Dominus Deus Sabaoth
The Lumineve liturgy was beautiful. It always was. And outside, in the gently-falling snow and bathed in the flickering light of a lamppost, sat a well-beloved Marsh Telenine, an almost-comically large Luminaire hat sitting atop his head. He was lingering in the open doorway to the cathedral, listening raptly to the service with a look of wonder on his face; pets were not allowed inside - this was a human church - but he could still sit just outside the doors, which was enough to see and hear and enjoy. And he loved every minute of it, from the lighting of the altar candles to the scripture reading to the benediction; he had to resist the urge to howl along with the traditional Luminaire hymns that were being sung. He could pick out his master's voice in the clamor of noise, and his patiently-wagging tail picked up speed at the sound of it. The other pets nearby watched with small, knowing smiles on their faces -- no other pet was as happy to wait for his master as Sanctus was.
As the service concluded and the churchgoers began to funnel towards the door, Sanctus got to his paws and took a few steps back, politely allowing the humans to pass him by. As they passed, he quietly wished each one of them a Merry Lumineve, a sentiment which a few people returned to him as they called him by name; several of them reached down to fondly pat his head or scratch behind his ears. "What a good boy, always waiting so patiently for the Professor," they would remark before moving on through the falling snow. Sanctus knew it was no trouble: he loved listening to the service as much as he loved his master, and as he heard the familiar clicks of his shoes on the stone pathway, the Telenine's tail wagged furiously and he easily fell in step with the kindly Professor.
"Let's go home, boy," Charles said in his silky British tone, reaching down to stroke the canine's head with one gloved hand. Sanctus' tail wagged all the harder as the pair walked out of the lamplight and into the cold night of Lumineve.
And then, it happened: the ground began to rumble, and out of the blackness stepped the great and terrible Ice King. He demanded a fight, his lips breaking into a fearsome snarl that shook the snow from nearby branches. In the dim light cast by a faraway lamppost, Charles looked pale and afraid; he knew his beloved Sanctus was a lover, not a fighter. But Sanctus knew the fate that awaited him if he didn't accept the challenge -- he'd seen it happen to enough of his friends' owners, seen them be wrapped in ice, forever frozen, and the canine knew how terrible that would be for his master, and for the rest of his family. And so, with a snarl that tried to sound vicious, he lunged for the Ice King's throat.
It didn't take much to beat the unskilled Telenine aside. "At least make it a challenge for me," the Ice King laughed as he advanced towards the mild-mannered Professor, who was now quaking in his boots in earnest. Sanctus scrambled to his feet and made another valiant charge, but was headbutted into a snowdrift with a flick of the great challenger's head. "If you can't do better than that, you'll spend an eternity in ice, which is no more than what somebody like you deserves."
Charles held up his gloved hands and pleaded for understanding with a quaking voice -- "I follow the rules, I pay my dues to Mr. Phoenix, I mind my manners and work hard for my money. I have a family."
"You know what they say about karma, Professor," the Ice King growled as he raised a hoof into the snowy sky, grinning as the human before him cringed in preparation for the inevitable.
With a whine and a thump softened by the snow, Sanctus was slammed back to earth by the blow meant for his master. Already, he could feel ice swirling through him, turning his blood to slush and clogging up his heart as he began the slow transformation into a permanent ice sculpture; but what chilled him even more than the Ice King's finishing blow was the look of sheer horror on Charles' face as he opened his eyes to find his beloved Telenine crumpled in the snowbank beside him. Sanctus whined softly as his master knelt in the snow and wrapped his arms around him, pulling him into his lap as best as he could. His owner's desperate pleas for mercy fell on deaf ears as the Ice King snorted and pawed the earth; he hadn't expected to be waylaid by the canine, but he had to carry out his duty, whether he left behind one ice block or two. And this time, he would not miss.
Sanctus whimpered a second time, feeling heavy and absolutely frozen but afraid for his master: he didn't want him to face the terrible Ice King alone. He tried in vain to move his paws, but they refused to move -- he was turning to ice from the inside out, and before he could see the Ice King make a headlong charge at him and his master, his lids closed and his vision gave way to darkness. He felt his heart stop, and expected to feel the sting of dying, the desperate fear, the want for breath, but nothing came. There was nothing beyond him, nothing within him, but cold darkness.
Then, he smelled a familiar smell, a smell that reminded him of home and family and sleeping together in a warm heap of furry bodies. It was a smell, he remembered distantly, that he shared with his fellow Telenine. And then, he heard a female voice echo through his head: "Vultis vestraeque familiae pugnabis?" it asked, booming and commanding. Will you fight for your family? He barked out a sharp answer: "Yes! Of course!" And as if in response, he felt himself growing warmer; he felt the ice within him recede as the goddess Wokam approached him. The glow from her flames beat back the Ice King's magic and restored warmth to his body, much to his happiness.
But the heat didn't stop once the ice was all melted -- it kept rising higher and higher until his brown fur was turned to orange and fire sparked to life around him. A twinge of pain shot through his back, and as he looked back for the source of it, he noticed two great wings had burst from his shoulder blades and swept down on either side of him. In awe and wondering why this was happening to him, the Telenine looked to his Goddess for answers, and was met with a grim look as she extended a long, puddly reddish candle to him.
"Mortuus est mortuus. Si vis vivere, vobis, fiat spiritus, an angelus. Vos adstringi debent ad aliquid ad hoc facere. A candela est optimus pro spiritibus cum benedictionem meam." She growled softly, her voice still commanding and godlike. Dead is dead. If you want to live, you must become a spirit, an angel. You must be bound to something to do this. A candle is best for spirits with my blessing. She set the candle on the ground between them, and he felt his entire being drawn to the tiny flame lit at its wick. Sanctus despaired: he didn't want to spend the rest of his life living in a candle, but if he had to choose between that and being dead, and leaving his master and the rest of his family to the Ice King, he would. And so, he gave himself over to Wokam and the candle, vanishing into its tiny wax body and quite surprising Charles when his once-frozen body burst into flames and surged back to life.
Sanctus threw back his head and howled, and the Ice King dug in his hooves and ground to a halt. He cursed Wokam and her interference as the now-Reborn Telenine spewed forth a stream of fire that left the frozen beast howling with pain and holding his hooves over his burned face. The canine tugged on his master's shirt cuff and urged him to his feet, and the pair ran out into the cold dark of Lumineve undeterred, Sanctus' fire lighting the way for them. Charles never questioned the half-burned candle that had suddenly appeared in his pocket.
And now, things carry on much as they used to: Charles still pays his dues, follows the rules, and minds his manners around others. He still attends service every Sunday, and Sanctus still enjoys watching the liturgy and hearing the songs. He can still pick out his master's voice in the crowd of many. The only difference is that he can now participate in the service -- by keeping the altar candles lit as his spirit flits between them.
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