The Outcast God Ch 3 – The Altar

“Tarrin,” the man gasped, pressing his back to the stone as though he could escape, his fingernails scraping the smooth surface of the altar. “My name is Tarrin.” He took deep breaths, his chest heaving, a sheen of sweat over his body. “If you’re going to do what I assume you’re going to do, you could at least call me by my name.”

(Read these first: Chapter One – The Offering, Chapter Two – The Sigils)


Thorne’s black nails tingled and his fingers trembled as the god brushed the sigil on the mortal’s chest. It was golden and glowing, swirling with the power of the priest’s prayers. Thorne put his palm flat against it and moaned aloud as the sensation rushed through him. It had been so, so long since his sigil had been emblazoned on warm flesh. The thrill of it ran through the god’s arm. It vibrated down to the feathers of his wings and up to the tips of his horns. It was intoxicating, and yet still it was only a poor shadow of the adoration he had once enjoyed.

Thorne wanted more.

He wanted hot blood beating under his hands, he wanted prayers and worship, he wanted his priest, his mortal, his only possession. He yearned to eat him like a feast, to drink him like a fine wine, to consume him like a flame on dry wood. He was a god, and in his own temple his will was law; he would take what he wanted.

The mortal’s clothes tore under the god’s hands and were discarded. Thorne ran his possessive hands over bare skin and hard muscle. He circled the pulsing vortex of the sigil with his fingertips, scraped his black nails up over the mortal’s broad shoulders and down to his muscular thighs. The mortal was strong from his work in his forge, and Thorne’s eyes gleamed gold at the sight. He may have only one priest, but he was a comely one, and the god’s mismatched wings shivered at the thought of what came next.

There was no heavy scent of incense in the temple, no drumbeat or bells, no intonations or rhythmic chanting as there had been in the past, but it mattered little. That had been a façade; it was not the true power of the ritual. The power of it was at the heart, between the god, the offering and the altar.

Thorne’s head spun and the temple-stars pulsed above him, eager to drink in the first surge of power that had been released here in decades. It was not yet more than a trickle, but even that was enough to open up long-forgotten pathways, enough to wake the roaring flame of Thorne’s hunger and stoke his desperate need. Thorne bared his godly flesh and readied himself. He would take his priest, claim him utterly and completely. He would show him how he could serve his god.

It was only then, his hands wrapped around the mortal’s thighs, pinning him to the cold stone like a lamb about to be spitted, that Thorne felt the man shaking. He looked up to see his face was pale, his eyes wide and fixed, his teeth digging into the flesh of his trembling lip. Worse, the hum of his prayers was almost gone. The lingering echoes of the long day spent beating reverence into molten metal faded away like water into a drain.

“What is wrong, priest?” Thorne asked, holding himself back from competing the ritual by force of will alone.

“Tarrin,” the man gasped, pressing his back to the stone as though he could escape, his fingernails scraping the smooth surface of the altar. “My name is Tarrin.” He took deep breaths, his chest heaving, a sheen of sweat over his body. “If you’re going to do what I assume you’re going to do, you could at least call me by my name.”

He is the only one you have, Thorne reminded himself, counseling himself to patience. You’re a god with one priest. You need him.

“What is wrong, Tarrin?” Thorne growled, his fingers digging into the man’s thighs, his body balanced on the cusp of completion.

Tarrin looked up at his god, the faint light of the temple-stars reflecting in his brown eyes. He shook his head, the movement jerky and panicked, like a deer before the hunter’s bow. “Nothing,” he forced out through gritted teeth. “It is nothing. I will fulfill my oath. I am at your service, Thorne.”

Thorne regarded the mortal pinned beneath him. He needed to bring the beat of worship back to his blood. Without it, Thorne would soon be adrift again, sustained only by the small superstitions scattered through the folk-memory of the city. Soon, even that slim power may fail, and then…Thorne snarled at that thought and let it skitter from his mind. That would not happen, because he had a priest now. But his priest was not praying and Thorne did not know why.

“I will not hurt you,” the god ventured. That assurance had seemed to calm the man before, when Thorne had put the sigil on him. Perhaps it would work now.

Tarrin laughed, wetness gathering in his eyes, his laughter taking on an edge of hysteria. His ankles were resting on the shoulders of his god, soft feathers brushing the soles of his bare feet. He was as vulnerable as it was possible to be; his intimate core bared and ready for plunder. “You’re hurting me now,” Tarrin gasped, twitching his eyes to the rings of purpling bruises that bloomed under Thorne’s clenched hands. “You’re hurting me now, Thorne.”

The god released him and reared back as though Tarrin were a snake poised to strike. The priest was right. Without thinking, Thorne sent a sliver of power into the mortal, healing his crushed flesh. Thorne found other pains and healed them too; injuries from Tarrin’s work in the forge as well as the tender bruise on his skull where Thorne had shoved him against his own anvil. The god healed it all, pulling power from his shallow reserves to do so. Above them, temple-stars winked out one by one as Thorne exhausted them. He was horrified. Tarrin’s skull was as fragile as an eggshell. His bones would snap like twigs under Thorne’s black-nailed hands, his flesh would split and rend like that of an overripe fruit.

