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Thread Contributor: SethYou're No Priestess tag: Raani
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#1
Once Seth had grown beyond the borders of his and Adhira’s home universe, he hadn’t seen a reason to stop. His wasn’t a rule of fear or minute control, after all. All Seth wanted from a world, any world, was belief. And if he sought peace while he was at it, really who would blame him? What better world to live in than a peaceful one? One where you lived, died, and went to the Underworld to continue your journey? There were entire universes where Seth was a singular god, life and death rolled into a single being, and sometimes, if not so often as he had once done, Seth…. Slipped away to spend a day in one of those quiet, peaceful places. He would go and he would appear to some of his people, be it as a man or a Sha, screech owl or leviathan, he would bless some, curse a few who needed it, and be away, belief renewed once again, to relax somewhere quiet. He preferred libraries, where he could be less than alone, but where there was an aura of serenity, where he could read a book, or just sit and consider something. They were places where he could simply be, though granted, he still heard the prayers of the faithful; he would never find a place to hide from that, but sometimes, for a few hours, he could ignore it.

He always returned from such a trip wearing a quiet smile, eyes serene, his gait easier than it had been before he had disappeared.

Today, he was striding down the street, dressed in gray, twirling a soft yellow flower that wasn’t native to Hub or any of the universes he and his mate ruled together in his fingers. Adhira would like it; a tiny bit of life with color and beauty to it. He didn’t pretend to guess what she might do with the flower; she might plant it, let it seed more of its kind somewhere, or perhaps she would simply set it somewhere. It wasn’t as though Seth would let it die.

Even as he looked up from the flower, from his thoughts, Seth’s smile reached his eyes. It might be incongruent, to see such warmth and happiness radiating from a god of death and storms, whose aura was thick around him now, if streaked with something...other. It always was when he came from a universe wherein he was a singular god; it was easy to relax into that role, to be a god of all things, to give warmth as easily as chill, joy and pleasure along with pain and sadness. He was more there, and yet he was able to be more himself, as well.

The joy faded from him when he saw his daughter, however. A daughter that Adhira had kept from him, as she sometimes did, a goddess that, according to his wife, was a priestess of her mother. And yet…. Looking at her now, she was no priestess. With a twist of his hand, he sent the little flower to his temple, his rooms, to give to Adhira later, when he was less… Angry. His stride grew less relaxed and took on a purpose, his voice grave, “Daughter.”

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#2
The tones of her father's voice rattled Hauhet less than they ought. Just as a moment previous, he had been filled with light from his trip to his universe- Hauhet was at that moment, the eternity of the cosmos and the sea, though it faded more with each step she took into the hub. The expanse of ocean and space could not be cowed by death. She was infinity, and it took her a moment to remember that she was not.

Raani shrugged her shoulders as her drapings melted once more into those of a high priestess. She braided her hair as her father strode towards her, inclining a bow to the superior God. "Master." She offered quietly, dressed as she was, to go and take her place in her father's temple.

"How may I be of aid?" She spoke, calm and polite. If her father chose to say something about what he had or had not seen, so be it. But until then, she was his humble servant and would do as he asked.

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#3
The fact that she wasn’t immediately intimidated because he spoke gruffly to her spoke well of her, and earned his daughter a touch of respect from Seth. In whatever universe that she was coming back to Hub from, she might be eternal, she might be infinity, but here, she wasn’t.

She may have changed her clothing, but Seth didn’t simply forget what he had seen, what he knew.

His daughter, their daughter, was going out there and amassing power. And Seth had to ask the question, if only to himself; for what? Other than to destroy her family, her brother, her mother, him, what could she be working so hard to gain power to do? The fact of the matter was that as their child, if she wanted something, she could have had it.

Why could that be enough?

It wasn’t anger in Seth’s eyes, but pain and betrayal. She called him ‘Master’ and asked how she could aid him, but he knew, he had seen. There was no trust in his hazel eyes at her changed tone and appearance. But he wasn’t cold, either. He nodded to her, deeply enough to be an echo, recognition of the respect that she feigned for him.

When he spoke again, his voice was softer, “Does your mother know?”
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#4
Raani held ice water in her veins as her father spoke. She knew that her father was afraid of his children. Knew that was why her mother had hidden Raani and Bes away. Knew that telling him that her mother had accepted Raani's search for power would turn him against Adhira.

So she did the least respectful thing she could and ignored the question. It was unfortunate- she really did respect her father- but Raani loved her mother, and would give her the time to tell Seth on her own. Instead she sighed and spoke differently. "You fear what your children may become. If I had known how to tell you what I have been doing- I would have."

The young goddess, even now, had no idea of how to explain herself to her father. She didn't know how to put into words, that she tired of being a curse to all who crossed her way. Or to tell him that she wanted to be worshipped- to be prayed to- to be everything she had been born to be. That she wanted a temple of her own, a place where people saw the brilliance of her, and where she was wanted.

The stress of it was enough that when she rubbed her hands together, the snake skin peeling out from her wrist was smooth under her fingers.

She forced herself to hold his game, stating the one thing she could think of that would hopefully lower his worries. "I am not your second son. I will never hurt my brother."

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#5
The older god huffed out a breath that sounded more like a sigh than anything else, “I’m not afraid of you, daughter. I’m afraid of what you will do on this quest for power. Where will it stop? When you have turned on your brother? When his heart lies in your belly and his power courses through you? When your actions have forced me to bring you to my kingdom and chain you there? When your mother and I have had to watch you fade to nothing, become a ghost, then simply disappear??”

She avoided the question, and he noticed. His shoulders fell as he reached out, not with his powers, not with his aura, but with his mind. He did not sigh, he did not grow angry, instead, his shoulders dropped and he closed his eyes. “Of course she knew.” Adhira was a good mother, after all, attentive. When he opened his eyes, it was apparent he wasn’t angry, certainly not with Adhira. He was used to her doing all she could to protect their children, even if it meant betraying him. They’d fought entire wars over such things, after all.

He didn’t want to fight another war with his mate.

Reaching out, he placed his hands on hers, looking her in the eye, “Words, daughter. You’re good at using them, I can tell. You tell me me what you are doing by telling me.” His voice was as gentle, as soft, as it got. He looked at her, sad that he hadn’t known her before, even though he understood his wife’s caution. Still… It wasn’t as though he murdered babes in their cribs.

Her words, however, earned a flinch, not a physical one, but his aura reacted to her words, flashing out around them before abruptly pulling back. He pulled her close, voice a whisper, “Perhaps not. There are plenty of other evils you could chose to be.” Straightening, he frowned, “Or perhaps you will focus your power on destroying your mother. Or me. Perhaps it will be a millennia from now, when you tire of your brother, when you wish to be ruler.” Looking at her, he wondered, “If you have no designs on making yourself powerful, of crossing your family, then why? Why sneak away to do this at all?”

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#6
Raani's only reaction to her father's accusation was to go very briefly green at the idea- before she forced her nausea and anxiety back to allow her scales to retract. Quietly, she looked down, saddened to once more be discussing this. "I have already received both of those offers I assure you. If you would like to kill me, I won't stop you."

