This was not her first incarnation, but it was the first one where she had committed herself to feeling mortal. She took the tea the Dark Lady offered for the first time. She was born unknowing, an apparent mortal named Mariam, in a small city in the desert heat.
She was called to a spiritual life, though she could never explain why. Nonetheless her parents indulged her childhood pledge of chastity when it became clear that puberty would not clear her head. They found her a husband who would give her a household, who already had sons of his own that she could help care for. She was not particularly grateful; she took it on faith that her life would go as she envisioned it.
Six months before her wedding was scheduled, she began to have a Visitor.
"Shhh," xie whispered when she woke to see hir in her darkened bedroom. "Don't be afraid. You can call me Gav. My father sent me to speak to you on his behalf. He's been watching you for some time now." Gav had a warm smile and hir skin was faintly luminous in the dark. Xie didn't seem obviously a man or a woman, but was too old for the androgyny of a child. Shapes rippled behind hir as the air rippled over the sand on the hottest days, fluttering almost like wings.
She stared at hir in wonder and pride.
"Do you remember anything of your true self?" Gav asked her.
Mariam shook her head no.
"Then I am to teach you."
When Mariam's heart began to skip a beat at Gav's arrival, she assumed it was at hir spiritual nature but as the months passed it was clear they were developing feelings for each other.
"I- I have a confession," she told hir when she could no longer bear it. "Your father must send another to me, for I have vowed never to lay with a man, and yet your presence makes me..."
With a soft touch, Gav drew the young woman in close. "In truth, your words bring me joy."
"I have felt the same way, my dear Mariam, but I am neither male nor female, so it would seem your vow does not apply."
In her heart Mariam wondered if it wasn't cheating on her vow regardless, but Gav's fingertips were like little suns against her skin and it was hard to concentrate. Hir being seemed to seep in through her pores and radiate all through her, as if xie was inside her body watching just as she did, and xie moved her hands as if they were hir own. Soon she could think of nothing at all.
As they lay together afterward, Mariam spoke to the air. "Gav, can you tell me about your father? You refer to him always, but never tell me anything."
Gav answered using her own voice. "In truth, he bid me not to. He was afraid it would disrupt your training."
"It seems unnecessary when we are as close as this," Mariam said. She could feel Gav's hesitation, and in a moment of instinct, desiring to be closer to hir, she took down the last barriers between her self and Gav.
For her part, the images that poured out of Gav's memories - of being created, of the man xie called father, of the place xie had been born - were shockingly familiar. She knew that man. Chenek. A wave of nausea passed through her and she rolled over so she wouldn't be sick in her bed. The memories that washed back over her were overwhelming, and would likely have driven her mad if Gav had not been right there as well, to sort them and guide them for her.
When she was only sobbing and shaking, and no longer in danger of losing herself entirely, Gav stepped back out of her body.
"I am sorry," Gav whispered to her. Xie sat at the foot of her bed now, not sure where they stood. "I had no idea, or I would not have-"
"Of course you would," Mariam spat at him, angry. "You have no will of your own. Chenek would have been much happier if he had made all of his chidren thus."
Gav didn't have an answer. Xie waited in the awkward silence until it was clear Mariam was done, and then xie stood to leave.
"Tell him," she said as Gav reached the window, "tell him not to interfere again, to let me succeed or fail on my own, or he will regret it."
Gav nodded, and she thought again about hir regret. She closed her eyes and continued.
"And Gav- if you are ever your own person, come back to me."
When she opened them, the room was dark.