Thorne had to be careful with him, more careful than he had ever been with an offering. If he hurt Tarrin too badly, Thorne would not have the power to heal him. Things were not as they had been, when his priests brought him fresh offerings with the waning of every moon. Thorne had enjoyed those tender morsels on his altar and healed them after, drunk on the surge of his own power. He missed the offerings almost more than he missed his priests; young men and women draped in sheer muslin and gold jewelry, fragrant oils on their skin and the scent of jeko herbs on their breath. They had laid down for Thorne willingly, their movements slow and languid from the jeko, and the ritual had been intoxicating as that herb, filling Thorne’s body and mind with the heady power of worship.

Compared to the offerings of the past, Tarrin was strong and sturdy. Surely the blacksmith could stand up to the ritual better than those delicate flowers had done? But Tarrin was all he had, and Thorne could not risk it. He could not use him the way he most desperately needed to.

“Get dressed,” the god said shortly, climbing off the altar. He waited as the mortal found the torn remnants of his clothing and dressed himself as best he could. The sigil vanished as Tarrin held the edges of his shirt together, covering himself and concealing the evidence of Thorne’s claim on him.

“Go,” the god said, weary with frustration and disappointment. “Go, priest. I am finished with you tonight. You cannot give me what I want.” The heavy stone doors of the temple opened, flooding the dark room with bright moonlight. Tarrin flinched, skittish before the displeasure of his god, but he did not turn tail and run. Despite his unhappy mood, Thorne admired him for that. He had chosen the man for his courage, and he still displayed it. Perhaps he could make a worthy priest of him yet.

Tarrin swallowed down his fear. Thorne was displeased with him, and that was dangerous for the servant of any god, never mind one with Thorne’s dangerous reputation. Tarrin could not leave without appeasing him, so he went to his knees before Thorne’s low altar. He put both hands on the slab and bowed until his forehead touched the rough stone. He focused his mind, trying to find the still center that he inhabited while working metal, when the beat of his heart and the beat of his hammer were one. When he found it, he wove a wordless prayer into the rhythm. It was an emotion more than a prayer; a blend of gratitude, fear, reverence, and willingness, and he sent it to his god. It was the only prayer Tarrin knew, the same prayer that he had worked into the sigils.

Thorne didn’t speak, but when Tarrin raised his head from the altar the god was looking down at him, shimmering wings spread. The gold tips of his horns shone and the glow of gold in his eyes was a gentle pulse rather than a wild storm. Tarrin got to his feet, bowed again, and left as his god had commanded.

The moon was high and the night air cold as Tarrin stumbled out of the temple, the heavy stone doors closing silently behind him. He leaned against the wall for a few minutes to steady his nerves before he was ready for the long walk home. It was clear enough what had happened in the temple. Thorne wanted to have him, but he didn’t want to hurt him. Or, Tarrin thought, given what he knew of gods, Thorne probably didn’t want to hurt him more than his capability to heal. Healing a fevered child was one thing; healing the kind of physical damage a lustful god could do to a helpless mortal was something else.

Tarrin walked through the silent city streets. His bare feet were chilled on the cold flagstones and he clutched his torn clothes around himself, trying to warm up. One by one, his mortal concerns trickled back into his head. It was already past midnight, and he had no food for tomorrow, and no money to buy any. Min was with her grandmother but that good lady could hardly feed herself, never mind a growing child for days on end. Tarrin’s smithy had supported the three of them until Min’s illness, but now he did not even have coal for his furnace. He had left his metalworking tongs somewhere in Thorne’s temple, and his boots too, both of which he needed if he was going to work the next day. He would have to hire out as labor for at least a week. He needed to earn enough money to feed his little family and to buy fuel and materials for his forge.

Consumed by such gloomy calculations, Tarrin did not notice the light footsteps behind him. It was not until a hand fell on his shoulder that he jerked out of the tired contemplation of his troubles. He spun around, fists raised. He had nothing to steal, but that did not mean brigands would not try him, if they thought him easy prey. Instead of a thief, there was a tall, cloaked figure behind him.

The figure stepped into the light of the moon and turned into a man wearing a rich, embroidered robe. Tarrin squinted, trying to make out the familiar pattern. Before he could, the man pulled back the hood and Tarrin realized that he knew him. It was one of the priests he had begged for aid when his daughter was dying. He was Venik, a senior deacon of Prathur, the most powerful and enigmatic of the corner gods.

“What do you want?” Tarrin snapped, his hand uneasy over his heart, ensuring Thorne’s sigil was hidden under his clothes.

Venik shifted his face into an ingratiating smile, but his eyes were glued to Tarrin’s chest as though he could see through his hand and down to the sigil underneath. The deacon licked his thin lips. “The outcast god has you in his talons,” he breathed, his eyes alight with fervor, “But rejoice, for help is at hand. The might of Prathur will free you from his grasp.”

Chapter 4


Thanks for reading! If you enjoyed this, send me a comment or check out the rest of my writing.

Photo by burak kostak

7 thoughts on “The Outcast God Ch 3 – The Altar

Add yours

  1. I am absolutely loving this story. Part of me wishes it was complete already and I could read from start to finish in one go but another part of me is enjoying savouring each chapter until the next one is available.

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  2. I’m glad Thorne managed to snap out of his almost trance and show Tarrin that he cares (in his godly way). And of course priests of the other gods would assume it’s impossible to genuinely worship Thorne, grrrrr…

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    1. Yep Thorne is not too far gone, even though he has been alone for a long time – luckily for Tarrin! But now the priests of Prathur know Thorne has a new preist – that could be very dangerous, given what happened to his previous priests. *chews nails*

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