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The Many Gifts of Malia--Part 2: "The...Child?"

by dragonfphoenix


Warning: This work has been rated 16+ for language.

The sun was setting, the tree trunks casting long shadows as twilight dawned. I stood at the edge of the forest, waiting for Hasda to return with his evening meal. He'd grown, since that day many years ago when Malia had left him on my doorstep. Or was it decades now? I could never keep track. But I'd stuck to my guns with his training. Absolutely no warfare or nefarious villainy. I'd set Hasda on the straight and narrow, and by my old bones I was going to keep it that way.

Croaking crows took to the sky in a flurry of wings and discarded feathers. Hasda emerged from the forest, a handful of hares strung over his shoulder. He'd taken to trapping them, too...efficient to hunt them down properly with a bow like I'd taught him. Lazy, I called it, but then again it kept him fed without my having to do the hunting myself, so I let it slide.

"How many today, Hasda?" I called.

The youth grinned, his dark beard thick on his face. Wait, thick? Wasn't that just stubble?

"Five." He held the string up proudly, letting the hares dangle between us. Ducking back under the string, he straightened and flashed me a smile.

Oh, not again.

"Charax, today you promised to teach me the sword."

"I did no such thing. After all, I am a god of peace, these days."

"Mmm." He pushed past me, headed for the temple. "Yet you were once the god of death."

"And that makes you think I would know the art of the sword?" I turned and followed him, my maroon robes dragging in the dirt. I frowned and pushed my shoulders back. I didn't think I'd been sagging that much lately, but if this kept up I'd have to teach him how to take in a hem or, worse, call in outside assistance. I shuddered. A man could do with learning the needle, and one was never too young to learn.

"Yes, you do," Hasda said, interrupting my thoughts. He glanced back over his burly shoulder. When did he get so bulky? "You told me so yourself."

"I did?"

"You did."

"When?"

"Last week, when we were discussing world history and its significance to a group of eligible bachelors living a hermit's life."

Ah. So that's what this was about.

"Child, the day will come when you have earned the luxuries of life. Women are fine creatures, worthy pleasures to be enjoyed and to give oneself to before the grave claims you, but you've yet to demonstrate you have a stable enough head on your shoulders to court or lavish appropriate affection upon such majestic beings."

"Mmm, they're better than cattle?"

He had quite the tongue on him, and he'd bent that analogy a thousand different angles, making me regret ever trying to teach him about intimate human relationships on my own. Explaining the cycle of life, and why the forest animals would yowl in heat, had led to my fumbling the concepts of livestock and reproduction together, and he'd held that like high ground ever since.

"They're better than cattle, they're better than animals, and they're certainly better than trophies."

"Ooh, a new word. I was afraid you'd go this year without divulging one."

My steps slowed, and I drilled holes into his back. "What vocabulary is this? Where did you even hear such a word? Certainly not from me."

He froze, shoulders skyrocketing as if he'd stepped in something unpleasant. "Shit."

"Hasda." I gave him my best battlefield commander voice. I'd filed the rust off that one and employed it quite a handful of times in his early years. It'd never kept him out of the braziers, but it had stayed his hand at some of the more poisonous forest plants.

When he turned around, he had that same abashed look on his face that he'd had the first time I caught him masturbating. "Uh, the mockingbirds migrated recently. I think they passed through the southern village."

"Not only is it the wrong season," I said, knuckles creaking as I folded my hands together, "but they don't possess nearly the mimicry skills you credit them."

"She said it was worth a shot."

If I'd still had eyebrows, they would've lifted off my face. As it was, my expression must've spooked him, because he glanced away immediately. "She?"

"I think the heat's been getting to me," he said, his favorite excuse and a poor attempt at a subject change. Rubbing the back of his neck, he said, "Let's get these rabbits skinned and dinner cooking. I remember you saying you wanted another rabbit's foot? For your fetish collection?" Without waiting for an answer, he spun and strode purposefully towards the temple.

"Hasda."

I hadn't moved, and my tone made him freeze.

"Who is the woman?"

"Would you believe I swore a blood oath not to reveal it?"

"GODS DAMN IT!"

He jumped a good foot off the ground. When he landed, he crouched and ventured, "What?"

Even if he'd managed to sneak across the forest and set up a liaison with some peasant girl, which was practically impossible since the journey took over a week and we'd never been apart for more than three days, no one, not even the highest noble or most secretive priestess, would merit telling a god, retired or not, that their relationship merited a blood oath. And only one goddess would have the gall to make such a joke with me.

"How long have you been speaking to Malia?"

He choked and went beet red in the face. When he finally stopped gagging, he said, "I beg your pardon?"

