Basal 55th, 1042

This was going well, Alo thought, until tears were threatening to spill out of Clover’s eyes. The rest of the people in the room– new people, wasn’t that exciting?! –were stunned in silence, staring so hard at them that they were starting to grow uncomfortable.

Maybe threatening to turn Aspen into a toad had been a bit much. Maybe. But it wasn’t as if they actually planned to do that! Besides, toads were lovely. He should be honored at the idea of being transformed into such a majestic, noble creature.

“Clover?” they tried, turning off the light show. She jerked away, angry.

“I’m never going to find him, am I?! Because you refuse to tell the truth! I had really high hopes coming here, but at this rate, maybe Mom was right…” she wiped at her face, and Alo realized with horror that she was actually crying. They had only ever seen River cry once, and that had been when they were very, very small, and those, according to River, had been happy tears. Clover’s tears seemed to be angry tears. They had no clue how to handle this.

“Everyone knows the Gods visit our realm in the form of animals, or through their temples. You’re not a God, you’re sick off all of that Thauma. You have a lot of nerve insulting both the Sol God and Ash,” Aspen spat.

They floundered, looking to River for help. Why was she just sitting there, not helping them explain?! Did she expect them to prove it? How? …Assuming actually turning Aspen into a toad was off the table…

“I’m not using Thauma,” they tried again, “My abilities come from my natural Divinity.”

“Then why did my scientists find nothing but gold Thauma soaked in your feathers? They just happen to have the same makeup? I think that you overused Thauma so much that you don’t need to use a Wonderworking Wand or tools at all. I think you need to be locked up for this cruelty,” Aspen jerked his head in Clover’s direction.

“Of course they have the same makeup! Thauma is– er, it’s from us Gods, so wouldn’t it make sense for it to–”

“I believe them.” One of the guards, the quieter of the two who’s name Alo didn’t know, murmured. Clover was seated beside him, and he had a hand on her shoulder. She immediately jerked out of his grasp, glaring in disbelief.

“You what–” Aspen started.

“I said I believe them.”

“No, erm, we heard you, I believe His Highness was asking why,” Azaleon clarified. “This is all…well, you can imagine it sounds far-fetched?” His eyes darted to River, and Alo still desperately wished she would step in and help them out.

“I at least believe they believe it, they seem earnest. And I trust my own judgment,” he murmured, “I’ve never been a strong follower of any of the Gods, myself, but I guess if I’m inclined to believe if any of them were able to appear to us as a human, it would be the God of Transformation. But you can all believe what you want.”

“What was your name?” Alo asked softly.


“Kuiper…thank you.” Alo laid their hands flat on the table, letting their eyes shut. “I thought about it; give me a moment. I’ll prove it to the rest of you.”

“What? What are you doing?” Aspen’s voice sounded far away.

They reached out, feeling for the Thauma entwined with each person around the table, tendrils of gold that were mere imprints in some of their cases, but still detectable.

“Aspen, you’ve been using my Thauma since you were thirteen, though you had known I blessed you since you were four, even before Sol marked you. Clover, you tried using gold Thauma to dye your hair, once, when you were fourteen; I guess you didn’t like it, since you didn’t try again? Kuiper, you’ve used it before, but never on yourself. That’s sweet. Oh, Azaleon, you’ve been using it daily, just a bit, to–”

“If you’re a God, you shouldn’t be able to be bested in a fight by a human,” Azaleon cut them off quickly. Their eyes fluttered open, concentration broken. Azaleon looked unnerved by the display of knowledge, all of them did.

Did they want proof or not…?

“I think that’s indicative of your nature more than mine,” Alo muttered. “Besides, I would never fight a human. I disarmed you pretty easily, didn’t I? You’ll have to get a new Wonderworking Weapon.”

Before Azaleon could respond, Clover cut in. “I don’t know the full capabilities of undiluted Thauma. I can try to purge you of it, um, the ‘Thauma’ that you say you aren’t using to do this, and if you can still transform anything, I might..consider believing it.”

Her tears had been replaced quickly with a fiery determination. Humans, they thought, were nothing if not adaptable. It was a marvel how quickly she’d pulled herself together– or at least made it look that way.

“Clever! Okay, okay, do it!” they offered their arm to her. She grabbed a massive glob of amber Thauma from a vial on her belt, much more than they thought was necessary, and dragged it across their arm with no traces of gentleness. It felt a little tingly and warm. They watched the orange shimmering mist rise, and inhaled the sweet powdery scent. It smelt like Remedy had. They gave it a few moments, until Clover looked satisfied.

They reached over and grabbed a glass of water, letting it freeze under their touch, but careful not to shatter it. River wouldn’t like that. They reached out for the wooden table they were sitting at, letting it change into glass. They reached out to Clover, taking a strand of her coily hair and turning it a few shades lighter at the end. She stilled, watching the color crawl up her hair with wide eyes. They undid it just as quickly, pulling the new color back. She jerked away, her chest stilled and unbreathing.

