by Mehran Baluch
Kynan One-Eye, able seaman first class (but ‘third rate’ according to
his captain), leaned against the smooth railing of the pirate vessel
Red Raven, using a borrowed spyglass to search the flat horizon. They
were making slow progress in this becalmed weather, even at full sail,
but Captain Hadley was adamant that they might come across another
prize in these busy shipping straits, like the fat Torzian merchant
vessel they’d raided yesterday.
He saw nothing but the fractal diamond glare of the sea and hot blue
sky. His face was mercifully shaded by the wide-brimmed black hat he’d
claimed as part of his share. But even so his skin was baking in the
scorching overhead sun. Right, time for a piss.
He always pissed off the bow, at an angle, enjoying the company of the
bare-breasted (and improbably proportioned) figurehead they called Mary
Red. He sighed contentedly as he let loose an arc of urine, spyglass
tucked into his left armpit.
So that was how the angel found him.
A resonant and mellifluous voice boomed behind him. In fact, it was so
loud, he could feel the vibrations reverberating through his spine.
“Mortal being! Rejoice! For you have been called to serve this day.”
Kynan squawked in alarm, dropping the spyglass (which disappeared with
a plop into the waves below) and turned.
The angel had blue skin, glowing white eyes, and a thick black beard in
a broad smiling face. Ten-feet tall, heavily muscled and sheathed in
gleaming gold armour, winged helmet and greaves. His form was wreathed
in a thin nimbus of white light, and his left fist gripped a silver
barbed spear. He also had large white wings, currently outspread. Right
now, he was frowning a little as yellow piss splashed across his
sandaled feet. He looked back up at Kynan, quirking an eyebrow. The arc
“What – what. What?!” Kynan sputtered, wide-eyed with terror,
half-clambering up the bowsprit in shock.
The angel carefully shook the piss off each foot before replying. “You
are the pirate crewman known as Kynan One-Eye? Although your family
name is actually, hmm, Brown? Originally from Newport?”
“Y-yes,” Kynan managed, still scrabbling backwards horizontally onto
the bowsprit, wildly looking around for help. None of the other pirates
were in sight.
The angel beamed. “Wonderful. This shouldn’t take long then. I am
Melmot, third Solar of the Sunlord’s Seventh Host. You have been called
to the service of His Celestial Light.”
“I’m sorry. Could you repeat that?”
There was an awkward pause during which Kynan wrapped both ankles
around the wooden bowsprit behind him, both hands gripping the spar in
front of him. The angel Melmot watched him do this, bemused. Lifting
its right hand, it began to count off points in its booming voice.
“One. There are gods of this realm. You have known this since you were
a scrap, but you have never worshipped one, nor paid any the slightest
consideration. Between that and your chosen profession...” the angel
coughed delicately, “... your soul is, well, let’s use the word
‘tarnished’, shall we?”
“I’ve been... busy?”
“Two,” Melmot went on, “I have the eternal honour to serve the glorious
Sunlord, His Celestial Eminence, God of the Dawn, Day and Resurrection,
Alazar the Undying Light.”
Beneath Kynan, there was a tortured creak of wood. Mary Red the
ample-bosomed figurehead was twisting her head to look up at him,
shedding wood-chips and paint-flakes. She winked at Kynan as he gawped
down at her disbelievingly. This was... new.
“He means Alazar the Sun God,” she stage-whispered helpfully. Her red
hair moved, the chestnut whorls bobbing as she spoke.
“Three,” Melmot continued, “you, lucky mortal, have been singularly
chosen by my Divine Lord for a special purpose. You will renounce
piracy, and take up the cloth of the clergy. Once sanctified by His
Divine Grace, your destiny shall be revealed to you, and you will do
all that you can to fulfil it, for the glory of Him, forever and ever,
amen, that you may take your eventual rest in His Heavenly Kingdom.”
With a loud creak, the bowsprit cracked and bowed, and Kynan lurched as
his weight made him see-saw in the air. Eyes wide, he lost his grip and
plummeted, flailing. Splash.
“Four,” added Mary Red drily, “you’ve got your work cut out for you.
Sure that’s the right one?”
The angel sighed, looking down into the water. “It would take a
miracle,” he muttered.
