The Godgame (The Godgame, Book 1)

Free The Godgame (The Godgame, Book 1) by Keith Deininger

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Authors: Keith Deininger
which was still open.
    “You’re not going to report us, are you?” Pera said.
    Ash stopped in the doorway. He shook his head. “No. But I’ll come back and check on you guys again.”
    Ash stepped through the door and marched back to camp.

 
     
     
     
     
    JOSEF
     
    “Don’t worry, the Talosians will never come to Fallowvane.”
    He had volunteered, tried to join the militia, but the officer had said, “Our orders are to take only one member of each household and no one over forty.” So they had taken Ash and left him behind. He had watched his son being whisked away on one of the militia’s scavenged buggies. And when Josef had asked the officer the reason for such an order, the officer had told him the Novan committee had decided there should be “able-bodied” individuals available in each town so as not to leave them defenseless.
    “Josef? Did you hear me? I said the Talosians will never come to Fallowvane. There’s nothing here for them.”
    Josef looked up from his work, blinking. “Uh-huh.”
    “That’s why we’re safe. We have clean air, open land, and cold winters—nothing the Talosians are interested in. I mean, hell, I barely like living here,” Daryn said, and laughed. “Come on, don’t look so down. Your son will be back in a couple of months.”
    Josef nodded. “Yeah, I suppose,” he said, returning to the job at hand: sanding the legs smooth on a table he was making for the Braxton family.
    He could feel Daryn watching him closely, but when he didn’t say anything, his assistant returned to his own work.
    That morning, Josef had kissed his wife, although she had barely been conscious, given her frail shoulders a light squeeze, and left a bowl of broth and a glass of water for her on the nightstand. “I have to go to the shop today,” he’d told Kya back in the living room, her large eyes blinking up at him. “I owe an important customer something.”
    “Don’t worry, Dad,” Kya had said. “I’ll stay with her.”
    “Good, and watch after your sisters.” He’d turned to leave.
    “Dad?”
    “Yes?”
    When he’d turned back, Kya had given him a look of complete seriousness. “Are the Talosians coming to get us?”
    He’d gone to her, held her. “No. Course not.” He’d cupped the back of her small head in one hand and rocked her. “Everything’s going to be fine.”
    And then he’d left her. He’d hated himself for doing it, but he’d had to. He had a debt to pay.
    When he’d gone to Mother Marlena for medicine for his wife, he’d had no idea how expensive it was going to be. He, of course, had not had the money to pay for it, so he and Mother Marlena had struck a deal. She had requested he make her something in exchange for the medicine she claimed would cure his wife. It had, as it turned out, been a simple enough thing to make, nothing beyond his abilities, and he’d quickly agreed. He was, however, not to tell anyone about what he was making and certainly not who it was for. He hadn’t said a word, especially not to his wife.
    Which was why, although his assistant Daryn was perfectly capable of running things on his own, he had come into the shop today.
    She’s not getting better. The witch promised the medicine would make Lena better, but it’s not working.
    “Their machines and their rules, that’s all they really want. That, and power. Well, that’s their choice. This, this right here, our farms and our simple laboring—this is what life is really about. It’s about living, an honest living. The Talosians don’t want that. They want things: lavish houses, servants, faces as wrinkle-free and smooth as the day they were born. And they all want to live forever. Well, pah on that! That’s not living. That’s… Hey! Hey, are you even listening?”
    Josef looked up at his friend. “Yeah, sure.”
    Daryn shook his head. “Ah, I’m just blathering is all. I’m sorry. I’m glad you made it in today. I guess your wife must be doing better,

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