It was a statement of her faith in her mother, that Raani had this faith in her father. She didn't know the man. Had hardly even spoken to him for a full minute. Yet, her mother made certain that Raani knew of the kindness of her father. If Adhira trusted him, it was enough for Raani.

"Yes." She confirmed, after a beat had passed. "A thousand years ago, she found out. She offered me exile- in a reality that would prevent my return ever- or a realm where there would be no one to believe in me, and everything that I am would cease to exist. I offered her my head instead." The goddess explained, rubbing her fingers idly along her throat where the sword would have stuck.

Feeling his hands on hers, she didn't know whether to shrink back or relax into the contact. On the one hand, he was death and unfamiliar- on the other, he was family. "The problem is- I don't know you." She said softly, before her following words caused him to flinch, all gentleness gone from him.

He asked her again why- and her stress had built to a peak. She exploded. "I said I don't know you. But you don't know me. Last time we spoke you didn't even know of me- Father, do you know what my name is? What about my brother's? What about our domains?" Raani responded, each word as cutting as she was able. "I was raised in my mother's temple so you might assume I am some derivative of her. I am not. Bes- that is to say, my brother, if you don't actually know his namr- is a derivative of Adhira. Home and hearth, wonderful warm comforting things. Like his mother, and expecting woman will have a healthy child with his blessing."

Though her aura didn't surround her father, it did drop well past comfortably cold for most. "My very touch guaranteed that without mother or brother's blessing- the mother I touched would have a child which didn't take a single breath. Why did I start looking for power? Because I knew that pantheons, domains, could be changed by what you are worshipped for. Because all i knew about my domain was that to know me was to be cursed."

She met his gaze steadily as she took a deep breath and let her rant trail off with a few final comments. "Now I have the power to know my domains. To control what my presence causes. I am Ruin. I am Rebirth. And the only one of our family that I can not guarantee I will never hurt- is you. And that is because I do not know you- but I love my mother, I will not hurt her willingly. And I have never known a world without Bes- he is my younger brother and I would die to protect him."

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#7
Much like his mate, Seth had many sides, all different, all so similar. He could be cold, he could be unforgiving. He was, most of the time, warm and gentle. Mortals rarely saw him to be anything but the first two, death and eternity, the king of the underworld, he who took the dead unto himself and watched over their souls. But that was only a part of who he was; the dead, they saw the other side of the god standing before Raani. The soft spoken man who offered them help, who ferried them to paradise unending, who reunited them with their loves, families, ancestors. Seth had never been certain when it was that Adhira had seen him as more than just the cold god of death, but he had always been grateful that she had.

“If I would like….” There was something in his voice, a sorrow, a kind of anger that wasn’t violent, but threaded through his words like a sob, “I wouldn’t like kill anyone, daughter.” He sighed, “And when it comes to it, there are few even amongst gods that could stop death.” She might be saddened to be discussing this, but Seth ached as well. He had never enjoyed bringing his children to his kingdom. He watched so many he loved fade, he didn’t want that for his children, he never had, he never would, but he would not allow what had happened to Kayin to happen again. He would never allow that.

A thousand years. His mate had kept this from him since he had met them. She had known that their daughter was seeking power, and she had brought the girl here, where she could go and do exactly that.

She exploded, but Seth remained still, he remained quiet. A rock amid the rapids. She asked him questions, and Seth didn’t hesitate. He hadn’t known the answers a moment ago, but he was Seth, and he simply pulled the information he needed, “You call yourself Raani, your brother is called Bes. His domain is home and hearth, yours is…” He would never have wished a domain such as ruin and destruction onto one of his children. It was a harsh portfolio, his daughter’s. “Why wouldn’t she have encouraged you to choose something…. Kinder?”

Raani’s words explained more than the young goddess may have intended. To know her domains? To control… Once again, Seth reached out, pulling his daughter close. She may have believed all of the gentleness had fled him, but it was always there, waiting, hiding. Now, it returned as he crushed her gently into a hug, a soft sob echoing, not aloud, but in her mind, “I’m sorry.” He closed his eyes, her words washing over him; she would die to protect her brother. Relief flooded through his aura, warming it, taming it.

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#8
Raani would not pretend that she was unafraid of death. Some deep part of her was terrified of what would happen- in part since the death of a god was almost always violent. But she was also comfortable with the idea of a kind death- she in herself was a perfect example of a deity with more than one side. Ruin was an awful thing to have happen to you, and there were plenty who prayed for her to strike down her enemies. Yet she was also renewal, rebirth. She was a sudden winter that became spring- always bringing new life and hope.

No, she didn't fear her father's personality. Rather his powers. The sadness in his voice was genuine to her and she offered a soft cocoon of her aura in lieu of a quick hug. "There is always something past death. Your kingdom, or new life- I would not fear if I knew what would happen to me." She offered with a voice so small it was barely heard.

Though her anger turned her voice louder- especially when her father had the gall to pull information from her mind. Her mouth opened and closed a few times as she tried to voice the betrayal she felt at the intrusion. She would have answered any question he cared to know, and she would have answered honestly- but to know that he didn't care to respect her privacy. Oh she wished she had the power to pull the information right back out of his line-up though she did give a good tug in protest.

She made a mental note to address his comment after she was done speaking- though his hug derailed that thought. Despite the violence of her domain- she was not a generally angry person, and so without intention she sagged into his hold, her energy melting away at the touch. "I didn't choose." She whispered simply, needing her father to know that she wouldn't have chosen ruin as part if she could avoid it, though confident that her rant had said plenty to cover that. She automatically turned her head into his neck, sighing at the warmth and hugging back. "But I wouldn't change it how-to even if I could. So there is nothing to be sorry for."

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#9
Adhira might believe that Seth cared so much less for their children than she did; it certainly would appear that way, he supposed. Seth held so much of himself back with them; he had stopped doting on their children, instead focusing on watching what they did, where their interests and ambitions lie, and stopping any of them who showed the wrong interests, who seemed preoccupied with gaining power. It had so often come down to him ending what would have otherwise likely been a long, long life. Gods didn’t simply grow old and die, after all, they were eternal...until another god decided they shouldn’t exist anymore and was able to overpower them. Sadly, that other god always seemed to wind up being him. He didn’t enjoy it. He wanted, so much, to love their children. To love them the way he’d loved Kayin. But Seth was also forced to remember what had happened with that first child, and the second.

At the sense of her aura enveloping him, Seth looked up, a small but sincere smile on his face. Yes, it pained him to think that his children, even one who sought power such as Raani did, might believe that he would like ending her life. Her words, however, earned a haunted look from the god of death. “You’re wrong, my daughter.” Even though his voice did not tremble, the grief was still audible, “There are… There have been instances when there have been nothing after death. No soul to come home to my kingdom, no rebirth or reincarnation. Simply…. Nothing.” That was what he was trying to assure never, ever happened again, not to any of his children. That...nothingness. “I would not allow that to happen to you or your brother.” He might hold them to his kingdom, but he would never simply sever their existence entirely, not like that.

Never again.

Never. Again.

