441: Slaying The God

on May 2, 2010 in Book 16

In Which Pain Is Mocked

It made a sick kind of sense, and that was likely to be Callahan’s favorite kind of sense to make, if it wasn’t the only one she was actually capable of. The class had moved indoors to accommodate me and my sensitivity to the increasingly cold weather… putting it in a sanctified space would be like jumping out of the frying pan that just slows you down a little and into the actually fatal fire. The name “Kessherrakh” was kind of ambiguous… it didn’t sound like a human name, so the Kh on the end could have been a relic of translation

“You look troubled, Seeker in Tears,” Callahan said, her voice filled with a kind of bliss that probably came from the fact that she was looking at someone who was troubled. “You should not be. There is no reason to be afraid of anything before the service begins.”

“When you say service… are you talking about an actual religious service?” I asked. “With a god and prayers and everything?”

“Yes, Seeker in Tears,” she replied.

“Are you crazy?” I asked… a rhetorical question, as Callahan pretty obviously was. “I can’t go into a temple service.”

My hand curled around the shaft of my borrowed quarterstaff as if I could use it to ward off divinity. Without its defensive protections, I couldn’t hope to ward off anything else.

“Ah, do not fret, young Seeker In Tears,” Callahan said, giving me an entirely too serene smile. “The God of Pain is a fair and just god. Unlike other deities, his rites only bring pain to those who deserve it. And those who tick off the high priestess, or who she just doesn’t like. Actually, that’s how he’s exactly the same as other deities, come to think of it.”

“Is this a real god you’re talking about, or not?” I asked.

“That’s a question for philosophers and theologians, don’t you think?” she asked.

“My kind doesn’t get along well with gods,” I said.

“Tell me about it,” Callahan said.

“I just want to know how much I should regret fighting to get classes moved inside,” I said.

“I set no limit on your ability to regret things, oh Seeker,” Callahan said. “Who says what a real god is? If you can feel the God of Pain enter your heart, then you’ll probably find out one way or another really soon.”

“This is a no, then?” I asked.

“Damn it, you are seriously harshing my metaphor,” she said. “No, there is no sanctity in the classroom and you won’t encounter any divine energy in this class, though you will get the next best thing.”

“What’s that?” I asked.

“Aren’t you paying attention? Pain,” she said. “Pure, unadulterated pain. Enough divine energy would destroy you outright, but if you can’t stand up to a little pain then even a little tiny bit is going to be enough. This is going to be an important lesson for everyone, but you in particular. You told me last Thursday that you were going to start giving it your all, that you were willing to learn not just how to fight but how to overcome your limitations… well, you’re going to be learning that today.”

“And here I thought you were moving the class indoors so I didn’t have to learn how to overcome my limitations at the same time I’m learning how to fight,” I said.

“Learning how to fight is mostly learning to overcome those,” she said. “I mean, not knowing how to fight is a pretty damn big limitation in my book. Anyway, I’m not giving you the whole speech out here and repeating it later. Get your ass in there and have a seat.”

The word “seat” gave me hope. If there were chairs or stools in the classroom then maybe the focus would shift from entirely physical to something a little more theoretical in nature. Sure, I’d promised to do my best to actually learn how to fight and I would keep that promise. If I could keep it in theory, that was all the better.

Of course that would make it unlikely that I knocked anyone on their ass, as the man from my dreams wanted me to… but if I could keep my deal with Callahan without getting tangled up in any deal with him, that would really be for the best.

Maybe it was really crazy to imagine Callahan would simultaneously remove both field and battle from her class… but then, she had shown up dressed as some kind of nun talking about the God of Pain. Was it too much to hope for that she’d gone crazy in our favor?

Of course it was… Kessherrakh Salle was very obviously intended for sparring, not studying. There were no desks or chairs. The room was nearly the length of hallway, with three sets of double doors set along the wall. The hardwood floor had a subtle cushioning effect that was only noticeable on a hard impact, as I detected after cunningly catching my foot on the threshold of the door and my staff on the jamb in order to detect cushioning spells in the vicinity. There were weapon racks against the side walls, mostly filled with swords of varying lengths, but with a few that seemed to have everything under the sun and a few weapons from other places as well.

The occasional flicker revealed these to be mockeries. The elaborately carved boxes and chests against the back wall had to be mockboxes.

I couldn’t help noticing that the room, though rich in imaginary implements of destruction, was a little short on students.

“Why am I the only one here?” I called out, fearing a trap.

