The man gripped his knees, breathing heavily. “Gah… I will never get used to that.”
The younger man turned to his companion, his grin smug and unsympathetic. “After how many centuries, O venerated Arch-Master…”
“Fuck you, Corvus.” The man grumbled, adjusting the simple traveling garb he wore as he regained his equilibrium. “Man was never meant to walk in the spaces between worlds.”
Corvus grinned, his raven-feathered cloak rustling slightly in the warm breeze. “Is that any way for a disciple to speak to his God?”
The older man glowered. “I’m pretty sure the last time we had this fight we leveled that island. I really don’t think we need to start this shit here, especially not now.”
“Honestly Samuel… Anyone would think it was YOUR wife having a chil…” The young man quipped, before his face fell, realizing his gaffe. “…I’m sorry.” He apologized quickly “I didn’t mean…”
Samuel waved the apology away, though his eyes were filled with remembered pain. “It’s been twelve years, Corvus. I can’t expect people to walk on eggshells forever.”
“Still, that was inconsiderate of me.”
The ghost of a smile curves Samuel’s mouth. Long auburn hair falling across a shoulder as he regards his Divine companion. “You could blame it on nerves, Tyris knows I was chewing furniture when Kylie was born.”
“As I recall, you were quite free with your threats to boil the blood of anyone who interrupted the birth.” Corvus chuckled, his eyes clouded with nostalgia. “But no. Reality is being VERY considerate as far as this event is concerned.”
“And exactly what did you threaten it with?”
“The ways of The Divine are myriad and complex. Your mortal mind would shudder to comprehend…”
Samuel fixed the God with a level stare “Corvus…”
“Three major paradoxes and a fractal timeline… What? It’s my first child!”
Samuel laughed helplessly, shaking his head as he moved towards the elaborate gates of the city before them. Twin marble statues formed the palisades of the doorway, their entwined hands completing the arch below which massive doors stood open and beckoning. To the right, a powerfully muscular man, his features angular, eyes determined and imperious. To the left, a serpent-woman, her upper half willowy and graceful, her lower, the muscular length of a snake’s tail, each scale carved with immaculate precision.
“He would hate this.” Corvus remarked, wrinkling his nose at the statuary.
“He really would.” Samuel agreed. “S’funny… The most powerful Resonant in recorded history, and he was just…”
The man and the God walked silently through the gates, side by side, the sea of people parting as if they passed through water.
“Are you doing that?” Samuel asked bluntly.
“No… I think someone told…” Corvus remarked in distaste.
“Heaven forfend.” Samuel quipped wryly. “A father attending the birth of his child.”
A spider-woman rushed towards them, her legs skittering rapidly as she bent to grasp the hem of Corvus’s cloak. Her multiple, onyx eyes filled with utter adoration, she brought it to her lips reverently.
“Praise to you, O Lord!” She gushed, splaying her legs in a spideresque genuflection.
“The hand of Maou stretch upon thee, and comfort thee gently in the trials thou faceth, little sister.” Corvus murmured beneficently.
“T-Thank you Lord! Thank you!” The spider sobbed, tears of joy cascading down her cheeks as the pair continued onward, the crowd swallowing her behind them.
Samuel raises an eyebrow. “You’re across that?”
Corvus shook his head imperceptibly. “Not at the moment, but when aren’t mortals facing one trial or another? Mother loves them enough that I’m sure She doesn’t mind me throwing Her name around a little. The Arachne’ll be comforted, and then she’ll…” The God paused, blinking slightly. “…wow… so THAT was what I was looking at.”
“Did you just use yourself to fix a problem again?” Samuel drawled drily.
“Maybe, I’ll have to talk to Me the next time we run into each other.” Corvus replied nonchalantly.
Samuel gave a brief snort of incredulity. “Tyris be Merciful… How do you handle being in so many different places at once?”
“Strong. Liquor.” The God answered with a perfectly straight face.
“I wish your Father was this blunt. It might have made the last four centuries a little less stressful.” Samuel mused wistfully.
“Tyris the Eternal? The God above All? The Most High? Speak plainly?” Corvus asked incredulously. “I’m pretty sure that’s Heresy.”
“Balls.” Samuel cursed, frowning in frustration.
“Yep.” Corvus agreed resignedly.
“There is no way we’re getting past this is there?”
Corvus’s eyes went distant for a moment. “Let me check… Hmm… Nope.”
Samuel sighed, looking upon the impassive faces of the legion of reptilians who stood at the base of the stairs leading to the temple-palace that was their destination. They varied in appearance, some, the elongated, slimly muscular shape of Lamiae. Others, the powerful, taloned Wyrms. And bearing standards and polearms throughout their number, the multihued, bipedal forms of Lizard and Salamander, their powerful tails trailing on the cobbled stone behind them.
A crimson-scaled Salamander, a full head above the rest, looked down at Samuel and Corvus, her gaze direct and steady, an air of unmistakable authority in her bearing. Turning on a taloned heel, she addressed the army behind her.
“Warriors of the Tellisari! Fall down and give worship to Holy Corvus, Raven of the North, and His Most Blessed Disciple, Arch-Master Samuel of the Resonant!”
