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Beauty From the Ashes

Alex sat on a wooden bench beside a cobblestone path in the middle of a lush garden. She wore a simple, beige tunic and a pale, green skirt that was long enough to cover her bare feet, even as she sat down. Her tawny hair fell, meticulously brushed, fell neatly about her shoulders. Seated next to her was an older man with curly, silver hair was just barely hid the tops of his ears. He wore a long, charcoal-gray robe, his sandaled feet peeking out from beneath them.

“Are you ready to return?” the man asked her, staring at a group of lilacs on the other side of the path.

“Yes, Master,” Alex replied.

“You should know, even though you’ve been here over a year, your friends have been without you for little more than a week.”

“How is that possible?”

“Astrid, there are precious few things that are not possible when you are a third tier immortal.”

“I’m sorry, Master. I should not have questioned.”

“It is quite alright. I have matters to attend to elsewhere… so I cannot go with you. Do you have any last concerns before I depart?”

“How do I get home? And what am I supposed to do when I get there?”

“That is your final test--to figure out exactly that.”

After a deep breath, she replied, “Then, no. I don’t have any more questions.”

“Farewell, then, third tier. If ever you need assistance, you need not but call my name and I will hear.”

“But I don’t know your n--”

For Alex, everything went black.

When Alex woke up, she found herself naked and on the ground in the middle of a clearing that was clearly nowhere near the warm garden she had just left.

“Oh, my God! It’s f-f-freezing!” She closed her eyes tightly and pictured herself in her faded jeans that she knew were in her bottom drawer of the dresser in her room, a long sleeve t-shirt from the same dresser and a black, leather coat with wool lining that had been hanging in her closet. Moments later, she was fully clothed.

“Oh, yeah. Much better. Now… where the hell am I?” She looked around and saw the obelisk that had been her stake. “Oh. Well, that makes sense. I still don’t know where I am though, thanks to whatever drugs Zachary gave me.” She looked around and saw a trail. Hoping it would lead out and to some civilization, she walked toward it. There was a plaque mounted on a post beside the trail at the edge of the clearing. “Thórsholr. Yes. I remember. Holy crap. I’m a long way from home. I suppose he didn’t mean for me to ask for his assistance this soon. This is supposed to be a test. What if I fail? I can’t fail. I’m immortal and I can do magic.”

She thought about using magic to get her watch off her nightstand but then she thought, I have no idea what time zone I’m in so a watch will do me little good.

A man and a woman walked toward the clearing, laughing. “Excuse me,” Alex said. “Do you have the time?”

“It’s 4 o’clock. Are you alright?” the man replied, turning towards her as they passed. The woman tugged on his arm and he quickly faced forward again.

"Yes. Thank you."

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