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01 Wild Wild Country 1

Niobe and Felix glided over the topmost foliage of the trees, chasing their game. They were riding their bridled pegasi, hunting a herd of white-boars. Niobe’s pegasus was a Double-striped black, while Felix’s was a Brown-white. Roughly twelve miles outside the Ascendancy walls, it was a bold venture into the outlands, even for game hunters.

‘Cura, take me!” Niobe screamed in joy over the deafening beating of wings.

‘Let us go hunting together in the evening- just the two of us,” she had suggested that morning. ‘It will be better than a party hunt with a prime watching over us at all times.” Hunting parties, traditionally, comprised eight princeps, two priors, and one prime.

As agreed in the morning, the couple had escaped on their pegasi for the outdoor amusement. It takes a half-hour to fly from the citadel on Mt. Radomir down to the postern Ascendancy walls surrounding Theikos. That evening, they had flown on for another half hour over the woods to the grassy woodland patch, where the white-boars thrived. The creature’s meat, when cooked with veal stock and red wine, made a delectable feast.

At the least, Niobe wanted to hunt. A white-light orb raced ahead of them, lighting the terrain. The two hunters loosened arrows whenever a boar appeared through the foliage. However, Felix had agreed to accompany her on the wanton quest because he hoped they would finally have sex. The couple had been steady for some time now.

Meanwhile, they had followed all the rules of courtship. According to the appendices of the Bibliotheca, they could engage in consensual intercourse as long as it did not end with impregnation. His Providence, the God-King, Marcus Petromax, had prohibited child-bearing. Violators could have their divinity stripped.

The hunters had already brought down four boars (the most that two full-grown pegasi can carry). Still, Niobe wanted to press on until they slaughtered the entire herd.

‘Niobe, my love!” beseeched Felix. ‘I think we have braved far enough! We should turn back and claim our game! Our pegasi will tire and collapse if we do not let them rest!”

‘You are a divine being, Felix!” she answered. ‘Learn to act like one!” Then, and playfully, she let go of the harness from her pegasus. She whooped into the wilderness, spreading her arms wide. Felix looked at the goddess longingly under the starlight. She was a sight for sore eyes- cheerful and beautiful, her golden hair bouncing on the wind behind her. Her chiton tunic pressed against her body and rode up her radiant thighs.

‘I could keep watching her, and we could keep flying forever,’ Felix mused.

The Double-striped black hit a high protruding branch and veered dangerously to the right, crashing into Felix’s Brown-white. Both creatures nose-dived into the forest.

The accident made a racket- two flying beasts with wingspans over forty feet plummeting from the skies into the wild. Branches splintered, cracked, and snapped as they tumbled towards the ground. Finally, the drop ended, the forest parted, and the hunters found themselves tossed into a clearing, along with their pegasi.

Felix opened his eyes and, for the first time, observed how bright the stars were that night. The Sagittarius constellation embellished the southern sky- a centaur pulling a bow. In the Bibliotheca, the blessed philosopher Appolodorus rejected constellations as gods.

‘Seek not the vaunted verse of the cycle,’ he wrote, ‘but look within, and you shall find all of what you see is in the image of Aion and Sol.’

Felix had read the book from cover to cover while preparing to take part in the Labors. ‘What would the progenitor of the gods think of this misadventure?’ he wondered.

He saw Niobe lying flat on her back as well, unhurt. The fall was treacherous and would kill a mortal. However, they were a god and a goddess. Felix was a princep, the lowest in the hierarchy of divine beings living on Mt. Radomir. Niobe was a position higher- a prior. Regardless, they had divine protection granted by titans and were immune to injury. If you run a sharp blade against a princep’s arm, the blade would lose its edge. Only those weapons imbued with stronger divinity, or corruption, could remotely scratch a divine being. Therefore, even after suffering a deathly drop from the sky, the two were unscathed. Even their clothes seemed as good as new.

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