Everything in Its Proper Place
by Nick McRae
The God-King of the East lay at her feet, one arrow jutting from the gap between his bronze cuirass and his skirt of studded leather, another through the eyehole of his crested helm.
She had fulfilled every part of the prophecy.
Born a slave, she had when still a girl slain the slavemaster and gone south into the wilderness.
Among the free tribes of the jungle she had lived and learned the dance of war. Before her thirtieth year she was made chieftain.
She had loved a good, brave man, himself a chieftain, and built a marriage hut with him. She had killed that same good man in single combat for leadership of all the tribes, as law required and prophecy foretold.
She had felled the Holy Tree, slain the Sacred Ram, and from the wood and horn and sinew made a bow with power enough to kill a god.
At dawn she had led a host of free warriors and taken all the God-King's city save his palace, which only she might enter. The God-King's slayer, said the prophecy, must face the god alone.
On the ground now at her feet, the dying God-King trembled.
"You bested me, slavegirl," he said, and coughed dark blood.
"It was decided long ago," she said, "by greater gods than you."
"Greater, perhaps. Older. Empty legend. Prophecy is all that's left of them."
"Yet they guide my arrows." She drew her longknife. "They will guide my blade."
"Tell me--" He shuddered. "Tell me why."
"Why kill this tyrant who would make my people slaves?"
"You would make yourself a god in my place."
"Of course you would." He choked on a laugh. "And will. You will be the Slave-God, come to free the slaves and make slaves of the masters. Your dominion will be vaster even than mine."
"Feeble insults. The people are impatient. I will now take your head." She raised her longknife.
"I will go into the wilderness until the great gods bid me go down into death." She bent over him, cast his helmet aside, and grasped his braids.
"What if--" The dying god raised a shaking hand. "What if I give you my power? You could build grand cities for your people. Forge weapons to protect them. Retrieve the dying from the very edge of death." He wheezed, red spittle bubbling on his lips. "All but yourself." He began to sob. "Take my power, it is yours! Just spare my life, I beg you!"
There was pity in her eyes. "Not for the power of a thousand gods would I turn from my path." She raised her blade for the last time.
"Then you have passed the test," the God-King said. "End of simulation."