Even after countless centuries, the stark echo of nothingness still rattled her to the core. The temple used to swarm with onlookers, worshippers, priestesses—humans. Now, the only sound appeared in the form of lost rodents and Euviyani’s own bare feet tracing the mosaic on the tiled floor.
And wasn’t that a name to be remembered? Euviyani: the goddess of warmth. A deity to be idolized and loved by the masses. Every fire under the glittering sky, every hug from a loved one, every comfortable night indoors away from the chill of the wind would mimic her very name. Now, it felt like she was simply Euviyani: the forgotten goddess. The goddess left alone to rot in her own temple.
A famished breeze swept through the broken windowpane, and Euviyani shuddered. The powers she once reigned over felt thready, a weak pulse barely evident under the sheer skin of her throat. It was as though a larger, more memorable deity had ensured her strength was depleted, her movements circumscribed. She loved her temple—she truly did. But these were the moments where she wished she were the goddess of creation and construction. Maybe then she could fix the splinters throughout the temple walls, ensure they weren’t maimed beyond repair. Warmth could only take one so far. The ache of loneliness only further froze her to the marrow. It strained her muscles and left stabbing pricks across gentle nerves.
As she sauntered across tiled hallways and allowed her eyes to graze each ichor-stained mural, she recounted the days of the old. Of galas and jubilees with the other deities. Arguments over control and borders. No one had gotten into contact with her in such a long time. Were they lost under the weight of the hourglass’ sands too? She didn’t know which was worse: the idea that they were trapped alongside her or the possibility that they had neglected to remember her.
Her ears snagged on the sound of footsteps immediately. After so long of listening only to her own movements and those of scavenging animals, her senses had sharpened to unfamiliar noises. She waited several seconds, gauging the direction before drifting towards the muffled shuffle. She kept her own steps light as to not scare away the intruder.
“Intruder” felt bitter against her tastebuds, sickeningly acerbic as it trailed down her throat. Was that truly how she thought now? After so long, had her guests and welcomed worshippers become nothing more than “intruders” to her.
She cut that thought short as not to flatter herself. The harsh wind likely invited in someone seeking shelter. Still, Euviyani was many things, but a bad hostess was not one of them.
With each hurried step, she felt her temperature increase, rising several degrees and spreading from her chest outward to each limb. She could feel the sun in her fingertips despite recognizing its position in the sky was much farther away than she. As warmth crept up her throat, her muscles pulled into a giddy smile, one she tried to secrete. Deities did not grow joyous over such insignificant things. Oh, if only she could believe that.
As she rounded the corner, she saw a man, his hand hovering in midair and his eyes cemented to one of the murals. It was one of her favorites. A mortal from hundreds of years prior had painted Euviyani as though she were stepping out of a bonfire, an aura of embers tracing her silhouette like a halo. Clearly, the man recognized exquisite craftsmanship when he saw it.
Upon registering the figure beside him, the man dropped to floor in shock. Yet, it melted to astonishment as she approached him. Awe dripped from his eyebrows and bled down sharp cheekbones until it forced his lips to fall into an oblong. Euviyani registered each feature. The star-swept, charcoal eyes and skin the color of coconut shells. He had a pretty face for a mortal, alluring in a way that intrigued her. Pale dust smothered his tight curls, making him look slightly disheveled. His clothes had the same pewter-colored film that clung to his hair. Had her temple been buried, left for this stranger to excavate eons later?
“Welcome, mortal,” Euviyani said. She attempted to keep the jubilation out of her voice in exchange for a tone emanating power. But oh, the challenge was excruciating.
“Who…who are you?” the man asked, breathless words brushing the bottom octaves.
Immediately, the elation vanished. Of course, he wouldn’t know.
“I am Euviyani,” she answered, “the goddess of warmth.” She offered a hand to the man to lift him up to his feet once more. Heat spilled onto his skin, and in turn, she recognized the same sensation reflected back onto her, albeit less intensely. The connection was everything she could have dreamed of. “Both in the literal and metaphorical sense,” she continued, pulling him upright.
He dusted off his trousers before meeting her eyes again. She was surprised at his ability to hold his irises against hers. At her peak, mortals would find her physical form unbearably bright. Even her shimmering shadow left their retinas scalding. She used to cloak herself in the ash of her flames to dim her glowing skin. Now, the man did not even squint. Did her muted powers truly affect her this heavily?
“Ro,” the mortal said. He shook her hand—with only a hint of confusion on the goddess’ end—before giving her a smile. “I’m surprised you’re still here. No one else seems to be.”
The cold wove itself into her bones once more. Euviyani kept her voice even as she answered the unspoken question. “My followers have depleted, I suppose. My people must have moved on.”
“And you didn’t move with them?” Ro asked. His eyes darted away from hers to look at the scrawl across the temple walls, the patterns within the tiled floors, the forgotten space around them.
“It is only possible when their will is strong.” Euviyani sat on one of the broken columns a few feet away. “It is likely they have forgotten me, as I have competed with the deities of fire for longer than they have existed.” She let her cheek rest in her palm. The skin felt fevered, and hope flickered through her.
Ro sat beside her. Euviyani could detect neither hesitance or terror, and she was grateful. She couldn’t imagine waiting multiple millennia to talk to another being, only for them to distance themselves from her. What a sick, cruel display that would be.
Perhaps that was why it was so easy to talk to the man beside her. Before she could stop herself, she rattled on about the ancient ways of life, the boredom, the deities, everything. Ro was an avid listener, and his quips were welcome interruptions from her nosedives into her own mind. He could pull her out of her stress-induced rambles with gentle jokes and nudges. Even as she spoke, embers flickered around her, a symptom of her immortality that she hadn’t experienced in centuries.
She hadn’t expected a mortal’s arrival, least of all for Ro to return each day. Together, they stripped the age from the walls’ pores. They watched as the floor transformed from blush to sanguine. The vibrant hues returned to each mural as though they never disappeared, until each surface was stained with cobalt and emerald and marigold. Everything was granted new life, and Euviyani felt her own return.
With each passing day, she found herself falling in love with Ro. The warmth of his spirit rivaled her own, but his outlook was vastly different. His soothing drawl drew her from each mental cliff she constructed, and he helped her balance as she climbed back down. His contagious enthusiasm enveloped her completely until she drowned in his joy. She learned of his love of history and architecture, of exploring and orienteering. She learned about his poetry, about the elegant noises that seeped from his lips as he sang. She learned that nights stole his breath away in fear of the same death that swept his parents out from underneath him. She whispered promises of immortality, of allowing him to become “Ambrose: the god of discovery and navigation.” Yet, he always smiled, claiming one day. Days and decades felt the same after a life so long.
It was easy to forget that death was real, was painful to all—both to those who experienced it and those who witnessed it. The disease suffocated his lungs until his life flickered out. She knew it immediately, could no longer feel the warmth of his life within earth’s realm.
In anger, she lashed out. She slammed her fists against the murals, cracked each pane of glass with blades of bedrock. She destroyed the temple around her, unwilling to savor its picturesque beauty if Ro was not there to enjoy it with her.
In his death, she felt the last wisps of warmth—warmth she’d forgotten existed—fade off. Her fingers twisted in the coils of her curls as she screamed out in pain both for her body and for Ro’s unmoving one. She watched her breathe escape her lungs as the fire inside her dimmed to extinguishment, her very soul snuffed out like a stone lost to the sea.