The New God
“So this is what’s called an open offering,” said the nameless cyborg. His voice was nearly a mutter, as it usually was, but carried none of the curiosity or questioning that it usually did. He didn’t sound like a man, Ain thought, who had lost his memories a couple weeks, maybe a month, ago.
“I’m surprised you know that,” Ain replied, grinding green chalk against the ground, drawing over top of the triangle she had just finished. “Did Mem fill you in?”
Mem practically ice-skated across the cracked stones and overgrown grass, her swift movements obliterating dirt and trimming the greenery like the treads of a tank writ very small.
“We do not have any form of remote communication, Ain,” Mem told her. “However, he does have a data bank similar to mine connected to his human brain, known as the ‘wetware’, which provides him with essential knowledge!”
Ain looked up at Mem as she spun in place between a pair of collapsed shrine walls, arms outstretched and fingertips replaced by tiny featherlike tufts. Then, she turned her head back to the nameless cyborg. “Wow, C. They consider that essential knowledge in your line of work?”
“Oh, yeah,” the nameless cyborg said, putting a hand down on the ground as he lowered himself to sit on the newly-cleaned shrine path. “Anyone can do this, can’t they? Or at least try. Doing it wrong attracts all sorts of bad folks. Doing it right can cause even more problems. I’ve had to track down some of these before, I’m guessing.”
Ain finished drawing a second, reversed triangle over top of the first. The basic framework had been laid down; now, it needed a ring of salt around it and, in the modern lunar tradition she’d learned, a ring of water around that.
The ring of water would do little by itself, but even if the demon summoned were hostile, seeing what they do with the ring would give an idea of their intelligence and knowledge. And even if the ring of salt were dissolved in the water, it would not lose most of its potency.
“So, how much of that is from your memory banks and how much is intuition?”
“Most of it’s intuition. They don’t put this kind of hardware into someone who can’t use it, or so I’m told,” the nameless cyborg tapped the side of his head.
“Pretty cautious intuition you’ve got there,” Ain replied, another grin on her face.
The nameless cyborg inhaled through his nose, leaning forward from where he sat as he watched Ain finish the triangle. “What, thinking that most of the time, someone using one of these will cause problems? We still don’t know if this will be safe.”
“And you’re right,” Ain said, setting down the chalk and opening the large box she’d hauled over during the cleaning. The box, which was made of cardboard, held a colourful old book full of obscure trivia, another book that discussed the early history of a country called Hungary, and a raven’s feather, among other items.
Ain reached into the bottom, and pulled out a small stone stropholos, engraved with tiny Cyrllic letters. “This is what’s called a safety offering. It makes it clear to the answering being who’s summoning them, what it’s for, and whose protection they have. Most of the time, it scares off anything that’s not aligned with our purposes.”
“Most of the time. Well, that’s the best you can hope for,” the nameless cyborg said, “so that’s okay with me. Is that all you need?”
“That and a lengthy entreatment,” Ain said, setting down the items on different points of the finished pentagram. “It’s one of the more basic ways to do this, but we’re short on time and I like my odds.”
“Alright. Do you want me to watch over you?”
“Yeah. Your bullets will do more to defend me than I can during the summoning… well, if things go wrong.”
After a few more finishing touches, Ain stood up in front of the pentagram and raised her arms. She closed her eyes, and tears began to stream down her face in freefall. The tears merged together on her cheeks, fell from them, and then began to dance around in midair, creating a tiny, misty tornado of water around her that rose and fell.
“This shrine needs a keeper; the people of this land, another protector. May the tides bring you here, worthy one.”
The water surrounding Ain flung itself in all directions at once, passing through the nameless cyborg rather than splashing him. The ring of water around the pentagram began to dance, sloshing about like a disturbed cup of water. The whole time, the nameless cyborg kept his grip on his custom-made pistol, waiting for something to appear and attack Ain.
A head appeared in the pentagram, that of an old man with a well-kept but extraordinarily long blond beard, growing from his face and his sideburn, and hair to match. Then his neck appeared, and with it a base of terrible sutures, ringed by scars left by the basic medicine of a forgotten age.
And then, nothing. No more of the god or demon came to the circle. It was one man, and only his head at that. The nameless cyborg had to keep himself from relaxing.
“Who are you?” the nameless cyborg called out from near the trees.
“Hrmmm,” the head’s eyes shifted from side to side.
“This one’s out of my area of expertise,” Ain admitted. “Mem! Any idea who this is?”
Mem spun around in place and then returned to the front of the shrine. It did not take her very long at all to analyse the figure before her. “MIMIR! He of Norse origin, and is known for his wisdom. He was beheaded in a war between the two original Norse pantheons, the aesir and the vanir.”
“And after that,” the old man spoke, “the Allfather took me into his counsel. Being without legs, of course, I could not refuse. You mean to put me in the same situation, do you?”
“Not at all,” Ain said, crouching down on one knee to be nearer to eye level with the man. “We want you to take over this shrine and guide the people of this region. And aid them with your power. That’s the main thing, actually.”
“Then you know what you’re asking for, at least,” said Mimir, as his appraising gaze fell upon Ain. “But I should warn you. If the future isn’t going to be kind to your people, I won’t hold that back. Don’t blame me if something goes wrong.”
“We won’t. Enough things have gone wrong already; they’re looking up now.” Ain wasn’t sure if this would reassure Mimir or not, but it was her honest opinion.
“I think I want to seal that in blood,” Mimir replied curtly. “I’m interested, it’s been so long since anyone has wanted my wisdom, but I’m not going to let you shortchange me. We need a contract.”
“We have already begun cleaning the shrine where you will stay,” Mem explained, “and I believe we will be able to hire at least one attendant to look after the grounds and feed you, if you wish!”
The nameless cyborg nodded. “A lot of people jump at the chance to have the pay of working with demons. Or gods, in your case. More supply than demand.” It was a safe bet that this wise god would know what that meant. Demons didn’t need to read books to know things. It’s like they all had the advantages of his enhancements and then some.
“Then you’ve given me an advantage in choosing my new servants,” Mimir said. “I appreciate your honesty, young man, but your friend may not.”
Ain shrugged. “No, it’s fine! We pulled you all the way across the Continental Fissure. Actually, you’re on an island now. It seems fair to make it up to you, being so far from home.”
“It’s gotten chilly there again, and it seems nicer here. I won’t complain about that part. Now, shall we get down to business?”
On that day, Mimir became one of the new gods of Moss Bay. His magic provided the protection the cyborg’s client sought, allowing them to expel the demon that had begun to cause problems in the city.
But what truly attracted the people of Moss Bay to one of their new sponsors was his knowledge. Day in and day out, Mimir sat upon the lid of the shrine’s now-closed offertory box, surrounded by his attendants — and a few guards, as there was always the risk he might be stolen. There, he would provide cryptic but inevitably useful counsel to the people who visited him, assuming they paid the proper respects.