by W. Brondt Kamffer
An excerpted chapter from early in the book. Agger is possessed by a plurality of gods who guide his actions. At this point, he is at his father’s funeral, about to seize the kingdom and, with it, his means for revenge, which will later ensnare the hero and heroine.
It was a strange mixture of solemnity and celebration, as all Vist funerals were. An enormous pyre had been reared before the Great Hall of Mikilheim, a pyre larger than any of the men and women looking on could remember having seen. Certainly, Kjar Kolrig had not been honored thus, nor his father before him, and even the oldest of those here were too young to recall the great pyre for Agger’s great-grandfather.
But now the Vist of Mikilheim would be able to boast of the funeral of their most recent Kjar, Ari, as he was to be burned before the Great Hall on a pyre nearly twenty feet tall. Afterwards, there would be a feast in his honor so grand that only Kolrig’s feast celebrating the unification of all Vistgard could compare with it.
Agger looked on from the top of the steps leading to the mead hall, watching indifferently as an Eoman priest prayed for those the Kjar had left behind, speaking a few words of inspiration. Agger had also permitted Odni to speak, though the sorcerer was not allowed to say the customary prayer of sending for the dead Kjar because Ari had turned his back on the gods of Vistgard. He would not go to feast with the gods, living in riotous pleasure for all eternity. No, instead Ari had chosen to spend his eternity reclining in a garden of paradise, listening to and singing songs in honor of the God Eom. A most boring prospect, Agger thought.
As Odni stepped forward to say his few words for the benefit of the true believers of Mikilheim, Agger’s thoughts drifted back to three nights earlier.
It had been such a pleasure to watch his father die. Ari had seated his son at the high table with him, but despite his almost emaciated frame, Agger had not touched the food, being too excited to eat. He had watched his father closely, noting his rising physical discomfort: the way he began to sweat, the way he dismissed this as a product of the bonfire in the hall, the way he continued to sweat profusely until he could no longer breathe.
And finally, the way he had stood to take his leave of the feast only to collapse in a heap in front of everyone and so take his leave of life.
—Pleased, are you, vessel?— the gods whispered in his head.
Indeed. I will be Kjar tomorrow, and then….
—And then Ayern of Osland will die.—
Agger smiled at the thought but quickly suppressed it, not wanting anyone to think he was overly pleased with his father’s death and so start poking about after a reason for Ari’s sudden demise.
The official story was heart failure, that Ari had born personal burdens for so long that he could no longer stand to live, even in the moment of his greatest victory. The Nezzian ring Agger had given his father was still on the Kjar’s finger, about to be burnt with the man it had killed. Nobody had removed it, though some had suggested Agger should take it for himself. The stone, if it were found, would make somebody very wealthy. Agger, though, never wanted to see it again.
He dared not take it. Rather let the evidence melt away with his father’s corpse than remain to point a finger at him.
“My lord, it is time,” Odni called to him from beside the pyre.
Due to his status as the ranking Vist lord present, it was Agger’s duty to cast the first flame on his father’s pyre. He was handed a torch, and he descended the steps towards the massive pile of wood atop which his father lay. A ladder had been set beside it, and Agger climbed to the top to look down on his father’s body.
“I do not ask your forgiveness, you bastard,” he whispered to the corpse. “Not now, and not in eternity. My only regret is that you died not knowing it was I who killed you. But, wherever you are now, I hope you realize why you are dead. You killed my mother in your jealousy. You killed my sister in your suspicions. When you did not have the grace to kill yourself next, I was forced to do it for you. If all these things make you worthy of your Eoman paradise, then I certainly want nothing to do with your faith. Instead, my life is now devoted to fighting it, to fighting the root cause of all your evil. I do not hope you rest in peace, father. No, the priests tell me Eom has a special place for wicked men, a place of fire and torment. Even that sounds too kind for you. You deserve far, far worse, but if that is all I can wish for you, then so be it. May you burn for eternity.”
Agger thrust his flaming torch into the pyre underneath his father’s body and quickly descended the ladder. Others stepped forward to add their own flames to the wood, and soon the square before the Great Hall was warm with the conflagration taking a dead man’s corpse to who-knew-where.
—A moving speech, vessel. Too bad the others could not have heard it. Rousing, it was. We have chosen well in you.—
As was often the case when the gods whispered praise, Agger could not be certain whether or not he was being mocked, but he decided to take the gods’ words at face value. He spun away from the fire, his black robes billowing as he did so, and led the way into the hall for the feast.