As one, the massed legion fell to their knee-equivalents, pressing scaled, horned, and bare foreheads to the flagstones as the man and God did their very best not to groan at the unwanted attention. With as much dignity as they could muster, they made their way up the long staircase towards the elaborate structure at its peak.
“Seriously. Fuck stairs.” Samuel grumbled.
“Blame Ammit, She’s the one with the penchant for Ziggurats.” Corvus chuckled.
“I thought she called them Pyramids.”
“Holy One!” A shaven-headed attendant called their attention as they reached the doors. “Holy One, will You not give Your Blessing to the people?”
“Gah… Sam, could you? Time’s decided to get stroppy on this one, and an off word from me could complicate things.” Corvus implored the Resonant, his eyes pleading.
“Giving the game away in front of him?” Samuel exclaimed in surprise, tilting his head towards the attendant.
“Don’t be stupid, he can’t hear me.” Corvus replied dismissively.
“Fucking with reality again… no WONDER it gets so pissy with you.” Samuel groaned. “Fine.”
Calling upon the Logos, Samuel clothed himself in an instant with regal finery. Enhancing his voice, he spread his arms to address the multitude below.
“Citizens of Heliopolis! Today we celebrate the culmination of the union between Holy Corvus, Raven of the North and Saviour of all that Lives, Penultimate Lord of the World, and of your Royal and Exalted Sovereign, Lyssa, Nagarani of the Tellisari and of the Echidna, Queen and Empress of Heliopolis, Hamunapt and Memphis!”
An inarticulate cheer rose from the throng below, and Samuel paused, arms still raised, waiting for the din to die down. Raising his arms into the sign of the Sunburst, he looked heavenwards.
“Praise Eternal be unto Tyris, The Most High, The God above All, and to Maou, Queen of Hell and All-Mother of Creation.”
“All Glory to the Most High… For Maou and Mamono…” The wave of the response washed from the sea of people. Samuel crossed his arms reverently over his chest, bowing his head.
“…And lest we forget, in this celebration of new life, to give reverence and honour to that final destination of all that lives, Glory to you, Ammit, Dread Queen of Justice, Chatelaine of the Underworld and of the Scales of Ma’at.”
“AMMITHU ACKBAR! AMMITHU ACKBAR! AMMITHU ACKBAR!” Came the howling response from the gathered Heliopolitans.
“Very nice.” Corvus grinned.
“I hate that Anachronism.” Samuel grumbled through his teeth.
“Mmm… Personal bias aside.” The God quipped, turning from the cheering throng to head inside. Truth be told Samuel had to agree. His first experience with the idiosyncrasies of Heliopolitan worship had been somewhat jarring, a self-important noble using religious justification to fire upon the trade-ship where his wife was in labour with their first child… A moment as the pain of the memory hit him.
Steeling himself, Samuel followed Corvus into the palace-temple. Its interior was lushly decorated, tapestries and draperies of varying colour coating the bleak stone walls, and there, reclining upon cushions, a heavily pregnant Echidna, the emerald green of her hair and her scaled, serpentine lower body contrasting with the vibrant amethyst of her humanoid torso, swollen large with child. Seeing him, the woman’s eyes widened in joyous surprise.
“Samuel!” She cried, heaving her bulk upright and slithering forward on serpentine tail to embrace him warmly.
“Hullo Lyssa, you’re looking lovely.” Samuel murmured, smiling at the echidna’s greeting.
“I’m looking FAT!” Lyssa corrected petulantly. “And it’s all HIS fault.”
Corvus blinked, taken aback by the venom of his serpentine wife. “Not even a hello for me, my love?”
“No.” Lyssa sulked “I missed you, and you were too busy doing God things… Again.”
“I’m here now.” Corvus assured her, spreading his arms.
“Hmph. You’re lucky you still smell like fried mice…” The Echidna pouted, before her annoyed façade gave way and she positively threw herself into the God’s arms.
“Corvus… My Corvus…” She crooned, entwining herself about him.
“Lys, love… we’re not alone… and your condition!”
“Oh pish.” Lyssa hissed dismissively. “Sam can go tie his tongue in knots outside again while I say hello properl… Urk…”
Corvus’s face clouded with concern. “Lyssa?”
“T-the baby…” The Echidna gasped “…I-it’s coming!”
“Gotta love your timing, Corvus.” Samuel groaned. “ATTENDANTS! See you to your Sovereign, at once!”
Samuel winced as another cutting shriek sounded from the chamber beyond.
“Are you discomforted, Disciple?” A deferential reptilian asked hesitantly, clearly uncomfortable in his presence.
Shaking his head, Samuel offered the reptile a small grin “I’ll just never get used to that sound. They always scream as loudly as the first time.”
“I am certain The Gods have reason behind the Trial of Birth.”
“Gods… Biology…” Samuel mused somewhat mockingly.
Samuel waved. “Never mind… look, can you go get me something to drink?”
“At once disciple!” The reptilian gushed, grateful for the opportunity to flee.
“You’re doing great, love, just great!” Corvus’s muffled voice from the inner sanctum.
“Great SHIT! Get it out! GET IT OUT!” Lyssa’s hissing shriek.
“You did this to me!” The memory of his wife’s voice coming unbidden to Samuel’s mind.
“Come on kitten, just a little more…” His own murmured insistence.
“Yumi…” Samuel sobbed brokenly, tears falling through his fingers as he softly wept to the sounds of childbirth.
