Destiny

Posted on May 19, 2019 in GT Fiction by

A man fulfills his destiny. Warning: for mature readers only.

“…and the sacred magic was placed into the Vessel, the god who could die.”

-Ancient text of the Order

Kysein sat on the edge of the marble bench, feeling more alone than he ever would have thought possible. In his lap was the ceremonial robe, the fabric shimmering a subtle gold. He couldn’t bring himself to put it on, no matter how hard he tried. Despite the fact that he had been preparing himself for this moment, he found his courage slipping away.

I want to go home, Kysein thought, and his gaze moved from the robe to the walls surrounding him. This place was so different from his family’s farmhouse; the room was huge and richly decorated, with ivory statues and furniture carved from the rarest woods. Everything seemed to gleam and sparkle and shine, and Kysein was afraid to touch anything besides the bench. He didn’t belong here, amongst so much luxury. He was just the son of a peasant, a nobody. They should have chosen a powerful nobleman or a distinguished scholar or a legendary warrior instead.

Huddled on the bench, he wondered if it was too late to escape.

They would catch him, though. And who knew what happened to those who dared to defy their destiny? All of his predecessors had willingly accepted the role of the Vessel. Kysein had to do the same thing, as much as it terrified him. He pulled on the golden robe, his palms clammy, his mouth uncomfortably dry. When he glanced into one of the ornate mirrors, all that he saw was a frightened young man whose face had paled to the color of whey. Even when he forced himself to look calm, his eyes betrayed him. Nervousness lurked within their dark depths.

In the mirror’s reflection Merina appeared, a tall figure in white and jade robes, and Kysein spun around to face her.

“Are you almost ready?” The head priestess asked. She had been the one who had visited his family’s farm several months prior, the one who had announced that he was to become the Vessel. Kysein had listened as she told him that this was his duty, and although he had wanted to protest, he hadn’t been able to form the words. He had to do it; he had no other choice. If the magic was interrupted or broken, the consequences would be devastating.

“Yes, I’m ready,” he told Merina, and they both heard the quaver in his voice. The priestess took his hand, wrapped her slim fingers around his own, and led him from the room into the candlelit corridor. The gloominess hid most of the details, but Kysein could make out paintings along the walls, depictions of long-dead gods and supernatural creatures. He wished that he could have asked Merina what they were, but she was too intent on dragging him along, their sandals slapping against the tiled floor.

The priestess pushed open a pair of heavy doors and they stepped outside into the night. The garden that circled the temple was beautiful, and Ylla would have loved all of the flowers, the large bushes of bougainvillea and the bright peonies and the dew-speckled roses. His heart tightened as he thought about Ylla’s soft features, her smiling eyes. She had understood when he had told her that he was leaving.

“This is your destiny,” she had said sadly.

This is my destiny, Kysein reminded himself as they walked through the garden. Yellowish lights flickered ahead, and he saw that they were torches. The other priestesses were gathered around a pool, their faces hidden within hoods, and they didn’t move as Merina and Kysein approached. The head priestess released his hand and gestured toward the pool. He knew that this was the beginning of the ritual, and as his anxiety swelled, sweat ran down between his shoulder blades.

Kysein didn’t bother to take off his sandals or robe as he climbed into the pool. The water was surprisingly warm and fragrant, and he breathed in the aroma of jasmine as he sank down, deeper and deeper. His soaked robe became heavy, as though the fabric had transformed into lead. In unison the priestesses began to chant, their voices hushed.

He listened raptly, trying to recall what came next in the ritual. Before he could remember, the priestesses seized him, a flurry of hands grabbing onto his body. Kysein gasped and bucked as they tried to submerge his head.

“You need to do this,” Merina said, her fingernails biting into his skin. “You need to complete the ritual.”

“I-I know,” he croaked, trembling.

He closed his eyes as his head sank below the surface of the water. Something was happening; his skin tingled with an electric intensity, and as he opened his lips to cry out, water rushed into his mouth. Involuntarily he thrashed, fighting. He was strong, but there were eight priestesses holding him down with determination.

Ylla, he thought, and then he stopped writhing and allowed the change to occur.

***

He could sense them, the dead ones. Kysein was beginning to understand that as the sacred magic was passed from one Vessel to another, remnants of the previous hosts remained. They never said anything, although he knew that they were there, watching. In a way, he wished that they would talk; at least then he would have some company.

