovely? Normally, you wouldn't be able to see her, because, well, would you ever think of looking? But, I've tweaked your mind a little. You should be able to see a whole slew of new things now."
"No, she's an embodiment of cold. And a mighty fine embodiment if I do say so myself. If I wasn't hooking the two of you up, well, I might try and take her for myself," the God elbowed Jurgus in the side, "she's got sisters though."
Jurgus felt like he wanted to laugh, not at the God, but just for all the cruel and twisted things this day had brought about.
"So what do you want me to do? Fuck the cold?"
"Shame on you! You'll have to get married first, just like I said. I'm a God after all, I can marry you to what ever I like. Whether you like it or not. But here, I think, I'll give you a choice."
"Not that I can believe what I'm saying, but, does she want to marry me?"
"Cold is as jealous and lonely as fire is greedy and cruel, boy. All she wants is someone to love her. Men shun the cold, and drive her away and keep her out. Embrace her, and she'll be yours for always and forever. Unless you make her angry, then she'll kill you quick as you can blink."
The God flourished with his hand, "them what made the world made all the elements into women. Who else but mother nature would spread her wide green bosom for all the world to suckle on. Father Nature would have killed all you greedy human bastards eras ago. And who else could be so cruel on a whim?"
Jurgus sighed and pushed himself away from the tree. He plunked down on the cold, snowy ground and spread his arms and legs. If he was crazy, it wouldn't be for long. If he wasn't; well, he didn't really know.
He closed his eyes and let out a breath, waiting to die. Then he felt the girl cuddle up next to him. He had been with women before. All the trinkets he had stolen in his life went to food, booze and women. What else would he do with wealth? This wasn't like any of the women he had lain with before, though. Where a woman would be warm, the girl was cold. So utterly cold he couldn't suppress a shiver. He felt her pull away from him.
"No," He said, and reached out to put his arms around her.
For a minute she did nothing, while frost spread on his arms. Finally, she smiled, and pushed him back to the ground. She kissed him gently, stealing his breath and hurting his lungs. He felt his lips freeze and crack.
She laid on top of him. Then, as Jurgus was about to kiss her again, she went through him; into him. He stifled a scream and a shiver as his whole body froze. His vision went white. He heard nothing, felt nothing, smelled nothing. But the entire time he was aware of her. She giggled, though he didn't know how he knew. She surely didn't have a voice. He realized it was the wind. The wind was hers. It rustled the trees, and through the trees, she spoke to him. He could see the patterns on snow flakes too. Each and every one was as clear to him as if they were a hundred feet tall. He saw all of them, and each told a story. The wind, the snow, the way the sun glittered through the hanging icicles.
Jurgus suddenly felt comfortable. Not warm; never warm. He knew he would never be warm again, but comfortable. She was a part of him; the cold, and he a part of her. He sat up to find the girl sitting next to him, holding his hand. So was the God.
"Let go of my hand, please," Jurgus told him.
"Sorry," the God said, "I felt left out."
"So what now?" Jurgus asked as he studied his new wife.
"Well, now, you're hers..., and mine. Not in the same way, of course. Not that I couldn't be a woman. I have, but I don't prefer it. Different sort of humor with women."
Strength returned to Jurgus in a rush. His head stopped pounding and a general sense of numbness, much more pleasant than the one he had been experiencing before, washed over him. He stood up, forgot he was missing a foot, and fell flat on the ground. Or he would have, if the God hadn't caught him.
"I thought you weren't solid!"
"I wasn't, while you didn't believe in me. Now come on, you're going to help me get some new followers!'
"How?" Asked Jurgus.
"The only real way. One at a time."
Jurgus stood in the town square, propped up on a stick. Instead of clothes, he was draped in frost, although it looked very much like an expensive silken robe. His breath didn't steam in the cold air because it, too was cold. His wife danced around the frozen fountain while he and the God watched. If it hadn't been on a main trade road, the town wouldn't have had an Inn. Since it was, the Inn had been the first town building built. Jurgus watched the door carefully, just waiting for the men who had thrashed him to come staggering out.