“Hold up. Before you save him, would you mind using that divine mojo to
do a lady a favour?” she gestured her meaning, and he understood.
Instantly her breasts shrunk to half their size, and the figurehead was
now fully clothed in a white blouse, trousers, and a head kerchief.
“Ah! My back feels better already. Thanks fella.”
“Milady,” the angel nodded politely, and then took a large step off the
“I believe! I believe!”
“No, you really don’t. But you are starting to, and will in time.”
“Then, I-I accept, I accept the call! Don’t leave me here to drown!
Where do I sign?”
The angel jabbed a meaty finger into his chest. “Here,” it said.
Five years later, in a dank labyrinth of caverns beneath the old
Meliaenas Woods, a motley group of adventurers-for-hire were making
their way through a narrow tunnel, battle worn and begrimed. Mission
accomplished, with three recently-liberated village children in tow,
they were heading back to the light of the surface. Which is exactly
where the ratmen wanted them, funnelled in a bottleneck in the one
tunnel that led out, as swarms of the nasty bucktoothed humanoids
closed in on them, both ahead and behind.
“We’re trapped! They’re all around us, damn them,” yelled Oregonn, the
dim-witted mountain barbarian stating the obvious and drawing his great
“Oh, I can clear the way ahead, don’t you fret,” whispered Aldruin, the
elven arachnomancer from Kesh. She traced fiery blue glyphs of
summoning in the air, and black spiders spilled out from the folds of
her clothing, boiling out in their hundreds.
“Uh, I guess I’ll help,” muttered Cassandra, visibly disgusted as the
carpet of spiders started crawling forwards across the walls, floor and
ceiling. She drew her longbow and started feathering the tunnel ahead
with arrows, crouching behind a rocky outcropping for cover. Ratmen
shrieked and died, but there were lots of them, and they were rising up
to throw spears before hiding behind round wooden shields.
That left Kynan, Dove-Feather and the children in the rear.
Dove-Feather was an Avian bard, humanoid but covered with feathers and
with rough talons instead of hands. “What do we do?” she asked,
nervously glancing back at the advancing ratmen and their bristling
spears. All three terrified children were clinging to her legs.
Kynan One-Eye - ex-pirate and currently reluctant priest and servant of
the Sunlord – lifted his eyepatch to reveal the fully functioning eye
beneath. He grinned at Dove-Feather, adjusting his peaked hat. “You
go,” he said, with exaggerated bravado, cocking his head. “Get the
children to safety. I’ll hold them off as best I can, then break off
and catch up.”
“I’d help but...” she said, tilting her head to indicate the children.
“What are you going to do, play your lute for them? This is no time for
a lullaby!” Kynan joked, pushing the bard forward with one hand.
“You’re still an idiot,” said Dove-Feather as she rolled her eyes at
him, but she took the children slowly forwards.
“Hey Kynan, don’t take this the wrong way, but I thought you were a
chickenshit?” Cassandra yelled back at him.
Kynan pulled out his blunderbuss and loaded it with one hand as he lied
back cheerfully: “It’s ok! I can’t die! I have a destiny. And I have it
on very good authority that I have to live to see my destiny done.
Somehow, I don’t think dying in a muddy tunnel filled with ratmen is
what my god had in mind!”
He fired, the blunderbuss booming loudly in the enclosed space. The
front three ratmen went down squealing, peppered with canister shot.
With no time to reload, he dropped the gun and readied his shield and
cutlass. This was going to be bad.
As he fought, he was aware that his companions were successfully
clearing the way out. He heard them move further away, until they were
out of earshot. In the tunnel, there was no way the ratmen could get
around him. It was too narrow. But he couldn’t break off the fight and
run away either. Their spears would bring him down before he could get
out of range.
“Bless me Alazar for I am... ah fuckfuckfuckityfuck.” A spear tip
grazed his ribs.
Grimly he fought on, but they kept coming. There were too many of them.
And so he finally went down, pierced through by many spears, and died
with a mouthful of mud.
“Is that you, Lord?” Kynan groaned, one hand up to stave off the bright
“Hardly. Rise, cleric of the Sunlord.”
Melmot the solar loomed over him. Reaching out one of its giant hands,
it grabbed an arm and lifted Kynan to his feet.
“But... I died,” he protested, weakly.
