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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental. Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 

Many chapters contain brutal violence.

The Mantis Equilibrium - Book Two - 1. Chapter 1 - Ninyani

In a remote village lives an old god and a young boy.

In the northern village of Frostflower, the winter solstice celebration was just coming to an end, but the chill of the season was already smothering the town in its frozen embrace. Snowdrifts were piled up against the sides of houses and icicles hung from every overhang. The evergreen forest that stretched across the surrounding region was also covered in a blanket of sparkling white.

Ninyani always liked the cold. He was born in the village, and the high mountains that surrounded it were his playground. As a boy, Ninyani spent much of his time outdoors bundled against winter’s snap, and he frolicked to his heart’s content. He was small, and puberty arrived later for him than some of the other youths. Ninyani’s 14th birthday came and went earlier that autumn, yet as the weeks slipped by, he remained childish and immature.

His life in Frostflower was simple. Ninyani was permitted to play after his duties, which most frequently included collecting firewood. During the springtime, he was occasionally sent out on foraging or fishing missions, and those were tasks he enjoyed. Whenever the hunters felled a beast of the forest, Ninyani would be required to assist with the rest of the community in its preparation. The youngest villagers were often tasked with scrubbing the skinned hide of the animal, a job Ninyani did not care for, but he knew what was expected of him. His primary responsibility, however, was to gather wood.

He and his mother lived together in a small cottage on a path with several other similar dwellings. She and Ninyani were friendly with their neighbors, and they were close with the members of their community. The older youths often watched over and cared for those who were younger, and Ninyani grew up with many mentors and role models.

Ninyani’s mother was a bright woman, with a clever tongue and keen eyes, and she raised her son with love. The two of them spent much of their time talking by the fire in their hearth, which was the focal point of the home. She told him tales and whispered secrets to her son, and the flickering light of the flames made her stories all the more mysterious to his young mind.

Above their home’s entrance was a small loft, and up in it, Ninyani made a private space. He slept there and collected little treasures that he found in the surrounding forest. His mother’s chamber was below and off to one side from his loft, and Ninyani could see into her room from above. Together, they cooked and tidied their home. They kept a root cellar stocked with foods that they fermented and preserved.

Ninyani and his mother were happy.

Everything that happened for the people of Frostflower revolved around the worship of their living god, Bulog, and the deity walked amongst his subjects. He was an old and decrepit man.

New gods emerged very rarely in the village, and it was sheer luck that Ninyani was alone when his startling god-powers first activated.

On that morning, he ventured far into the frozen woods that surrounded Frostflower. Ninyani was still skinny and childish, but his endurance was impressive. He was a long way from home when he eventually stopped and found a good spot to eat the lunch his mother packed for him earlier that day.

Ninyani sat down on a stone that the wind blew clear of snow during the previous night, and he unwrapped the food. The cake of sausage and root vegetables his mother prepared for him that morning was no longer warm, but he enjoyed a large bite of it. His thermos of tea, however, was still piping hot. He took a sip.

Ninyani was only able to enjoy a small amount of his lunch, before the thermodynamics of the cosmos moved through his fingertips. Every trace of the heat from his tea vanished, and it froze to a solid block in an instant. The expansion of the liquid caused a large crack to split the thermos from its mouth down to its base. At the same moment, as if a raging supernova suddenly blazed to life in Ninyani’s other little palm, his lunch cake was transformed into a cinder in a flash.

He did not comprehend what was happening, and he jumped up and fled through the woods back toward Frostflower. Nothing distracted him, and he raced straight to his home. Ninyani slammed the door, wrapped his tiny arms around his mother’s waist, and burst into tears. He did not know why he was crying; the broken thermos, his burned-up lunch, maybe the confusion he felt, or possibly just his fear of the unknown.

His mother was very worried. “What is it, my snowdrop?” she asked. “What happened?” but he could only sob into her shirt. “Are you hurt? What’s wrong?” She squatted down with her child and examined him, then she wrapped Ninyani in her arms and soothed him until he was calm.

Ninyani eventually managed to say between his shuddering breaths, “I did something bad.”

“What did you do, my baby?” His mother looked concerned and added, “Whatever it is, we can fix it.”

Fresh tears started to leak from Ninyani’s eyes, as she spoke words that connected in his mind to what happened, and there would be no fixing it.

I broke the thermos!” Ninyani wailed.

“Oh, no,” his mother replied with a relieved smile. “Let me see it.”