Of course he pulled the information from her mind. Of course he had the audacity, saw nothing wrong with it. He had used his gifts on other gods for eons. The only one safe from his mind was his mate, and only then because he never could cross her, not when her requests were so simple, if not always easy to abide. Feeling the tug on his own mind, Seth smiled and gave a soft chuckle, “Is it really so terrible to want to know such things, daughter? I have a millennia of your life to catch up on, do I not?”

The moment she stopped fighting, Seth’s hold strengthened. It never became stifling or harsh, but that of a father holding his daughter, lending her strength in his arms. “You should have been allowed to.” He might not trust this daughter, this fledgling goddess, but that didn’t mean he was heartless, it didn’t mean he couldn’t love his children, and in Seth’s mind and heart, a godling should be allowed to choose their domain, and encouraged to choose something fitting them and their personality. “There is much I should be sorry for.” She’d feel the sigh more than hear it, “Two thousand years.”

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#10
Raani tried not to sigh at her father's reply, the words not comforting her in the slightest. It was her greatest fear- being the goddess of reincarnation meant she knew that so long as she lived, no one she loved would completely truly die. The only being who she couldn't be certain of that for was herself. If there was no rebirth outside of herself in the world she died in- who would move her on to the next cycle?

None of which mattered as her heart went out to her father. The raw pain in his voice- it made Raani wonder if he had even noticed the long passing of time, or whether he still felt as though all those awful things had just happened. She wasn't truly old enough to understand, though each year she aged she found time meant less, so part of her did. She extended the comforting cocoon a moment longer as she spoke. "Even then, in my experience, those beings dissipate. They may not ever be one individual again, but parts of them manifest in a countless number of other living things."


Her soothing voice was completely gone as she gave what could be charitably described as a pout at her father. "For one thing, it's two millennia not a single one- but also my point was that you should ask us these things. Hear what we want to share- not what you can dig up out of our minds. Bes would almost certainly not care, but I have thoughts I am not comfortable with anyone knowing. As I'm sure you have as well." She replied petulantly, knowing she was being childish but not caring to stop herself.

It was hard to keep herself from curling into the hug, allowing her snake form through and to wrap herself around his shoulders. If she knew him better she would not have hesitated, but she had priestess dutys to see to, that she could not do as a snake. "I didn't know how." She replied quietly, sighing as well. "It would be one thing if you were willfully ignoring us, but you didn't know we existed. That is hardly your fault." Taking a deep breath she straightened up and stepped back after a final squeeze.

"Perhaps we should start again. Get tea or something, and we can exchange questions."

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#11
Perhaps Raani might not be comforted by them, but that didn’t mean that Seth meant his words any less. He had children in his kingdom, his children, and many of them were weak, many of them were beginning to fade, but he would not let them be erased like that, their essence entirely gone in an instant. Barring a fate such as the one that Seth had described, however, what would keep Raani from simply moving on to her next life on her own? She was a goddess, the goddess of rebirth and renewal, there was little that even the god of the dead would do to stop her within her own domain.

Time was a funny thing. He had noticed the passing of it, the eons since the deaths of those first children, but the time, as long as it had become, hadn’t eroded the pain, not when faced with new children. Children that he so desperately wanted to love, hold, and cherish, but knew he shouldn’t. Children he knew could bring him the same deep kind of hurt that he was still dealing with. The older god’s head dipped in consideration, his eyes sharp points of crimson light in the darkness of his aura, not angry, but hurting at the idea that Kayin had simply dissipated. That wasn’t much better than how he had viewed it. It might even be worse.

The pout earned a huff that was almost a laugh. “My apologies, daughter, two millennia.” She didn’t like her mind being read. How much like her mother she was. “It’s easier to pull what I wish to know from your mind.” It wasn’t an apology, and it wasn’t a pout, but he understood, at least a little bit, that she preferred her mind to be left alone. And given no reason to invade her privacy, Seth could accept leaving her be. Until he had a reason to take what he needed again. “Thoughts of doing harm to your family?” He arched a brow, “Of secretly amassing power to overthrow your parents?” His eyes, hazel once more, were sharp, his gaze just slightly pointed. He snorted, “My thoughts are simple, daughter. I love your mother, I take care of my followers, and I will watch over you and your brother.” To make sure neither murdered the other for power.

It was strange, to hold a child like this again. The feelings, the warmth, the desire to make this moment stretch into eternity… He couldn’t just shy away from it, but it clashed with what he worried would come, what he had begun to think of as inevitable. This, he knew, would only make what came later more difficult, and yet here he was, holding her, comforting her as best as he could. Hardly his fault. Closing his eyes, Seth accepted that yes, it really was his fault. Their mother hadn’t told him about them because of the things he had done, how he had treated their children in the past. Whether it was to spare herself, him, or them, he didn’t know, but that didn’t matter. What mattered was that he hadn’t known because of his own doing. He didn’t correct her; they were finally speaking, and that was, perhaps, the important thing. When she stepped away, he breathed a sigh, resigned to the lack of closeness once again, though not enjoying it.

Tea? She wanted… Seth smiled, lips quirking up in amusement, “Well, I’m not sure about tea, but I do know a dear little place that serves excellent milkshakes.”
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#12
Raani worried her bottom lip between her teeth. It wasn't that she didn't understand her father's upset- though she didn't truly- but she was no always the best at comfort. To her, the idea that even when truly dead, with no new life for them to continue through, they still blessed the things around them? That brought her indescribable peace.

But she did also understand that when a rainbow ended to become nothing more than wide spread dew, most did not see the rainbow in the plants sustained by that water. Raani did. Theoretically, given an incredible amount of time, and more power than she could conceive of, she would one day even be able to draw those dew drops back into being a rainbow. She kept her mouth shut rather than try and explain further, potentially upsetting her father.

More.

She listened to his reply with a tired sigh. "Thoughts of what I find attractive, of intimate memories, of moments of complete mortification. I am not terribly hard to understand father. I take care of my followers. I love my Brother. I love my Mother. One day I may know you well enough to also say that I love you." She explained with a shake of her head and a sigh.

The hug was easiest to respond to. Seth was not Bes, and Raani doubted she'd ever find anyone who hugged as well as her brother, but they did share distinct similarities. Like they hugged with the whole of themselves. It wasn't a matter of intent, rather they didn't try and hold the other person a bit away. They were content to hold them full against their body.

Raani didn't like the cold- but she did want to spend time chatting with her father. She smiled. "That sounds amazing. Lead the way please."

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#13
Even his own wife did not understand his upset. Did not understand why he had been unable to let the death of their first son go. Why he had not moved on long before now. He did, however, have his reasons. And as unknown as they were, they were, he thought, good reasons. Valid ones.

Kayin had been killed with a weapon that was crafted to kill gods. To wipe them from existence. When Seth killed a god, they weren’t erased from the universe, but rather sent to the Underworld. When the humans killed a god with these weapons, the god simply ceased to be. When Adhira had vanished giving birth to Kayin, Seth had looked for her everywhere. She hadn’t been beyond the veil, and he hadn’t found her in the world either, but he had managed to catch glimpses, to sense her, if only for a moment at a time. With Kayin, there had been no sense of his son, no hint that he was still alive, and Seth had been unable to find him in the veil, either.

Seth knew, because he had searched. Years after Kayin had perished, Seth had returned to the veil, to the Underworld again and again, seeking the soul of his son. He had never found him, never so much as glimpsed him, as felt the familiar brush of power.