"Quit stalling. You've had your head in the clouds for weeks—"

"Months, actually." His grin reflected the full manifestation of that impish smirk of his youth. "Well over a year. She was beginning to think you wouldn't notice."

I was going to stab her. I was, quite literally, going to march across the whole of Piovar and thrust her through with a good solid iron. Maybe sprinkle in a little celestial steel so it had some bite to it.

"And what, exactly, has she been showing you?"

"Nothing of the, er, 'carnal matters.'" His ears went red, and I could feel the heat from here. "She said to tell you that."

"Indeed. And what celestial matters did she discuss with you? I'm sure it had nothing to do with fate, or your future among her ranks?"

By the way he wouldn't meet my eyes, I knew she had. I sighed. "You are still a child, Hasda, and you've no place in war."

"Right, because I'm to be your peaceful priest." He clenched his fists, and his voice was hard.

I frowned. This wasn't like him at all. "Yes, exactly."

"Do you know," he glanced up sharply, "how old I am, exactly?"

"Um, er, well," I stammered. My mind raced, trying to count the years. "Perhaps a couple decades now?"

"A couple?" He huffed a laugh. "I'm thirty-two. I know you immortals have precious little concept of mortality, but I'm already a third through my life, maybe more even, given plagues or famine or war."

"It's not a plague year," I muttered. "There's another four decades or so before the next one's due."

"That's besides the point." He threw the string of rabbits on the ground. "I am a man, fully grown, and getting on in years. I've put up with your coddling and senility out of respect for the kindness you showed me, for the years you've invested in my life, in raising me as your own. You've always been kind to me, for the most part, but can you really say that this life of isolation is good for me? It may suit you, but it certainly doesn't suit me."

I stood silent for a moment, soaking it in. "Helped you prepare that all, did she?"

"She gave me a few pointers," he said, nodding. He thrust out his chin. "But the thoughts are my own."

"Indeed." I rubbed my palms together, suddenly cold. "And what are you going to do about it?"

He blinked. Evidently my acquiescing, or at least considering his request, hadn't been in their battle plans. "I, er, well."

I laughed, a dry chuckle. "You puff yourself up about your years, yet you're still as innocent as a fawn."

"I resent that remark."

"Be that as it may," I waved a hand, "you know as much about the world at large as you do of the 'carnal matters.'" I laughed when his ears went red again. Then I sighed, gesturing at the rabbits. "Your dinner will soil, if you don't tend to it soon. But when you've finished eating, I expect to hear your thoughts on your future. Well-articulated thoughts, not these raging, passionate tantrums. You're a man. Conduct yourself as one."

He bowed and collected the rabbits, then scuttled into the temple. If he'd had a tail, he would've been tripping over it, tucked between his legs. The cold I'd felt earlier became chills that settled in my elbows. I had a feeling I knew what he was working towards, and I was afraid to hear it. And unlike him, I didn't have the menial task of consuming food to distract me while I waited. After a moment I followed him into the temple and settled onto my throne, to await the conclusion of his meal. It seemed I was going to have another significant audience again.


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RealSadhours296 wrote a review...



Coming back for another chapter. Not disappointed in the slightest.

Hasda's grown a lot, but is still a bit of a troublemaker I see. I'm excited to see how he changes throughout the story. We also got some more info on Charax. He used to be a death god, huh?

Your dialogue is really, really good. It can be very humorous at times and just feels so alive and full of character. You're also really good at characterizing as far as I've read. I've never met Malia but based on how Charax reminisces about her and based on the little she's done so far I have a clear idea of her character.

I have no real problems with this chapter. It's great, really.

Keep up the good work!




dragonfphoenix says...


Thanks! It's been fun writing this story :)



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Mon May 24, 2021 4:52 am
KateHardy wrote a review...



Good Morning/Afternoon/Evening/Night(whichever one it is in your part of the world),

Hi! I'm here to review this story...cause well I don't know if you remember but I once reviewed the very first chapter of this but then afterwards these chapters are all just loooong so I was a little daunted but...after several months I finally have a properly free day...and sooo....I'm gonna try and review all the chapters currently released in the next 12 or so hours. So...be prepared for a barrage of notifs I guess...xD....this seemed like a really fun story at any rate, so hence why I think I can actually pull that off without burning out. We'll find out I suppose. :D

First Impression: Ahh...well..I'm not disappointed from having chosen this story to read for this giant marathon today...its exactly like I remembered from that first chapter I read sooo long ago...and oooh...the baby is all grown up I see...and things are happening right away...well that is most excellent news.