She rubbed her son’s back, as he held up the cracked drink container with the cylindrical brick of tea inside.

“Wow,” she exclaimed and asked rhetorically, “how did it freeze like that?” Ninyani’s mother was not expecting an answer, but he gave her one.

“I made it cold,” he said, “and I burned up my lunch.” The boy’s face broke into a pitiful expression, as he tried to choke down a sob that was threatening to rise in his throat.

“What do you mean, my little snowdrop?”

Ninyani rubbed his eyes hard and looked up into his mother’s face. “I don’t know,” he whined.

She pulled him close. “Tell me what happened. Did you leave the top of the thermos open and the cold air got inside? When water freezes,” his mother explained to him, “it expands and gets as hard as stone. Is that what broke the thermos?”

“No, mama,” he replied. “I did it. I froze it, and I burned up my lunch,” and the boy added, “with my hands.”

Realization seemed to dawn on his mother, and she furrowed her brow, but she gave him a knowing smile. “Oh, no,” she repeated with a chuckle, “did something happen to your food? Did you not eat your lunch? Are you hungry?” she asked, feeling content that nothing was actually wrong.

Ninyani pouted at her and nodded that he was.

“Okay, snowdrop, let me make you something warm.” She set a kettle to boil and started frying up a few fritters for him. A moment later, she set a mug of tea on the table and kissed him on the forehead.

The boy reached out for the steaming beverage with a relieved expression, but then he and his mother were both startled, as the teacup ruptured at his touch.

His mother immediately grabbed a towel to catch the scalding liquid and prevent it from pouring onto her son, but there was none. No tea spilled from the broken mug.

At the center of the jagged chunks of ceramic was a steaming semicircle, but the tiny trails of vapor that rose from it were not the warmth that rises from a hot beverage. Instead, the steam of something so cold that it was affecting the very atmosphere around it coiled up from the frozen liquid. Ninyani’s tea was a block of ice.

His mother touched it, but she cried out in pain, and Ninyani jumped with surprise. The woman recoiled and clutched her hand. A wicked burn of frostbite bit into her fingertip and greyed her flesh. Her eyes bulged at not only the pain, but also at the unnatural physical reaction she witnessed. As she wrapped her hand in a warming cloth to treat her frozen fingertip, her mind grasped at the truth that was being presented to her.

Ninyani was distraught at his mother’s pain. He did not understand what was happening to him, and he picked up his fork to fidget with something in his nervousness. Again, he and his mother were shocked, as the metal utensil liquefied. Molten steel dripped onto the tabletop and sent little bursts of flame up from the wooden surface. They licked at the boy’s fingers, but he was unburned.

His mother grabbed a pitcher of water. “Step back,” she warned, and she doused the superheated metal.

It sizzled and slowly began to cool.

Ninyani’s mother took his little hand and they sat together on the floor by the hearth. Long moments passed, and neither spoke. He worried that he was in trouble for breaking the teacup and burning the table. His mother did not clean up the water that was now all over the floor, and Ninyani kept looking over at the puddle. Everything felt like it was going wrong for him that day, and he tried to hold back his tears.

However, when his mother spoke again, she did not do so in anger. She whispered words to him with a voice he never heard her use before. She sounded amazed, and her eyes were wide with wonder.

“You are our next god.”

Bulog, the god of Frostflower, was old. He was blind in one eye and deaf in one ear. When he hobbled around the village, he did so with a pair of canes that helped keep him upright. He gripped them in his feeble, boney hands. Bulog’s white beard was long.

The people were obedient in their exaltation and fear of him. With the old god’s centennial birthday approaching, more than a decade passed since the most recent deity was revealed and subsequently slaughtered. Ninyani was only a toddler at the time and too young to remember when the old god realized a new goddess was rising. Bulog was made aware of the 13 year old girl, and he demanded that she be brought before him.

Ninyani often heard the villagers tell the story, and they took great pleasure in describing the goddess. With the awakening of her inner deity, the girl’s physical appearance began to change. The young teenager developed strange patterned markings across her skin, and her skull started to change shape. Her eyes grew out of proportion with the rest of her face, and her nose developed an aquiline point. They called her the twisted goddess.

Bulog did not possess any physiological abnormalities, and he declared the young girl to be an abomination. Without the opportunity for contest between them, Bulog immediately and totally destroyed the new and potential goddess, and the people praised their lord.

Bulog remained ever-vigilant in his search for the future deity who might replace him.

