Vitalis had just plunked himself down comfortably in his sitz bath when Glib started to grumble again. “Jeez, Lordship! It's humiliating enough to be used as a tub for soaking your moldy bones, but these potions and powders you stir in wreak havoc with my sensitive telepaths.” Over the centuries he had grown accustomed to the aged deity filling him to the brim with pungent bathwater. Nevertheless, as the mountain god's oracle, Glib was expected to be outspoken.
“Hrumph! . . .” began Vitalis in his usual throat-clearing prelude. “So . . . clogged pores are to blame for all your shortsighted foresights?”
“I could see a lot better if you weren't seated on my face!”
And so their discourse began, as it had for decades. It might well have lasted all morning, as it usually did, except for something no one, or no oracle, could have predicted.
“Excuse me . . .” The wee, candied words struggled to be heard above the oracle's deep, discordant voice and the ancient lord's creaky utterings.
Vitalis finally hushed, turned around and spied a small towheaded boy standing by the oracle. The old god leaped to his feet, or I should say attempted to leap. In his haste, Vitalis lost his footing and plunged completely under the soapy water. After resurfacing, he quickly checked to see if he had really seen a boy, then scowled. The little fellow was still standing there, and with a big scowl on his face too.
“You're not the earth god, Vitalis . . . are you?” said the boy.
“I am what I am, boy!” replied Vitalis. “Question is, who are you? Unless my eyes are deceiving me, you're a fleshling. You don't belong here in the Highshires with immortals, atop my mountain—and certainly not in MY bath!"
Before the discussion progressed further, Glib pointed out to the earth god that he would look more god-like if he dried off and put some clothes on.
“My name's Roland, Sir . . .” said the boy politely, watching Vitalis wrap himself up in bath towels. He frowned even more upon realizing this soggy graybeard must be Mythlewild's most revered deity. The one he had come all this way to see.