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a taste of nectar upon his lips

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Pera loved springtime. It was beautiful, the beginning of bounty and a sign that everything would be alright in the coming months. It’s when he began to save and prepare for the fall and winter, shaking off the shackles of cold and frost. It was also when Mordukai returned, and Yala ceased her grieving and finally allowed things to go back to the natural order of things.

And everyone in the land knew when spring arrived. It was because the train came aboveground.

There was already a crowd waiting anxiously at the railway platform by the time Pera got there. An undrawn line a respectful distance away from the goddess formed its own barrier that the crowd knew not to cross. Everyone was straining to spot the train. It had turned into a competition so long ago that even Pera’s parents couldn’t remember when it started, but every year, whoever caught the first sight of the oncoming locomotive bearing Mordukai would be personally awarded by Yala; they would get the first fruit of spring, the kickoff of the party that would go on for the first week of spring as they sowed the fields and orchards.

“There it is!” Called the voice of a young man. The crowd surged in excitement, and sure enough, seconds later, the train came screaming out of the tunnel and towards the platform, finally coming to a halt with an ear-splitting screech and a cloud of steam. The crowd waited with bated breath. The doors slid open and out stepped the proud dark god, King of Death himself.

He was swept up into a tight embrace by his twin amid cheering and applause. Once they finally separated, Yala took Mordukai by the hands and breathed in deep, taking in the sight of him.

“Brother it has been an eternity.”

And Mordukai smiled back. “Sister, it’s barely been six months.”

They laughed and tears feel from Yala’s face and hit the ground, birthing snowdrops at her feet.

“Come, come!” She called. “Who saw the train this year? Come forward!”

The crowd parted, letting a slight man with dark hair and fine features pass through untroubled. Pera felt his heart throb in his chest. The man broadly at Yala before bowing deeply. “My lady Yala. My lord Mordukai.”

“Stand and tell me your name child.”

“I am Xion son of-” he faltered for a minute, and Pera grimace in sympathy. “I am Xion.”

“Will Xion you have won this year, and as such, I offer you this.” She reached up to an overhanging branch where a peach grew in record time, fitting perfectly into the palm of her palm. She placed it into his waiting hands, and Pera swore he could smell it from where he was standing, far as he was. He watched Xion bite into it delicately, the pleasure clearly showing on his face.

Then Yala turned to the rest of them, arms raised out to her sides.

“Come now, I thought this was a celebration?”

“Who wants a drink?” Mordukai roared jovially.

And the crowd dispersed, setting up up tents and stalls and carts.

Pera himself had already done the amount of planting required to get himself set up in preparation for the upcoming festivals, so he trailed behind Yala and Mordukai to get the promised drink. Mordukai had brought a crate of pomegranates with him, as he did every year, and some he threw out to the people following (Pera caught one and stowed it away in his robes for later when he could savor it) and the rest he squeezed above a tub, wine dripping from his hands in volumes unbelievable to the human eye.

Cups of it were passed around, things toasted and merriment commenced. Pera took his cup into a nearby patch of sunlight, relishing the feeling of grass beneath his feet and the breeze in his hair. He watched as Mordukai moved around, shadowed by Yala. He was fascinated by the way that the gold bands that went all the way up his arms glinted in the sunlight. More than once, the god caught him staring and winked playfully, making Pera’s face as red as the pomegranate wine in his glass.

Eventually he grew bored of watching people fawn over The Twins and wandered off to find some of the fruit-bearing plants Yala had blessed while walking around. He stumbled upon a blackberry bush and happily picked them off one by one at his leisure. The juice stained his fingertips as time went on, but he couldn’t bring himself to care.

Crack.

Laziness gave way to alertness, and Pera cautiously called out, “Who’s there?”

Out from the trees stepped the man from earlier, the one who’d won. Xion, he remembered his name was. He looked just as surprised to see Pera as Pera was him. His eyes went wide and he raised his hands.

“Apologies, I didn’t realize there would be anyone else out here.”

“Not many people would be. But I don’t mind sharing.” He gestured for Xion to join him, and he did after a moment’s hesitation. “I’m Pera Rivers, by the way. And you’re Xion.”

Xion flushed slightly. “Ah so you were at the platform, then.”

“I don’t know anyone around here who wasn’t. So what are you doing all the way away from the parties?”

“I needed somewhere quiet to get some work done.” He brandished a small journal and a charcoal stick. “I’m a bit of an inventor you could say? And also a writer, I had some new ideas.”

Pera leaned in a little. “Well aren’t you quite the talented trainspotter?” He grinned as Xion flushed again.