I was moderately surprised when I woke up in a perfectly physical body with my memory of the god in the library intact.
The first thing I did was check over myself to verify that his first promise would be fulfilled.
‘First, your body will be restored to its prime. Every scar will be removed, every defect, you’ll love it. You’ll still age, but it will be at a slowed pace—think Methuselah– and you’ll be more resistant to diseases. Consider it a given, since your body was a bit worse for wear. Oh, you can still die. You’ll just come back here, but best not risk it. Temporary resurrection like this isn’t exactly something I can hand out like candy. It’s a onetime deal.’
“You talk so much,” I muttered, even as I stared in wonder at my freckle-less hands and arms. I had never been a big freckler, but as I grew older they’d pop up as a natural reaction to sunshine. I didn’t even have that thick, ugly callus on my big toe that never went away, no matter how many times I ground it down. Thank god, literally. I swear that thing grew faster than government spending.
More importantly, the stretch marks from my first pregnancy had vanished, as well as the stretched out flab of my stomach. My mahogany hair had grown to my hips, and when I pulled it around my shoulder to see it, it gleamed in the sunlight.
I was also glad to note I wasn’t naked. The clothes he gave me were a little…medieval, being a blue peasant dress with a white apron (holy crap, I’m a freaking Belle from Beauty in the Beast). But hey, being not-naked made everything easier.
‘You’ll find a lack of technology in my cute little world, but that’s because I replaced it with magic. Innovation spreads out in that category. Isn’t that cool? Tell me that isn’t cool, I dare you.’
I took a look at my leather shoes, the rough, thick weave of the wool apron, and even found a cotton strip in the pocket to tie my hair back with.
‘Personally, I think I’d prefer indoor plumbing to spells,’ I’d said.
‘Oh, well there’s some of that if you go to the right places. But, point being, I’d like to equip you with some magic power to help you on your mission. Any requests?’
I hadn’t thought too long on that, though he had jabbered on and on about elemental magic and divine magic and yada yada yada. It had to be something I could use to pay the bills.
And something useful in taking care of babies.
Yes. Something I could use to make my family well cared for.
I had no interest in power or anything flashy. Anything that caught attention was just trouble waiting to happen, especially if I wasn’t going to be a native to this world.
I should have told him that. Heaven forbid I assume a god can read minds. Or maybe he did read my mind and just ignored it. Course, I wouldn’t know this until later.
I reached into my other pocket to find the book he had pulled down from one of the many on the bookshelf. It even had a faint sort of sheen to it, and I thought I could hear the trees around me shiver. I took a look around, worried I was going to be jumped, but couldn’t see why my godly brother would choose this place to set me in just to have me mugged. The little clearing I’d woken up in didn’t even have any weeds, and the grass had been ridiculously soft.
‘I’ll make it so you can speak the language, but this can teach you how to write it, if you need it. Along with how to use your magic, though it should be instinctive. At least, that’s how I tried to make it.’
Sighing, I put the book back and straightened out my skirt unnecessarily.
“Alright. Cool. I got this.” I swung my arms a bit, eyeing the trees about me. “First order of business, some place to stay. Then a really, really long hot bath. Yeah. Maybe some chocolate.”
I let out a few long breaths between my teeth, then went in the direction that seemed the most appealing.
‘I’ll lead you straight to him. Just go whatever way feels the best.’
For how much he liked to talk, he was ridiculously vague.
‘I don’t mean to sound rude, but this wouldn’t happen to be one of the first worlds you’ve made, is it?’
Brother dearest had pouted when I said that.
‘Give me a break, okay? Not even Father was perfect from the start.’
‘But you just said you needed to prove you could handle the responsibility of a world in the first place to be a god.’
‘And I can. That’s why I’m sending you. You’re my tool. Ugh, that sounded bad. I mean it in a good way.’
‘And you can’t go yourself because…?’
I had no sooner stepped through the bushes surrounding my little grove when I saw a thinning in the trees up ahead, and what could only be farmland where they ended. The air here tasted fresh, as only the countryside could. The first stirrings of excitement bubbled in my chest.
‘Why do you think Father doesn’t just go down Himself and fix all the problems? Because the presence of a god interferes with agency. If a god comes down and tells you to do something, you’ll do it out of fear, won’t you? But children need to figure out for themselves what it is they truly want, without some helicopter parent nagging them into doing what’s right.’
I stood for a moment in the last stretch of woodland, taking in the picturesque scene before me. The fields were in much smaller squares than back at home, where industrial tractors could conquer huge swaths of land. But they had the uneven look of hand dug trenches and grass run dividers between each plot. Cottages of wood, stone, and tile speckled here and there. The nearest to me had a woman out front with her skirts girded up between her legs and a fat run of chickens about her feet.
‘When a child grows up, they have to leave the nest in order to fully blossom.’
‘I get the idea, you can stop. What’s your name anyway?’
‘A god’s name is a weighty thing, Lillian, are you sure you want to know? You can’t go around saying it in vain.’
‘You’re smiling like you want to tell me. Just say it already.’
‘Nehcor. You can use it to pray to me. Granted, I won’t be able to talk to you unless you’re tuned in right, but I’ll hear you just fine. Let me know if you need anything and I’ll see what I can do.’
‘See what you can do? You’re a god, what can’t you do?’
As I remembered the sad little look he had given me, I neared the cottage enough for the lady to notice me and she looked up. She had a sun worn, leathery face and a dowager’s hump that made even glancing up at me look like a chore. I tried to give my best unthreatening smile.
‘Anything that interferes with agency. That includes stopping bad people from doing bad things. In order for there to be good choices, they need to be able to make bad ones as well.’
I waved a bit awkwardly. “Hello. Do you have a minute?”
At the older woman’s shaky smile, I found myself eternally grateful that I was a female. Being a male would have made this all the harder, in keeping people unsuspicious that is.
When she said back with a friendly, “What can I do ya for?” I breathed a sigh of relief that the language hack seemed to be working.
“I’m looking for a boy with silver hair and red eyes. Have you seen anyone like him?”
The woman shook her head, but I wasn’t too disappointed. I would find him.
‘I need you to save a little boy. In order to become the hero this world needs he had to be born amidst a great deal of misfortune. But he needs some equally as powerful fortune to balance it out and give him a reason worth living through it. Watch out for him, teach him, help him grow into the man he most wants to be.’
He was my mission, after all.
I couldn’t hold myself back from giving a skip and clap when the woman went inside to ask her husband.
I was going to be a mommy!