With a sigh, Seth shook his head, “The mind has many layers, daughter. A god’s mind more so than a human’s, even. When I seek information I only seek what I need. I do not… Rummage about and take whatever falls into my lap.” There was no harshness in his tone; he explained in an attempt to assuage her concerns that he was going to take everything she had, memories, thoughts… “Though I would listen if you wished to share stories of yourself and your brother…” It was a statement and a request made as one. He would like to know her, if she was willing to share. And he would take the slower route, listening to her stories rather than simply taking them from her mind.

As a god of death and of deserts, Seth was sometimes cool as the soil under a shade tree, and perhaps even more often warm, nearly hot as a gentle desert breeze. His hugs were nearly never cool; there was warmth in him at the show of affection; he didn’t hug halfway, he didn’t part abruptly.

If he had known that Raani wasn’t fond of the cold, he would have suggested something else, or at very least encouraged Raani to inquire about other drinks that Belle served at her cafe, but he did not know, and was not actively reading her mind since she, so much like her mother disliked it so when he did, and so he said nothing, instead he offered her his arm to lead her down the street where Belle had her little restaurant. He had wanted to return to the place anyway, Now, he could share this place with his daughter.

When they entered the little cafe, Seth lead Raani to one of the tables, pulled out her chair for her, and settled in across from her with a smile.

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#14
Raani never blamed her father for the emotions that he felt regarding his son's death. It was easy to find pain in tragedy. It was much harder to move on from the pain and try again.But that was it in a nutshell- as far as she was aware, her father didn't even wish her to have ever been born. Regardless of her father's reasons, Raani had the remarkable suspicion that had he not loved her mother so- he would have dispatched the twins on sight.

She had no way to claim for certain that she could restore the soul of her dead brother. All she knew was that if she were one day capable of razing an entire universe and starting again- perhaps she could also bring back those who were well and truly dead.

Raani left those thoughts for now, choosing instead to roll her eyes at her father. She huffed softly even as she began to speak. "Yes father. I am aware. I am also aware that those layers are linked in unpredictable fashions and that when digging in one's mind- there is often the chance that you will look for their name- and find a memory of someone yelling it in ecstasy." Her voice was dry, mind reaching out- instead of pulling this time, she allowed her mind to meld to his, as she had done with Bes for a thousand years.

She offered him an embarrassing memory- one in which she had been carrying food to her mistress. Before her brother had called her name, and in trying to pay attention to both things, she landed face first and the food landed on her mother.

Of course, the memory was so very many years old that the name her brother called her was not Raani. Regardless, in the memory she had known her name was Eshe, and now so would her father.

Pulling back she raised an eyebrow. "Particularly with Gods, as we are all wired so differently, you can never be certain how you will find information. In my experience, My Lord." Raani added, remembering that she ought not to be sassing the man whose priestess she was.

She hummed at the request, trying to decide where to start. Accepting the seat that he drew for her, she ducked her head gratefully before ordering a vanilla milkshake.

Giving a small smile, she began. "Bes and I are not terribly excitable. Not anymore at least. Nowadays what time we spend together is usually spent on walks or reading. He's warm and I'm cool so we're often flopping on top of the other. If I have them, he will lay across my legs or he will rest his head on my shoulder- despite being notably taller than me. If I am feeling sluggish I will wrap myself around his neck and shoulders and sleep there."

Her eyes flicked to snake eyes for a moment before going back- a quick explanation of how she would wrap herself- rather than an image of some triumphant hunter carrying back a human on their shoulders as a prize.

Her smile grew without restraint as she thought of the things her and her brother had gotten up to. "It used to happen, when we were still relatively young, that our fellow priests and priestesses would separate us at meal. Because despite the fact that we could communicate mind to mind- we still just got so energetic- and very. Very loud." Raani explained, pausing before she went on. "We got really good at making faces at each other when no one else could see- or he'd think of a joke and wait for me to read his mind, or I'd plant one there- The poor priests couldn't figure out how we could be completely across the dining commons and still giggling incessantly. They had to have rotations on who watched us during meals. They didn't hate us for it- but once I had a bread roll shoved into my mouth to make me be quiet for just a few moments."

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#15
All those years ago, in a universe where none of them could go behind a locked and warded door, Seth had given his love freely to a tiny godling who had miraculously been his son. He had taught and cherished and loved and worried like any father would. He had ran with his son over the desert sands. He hadn’t merely lost his son to death; he had had him ripped away from him, as though a piece of himself he’d thought would always be there had been cut away, and Seth could not help but to continuously seek that son who had been erased from the universe, but not his memories.

It would have been kinder to have the memories taken from him.

Perhaps he would have hated Rudra less if he had been able to forget.

Raani’s words earned a crafty smile from the older god, and he reached to give her hand a light pat, reassuring and understanding, “Ah, but you’re young yet, my dear. You just keep working at it, and eventually the things you want will come to you, and the rest will not.” He quieted when she shared her mind with him, willingly, and the gesture did not go unrewarded. She shared with him an embarrassing memory, one that earned a gentle smile to grace his lips at the sound of her name, and a small chuckle at the end, “Your mother…” he wasn’t laughing at Raani but instead at his wife, the sound full of the love he had for the goddess” ’Is so beautiful.’ the words weren’t spoken though conjoined as they were Raani would hear it anyway.

In return for Raani’s offering, he offered a memory of his one. It was an old one, ancient but still modern, from the universe where Seth had been born, though that information was not made available to her.

The memory began with a question…

”Oh, is that what I did wrong?”

The dark skinned woman he had asked the bitter, angry question to didn’t so much as hesitate; she slapped him, hard as she had been able to as a mortal, and in the wake of that contact was the echo of other situations not dissimilar to it, other slaps, harsh scoldings, all delivered by the same woman. And in Seth there was no anger, no betrayal, but instead a firm fondness, a love that wasn’t of that for a mate or priest or lover, but that of a friend who had become family.

“Sorry did I miss the ‘sha’ head? You having problems seeing past your long ass nose and pricked pride?” Smite me or whatever if you want to but you are a dick.”

“She left. She chose him. What reaction should I have, Julie? Tell me. You’re the one who tells me such things. The only one, anymore.”


The memory faded, but Seth watched his daughter; she had shared something embarrassing, and while this wasn’t exactly the same sort of thing, it was… Intimate, and it was a vulnerability. One that the young goddess had little hope of exploiting overmuch, seeing as Julie now resided in his kingdom, and had for ages now, but the knowledge of a mortal that had the love and loyalty of a god was still not that small a thing.

The sense of a smile even if he hadn’t worn one in the memory, of a chuckle that was far from patronizing but instead pleased and grateful was there in his mind. As was the unmistakable sense of sadness. He missed those days, when he had been less than he was now but happy, and perhaps a touch more innocent.

The flicker of snake eyes earned a light laugh from Seth, “So much like your mother!” and it was praise, it could be nothing else. He smiled softly as he told his daughter, “So very long ago, we ran a small resort, a spa of sorts. People came to us for a sense of home, for healing and peace, and we gave them what we could. The mortals questioned it, of course, people didn’t live so long normally, they didn’t have easy births as they did near us, but how could we let those we knew, those we lived amongst suffer?” The milkshakes came, hers vanilla and his cherry, so he sipped at his even as they spoke and shared.

