Phado sat on her throne in the center of temple. Female Phyrnosians knelt beside her, their baskets before them, waiting to obey any wish she might have. A long trail of supplicants snaked out the door, arguing with the priests and priestess guarding the doors. Everywhere Phyrnos leaned in. Plantlife grew towards the temple; Uquelycra skittered outside its walls, Gilahawks circled its spires. Worshippers screamed and sang in the street.
On her throne, Phado tapped her claws.
“That,” she said, suddenly. Her servants perked up and looked at her. “What is that?” she stood, sweeping her robes out behind her. “Coming towards us." She put her hands against her temples, listening. Later her priestesses would argue over what she had said, but Phado spoke clearly enough.
“This is not enough,” she said. She lifted up from her fleshly body and her spirit rose above the temple like the first Vyrnna itself. In the street worshippers fell to the ground in prayer.
Phado was listening.
Eriphet and Losira were returning to Phyrnos from Sand Maiden.
“Something’s happened here,” Losira said. They looked at each other. “Can you feel it?”
As she brought their ship in for a landing, the face of Phado loomed in front of the Glaspex, looking in at them. It broke apart around their ship like a cloud.
Losira blinked, scrubbed her eyes. "Did you see that?"
As they skudded to a landing, Glances-of-Phado bloomed around their sputtering craft. The apparition reformed, smaller this time. It continued to stare into their ship.
Eriphet was transfixed.
The goddess smiled at him. She withdrew, slowly, all the way back to her temple. A procession began to file from the temple gates. Priests and musicians, weavers of Vyrnna, all proceeding together towards the military camp where Eriphet and Losira were exiting their ship.
“This cannot possibly be what we think it is,” Eriphet said.
“But it is," Losira said. "Look."
The procession had arrived, carrying Phado in a gilded litter held high in the air.
As the goddess stepped down, her eyes were still on Eriphet.
All at once he remembered himself. “My Goddess,” he murmured, bowing low. “ My lady”
She laughed and pulled him to his feet, sucking him into a kiss. He was instantly and utterly seduced.
Seeing this, she said, “O, what’s this?" Then, more tenderly, "Eriphet. And you thought you didn’t believe."
He sunk to his knees and kissed her wrist worshipfully. Losira watched with a veiled gaze. She had known Eriphet for years, ever since he took an interest in her as a foundling left to the Academy. In those years she had been just another hatchlet with an interest in running Vyrnna. But she’d always thought, somehow, that maybe when she was older.. but who could compete with the Goddess?
She bowed and kissed the shadow of Phado.
“Come,” Phado said. She led Eriphet away.
They went into the center of the city, where they danced and ran as if possessed while Vyrnna shot up like fireworks around them.
And all of Phyrnos streamed towards its heart-city, Phayara Khado, and the new lovers in it.
That night, in the temple’s sleeping chamber, which was white as the moons and just as stark, Phado reclined over Eriphet, eating a Krystac. She fed him little bites, her tail draped across his.