ANSWERS • by C.L. Holland

They completed the summoning in silence. Grey-robed and blindfolded, the adepts moved through steps they’d carefully rehearsed for weeks. All their hopes were pinned on this.

If they were successful, perhaps the Lords of Order would tell them why no children had been born since the end of the Gods’ War.

For a brief, panicked moment, Firan thought he’d lost count of the paces. Then his feet stopped of their own accord and he turned to face what he hoped was the centre of the room.

He counted to twelve. Lords of Order, hear our prayer, he thought. Although how they were supposed to hear anything that wasn’t spoken was beyond him.

“We hear because we are gods, Firan Ortenza,” said a mild voice.

From around the room came muffled gasps. Firan went cold at the thought of the power that had appeared among them without even a ripple in the air.

“You may remove your blindfolds,” the voice continued, “if it will convince you better than faith of my presence.”

Firan reached up. Faith be damned, but he wasn’t going to pass up the opportunity to look upon a god.

Even blindfolded, the adepts had managed to hit their spots. Firan and two male colleagues stood in an equilateral triangle. Inside, three women formed another triangle both smaller and facing the other way. In the centre was a man in a robe that matched theirs, his pale hair held back with a silver circlet.

He turned to face Firan, and his face was far too serene to belong to a man. It had the peace of the dead, and the grey eyes held an endless patience.

“You may call me One,” he said, presumably in answer to someone’s unspoken question. “Why have you called me here?”

Firan cleared his throat. “My Lord, it’s been almost two years since we chose to side with Order in the Gods’ War.”

“Yes,” One agreed. “And we are still grateful that you tipped the balance in our favour. Chaos is banished, and the whole of creation is a happier place for it.”

“Yes, My Lord. It’s just that, well, no one’s conceived a child since.”

One watched him blandly. “You speak of offspring.”

“Yes, My Lord.”

One’s eyes clouded briefly. “I sense Chaos’s hand in this.”

He raised a hand and made a tugging gesture. A hurricane blasted around the room, with One at its heart. Firan gasped as the force of it stole his breath, and crouched to keep from being blown over. A shrill scream threaded through the wind, and through streaming eyes he saw a second figure appear.

The storm died to reveal a woman on her knees before One. Although the storm had gone, her black hair and bright, loose clothes rippled violently. Her eyes were different colours, one green and one brown, and lined with kohl that streaked her cheeks.

“You call us back so soon?” Her voice was a chorus of male and female, young and old. “Have your minions grown bored of you already?”

One didn’t waste any time. “What have you done to their children, Chaos?”

She looked surprised, then threw her head back and gave a wild and joyful laugh. “We did nothing. They made the choice themselves.”

“I don’t understand, Lady.” Firan almost quailed at the anger in One’s gaze — but, he reminded himself Chaos was a god too even if exiled.

“Of course you don’t,” she replied cheerfully. “Death is Order’s — it comes to all of you in the end, even if you don’t know how or when. But life is ours. There’s no guarantee when you mate that there’ll be a child, or that a child will be carried to term, or be born whole and healthy. Children themselves are Chaos, all different and entirely themselves until you mould them into acceptable adults. How can any of that exist without us?”

Firan’s heart sank.

“Do not fear,” One said. “I will speak to my brothers. There are creatures in nature that multiply by recreating themselves. We will see what we can do for mankind. We owe you that much.”

“Of course you do.” Chaos met Firan’s gaze and gave a vulpine smile. “Just as you owe each of them a death.”

One waved his hand dismissively, and they were gone.

“So we’re to give up children?” someone asked.

“Perhaps,” Firan said. He thought of the way Chaos had looked at him, and realised she’d meant to plant this seed. Revenge, perhaps, on an eternal enemy. “But if banishing Chaos gets rid of the uncertainty of life, what happens to the certainty of death if we choose to banish Order as well?”

Silence as they stared at him. Someone laughed.

“Do you think we can?”

One of the women pointed out, “The details of the ritual used to banish Chaos is in the archive.”

“But will it work without the power of the gods?”

“We’ll find a way,” Firan said. “We must. The future of mankind depends upon it.”

