XXIII - Fraud, cult leader, fake

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A week after the longest night, Adras and I make our way across the desert into the capital city of Aundus. The sand pelts my face with relentless drumming, the grains a rough accusation burned into my flesh.

Fraud, fraud. Fraud, cult leader, fake.

"Cult leader" might be a bit rich. I haven't made anyone stay up for forty-eight hours without sleep and I haven't demanded they hand over all of their worldly possessions and money. Or implemented weird sex rules. Yet.

It won't — it can't — come to that. I will find a way to rip away the cursed hoop pierced through my flesh and leave this planet before things get too dire, either for myself or the humans.

Maybe I should set up a Nike factory, just in case. I snort away my dark thoughts, both amused and horrified.

The sun beats down on us and has the effect of making me extremely grumpy. Thirsty, dirty, utterly boiling, and hangry, I growl. The low, feral noise rumbles through my chest. The heat from the horse's body between my legs seeps and slides into my muscle. The additional temperature drives me crazy. 

Have I ever been this hot in the entire history of the universe? Survey says: no.

"How the fuck did you travel to the temple in your fancy, long-sleeved, Pernathic clothes?" I ask Adras, shouting across the distance between us.

He rides a few feet away, brow furrowed, a shawl wrapped around his head and covering his mouth. I can't tell if he's happy or angry. In response to my voice, his head turns and his eyebrows lift, but he didn't hear me. There's too much noise surrounding us. I brought one-hundred priestesses on our trek; they ride behind us in ten wagons that are adorned with bells and wind chimes. The caravan creates a racket that rivals only the heat in the battle for my supreme annoyance.

"Nothing!" I shout back, shaking my head. The question can wait. It wasn't even that good of a conversation starter anyway.

At least Adras has decided to adopt the Aundun attire. If I had to watch him ride through the desert in his usual brocade and long sleeves I would probably kill him in a heat-induced rage. 

Would that make things easier?

It's not that long of a ride from the temple to the capital city — only half a day — but it has been a long time since I traveled like a mortal. It's been an especially long time since I have traveled via horseback. I forgot how much I hate the stinking, scratching, sweaty experience. It's much easier if you can simply blink yourself into whatever location you desire. 

I might be nearly-all-powerful, but I doubt if I could wink one-hundred people into Aundus. It would be a bit grandiose, a bit tacky — plus, I am starting to suspect that Adras knows too much. He watches too closely, an ever-present guard with shimmering, twinkling eyes. He delights when he picks up on clues of my immortality that I am too lazy or too tired to hide. After four thousand years of looking over my shoulder, it's a relief to use my magic without excess censure or fear of discovery. At least between the two of us I can blow off the pressure from time to time without fanfare. 

It was a nice surprise, how easily we settled into a mutually respectful working relationship. Where I first found him cocky and a little grating, I now know he's essentially harmless. A tad too submissive and obedient than I would like, but beggars can't be choosers. It was a relief to shed my early haughtiness and gauge day by day what he was feeling. Rather than wear him down with an aloof character of godhood thwarted, it was more comfortable to work together.

I tell myself it is better that he doesn't know. That if I'm worried about being on equal ground it is best for him to continue in his assumption that I am a mortal like him. With that understanding, we can continue to sew the threads of this association into something that has mutual respect and power. Maybe even friendship?

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