“IA APOPHIS! DEATH TO THE FALSE QUEEN!” A voice shattered Samuel’s grief and he leaped to his feet, his heart sinking into his boots as he heard a meaty thunk from the chamber beyond. Rushing into the inner chamber, Samuel staggered as the full FORCE of Corvus’s Divine Presence hit him. Lyssa lay gasping weakly on a bed, an ornate dagger driven into her chest. One of her attendants was flat against the opposite wall, held there by the weight of Corvus’s furious stare.
“I will spend the next five eons killing you. Your suffering will drive strong men mad for the hearing…” The God hissed, the very air shaking with his rage.
“Corvus…” Samuel grunted through his teeth. The God raised a hand, keeping the would-be assassin immobile while that horrible stare turned to His Disciple and oldest friend.
“If the word ‘mercy’ so much as leaves your lips…”
“Lyssa. We… can’t… save… her… through your… fury… idiot.”
A look of horror crossed Corvus’s face as he rushed to Lyssa’s side. The assassin, now free of divine compulsion, made a mad dash for the door, only to be halted by a Resonant Glyph. “My God always did have a limited range when it came to cruelty…” Samuel purred in the assassin’s scaled ear. “…Lucky for you I don’t possess such limitations.”
“Corvus…” Lyssa gurgled, blood staining her mouth as she grasped spastically at the God. “…save our baby.”
“Don’t be a martyr Lys, this is nothing.” Corvus murmured comfortingly, holding a hand above the dagger as he stroked her hair with the other. Slowly, his soothing smile turned to an expression of utter dread. “The knife… I can’t…”
“Don’t play with it Corvus, just fix it!” Samuel exclaimed.
“I can’t! It’s not real!”
Samuel’s mouth worked in blank incomprehension. “What do you mean?”
“This doesn’t belong to this reality! I… my powers don’t exist where this came from! Please… Oh please… FATHER! PLEASE!” Corvus howled in utter panic, the air around him vibrating as he threw his entire divine might against the knife which remained buried in his wife’s chest.
“I’ll wait for you…” Lyssa choked “…Forever… Please… Save our daughter… Save… Reitia…”
Her eyes dimmed, and her head lolled to the side in death.
What Corvus gave voice to was not a shriek. No mortal expression of grief could ever come close to what the God gave voice to. The remaining attendants slumped over in death where they stood, bleeding freely from their ears. The assassin collapsed into a wet puddle of gore between one instant and the next, and Samuel held like a drowning man in a hurricane to the Resonant Glyph which shielded him from the God’s lamentation. Dimly, he noticed the walls around him crumbling to dust, the ziggurat now open to the roiling skies above, lightning tearing and crashing furiously within them.
“FATHER!” He howled again, launching himself heavenward. Free from the torrent, Samuel rushed to Lyssa’s side, and with Resonant art, more precise and delicate than any surgeon’s scalpel, opened the dead Echidna’s swollen belly, drawing the child from her womb.
“Breathe kid… Breathe…” Samuel murmured, holding the tiny form by the ankles and swatting its tiny backside. The baby jerked and let loose with a high-pitched cry, gasping as its new lungs filled with air for the first time.
“Good girl, good girl…” Samuel laughed in sheer relief, checking the child over as he cleaned the blood and afterbirth from her tiny frame. A shock of vibrant blue hair greeted him, lupine ears wet and flat against her skull, a tiny furred tail of the same colour sprouting above her buttocks. Samuel was not totally taken aback at her drastic deviation from her parents’ appearances, the somewhat… unique circumstances of her conception lent something of a suspension of disbelief after all, but what truly made him intake his breath in surprise were the diminutive wings folded flat against her back, covered in storm-grey fluff.
“What are you, little one?” Samuel mused curiously, before turning his head to the heavens. “Oi! Corvus! You get the fuck back here and see to your fucking daughter or do I have to belt some sense into y…”
The words died on Samuel’s lips as he beheld the same calamity which had left the young God frozen in midair.
The Sun had turned black.
Samuel was no stranger to a solar eclipse, there were Resonants who spent their lives charting where and when one would occur, after all, but this was no ordinary eclipse. The sun hung there like an orb of sackcloth, yet the light-that-was-not still illuminated the ground below. In the streets below the palace, general mayhem ensued, the Tellisari desperately trying to regain order while panic swept through their own ranks.
“Corvus… What are we looking at?” Samuel demanded.
“A confluence.” A voice from beside him intruded. Samuel turned suddenly to see a white-haired man of early middle age staring with undisguised dread at the black sun. “A merging of realities, like the one which brought the Mamono to this plane to begin with.”
“Archmage Enoch. Late, as fucking usual.” Samuel spat with undisguised disapproval.
“Tell me the easy and quick way to teleport through realities which are currently tangling themselves in knots if you’re the expert on the subject then… Uncle.”
Samuel ground his teeth and kept quiet, swaddling the fussing infant, and holding her protectively against himself. “Corvus!” He yelled once more, desperation creeping into his voice.
“I know… I can feel it…” Corvus called in reply, turning and landing beside them. “Father and Mother have closed the Ways to Heaven and Hell, and Ammit is doing everything within Her power to keep the Underworld stable… Which probably involves eating any God which comes within spitting distance… Thank you Sam. I… Lost it for a minute there.”