C.L. Holland is a British fantasy writer. Her works have appeared in publications such as Alternative Coordinates, Lorelei Signal, 10Flash Quarterly and Writers of the Future 25. She has an ever-growing collection of books and expects them to reach critical mass any time now.

Rate this story:
 average 0 stars • 0 reader(s) rated this

Every Day Fiction

  • Victoria Silverwolf

    A fascinating allegorical fantasy, cool and crisp like dry wine.

  • Stephen Rosenthal

    Well done. I’m ready for the next chapter.

  • I found this captivating and very entertaining. I was effectively pulled in to the story, and enjoyed the ending.

    Nice piece on the inherent and intermingled duality of nature — I even liked how Order and Chaos were represented by opposite sexes (although I’m certain there are many who’ll think you got them backwards, LOL).

  • ajcap

    Children are chaotic, no doubt about that.

    But where would mankind be without death? I’d like to see the author’s version a century later. Could they survive without any gods at all?

    Very interesting and extremely well written. Enjoyed very much. And yes, why is Chaos a woman while Order is male? I know her voice was a ‘chorus of male and female’ but she was still referred to as a ‘she’. Hmph.

  • Elizabeth Perfect

    I thought this was wonderfully written – well paced, interestingly plotted and very, very well done.

    I enjoyed it immensely.

  • J Howard

    I liked this allegorical tale after my second read, not so much for the story itself, but for the questions I found myself contemplating afterward. And isn’t that what a good allegory’s supposed to do for the reader?

    Like #4 ajcap, I wondered: Could mankind make a go of it without the gods having a hand in their destiny? Is immortality a fair trade-off for the absence of uncertainty in one’s life? (Sounds a bit boring to me…LOL!) Will the others follow Firan’s lead and defy Order, or will they have second thoughts and let Order have his way with poor Firan? And shouldn’t that one sentence read, “The details of the ritual…ARE in the archive.”? ;-D

    I’m not a huge fan of short fantasy; some defect in my DNA usually hinders my making that quick leap from the real to the what-if. Still, I enjoyed this well-written piece and the message it contained. Nicely done, C.L.! Thanks for sharing.

  • Sarah

    I believe Chaos was depicted as a woman because it is women who bring forth life. (It doesn’t hurt that women tend to have hormonal fluxuations that result in a more volatile demeanor as well).

    I very much enjoyed this piece. I am left pondering the depths of insanity to which humanity can sink.

  • George

    Excellent piece! I thoroughly enjoyed the story and the thought provocations it inspired.

    Maybe because I haven’t had enough coffee yet, but I didn’t see the revelation of death and its relation to Order coming. Maybe I wasn’t supposed to see that one coming, but either way it made for a very welcome surprise at the end.

    Looking forward to reading more of this author’s work!

  • lepifera

    Human being made immortal? I shudder at the thought. Life has become boring without chaos, and it will stretch to no end without death. Plus, the market is already flooded with one too many vampire story.

    Other than that, I like the idea behind the story.

  • Jen

    Nice, it took me a bit to get why there were no children in this universe but I’m a bit slow on the uptake today. Great high fantasy.

  • Nicely done. Reminded me a bit of The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms in all the right ways. The gods were well drawn, and the tense dynamic of humans versus gods felt real.

  • Rose Gardener

    Loved the story, loathe the idea of human immortality. Lets hope they remember the adage,’be careful what you wish for…’ and decide instead to reinstate the balance of both sets of gods. Gotta be good when you start thinking about what might happen next!

  • Kit

    Great visual details balanced with cerebral ideas. Really enjoyed it.

  • Sometimes stories that seem more about “ideas” than characters and plot work, others not so much…

    Happy to report that for me this was one of the ones that worked – I think partly because the ending suggests the story continues beyond this piece.

    Let’s see a sequel : )

  • fishlovesca

    Apparently my earlier post wasn’t wordy enough, so I will expand on my thought.

    The ideas were not new or presented in a way that caught my interest, the writing could have been better, and there were flaws in the story.

    I didn’t love it, but I didn’t hate it. Meh.

  • KPH

    You definitely got the sexes right for Order and Chaos CL. 😉
    Have you thought beyond this story? I too would very much like to see a Part Two.

  • Heh. Sinister ending. I like it!