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#16
Part of the reason why Raani would never understand the worry Seth had properly- she also had someone run across the desert sands with her. Someone who made a game out of dodging the snakes in their mother's temple. A boy who had helped her climb a tree to watch the sunset when her robes got caught. Bes was a part of her in so many ways- sometimes she thought he was the best part- but to hurt him would be to destroy herself. To kill Bes was to kill all of the warmth, softness, and comfort that Raani had ever provided.

She didn't want to be that version of herself, let alone how little she wanted to live without her brother. She had asked her mother to kill her instead of force her to live without Bes.

Raani smiled at the unspoken words, choosing to not even put into letters how she agreed, and let the feeling flow to her father as she would to her brother. The memory he showed her
was-

Raani wasn't surprised to see her father caring for a mortal. Perhaps she may have been had she not known his temple and the priests within. Perhaps it was her exposure to other gods that told her that it was not strange. Most likely, it was a combination of the two as well as the fact that Raani herself had mortals she cared for.

With a moment of hesitation, she replied, content to share more if he would do likewise.

"I think I shall move my bishop... there." The brunette offered, smiling brilliantly at the Goddess who sat across from him.

"Why?" She asked without thinking, staring more through the board than at it. When he didn't reply, Raani snapped her eyes up to meet his whiskey coloured orbs. "Michael?"

"Why what, My lady Eshe?" He offered with that infuriating smirk of his. The one that said that he knew perfectly well what she was asking- as he usually did- and was choosing to be obtuse. He was so much more respectful when he was living.

"Why, High Priest Michael, do you play a game with me that you have no hope of winning? Every cycle you have made a total of one move. By the time you return I have already thought every single possibility through to my inevitable victory. So why do you try?" Raani offered softly, not bothering to correct his use of name. It was an honour bestowed only on her first priest. Only on Michael. But he had known her a number of life times ago, when she still had yet to find her own way properly. When she still was Eshe.

He paused and smiled. His time in limbo was ending. He was to be reborn soon and he knew it- and he liked to leave with having the last word.

"Because, My brilliant Goddess Eshe. Raani. Hauhet. Whatever name you chose today- I play because it is not about winning. There is no race to completion. It means nothing to Lord a victory over a friends head. I play because when my next life is hard, I will comfort myself in knowing that you will be waiting, for me to make my next move."


Her smile was easy when she sat down, mentally drawing out the white and black checks, and losing herself for a moment in thoughts of what her friend and priest may do next.

Focusing on her father, she blushed ever so slightly at the compliment. Clearing her throat she shook her head slightly. "It is all we have in common. She is motherhood, I am ruin. She is chaos, and I am the unchanging cycle. No, Bes is much more like mother. Even if he is not as fond of being a snake."

She smile again despite her embarrassment at her father's sharing. "Bes would have been happy there. He is a sense of home, and family. He would have fit in perfectly." Raani offered, her eyes wrinkling with happiness, even as she distinctly avoided mentioning how ill suited she was for such a place. She supposed that she could offer rest to the inhabitants of the area, but a feeling of peace did plenty for that already.

"My brother and I had a secret club fort attached to mother's temple. And by secret, I of course mean that everyone knew about it but acted like they didn't. It's.... where I went. The first time I-" Raani sighed. "The first time my touch killed a woman and her child. Bes found me there. He brought the snakes that I liked most from the temple and set them to curl up with me. He brought me dessert for dinner, brought out my favourite stuffed toy, brought out a pile of books to read through. And then he sat there and held on to me until I stopped shaking." She grinned slightly.

"And then he told me I had to get up and wash up because even if I was still lovely, the other priests were going to wonder how I had managed to get so much snot in my hair."

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#17
Were someone she loved to rip that god, her brother, that part of herself, away, to shred it and mangle it to the point that he didn’t exist anymore, that she could not find him, not even in the Underworld, she might understand then how easy it was to become mistrustful, to agonize that any other she loved might become either that to be taken or they who would take.

Seth’s mind was more open to Raani than it had been to anyone in over an eon. Epochs had come and gone, and Seth had kept his mind to himself, seeking counsel from his wife, but respectfully not sharing as he did now with his youngest daughter. So here, his eyes were nearly half-lidded, head tilted downward just slightly as he saw without his eyes. His smile was honest as they shared their opinion of his beloved wife.

Caring for mortals was… At best a difficult thing. They were unlike gods in many ways. They were fickle and they were so short lived, so young and harsh in unexpected ways. Still, Seth had found himself unable to help caring for some. He was kind to his priests, and in return they cared for him. It had been a long time since he had truly loved a mortal, having learned hard lessons in the past, but now and again one would take his attention, would worm their way into his heart.

Julie had been only one such mortal. And his love for her was that of a dear friend, nothing more.

When Raani shared her memory of her high priest, Seth blinked, his eyes growing unfocused well before her memory ended, leaving him… Lost was perhaps the best word for it.

Memories raced, staccato and rough, eons old but no less vivid for it.


A young, attractive man, a scientist, stalking up to Seth where he was with Adhira, both of them so very close to mortal, scowling at them, “Right. What is it? Did you have them flown in? Hot-housed and set for our arrival? The cards...what low tech? Sleight of hand? You two have been sitting here with canary-eating grins since we sat down. This your version of punking? Getting a good laugh at messing with scientists?”

***** ***** *****

The same man, blue eyes focused on the god that he didn’t yet acknowledge as such held out a hand, “Me and my team will stay with you and explain what needs explaining, and no one and nothing touches her with harmful intent except over my dead body.”

“I have no wish to take the lives of humans before their time, Cameron Drake, but if any attempt to do harm to my mate, I will.” He took the man’s hand and shook it.

***** ***** *****

“You said she didn’t want to fight, but I’ve seen worse team loyalty building in blooded corps.”

The god shrugged, “You don’t have to want to do something to know that it is necessary.”

***** ***** *****

“There really isn’t a way to talk to them? Come up with some kinda treaty or binding agreement?” It wasn’t the first time he’d asked, and the analogy of trying to get a dozen warring states to agree on one item was the best they’d come up it.

Closing his eyes, he leaned against the railing, “Cameron…” Remembering his brother, his nephew, and their betrayals, the way even his own followers had turned on him, it was painful. “Do you think it hasn’t been tried? When this started within my own initial pantheon,” he opened his eyes to look over the area, “With my family, I tried to speak with them, to sue for peace. And we attempted it. I took the deserts as my own, and my brother ruled over the lush and fertile ground. And it worked, for the time it took us to blink, we had peace.”

There was a shift in him, there always was when he spoke of what came after that moment of quiet, “But it didn’t last. It never lasts, Cameron. If I thought there was a chance, I would tell you we should try, but there is no chance. We would meet, and fighting would break out, and any humans present would be in mortal danger. Any of us present would be as well. And that is only if we could persuade any to show up at all.” His voice was rough, and he held himself stiffly. They were both aware it hurt him, to speak of it, to think of it, and he found himself grateful to the man for not asking further. For not asking what had happened, but he assumed it was because Cameron, smart man he was, had researched what he could. “As for my family, well, you know the stories by now, I’m certain.”

