A brisk wind, chill from the night, began its decent into dawn with one last caress over the grassy hills and plains. With a determination unseen by the human eye the fierce current blew, dancing and twisting as waves crashed upon the ocean front. With it were carried leaves, turning, rising and falling, untamed by invisible threads which seemed to draw from the Earth itself.
The air was salty, fresh on the ground as blades of grass worshiped with trembling chorus. The earth swayed. Shoreline approaching, leaves of gold and red swirled helplessly in the current only to be beckoned into a tight vortex. The Sun rose and in the glow shimmered the ghost of a figure, the leaves reflecting the sunlight with each passing second.
An undeniably feminine silhouette walked towards a precipice overlooking the ocean, dawn approaching within the half hour. With the brisk and chill breeze, Her body seemed to float over the dewy grass as morning approached. Time moved.
Grasshoppers had fallen silent hours ago, a soft symphony of nature to ease her mind. Through the silence she noted a stillness she'd not heard in ages.
Her gown fluttered in the wind. As though leaves had been embedded onto the hem and bodice, they clung to her form, brought color to her somewhat dull attire. She'd change it if the weather had been a little nicer in the southern hemisphere. Her fall colors always peaked out at the oddest times, her skin ever-changing. Despite the fact that she was in Spring weather of the East Coast, she was lacking the colors brought on by Spring, and was currently sporting browns, gold, red, and dark green. A few things remained, some dark butterflies that decided to latch onto her in order to travel north. They would live but turn with her in shades, mostly because she was ever changing and never aging.
Not physically, at least.
She was supposed to meet with Adrian in the evening. He'd asked for her to meet him privately and mentioned he had something important to tell her. Her stomach fluttered. How she came to love him, she will never know. All she knew was she was nearly head over heels in love with the Time Guardian. Perhaps she enjoyed his presence because of his control and gracefulness, but it was certain that she was the best thing in his life.
Although recently he'd been acting strange, disappearing from dinners at random times and showing up with artifacts. Usually he stuck to watching past events or pretending that he couldn't watch everything unfold while knowing the outcome already.
The guy was a jerk when at the movies, but everyone had their traits. He was responsible to say the least when it came to his job. He'd never been swayed in his time, at least that's what she'd been told. Why she had doubts now of all times she wasn't so sure. The wind felt different this morning. There were few moments when this was a sign of natural foreboding, and each occurrence left her emotionally distraught.
Why she thought so much on the topic of his professional manner always baffled her. However, it was smart to question when things were too good to be true. She would never have questioned if he hadn't made some strange decisions in the past few weeks. Her heart was all but his to hold but he didn't seem as committed as she was.
The winds were changing. She could feel it and was forced to act upon it. Time was grim.
A raven hopped up from behind her and she smiled, shaken from her reverie. "Jack, I see you've found me. Tell Frey I will be arriving shortly. Traveling in this world is hard without the right equipment. However, before you take flight, I request a boon from you. Seek me out should I suddenly become detained this week. I feel ill this morn. Many thanks, friend." She caressed Jack's feathers and he departed. The clouds churned as she stood there, and in her hand appeared a hat, a fedora. Dusting it off, her skin began to maintain a steady color. The magick within the object was strong, and on her head it went. Even the hat felt funny today. She shrugged it off as she continued her journey on foot to the bus station.
Her eyes looked out into the morning, ready for the day to begin. She smiled. This part never got boring. "Call me. . . "
"Lois, what was your distress? I didn't think you the paranoid type," said Frey. The woman in black and red took a bite from her burrito and continued walking with her autumn-clad friend. "Even Jack appeared concerned." The wind almost blew their hats across the food court, which could've blown their entire cover. The clouds were building, too. They were looking at a thunderstorm in the next few hours thanks to Miss Sunshine. Lois brushed a butterfly off her dress, the third one today, and sighed. Thinking back to her sudden change in appetite for beautiful weather, she realized her logic had won over. "Adrian has been so sweet these past weeks, and I feel a lack of concern right now. Logically, I would have been even the tiniest bit suspicious, but right now I feel so light."
"Jack mentioned some illness when he'd arrived. Perhaps he is planning something a little more permanent?" Lois looked up for a minute, as though something had occurred to her, but she shook it off.