Not that Kysein wasn’t constantly surrounded by people. The pilgrims and the priestesses and the people from the nearby villages swarmed around him like noisy, irritating bees. Or sometimes they simply gawked up at him. Like now. Kysein reclined near the temple, waiting for the three tiny people to say something, anything. They all stared up at him with the same startled expression, and whenever he moved his hand or shifted his body, they flinched.

“You are a god to them,” Merina had said, and she was right, he was exactly that. The magic had transformed him, peeling away his humanity and replacing it with such breathtaking power. He towered over everyone and everything, literally and figuratively. When he had emerged from the magical pool he had been a giant, the ground quaking beneath his feet. And while that had been exciting at first, he began to miss being a person. He missed his farmhouse, his village, his sense of belonging.

Most of all, he missed her.

“Divine One?” One of the worshippers finally spoke up.

Kysein forced himself to pay attention to them, and for the hundredth time, he was astonished at how small they were. The two men and the woman could have all fit on his palm, and there would have been room for several more people. Kysein would never touch them, though. He understood how massive he had become, and he feared that he wouldn’t be able to control his own strength. Just one wrong move and a tragic accident could occur. So he watched and listened to these frail, tiny beings, always keeping his distance from them. With great resignation, Kysein realized that he was completely separated from everyone else.

I’m alone.

“O Divine One, we beseech thee,” the worshipper said, and Kysein could only imagine what he wanted. Probably more land, or a beautiful wife, or a thousand other things. They were always concerned with what they wanted, what they needed, and he understood that he was just a dispenser of wishes and magic, nothing more. Bitterness filled him, and it was so strong that he could practically taste it.

I could destroy you all with a swipe of my hand, he thought, and for an instant, he considered it. Then he realized where his thoughts had wandered, and the poisonous, angry bitterness turned to horror.

What have I become?

The little worshippers must have seen the troubled look in his eyes because they backed away. Kysein didn’t try to stop them as they left. Let them go, let them all go, he thought. As he sat there, staring out at the horizon, he was overcome with regrets. The priestesses had told him that this was his destiny, and he hadn’t argued. But what if he had fought them? What if someone else had taken his place, become the Vessel instead? Kysein imagined what his life may have been like, and the bitterness returned, a tidal wave of it.

He was too absorbed in his thoughts to notice that the nearby grass had withered and turned an unhealthy yellow. Leaves began to drop from the trees, a few at first, and then suddenly the air was filled with them. They fluttered down onto his glowing skin, sizzled and turned to ash. Kysein didn’t see this happen, nor did he see the tendrils of darkness that expanded and crawled out into the world.

***

The flowers were all dying.

As Ylla knelt down by the flowerbed, she saw that all of the vibrant petals had shriveled and faded. Daisies crumbled to a fine dust on her fingertips, and she frowned, unsure what could have caused this. There hadn’t been a drought, and it was unlike any blight that she had ever seen.

The flowers weren’t the only things that had been affected. For as far as Ylla could see the fields had turned the same sickly shade of brown. And the sky was like something out of an apocalyptic text, the charcoal clouds stretching out endlessly overhead. She almost expected blood or frogs or some other sort of plague to rain down upon the land.

“Ylla?” A voice called out, and she stood, brushing the dirt and dead flowers from her dress. An older woman was standing by her house, and Ylla recognized the distinctive white and jade robes. This was one of the priestesses of the Vessel.

“Yes, that’s me.” Ylla wondered why the woman was here. The last time that one of the priestesses had visited the village, she had announced that Kysein was to give everything up that he cherished. Ylla tried not to think about him; the ache was there everyday, and this woman’s presence only exacerbated it. Like probing and picking at a fresh, sensitive scar.

“My name’s Trista,” the woman told her. “I’m from the Order.”

The wind had picked up, and Ylla noticed that it was unusually cold for summertime. Shivering, she asked, “How can I help you?”

“You know Kysein, don’t you? The one who was selected to become the Vessel?”

Ylla nodded. She didn’t just know him; he had been her best friend and the first man that she ever kissed. She often remembered the plushness of his lips against her own, the sweet warmth of his breath. Perhaps things would have turned out differently if he hadn’t been chosen.

“He’s…” Trista hesitated. “…unwell.”

“Is he hurt?” A thousand terrible scenarios filled Ylla’s mind: that he had been injured, that he was ill, that he was dying.