“We noticed.” Samuel remarked drily, still holding the infant.
“May I?” Corvus breathed, looking at the swaddled infant in Samuel’s arms. The Resonant passed the tiny form into the God’s trembling hands.
“Reitia… My little Reitia…” Corvus cooed, tears streaming down his cheeks as he grinned with sheer joy. “I searched for Her in all possible futures, and she’s still more beautiful than I could have imagined!”
“What do you want to do with Lyssa?” Samuel broached as tactfully as he could. Corvus gave a tearing sob, holding his daughter to his breast and squeezing his eyes closed against the pain of grief.
“I WANT to turn her body into starlight and set her form amongst the constellations… But that knife… that FUCKING KNIFE.”
“Language in front of the baby.” Samuel snapped.
Corvus blinked in surprise. “You know how much you sounded like Yumi just then?”
Samuel laughed despite himself. “In four centuries, that Cheshire was bound to rub off on me in a few ways.”
“Isn’t this a picture…” A new voice intruded, honey-sweet and dark. The three men turned as one, to see a colossal, four-armed serpent woman staring over the peak of the ziggurat at them. “…Oh… Thank you so much for retrieving my knife.” One of her hands gave a beckoning motion, and the blade yanked itself unceremoniously from Lyssa’s form.
“Your knife?” Corvus asked quietly, gently handing Reitia’s tiny form back to Samuel. The Resonant heard Enoch mumbling an incantation under his breath.
“What are you doing, Enoch?” Samuel hissed quietly.
“Preparing to leave quickly… Unless I miss my guess, which I rarely do, our four-armed visitor is a God.”
“YOUR Knife?” Corvus snarled again, rising into the air to stare directly into the twilight-skinned face of the colossus. A hood, like that of a massive cobra flared out from her head and neck, and She hissed at Corvus as he glowered at her.
“Who are you to confront Apophis?” The titanic serpent demanded.
“Who am I?” Corvus exclaimed incredulously. “Corvus. Raven of the North. Husband to a wife murdered in YOUR name. And, it seems, vengeance’s favoured son…”
“Oh shit.” Samuel breathed, flinging a positive multitude of glyphs into the air as Corvus hurtled skyward once again.
“Can you get the whole city?” Enoch asked bluntly.
“Tyris save me, I’m bloody well going to try!”
“Then I’ll keep working…” Enoch murmured, staring at the maelstrom building above their heads.
Lightning tore across the maelstrom, the booming almost deafening. “FACE ME NOW THEN, APOPHIS. FALSE GOD. IN THE NAME OF TYRIS AND OF MAOU I ABJURE THEE. FEEL THE SCORN OF THE SON OF THE REICH!” A shattering roar spoken in tongues of white fire tore across the Heavens as Corvus emerged from the boiling nexus of cloud, clad in the full mantle of his power and giant to match the colossal form of Apophis, a massive hammer in his left hand, arcing lightning crackling around it, and in his right, an axe seemingly forged from glacier ice, snow and sleet forming around its blade as it froze the very air.
“Time… To play.” Apophis mused, raising two of her hands which wielded knives identical to the one which had slain Lyssa. Bolts of utter blackness flew at the lightning-dripping God descending from the heavens, which Corvus contemptuously brushed aside.
“PITIFUL.” Corvus spat scornfully.
“Strong. Goooood…” Apophis hissed, raising her lower pair of arms which bore a pair of segmented whips, reality itself seeming to fray in the wake of their lashing.
“Here it comes…” Samuel grimaced as Corvus hurtled towards the serpent, holding the pattern of glyphs as steady as he possibly could in his mind.
Closer… Closer… Impact.
The force released by the meeting of the two deities slammed against Samuel’s psyche. He wasn’t sure if reality itself shuddered or if his heart momentarily stopped beating with the EFFORT of shielding the city.
“How… Much… survived.” Samuel gasped as the two titans grappled, crushing a swathe through the buildings with their massive forms.
“Ask me that later.” Enoch replied enigmatically.
“Ahhhh! Now I know you for true, Raven!” Apophis hisses as Corvus beats at Her with His divine weapons. “But tell me… did the mortal mean so much to you? What would you see destroyed to best me? How much of your world can you see in ruin?”
“EVERYTHING!” Corvus snarled “ALL THAT EXISTS!”
“And THAT…” Apophis crowed in triumph “…was your final mistake.”
Apophis lashed out with her whips, catching Corvus around the throat with one and lashing his weapons from his hand with the other, each levelling a city block where it fell.
“What…” Corvus choked, gripping at the lash.
“You are bound to this world, Raven. Born of it and tied to it. In abjuring it You abjure Yourself. But I? A whole reality is My suzerain… and now… Yours will be too. Now Fall, Raven. Fall and lament your failure!”
Corvus shrieked as blackness opened around him, the earth swallowing his giant form whole.
“Corvus! No!” Samuel cried, eyes wide with horror as the God’s form vanished into the blackness.
“Peoples of the world!” Apophis cried in her sibilant voice. “Worship me! Pray to Apophis! Your God!”
“We’re leaving.” Enoch declared.
“Thank Tyris.” Samuel choked, holding the infant to him and squeezing his teary eyes shut as magical energy surrounded them.
