Dalton looked down at the face of God and bit back a hysterical laugh. She was a second level junior archivist in the Department of Godly Origins. She knew better than to laugh in a God’s face. Even if the laugh was from a mix of joy and terror. Almost an entire ten-year searching. And her mentor searching for another two ten-year before that. Every year filled with more desperation. As society turned their back on true namings. Some even called those who searched for the true beginnings of the Gods heretics.
“Thank you, my Lady Ke$ha for revealing your true faces to me,” Dalton whispered to the two pictures pulled up on her tab.
One showed the God slimmer, with a wild, desperate hunger and banked rage in her eyes, cloaked in black leather armor of a design Dalton only vaguely saw the similarities to, in the followers of the Goddess of Righteous Fury and Inner Strength.
The second showed the God older, less consumed by the fire, but with a steely determination written in every line of her body. She stood tall, surrounded by a pantheon of other known Gods. At an event marked as being a call to arms against those who would harm Women. A warning for those that would defy the Gods.
In this picture Ke$ha was familiar. Her robes looked much the same as in the iconography of the Church of Refracted Light and Divine Forgiveness. A style no longer used by the priestess’ but still recorded as being worn by several Gods from that era.
Here was an end to the search that brought Dalton to the Department of Godly Origins in the first place, and she was half tempted to bury it. What did you do when your meaning for pushing forward, was within your grasp, but the price was higher than you had ever thought you would need to pay?
Her sponsor and a senior Archivist, Grace had been the one who had truly dreamed of seeing a God's true face. Dalton had not started this search out of a divine calling. She had simply wanted to be free of the convent school that housed her since her earliest memory. When a position as Apprentice to a Godly archivist came open she had jumped in without worrying about what she would be doing.
She had known the Gods were real. All people of the city did. How could they not be real when so many of their holy texts remained? But she had little patience for those that claimed to follow the Gods. Particularly those that ran her school. Why should they be grateful to the Gods for keeping them fed, clothed, and educated? It was the holy people that did the work, or in many cases didn't. It always seemed to her that their willingness to help the children under their power, depended more on their own reason than any true belief in their Gods.
Then she met Grace, and she saw for the first time the depths religious obsession could drive someone to. Grace was obsessed with finding a Dual God. But in the last ten-year of their life they had known the quest would last longer than they would. So they sponsored Dalton’s schooling and her place as an archivist. Even backing her refusal to choose a holy name when she came of age. Grace had been the first one Dalton had ever known who never relied on their belief in Gods to excuse their actions.
“The Gods left us their messages to carry us through the years, not to guide our every step.” Grace had always said.
In return for the honesty and freedom they had given Dalton, taking up Grace’s quest to name a Dual God had felt right.
Dual Gods were called such because despite being a singular entity They had left behind such disparate bodies of work that They became cracked in two by the limits of human knowledge and imagination. The full depth of Their divine message lost under the weight of time and their followers limited understanding.
The idea had been just as revolutionary to Dalton as Grace’s original thesis about mans relationship to God. Dual Gods had only been whispered about in her convent school. Their existence too incendiary to be discussed with children destined for the cloth. Admitting to the existence of Gods that humans had misnamed was admitting that the High Holy Orders could make mistakes.
When illness had taken Grace from her, Dalton had thrown everything she had into the search. And here she sat with the proof Grace had wanted so badly. Only the price for sharing that knowledge was to risk upturning two of the biggest churches in the City. If she believed that the Gods could directly influence the lives of their followers, Dalton would think this a punishment for her hubris.
But she didn't believe Ke$ha cared about Dalton's search for answers. If she did she would have shown her face to Grace. And not to a woman who was searching not out of holy furor but for love of a parent, partner, heretic mentor. Who had been burned on the holy pyre nearly half a ten-year ago.
Perhaps it was best that Dalton didn't share Grace's belief. If Grace was here they'd already be shouting about the discovery to the rest of the Archive. So pleased at finally having the answers they searched for that they wouldn't consider consequences. While Dalton couldn't stop considering the consequences.
Announcing the name and true faces of Ke$ha would put Grace's name down into history until both they were once again lost to the sands of time and human memory. A fitting tribute. But one that would rewrite the City itself.
The attempted merging of the MCR church had been one of the most chaotic times since the City of the Gods was built almost fifty ten-year ago.
It had not threatened to crack the City apart. But that was because neither Churches held the power or influence of the major churches like those of The Rolling Stones or Queen. Already left at the fringes of society it was understandable when they refused to bow to the city council when they demanded that the Church of the Killjoys and The Black Parade give up their temples and holy places and become a single entity relegated to a abandoned temple in the district given over to lesser Gods.
The churches both left the City, followers tearing themselves away by the thousand. Other smaller churches who shared their distaste for council rule followed. Nearly a tenth of the City gone within the year.
And that had been the best case scenario. Ke$ha's churches were not the biggest in the City, but tens of thousands of people pledged partial fealty to either the Goddess of Righteous Fury and Inner Strength or Church of Refracted Light and Divine Forgiveness. Who had not needed someone to help them find their inner strength or bolster their ability to forgive past wrongdoing. Dalton was not a woman of faith, and she had even laid out offerings to both churches a handful of times. Both were very understanding of people serving multiple Gods.
Dalton wanted to believe that meant they would be able to merge without incident. Helped along by the rules for the merging of churches that had been written into the City charter for almost twenty ten years now. They found a bare handful of Dual Gods since then. None with the number of believers MCR had, much less that Ke$ha had.
None til now at least. She traced a finger over the cheek of the Goddess Ke$ha standing before all the world and her sister Gods demanding justice. Would Grace want a second schism in their honor? Dalton couldn’t know that. Of all the grand ideas Grace had spouted, none of them seemed to address the choice before Dalton.
The gnawing grief that had driven her search all these years after Grace's death, said that Dalton should get this over with. Hand in her findings to Department chair and let the City Council decide what to do. It wasn’t a junior archivist’s place to hide the face of God. The truths that Grace had taught her said that everyone had a duty to their fellow humans to make the decision that was best for those around them, even if the price was high.
Dalton saved her data. The truth didn’t stop being true, just because you kept it secret.
She could name Ke$ha tomorrow, or perhaps the day after. Or perhaps she never would. For now, she needed to excise her grief. Visit Grace’s favorite places in the city.
Then once her mind was clear, she could look into the matter. Go to Ke$ha's two churches and research the messages they preached in the name of their Gods. She had the answer she had been searching for. Now she just had to find out if anyone was asking the right questions. And if they were, how to give them the answers they sought without tearing their churches or the City apart.
Her tab blanked out. The darkness hiding Ke$ha's true face from view like a veil.