“Obviously not because you wanted to impress me with your hustle, Seeker In Tears,” Callahan called out. “You almost had me, too… class doesn’t start for another eight minutes.”

I had really wanted to get out of the cold, but there were people who actually liked Callahan and her class, and they weren’t all so nonchalant about attendance as Steff was. It seemed like she should have had some hangers-on hanging on, or something… some of the gladiators, at least. But then, since class had relocated to the building they were most likely to hang out in to begin with, maybe they didn’t feel the need to hurry into the actual classroom.

Her assistant was nowhere in sight, though, either.

“Where’s Dobbs?” I asked.

“He refuses to participate in the God of Pain exercises,” Callahan said. “He thinks they’re blasphemous.”

“Aren’t they?” I asked.

You are asking me?”

“You said you were a Khersian,” I said.

“I love Lord Khersis,” she said, leaning into the doorway. “Classic warlord. Best one who ever lived, maybe. It’s the other guy I can’t stand.”

“What other guy?”

“Dei,” she said.

“They’re one and the same,” I said.

“You say one puh-tah-toh, I say two poe-tay-toh,” she said.

“Nobody actually says ‘puh-tah-toh’,” I said.

In the brown robe, with her mohawk… standing down… and covered with a cowl, it was almost possible to forget that it was Callahan. Divorced from her warrior woman image, she looked so young, young enough to be a student… a student visiting a college she might want to apply to when senior year came around.

“Do you want to make a bet about how long it’ll take me to make you say it, Seeker In Tears?”

“Puh-tah-toh,” I said quickly. “You win. And what’s this Seeker In Tears thing? Are you going to call everybody that today?” .

“No,” she said. “Just you.”

I started to ask why, but then I thought about the way she was most likely to answer that question. True gods had dominion over names… I wasn’t quite clear on what exactly that meant, but they were supposed to be able to give a thing a name and have reality reshape itself around it. Her “God of Pain” might not have been real, but I was sure she had enough power to make the essential thrust of that nickname come true all the same.

“What’s with all the questions today, anyway?” she asked. “I mean, you’re mouthy all the time, but it’s usually not questions.”

“I guess it comes from showing up ready to learn,” I said. “Or not having a clue what’s going on.”

“Very good, Seeker In Tears,” she said. “The first knowledge is knowing that you know nothing. Of course, the second is knowing better than to tell everyone else that so they can ram it down your throat, or at least make fun of you a little. I’d give you an insulting nickname, but I’m not sure it would top Seeker In Tears.”

I heard the shuffle of feet out in the hall and then Callahan stepped aside to let some other students into the room, with a lot of “Enter!” and “Welcome!” and bowing that she’d probably make somebody pay for later. Nobody seemed to know what to make of Callahan’s new attitude or attire. She greeted some of the other students by “name”, all following the same pattern: Seeker In The Dirt, Seeker In Capacitated, Seeker In Men’s Room, Seeker In Knotholes… that name, to my surprise, was bequeathed onto a guy I’d seen around at dances and stuff but had never realized was in the same class as me. The room was big, but smaller than a field.

I had no idea exactly what his name was supposed to signify, but as far as I was concerned, he deserved it.

“Welcome, Seekers, to the Temple of Pain,” Callahan said when almost everyone was in the room. Steff hadn’t shown up. I didn’t know whether to be relieved or worried. “Today we come together in worship of the God of Pain. The God of Pain differs from other so-called gods in two respects. Firstly, he cannot be killed or destroyed. Secondly, the entire focus of his worship is trying to accomplish exactly that. He is a very important god. He sends us messages to let us know when we’ve done something profoundly stupid, or when our teeth need healing, or when someone is trying to kill us badly. The God of Pain has no power over death, except the power you give him.

“The mockboxes in here are a little more sophisticated than the ones we’ve been playing with out on Hauldhagen Field. They can be scaled in more specific ways. For instance, they can be set to have the full pain of a real injury, lasting pain, but with no other debilitating or incapacitating effects. By an astonishing coincidence, that’s how they’re right now.

“In actual combat with real weapons, there are some wounds that are fatal, to anyone of standard anatomical configuration under normal circumstances. You lose your head, you’re dead. You lose your heart, you’re dead. You lose enough blood, you’re dead. Can’t breathe, you’re dead. That’s basically it.

“Aside from that? There are wounds that could be lethal, a lot of wounds that might be lethal… but the only difference between them and wounds that aren’t lethal is whether the person who takes them lays down and dies or not.

