XXI - Thievery

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I wasn't wholly convinced that this plan would bear fruit until I see the reservation and fear in Eris' eyes. When she falters, long enough to look human, terror-struck in the face of the crooked man's plea for healing.

It scares me. Tears through me with claws made of ice. We have them in the palm of our hands, ready and willing and believing. Her hesitation speaks volumes.

She knows it will work. 

She knows the impact her actions will have, how the stories will spread, how the following and awe will increase. Crazily enough I can taste her fear. It's saltwater and mango and waterlogged. There is a ripple of something foreboding; as if she has interfered before — somewhere far, far away and long, long ago. It went poorly. 

Eris' is paralyzed by past mistakes. Feels doomed that she will step into the same failed footsteps. Shining bright and lavender on the top of her emotions is worry. Pure, crystalized uneasiness that imposing a living, breathing, working deity on those who have gathered before us will subvert their goodwill and cloud their reasoning. In short, ruin them.

I've never felt her before. Not like this. Tasting her emotions, sensing her feelings. It's overwhelming and gums my tongue to the roof of my mouth.

Her thoughts are shocking because they so closely mirror the teaching I received growing up. The judgment and derision against the mind-softening effects of religion. The dulling and slowing of a human's natural resources: reason, cunning, wit, and free thought. The bright tang of her disturbance never dissipates, even after the old man walks away and she is on to healing the next supplicant. 

Dread hangs like an ax over both our heads. But we endure.

The sun nears its midday position by the time we've finished our final acts of grace, a new day brushing away the magic of the night. I am exhausted, the priestesses who assisted throughout the night look drained. Xanthos and Hagne sit on a bench, staring out into space, their faces blank. 

We're all tired, but no one can compete with the heavy, drowsy fatigue that opens up like a gaping canyon around Eris. During the night she healed injuries, soothed minds, created purses full of gold out of thin air, set bones, righted relationships, and comforted loss. Deep, dark purple circles are embossed under her eyes and her shoulders droop.

As the last of the petitioners is ushered away, both of us raising a weary hand in thanks, Eris collapses onto her throne. She hasn't sat down in more than seven hours. Hagne, to her credit, rushes over with two clay mugs of steaming tea laced with honey and the cloying promise of a sleeping draught.

Head propped up on one hand, Eris turns and looks at me. Despite her exhaustion, a pleased light dances behind her eyes. "Three-thousand down, two-hundred million to go."

"Two-hundred million what?" I yawn.



"Across the world, Adras."

"You know the exact number?" It's enough of a startling data-point to rouse me, if only momentarily.

Her brows lift quickly and I see a flush of peachy-pink alight along the slopes of her cheek. "No, of course not," she says quickly.

I smile, tucking that information away for later. She is unquestionably stronger and more powerful than she lets on.

Less mortal too, I suspect.

I am willing to protect her secrets, for now, but I will demand answers soon enough.

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