Brand New Serial Story! The Path of the Gods, Ch. 1

Julie L

“Get it off! Get it off! Get it off!” Arms flapping.
Everyone spoke at once.
“Is it a stinger?”
“A biter?”
“Get what off?”
Mouth gaping, she looked at her right hand, covered in blue flames. “What do you mean ‘Get what off?!’ Get THIS off!” She waved her engulfed hand in front of their faces.
The confused looks, children sidling toward their parents, made her pause. Looking down, there was no pain. Not a hint of heat. Blue flames should have crisped her flesh to a crumbling blackened heap on the ground. But fully intact—wiggling her fingers—and functioning parts sat, waiting, in defiance of logic.
She tried one more time, voice trembling slightly. “You don’t see anything?” she asked, flaming hand in front of her. Moving to the corner of the caravan, plopping down in defeat, she stared at the flames for the rest of the tour of the main Sites.
Getting off the caravan, she couldn’t help noticing that everyone let her go first, pulling their bags closer when she walked past. With a sigh, and flames still going strong, she walked to the steeds who pulled the caravan, trying to pet them. But even they shied away, and not wanting them to bolt and do harm, she walked to the lot, digging for her keys.
“You know, to put that out, just do this,” a smooth male voice said from behind her.
Before she’d had a chance to see who spoke, a large hand took her flaming one, and curled her fingers into a loose fist. When his hand left hers...“It’s gone!”
“Yes,” he said with smile. “It’s not hard to control, once you learn how.”
“How what? Because invisible flames are so normal.” Stepping back, she took a long look at the man. Taller than normal, trim but well-built, and not in the I-Spend-My-Life-Making-My-Body-Look-This-Way, middling brown hair with some white at the temples, eyes a soft blue-green. Nice.
He continued to smile, saying nothing more.
“Uh. Thanks. I need to go now.” She took hesitant steps toward her vehicle, half expecting him to say something else.
He didn’t.
Driving away, she looked behind her. No one was there.
* * * *
“I’m telling you, bright blue flames, that only I could see,” she said, tele on the counter, open so she could talk and cook.
Her friend’s not so soft snort was her answer. “Yeah, except for the good looking guy, whose name you didn’t even ask for! Seriously, Yana, where was your head?”
“Wrapped up in the fact that I was on fire, not burning, and no one else saw it, but one random weird guy, who stalks lots for fun!” A zing in her head told her that wasn’t quite accurate, but she shoved it aside, not wanting to listen. She sighed, “I’m tired, Atty.”
“You keep saying you were born tired,” Atty replied, concern coloring her humor. “I was worried when you said you were going to do a tour of the Sites after spending every waking moment of three rises on classes and coursework...”
“...and then doing a late flight and not giving myself another rise to recover before going back to work,” Yana finished. She yawned, tears coming to her eyes. “I’ve heard it before, and it’s nothing I didn’t tell myself. But really, how many times in my life will I be on that side of the continent? I mean, it’s where it all started! Who wouldn’t want to do a tour?”
“Normal beings who like sleep,” Atty laughed. “It was a working visit, not a freetime. They had every click laid out, from rise to rise, before you stepped foot there.” She paused. “Are you sure you didn’t hallucinate the flames?”
She’d been chopping a little more vigorously than needed, her pile of pieces now too small. She grabbed some broth and thickener, deciding that there was still enough bread to make it a solid meal. “Yeah, I wish. You should have seen the stares, like I’d gone out of my head and was about to take them all with me.”
“You sure you weren’t?” Atty laughed.
“Ha. Ha. Funny. If I hadn’t been so terrified...” she paused. “The flames were real. I mean, who would imagine that? My gray matter is way too grounded to come up with anything that cool on it’s own. And the man... the guy was real. He touched me, and was solid.”
“Until he disappeared, you mean,” Atty replied cautiously.
“Yeah, that was really weird. Nothing was around that could have hidden him, I don’t know...” she trailed off. Uneasiness filled her. Life had been difficult lately, anew position with more work and not enough compensation, and all after being left for someone else by the one person... she shook her head. Gone and done. Moving on.
“Anyway, can’t really change what happened, can I?” Yana said with a false lightness.
“If you’re even sure it happened at all,” Atty replied.
Yana shrugged, but didn’t answer. “I’m ending now, I have to get up early.”
“Why? You don’t go back for another rise.”
“There is entirely way too much to accomplish before taking over my new position, you know that,” Yana chided.
“I still can’t believe you decided to take the position in the first place. It’s not like you’re getting enough for it,” Atty said.
“I know. And, no, it’s not enough, but it’s a step up in title, and if I ever want to get more, I had to do something, make some kind of move...”
“Yeah, but... it’s so much more work.” Atty said, concern lacing every word.
Yana said with another eye watering yawn, “I do need to go, so I can eat and pass out.”
After hanging up, she plopped heavily into the nearest lounger, shoulders hunched, head down. The Sites alone, by themselves, had been overwhelming, and she had yet to process all that had happened with her hand.
Leaning forward, elbows on knees, head still down, she moved her hand back and forth, looking for the faintest hint of blue.
No spark. No flames.
Nothing but normal flesh.
Opening and closing her fist, she tried to conjure a solid image of the man, and found it impossible. He was tall, much taller that her by perhaps a head or head and a half. His hair was close in shade to her dark blonde, but his eyes... the soft blue-green was seared into her mind. But nothing more. Unless close enough to see his eyes, she wasn’t sure she’d be able to recognize him again.