Many times over Ninyani’s childhood, his mother sat him by their fire and told him another side to the story of the goddess in secret. Whenever the soothsayers, or even Bulog himself told the tale of the child’s slaughter without a battle, Ninyani’s mother would later whisper different truths to her son.

She told him often, “Our god is a wicked man.” His mother refused to call the murdered child twisted. “That poor goddess, that poor little girl was killed by an old, jealous, petty god. And he is weak! The goddess, she was not a mistake of nature, like others claim. None of the gods are mistakes, you hear me, Ninyani?” his mother would implore, “not even our living god,” and she explained the way of deities to her son.

“Bulog is a god of the mind, a god of dreams, and he is not to be trusted,” Ninyani’s mother informed him. “Bulog does not have his people’s best interests at heart. I don’t know if he even has a heart. He is cruel and wrathful, but he is a god, and he is not a mistake.” She whispered, “He is weak; someday he will be gone, but none of the gods are mistakes.”

Ninyani’s mother harbored a healthy aversion towards Bulog in her son. She also taught Ninyani to keep his feelings hidden. People in Frostflower did not resist their god.

Bulog was intimidating. He insisted that all the children and youths of the village come to him first thing every morning for guidance, and it was little Ninyani’s least favorite part of each day. The god of Frostflower would drone on, mumbling about how great he was and how it was right for the people to worship him.

The mandatory time with the 99 year old living god came with very little creativity from the elderly man, and Ninyani often dozed or daydreamed his way through those unpleasant early-morning sessions. The god of his people held no interest for the boy, and Ninyani always sat to Bulog’s deaf and blind side. When the children were released, Ninyani would scamper away to do his chores. He found collecting firewood to be far preferable to the daily rants.

On the morning that Ninyani’s powers came to life, Bulog’s arrogant banality lasted shorter than it sometimes did, and the boy was deep in the forest when energies of the cosmos exploded from within his body.

Seated beside his mother in their home that evening, she repeated her words in a whisper.

“You are our next god.”

She picked up a fresh log and placed it onto the embers of their fire.

“My little snowdrop, can you make that log burn?” she asked, as if it was the most normal thing for him to do, and he did.

Ninyani reached forward, touched the log, and a raging fire burst from it.

The flames encircled his hand, and his mother instinctively snatched his arm and pulled it from the fire, but Ninyani was again unharmed by the heat.

For the next several hours, his mother tested her son’s abilities. He seemed able to access heat and cold on command. He melted more metal for her, froze more liquids, even put his little hand back into the fireplace flames and caused them to die. All through the evening, she experimented with what her son, the god, could do.

As night darkened, Ninyani’s mother told him something that he was not expecting.

She breathed in to prepare herself and said, “Our living god, Bulog, is a wicked man.”

“I know, mama,” Ninyani replied.

“He murdered that little girl, the goddess who came before you.”

“I know, mama,” he repeated.

“But I’ve never told you who that little girl was.” His mother took another breath. “She was the daughter of your mama’s best friend. I’ve never told you about her, because after Bulog killed the goddess, her mother…” and Ninyani’s mother paused, “her mother threw herself into the gorge. My friend’s name was Liahou; her daughter was Poilu, Poilu the goddess.” She said their names with sorrow but also reverence in her voice. “Poilu would have been one of your caregivers, but Bulog killed her outright for being a threat to him.”

“I know, mama.”

“He is weak,” she continued, “and he killed her without a battle, because he knew that she would have defeated him in combat. That’s the way it’s always been; battle is the means by which a new god replaces the old, but Bulog denied Poilu the chance. He was not ready to give up control, not ready to lose his throne or this realm over which he is god.”

Ninyani’s mother thought to herself that if the goddess replaced Bulog a decade prior, Poilu would have ended up being the one who Ninyani would have been obliged to challenge. She pushed the thought of what might have been from her mind. As fate would have it, Bulog was the only thing standing in Ninyani’s way to the throne of Frostflower.

His mother looked at her deity-son with amazement, but there was also fear in her expression. She could hardly believe what she was about to tell her son to do. The boy was still such a child, but the dormant god within the 14 year old was awakening, and Ninyani was leaving boyhood behind. She looked into her son’s eyes, and tears now began to pool in her own. Throughout the evening, she was too full of wonder to understand what everything truly meant, but it was slowly coming to her.

“Are you okay, mama?”