“Not physically,” the priestess replied. “He seems to have disappeared into himself. He refuses to talk to us, and now the magic is becoming corrupted. It’s affecting everything…the crops and the animals and even people.”

Ylla glanced at her wilted flowerbed. “So he’s doing this?”

“Yes, indirectly.”

“How can we stop it?” Ylla asked, lifting her eyes from the dead plants and looking at Trista. The priestess’ answer surprised her.

“We’re hoping that you can help.”

***

They rode in Trista’s carriage, and Ylla spent the time studying the grim landscape as it rushed by. It was as if the entire world had become diseased, the rot spreading and festering as she watched. She could hardly believe that Kysein was somehow responsible for it. If it had been anyone else, then she would have trusted what Trista had told her. But Kysein was such a gentle man, the sort of man who would help a robin with a broken wing. Surely the priestess had been lying.

Trista didn’t say much until the carriage reached its destination. Ylla had never been to the temple, although she had heard stories of its magnificence. She took a moment to appreciate the silver spires and the bright blue stained glass windows; then the priestess descended from the carriage and she followed.

They didn’t go inside of the temple as Ylla had been expecting. Instead, they headed through a garden that made Ylla’s flowerbeds appear healthy and thriving in comparison. Most of the leaves and petals were gone from the plants, leaving behind scrawny, crooked stems and trunks. An odor, bitter and rancid and pervasive, assaulted her nose and she lifted her hand to cover her nostrils.

Once more, her mind balked at the idea that Kysein had done this. But who else could have caused such devastation? Ylla had a limited knowledge of the Vessels; she knew that they were once people like her, that they gave up their humanity to become the bearers of unimaginable power. Could that have changed him? Perhaps whatever magical process the priestesses used had seared away Kysein’s soul. She shuddered as she considered that.

Ylla followed Trista through the twisted, blackened remains of the garden, past an empty pool. That pool was where the odor seemed to originate from; she winced in disgust as they walked by. She wasn’t a trained magic user, not like the priestesses, but even she could sense the powerful forces here, which were so strong that they were almost tangible.

A soft, golden glow cut through the gloom, and as they drew closer to the source, Trista said, “Remember, he’s not exactly the man that he used to be.”

The priestess’ warning sent an icy prickle over Ylla’s skin. The golden light intensified as they stepped out of the garden, and Ylla had to shield her eyes as she looked out over the distance. She spotted him immediately; it was impossible to miss a being who was so immense.

And Trista had been right. He had changed. She could see the parts of him that had been her friend, but it was like looking at an image that had been repainted, again and again, until the original had almost completely disappeared. When she had last seen him, his hair had been as black as ink. Now it was that same shimmering gold as his skin, the strands more like fine fragments of metal than human hair.

Even more startling was the otherworldly energy radiating from his body. The glow was coming from his flesh, and his eyes were like twin beacons of white light. Every time that he blinked the light was blotted out for a split second.

Kysein was crouched down, broad shoulders slumped, his posture one of misery. Although her heart ached for him, she didn’t dare to approach. His size was overwhelming, utterly intimidating. The dead trees surrounding him were little more than dandelions, and there was no doubt that he could have uprooted the tallest oaks with ease. So this was a Vessel. This was what he had been destined to become.

As if he sensed them, Kysein turned his head in their direction. His gaze fell on Trista first; then, when he saw Ylla, his fiery eyes widened. “What are you doing here, Ylla?”

Although the volume was earthshaking, it wasn’t the voice of a god. It was the voice of a man, and she heard so many things in it: surprise, relief, embarrassment. Most of all, she heard Kysein, and that somehow helped to soothe the fear running through her.

“Trista brought me here,” she told him, wondering if he could even hear her from that distance. His head was higher than the temple spires, and to someone so enormous, she probably sounded like a chittering insect.

But somehow Kysein heard her. Trying to smile and failing, he said, “I’ve missed you.”

She could only nod, her mind still trying to grasp what he had become. Cautiously Ylla approached the giant, and sensing her nervousness, he didn’t move until she was a few feet away. Bending down for a closer look, his radiant face plunged down from the heavens and stopped several stories above her.

Ylla gaped up at him, transfixed by his glowing eyes, his size. Realizing that she was being rude, she yanked her gaze away. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to stare.”

“I’m used to it,” he replied. “Sometimes pilgrims come to the temple and they seem so amazed to see me. Amazed, and frightened. It makes me feel like I’m not a person anymore.”