With a heavy sigh, and knowing her alert would make noise too early, she trudged across the hard floor, reaching for the shades in her bedroom. Blocking out the moons was the only way she could sleep anymore, though too much blackness sent panic streaking in... she clipped them just so... the thin sliver of light would be enough.
* * * *
Not at all close to containing his glee, Donal rushed, with a few hop-skips, down the gleaming hallway to his meeting. Sparkles and gleaming was the hallmark of the Hereafter, and nice, but he’d missed the colorings of the Mortal realm.
Bursting through the wooded iron door, “It worked! She saw me! I could touch her!” he gushed. He leapt over the seat, landing and sitting down at the same time.
Looking up from one of many pads on the table in front of him, raised eyebrows were the only answer Donal got.
Sighing, Donal replied, “Yeah, I know, I know.” Sitting straight and taking on a deeper, serious tone to his voice,  he continued, “it’s not behavior becoming of an Incorrupt who dwells in Deisos to jump over a seat, or be loud,” he intoned with a grin. A glimmer of humor touched the dark eyes across from him. “But, come on! It worked!” Leaning forward, he pressed. “Ebbe, you weren’t certain before, are you convinced now?”
Ebbe sat forward a bit in his high-back seat. Pausing to gather his thoughts, he twined his fingers together, leaning his chin on pointed fingers. “I am not completely convinced it is supposed to be this way. She is still among the Mortals, and is nowhere near to her time of death. Nothing in any writings or any foretellings have mentioned the Leveling happening when the one is Mortal.” He hesitated. “If she even is the one.”
Throwing his hands up, Donal rolled his eyes.
“Seriously? She had blue flames on her hand, that only she and I could see!” Taking a deep breath to contain himself, he continued. “Who else has blue flames? Especially to show up as the first pure elemental reaction at this point in the Path of Progression, if not the Leveler? Many writings are clear about that.”
“True,” Ebbe nodded. “But much else aside from that just does not line up, add up, nor make sense.”
“You have a valid point about that,” Donal said, sitting back and crossing his long legs. He rubbed his eyes.
From the moment Yana had crossed into the territory of the Sites, he’d been shadowing her, unseen, to see the decisions she made, where she went, and the reactions she would have. While the dead, both Corrupt and Incorrupt, did not require sleep as the Mortals did, it didn’t mean that several Mortal days with no rejuvenating hadn’t taken its toll on him. Some of the Demons had sent
Incorrupt to attack Yana, and he’d blocked them,
sending them back to Ochuroma.
“I am assuming that smile playing on your mouth has to do with Yana, and not the Incorrupt you sent back in pieces and chunks?” Ebbe said, a grin playing at his own mouth.
“Sure, if you say so,” Donal replied with a chuckle. “It’s not like I haven’t wiped the halls with them before. You’d think by now Demons would send better warriors.” He stopped, worry crossing his face. “If the timing is now, and she is going to become the Leveler as a Mortal, how is this not going to kill her? The Divide is still there for her. She doesn’t remember herself. She doesn’t remember before... she didn’t recognize me, at all.”
“Did you really expect her to know you?” Emme asked, walking in through a side door. She was as small as Ebbe was large, a perfect contrast to him. Petite to his mass, fairer to his darker, all smiles to his seriousness, her red hair and light eyes to his deep brown that only showed red in certain lights.
Donal stood up, not knowing that she was going to be present, and attempted to pull the wrinkles out of his Mortal clothes, cursing his lapse in judgement about changing before showing up to the meeting. Emme was Ebbe’s best part, they were never far from each other.
She reached up and patted his cheek. “It’s cute how you try to straighten up, after the fact.” She paused. “Again.”
Donal turned red and cleared his throat. “Yeah. I... and no, I didn’t expect her to know me, not really, but it’s been so long, and we were... she was mine and I was hers.” He choked up and looked away, blinking fast. “I mean, she is mine, and I am hers.”
Emme’s fingertips pushed him lightly back down in his seat.
She sat next to him, and he couldn’t suppress a snicker at how the furniture swallowed her, and while his legs bent up to accommodate their length, her feet were dangling.
She swatted his arm. “I know I’m short, my child, I’ve been short my entire existence, you don’t need to always laugh about it.”
“I’d say I’m sorry, Emme, but it’s hard not to at least grin when your feet are so far from the floor,” he said.
“Anyway, back to the point,” she said with a mock glare. “It does not matter if you or Ebbe are convinced, the Concilium will decide whether or not to Progress her through Becoming.”
“Speaking of which, they await your report,” Ebbe said, standing from behind the desk. Though shorter than Donal, Ebbe’s build overshadowed his own lean frame. Three of him could stand shoulder to shoulder and barely match Ebbe’s shoulders. As with all gods, Ebbe had no vestiges of Mortal’s “fluff” as it was sometimes called, and Donal couldn’t help but wonder if he’d ever fill out. Maybe after his Progress to godhood was finalized.
A portal appeared, and through it, a double doorway extended from the floor upward, disappearing from sight.
The entrance to the Concilium Chambers.
Ebbe gently engulfed Emme’s hand in his, and walked through.
Donal faked a grin for them, pushing the nausea down, shoving the foreboding to the depths of his soul, lest they read his discontent. And followed.