Cameron simply shrugged at Seth’s question; yes of course like everyone involved in this growing enterprise he had poured over what documentation, myths, histories that were able to be found but really- “I don’t like to judge a man on stories told by people who weren’t there.” and history was written by the victor wasn’t it? Hell even in the fables they had found there were conflicts depending on how far back you went.

***** ***** *****

With a chuckle, Seth wrapped an arm around the mortal and gestured as if out to the desert, “Light and lithe enough to run atop the sand of the desert, large and sleek enough to take down prey.”

“Can you still become it?” Cameron asked half curious half...well sympathetic if it turned out he couldn't.


Seth closed his eyes, envisioning the creature and sharing his memory-vision of the animal with Cameron, of how it ran over the sands, sleek and supple, fearless and as majestic as any other predator. “It does possess a name, your people have simply forgotten it. Sha, they called them. They are all gone from this world, have been since long ago, hunted into extinction by those who venerated my brother.”

The smile he gave Cameron was a profoundly sorrowful one, “No, for now that form is lost to me.” He glanced skyward, “Eventually, in a time I hope is far in the future, I may become sha one last time.”

Cameron’s eyes opened, shared grieve for something inexplicably lost; “it's not the same.” Because he was human and Seth would be missing that freedom long after he was ash- “But I know how that feels.” He held out his hand tiny tremors quaked past his attempts to hold it steady. “I used to fly.” Nerve damage. Not bad enough to stop him from living an average life...but bad enough to take the skies from him.

***** ***** *****

“Shut up.” The mortal repeated pressing his lips against the other man's.

The command had Seth’s lips pulling back into a snarl; if he wished to speak he damn well --

There was a moment when it could go either way. That he wasn't strictly interested in female companionship was well documented in Egypt. And he liked this man. However, after a moment of weakness, of surprise, he lifted Cameron off the ground by the collar, snarling, “You'd dare to…” now, he roared, his face and head shifting, becoming the sha that he had often glimpsed before. It didn't last, though. As volatile as he often was, he didn't forget himself, not yet, “No one, no one, dares!”

Even as his face returned to ‘normal’ he growled, the sound reverberating from deep in his throat, before pulling the mortal forward, back into a hard, angry kiss before letting him go and turning to stalk away.

***** ***** *****

Cam came to a halt a few feet away from Seth. “I wanted to say. I'm sorry. I shouldn't have acted in that manner and I hope my actions have not harmed our relationship.”

The silence drew out long enough to indicate that the words had fallen on deaf ears, but eventually, he spoke, “It is incredibly rare, you know, for a mortal to survive to make such demands upon any of us, let alone one like myself.” Eyes opening, hazel and red alike settled on Cameron, “How, exactly, did you think I would respond to something such as that?” He snorted, “Did you think that I would be docile and warm in your arms, that I would simply bend to your will and give of myself? Or perhaps you expected eagerness?”

Cam rubbed the back of his head, the long silence had him nearly convinced that he HAD ruined the burgeoning friendship, worse that he might have doomed his damn race for a instants bad judgment. “I didn’t think it was a demand.” He offered sheepishly. “Although I didn’t exactly think at all till it had already happened,” he admitted.

Cam couldn’t help the half snort, “Umm no. IF I’d ever had a thought in that direction pretty sure the concept of warm or docile wasn’t in the mix at all.” Cam had always been and would always be brutally honest with Seth, even to his own embarrassment...to the point of being undiplomatic.

“Probably more surprised than anything that I didn’t get a punch or worse,” he added. “Couldn't even blame you if you wanted to take a swing now.”

The growl was audible, “What, exactly did you think it was, then?!” Right now, he couldn’t afford to act rashly, no matter how deserved a response would have been, he had to consider his wife, their situation. They needed these people, and Cameron was one of the few on their ‘side’ here. “You assaulted me.” There was no heat in his voice at these words, it was a fact that he was stating, blunt and ungentle, but honest. “You grew angered when I said that humanity was still young in many ways, but you admit that you act without consideration, and that, Cameron, is a mark of youth.

His smile showed teeth, feral and wild, but not entirely threatening, “At least you know me well enough for that, then. When I am attacked, none should ever expect warmth or submission from me.”

“What, then, did you expect, Cameron? You must have had some expectations. Everyone always does, even if they aren’t conscious.”

“I did not intend it to be an attack.” Cameron tried to clarify, aware that he really didn’t have a defense beyond what his intent was.

A hot flush crept up the back of his neck. Well heck, he promised to be honest and- “Either a punch or getting slammed against the wall.” He admitted.

“Honestly?” He blew out a long breath, “I’m not sure. You and her…” his gaze turned inward. “There’s something intoxicating about you both, sure you can say it's the god thing..but...it's for me more just...attraction. And maybe it's ‘young’ but passion calls passion.”

***** ***** *****

“So we go with you.”

“If you come,” he told Cameron quietly, “It is possible none of you will return. This is not some match against a friend, Cameron. I said before, there is no hope of talking for peace.” He shook his head, “And yet I would try.”

***** ***** *****

“No.” Cam rested his hand on her too-tight grip, collapsing the weapon into its resting position, “A priest for the priestess..that makes sense right?”

“If my priest calls my name, I will hear and come.” He could do that. He looked at Cameron; all he needed was belief, faith in him, that he would, that he could, and he could and would. Like Themis, it had been too long since he had had a priestess (or priest in his case) walking the earth.

It would feel good to have one again.

“I will send my priest in my stead,” he said firmly, leaning forward to capture Cameron’s lips, marking him, claiming the mortal as his own, as his priest, subtly transferring power into the man. His mark on Cameron was cool but not cold, there was no discomfort, but it was inescapable. The veil that separated the world of the living from that of the dead, his pupils almost seeming to spread and take over his irises, though his sensitivity to light didn’t change, though his view of the world had shifted.

He could see souls, he could sense them, feel the flow of the river that flowed below. Above, he knew the storms, knew their paths and power, and perhaps, if he tried, he could seed or disperse them.

“He will escort my wife and her priestess and bring back to me what news this conclave has to offer. Bring my wife back to me.” He looked to his wife, “So long as my wife finds this acceptable?” To Cameron, he murmured, “Speak now what name you will call me should you ever need me.”

“Seth.”

***** ***** *****

A low moan escaped a pile of dark rags twitching with painful fitful purpose across the floor, it's mouth moved slowly forming a word.

‘Seth…

It was the piercing call in his mind that filled the god’s ears and tugged at him. “What did they do to you??”

Seth dropped to the floor, he was a god, but this man was his, and he never hesitated to fall next to him, pulling Cameron into his lap, hands cool against the man’s cheek as he frowned down, “Shh, don’t answer, not yet.”

Cameron reached for Seth, the aura of him connecting to the piece the god had given him, soothing him to stop his jerking and only protest with a thin whimper.

Three of the fingers on his right hand were flayed to the bone, the face that turned to him had only one dark eye burning into Seths, even as he whimpered he was pushing out with the abilities granted to him attempting to communicate with his god. He had news, and regardless of what his body felt like Seth had to hear the message.

