Adras continues his march forward, leading the crowd to the center of the temple where a platform has been built over the central pool. Two thrones of intricately carved olive wood sit empty and waiting; their gnarled, twisting grain polished and buffed and waxed into hypnotic richness and luster.

Adras offers me his hand. With the slightest of squints, I take it, bracing myself for the bright rush that accompanies our touch and sears our skin. My hand nearly melts into his. I can almost ignore it, the effect his touch has, but Adras is not faring so well — he sucks in his cheeks and stops breathing. The hard set to his jaw speaks volumes as he pushes through the sensation of pain that manifests from our joined hands.

Changing our plan yet again, adapting in the moment, Adras leads me to the throne originally meant for him. It sits slightly higher than the other, by the slightest of margins; a subliminal message meant to be absorbed, not seen. He wordlessly begs me to sit.

Once I'm seated, he bows a third time, the faintest shadow of relief that we are no longer touching smoothing his brow. He speaks, gently bending in gratitude and submission to the crowd.

"The goddess' power flows through Eris. Approach her and she will bless and cure you. She will provide whatever you need."

He takes a seat on the throne beside me. With a solemn nod to Hagne and Xanthos, who stand at the head of the line of supplicants, they usher the first one forward.

It is an older man with a frail body and crooked back. Tears stream from his eyes and the front of his tunic is soaked through with the output of his weeping. He falls at our feet, groveling.

Even though I feel it again, that thrilling rush of worship, bile rises in the back of my throat and tamps down on its seductive wave of pleasure. 

Everything so far tonight has been fun, a tableau; a harmless, diverting piece of theatre. Now, as I prepare to allow my abilities to be viewed unhidden and unbound, I will cross the barriers I promised myself were sacrosanct. I will shred apart the integrity of myself and the humans for the glory of one, immaterial man.

I should have just killed Adras as Hades suggested. 

I close my eyes against the rising dread of what I must do.

"Oh! Powerful mother! I have been blessed and strengthened by thy powers in the past. I ask thee now, please, exalted one, if you will cure and restore the disfigurement of my back!" The man's voice is both muffled and magnified by his proximity to the floor.

Everything inside of me roars, protesting and fighting the actions I must take. I stop breathing. Tears collect in my eyes. I gulp for air like a dying trout.

If I cure this man, noble though it may be, I will start a chain reaction I don't know how to stop. The misinformation, the false hope. The delusion that will be passed from brainwashed parent to unsuspecting child. The trauma that devotion and worship can bring rends through me with steel claws; shredding my soul and cracking me into pieces. I will never be able to put myself back together.

Before I can fully crack up, before I ruin everything, I feel the weight and warmth of Adras' hand on mine. The heat, the centralization of power — without pain this time, curiously — grounds me and pulls me into focus. It stops me from withering on the vine and writing a story of disappointment. It halts me from turning everyone away, telling them it's all been a great mistake.

With a shuddering breath, I nod. Opening my eyes, I see only our hands, intertwined.

"The force and power of the goddess' power sometimes take Eris by surprise. She is a mere mortal, like yourself, and is easily overcome." Adras says, offering an excuse for my hesitation.

A relaxed puff of peachy peace sails over the room as the crowd nods, accepting his easy lie.

Another layer of mythology created in an instant. I am mortal, just like you, and have been blessed with something wonderful. Just like you might, one day.

Turning my head, I offer him a weak, worn down smile. Relief and lightness fill my body until I worry I might giggle with happiness. A reminder rings through my bones: I'm not alone. The two of us are in this together.

Adras nods, strange emotions swirl behind his eyes.

I center my focus on the man who still lays prostrate on the ground, "Rise, brother."

He does and I beckon him towards me with a gentle wave. I stand and rest my hands on his shoulders, concentrating on the muscle and bone and deformity that rests below his skin. I feel the curve of his spine; sense the weakness that gives him pain and prevents him from working. The malformation that denies security to his family.

I send a snaking chord of blinding, white light and push it down the central column of the man's skeleton. I feel as he grows taller under my hands, taste the knitting of meaty muscle around newly erect posture. For good measure, I spread the healing throughout his entire body, providing relief from soreness and fatigue. I don't make him stronger, but I make him whole — correcting the injuries of repetitive work and menial labor.

When I feel the healing complete, I remove my hands. The man now stands eye-level with me where before he was stooped. Tears fall freely down his cheeks.

"Thank you! Thank you!" He sobs, grasping my hands and kissing my knuckles. 

I nod uncomfortably, unable to form words.

"Spread the word that Eris and I will be in Aundus in four days time. We will see more open-hearted people, such as yourself." Adras announces, his voice low and hallowed.

His words rippled down my own spine with icy cool fingertips. Not altogether unwelcome against the hot flush of my skin. Where before he appeared to me as a boy, now it seems he is a man. One that is taking the mantle of his future role and responsibility seriously.

Something in him has changed.

Eris and the Mortal GodWhere stories live. Discover now