The “Nature’s Bounty” feast, put on by the Callahan Country Students for a Happy Earth, had generated a lot of leftovers, which they had promptly abandoned to biodegrade. Gaines Park maintenance volunteers had been called in to deal with the issue; Isaac cannily observed that the CCSHE’s reasoning had been sound, and that a biodegredation site away from picnic tabletops was the only missing piece.

Gabe confronted Isaac as he was packing away his gear. “There’s a pile of miscellaneous nuts sitting on top of that flagstone,” he said. “We were supposed to clean them up.”

“It’s a shrine to Aquerna, the Norse goddess of squirrels. She’ll take them if she wants them.”

“You don’t expect me to believe that, do you?” Gabe said.

“Believe what you want. I’m not cleaning it up.”

Defeated, Gabe left Isaac to rake leaves in the vicinity of the “shrine,” which he went about with characteristic sloth and lack of attention to detail. Returning from a long, leisurely stroll to deposit a bunch of leaves in a bag, Isaac noticed that the pile of nuts had disappeared from the flagstone. He also noticed a short brunette girl in the bushes nearby who seemed to be wearing nothing but her birthday suit.

As much as Isaac appreciated the aesthetics of the human form, Callahan County and Gaines Park had strict statutes in place to keep nude sunbathers from the nearby college at bay, and volunteers were often put upon to summon the authorities or chase them down.

“Hey, earth child!” Isaac yelled. “It’s too early, and you’re too pasty, for sunbathing to do anything! Get lost!”

She turned and regarded him with wide eyes.”Hello. I am the Avatar of Aquerna.”

“W-what?” Isaac felt his heart stutter; no one should have known about that save Gabe. “I made that up! It was just empty snarkiness!”

“By invoking the name and attaching it to a site, you designated a site,” the girl said. “By refusing to recant when confronted, you expressed a belief. Ethereal beings need human belief to exist, and a site to manifest. You have provided Aquerna with the first of each in over one thousand years, and her avatar is before you now in gratitude.”

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