|Jean Auguste Dominque Ingres,|
The Apotheosis of Homer
Source: Wikimedia Commons
I was born on this long, narrow peninsula that foreigners call the Land of the Dawn Greeters. I was never able to rise early enough to join the People and greet the sunrise, as they claim to have done each day since the Creator brought the First Dawn to Termag, but I always knew I was different in other ways. More significant ways. It has taken a lifetime to learn what those differences are.
I leave my clothes on the sand, and walk across the beach and into the ocean. The water is cool, but not uncomfortable, and the salt smell reminds me of my childhood among the People. This one morning, I was awake before the People, but only because I had been up all night preparing the magic.
“Tropir.” I turn at the sound of my name.
“Komu.” My oldest childhood friend, now a woman grown. Nudity is not a tabu among the People, so I feel no shame before her. “Please do not plead with me,” I tell her. “I must do this. If it does not kill me, then I will learn who I truly am.”
“It’s true, then,” she says. “Have you another to bear witness?”
“I do not, Komu. I would be honored if you will be my witness.”
She says nothing, but nods and sheds her own clothes. Naked, she joins me in the surf. I feel no yearning, even though we had lain together, in an illicit pairing, the last night before I was sent into the wide world. It had meant something to who we had once been; but twenty years, whether in one place or traveling the world, remolds a person as it will.
With Komu at my side, I turn my back on the shore. This particular beach is shallow for a long way out, especially at low tide. It is nearly twenty reaches before I stand waist-deep. Earth under my feet, Water to my hips, Air above, and the morning sun brings Fire. I summon—or rather, connect with—each element.
“What have you seen, out in the wide world?” Komu asks.
“Many things,” I reply. “Places where snow covers the ground year-round. Mountains that smoke. People in mortal combat with misshapen, twisted things. A vast forest, where the trees are awake and speak, and the Unfallen roam. And people… simply being people.”
“What have you learned?”
“Many things. But one thing I never learned was how to awake an hour before sunrise.” We share a sad laugh. “Stand away, Komu. I know not how this magic will affect what is immediately around me.”
She moves away, and I gather all four elements, my intent combining them all. While Fire and Water can never be combined on their own, the moderating influence of Earth and Air can allow all to join. The sea bottom churns, a hot mist rises around me, blown by strange winds. The elements pull at me from without, the magic pushes from within, and I feel the changes they work. There is some pain, but not as much as I would have thought. I will not die, but rather…
Komu gasps as I leap into the air, the sun making my skin glow like fire. I slam into the water, skimming the bottom, and leap once again. I release the magic, for I no longer need it. My witness shouts with joy as I leap and splash, leap and splash, flying into the horizon to join the rest of the lesser gods.