This was an interesting one, mainly due to some the inspiration the author derived certain aspects of this story. Most of this story read a lot like a Biblical story, and I can see a lot of influence from both the Old and New Testaments. There’s this setting in a desert area with cities far from each other, a protagonist who’s very religious and seems like a prophet of sorts, and a deity who can take on mortal form to interact with the protagonist and any other characters around him. This prophet, Skitter, seems to be a faithful follower of Kadiel, a god who can’t be seen but can take on a mortal form, later known as Josaif. Josaif definitely sounds like this “Jesus figure” in the story; still Kadiel, just in mortal form. Skitter is also going against this culture who’s gods might just be carved stone, and that’s all that they are. He is also able to perform miracles as well, it seems.
I really enjoy this type of story arc: a character, or group of characters, always on the run, yet always encountering road blocks to keep them from their goal. While the story doesn’t pick up right away, things really begin to get interesting once they reach the city of Parainmont and Skitter, being an Outsider to the Expermian culture, is not welcomed, for the most part. Again, going back on the Biblical influences, two of the characters “see the light” in Kadiel, and Josaif is able to see Toval’s willingness to be a follower as well. Again, this goes back to Josaif being the “Jesus figure” where he’s able to instantly see what truly lies in someone’s heart. Maybe all this Biblical influence is why this might be one of my favorites so far. I grew up Lutheran; naturally, I was exposed to the Bible a lot growing up, so most of this story resonated with me in that sense.
I will admit, this story felt a little incomplete. I understand that, being a short story, you can’t always have everything tied up in a nice package. However, there’s one scene where the Expermian priests are angry, yet afraid, after seeing Josaif. We don’t know what all they did in the end, other than state “let’s see how an Outsider’s god stands against another one of ours.” I understand the focus is more on what happens wherever Skitter goes and not so much after-the-fact, but I would love this part to be explored a little more. Maybe it is, seeing as this is a short story that takes place in the author’s larger world.