XXX - Vanagloria

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"Eris!"

"Eris! Wake up!"

Adras' voice swims to me, murky and far, far away. It sounds like he's gargling, his candlelight voice extinguished in choppy, icy water and warbling from another dimension.

The world is dark. I am warm. Why would I open my eyes? Why would I disturb my own peace? Wrapped up tightly in a soft blanket, my body caressed and supported by sand conforming around my bends and curves. I smile stupidly, luxuriating in a dreamworld. There, in the misty-foggy mind of sleep, I'm home again. Hades and Ares and Aphrodite sit with me in verdant gardens. A waterfall roars nearby. Deer and butterflies roam through wildflowers.

"Eris! Wake up now!"

A sharp, splintering burn rips through my dreams and melts my skin with swirling, sinful lava. A fleshy vice grips my shoulders. All the fire and fury and frustration in the universe crushes my bones and manhandles my muscles. The shock and pain and gritty-realness of it pulls me out of sleep.

I gasp and my eyes snap open. I still see nothing but darkness. Slowly, gently, night-cloaked images come into focus. A canvas tent. Tangled bedrolls. Adras looking panicked and...angry. So angry.

Has it really happened? Was it just a passing nightmare?

No. It was real. There is no cause for Adras to look at me with hatred other than harsh reality. No reason his clenching fists would cause the wind to still. He often described his power as a flame living in his chest. I feel it. It seeps out of him, bright orange and violent. Hungry. Wanting. A livid, lingering oppression that stifles the air and turns his usually affable face to stone. The tent is hot, simmering with his heat.

"What was that?" he asks. He's still dusted in a fine powder of ashy corpses. His eyes flicker with murder. He still speaks in the cataclysmic language of the gods, his words rumble the core of the earth and shake the stars loose from the heavens. They fall, one by one, onto the roof of the tent with faint music box notes.

"The parade?" I'm confused by the darkness of night, the groggy hold of sleep.

"It never started. Or it's due to start today. We're back at camp. No one has left. We went...backward?"

Nyx gave you one gift.

She moved time. We went back in time. I fight against my jumble of thoughts, the roar and whisper and taunt of so many images and suggestions moving in and around my mind at once. I don't know where to start — or how.

"You can start by telling the truth," Adras says simply. His words crest and crash with the pulsating force of storm-swept seas. Waves and swells of eternity-won wisdom.

Something is different. Something is wrong. I noticed it at the destroyed city when he made the world tremble. I notice it anew now. The power and ferocity of the gods live within him. It's hard to look at him. Hard to maintain eye contact with his raw, unmasked power. Has it always lived so close to the surface or does the pain and torture of the day prick and poke and prod it into its bald potential?

I know when the game is up. I know when I've been cornered. I nod, accepting that it's time to come clean. I clear my throat. "Yeah. Um....you better bring Hagne and Xanthos."

Looking almost as if he's glad to be out of my sight he nods. Standing up and turning sharply. He pauses at the tent flap, he looks down at the sand. "Why aren't you more upset?"

Oh, Eris, don't be so childish. You had to know there would be trials.

I expected trials. I expected tests. I'm not an idiot. 

The fearsome exchange echoes in my mind. 

"You knew." Damnation falls from his lips in the cold utterance of two, small words. Adras scoffs and leaves the tent. A slippery, barren void replaces his presence. I shudder, feeling a ripple of it futter between my fingers.

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