“And then there are the wounds that aren’t lethal, just plain aren’t deep enough or deadly enough to kill someone… but are enough to take them out of the fight, where it’s an easy bet that someone will come along and do something fatal to them. And again, there are some things you can do to people that will knock them down, but there are many, many more things you can do that might knock them down, if they so happen to fall down. Viewing this from the other perspective, you realize that there are a large number of things that can happen to you that may ultimately kill your ass, but only if you let them.

“If somebody chops off your head, you’re dead… but if someone stabs you, cuts you a bunch of times, beats on you, kicks you… well, I’ll put it this way: sometimes you win by knocking your opponent out of the fight, but more often you win by knocking the fight out of your opponent. Today, Seekers, we walk the twofold path of pain. Armed with weapons that do no harm, you will try to win by hurting, and you will try not to lose before you do. Without any ‘wounds’ to take you out of combat definitively, your matches won’t stop until you do. There may be some of you still slugging it out at the end of the class period, like pairs of immortal titans locked in eternal combat, for an hour and a half. There will be some of you who go down from the same hits that would take you down with normal mocked weapons, because it’s the pain that’s taking you down… but you, too, will be locked in eternal combat because you’re going to get back up and keep fighting anyway because nothing’s stopping you from getting up but you, you and your pain… and today is the day that you slay your pain.”


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52 Responses to “441: Slaying The God”

  1. Author’s Note: This chapter would have continued on through the end of the class, but the writing was interrupted by a death in the family. Given the choice between not posting anything until I was able to write the rest of the scene or taking Callahan’s speech as an acceptable stopping point, I went with the latter. I’m not sure if it’s too abrupt or not… I may combine the next post with this one if it reads better that way.

    Current score: 2
    • Greenwood Goat says:

      It’s fine. I wouldn’t have noticed if you had not commented.

      Current score: 3
    • Meeks says:

      I’m sorry to hear that ๐Ÿ™ *sends good thoughts in your direction*
      The chapter was a bit shorter than usual, but you picked a good point to stop, so don’t worry about it…take the time you need for your family.

      Current score: 3
      • Tier Hon says:

        Going to agree with Meeks here take the time to be with your family.

        Also, wow meeks I followed the link at the top of the story nice work.

        Current score: 0
    • Miss Lynx says:

      I’m sorry for your loss. And I think the chapter’s fine ending where it does. They don’t all have to be super-long.

      Current score: 0
    • Mass Treble says:

      This is actually a great break, though. If you consider each chapter in the old high school format of “a question and answer”, it works!

      Current score: 0
    • Tomo says:

      I’m so sorry for your loss, AE =(

      Current score: 0
    • A Random Pooka says:

      Oh god, sorry to hear about it. Our best wishes go with you. Hearts and minds and all that good stuff. We’ll be here when you are ready to come back

      Current score: 0
    • Rey d`Tutto says:

      My Condolences on your loss.

      It seemed shorter than your normal post, but the (Current) end feels like a stopping point to me.
      “… and today is the day that you slay your pain.โ€ <– Excellent!

      Current score: 0
  2. brockulfsen says:

    Condolences, virtual hugs and sombre thoughts.

    Current score: 0
  3. Jane says:

    Artistically, that’s a good stopping point:, but “a death in the family” does not sound good at all. Best wishes with coping with that.

    Current score: 0
  4. Sabrina says:

    Very sorry to hear of your loss.

    Also wondering if Callahan’s recently picked up The Good Man Khersis and the Scoundrel Dei.

    (I fucking love Callahan.)

    Also, Jamie!!

    Current score: 1
    • A Random Pooka says:

      Seeker in Knotholes made me almost laugh hot coffee out my nose.

      And SQUEEEEEEEE!!!!! This whole chapter and the thought of the upcoming one makes me all tingly and excited and overall just WOW. I get far more schoolgirl crazy over Callahan and her scenes than I do over the scenes with Mack, Amaranth, and Steff. And it probably doesn’t even have much to do with Mack getting off when she gets her ass kicked, though that doesn’t hurt. I just really LOVE Callahan and all the ways she does things.

      Current score: 0
      • A Random Pooka says:

        Also wasn’t Callahan convicted of Deicide? Or at least attempted Deicide. I’ll have to start digging through the Callahan pages because I am pretty sure one of the intermission type chapters or extra stories had a brief record of that. Or at least a reference to.

        I can’t even imagine what kind of organizational setup AE has to have to keep all the characters straight in her head. To know who made what comment about who and where each student is from, their cultural backgrounds, how they are not typical of their race or how they ARE typical of their race. The MU universe just keeps getting more and more intricate as we read and making sure it doesn’t contradict itself has to be even harder than writing the story in the first place.