Anyway let's get right to it,

The sun was setting, the tree trunks casting long shadows as twilight dawned. I stood at the edge of the forest, waiting for Hasda to return with his evening meal. He'd grown, since that day many years ago when Malia had left him on my doorstep. Or was it decades now? I could never keep track. But I'd stuck to my guns with his training. Absolutely no warfare or nefarious villainy. I'd set Hasda on the straight and narrow, and by my old bones I was going to keep it that way.


Okay....well that's an admirable goal there...let's hope it doesn't go terribly wrong here for this guy...

Croaking crows took to the sky in a flurry of wings and discarded feathers. Hasda emerged from the forest, a handful of hares strung over his shoulder. He'd taken to trapping them, too...efficient to hunt them down properly with a bow like I'd taught him. Lazy, I called it, but then again it kept him fed without my having to do the hunting myself, so I let it slide.


Well...that's good for him...I guess messing with a formula that works well is just not a good idea in general.

"
How many today, Hasda?" I called.

The youth grinned, his dark beard thick on his face. Wait, thick? Wasn't that just stubble?

"Five." He held the string up proudly, letting the hares dangle between us. Ducking back under the string, he straightened and flashed me a smile.

Oh, not again.


Ooooh...this is already starting to be entertaining...I wished I'd done this sooner but alas...it is only now that I have the time to read through this.

"Charax, today you promised to teach me the sword."

"I did no such thing. After all, I am a god of peace, these days."

"Mmm." He pushed past me, headed for the temple. "Yet you were once the god of death."


The past will continue to haunt you it seems...

"And that makes you think I would know the art of the sword?" I turned and followed him, my maroon robes dragging in the dirt. I frowned and pushed my shoulders back. I didn't think I'd been sagging that much lately, but if this kept up I'd have to teach him how to take in a hem or, worse, call in outside assistance. I shuddered. A man could do with learning the needle, and one was never too young to learn.

"Yes, you do," Hasda said, interrupting my thoughts. He glanced back over his burly shoulder. When did he get so bulky? "You told me so yourself."


Ahh...I'm loving the banter between these two...also the sneaky bits of description we're getting about Hasda is a lovely way for us to figure out exactly what he looks like now that he's no longer a baby.

"I did?"

"You did."

"When?"

"Last week, when we were discussing world history and its significance to a group of eligible bachelors living a hermit's life."


Why is this a conversation that we're not treated to in its full glory...we absolutely must listen to this...

Ah. So that's what this was about.

"Child, the day will come when you have earned the luxuries of life. Women are fine creatures, worthy pleasures to be enjoyed and to give oneself to before the grave claims you, but you've yet to demonstrate you have a stable enough head on your shoulders to court or lavish appropriate affection upon such majestic beings."

"Mmm, they're better than cattle?"


Well...that's a fun question to ask there...oh dear.

He had quite the tongue on him, and he'd bent that analogy a thousand different angles, making me regret ever trying to teach him about intimate human relationships on my own. Explaining the cycle of life, and why the forest animals would yowl in heat, had led to my fumbling the concepts of livestock and reproduction together, and he'd held that like high ground ever since.

"They're better than cattle, they're better than animals, and they're certainly better than trophies."


Oh wow...that is...well...the last problem you'd expect to have as a god of death I suppose...poor guy.

"Ooh, a new word. I was afraid you'd go this year without divulging one."

My steps slowed, and I drilled holes into his back. "What vocabulary is this? Where did you even hear such a word? Certainly not from me."

He froze, shoulders skyrocketing as if he'd stepped in something unpleasant. "Shit."


Ooooh...that's interestsing.

"Hasda." I gave him my best battlefield commander voice. I'd filed the rust off that one and employed it quite a handful of times in his early years. It'd never kept him out of the braziers, but it had stayed his hand at some of the more poisonous forest plants.


Better than nothign I suppose.

"Not only is it the wrong season," I said, knuckles creaking as I folded my hands together, "but they don't possess nearly the mimicry skills you credit them."

"She said it was worth a shot."

If I'd still had eyebrows, they would've lifted off my face. As it was, my expression must've spooked him, because he glanced away immediately. "She?"

"I think the heat's been getting to me," he said, his favorite excuse and a poor attempt at a subject change. Rubbing the back of his neck, he said, "Let's get these rabbits skinned and dinner cooking. I remember you saying you wanted another rabbit's foot? For your fetish collection?" Without waiting for an answer, he spun and strode purposefully towards the temple.


Oh him trying this little secret here and failing miserably is just too funny at this point...ahh...this is just soo nicely done here.

"Hasda."

I hadn't moved, and my tone made him freeze.

"Who is the woman?"