“That was just the first time, you’ll get used to it.”
“I thought I was done. That I’d finally earned some rest.”
Melmot roared with laughter, the sound rattling Kynan’s bones and
making his teeth chatter.
“Who said anything about rest? You still have work to do.”
“... and so the right person in the right place at the right time can
make all the difference,” Kynan finished, draining the rest of his ale
and smacking the tankard on the table, requesting more.
“Yes, we’re all well aware of your heroics,” Dove-Feather commented
blandly, “as you tell that story... and all your others... all the
blinking time.” She preened her head feathers absently with one talon.
“Well, it would make a great song, don’t you think? ‘The Brave Dashing
Pirate Priest’?” Kynan grinned, waggling his eyebrows. Oregonn groaned
and hid his face in his meaty hands.
“Gods help us. Please. Just take him now. We’re done with him.”
Cassandra stuck her fork into her meat pie in disgust.
Months had passed. They were in a grimy pub on the outskirts of
Naverria, near Bly, having been commissioned by a minor lord to
retrieve his wayward son, run off with the kitchen maid. They were both
currently locked up in a bedroom upstairs, awaiting return. But since
the group were being paid by the day, they were in no particular rush
and so they had been enjoying the pub’s cheap beer and rancid food for
three days now.
Kynan cleared his throat, and bashfully looked down at his roast
chicken, untouched while he’d been recounting his tale. Aware of the
eyes of the others on him, he folded his hands and quietly muttered a
prayer of grace to himself in an awkward rush, before picking up a
drumstick and gnawing at it. Aldruin, who had been nursing her goblet
of red wine, leaned over to him and whispered.
“I see you, priest. You speak of derring-do and dashing deeds, fights
on the rigging, and plunder taken... and yet you still say grace before
you touch your meal. It amuses me no end. I see you, I do.” She gave
him a smile, and it made his neck prickle. Creepy mage.
“What other... vows... have you taken, Kynan?” Aldruin asked archly,
and he nearly choked.
Coughing, he sputtered out “Piety, devotion, moderation and the
defending of the innocent. Bringing light to dark places. Tithes to the
church. Not, umm, chastity or, ah, abstinence. Although I’m not allowed
to marry or bear children.”
“Moderation?” scoffed Dove-Feather teasingly, pulling his tankard away
“Well, in moderation.” Kynan pulled it back, and took another gulp.
Aldruin was still gazing intently at him on his left but he tried to
ignore it, and her smirk.
“Evangelical much?” Cassandra quipped.
“Come on. It’s not that kind of religion, I don’t wander around trying
“Kidding! Lighten up, Lightbearer.”
Later, Dove-Feather cornered him by the bar and insisted he tell her
the whole story for, as she added with a wry smile, “I can tell when
you’re lying. Your lips move.”
It was a relief to finally confess. He told her about the angel, the
god, and dying in the tunnel with the rats. Then he told her about
waking up again to see the angel towering over him.
“So you died? Really died?”
“I guess, yeah. I don’t remember much about it, I just remember the
pain, and then being brought back.”
“Does that mean you can’t die?”
“I don’t know what it means! I just hate the idea that my life is not
mine to control. At least on board a ship, I had options. Now I feel
like a puppet. And I don’t even know what Alazar wants from me. Or what
my so-called destiny is.”
Dove-Feather mused thoughtfully, looking around the nearly empty tavern
room. A tableful of dwarven fishermen were launching into a rowdy sea
ballad in the far corner, and it was loud and raucous as it assaulted
the relative quiet in the rest of the room.
“I’m sorry, I don’t mean to complain and whine so. It’s just
frustrating. I didn’t use to believe, but now I do. I’m a convert. All
praise Alazar, for his light guides us in the darkness. Only, I wish he
would just be clearer on what I’m actually supposed to do!”
“Well, Kynan, none of us really know what we’re doing either. We just
kind of make it up as we go along. Try and look out for our friends,”
she gestured over at their table, “and not let them down. Try not to
kill the wrong people, or take the wrong coin. Try not to hurt people
unnecessarily, or cruelly, or without reason. That’s all the guidance
any of us get, gods or no gods.”
“That’s it? Just carry on and hope for the best?”
“Well, I’m not really sure what else you were expecting...”