And when it cleared, it was as if they were never there.
“I have not done crimes against people…” The Kikimora hesitantly recited, her head bowed meekly and her hands folded where she knelt on the dark stone “…I have not done what The Gods abhor, I have not robbed the poor or the indentured, I have not…” her eyes flashed briefly with panic and she glanced upwards at the masked figure before her who stood immobile, muscular arms held in the Sign of the Scales of Ma’at. The figure gave no indication that it had noticed her stumble.
“I have not quenched…” The curvaceous Taurean whispered softly to her from where she stood at the Kikimora’s side, dressed in flawless white samite, her horns decorated with glittering golden trinkets. The Kikimora brushed a length of featherlike hair back from her heart-shaped face to cover her slip, smiling gratefully at the Taurean for the prompt. The Taurean responded with the faintest hint of a conspiratorial grin.
“I have not quenched a Needed Fire, I have not dammed a Flowing Stream, I have not increased or reduced the measure. Proclaim before Ammit! I am Pure, I am Pure, I am Pure.”
“The Scales of Ma’at weigh you in this life and the next.” The masked figure intoned, its voice masculine, deep and resonant. “May your Ka and your Ba meet once more in the Place which is Promised. Rise, Priestess of Ammit.”
“Thank you, Lord Horus…” The Kikimora gushed, rising with a helpless smile on her face and turning to face the hooded figures behind her.
“Caretakers of the Duat. Acknowledge you Remi, and count her among your number.” The Taurean commanded, spreading her arms to the congregation.
“Ammit Judge Her Lightly, and Justice be Her Guide.” The ritual response rippled through the candlelit cavern and Remi near flew from her place before the sandstone altar to embrace one of the hooded figures, whose hood fell back to reveal another Kikimora, nearly identical to her.
“I knew you could do it Remi!” The robed Kikimora gushed as she embraced her sister.
“Thanks to Lady Hathor.” Remi acknowledged, disengaging from her sister, and bowing to the samite-clad Taurean.
“Please Remi, it’s a lot to remember, do you think you’re the first to stumble over it?” Hathor laughed, her voice rich and musical.
Other cowled figures came forward to embrace and congratulate Remi, the cavern filling with the quiet din of praise. Suddenly a booming of displaced air rang throughout the cavern, extinguishing a good number of the candles. Anubian guards snarled, their Jackal-like ears pricked up, blades were drawn, claws and fangs bared by other Mamono as the congregation turned to face the intruders.
“Hold!” came the plea from the darkness, and sparks of light flew from an unknown hand to re-ignite the candles, revealing the intruders. Both Humans appeared to be of middling age, tall, one with auburn hair falling past his shoulders, the other platinum blonde, hair cut close to his skull. The Auburn-haired man bounced a swaddled infant calmingly in his arms, the baby’s cries of discontent insistent and shrill.
“Not much for appropriate entrances, are you, Nephew?” The Auburn-haired man remarked witheringly after taking in their surroundings.
“Can you think of a safer destination?” The white-haired man retorted without venom. His companion’s mouth worked helplessly before settling into a defeated glower.
“Archmage Enoch…” The masked man began, stepping fearlessly towards the pair. “…I would have reason for this intrusion.”
“Good to see you too, Horus.” Enoch quipped “And I figured The High Magistrate of Ammit should at least be across the fact that the Three Cities of The Nagaraj are being stolen out from under the Dread Queen’s purview as we speak.”
“Apophis? You’re sure?” Horus insisted, his mask now removed to reveal a Human man in his early thirties, discerning hazel eyes fixed upon the pair where they sat in a comfortable room.
The baby piped up again, crying insistently.
“She’s hungry, Samuel.” Hathor remarked gently.
“I know, but there’s not an awful lot I can do about that right now.” Samuel admitted, gently shushing the blue-haired infant.
“Men!” Hathor groaned, holding her arms out presumptuously. “Give her here.”
Wordlessly, Samuel gently handed the baby to the Taurean, who freed her voluminous breasts from within her gown without hesitation. The Baby’s tiny head turned instinctively as she began to nurse.
“Breastfed by the High Priestess of Ammit… I’m sure that’s a legend in its own right.” Enoch snickered.
“Don’t be vulgar.” Hathor chided the mage where she stood with babe in arms, her impressive chest unselfconsciously bare.
“And don’t change the subject.” Horus insisted.
“Yes. I’m sure. Why, is that something significant?” Enoch asked, his sky-blue eyes meeting Horus’s once more.
“Yes… No… I…” Horus’s brow furrowed in thought. “The name brings… memories… I’m not entirely sure they’re all my own.”
“Eh?” Samuel grunted in confusion.
“The title of Horus Amun-Thoth brings with it a certain degree of… Revelation.” Horus explained, “You probably noticed your brother, my ultimate predecessor, suddenly knowing things he had no business knowing.”
“And then some.” Samuel admitted “Still, I wonder if the Logos is aware of anything…”
Gesturing casually, Samuel summoned a series of rapidly scrolling glyphs which glowed with eldritch light as they span in the empty air before his face.
“It’s funny… I can see them, but I still can’t…” Enoch murmured as he looked with slight envy at the Resonant.
“Your Magic is natural, instinctive.” Samuel retorted without looking at the mage “The changes that Awakening makes to your mind are nothing to be desired, Enoch.”