“I’m not frightened,” Ylla said, and she hoped that he couldn’t see through her lie.

Again Kysein attempted to smile. Lowering his right hand, he stretched out his fingers, the glowing digits so big that she could make out the finer details of his nails and knuckles. Once or twice when she was younger, Ylla’s grandfather had let her use his magnifying glass, and she had peered at her fingertips and palm and wrist, fascinated by all of the little things that her eyes usually missed. And now it felt as though she was gazing through a vast magnifying glass as Kysein’s hand descended.

He didn’t touch her, and when she realized that he was offering his hand, she stretched up on her toes. Ylla’s own hand brushed his index finger; a small jolt rattled her body as the magic passed through her, and unprepared for it, she tumbled backwards. Or she would have tumbled backwards if Kysein hadn’t caught her, his long fingers wrapping around her abdomen, his palm supporting her back.

“Are you okay?” He asked, and Ylla squeaked out a weak “Yes.” She was struggling to deal with the sensations — the heat of his hand, the soft firmness of his flesh. And all of that magic, overpowering her senses and leaving her stunned. Vaguely Ylla was aware that he was lifting her up, the magic still coursing through her.

Kysein inspected the woman in his hand, his golden eyebrows bunched together in concern. As she became acclimatized to the effects of the magic, the mental fogginess drifted away and Ylla realized how far above the ground she was. The highest that she had ever climbed was to the top of an old tree, and this was so much higher than that. Shaking, Ylla wrapped her arms around Kysein’s thumb, clinging onto it with frantic determination. He noted her panic and cupped his other hand protectively around her.

“I’ve never held a person before,” Kysein said. “I was so afraid that I’d hurt the pilgrims or the priestesses if I picked them up. All that I could think about what that I’d injure them…or worse.”

His grip was far from painful, though. He held her as if she were a prized lily, and with care and curiosity, he touched her arms. Her legs. Her soft, gingery curls. Feeling bolder, Ylla explored him as well, amazed that these huge fingers belonged to her friend. She looked into his face, and maybe it was the magic that was connecting them, but she could feel his sadness and such deep loneliness. Becoming a Vessel, the host of life-sustaining magic, was supposed to be the ultimate honor. But that was all wrong, she realized. Humans were social creatures, and to rip them away from everyone else was a crueler fate than anything else Ylla could have imagined.

“I’m so sorry,” she managed to say.

Kysein was confused. “For what?”

“For not speaking up. For telling you to go.”

At last he smiled, and the inhumanness of his features vanished. “It’s not your fault, Ylla.”

The giant’s face was close enough that she was able to reach out and lay her hand on his cheek. More than anything she wanted to help him, but she wasn’t sure how. What was done was done; the magic was bound within him, inseparable until he eventually burned away like a candle. How ironic that the ancients had believed that gods required sacrifices; in reality, the gods were the sacrifices.

“I can’t do this anymore,” he said, and her heart leapt up into her throat, “I can’t keep being their god.”

“Wait, don’t!” Ylla pleaded as Kysein lowered her down toward the ground. She tried to hold onto the titanic fingers but he gently pushed her away. The giant’s smile became wistful, his glowing eyes dimmed, and then he vanished. It wasn’t a gradual process; one second he was towering above her, and the next second he was gone.

“What have you done?” Trista shrieked, horrified. But Ylla said nothing. Her gaze was frozen on the spot where he had been; now only flattened, dead grass remained.

***

Whenever Kysein read about Aluth, he always imagined it to be an enormous port city, impressive in its sprawling size. And while the city would have certainly been impressive to a normal-sized person, he found it to be as disappointingly small as everything else. Kysein immediately noticed that the tallest building only came up to his chest, and most of the other structures were only knee-high.

He hadn’t meant to come here. His mind had seized upon the first place that popped into his head, which turned out to be Aluth. That had been a mistake; everything was as flimsy and breakable as he had feared. Kysein found himself wedged between clusters of buildings, and as he turned and twisted, he managed to damage several of them. Mammoth chunks of marble and masonry smashed down onto the ground, and suddenly there were big holes in the sides of buildings, exposing the inhabitants within. Frustrated, Kysein stumbled forward and cursed at how tiny this city was.

The Aluthians streamed out into the streets, further complicating things. It reminded him of the time when he had discovered field mice hiding in his barn. But instead of mice running around his feet, it was hundreds and hundreds of minuscule people. Kysein couldn’t even take a step without noticing that someone was in his way. Little bodies cowered in his shadow, refusing to move. One balding man actually knelt down in front of him, prayers bubbling up from his lips.

