The Traveling God

A young man sat on a bench, turning to check the timetables further down the platform. He still had a good half an hour but he could not get himself to stop tapping his foot.

Past the platforms, on the far side of the station were a dozen stained glass windows, and behind the man were another twelve. He could name a few of the gods of travel depicted on them, but not all twenty-four. Religion was not his best subject, and another two had been added since he graduated. A trade hub like Fora picked up more gods than they knew what to do with, especially gods of travel. 

Fourth from the right was the one he knew best, Thera. After all, he was named after her. 

He shook his head, choked down a curse, and started to pray instead . This train hadn’t derailed in the ten years it had been in service, but how many stories could he recite on hubris? A prayer couldn’t hurt. In his head, he recited, “Thera, mother of travelers, who carries the moon gently…”

Suddenly, there was a hand on his shoulder, startling him out of his prayer, almost dropping his ticket.

Edric.

Edric stood there and said, “S-sorry for startling you. Hope…hope I’m not bothering you. Can I take this seat?”

The young man sat silent, ignoring Edric, with his stupid salt and pepper beard and calloused fingers that still felt like sandpaper on his shoulder.

Edric sat down anyway. He looked out to the stained glass windows, probably trying to remember which ones were around when he was a kid. Thera was already at the local temple when he settled down here, still reciting the Prayer of the Refugee’s Moon.

“I’m still going.”

Edric sighed, “I…I know.”

Thera’s form had harder, sharper lines in the stained glass than the smooth stone in temples. In both she had her most important artifacts. In one hand was a lantern, with a pale white moon instead of a flame. In her other hand, she settled her weight on a walking stick taller than herself. At the top of the staff were several small charms. Older statues just had a simple bag tied to the top. 

Edric spoke up again. “I heard…” He adjusted his weight and leaned a little forward. “I heard an interesting story yesterday.

His conversation partner did not respond.

“Would you like to hear it?”

“It won’t change anything. Once the train pulls in, I’m gone.”

Edric gripped his knees “I don’t…I don’t think it will, but…I’d like to tell it. If that’s okay.”

“Fine.”

Edric sat straighter and took a deep breath. “A couple hours after you left someone knocked on our door. At first we didn’t want to answer, still upset, but your mother reminded me that Thera still travels, so we answered. 

“It was a priest, traveling under the protection of Thera. She was all the way from Verus, if you can believe it. Well, we welcomed her in. Of course we offered meat and milk and honey but she would only accept bread and water.”

The young man responded harshly. “You always followed the traditions…”

“Yes…Yes I guess we have, but some are worth following.” Edric took a deep breath and continued. “But that wasn’t the important part. This priest, she told me something interesting about Verus.

“In their temples, Thera is Therus.”

The seat creaked as the young man straightened.

Edric continued as if he didn’t notice. “Apparently when Thera, or Therus, visited them, he showed up as a man. When she appeared to us,” he motioned to the stained glass window, “always a woman.

“Now there is a lot I don’t understand about the gods, but…I don’t know. If it was what Thera…or Therus, needs, then, who am I to judge?” Edric lifted his hand as if questioning his own story.

Edric turned toward the young man and moved to place a hand on the young man’s hands, but stopped himself. “Listen, your name…it was meant as a gift, but…” Edric choked on his words… “If milk makes you sick, I want to bring you tea. And if our gift was…was wrong…I understand…I mean, as best I can.”

Both of them looked toward the statue of Thera and let the bustle and motion of the station function as silence.

Edric said quietly, “I’m sorry it took me so long…and your mom…she’ll come around.”

The young man said, “Itherikon.”

“Huh?”

“Call me Itherikon, not Itherika, but…but Itherikon.”

Edric smiled through tears. “I…I like that name. It has legs I think.”

“Then it’s perfect for a traveler. Here” Itherikon pulled out a piece of scrap paper from his pocket and began to write a long address as the train pulled into the station. A torrent of travelers spread across the platform and flooded towards the exit. 

The noise almost made it impossible for Edric to hear what Itherikon was saying, but when he was handed the piece of paper, he understood. He would need the name when he wrote to his son, his handsome, strong, formidable son.

Itherikon stood up and bowed to his father before taking his luggage, walking to the attendant and handing him his ticket. He turned around one last time and waved goodbye.


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