Even when he was younger, long before the thrall of Uk’otoa claimed his soul, Fjord had loved the sea. It got to the point where he spent not only his every waking moment thinking about the waves but even in his dreams, he thought about the ocean. He became a sailor for god’s sake. He couldn’t get enough of it.
He never felt more at peace than when he was sat on the shore, his toes sunk into the warm sand, his eyes on the waves rocking back and forth, the roaring of the sea in his ears. When he was very young, he was sneak away from the orphanage and tip-toe his way to the docks, and just watch and listen to the water battling itself for dominance. Then one of the caretakers from the orphanage would grab him by the ear and drag him away, but for a few short moments, it was all worth it.
When Vandren had offered him a position on his ship, Fjord had hardly taken the time to think before he jumped on the idea and held onto it for all he was worth, and he thrived out there on the ocean, on the big blue, with nothing but water all around him. Some days, Fjord would just leap down off the edge of the ship while it was anchored or docked and just float on his back in the water, weightless, lost, peaceful.
And then Uk’otoa took that all away from him.
Never again could he look at water and feel peace and tranquillity. No longer could he associate the sea with good memories. Now he looked at the gathering waves and thought of drowning, and death, and pain. He hadn’t had a positive dream of the sea in a very long time- now it was only large yellow eyes and cryptic messages and very-real threats.
Caduceus had asked him, “What do you dream when your dreams are your own?”
Without thinking, Fjord had talked about the sea and described all its wonders as Fjord himself had seen them. They had been off the water for a long time now, and after everything that had happened with Avantika and her crew and all that nonsense, he hated to say that he was a little glad, but the ocean would always be a huge part of his heart and soul.
Instead of the lovely dreams he used to have, floating on his back or suspended safely in the water while curious sea-life swam around him or controlling water to swell around the boat at his very will, he had been granted nothing but poisonous threats, and every time he opened his eyes to water, he feared being met by that giant spotlight with the black slit down the centre.
Water had always been where he was most comfortable. Even thinking about it, remembering the sound of the waves calmed him down in the face of any danger. The ocean was his home.
But that wasn’t true anymore, not really. He no longer felt safe in the deep black depths of the sea. He could no longer sink his toes into the sand and think of peace. Now the only thing that met him was fear. And you couldn’t fear the place you called home, and if you did, it was well about time that you got a new one. That’s why he left the orphanage- packed a bag with all he could carry and snuck away while the carers were too busy with the other kids to even notice him, and the first place he went to was the ocean.
Fjord had met Jester and thought she would be the one to open up his mind about communication with a god, and then he had spent time with Molly and had assumed that it would be him instead with his midnight rituals and devotion to a strange yet fitting god, but it was Caduceus that saved him in a way that Fjord never thought possible.
He used to dream of roaring waves and gritty sand and salty air and the squawk of seagulls warring over dropped food. Now, he dreamt of warmth and flowers.
The Wildmother was kind to him in a way that Fjord had never experienced before. She didn’t speak in words but in feelings. When he dreamt, at least lately, instead of feeling the icy frost of the ocean, he felt a warmth, like sunlight beating down onto his back. He thought that maybe it was Caddy’s doing, but Caduceus seemed none the wiser. Maybe it really was a sign from the Wildmother, like he hoped, or maybe it was just her trying to steer him on a clearer path.
Or maybe it was just wishful thinking. He hoped not.
In that library with Reani, he had gone looking for a book about gods in a desperate attempt to learn more about the force that compelled him, why gods were looking at him in the first place, but there were just so many in that single book that he hadn’t even known where to start. In fact, so much information thrown at him at once had given him quite a headache. He just… he needed to know whose feet he needed to kiss to be given the same power he had before. He needed it. Craved it. Craved the crackle of power at his very fingertips waiting for him to unleash it.
If he thought about it in that sense, how was he any better than Avantika?
But Caduceus didn’t judge. No, Caduceus was kind and easy going and understanding. He knew the trouble Fjord was going through and wanted nothing more than to help. But really, despite trying to help Fjord by going through all the gods he had read about and answering his questions about the divine, Caduceus hadn’t really left the Blooming Grove before so he didn’t have a vast sphere of knowledge other than those he was connected to. And, no offence, but Fjord wasn’t too interested in serving the Goddess of Death. He was sure she was great, though.
No, he needed someone who fit who he was. Maybe there was a god of water? Or oceans? “Oceans are part of nature,” Caduceus had pointed out. “And nature is under the Wildmothers domain.”