"Nonsense. Adrian has control over time, what would he desire the weather?"
"Trust me, he has reason to want them. He's selfish like that. Having the power to harbor Time but not the control to change everything. He is just the Guardian, but he can't change anything. But just because he could have it, doesn't mean he would have the power to control it." Lois knew she was right. Even if Adrian wanted to control the weather, he didn't have the patience or the physical prowess to do any real damage. How she ended up liking a guy like him she would never know. These days she could easily conjure up a tornado that hit the scale at about four without making herself fatigued, but when she started out she could barely conjure a dust devil let alone an F4. Adrian had to use a different method to control time, therefore his powers would've been for moot if he actually succeeded.
She honestly could care less if he was after her. "That's why I prefer to keep everything simple. He could never control them even if he tried, and that's no exaggeration."
"I'm glad I stay out of relationships. I make it a point not to mix business with pleasure." Lois closed her eyes and laughed. Her voice carried and everyone seemed to fall into a daze for a second, as though her sound was a dream. The hats only filtered so much, so the utmost care was needed. Their disguises were bland but fair, the most important part being they could possess objects and tend to their worldly needs.
"How is Lucy? Still livid as ever?"
"He's out of his Hawaiian phase and now acting as the businessman everyone fears. His sense of humor is waning, though. Trade agreements this year, after all. I was lucky to get this time to shop, but he owed me." They fell quiet. Business was often the topic at hand, but they found their way around it to make it entertaining. "Once again, he's asking for 75/25, but it'll end up 60/40 just like last time and the time before that. He's a terrible finagler until someone asks for his help." Frey picked up a hair dryer and checked out the settings. Lois scoffed at the absurd quality of the machine.
"Hun, I could conjure a breeze that would tickle your spine and dry your hair for you."
"His Excellency wouldn't appreciate the favors you were doing me otherwise he would demand you do them for him as well. I'm better off just buying another one and charging him full price."
"I never understood what he was going for, 75/25. It must be a joke."
"He never fails to ask for that number, but I think he's just determined to keep most of them. He can never get over 60 percent." Frey didn't seemed phased by this. The Lord of Darkness getting over 50 percent anyway was a frightening but fair number, but there were things to factor into that number. The contract stated that the percentage of people they agreed on were the ones touched by either party. No prying into the business of the other party was allowed, and usually there was no problem in how they ended up so long as the numbers were right. Frey was calmer these days about such matters, and Lois knew it was just business.
Her contract was with the industrial world. With which company was she under contract? All of them. Since she began work, she'd been called upon to stop acting out against man's devices through the network. She would take out a small town for drilling into her kind and defenseless Earth for what they called "natural resources." She would drown a city that chose to exploit her resources over using the most reliable source of power--the Sun. After a few tries to destroy the balance of man over nature, she was forced to sign a contract with a band of mortals and gods. She was a deity. She had no use for contracts. If that were the case, then she wouldn't have needed to use these hats to get around on this plane.
But with the contracts came a level of rebellion, spurred by the masses and defended by those who lived solely on her. She almost despised them more, but appreciated those who treated her planet with respect instead of spite. The Wiccans had to be her favorite beings by far. They kept to themselves and enjoyed a lovely cup of tea every now and then. They were mellow when they came face to face with a deity.
"Lois, were you planning on hating my choice in appliances any time?"
"Just reminiscing, dear, no need to worry. I fear someone may be trying to disturb my realm this day and want to be on my best behavior when it happens. My contract was just renewed a couple of years ago. They were a snooty bunch and it made a connection somewhere down the line. I would hate to be me right now, who has to deal with the gods of civilized times. The new batch of mortals has sprouted from the ashes of their fathers.
Even if one survived, the contract remained in tact. The begin planning the next one for me to sign. I fear something bad may happen if I didn't real the contract completely this time. They added oil companies to the side, which was callous of them. Makes me wonder if they hid anything else in the manuscript."
"They've got their eyes on you, don't they. At least His Excellency has a bad reputation to keep up with, despite that three decade Hawaiian phase. Sandals, floral patterns, it was hard to keep his image fire and brimstone, but he managed to strike fear into everyone beside that. All it took was one laughing man to straighten the rest of the Underworld out."
Lois giggled. "You've been his secretary for how long? Four centuries?"