"Would you believe I swore a blood oath not to reveal it?"

"GODS DAMN IT!"


Blood oaths definitely sound like it would be a bad idea...most things related to blood and oaths in fantasy novels are.

He jumped a good foot off the ground. When he landed, he crouched and ventured, "What?"

Even if he'd managed to sneak across the forest and set up a liaison with some peasant girl, which was practically impossible since the journey took over a week and we'd never been apart for more than three days, no one, not even the highest noble or most secretive priestess, would merit telling a god, retired or not, that their relationship merited a blood oath. And only one goddess would have the gall to make such a joke with me.


Oh well...I suppose our friendly goddess in the first chapter is making a comeback...makes sense I suppose...considering the story is titled after here.

"How long have you been speaking to Malia?"

He choked and went beet red in the face. When he finally stopped gagging, he said, "I beg your pardon?"

"Quit stalling. You've had your head in the clouds for weeks—"


Oohh...this man is definitely busted here.

"Months, actually." His grin reflected the full manifestation of that impish smirk of his youth. "Well over a year. She was beginning to think you wouldn't notice."

I was going to stab her. I was, quite literally, going to march across the whole of Piovar and thrust her through with a good solid iron. Maybe sprinkle in a little celestial steel so it had some bite to it.


Hmm...that moment when you're an immortal and you can stab your friends because they're being annoying....ahh...I love this story...expect to hear this a million times over the cause of this day as I continue reviewing

"And what, exactly, has she been showing you?"

"Nothing of the, er, 'carnal matters.'" His ears went red, and I could feel the heat from here. "She said to tell you that."


Oh she definitley has to specify that...of course...

"Indeed. And what celestial matters did she discuss with you? I'm sure it had nothing to do with fate, or your future among her ranks?"

By the way he wouldn't meet my eyes, I knew she had. I sighed. "You are still a child, Hasda, and you've no place in war."


Oh well...I guess she has to drag him into something....

"Right, because I'm to be your peaceful priest." He clenched his fists, and his voice was hard.

I frowned. This wasn't like him at all. "Yes, exactly."

"Do you know," he glanced up sharply, "how old I am, exactly?"


Oooh...here come the tough question for the poor guy, oh dear.

"Um, er, well," I stammered. My mind raced, trying to count the years. "Perhaps a couple decades now?"

"A couple?" He huffed a laugh. "I'm thirty-two. I know you immortals have precious little concept of mortality, but I'm already a third through my life, maybe more even, given plagues or famine or war."


Immortals to tend to forget that...it just happens to us you know....

"It's not a plague year," I muttered. "There's another four decades or so before the next one's due."

"That's besides the point." He threw the string of rabbits on the ground. "I am a man, fully grown, and getting on in years. I've put up with your coddling and senility out of respect for the kindness you showed me, for the years you've invested in my life, in raising me as your own. You've always been kind to me, for the most part, but can you really say that this life of isolation is good for me? It may suit you, but it certainly doesn't suit me."


Ahh...this is such a wholesome moment....first of all...the casual dismissal of the plague cause he clearly knows exactly when those come and then Hasda thanking him for raising him before going on to make his point.

I stood silent for a moment, soaking it in. "Helped you prepare that all, did she?"

"She gave me a few pointers," he said, nodding. He thrust out his chin. "But the thoughts are my own."

"Indeed." I rubbed my palms together, suddenly cold. "And what are you going to do about it?"


Oooh....this could be interesting.

He blinked. Evidently my acquiescing, or at least considering his request, hadn't been in their battle plans. "I, er, well."

I laughed, a dry chuckle. "You puff yourself up about your years, yet you're still as innocent as a fawn."

"I resent that remark."


Ahh...this dialogue is just gold right now.

"Be that as it may," I waved a hand, "you know as much about the world at large as you do of the 'carnal matters.'" I laughed when his ears went red again. Then I sighed, gesturing at the rabbits. "Your dinner will soil, if you don't tend to it soon. But when you've finished eating, I expect to hear your thoughts on your future. Well-articulated thoughts, not these raging, passionate tantrums. You're a man. Conduct yourself as one."


Oh that last line...

He bowed and collected the rabbits, then scuttled into the temple. If he'd had a tail, he would've been tripping over it, tucked between his legs. The cold I'd felt earlier became chills that settled in my elbows. I had a feeling I knew what he was working towards, and I was afraid to hear it. And unlike him, I didn't have the menial task of consuming food to distract me while I waited. After a moment I followed him into the temple and settled onto my throne, to await the conclusion of his meal. It seemed I was going to have another significant audience again.


