The thrill was gone.
Or rather, it was not like before.
At first, he had felt privileged to do the gods’ delicate work. Now he only felt used by a power he did not understand. Still, his work was sacred, or so they assured, and he could not quit now.
The chamber stifled Mylos. Stone walls closed on him from every side. He needed to breathe fresh air, clear his mind from the latest obsession so he stepped outside. The day was magnificent. Primax, the brightest star in their sky, lit the high plateau where Ashantarie rose in silent splendor. The city had stood on the flat hilltop since time’s beginning, the pulsing heart of their advanced civilization. Its stone buildings, tall and elegant, attracted Primax’s blinding light, which shed illusory reflections with the passing day. Most of the official buildings, Temples in particular, were pyramidal in style. The triangular masonry structures climbed up to the sky. Some had smooth, steeply sloping sides that met at an apex. Others had sharply angled steps, which reached a towering altar at the center of the top platform. The pyramids, standing near the rich part of the city, dotted the landscape and commanded an attention that was hard to deny. In fact, many fell in love with Ashantarie after just one look.
Mylos was proud to live in the cultured city that people traveled great distances to visit. And most of them came to him, Ashantarie’s spiritual leader. They needed his advice on family matters, business or love, bringing gifts to thank him in advance of the good fortune he would bestow on them. As if I had any real power, Mylos mused wryly. Well…maybe once he did. After many repetitions, he was not so sure.
Perhaps it was not entirely his fault. Someone else told him otherwise. This was surprising in itself. Blood Divines, such as himself, hardly received advice from commoners. Even more unsettling, he was listening and it was getting to him. Mylos shook his head. Lately, these thoughts had the uncanny ability of making him lose perspective. He needed to get a grip on himself before he slipped down a dangerous path. In these cases, nothing worked better than his own special therapy, the same he intended to pursue right at the moment.
People greeted him, busy with chores and businesses, but never enough to spare a quick hello to a very important member of the community. Walking rapidly, Mylos acknowledged everyone, though he did not stop to chat. His purpose clear, he headed to the city’s outskirts and climbed the steep hill to Primax’s Temple.
Huge stones set in a circle protected the sacred open area. Only the autarchy had permission to cross its boundaries and of course, Mylos was more than qualified. With a firm step, he strode across the stone ring, quickly approaching its center, then stopped to look around. Luckily, no one was around at lunchtime, the hottest time of day. Ashantarie had a fiery climate all year round. Primax’s merciless rays enflamed the desert plateau and temperatures quickly rose to high degrees already by early morning. The scorching light firing the sky was probably the reason for Ashantarie’s dark-skinned population. In order to protect the delicate flesh, color had turned increasingly black despite indiscriminate use of the pyramid’s dim interiors. Pale skins, the few that reached Ashantarie, were a rarity. Once on the desert plateau, they had to adapt to the scorching blaze. Naturally, one of the best strategies was to avoid them altogether by hiding inside dark interiors, especially during the hottest times.
This did not apply to Mylos. He loved both the blinding light and the heat, always looking for excuses to escape the glum pyramids. The confined space and lack of light wore on him, a strain he found difficult to endure. So he actively sought Primax’s incandescence, especially in the Sacred Stones Temple, built to receive from the first to the last burning rays during a day.
Glancing at the structure, Mylos noticed that Primax had reached the zenith. His timing was perfect. Taking off his robe, he went to the circle’s center and stretched out, completely naked in a cross-style position. Eyes closed, he let the heat enflame him, warming cold bones, stinging the skin with small fiery darts. His flesh tingled under the attack, but he did not move. His amber skin had a way to protect itself so it was just a matter of getting used to it. If the first impact was always the hardest at a superficial level, the subsequent waves reached much deeper. Mylos relaxed, enjoying the merciless assault. Liquid fire penetrating all the way down to his bones felt exquisite so he shifted slightly to press every curve closer to the ground, soon engulfed by the flames burning above as well as below him. By then, his only desire was to melt, liquefy and blend with the hot waves, becoming one with them and escaping all boundaries.