"Four and ten. It has not been easy. And his advances are borderline pathetic."
"Advances? You mean he hasn't been able to take you into his bed?"
"Trust me when I say in my years he has not once even forced me to join him."
"You've resisted the Pride Lord all this time? I've only heard of some of his exploits, but it must be hard to turn him down either way."
"He's a kitten, hun, don't forget that. Besides, I didn't value my body when I had it. Prostitution and drugs wore my body down and I regained all I had after I died. I made him laugh when I first told him I wouldn't become what I had before."
Lois thought about Adrian, how he'd been very patient. He knew time had to pass before she'd trust him like that, and fought the urge to be confusing when things needn't be confusing. Mortal or Deity, no difference in how either thought. Man could be more insightful than Deity, and Deities could be more so fickle as well. It was a spin of the dice at that point.
Adrian was sweet when he wasn't trying to be devious, she thought. Ever since she had put her hat on this morning, she'd been walking around and traveling the new way. Old-fashioned was flying around with trails of dust or glitter behind her. Sparkly. She almost missed the old ways, but then she remembered her first milkshake. That was when she stopped questioning the realm she was in.
Speaking of realms, Lois hadn't felt that connected with hers since she put on her hat this morning, and in thinking this, she turned to Frey. "I'm going to check to see if things are all right on my side. I'll be right back." Lois disappeared into the nearest bathroom and checked the stalls for feet. She didn't need anyone peeking in when she decided to return to her ever-changing form. It frightened more than one person on occasion, which was something she'd rather not repeat as far as experiences went. It was her usual several hour checkup, just in case she missed something. Frey did the same thing on the five hour mark, but all she had was a nosy boss to deal with.
Lois removed her hat, allowing the ever-changing colors to flush her skin and warm her body from the cold she'd been feeling on the back burner. Her hair was dryer with the Fall Season in the Southern Hemisphere, but she needed a little of her power to keep her warm. The Earth was getting colder under her feet, she never seemed to get warm, mostly because she was unable to use her powers to her own benefit. She was never charitable to herself, hadn't taken time to think about her needs first.
With her hair down to her waist, turning from brown to auburn to blonde to red.
She never could have black, just the darkest blue closest to dawn, but during the Fall Season she was graced with every color of the bold rainbow. She enjoyed the maroon almost as much as the forest green, but not so much the platinum blonde or near black.
The world was spinning just a little too fast for her. There was trouble stirring in this oblivious city. It was as though time was begging for her attention. Why would he want to take care of her, or want her power in any case? She should've been more careful somewhere along the line. She was listening to the whispers carried by the butterflies as they told her what the pit of her stomach already knew.
Someone was destroying her beautiful world. Someone close enough to hit in all the right places. This made Lois furious. Tree by tree, drill by drill, all of it was coming at her full force, and her knees buckled from the pressure. There was someone trying to get into her mind, someone close enough to cause her realm trouble. No one dredged into her realm and got away with it, she thought, sweat forming on her forehead. The pain was new at the moment, something she'd luckily avoided in her time. Running through her nerves, sensitizing every last one to the point that she wasn't going to be able to walk until they all stopped. It wasn't completely foreign to her, just out of the norm at this point in her life. It was her own folly that got her where she was. Her own heart.
Taking the time to lower herself to the ground, Lois decided to breathe in a few times, her chest hurting with every inhale. Tears formed in her eyes, she was sure she wouldn't be able to leave for at least five minutes after it stopped. So cold. . . "Hhuh. . . hhuh. . . " Her eyes were clenched and she was warm. She drew into the power of the Earth's core to warm herself, deciding that it was imperative to use it this once to help herself back onto her feet and cleanse her face. The water reached out for her, wanting to bathe her. She'd hardly asked anyone for any boon, never drew upon her surroundings for extra strength. Being that generous to the world made the world strive to make it the most comfortable for her was the most reassuring. She embraced the entity, the nymph's gentle touch, until she felt rejuvenated. That was her power.
"Thank you, my lovelies, be at thy rest now, I may call on you again."