She reached out and cupped his cheeks. “Ninyani, my little snowdrop,” she said in a gentle voice as the tears began to trickle, “you need to kill Bulog.”

The boy did not comprehend and stared at her with a blank expression.

“You know he is our god, but you also know that he is wicked. I’ve told you.”

“Yes, mama,” Ninyani confirmed.

“You’ve heard the stories from long, long ago,” she continued, “about when Bulog was a boy, how he killed the old god who came before him, and how he’s killed many of the rising gods since.”

“Yes, mama.” He wiped away one of her tears and asked, “What is it, mama?”

The woman said to her child, “He is going to kill you. You must kill him, or he will kill you. You, Ninyani, are our next god. You are the new god of Frostflower, but there is only one way to ascend the throne, and that is to take it from Bulog.”

Ninyani’s mother continued. “The gods are not mistakes,” she said to him, repeating words she said many times before. “You are not a mistake, just like Bulog is not a mistake, but it is now your time, and god must replace god. Do you understand me, Ninyani?” She did not wait for his reply. “The new god needs to replace the old god. Bulog is the old god. Do you see? It is your duty to remove him. There is no mistake. This is who you are, and the time is right for the old god to be replaced by the new, but he is a fearful and weak old man. You cannot trust him to allow you to challenge him.”

She took her son’s hands. “Please, my little snowdrop, you must do this,” she pleaded. “This is who you are. Now is the time,” and she told him what to do.

For generations, the people of Frostflower only ever worshiped a single living god, and their histories did not tell of a time that came before. The gods of their past had been praised until each was replaced, when a new god possessed powers that were strong enough to end that previous god’s reign. Few of the infrequently-born gods were ever given the opportunity to reach their full potential.

New gods were a mystery, and there was no way for the villagers to know who among their youths might have a dormant deity living within them. Even Bulog, could not determine from which child the next god would emerge.

There was nothing special about the people of Frostflower. They were mere humans, one and all, except for their god. The people did not know the reason why gods were born from time to time, and none of the fairytales that they made up could explain the phenomena.

Traditionally in Frostflower, when any new god was revealed during the onset of puberty, the rising child would be presented before the reigning god. Then the two would do battle.

However, that was not what Bulog did with the most recent child-goddess, and Ninyani’s mother was determined to protect her son.

The night covered Frostflower in its darkness, and the boy stepped outside.

Unlike the mere mortals who were Bulog’s subjects, he did not believe that he could die, not until another god rose and he was slain. His people, on the other hand, lived with a constant lingering fear of their own death, but the old god was certain it did not apply to him. Despite the ravages of time and old age, Bulog knew that he would live forever, and no guards were ever required to protect the sleeping deity.

Ninyani was terrified, but under the direction of his mother, he crept unseen into the building adjacent to the meetinghouse. It was his least favorite place in the village, and now he entered of his own free will and approached the reclining form of the people’s living god.

Bulog slept on a large bed in the middle of the room. Candles and incense gave the space an ethereal feel, and Ninyani always disliked the aromas that Bulog burned. He crept around, stood behind Bulog, and leaned forward over him.

The old man was snoring quietly. He looked skeletal in the gloom.

Bulog was born in the year 151 AE, and he was on the verge of his 100th birthday. The villagers spent several days preparing for the festivities, but their god’s centennial celebration would not come to pass.

The story of Bulog’s rise was often recounted when the people of Frostflower gathered in the meetinghouse for meals or communal time. At the age of 12, it was revealed that Bulog was the next possible replacement for the god who reigned before him. Other potential gods had risen through the decades, but none was ever mighty enough to usurp the old god.

Young Bulog was brought before to the people’s living deity and told of the battle that was to commence the following day. However, that night, Bulog assassinated the old god while the village slept. His name was forever lost to history.

The next morning, there was only Bulog, and the people worshiped him for over 80 years. Like each god before him, during Bulog’s reign, different youths rose up as new deities, but all challengers were defeated.

In the silence of Bulog’s bedchamber, Ninyani stood over the sleeping god. The old man’s wheezing snores were the only other sound in the quiet room, except for the pounding of Ninyani’s heart in his ears. The 14 year old boy was afraid, but he could feel it within him, the godhood. Ninynai did not comprehend the nature of his abilities, but they were as natural to him as breathing.

After his mother experimented with her child’s unbelievable powers, she told him how to use them on the Bulog.

Ninyani placed his palms on either side of the sleeping god’s head.

