There were many reasons why I decided to spend some time as my Avatar instead of remaining locked up in Ciel'ostra's temple. High on the list was were the facts that I had been slowly building up more flame, and had a bit to spend if I needed, and that I simply hadn't spent enough time in that half of myself. But also... after that tour, I just needed to get out.

So rather than pacing in my small rock hideout, I opened the concealed door behind the waterfall and peered out around the falling water. The far distant road I'd occasionally seen travelers on was empty, for now, so I climbed up the rock wall to the cliff above and stretched, enjoying the smells of nature. Ciel'ostra's temple was fine, and there were a few plants scattered around, but mostly the place smelled of sweat, leather, and iron. Mostly, honestly, sweat.

Granted, my body couldn't help reminding me that it was women's sweat... strong, fit women who were pleasant enough, and they did bathe regularly, so it wasn't as though I had been surrounded by filthy mud-grubbing people. But... it wasn't exactly fresh air. I would not have expected flowers or perfume in the Temple of Blades, but some part of me did wish it was a little less pungent.

But I took a stroll upstream, enjoying having two eyes again, and spent just a trickle of power trying to look for any signs of human civilization. The cliff I was on was not quite the highest point nearby, but it was close; there was a hill perhaps a half hour's walk away, and I aimed towards it once I found a clear path through the trees. I could probably have just flown, or even teleported over, but under the circumstances, I was leery of wasting power on nothing. If Raine needed my help soon, or if I had any need to demonstrate my powers while at the Temple... well, I could use power if I needed it, but not for frivolous things.

Mostly, I paid attention to the area. I wasn't sure at this point that I wanted this area to become my first Temple, but it was the only place I had that was really mine. The area above the cliff was a very wide plateau, so far as I could tell, which slowly sloped up towards a cluster of very high mountains in the distance. It was not clear to me how far one would need to go to find a gentle slope up onto the plateau, but the cliff was high enough that it wasn't going to be easily climbed.

The river itself had carved a relatively sharp channel, which I suppose meant that it didn't flood often. If it did, I thought, there would be a lot more erosion in the land immediately adjacent. Perhaps the plateau didn't get a lot of rain--just snow on the mountains, enough rain for a few lakes, something like that? My godly body informed me that there had been some light rains since I had been there, and some thunderstorms off the cliff, but not yet a storm above the plateau.

The area around the river was more or less clear of trees and brush, probably because of the thorngoats I'd seen when I first arrived. They were actually fairly common, and the ones on the other side of the river didn't seem to care one way or another about me. I suspected, again, that meant no humanoid hunters, since the river wasn't wide enough to protect them from a bow and arrow. The ones on this side gave me the stinkeye and pawed at the ground on occasion, but when I continued on past, they didn't get any more aggressive.

When I finally got to the hill, I found only more forest on top. So, stretching my arms and legs a bit, I decided to climb up to the top of the tallest tree. I was no expert on trees; I wished I was, because many of the scents here were familiar, and I wondered how similar or different they were from the trees of Earth. They were definitely not evergreens, though, with leaves and nuts that seemed eager to fall when the season changed.

I... honestly had no idea what to expect of the climate, except that the mountain was clearly snowpeaked. For all I knew, it was the peak of summer and a heavy winter would begin soon, but... the Temple of Blades also seemed like it was designed for a temperate climate. Or maybe they just accepted exposure to the elements as part of the training they had to go through?

When I got to the top of the tree, found a nice convenient split at the top to sit on, and looked around, I was somewhat relieved to find no signs of settlements. In fact, even putting a bit of power into my godly Eyes, I could see nothing on the plateau itself that suggested people, certainly not within a hundred miles. I did get a nice clear look at the mountain, and that, too, was pretty barren. It was too distant to see without a nice telescope...

Actually, why couldn't I do that? I considered, and shook my head. It wasn't a project for now, but also, I'd used binoculars enough to know that stability was a huge issue. I could appear lenses in midair to magnify an image, but they would only be useful as long as they didn't jiggle at all. And all so what, I'd know for sure that a mountain two hundred miles away didn't have a small settlement on it?

Another quick scan of the horizon suggested to me that the plateau was probably a sharp drop off in most directions, at least nearby. It was... subtle, from this angle, but I was sure I could see the line of trees stop, and then an ocean of trees below them that was different. I smirked to myself. That probably meant that what I wanted to do was settle a town below the waterfall, and build the temple either into the base of the cliff or around the basin. But... I still liked the look from on top, and it seemed a shame to have everyone else confined to the ground while I got to see the horizon. Maybe build the temple into the cliff all the way up?

I enjoyed sitting in the tree for another good half hour, as the wind blew and the sun moved from midday towards afternoon. Suddenly, I was startled to hear, from my other body, the sound of the lock being thrown; I split my attention, but that body was sitting perfectly still and meditating, and I didn't bother moving as the door opened and a different woman carried in a plate with bread and cheese, and a small cup of water. When she didn't see any reaction, she set them down and closed the door, which was fine with me.