Adrian was tired of her contentment to stay in one place, probably thought she could do so much with her power, but never tried. He wanted to put her power to work for him, and she resisted. She would continue to resist. She placed her hat on her head, feeling the shiver down her spine as the color left her body. The lack of color was cold, but her control was more important. Her reflection stared back at her. She needed to take care of herself should she become weaker in the next day. Perhaps this was the spur she needed to make things right. She finished washing her face, and dried her hands by waving them once through the air. Like warm towels against her skin.
She turned to leave the bathroom, and walked through the department store. The crowd was larger today, one of the reasons they were in need of disguise. There was something she loved about walking among the mortals, and that was that everyone had their own style. Much like the deities of old, Dionysus set the record for alcohol, and now St. Patrick set the record for most drinks in a single day. No one has heard him shut up since. It was the same with figures in this world. Celebrated political figures and celebrities walked the streets in disguises in order to avoid the masses.
She was Mother Nature, and no one thought of a bigger bitch. That was how people remembered her. She smiled as a wave of mischief swept over her. She didn't even do anything, just minded her own business while the rest of the world gave her credit for things that happened naturally. Yes, there were times when her attitude caused some problems, but these days she was pretty much mellow. A little restless, which is when she arranged for a friend to meet her on the mortal realm for lunch and shopping.
They never bought anything, who could possibly need anything of that sort?
Oh right, Frey and her absurd hair dryer. What a strange coincidence that she lived below the Earth's surface and had need for a machine made by man? Considering the weather conditions from whence she hailed, there had to be something that fueled her attitude. It wasn't too bad, from what she heard. Just a little hot, but other than that, it was pretty loud with the bars and fights breaking out. Honestly, it was no different than the night life in the mortal realm. Men just turned into monsters of their own thinking—people, they changed daily according to their beliefs in what made bad men.
But still, a hair dryer? It had to be a ploy to get out of the realm for some good-natured mischief.
She left the bathroom with a fresh trail of tan smoke behind her. She was happy to conform to the law of the fedora, only because the favors were less than reputable when she was found out by some imp who'd been trailing her since her teens. She'd be damned if she did any favors for anyone less than a high priestess these days. Mankind would never change in that aspect. They would always be wondering if there was another way, a shortcut to anyplace worth going. She always told the one who'd found her that their guess was as good as hers, but they were stuck in any case. Which was quite true. She just didn't mind keeping that detail to herself. Her time was longer than theirs.
When she approached her friend, Frey was getting a latté from a chain store. It must've tasted like Heaven after living in Hell. Hell made shitty coffee.
"Lois, what ails?" Frey handed Lois her favorite, hot chocolate. She was still cold and the liquid sweet made her tongue tingle. The ancients knew how to make chocolate, but this was close—cacao beans raw weren't too bad still, the additives made things unbearably addictive.
"A lack of tribute for old society. I tried to see the use in these pieces of technology, but every time there's something useful placed in the world, I hear about it first. It's draining, that's for damn sure. Every man looking for an easy way out, makes me mad. I'm the one who should be begging for an escape."
"You talk about making things easier, why not just conjure something for yourself every once in awhile? It's funny that you talk about doing one thing, then do something completely different."
"Only when it comes to myself. I can't spoil myself like that otherwise I'll get sloppy. My life is hard enough to deal with outside of these potential shortcuts. Sticking to the rules seems to suit me just fine."
"You might have to break the rules in order to rescue yourself if the shit hits the fan. It'd be your own fault if you let someone take your gift." Lois said nothing. She'd been feeling this for a few weeks, as mentioned earlier. She was grim that this happened, but she was ready for some of it. Time, after all, waited for no one, not even Adrian. A rush like none other crept into her stomach. She was smiling, and she hardly smiled. That was a gift she gave to very, very few.
"That feeling you just got, sister," Frey said. She'd grown her own set of horns.
"That's excitement. Nothing better than danger to bring out the deity in all of us. "
"Don't try to provoke me, hun, you're the one with your afterlife virginity still in tact. I just need someone to watch me if I end up losing my cool."
"Which is appropriate, after all. You are a force to be reckoned with and the circumstances are right." Lois waited for the kicker they both knew was coming.
"However, the code would disagree with you. No one would take the word of a frustrated woman who just broke up with her ex."
"And here I was thinking we were still deities. My record would hold up better than his in any court. The only problem is that we aren't held up by any court here, and I'd miss out on my chance to humiliate him internationally instead of just on one plane. He'll come looking for me soon, try to corner me."