“Get out of my way, dammit,” Kysein growled, and summoning his powers, he parted the crowd, pushing the people aside with surges of magical energy. As soon as the path was cleared, he headed for the harbor. If he could get to the water, he wouldn’t have to worry about destroying buildings or injuring someone.

it took him several minutes to reach the harbor, the streets cracking and crumbling beneath his heavy stride, and the entire time people gawked at him from windows, from doorways, from sidewalks. A thousand horrified eyes all stared at him, and never had Kysein felt so self-conscious. He was relieved when he made it to the harbor and strode out into the water. There were ships everywhere, some of them at the dock, others circling around the ocean. Kysein managed to avoid them…except for one.

The fishing boat floated on the water, hardly larger than a piece of driftwood to the giant. He didn’t see it until it was too late, and although he jerked his leg away at the last second, his movements churned up the water. Gargantuan waves rocked the tiny boat and the fishermen were flung out into the sea. Kysein immediately bent down and tried to fish them out of the water.

The men began to scream, frightened, and as they swam and dove and avoided his grasp, Kysein understood that he was a monster to them. Most likely the people in the little marble city also viewed him as some sort of terrifying colossus.

I’m not a monster or a god, he wanted to tell them.

That wasn’t the only thing that Kysein wanted to tell them; his anger and sadness had festered and grown exponentially, and he wanted to howl out his frustrations. But he chose to leave instead, his powers whisking him far away from the port city. This time he didn’t have a particular destination in mind, and he ended up in a distant forest. Some sort of disease was ravaging the trees, leaving them bare and withered, but he only gave them a cursory glance. He trudged through the wilderness, trees and bushes snapping and falling beneath him. At one point a bear crossed his path. Had he still been a human, the animal would have been a formidable threat. But now it was so small and harmless looking. The bear rose up onto its hind legs, stared, and then fled for its life. Kysein watched it scurry away then settled down near a stream. Without really thinking about it, he dug his forefinger deep into the ground and created a channel, rerouting the stream.

I have enough power to do whatever I want. I can conquer civilizations, I can change the course of history.

But was that really what he wanted? As Kysein watched the rerouted stream, he thought about what he desired: love, the touch of another person, Ylla. The absence of those things had created a dull, persistent ache.

I want to back, he thought. Not to the temple, though. I want to go home.

And so, focusing his power again, he did.

***

They kept Ylla at the temple for several days, asking her over and over again what had happened. The head priestess repeatedly told her that a Vessel had never abandoned them, and she insinuated that Ylla was somehow to blame for Kysein’s disappearance. No matter what she said, they wouldn’t listen. As the priestesses paced and fretted, Ylla wondered where he was. An island, or the middle of a burning desert, or perhaps a different plane of existence. She remembered that deep sense of loneliness, and she wished that wherever he was, she was there with him.

Merina dismissed her at last, and Ylla tried to ignore the gray, rotten landscape as she headed home.

How could he do this? Just leave, while the world withers away? She wondered, and then she asked herself, Would I have done the same thing?

She couldn’t answer that.

It felt so good to relax in her own bed, and Ylla fell asleep almost immediately. The dreams that she had seemed more like memories: Kysein when he was just a man, his hands clasping hers with a ferocious desperation. She wanted to tell him everything that she had been feeling for so long, but all that she could say was “It’s our destiny.” And then the tremors shook her bed, ripping her violently from the dream. Ylla sat up and tried to peer through the thick veil of darkness, but she couldn’t make anything out until a soft glow moved across the floors and walls and ceiling.

Kysein had returned.

The window was across the room, and as Ylla watched, a colossal eye appeared in it. She rose from bed and hurried toward him, hoping that this wasn’t part of the dream, that she wasn’t still asleep. Although Kysein could have smashed the panes with just one finger, he waited patiently for her to unlock the window.

“I thought that you were gone forever,” Ylla said, and he held out a massive hand. She opened the window and crawled onto his palm, the night air chilly against her bare limbs.

“At first I didn’t want to come back,” Kysein admitted. “But then I started to think about all of the people that I’d miss, yourself included.”

“I missed you too.” She realized how much he had been in her thoughts, how his absence had created a sort of vacuum in her life. Just seeing him again was enough to fill her with a quiet joy.