‘She went to him willingly.’

***** ***** *****

“I could not find you. I could not sense you, Cameron. He took you from me,” the voice of the god was tight and rough, angry and too gentle at the same time, “And I will take our vengeance from his hide when I find him. But first, we must make you whole again.”

***** ***** *****

Looking at his own high priest, he told Cameron, “He is to be protected, cared for, and…” there was a moment’s hesitation, not long enough for most to hear it, but obvious to the priest who carried a piece of his being within him, “Loved.”

“Yeah.” He agreed, nodding once to Sarah before turning his attention to his God.

He could feel the empty aching loss that Seth had yet to fully acknowledge and wondered what his best play was to keep him from falling into the void-

Cam looked to his God...his friend and rested a hand on his shoulder.

***** ***** *****

It was the third night after the battle that Seth appeared where they were, a mess of feathers and dark fur falling around him, exhaustion forcing him to lean against the wall, his eyes bright and desperate as they found his high priest. The god was tired, beyond tired, but he was still hale and hearty, still powerful even in a sleep-deprived state. “Tell me she’s here, Cameron. Tell me that I have not gone mad.” He couldn’t find her, and it ate at him. But he had to stop, at least for a few hours. He needed to rest, or he would never find her.

“She is not dead.” Cam stood, rolling his neck from where he'd been sitting cramped over the workstation. “Sarah is sure of it and you would have found her if she was beyond the veil. Sarah says she still feels her so we didn't miss her being nicked by a blade.”

***** ***** *****


“Lots.” Cam detailed down the current status with military precision adding at the end- “Kayin...I think you should see him.”

“Take me to him, then. Is there something I should be seeing, Cameron? Or is he just another godling that needs raising?” The tone was meant to be dismissive, but it was far from.

“In the morning.” Cam draw him instead to the bedroom, pushing him till his knees hit the edge of the bed, urging him to sit. “You need to rest.” Cameron climbed onto the bed, strong thighs bracketing his. “Relax. Just for one night.”

Flesh and bone fingers carded through Seth’s hair; Cameron touched him not as a worshiper to a god, but as a man.

“In the morning then.”

***** ***** *****

So far- perhaps because he was focusing on growing as a ‘boy’ he’d not shown any other ‘forms’ like Kayin had as a...puppy?

Rubbing (mostly) nerveless boney digits over his jaw thoughtfully Cam pondered the whys and hows of god babies.

A finger pointed over to Cameron, Seth’s voice in his mind, ‘My sons are not animals, Cameron.’ It hadn’t been amusing when Julie had thought it when Kayin had been young, and it wasn’t amusing now, either. Still, his chiding was done with warmth nonetheless.

Seth was his God and lover. That did not, however, mean that Cameron had lost all of his independence over the years. Which was brought around with a small upturned tick of his lips at the scolding; “I meant as a Sha baby.”

“You know,” Seth told the man who was perhaps his closest friend (aside from his wife), “I had always thought to avoid having a family again. But this…. this is…. goodness.”
Twenty years was a long long time to humans; Seth’s power kept most of the effects of aging from him, and between his romantic love and religious devotion had kept him from pursuing any relationships. Which meant that helping to raise Kayin was as close to having a family of his own. Cam’s expression softened, finding his own contentment on every level at seeing his God and Lover happy. He didn’t need to verbally express his own reflected contentment.

***** ***** *****


“I can hear you. And damn me but still do love you. I can't do a damn thing to you but this: I don't believe. I'm not going to see you on the other side. Fuck you, Seth.”


Seth’s eyes didn’t regain their focus. It was decades of memories, so many sad or difficult, but so many others were so very good… And in the end, he had still lost. He had still been betrayed by yet another he had loved. He didn’t cry, it was rare for him to shed tears over loss, but his mind all but shook at the onslaught of memories, ones he had locked away, ones that he tried so very hard to forget. Painful, all of them, especially the good ones.

“I am sorry, daughter…” Seth stood abruptly, all one motion, smooth and graceful even while his mind whirled, a mess of emotion and memory. “I need a moment.” He disappeared without any trace, no puff of smoke or light or sound. One moment he was there, the next, he wasn’t.

He didn’t coalesce elsewhere, instead, he threw himself into the air itself, the sky. He had been a sky god long before he’d been one of death, a storm god before he had been darkness, and that was what he became now. A storm over the city they had settled into, lightning streaking across the sky as he stirred the air, riling the elements until it rained the tears he couldn’t bring himself to cry.

The storm came and passed quickly, and when Seth once again appeared in the cafe, he was… Calmer. Perhaps not quite the amused god he had been just minutes earlier, but calm at least. “Forgive me, Raani,” he murmured, his voice gentle and soft, an apology in his tone, “You should not have been subjected to that.”

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#18
Her father may have been able to fight away his emotions, but Raani was not so strong. Without consent, tears fell from her eyes, splashing to the table as her mouth opened slightly. Her mouth moved to make words, yet she knew of none that were sufficient to explain the sorrow she felt for him. Nor the strength she wished she could provide him.

She reached for his hand without thinking- before he nearly leapt away from her. Raani may have accused him of disliking her in other moments, but having seen the memories from his eyes, how could she blame him for needing space? She was near torn to pieces with the pain of It, and she experience it not secondhand- but three times removed. First from the time, second from not understanding the context, and third because she was only experiencing an echo of what her father was feeling.

She wiped uselessly at the tears trailing down her cheek, not able to do much more than smear them due to volume. Flagging down the lovely server, she asked for a cup of tea, even as she cocooned her father's milkshake in a blanket of aura to keep it cold. Holding the tea in her shaking fingers, she forced her back straight. Took deep breaths. Everything that she knew to control her emotions. Finally stilling, she cleaned her face and sipped idly at the tea- jasmine- while she waited for her father's return.

She did after all, except his return. She could easily see the death God's blessing on the redheaded owner of the diner.

Raani breathed in softly as she felt, more than saw, her father's return. Glancing up, she listened for a moment before pursing her lips and nodding to herself.

This time she didn't meld her mind to his. Didn't force him to see anything. Rather, Raani laid her mind out like a book in front of her father, leaving it in his hands whether he would read the passage available to him.

*****
Her fingers cramped from writing for so long. Or rather, her hands hurt from the force with which she was gripping her quill. Quills were truly such an antiquated writing tool, and if Eshe had the necessary power, it would be the first thing she replaced in this damned universe.

Annoyingly, she didn't hate the rest of the domain. It was warm, comforting, and had a fire nearby that was just the right size to temper the cold of her scales without burning. It was annoying because she couldn't appreciate any of that. The place was in complete disorder, there were people here whose souls hadn't left in a thousand years, other souls had been sent out time and time again to the point that they were wearing thin.

Which was before Eshe had even been born- it seemed incredibly strange to her that she held any power over these people. Yet seeing these tired souls slumped at random, and these others drifting aimlessly for want of something to do- She was obligated to straighten things out.

"Next" She called, voice hoarse from exhaustion, feeling like a glorified Secretary, rather than a Goddess. She didn't even look up from her papers, instead collecting the woman's information mentally and sorting her without question.