“…It’s something you can’t control and it makes your fingers itch… Your father suffered from the same affliction.” Samuel grinned slightly, sparing his nephew a glance before turning back to the glyphs.
The two other men waited with baited breath as Samuel continued his rapt examination of the glyphs. Reitia broke her latch upon Hathor’s breast, and with a contented gurgle, promptly belched and fell asleep. Hathor smiled sweetly at the blue-haired infant whose lupine ears twitched slightly in sleep.
“Horus…” Hathor wheedled, fixing the man with a look of longing.
“Yes, my love?”
“Don’t you think it’s about time we…” The Taurean trailed off, looking at the sleeping infant with clear desire, her bovine tail lashing behind her digitigrade legs.
“Maou will bless us with children in Her own time, Hathor.” Horus murmured comfortingly.
“There’s nothing stopping us from trying in the meantime…” Hathor purred, her breasts falling around Horus’s head as she leaned forward to embrace him lingeringly with one arm.
Enoch coughed, blushing slightly.
Hathor gave an apologetic giggle, tucking her breasts back into her samite gown. “Isn’t it time you settled down, Archmage?”
“Holiness, I am the First Chair of the Hidden Circle. I don’t have the time.” Enoch sighed, rolling his eyes.
“There.” Samuel declared, coming out of his apparent trance, the glyphs ceasing their endless cycle.
“What is it?” Horus asked, shifting forward in his seat.
“Most of it is… ancient. Pre-Ilian ancient… Bender’s disorder? Mandela effect? Apparently in the time of the first Confluence, when Mamono first came into our reality…”
“…You mean when Humans came into ours.” Hathor interjected.
“Revisionist.” Samuel quipped mockingly.
“You love me.”
Samuel laughed, standing, and embracing the Taurean warmly. “I do, Grandniece. It has been far too long.”
“It has. Caladon remembers, Samuel, even if the rest of the world has forgotten.”
“Back to the point…” Enoch insisted wearily.
“…In any case.” Samuel continued, returning his attention to Horus and Enoch. “It seems that people started remembering things… differently. Almost as if Reality was trying to minimize the trauma of bonding with another universe by changing the memories of those living within it.”
“I KNEW Reality was aware! I KNEW it!” Enoch crowed.
“Corvus would be able to tell you… except…” Samuel trailed off, pain behind his eyes.
“What has befallen The Raven?” Horus demanded, his eyes wide with concern.
“He has… Fallen.” Samuel admitted hesitantly. “Apophis caught Him rather significantly off-balance and has cast Him down.”
“The whole thing seemed a little too pat if you ask me.” Enoch remarked thoughtfully. “Assassinating the Nagarani, knowing Corvus would be insensible with that combined with the birth of His daughter…”
“His Daugh…” Hathor echoes, looking down to the infant Reitia still cradled in her arms, before glaring at Samuel accusingly.
“If I’d have told you, would you have behaved any differently?” Samuel asked absently.
“No, but still!” Hathor harrumphed, before kissing the sleeping baby’s head almost reverently.
“Cast him down eh?” Horus mused. “Well… Let’s see if we can’t resolve that.”
“Horus!” Hathor exclaimed in horrified shock.
“The Authority is mine to use, so stated the Dread Queen, Love.” Horus replied, before folding his arms across his chest and closing his eyes, whispering a fervent prayer to Ammit. An almost oppressive air settled over the room, and the infant Reitia fussed where she lay cradled in Hathor’s arms. Horus opened his eyes… And screamed.
“My love!” Hathor shrieked, attempting to juggle baby as well as reach out for her Priest-Husband.
“Forgive me! Forgive me Dread Queen!” Horus begged, his eyes wide and unseeing as he scrambled backwards off the chair, before curling up in a ball and shaking, his breathing laborious. Samuel rushed to his side, calling upon Resonant arts to shield and heal the man. Horus held forth a shaky hand as equilibrium began to return to him.
“Wait… Wait. I’m alright. It’s… Alright.”
“Alright shit.” Enoch retorted emphatically.
“Language in front of the baby.” Hathor and Samuel both snapped in unison.
Enoch stood stunned for a moment before giving a burp of involuntary laughter. “You back with us then, Horus?”
“I am.” The Human nodded. “I was… not prepared. Dread Ammit… Defends Her Sovereignty.”
“Come again?” Samuel queried uncomprehendingly.
“You are acquainted with My Goddess, Arch-Master?” Horus asked shakily, standing, putting an arm around his Priestess-Wife, and seemingly involuntarily, a comforting hand upon Reitia’s head. “Have you ever seen Her angry?”
“Angry? No.” Samuel admits. “Irritated, plenty, but flat out mad? No… Thank Tyris.”
“Well placed you are to thank Him. For I have seen Her, the Blood of a God on Her mouth, its crowned head submerged in the eternal fires of Duat, her talons buried in the chest of a second… And then S-she… Looked at Me.”
“She Loves you, Horus. Loves you as I love you.” Hathor assured him.
“Even so. She cannot help us. The Raven must… endure, for now.”
“Tyris Fuck!” Samuel cursed
“Language in front of the Baby.” Enoch drawled mockingly.