His mother had comforted her son, informing him that it would be peaceful for the Bulog to die in his sleep, and Ninyani tried to convince himself that he believed her words. She told him that he would be releasing and setting free the deity who dwelt within Bulog’s failing body.

Ninyani stood quietly and felt the powers within him. Then the new young god did as he was told. Ninyani unleashed his manipulation of temperature into Bulog, and the old god neither moved nor flinched as his life disappeared. He did not awake, and he did his eyes open. His limbs remained still, as his energy slipped away.

The young god simultaneously subjected Bulog’s head to the physics of heat transference, both as an object of extreme heat, and one of deep freeze. He poured the energies of a star from one hand, and with the other, Ninyani controlled naught temperatures that were like a black hole of cold. He consumed any trace of heat from Bulog’s head, while also subjecting it to a blaze stronger than fusion.

The old god died.

Between Ninyani’s open palms, Bulog’s shoulders, neck, and head turned to ash. They crumbled. The bed was unburned and the rest of Bulog’s body remained intact. The horrible opening of flesh did not bleed. It was cauterized, and smoke and steam rose from the hideous gory mass.

Ninyani looked at it, but he jolted to the side, and the boy vomited hard. His guts poured onto the floor of the dead god’s bedroom. Ninyani coughed and clutched at his stomach. A moment later, he caught his breath and rose. He tried not to look at Bulog’s remains, but something sparkled in the dust that a moment ago was the old god’s head, and Ninyani found a small gem.

Whatever fear the boy felt was temporarily overshadowed by wonder, and he gently pinched the glittering stone between his thumb and first finger. It was uncut, an irregular crystal, and no bigger than the tiny iceberries that the people of Frostflower cultivated during the brief summer months. Ninyani sealed the gemstone inside of his coin pouch and slipped it into his pocket.

Then his anxiety returned, and he fled from the dead god’s house. He raced straight back to his home and his mother, but on his way, he was surprised to encounter a person lying in the street who seemed to be asleep. Then he passed a second in the same state, but Ninyani could think of nothing except returning to safety.

He wanted to forget what he just did, wanted to go back to being a little boy, back before the god within him awoke. Ninyani reached the front door to his home, threw it open, and rushed inside. He was panting and tears were again leaking from the corners of his eyes, but his mother was not in the main room of the house or in her bedroom. Ninyani called out but received no answer.

It did not take him long to find her, and the boy was very startled by her state. His mother was contorted in a strange position at the bottom of their cellar stairs. It appeared that she fell, and she was not moving.

Ninyani crept down to her. “Mama, are you okay?” he whispered into the shadows.

His mother did not reply.

He raised his voice and cried out to her, but she was dead. Ninyani wailed in sorrow, as he touched her cold skin. The blood in her veins held no warmth, and her face was grey in the dark basement.

Sobs wracked little Ninyani’s body, and he sat long minutes beside the corpse of his mother, before rising and again climbing the stairs. He stood at the top and listened. The house was too quiet. Ninyani knew that he could not stay there a moment longer, rushed to the door, and he ran outside again. He crossed the path to the neighbor’s house, but it was also silent. He called but no one responded to him. Ninyani opened the front door, and he screamed.

Right inside the doorframe, three bodies were lying together. It looked like they just poured themselves each a glass of wine, and suddenly dropped dead. Candles burned, but everything else was still. The bottle and glasses were strewn around the corpses.

Ninyani sobbed as he trekked from one house to the next, to the next. It took him all night and into the early morning, but he eventually found each villager, including quite a few who were sprawled on the cold streets. Every single one of them was dead. As the sun began to slide up the sky, Ninyani was the only living soul in Frostflower.

This was not what he expected. This was not what his mother told him would happen.

Ninyani did not know how to be a god. He did not know if he could even be one with no subjects. The boy believed his mother’s words, but now, he was not even certain that he really was a god.

In sorrow, the boy returned to his home and his dead mother. Ninyani had no idea what would become of him

What will become of Ninyani?

Copyright © 2023 Adam Andrews Johnson; All Rights Reserved.
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Thank you for sticking with my crazy story!

Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental. Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 

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Chapter Comments

OMG What has really happened?  We have no clue.

The young god to be is alone and everyone else in his village is dead.

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Posted (edited)

Ninyani's godhood came with unexpected consequences.

Without followers, there is no god.

Edited by drpaladin
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Bulog brought about his death and it appears the death of others by fearing the future instead of allowing those around him to prepare for it.

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