"Says the woman who talks to butterflies in the lavatory." It would end up in a bathroom, too. None of these fights ever took place in any dignified place, not since the weather channel began airing. Changes in temp and patterns were noticed. She'd not been looking for easier ways to take care of enemies, she thought the lines were clear since Murphy's Laws were written down. Nothing was sacred anymore, not even battle fields. Lois sighed, having lost her opportunity to fight long ago with her pacifistic ways. She never went to them, either, it was an opportunity to gamble among gods, and she was usually nowhere to be found in those times.
"I'll not have this going on tomorrow, Frey." And that was the end of that conversation. Frey was looking especially liberated with her finished latté, considering she only got one about once every ten years if she were lucky. The rest of the time, she had to imagine she was drinking coffee, when she was actually drinking the sludge scraped off the bottom of a two-hour old pot of joe from the employee lounge. It was the living she knew she'd rather have, so she let it go.
Possibly one of the most daring of the group but not the most laid back, Frey was chosen to be Lucifer's personal assistant. Before she was given this position, she was a meek woman who'd been thrown into the depths of what she believed was Hell from within. She'd been beaten, bruised, killed, then brought back to somewhat alive and kicking. She decided to become a little more responsible with her afterlife, and in doing this, she resisted any firm stances on how things were to be run. A side woman with no agenda, just what the guy wanted. She arranged meetings with potentials, monitored the surveillance system, and tended to the needs of her employer. Within reason, of course.
She was feared almost as much as Lucy himself, with her business apparel and tight bun atop her head. A clipboard in one hand, a cellphone in another, and a watch that had every timezone on its face. Not that she needed it after this long, but she'd request a location and have the appropriate time there. Most of the time, they were similar places, but His Excellency threw a wrench into her system once in a lunar eclipse.
Their day was winding down. Frey had her silly contraption, Lois had Adrian to deal with. Deities often stayed out of the business of other deities, so there was no confusion as to whom was causing her trouble. She'd been dating Adrian for a blip of time, cutting it off this early was something she wasn't terribly broken up about it. He was cute, young in a way. That was what he had, but he was a thief from the beginning.
Overlooking that small detail was kind of her.
Now she had to deal with his deception.
There, in the third stall from the end, was a pair of peculiar shoes. They were Adrian's shoes, and he had much to atone for. She'd caught him finally. He'd put a spell on her hat to make her suspicion disappear. Fortunately, her suspicions weren't based on something he was hiding, she just never learned to trust him. Turning, she walked back to the door only to find the door jammed somehow. She'd been set up. She feigned fear.
"Lois, darling, what is your hurry?"
"Adrian." Sure enough, the Time Guardian made himself known and walked to the sink. Lois had been right to distrust him as soon as she smelled trouble, and now she needed to take her leave. This was going to work out perfectly. She reached for her hat, but he stopped her. He was in front of her now. His hand came down from her head and he touched her nose as a parent would a child.
"I wouldn't do that. This room would surely react negatively to your change in form, as I'm sure you're aware. The magic is much too strong for what you're wanting to do. Destroying yourself is something neither of us desire."
"What deception is this, Adrian, that you can attempt to control me."
"Just want your power, sweetheart." He wanted her power, but he couldn't handle even the tiniest fraction of it. For a second, Lois pictured the world in chaos, somewhat like when she lost her cool and decimated a tiny shed in the Ukraine with lightning. Her mind didn't feel any change, though. She was ready to stop his threat.
"You'd never harness it." Her hat. She could usually control the weather with her disguise on. However, her powers were harnessed a bit to hold onto the plane. What was he getting at? She reached for her hat and realized he was watching not her, but her hand. His face was a little apprehensive. He didn't want her to remove her hat. In that case. . . she thought. With a smirk, she removed the hat, allowing the warmth to spread from her head to her toes. Her cheeks flushed, she was honestly a Goddess in its purest form. Her skin began to change tones, and Adrian became a little dazed. She was, without a doubt, in her most precious and invincible form. Even if Adrian had wanted to take her power, he would be unable to in this form.
"I. . . " Adrian's mouth fell open.