Oh well...that promises to be interesting...can't wait to get around to the next chapter...hmm...kind of glad I'm reading this story when there's so much of to read at once...or the wait would be too much for a story this good. :D

Aaaaand that's it for this one.

Overall: Overall...this is looking like a solid second chapter, the timeskip wasn't jarring to follow or anything, its flowing along nicely and we've already got some interesting mystery in there to get us to keep reading so I'd say this is a success..anyways...moving onto the next chapter now.

As always remember to take what you think was helpful and forget the rest.

Stay Safe
Harry




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Sun Feb 21, 2021 12:24 pm
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SoullessGinger wrote a review...



Yesssss! I came searching for the second installment of this, and I have NOT been disappointed! WOW. just WOW. I love it so much. Time skips are always fun. I really like how we really meet Hasda, and also how we can feel the shift of Charax's personality, almost.

I'm not sure if that was intentional at all, but you do reference a change from a god of death to a god of peace. Although I am going to interpret that as Charax is still a god of death, but has shifted from the harsh, unforgiving, violent end that death is. He's become the peaceful aspects of death, soothing, humbling, and almost freeing in a way.

And the dialogue is BEAUTIFUL. I feel like I'm reading something from John White's Tower of Geburah, or The Iron Scepter (VERY much recommend these for you to read, based on your writing style). Sometimes words just give me a feeling that I can't explain, but they all relate to a single frame of consciousness, and you capture that frame and sustain it very well.

I'm so excited to read the next installment! It will be interesting to see how Hasda develops, and whether or not he forms his own opinions, or follows those of either Malia or Charax. I'm also excited to find out more about Charax, and his relationship with Malia. I love this so much, and I hope you continue writing!




dragonfphoenix says...


Thanks! Glad you're enjoying the story.

I'm definitely planning on writing more, if not seeing this all the way through. There's two other chapters up already, and the goal is to post at least one new chapter a week until the story's finished.



dragonfphoenix says...


Thanks! Glad you're enjoying the story.

I'm definitely planning on writing more, if not seeing this all the way through. There's two other chapters up already, and the goal is to post at least one new chapter a week until the story's finished.



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Plume wrote a review...



Hey there! Plume here, with a review!!

I think I read the chapter before this one and really enjoyed it, so I was very excited to start to read this one!! I must say, I was a little disappointed going into it that we didn't get to see much of Hasda's growing up, but after I was done, that completely disappeared. You've once again delivered a stellar piece that was a blessing to read.

One thing I think you nailed was the sort of grudging parent-child dynamic. It really encapsulated your characters and served as a tremendous form of characterization in this chapter. You've got the narrator (I forget his name, sorry) who's this out-of-touch immortal who's a bit like a wizened old grandfather who wants to be left alone but has a soft spot for his child, and Hasda, who is the child, though he's not much of a child anymore. You caught the sort of reluctant resentment on Hasda's part that I think a lot of people feel towards their parents: they love them deep down, but there's a lot of surface-level frustration with them as well. This was only added to when the narrator forgot Hasda's age, as it sort of enforced the idea that maybe the narrator doesn't care about Hasda as much as he should, and might be clinging to the days when Hasda was younger. I think this is a feeling a lot of parents go through as well (though I wouldn't know, I'm not a parent), about not wanting your kids to grow up too fast and become their own people. Anyways. Sorry for that long chunk of analysis; I just think you did a stellar job at your character dynamics and wanted to point it out. I'm not sure if it was even intentional, but great job regardless!!

I also think your narration is spot on. I think I mentioned this in my last review, possibly, but you write from the perspective of an old god very well. You seem to really understand his character, and that makes the story all the more engaging to read. Nice work!

I don't have any critiques for this piece, really. I think I was to enraptured with the actual story and your beautiful writing to look for any grammar errors, haha.

Overall: phenomenal job! I can't wait to read the next part.




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Myre wrote a review...



So I read the chapter before this. I myself tend to get burned out and produce a slightly worse quality chapter after I finish the first one, but apparently, you're immune to that struggle! I enjoyed reading this part just as much as the first, which is interesting because I tend to put stories down after an enticing prologue with a weak follow-up. This second chapter packed just as much of a punch as the first did, and now I can't wait to see more!

The description of the child was the beautiful highlight in the first part, where the rabbits are here. I love how you use a focal point of interesting detail to guide the reader to it, even if it's unintentional.

I'm definitely going to scour the green room for this series in the future, so thanks for keeping me motivated to review some stories-it'll help me come across even more!

Have a good day!

Peace,

Myre (it's a pen name)




dragonfphoenix says...


Thanks!




Forever is composed of nows.
— Emily Dickenson