"Pay attention kid," the God said.
"What am I paying attention to? And I'm not a kid," Jurgus said quietly.
"You are to me. I'm over three thousand years old," the God paused, "or, well, I used to be."
"I don't think we're going to get any followers here. No one is really religious in these parts."
"What about them?" The God pointed at a caravan coming within sight.
"Well, they look it," Jurgus admitted.
"That's a priest of Bralicamus, God of money. By extension, people who eat too much, too."
"So you want me to convert a bunch of priests? Couldn't I do something a little easier first?" Jurgus shifted his weight on the stick.
"Just repeat after me...."
Jurgus stood as straight as he could manage. He wasn't loud as a matter of professionalism, but took a deep breath anyways. The God whispered in his ear and Jurgus lost control of his lungs. What came out was his voice, but it wasn't him controlling it.
"Hey you fat man!"
The priest ignored him as he handed his horse's reigns over to a stable boy.
"Huh. I thought that one would get him."
"What the hell are you doing? I'm going to get strung up!"
"Never you mind," the God grabbed his ear.
"Ow, You over stuffed, dress wearing Troglodyte! Yea, I'm talking to you fatty!"
Jurgus pulled his ear away as the priest shot an angry glance at him.
"Wave," the God said grabbing Jurgus' one good hand and waving it through the air.
Then he grabbed his ear again, almost knocking the crippled man off balance, "Thipiwani wants a word with you."
The priest started to move towards him angrily, then stopped. The man's eyes were open, but Jurgus clearly saw them open again. A second time. The extra eyes that weren't there closed and the man shivered. He put a hand over his face, then hurried into the Inn.
"Good. We got his attention," Thipiwani said.
"He's walking away," Jurgus said, knowing full well the priest wasn't the one the God was talking about.
"Mr. Fatman doesn't like me very much. We shouldn't meet in the open. Were you renting a room in that Inn?"
Jurgus watched as the priest opened the Inn door. The blue woman followed him, but was blocked by a another naked woman; this one red. Jurgus saw the red woman give his wife the finger as the door clicked shut.
"Ah, family rivalries."
Jurgus shut the door behind him and opened the shutters on the window. His wife flowed in gracefully and hugged him. Jurgus shook her off and gratefully sat in the room's only chair. The God, Thipiwani, paced. He looked up as another man, this one fat, materialized out of nowhere. Jurgus recognized the eyes.
"We killed you!" Bralicamus yelled.
"Ha! So you admit it!" Thipiwani laughed.
"Why would I lie to you? You were there!" The God of money pinched the bridge of his nose. He wasn't used to things like this.
"That's kind of the point, now isn't it?" Thipiwani said.
"Well, how the hell are you here?"
"A good question. Jurgus, hit him."
Before Jurgus could react, Thipiwani lifted him out of his seat and swung the walking stick with Jurgus' own arm. It connected solidly with a crack on the fat God's skull.
"Ow! How the hell did you do that?" Bralicamus shouted.
"Another good question! But all good things come in threes, don't you find."
"Wait," Bralicamus steadied himself, "did we fail to kill you, or is something seriously wrong?"
"Well..., I'd say something is really, really wrong." Thipiwani scowled, "the barkeep hasn't sent us our beer yet."
"The God of money put up his hand, "will you shut up a minute? You're incessant prattling confounds me."
"That's because you think in order. Well, think on this; I'm back, and I've got a secret. You know how it works. My game..., my rules. There aren't any other kind."
Bralicamus pointed his finger at Thipiwani, "You just wait until the others hear about this!"
Jurgus watched as the fat God disappeared.
"Apparently with a dry throat," Thipiwani sulked.
"You are a chaos God, right?" Jurgus asked.
"Is that what I look like?" Thipiwani replied.
"Then it would seem that is what I am. Religious types aught not to ask questions."
"I'm not religious," Jurgus said.
"How many times have you prayed not to be caught stealing?"
Jurgus considered this.
"Then you're religious. Go get me my beer."