Beneath a lone apple tree at the edge of a cliff knelt an ordinary-looking man, with ordinary windswept brown hair and ordinary attire, taking care of the flowers in its shade, appearing almost motionless to any distant onlooker.
“They won’t believe in you forever.”
He stood up and turned to face the speaker; a woman dressed in flowing white clothes and long red hair. Unfazed, he stared back with no change in expression, standing his ground.
“I did what I had to do to save them. You can look like a deity all you want, but I’m the one down here helping my people.” He said calmly, his relaxed facial expression still holding.
The goddess walked forward and plucked an apple from the tree. She took a single bite before making a facial expression of sarcastic disgust, tossing it behind her with a flick of her wrist, then returning her focus to the plain man beneath it, her blank face barely hiding spiteful condescension. “What happened to you?” She replied. “We used to understand each other so well. You knew we can’t ever take direct action in their world. That’s not how we help them. That’s not how it works. Why would you give it all up for a little tree?”
He looked back for a brief moment. He seemed to almost be staring through the ground, below the tree, at its roots; the last form of all his previous power, everything he was supposed to have left behind. “Don’t think we’ll forget you”, the goddess warned, “We see all. We know all. We remember all. What you did does not serve as its own punishment.”
“I don’t expect you to understand”, he said, “But sometimes things must change. Sometimes tradition must be broken to move forward. Again, I did what I had to in order to keep them alive. They have done nothing to deserve such suffering. I stand by all of it.” An apple grew from nothing where the goddess had previously plucked one.
Her expression slipped from hidden spite to simply spite. “Spoken like a mortal. You don’t have much time left, and when they stop believing in you, this insulting little tree will wither and die,” She sneered. “This grows tiresome. It’s you against us. You have to pay for what you did, and there’s nothing you can do to escape your fate. If you attempt to involve the people in this, then they too shall suffer. Their blood would be on your hands. Remember that.” Breaking her gaze, she walked past him and the tree, further and further away.
The man turned his attention back to the flowers and knelt again. For a brief moment his focus broke and the thought entered his head that he might have brought more on himself than he could ever have imagined; this thought was perished just as quickly. He knew what he had done, and what he was doing, and he would fight against fate itself for what he believed.