Kynan clenched a fist and held it up to her to show his frustration,
the effect only slightly marred by the pools of foamy ale under it, on
the counter of the bar where they were perched. His sleeve dipped into
one pool, and beer soaked into it instantly. He sighed a loud sigh, and
let his hands drop sadly back into his lap.
“Kynan, elerrium,” she said, placing a hand on his. “You said it
yourself. The right person in the right place at the right time can
make all the difference. To bring a light to the darkness. Isn’t that
For now, he thought, and kissed her. To his surprise and delight, she
kissed him back. He’d been half-expecting a slap.
That night... that is, much later that night, after the, ah, events
that preceded sleep... Kynan had a dream. In his dream, he was adrift
on a wooden raft under the baking sun, tanned and blistered, salt
rimming his face and lips. The flat hot sea stretched out in all
directions. The sky was one white hot and glaring fist pounding down on
him, painful to look at. He felt half-cooked and half-delirious. He was
sprawled crosswise on the raft – which, he could see, was a makeshift
affair of planks barely held together with fraying ship’s ropes – with
his feet barely in the water, kicking and splashing while the rest of
him held on to the raft. He made very slow forward progress.
He was alone.
And then, a moment later, he was not.
He heard a voice from behind him, and Melmot said “I wouldn’t do that
if I were you. You’re just attracting the sharks.”
Kynan turned his head, startled, but could see nothing. Then he looked
down into the water. Below the surface, the angel was there, appearing
not swimming but rather standing on the reflection of the raft over
Kynan’s shoulder. And only in the reflection. The angel was smiling
broadly, and mischief twinkled in his blank white eyes.
“This is your fate, if you were wondering.”
“I beg your pardon?”
“Your fate. This is it.”
Kynan looked around. Nothing had changed. The emptiness spread out all
around him, there was nothing on the horizon in sight. Only the bright
cruel sky, and possibly, if it wasn’t his imagination, he was beginning
to make out dim underwater shadows that could well be distant sharks.
Unless that was just the power of suggestion.
“I’m not sure I approve,” Kynan muttered, and kicked his feet at the
reflection of the angel’s face.
“Oh ho! I see you are labouring under a misapprehension. I do most
humbly apologise; for in this particular instance I failed to take into
account your puny and quite literal brain. This is your fate had you
not chosen to enter the service of Alazar. Shipwrecked. Abandoned. And
eaten by sharks. Terribly sad, a most unpleasant way to go. Except for
the sharks, of course, for whom it was a delightful and savoury repast.”
In the water, the angel’s face grew larger as he peered over Kynan’s
“But you see, cleric Kynan, your destiny has changed. Your service to
the great Alazar, mamelukes praise his grace, has set you on a
different path. A holy path. And no, you don’t get to know what your
final fate is. Sorry. That’s why they call it faith.”
“There is, however, some good news! Until you fulfil your eventual
destiny and are raised up into the holy magnificence of His Divine
“I cannot die?” asked Kynan, hopefully.
“...you will die a hundred times! and each time, no matter how mangled
or chopped up or destroyed or burnt or dismembered your body, you will
be raised back from the dead within twenty-four hours (give or take) to
resume your plodding and endless march towards your eventual destiny,
and the fate that has been singled out for you. Isn’t that wonderful?”
Kynan blinked twice, slowly. “Err, yay?”
“Indeed! Now wake, faithful Kynan, and resume your pitiful existence
among the paltry mortal forms on your home plane. Go on now. Shoo.”
Kynan woke up with a killer hangover, a throbbing head, and
Dove-Feather’s sleeping form trapping his left arm. He groaned, and
pulled the pillow over his head. Morning, Lord, he thought. It’s
me, Kynan. Please don’t kill me again today?
In his thoughts, he heard the angel chuckle.
© 2021 Mehran Baluch
Bio: Hello, my name is Mehran Baluch, and I am a neurodiverse
POC/diaspora writer of Arabic origin and I currently live in London. I
am an unpublished writer and I have an MA in Creative and Critical
Writing from the University of Sussex. I write genre of all types,
primarily short stories.
I am an alumni of Clarion West’s Writing Programme 2020, and a member
of the Laurie Penny Writing Sprint Quarantine club, and Cat Rambo’s
Chez Rambo writing Discord channel.
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