Kysein’s other hand moved closer, as if he wanted to touch her. Then it paused as he reconsidered, a darker golden tinge blossoming across his cheeks.

“It’s okay,” Ylla told him, and reassured, he explored her body with his finger, fascinated by her miniature curves. Again the magic flowed into her, but this time she was ready for it and she basked in its strange, subtle warmth. She felt something else as well…she felt him. His thoughts, his feelings, everything that was him. Never had Ylla felt so intimate with another person; it went beyond physical contact and into something emotional and almost spiritual. As his finger drifted over her nightgown, she experienced his sadness, his loneliness, and his love.

She waded into his memories, saw what it was like to be a god. The world changed, becoming small and delicate and utterly alien. Everything that she touched — everything that he touched — seemed to crumble beneath her — his — fingertips. The worshippers regarded their god with fear and wonder and they brought him offerings, piles of silver and jewels and the finest wines, which he couldn’t even drink. But as much as they adored him, he was no longer a person in their eyes. He was something powerful and unknowable, something to be worshipped in an abstract sort of way. They threw themselves at his feet, begged for mercy and a bountiful harvest and fertility. He tried to help them, to give them what they wanted, and yet their needs were endless.

And as he watched the tiny people go about their lives, interacting with their friends and families and neighbors while he remained isolated, he despaired.

Ylla despaired along with him, and as the emotions threatened to smother her, she withdrew from his mind. She contemplated the flurry of memories and then realized that the magical link worked both ways. Kysein could feel her emotions and desires, and her face reddened in embarrassment. All of her most secret thoughts were out in the open for him to see. That first kiss, the one that had happened so many years ago, suddenly replayed before their eyes.

“I never knew that you felt that way,” Kysein said.

She shrugged, still flustered. Holding her carefully in his palm, the giant sat down, right on top of one of her flower beds. It was fortunate that all of the flowers were already dead because they would have been crushed instantly. He did knock over a birch tree, snapping it like a twig and sending the pieces crashing thunderously to the ground. The giant’s hardly noticed, though; his attention was on Ylla.

His human desires hadn’t disappeared when he had become a god, and that had been yet another source of frustration for him. Kysein craved touch, that feeling of skin against skin, but he also understood how fragile people were. Their bones were as delicate as spun glass, their flesh so tender and easy to bruise. He constantly feared that he would hurt them, or worse. Imprisoned in the body of a god, he fought back the urges and the frustration.

Ylla felt his desire, despite the fact that he tried to hide it from her. It enveloped her like a warm mist, bringing pleasant goosebumps to her skin. For a minute she shoved aside her own feelings; then she realized that they were alone out here, and that her self-consciousness and reluctance were silly. She had pushed Kysein away once, when the priestesses had ordered him to come with them. Why continue to push him away?

Leaning forward, Ylla kissed the pad of Kysein’s huge finger. It was so different from that first kiss, but it was just as exhilarating. The texture of his finger was unexpected; she felt the large ridges and depressions and wrinkles against her lips. She glanced up, saw Kysein’s mouth widen into a smile. And yet there was still hesitation in his expression, and she remembered how dangerously fragile people had become to him.

“I trust you,” Ylla said, embracing his finger as if it were a normal-sized man.

It was true; despite his intimidating size, he was still the same Kysein, and she knew that he wouldn’t harm her. Gently the giant pinched her nightgown between his fingernails, and it astonished her how nimble he was. He was shy in his movements, as if he were still an awkward young man and not a living god. The garment gradually peeled away, enough to reveal the rounded slope of her shoulder. Then the rest of the nightgown fell away, plucked from her body, and his lips were suddenly caressing her bare belly. She returned the kiss, burrowing her face against his philtrum. In the back of Ylla’s consciousness she realized that the unseasonable chill had left the air, that it was beginning to feel like summer again.

I want you more than anything in the world, she thought, or maybe she spoke it aloud. Kysein lifted her away from his lips, trailed his fingertips over her body, pausing here and there to appreciate some minute feature. He touched her with such reverence that she almost forgot which one of them was the deity. Ylla shuddered at the feathery strokes, amazed at how he could manipulate such immense, powerful fingers. When Kysein’s thumb brushed over her thigh, she pulled in her breath and held it. Emboldened by her reaction, the giant ran his pinkie upwards, and its passing raised several more goosebumps on her flesh.