        Current score: 2
        • Durragh says:

          add to that, the fact that she has more then one story arc in more then one fictional reality, and its even more impressive…

          so sorry for your loss, the story and your fans will be here for you ๐Ÿ™‚

          Current score: 0
        • erratio says:

          Re:organisation

          I could just as easily ask you how you manage to keep all your friends’ and family’s histories straight, and in what ways they’re typical or atypical of their ethnic background? ๐Ÿ˜‰
          Remember that what took 10 minutes or so for you to read took AE at least a couple of hours to write. She spends a lot more time with her characters than we do.

          Current score: 1
      • Rey d`Tutto says:

        So, how does a Masochist master Pain?

        Current score: 1
  5. pyroarcher says:

    Love it!

    Current score: 0
  6. Jolima says:

    I’m very sorry to hear about the death in the family – and I think it was a great ending place. It’ll keep us on tenterhooks for the next installment!

    Current score: 0
  7. Antigone says:

    Yeah, I was thinking it was building tension.

    Current score: 0
  8. SeanB says:

    Seems a good place for a chapter break, and the next installment should start on a new chapter, there is enough here for substance. The conclusion should be interesting.

    Sad to hear of your loss, condolences for those left behind.

    Current score: 0
  9. Pinkieh says:

    So sorry about your grandfather. ((vibes))
    This chapter sounds… interesting.

    Current score: 0
  10. Dan says:

    Callahan was just promoted to favorite character, and this might be my favorite chapter. It resonates a little with the ethic you get taught in competitive sports- if it merely hurts, why are you quitting? Injury is one thing, and yes, we’ll stop for that, but pain? Pain’s just upgraded discomfort, and that you can overcome.

    Current score: 0
  11. Melissa says:

    Aww, my condolences.

    The chapter was plenty good. I especially enjoyed the horrible pun in the title. =D

    Current score: 0
  12. Miss Lynx says:

    This should be interesting, given that Mack’s got more expertise with pain than with fighting… I really, really hope that she actually does start taking the class seriously for a change, but I guess we’ll see.

    BTW, “Seeker In Capacitated” is by far my favourite of the nicknames.

    Current score: 2
    • A Random Pooka says:

      Seeker in Knotholes FTW ๐Ÿ™‚

      Current score: 0
  13. Greenwood Goat says:

    Judge not, lest ye be judged, Mack. I’m sure some people think you deserve the “Emo Kid” label. Those who don’t go for the “Abomination in the eyes of Khersis” label, anyway.

    “Seeker in Knotholes” made me think of the girls shower spying scene from Porky’s, though with Callahan involved, you can be sure that the boys concerned would not have got away, and would likely have never have made it as far as the principal’s office.

    ‘Ok, boys, here’s how it’s going to be: either we girls start defending our honour, and you end up in the morgue, or the three of you can swish yourselves into the corner there, away from where I knocked the wall through, and do us a little scene, any way you like, just two money shots apiece. Here, let me help you off with your clothes while you’re deciding.’ -shrrrippp!!-

    Plus, typo-looking thing:

    The room was nearly the length of hallway

    the length of *the* hallway?

    Current score: 0
  14. Lysaea says:

    *condolences*

    As others have said, this is a fine stopping point. Looking forward to the rest of this lesson!

    Current score: 0
  15. Rethic says:

    Oh Mack should be really good at this lesson. She’s well versed in feeling pain without injury and continuing. This should be good!

    Current score: 1
  16. Jane says:

    The real question if whether Mack will enjoy it too much. Does Callahan know about her sexual preferences?

    Current score: 0
    • Wysteria says:

      Given that all Callahan’s nicknames seem to relate to sexual preferences in this chapter, that’s going to be a big yes. I just wonder if Seeker In Capacitated is actually Steff and Mack didn’t recognize her.

      Current score: 1
    • jc says:

      Should we be taking bets on how many orgasms Mack has during the class?

      Current score: 1
  17. Anders says:

    Ouch… simply ouch…

    Current score: 0
  18. Ladyinahat says:

    I am sorry for your loss. I am keeping you and your family in my prayers.
    This seems to be an interesting be an interesting point in your story that it may very well paralle your own in dealing with pain. Pain comes in many forms. And most of the time i belive that emotional pain is far worse then physical. You know eventally physical pain will stop or you can take enough pain killers to get it to stop. Where you can’t do the same with emotional pain. You just learn to deal with it and go on or you give up. I belive that Callahan is starting in a very good place to teach the students of how to deal with both types of pain and keep going.
    Very good stopping point btw. And thank you for posting in such a difficult time.

