“Miraza, you cannot do this!” Tamika had to jog to keep up with the swift strides of her friend, beaded scarves jangling as the shorter woman skipped urgently along on her bare feet. “Please, think about the consequences!”
Tall Miraza’s gaze stayed resolutely forward, towards the temple, her jaw set. “Leave me, Tamika. I don’t care what the consequences might be. I want him back.” She gripped more tightly the dark body of a young boy in her arms, pressing him a little closer to her charcoal bosom.
“But Zo isn’t the answer! Please, Miraza!” Tamika begged, almost tripping over a branch as she practically danced by Miraza’s side. “Find another route. There’s the holy man in the mountain still. There’s-“
“There’s nothing else for me!” Miraza barked, slippered feet in an unwavering march. Miraza cast Tamika one glance before resetting her crimson eyes back on the little Temple of Zo, its coppered exterior mismatch in pattern and design and green with age. “The other gods have denied me. As Tamora and Fierce have both refused to bring my son back, the holy man will as well. Zo is my only option.”
Tamika finally stopped chasing Miraza, wringing the hem of her blouse. “Miraza, He’s the god of chaos! If He even brings your son back at all, He’ll do it in some twisted way!”
“I don’t care,” Miraza growled.
Sadul sprinted to Miraza’s side as Tamika fell back. “Miraza, I…I heard you were going to Zo for help. Please, I’m sorry, I’m sorry about what happened, but don’t-“
“You!” Miraza spat, shifting her son’s corpse away from Sadul. “Get away from me!”
“It was an accident, you know that,” Sadul sobbed, “it must have been the will of Phoros to wash Korav out of the boat! And that’s why the other gods won’t heed you. They won’t supersede Phoros’ will…but you got his body back. We can perform the funeral rites for him now! Please, Miraza, I’ll do anything, anything to help you, don’t turn to Zo!”
Miraza’s steps quickened as she tried to push away from Sadul. He grabbed after her. “Miraza, your son deserves a better death than to be defiled by the god of chaos!”
Miraza yanked her sash out of his sable hands and continued on.
She drew close to the temple and stopped, but only because the robed and tasseled priest stood in the archway of the domed building, barring her progress. “Miraza, I was told you would come. This is a foolish choice. Zo will not bring him back, not unscathed.”
“Zo is my last option. What happened was cruel and unfair. Storms never blow in like that on our lake,” hissed Miraza. “People can say it was Phoros’ will all they want but Zo has always done what He likes and a random storm was clearly His fault. Phoros would never betray His fishermen like that.”
“If Zo killed your son then why would He bring him back?” demanded the priest, puffing himself up to better fill the entrance as Miraza drew a few steps nearer.
“I understand Zo is unreliable at best, but if anyone were to recant what a moment ago he ordered, it would be Zo. Do not deny me the right to at least try.”
The priest scowled. “Your son deserves a respectful burial. Do not throw his well-being to the lot of Zo, who will only mock your plea with his corpse.”
“Do your duty and help me with the rites!” Miraza demanded.
“Have you at least asked your husband?” said the priest.
Miraza’s face darkened. She took one last step towards the priest, bringing her nose to nose with him, provided she looked up into his face. “I am his fourth wife, and this his youngest son. What does he care for my child? His love for Korav is nothing compared to mine; Korav was all I had in this life. Do not presume that you know anything about my family.”
“Does your husband not feed you and support you? Is Korav not still his son?” the priest demanded, brows raised. Miraza knew he would just love to divert her will into an accusation of infidelity.
“My husband only feeds me and keeps me housed and clothed. He would more likely be pleased to learn of Korav’s death as it means one less mouth to feed.”
“Such accusations!” the priest cried.
“Yet it is true nonetheless. If you will not help me, I will invoke Zo myself. The god of chaos surely does not care if I have His priest’s help or not.” With that, Miraza shouldered her way past the priest. She set the corpse on the center of the mismatched stone floor, covering over tiles, bricks, and rocks of different sizes, shapes, and colors.
“Miraza,” the priest called in warning. She grabbed one of the multi-colored candles from its brazier in the wall and began lighting the incense of mixed types and scents.
“Miraza,“ the priest said with a tone trembling with fear, “Zo will answer your call. He is called upon so little that He won’t just ignore you like the other gods. You have no idea what He’ll do!” Miraza put back the candle. “An animal, a ghost, reducing Korav to ashes-“
“Zo! God of Chaos! Bring me back my son!” Miraza called up as she fell to her knees next to the body.
“Miraza, stop! Do you want to bring back some undead monster?” the priest shouted.
Miraza threw up her hands and let the rest of her body fall to the earth as she finished, “Name your price for the life of my child!”
The priest flinched as the temple trembled. A deep laugh rang as the scent of leather and sea water filled the air. The candles flickered in a variety of hues, some flames like molten glass, some like shadows. Miraza rose, rocking on her heels as Zo made clear he had heard. The laughter circled around the temple as if Zo had been there, running laps around the perimeter. Honing in on Korav, the deepness of the laugh shifted to a higher and higher pitch, losing its sinister nature as it became like the giggle of a child. The candles extinguished.
The child giggle still sounded as little arms wrapped around Miraza’s neck. She drew in a breath, for one moment realizing what Zo had done; he had brought back Korav to kill her.
But Korav was not trying to strangle her; the candles slowly came back to life as Korav clung to his mother, burying his little face into her bosom, laughing and crying. Miraza threw her arms around Korav, now laughing as well. He was whole. He was exactly the boy Miraza had hugged and kissed before he left on that fishing trip. She picked him up and swung him around as he continued to cling to her, and, crying as they laughed, the mother and son departed from the temple.
The priest stood awestruck, leaning on his staff.
“Zo,” he murmured, “Why? You never do as desired, you always twist requests of yourself.”
A deep voice whispered in answer, “Never? Always? Have you forgotten that I am the God of Chaos?”