“Maybe they have too much to purge properly,” Aspen suggested. He was a stubborn one. Alouette was sure even if they went all out he still might choose denial just to be contrary.

“I know how Thauma feels. That wasn’t Thauma,” she said. Clover leaned back, and Alo felt strangely…guilty? They had expected her to be excited, since they were telling her the truth…but she looked even more upset now. She was looking at them like they had just kicked her beloved pet housebear or something.

“Try it on me, I know how gold feels; I use it every day,” Aspen demanded, holding his hand out. Alouette grabbed it, letting Aspen’s nails turn bright green with little bird patterns doodled on the middle finger. They could’ve done more, but the effect was the same, more or less; the prince would still feel it.

Aspen stared at his hand.

“Want me to do it again? Or to all of you? Or I could go out into the forest and call all of the birds, tell them to do something very specific, or I could–”

“What in the world was that.” It wasn’t a question, and Aspen was shaking. “You were– you’re seriously–”

River stood up, commanding the attention of the room.

“There is stew, fresh bread, and drinks in the fridge if any of you would like to eat. If you are able to,” River added, “Alo, they need time to process this. You’ve said as much as you need to for now.”

They understood that–they did, but everyone looked so frazzled, so shocked, they wanted to do something! This wasn’t supposed to go like this; they were supposed to be happy to have this information. They were supposed to believe them immediately and weep with joy.

“Alo,” River tried again. They nodded reluctantly.

“I’ll be in the attic, if you have any more questions. When you’re ready to ask them,” Alouette murmured. “And we’ll be seeing each other at breakfast tomorrow, assuming you don’t all leave, or try to capture me in the night, or–”

“If all of that’s true,” Aspen interrupted them, “Why are you in our world, like this, and not the Upper Realm? Or sealed, like you seem to think the other minor Gods are?”

“Because the Sol and Lunar Gods couldn’t seal me. I jumped from the Upper Realm willingly. I want to help the other minor five Gods who got sealed. And I want to help you and Juniper.”

Aspen looked away. Everyone was quiet, unnervingly so, and it seemed like they really weren’t up for questioning them further. So Alo trudged up the stairs, feeling awful about this whole ordeal.

It wasn’t too long after that they could hear footsteps underneath the attic, and they realized Clover and Aspen’s shared room was right below. They felt no guilt at laying on the floor and pressing their ear against the wood. If they were going to help, they might get some clues as to how those two were feeling about all of this by eavesdropping.

Clover’s voice was hushed, and they could just barely make her words out if they strained to listen.

“If my brother really is the other Quasar, and he decided to run instead of going public and facing you…”

“I don’t believe any of this, and I’m not particularly interested in discussing it with you,” Aspen’s voice was considerably louder, more clipped and angry-sounding. “And if there’s a kernel of truth to this, then…the Sol and Lunar Gods would have a reason to– to seal the minor six, right? A reason to lie. I trust my God.”

Alouette sighed silently.

They had trusted the Sol and Lunar Gods, too.

“But you felt it, too, didn’t you? And I’ve never told anyone about that hair-dying incident. I botched it pretty bad– I only used a little, so it only took a day and a half to wear off. I’m not licensed to use gold, I snuck it from my aunties’ supply. So it wouldn’t have been on any records.”

“Why are you on the floor?” River asked from the doorway. Alo yelped, sitting up quickly. River walked over to the small desk shoved in the corner, cluttered with pretty stones and jewels they had taken from the temple nearby–it wasn’t stealing if it was offerings for them, technically– and sat at the chair beside it. She was holding a tray of food.

“I thought you might have been hungry.”

“Thanks,” they took the tray from her and picked at the bread without bothering to stand up. They were practically starving, actually, but their stomach turned uncomfortably at the idea of eating right now. They knew River wouldn’t be happy if they didn’t at least try, though. “What’s going to happen now?”

“We’ll let them stay the night, then in the morning, we’ll ask what they’d like to do. They’re now more informed to make their own choices, which is about all you can do. You can’t force them to do what you want.”

They knew that. They didn’t really understand why they wouldn’t believe them or hear them out further, but River had always made it a point to drill that into them: humans were irrational. Humans were volatile, were unpredictable. Completely mystifying. Oh, how Alouette adored them all, small and wild. They didn’t want them to leave yet!

“Juniper was so much more cooperative about all of this. If Aspen decides to continue the Quasar Ceremony anyway it’s going to be another hundred years before I can try to do anything else,” they whined, “And I haven’t even figured out how to make you immortal, either, which is going to be a pain if that’s the case.”

River’s laugh was rough and raspy from years of smoking, but it still made Alo’s mood lighten.

“I cannot think of something I’d want less than to live forever.” River smiled down at them. “Get some sleep, Birdie, and in the morning I will lend you a hand to try again, if you think you need it.”

They considered this, then shook their head.

“No. I want to try to fix it myself.”

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