    Current score: 0
  19. Zathras IX says:

    It’s not the size of
    God in the fight but the size
    Of fight in the god

    Current score: 0
  20. Chips says:

    Blessings on you and yours. Nothing can take away grief save time, of course. But well-wishings can do our best.

    Current score: 0
  21. Ducky says:

    My condolences to you and your family.

    Current score: 0
  22. Cinnamonbrandy says:

    snitty little point to (hopefully) offer a counter-irritation.

    “thatโ€™s how theyโ€™re right now.” doesn’t read right to me. Not sure if it’s grammar or rhythm or emphasis or what, but I want the ‘they’re’ to become ‘they are’.

    Snitty, snitty, snitty. Wants it. Gollum.

    h.

    Current score: 0
  23. OhPun says:

    My condolences.I send blessings to you and your family

    Current score: 0
  24. Kirine says:

    My condolences on the loss of your grandfather.

    Random thought just occurred to me. Is Callahan calling Mack Seeker in Tears because maybe she perhaps she saw Mack’s and Amy’s performance at the club? That club seems like it would be her type of thing.

    Current score: 0
    • 'Nym-o-maniac says:

      Seeker in Tears = fancy way of saying crybaby, most likely.

      My sympathies for your loss, AE. Take as much time as you need to get back to this.

      Current score: 1
  25. Arakano says:

    My condolences. I hope you and your family will cope with the situation in the best possible way.

    Current score: 0
  26. Oitur says:

    Condolences, AE. Time heals all wounds.

    I noticed the same sentence as Cinnamonbrandy: maybe it’s “…that’s how they’re set now.”

    Peace

    Current score: 0
  27. Elxir says:

    I know how it is to lose a family member. We all hope you can grieve properly, but never forget the loved one(s) you’ve lost. When you feel you are ready, then you can return to posting new stories. The stopping point you chose to use is a very good one from my perspective, so no worries there. Please take all the time you need.

    Elxir Breauer, at your service…

    Current score: 0
  28. Zukira Phaera says:

    So sorry to hear about the loss in your family.

    Current score: 0
  29. lostZ0ne says:

    *condolences*

    Current score: 0
  30. Akhanna says:

    Hmm. Here’s a moral quandry for you. Is it more merciful to render an opponent incapable of continuing the fight via the infliction of torturous pain that wears down their willingness to continue the fight but leaves them ultimately unharmed or through debilitating strikes that are less painful but may take months to heal.

    Or perhaps look beyond the physical aspect of pain: You can crush a person through vicious verbal abuse and psychological warfare that erodes their very will to live leaving them the hollowed shells of human beings for years to come. Is that more or less sadistic than flogging them into submission or slicing their tendons so they can’t hold a weapon?

    There are many, many ways to hurt people and I honestly can’t say which is the most cruel.

    Current score: 1
  31. ReadstoSpouse says:

    Pity Steff didn’t seem to show up.

    A potion designed to make lethal dark elves into ornamental fripperies is very likely to have screwed with cer fighting ability. Being larger, floppier and wider is going to take some getting used to, and will certainly slow cer down.

    The only hint of an upside the potion has had is the seeming increased tolerance for pain that halfkind have. If this is not just a side effect of being “profoundly fucked up” to quote Steph, an edge in the class where Callahan first is exposed to the new Steff might keep her from killing cer in disgust.

    Current score: 0
  32. Sorry to hear about your loss. =(

    Also, this chapter kicks ass, and I’m pretty sure the next one will too. I want Callahan as a teacher.

    Also also, I am adding Kessherrakh to my personal pantheon, alongside Aarda, Tembouril, Wootabix, Akkarshamon, and Yrchthghkht.

    Current score: 0
  33. Arancaytar says:

    “โ€œMy kind doesnโ€™t get along well with gods,โ€ I said.
    โ€œTell me about it,โ€ Callahan said.”

    Gods don’t get along well with Callahan either, do they? ๐Ÿ˜›

    Current score: 1
  34. Arancaytar says:

    “The hardwood floor had a subtle cushioning effect that was only noticeable on a hard impact, as I detected after cunningly catching my foot on the threshold of the door and my staff on the jamb in order to detect cushioning spells in the vicinity.”

    Mack uses sarcasm even in inner monologue! ๐Ÿ˜›

    Current score: 1
  35. Khalex says:

    Callahan is easily my favorite character, and I’d do just about anything to train under her.

    Current score: 0