XVI - Eternal Ethics

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The good news, if there is any, is that Adras has no idea I can simply end him. Even if he chooses not to come back in three days, even if he insists on maintaining the path of war; with a blink, with scarcely a through — poof! He can be eradicated and War would be back up for grabs.

It would make for a much shorter story, but it's still an option.

I chuckle as he storms out of the temple, nearly catapulting down the front steps. I follow his exit, halting at the entrance, watching. He sketches across the sandy desert that stretches out in languid brushstrokes of yellow and marigold. The sky is a perfect turquoise, not a cloud to be seen.

Adras collects his horse from a villainous looking man. I watch as my mortal kicks the sand in frustration, a strangled yell echoing upon the thin air. Unable to help myself, send the sand back into his face and make the temperature around them a few degrees hotter. It's a cruel trick, considering Adras and his friend hail from a more moderate climate — and he's so overdressed for desert travel in his brocade and silk.

The two men chat before riding off without a backward glance. They'll be back. I can taste Adras' resolve as it trails their retreat. He wants answers. He's aware something is happening to him; sensations strange and unnatural, terrifying yet irresistible. Despite our rocky first meeting, he knows I can help.

When he saw me in my true form, my eyes swirling and hypnotic, he saw someone like him. A powerful creature; formed by something more, something special. 

Giving him what he wants most, dangling the chance to become the Supreme Leader of the world is the quickest way to obtain his loyalty. The decision still feels muddy and dirty in my mouth, but I can't risk alternative outcomes. The devastation and destruction he could cause causes my heart to constrict with sour spasms.

Maybe he is special. How would I know? I've never come across a mortal who plucked a fundamental power out of thin air and claimed it for their own. Mortals can be made immortal — Hercules, Psyche, and the like — but mortals can't become gods. Can they? 

Diodorus. Gift from Zeus.

I step back from my vantage point and turn into the muted shadows and coolness of the temple's interior, pausing to right the trampled altar. With a twinkle of my fingers, the lamps reignite, their basins magically refilled with oil. The spill evaporates with merely a wink; new garlands of jasmine spring into being and adorn the golden tray.

The rustle of shocked whispers behind me let me know that the novices notice my open use of powers. Good, I'll need to put on a show for the next few days while Adras is off soul searching. Upon his return, it will be easier to ensnare him in some kind of master plan if he thinks I am legitimate. I will have to make my powers a bit more conspicuous, answer their questions with more knowledge, apply myself more diligently to the study of the religious texts.

Of most importance is ensuring I have a reason to leave the temple that both glorifies my position and is beneficial to the general population. I have reservations about admitting to being the goddess outright, it feels self-serving and manipulative. Even if it is the truth. It won't be difficult to drum up some vision, or call the priestesses and inform them that I have been directed by "the divine mother" to travel with the man.

A little lightning, a little magic, some flashes of smoke, and I'll have my hall pass easily enough. Plus, something more dramatic will fuel the fires of anecdotes that will be shared far and wide. If basic belief in the goddess is already common enough, what is a bit of embellishment to the story they're already telling themselves?

My confidence is short lived. 

I feel sick as the prospect of eternal godhood stretches out before me. I'll have to be everywhere at once; not only by Adras' side but in every hovel, every palace. I will need to live alongside every creature, grant every wish, answer every plea. Fifty, sixty, seventy years — a neverending lifetime of performing miracles and doling out judgments, passing rules and playing savior.

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