“Tyris be Glorified, Enoch… Lucifer himself never made my teeth itch the way you do…” The Resonant growled, cuffing his nephew, yet without malice. “…But you raise a good point. I need answers, and with The Gods under threat for their very existence, only The Logos is powerful enough to assist, and those answers may be years in the finding. What about Reitia? The Grand Lodge is no place for an infant.”
“Horus and I shall care for Her.” Hathor answered without hesitation.
“Are you sure?” Samuel asked. “I don’t know exactly how much attention Apophis was paying, but I think it’s fair to say Ammit’s High Temple in Hamunapt will be less than safe.”
“Then it will fall, if Ammit permits.” Horus answered nonchalantly. “We and The Caretakers of Duat will endure here in Caladon, as our forebears have for millennia beyond counting.”
“And don’t forget, Sam…” Enoch added. “…The Line of Seti’s Ward may continue the Imperial Throne, but Caladon is our family’s. The earth itself will rise in Reitia’s defense, should I desire it.”
“Son of the Morning Star…” Samuel chuckled helplessly, embracing his nephew roughly. “…Thank you, thank you all. And Enoch, if I could impose….”
Enoch nodded, a mischievous grin on his face. “Hold on, gonna have to throw you a little harder than usual, Magisterium’s not exactly magically undefended.”
“Whatever’s necessary. The True Gods be with you all…” Samuel offered genuinely, before bending to kiss Reitia on the brow “…And may Your Father endure, for all of our sakes, little Miracle.”
“Amen.” Horus agreed.
“Hold onto your butt, Uncle…” Enoch drawled, tracing arcane sigils in the air.
Samuel gritted his teeth and squeezed his eyes shut as the world fell away around him.
“Nervous?” The young man asked his companion.
“Me? Nah…” The other blustered with false bravado
“Oh Tyris, me too. I don’t want to die!” The second youth lamented in sudden panic.
“At ease lads. Face your trial with a little dignity.” A bald man, clad in elaborate robes remarked dispassionately.
“Easy for him to say.” The first grumbled.
A sharp, measured knocking sounded from the other side of the door.
“Here we go gentlemen. Try not to soil yourselves.” The bald man ordered as the door swung wide. The two youths shuffled into the chamber, eyes wide as they beheld the faces peering down at them from the crystalline tiers around them. Humans of all races, male and female beheld them with a vague interest as they paused before the mosaic. In an elaborate seat opposite sat… someone.
Her form was feminine, and humanoid, such as it went, yet her flesh seemed to meld in places with elaborate fretting of crystal, similar to the substance which comprised the rest of this vast structure.
“She is The Master?” The first youth asked in a hushed whisper.
“Yes. But address her as Mnemosyne.” The bald man replied.
“The candidates are prepared?” the figure identified as ‘Mnemosyne’ asked in an echoing voice.
“They are, Mnemosyne.” The bald man replied deferentially.
“Then let them be tried.” Mnemosyne stated simply, standing from her seat, and seeming to almost float as she descended to the mosaic.
“Please…” The first youth begged, his eyes filled with panic.
“Shhh…” Mnemosyne murmured gently, extending her crystal-fretted hands to the heads of both youths. Arcing streams of power struck the youths, who shrieked, wide eyes staring blindly as the energy coursed and ravaged throughout their bodies. Held aloft by the bald man behind them, they writhed and spasmed, until, almost as soon as it began, the energy stopped.
“Stand Recognised, L43T0R and C3L3BR0.” Mnemosyne mused, standing back from the pair, whose foreheads bore glowing glyphs.
“…are you alright?” The first youth panted to the second.
“Yeah. Yeah… I… I see!”
“Right?!” The youth grinned again before stumbling. “Whoops…”
“Take them to where they may recover.” Mnemosyne laughed graciously.
“And to think… This used to be a risky procedure!” A Human woman, clad in the garb of a High Priestess of Tyris laughed from her position in the northern chair.
“One’s satellites were not… built for purpose. One is much more capable of analysing potential platforms ‘in person’, as it were.” Mnemosyne answered with a brief smile.
“Still Mnemosyne… We haven’t had more than fifteen candidates in the last century… Our numbers are waning significantly.”
“Operational platforms are within acceptable parameters.” Mnemosyne corrected the woman.
The woman ducked her head with clear deference. “If you say so, you are the Logos, after all…”
“Revered Junior Warden…” An attaché interjected hesitantly. “A ‘Brother Samuel’ seeks admission.”
“He has been Recognized?” The woman asked with the comfortable nonchalance of frequent ritual.
“He has, Your Reverence.”
The woman stands, rapping a wooden gavel against her chair. “Mnemosyne?”
The door opened again, and an auburn-haired man dressed in rude traveling clothes entered. Mnemosyne’s face lit up with sheer joy at the sight of him.
“My friend!” She gushed, rushing to the man, and placing her hands warmly upon his arms.
“Master.” The man replied respectfully, his own hands gripping the crystalline amalgam’s arms without hesitation.
“It is Mnemosyne, now.” The crystal-fretted woman corrected gently, her gemlike eyes glowing with fondness.
“Oh? Ancient Goddess of Wisdom and Knowledge… Do you aspire to the divine then?” The man teased, eliciting a grumble from the Resonants in the tiers above.
“No, but one finds the name aesthetically pleasing, and one has grown to… appreciate aesthetics.”