Adrian, if you were as in love as I was at one point, you would've known I'd be my own person, I wouldn't allow my work to play backseat to my relationship. Perhaps sidesaddle, but never backseat. Time, however. . . " The air dryer was behind her. The continual dramatic coincidence was upon her when she decided to use one to save her own skin. Oh spite, she drawled, poising her elbow over the activation nob.
"I don't love you. Believe me when I say you are one of the most difficult women to impress when I want something from you." He was begging? How unlike the men of old.
"I know this, dear. That's why I'm no longer pining for you as I once did. It's not nice to fool Mother Nature, and so I bid you adieu. You are no longer responsible for your power after today as punishment for destroying" It began projecting air onto her hand and she knew she had a moment for this to make the desired effect. She whispered a few words of encouragement, anyone could do that, but she was the only one with the language of the wind.
She stepped away from the wall an inch. The air swerved around her form, lifting her arms as pets would, and shot forward in a whirlwind. He was taken aback by the attack and was forced against the far wall, flat on his back. She was unaffected. Her mind recalled the words she needed to end this. It would be short and sweet.
"I did love you, Lois." She approached him as the wind held him down, and with the pressure she was exerting on him, she was in complete control of herself and him. He was not being crushed, merely held back so she could talk to him.
"You were trying to lure me into a sense of false security so you could take my abilities, but as you can see, I'm more capable of handling them than you are. You are better off walking away from this. If you resist, I will remove your burden and find someone more capable of handling them than you."
"You're not going to, though."
"I will if I have to. Taking anothers' ability is punishable--"
"I know, but you aren't using yours."
"I respect my abilities. They respect me in return. You, however, have forgotten yourself more than once." She didn't have long, machines were shifty like that. "Choose now."
"I still, and always will, want to use your powers to the point where they are no longer yours. To the point of abuse." Lois sighed. Those were the words. This might've been harder for her to face after all. Adrian had been a sweetheart to her, showered her with love and she had done the same. They knew they could live forever, but love forever might have only depended on their ability to tolerate one another for all eternity. There was only a handful of couples who had accomplished this, and they were probably the only tame ones of the masses of them. "Destroy me, if you can. I'll take a part of you with me."
"You had more when I loved you." The words left her mouth, words of a different language, old tongue. His eyes strained back into his sockets and the wind broke around them. She was sorry to have broken their bond, but he wasn't happy with his gift. The only thing she could do was relieve him of it. He would not die, just be reborn as someone new, perhaps the next Time Guardian, any could tell. Sometimes it was a matter of time spent on the mortal realm to remind him of his actions and make him a better person. His powers would go to her, and she would have to transfer the power to another with the mindset for it until they could extract it into someone more responsible. There were backups for this, and in a few years, he would be given a chance if he proved worthy.
And he disappeared in a wisp of dark blue dust on the wind. Lois breathed in the smoke and coughed. The pressure was back and she grabbed onto a bathroom stall to keep steady. Her lungs, ready to burst, sent spikes of pain through her body. Spasms of fear and uncertainty shot through her but the decision was clear. She needed help to get back. As she lost all feeling in her arms, a pair of feminine arms caught her before she fell. Darkness.
Lois stood on the precipice with arms outstretched, overlooking the ocean at near sunrise. The air was moist with the night's frost soon to be turned to dew in the spring morning while the brisk chill fought to remain the strongest element in her presence. Nighttime was her time to settle down and collect her thoughts. The frost from the night would wear soon, as all things had a place in time.
She felt betrayed, but she would live. The darkness wasn't her favorite place to be at the time, and she was cold. The Earth would keep moving. Time was with a temporary Guardian, and they were contemplating the fate of the one reborn. Samuel Terrace, South Carolina, age fourteen. Born into a family recommended by the majority of neutral deities and in good understanding with their views concerning responsibilities that mattered the most to the council.
Her position was in question as well, but their evidence was vast against the Time Guardian and it was her own fault for trusting him enough to get herself into such trouble. She took full responsibility for her actions and they checked her records for any marring that would effect their decision. They found none.
Though she was now among her element, she felt a tiniest bit alone. She'd never asked for help from her elements. They knew this to be a kindness, and treated her well throughout the conflict. She was strong and willing to move on, and that was enough for now.
Lois smiled for the first time since she left him behind, and remembered that time waited for no one.