I realized after the panic eased off that she was probably another one of Ciel'ostra's candidates. She had a kind face, if perhaps on the grumpy side, though again she was some kind of halfbreed I didn't recognize, on the short side of average but taller than Miana by half a head, and wide, with dark skin speckled with some kind of fine scales, but also very thick, long dark brown hair that was kept in a braided ponytail of some kind. She wore three sheaths on her belt, I noticed, though that seemed an odd number.

As for the food, I... didn't actually want to spend time back in the temple, not yet, so I returned my full focus to my avatar and climbed down the tree, heading back for the river.

There was, of course, animal life in the woods. Although my Avatar was nimble enough not to make a lot of noise, I still scared them away with some regularity. I could... almost sense the voices of animals, from the Avatar body, although I didn't try to develop that ability. I just got a vague sense of thoughts, sometimes strong, sometimes weak, some youthful and exuberant, some timid. I did, at one point, see something like a stag off in the trees, who eyed me without immediately fleeing, and I could definitely tell from looking at him that the sense of thoughts I got was linked to his mental state. It was nothing complicated, not language, but it was a kind of instinctive self-reflection. In his eyes, I was something of a mystery, and although he was not really interested... he wanted to know to protect others? I assumed family, but I wasn't sure.

And of course the thorngoats. I wondered if they had good milk, meat, hair... anything really, that might be of value for a budding settlement. Most likely, a local could give me an instant answer to the question, unless the goats were only up on the plateau. I was no more eager to have an official connection with goats than I was to be connected with spiders, but if it would be of use to my people, it bore thinking about.

Spiders... once I looked for webs, I did see some of those big, bird-catcher-sized webs in the trees, which was a little off-putting, but they weren't common. Closer to ground, my eyes could detect bits of web here and there, and occasionally caught sight of a spider in their web, but I couldn't tell one type from the next without spending more effort.

Too soon, I was back at the cliff, and I took off my shoes and walked knee-deep in the river for a few minutes, feeling the sensations against my skin. It was weird to note that touching the water gave me a kind of magical insight into what was upstream and downstream of me, in a way I didn't entirely understand. Most likely, because my avatar was more attuned to magic than me, this was just an aspect of elemental magic I would discover later... but it was interesting.

Finally, though, my mortal body reminded me patiently that I had food waiting there, and I climbed back down to my hidey-hole with the Avatar. Although that body didn't need food, I'm sure I would do better if I could find food for it somehow; with a little flame as I was getting, whatever I was using to keep it healthy was probably more of a drain than I really wanted right now.

Returning to my body, I took a measured pace through the bread and cheese, discovering as I did that the bread had been warm when I received it. I don't know why I was expecting cold bread, except that it would fit with my treatment thus far. Nobody had been rude... well, except the women who gave me bad directions coming in. They just treated me like an outsider, one who was only vaguely welcome.

When I turned to look for the book, though, I noticed something that made so little sense as to absolutely terrify me. Nobody had come or gone except the one woman with food, but right on top of the book was a sheet of paper that I immediately recognized as being American standard letter size notebook paper, 8-1/2"x11", with punched holes for a three-ring binder and light blue ruled lines. It was folded in half hamburger style and set up like a greeting card, and on the side facing me was written in English, in thick black ink, "READ ME".

The language I had been speaking and reading and writing since coming to this world was not English, for all that it felt equally natural, and it felt incredibly odd to see what was clearly and deliberately an artifact from Earth here in my small cell. There was no feel of magic, though I thought I detected the smell of ozone from the paper as I picked it up. Opening it, I found the following written inside, in what I had to assume from context was standard black ball-point pen ink:

Two days hence, at ten minutes to midnight, I would like to speak with you. Either "place" is fine, although I suspect you will want to be here. I will come to you, but please do not tell your host. I swear to do no harm to her, or you, and no secrets shall be stolen or revealed but my own. RSVP and leave this card by the window one hour prior. -E

[ ]Y [ ]N
[ ] Here [ ] There

I put down the sheet of paper, baffled. I had been told that I was not the only offworlder that this world had ever seen, but Alanna certainly seemed to think I was the only offworlder to become a god. So what the fuck was this? Who did this? Where did it come from? How did this note get here while I was meditating--certainly I wasn't that out of it? And why did they want to meet at midnight--no, specifically ten minutes to midnight?


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About the author


Bio: A lost soul looking for a path through life. My history has not provided a stable foundation quite yet, so who knows when it will all collapse. Hopefully not soon!

I have been writing stories since I was a child but I wasn't really encouraged or taught. I have developed bad habits and gotten lost inside myself, but still intend to keep fighting and trying to get myself set upright. Fortunately and not, I am not quite alone, but it's always hard to have the wrong kind of help, isn't it?

Best of luck to anyone silly enough to find this page. Work hard and don't end up like me. It has its upsides, but it's really not worth it...

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