Maybe, if he prayed hard enough, opened his mind wide enough, a god would weasel its way in there and chose him? Maybe he didn’t have to pick a god based solely on book knowledge. People say the gods were always watching- maybe they were watching him? Why would any god be watching him-?
He couldn’t help but wish that the Wildmother would be the one to choose him. It would make him feel… special, you know? Make him feel like more than just the runt of the litter. More than just a slimly little orphan with green skin and vile tusks and a face like he’d been hit hard with a horse and cart.
When he dreamt of the Wildmother, he felt a peace he hadn’t felt in the water since the ship exploded. And he had never really been a nature kind of person, but since everything had happened with the tree and the Wildmother taking a weird interest in his wellbeing and his fight against Uk’otoa, he found himself a lot more… receptive to it. Even when Reani made that wreath of flowers and placed it on his head, he couldn’t complain, when a few months ago, he absolutely would have.
Was the WIldmother making him docile, softening him up like a pig for slaughter? Making him weak? Or was she, like Caduceus believed, actually trying to help him?
Fjord felt like she was almost… trying to communicate with him. Trying to convince him to search for the light in the darkness. And he supposed that she was doing that by sending him dreams. Dreams that he hadn’t realized until later that he desperately needed.
Sometimes he dreamt of a large, gnarled tree, the face of a sleeping woman with nothing but her head made of bark sticking out of the roots of this large tree, her breathing shook the ground and Fjord was surrounded by a cluster of bright green leaves. Sometimes he was lying in a vast grassy meadow, the gentle blades ticking like face and the clear sky bright and blue. He would feel calm, and safe, and like all the dangers of the world was very far away. Sometimes it was just an occasional gust of wind that would gather a couple of stray leaves that would flutter towards Fjord and remind him that the world was full of beauty and not just fear and destruction and bright yellow eyes. Sometimes he dreamt of nothing, but he felt that untouchable warmth he craved so much, even in his sleep.
He never had a mother, but sometimes he wondered if that was what if felt like.
Caduceus was so sure in his actions and his blind trust of this god that though at first Fjord was a little sceptical, though he knew well enough by now to understand that the following between a god and their disciple was stronger than any other force in the world, as long as you had faith. Did Fjord have faith? Or was he just lying to himself in the hopes that he could convince the Wildmother that he was deserving of her patronage?
But Jester’s connection to the Traveller was so different from Caduceus’ connection to the Wildmother. The Wildmother was like a mentor watching diligently from the distance, only stepping in when she was desperately needed and helping Caduceus when he asked for it. The Traveller was like a best friend who was also your roommate and isn’t around all the time but when he is you know you’re in for a good time. Jester was so much closer to him. Pranked people in his name, built impromptu, makeshift temples for him, drew pictures and cried for him and spoke to him late at night. They were like childhood best friends. And Fjord… he wasn’t sure if he wanted that from a deity.
Maybe something similar to Yasha and the Stormlord, but even then, she was interconnected with him in ways even she didn’t know. Or maybe he wanted something more like what Mollymauk had with the Moonweaver? Practically nothing but faith. He followed her in spirit, not in actuality. He didn’t do deeds for her, didn’t walk around preaching her name and all the good she could give you. Maybe that was just because she was technically an illegal god in the Empire, but even still, that was a life of no commitment that Fjord could learn to love.
Either way, regardless of which god he decided to follow, whether it be the Wildmother or the Stormlord or the Knowing Mistress or the Raven Queen or hell, even the Moonweaver, any god that could get him back the powers and magic that he needed so desperately. That he craved so strongly. God, what the hell was wrong with-
Maybe it had nothing to do with the magic. Sure, he desperately needed to feel useful, to help his friends in their suicidal endeavours, but maybe it was something more. Maybe he just wanted to be needed. Wanted to know that there was someone out there who thought he was special, that somewhere deep within him, there was a reason for someone to take an interest in him, something to prove that he was more than he thought he was.
Molly would know what to say. He always did.
Dreams were the least of his problems. If the diety he ultimately decided to follow continued to send him good dreams like the ones the Wildmother was sending his way, then he’d be happy to follow them, no matter what the deal was. Anything was better than drowning. Anything was better than Uk'otoa.
Besides. Now, he liked dreaming of flowers and large trees with its canopy filled with bright string lights and a face in its roots and a matronly woman with thick flowing hair and a motherly smile on her face more than he liked dreaming about the sea, anyway.