I want you too, he thought, and the magical connection allowed Ylla to hear every word. She sank down into the soft folds of his palm, surrounded by the steady thrum of his pulse, aware that she was high above the ground and her house and everything else. When Kysein’s tongue replaced his finger against her skin, she welcomed it. The giant’s tongue, as silvery-white as platinum, wound its way between her legs and parted her labia, slithering against her clitoris. Pleasure tightened her lower belly as she glanced up into Kysein’s glowing eyes. Ylla saw so many things in them: immortality and mortality, power and humanity. As the enormous, slippery tongue filled her in ways that she didn’t even think were possible, she gasped, the noise quickly drowned out by the giant’s rumbling breaths.

The pleasure crested, exploded into ecstasy, and every muscle seemed to contract simultaneously. She quivered as Kysein withdrew his tongue, leaving her with a sense of emptiness. A part of her wanted to be filled, again and again. With a tremendous crash of noise he stretched out and placed Ylla on his chest, tilting his head so that he could see her. She rose and fell in time with his breathing, and his thoughts swirled around her. Kysein’s lust burned as brightly as her own, and even if they hadn’t been sharing a supernatural connection, it would have been obvious. Underneath the shimmering fabric of his robe the giant’s erection stirred, imposingly huge.

Ylla made her way down the length of Kysein’s abdomen, which turned out to be more difficult than she would have imagined. Even though he tried to stay motionless, his body continued to breathe and move. The most minor muscle twitches were enough to cause her to stumble, and she lost her footing once or twice as she trekked across his midsection. He had to lift his robe for her; it was impossibly heavy, and although she tried, pushing and shoving with all of her strength, she couldn’t move it easily. Kysein grabbed the robe, the fabric rustling as loudly as ship sails in a strong gale, and a moment later she saw the towering length of his penis.

The golden strands of his pubic hair tickled her feet and shins as she approached the base of his shaft. How to please someone so big was a daunting challenge, and Ylla wondered if he would even feel her touch. Reaching out, she placed her hands on the column of flesh, felt the rhythmic rush of blood as it was pumped through gigantic arteries and veins. It turned out that he could feel her, and with a low groan he rotated his hips and nearly tossed her from his body. Somehow Ylla managed to hold onto him. As he settled down and the earthquakes seemed to stop all at once, she remembered how fragile people were to him, how fragile she was to him.

And yet that didn’t deter her. Ylla began to climb up the penis, digging her fingers and toes into the velvety skin. She almost slid and toppled when she neared the top, but Kysein’s hand shot out and caught her. He put her down so that she was straddling the deeply-red cockhead, her legs gripping so tightly that they ached. Warm, watery precum, copious amounts of it, flowed in waves and bathed her. Ylla tried to massage the flesh surrounding her, but it quickly became apparent that she was too small to do much besides elicit a few resounding groans from the giant.

Then his fingers were around her, and he maneuvered her body against his. She helped as much as she could, kissing the silky skin, although it was Kysein who controlled where she went. The giant pressed Ylla here and there, slowing down at times to enjoy the sensations. His grip became tighter and tighter as his breath caught in his throat. He came with the volume and force of a geyser, thick, pearly fluid washing over Ylla, and the hand holding her relaxed.

With great tenderness Kysein cleaned Ylla, then he stretched back out, tucking the tiny woman into the folds of his robe. As they laid there, Kysein said quietly, “The priestesses told me never to do anything like this. It’s sinful for the Vessels to be defiled. They’ll be furious—,”

“Let them be furious,” Ylla replied. He said nothing, and the silence rested heavily upon them both. Bit by bit, she worked up the courage to ask him the question that she had been avoiding: “Are you going back to the temple?”

“I guess I have to go back.” Kysein paused. “But I don’t want to be alone again.”

“I could go with you,” she suggested, hoping that Kysein wouldn’t argue. He didn’t; his fingers found her again, and as she leaned into his caress, she noticed that the world was changing before her. Whatever blight that had been affecting the trees was gone; green leaves unfurled from the branches and the trunks lost their ashy, diseased appearance. All around her the chirping of crickets swelled into a loud drone, something that she hadn’t heard in the longest time.

Most astonishing of all were the flowers. They sprang up from the dead grass, increasing in number before her eyes. There were poppies and daisies and pansies and so many other types of flowers, bursting out in a bright array of colors. She watched as the rainbow spread across the ground, cool blues and vivid purples and brilliant pinks, and the area surrounding them became a sea of flowers.