"You aren't the God that was here last time." The woman said, not unkindly, but successfully breaking the silence.

Eshe glanced up, taking in the elderly woman who apparently remembered the Goddess's predecessor. She was tempted to ignore the remark, but perhaps due to the snake eyes she affected, no other had been brave enough to speak to her yet. Deciding to indulge her curiousity, she nodded slightly.

"That's correct. The God of this domain was dying. He agreed to merge his power with me, and allow me to take care of his realm." Eshe explained quietly, moving to finish her papers before the elderly lady reached out and stopped her quill from moving.

"You needn't work so hard." She offered. "Those who have been here too long will not mind a few days further. Those who have been here too little could use the rest. I am Alia, would you be willing to have a cup of tea with me, Goddess ...?" Alia left the question deliberately hanging, obviously prompting for the Goddess's name.

"Eshe. I am Eshe." She offered softly, surprising herself as she hesitantly set down the quill she held and gestured for Alia to follow her.

****

"My lady Eshe, you seem more confident than ever." Came the pleased call.

The Goddess snapped her eyes up and let out a small noise of pleasure. "Alia. You have returned. How was your life?" Eshe asked, happy to once again see her friend.

Alia smiled slightly. "It was wonderful. I'd be happy to tell you all about it. So long as you tell me about the trouble you and that brother of yours have been getting into."

Eshe smiled and stood up, marking the page of notes she was on and closing the book for now. "Tea? I have Jasmine brewing."

****

"My friend, Lady Eshe, Goddess of the cycle." Alia sang, moving to stand before the Goddess who laughed easily.

She had changed since the elderly woman had first met her. She was less afraid, more comfortable in who she was. She didn't need more than a name by which to call them to track souls anymore. She was strong enough to sense who they were from their very being.

So this time, Raani held a book read for pleasure in her lap. She smiled at Alia, laying a thin ribbon on her page before closing it to sit up. "My name is Raani now. The name Eshe was given to me with the meaning of life, and I do not wish to cower under it any longer."

The mortal's face lit up with joy, automatically moving to prepare a pot of tea, intimately familiar with where everything required was stored. "Oh how terrific! I am so happy for you. Tell Me, how did your mother react?" Alia asked with a smile that said she expected Raani to say something strange.

"My mother was incredibly accepting actually..." Raani began, soon launching into easy conversation.

****

"Alia!" Raani called, excited to once more see her friend. "I am so pleased to see you once more. Did you live another fruitful life?"

The smile she was offered in return was strained, stiff.

She paused. "Alia? Are you alright?"

The mortal produced a brighter smile as though on command. "I am well, I am simply tired." Alia patted the Goddess's shoulder as she passed. "I will make us some tea."

****

Alia smiled slightly at her friend, shifting to soak in the heat of the fire into what felt like aching bones, though she knew they must not be, as she was not physically there. "Would you tell me a story, my Goddess?"

Raani failed to notice the exhaustion in her friends words. Didn't see the way her fingers trembled on her cup. Didn't notice the rough edge in her voice.

"Of course, Alia. I will tell you of my brother- recently...."

****

Alia swallowed hard and walked up to her friend. The woman who she had watched grow in bits and starts, who had gone from a Goddess who needed to track every single thing, to one who knew them all, even the youngest souls, from just being in her domain.

She sighed slightly, rubbing back the tears she was fighting. The words she had to say were not easy. She did not want to hurt her Goddess. Nor leave her alone. But Alia was so very tired. No matter how long she was left to rest before her new life, Alia could not shake the pain in her very soul.

Looking up, she saw the Goddess rising from her seat with brightness in her eyes, and she knew that she must speak now.

"Please. Please Raani. Destroy me."

****


Raani forced a deep breath, smiling sadly at the cup of tea in her hands.

She replied slowly, piecing together the words. "It is not the same." She explained, of the memories she had offered. "But I, in a small way, do understand. I wish only that I had the words to offer to fill the hole that those memories left in you."

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Seth did not give his love lightly. Even the children he was growing attached to far, far too quickly for his liking had not been told he loved them. Because love was a weapon. Love was a wound that never healed properly, if at all, when it was cut away. In his eons, Seth had loved and lost, it was to be expected, but he had been betrayed by every one of those he had loved.

Even Adhira had betrayed him in the past.

He held no anger at Adhira for what she had done, and strangely, he felt no real anger toward his priest for the betrayal there, either. But his grief was still very real. He buried it beneath layers and layers of memories that had piled up, he hid it even from himself under distance and coolness, under a mistrust of mortals that had been sparked by those who had helped raise him and Adhira up to power when they had crossed them, but he had never truly stopped grieving. He had never managed to completely process the loss of their first son, of that piece of himself, or that of his first priest, either.

Once the storm had passed, taking the enormity of his emotional outburst with it, Seth returned to the cafe. Calmer, steadier, if not actually calm and steady. Better, but not good.

When Raani offered her memories, Seth did not avoid seeing them. He would be a poor father indeed if he refused to accept a gift from his children, would he not? As her memories unfolded, Seth’s aura, warmer than Raani was likely to expect, encompassed her, warm and gentle and full of comfort every bit as much as his hug had been, and far more doting and affectionate. The god never moved from his seat, but he didn’t need to, not for this.

Her words earned a sorrowful smile from the god as he shook his head, “There are no words to fill that hole, my dear daughter.” He tipped his head, hazel eyes on his milkshake, “But I am grateful that you wish there could be.” He wished to forget, but that would never happen. “It was long ago, though. Lifetimes, even for us.”

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Raani had never been truly betrayed by those she loved. She had never been promised the things that she expected. Alia had never promised that she would always return. Her mother had never promised not to hurt her. Her father had never promised to want her. How could you betray a trust that had never been established?

So Raani had never been betrayed, because she had never trusted even her loved ones not to hurt her. With one exception.

Raani trusted Bes. He was the single being across any universe that she thought would never hurt her. He was the only one who she knew she would forgive if he did.

She was grateful that her father took the offered memories without complaint. She wouldn't call them a gift, just as she wouldn't claim to trust Adhira- no. Raani shared a sorrow with her father, and that was no thing to be accepted lightly. Even a parent need not be subjected to their grown child's pain.

She smiled softly and returned the immaterial hug. Her aura was colder than her father's- the cool side of the pillow when you couldn't sleep, the comfort and safety of your blankets when you retired for the night. Her aura was filled with what she could offer. Seth was not the only one who was hesitant to love their family.

Raani wanted to adore her father. She wanted to care for him. To love him. Yet if it came down to her father or Bes- it would cause her needless pain to care for her father. She knew the story. She knew why her father was wary of his children. She even knew that she was a far more likely target for him.

She also knew that her mother had kept the twins hidden for a reason. That Bes could be considered a threat by their father as well. And, as previously established, Bes was the only one Raani trusted.

Raani offered her father a sad smile, reaching out to squeeze his hand. "And I know better than most that a lifetime is rarely long enough to forget pain." She offered him different memories now. Mortals who several lifetimes later were still holding on to the worst parts of their beginnings. And one truly rare, truly radiant, soul that held on to the wonder that came with seeing her daughter's eyes for the first time.

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