“Mnemosyne, who is this?” An elderly man in the western chair asked incredulously.
“He is V3R1T4S. Longest-serving of my current Human platforms… and a dear, dear friend.” Mnemosyne answered.
The elderly man frowned, casting a resonant glyph, and studying the sigils which scrolled before him. His eyes widening, he recoiled in his chair. “Impossible!” He gasped. “That signature belongs to Prince Samuel, the Caladonian!”
“Title’s a little murky what with Caladon being an Imperial seat and all, Brother Senior Warden.” Samuel quipped.
“Regardless! Records hold him as a wilder awakened over four centuries ago!” The Senior warden harrumphed in disbelief.
“Where does the time go?” Samuel mused. “I am who our dear Mnemosyne says I am. And to be honest, I’m surprised that you’re so shocked. Or did a gentleman by the name of ‘Bruce’ just slip your minds?”
“The Late Arch-Master was a… unique case.”
“Not so. Brother Simon of the Australs was two hundred before he decided to let Nature take its course, and I believe Brother Shi Huang of the Aestenlands approaches his third century sometime this decade, Heretic though he may be… ‘Dragon Emperor’ Heh.” Samuel corrected, releasing Mnemosyne’s arms and looking about the room. “But I’m not here for that. As Arch-Master of the Grand Lodge of the Resonant, I declare the lodge open in the Forty-Second Degree.”
Mnemosyne frowned with worry, the lodge buzzing with consternation. “One is concerned, V3R1T4S. To one’s understanding such has not been done since…”
“…The War of the Angels, Yes.”
“One would have an explanation of you.” Mnemosyne stated firmly.
“Brethren, we find ourselves, once again, in the middle of a confluence of realities, like the one that brought the Mamono into our world eons past. Both the Hidden Circle and Holy Corvus have confirmed this.”
“Hidden Circle…” One of the Resonants scoffed “…Bunch of Charlatans drunk on Mamono Energy.”
Samuel fixed the resonant with a level look. “I would just LOVE to see you make that accusation to the Son of the Morning Star. Or has my Report to this Lodge been lost in our labyrinthine bureaucracy?”
A secretariat coughed uncomfortably.
“Ah.” Samuel drawled with a mirthless smirk. “Still, it’s moot at this point. Mnemosyne, I’m afraid I will need access to your archives.”
“One does not understand.” Mnemosyne answered, crystal-flecked brow furrowed with puzzlement “V3R1T4S has access to the full range of information present since One sent Ones satellites to the planet’s surface…”
“I need to go further. I need everything you picked up from the first confluence, the one which brought Mamono into this reality.”
“Such will be… difficult.” Mnemosyne admitted “That information is recorded in the original language of one’s progenitors. It will require a significant level of synchronization within your neural pathways.”
“Will I still be ‘Me’ at the end of it?”
“…V3R1T4S, One would never take your identity from you. One has learned that lesson. But you will be… Changed. Changed even as my platforms are changed from the ‘unawakened’, as you term it.”
“Then do it.”
“One commands all but the Arch-Master to retire.” Mnemosyne ordered after a brief pause.
“But Mnemosyne!” The Senior Warden objected, rising to his feet “Such is Highly Irregular…”
“Is One or is One not the Master of the Lodge?” Mnemosyne asked pointedly “Or are the rest of you so sure that the study of over four centuries so easily ad-libbed? It is your sanity, Platform.”
The remainder of the lodge left rather quickly at that point. When all had departed, Mnemosyne turned her crystalline gaze to meet Samuel’s green eyes.
“In synchronizing your mind with One’s processes, One will become privy to all of your thoughts. Are you SURE you wish One to proceed?”
“To save the world? How many times have I had to be prepared to sacrifice everything?” Samuel retorted with a harsh bark of laughter. “To be honest it is becoming almost habit at this stage.”
“As you will. Come. Embrace One.” Mnemosyne entreated, opening her crystal-studded arms.
Samuel approached the feminine form of the Logos with slight hesitance, before throwing his arms about her deceptively delicate shoulders… and reality itself as he knew it ceased to be.
“Father!” Kylie shrieked, her violet paws upon Samuel’s chest in desperation. “Do something!”
“…I can’t, little kitten.” Samuel heard himself say.
The Cheshire turned to the shifting form clad in a raven feather cloak in the corner of the room. “Holy Corvus… Please…” she sobbed.
“Kylie…” The shifting figure echoed, its hand blurring in and out of reality as it stretched forth a hand to comfort her, her amethyst eyes red-rimmed and tear-streaked. “…Cheshires are special. You don’t really exist in the same world with the rest of us… Unfortunately, that means your mother…”
“No!” Kylie hissed, glaring at her father and the shifting form of the God. “Mother CAN’T die!”
“Kitten, don’t you think I’d give everything I have…” Samuel choked
“Then fucking do it! Go on! Fuck you!” Kylie yowled. “I HATE you! I will NEVER forgive you!”
With a rushing of displaced air, the Cheshire disappeared.
“Sam…” The figure on the bed whimpered, raising a paw to the stricken Resonant.
“Yumi… My Love…” Samuel choked, taking the violet-furred appendage in his hands and kissing the soft pads, his eyes filling with tears. Stroking her hair, he raised his eyes to the God before them. “Corvus… please… if there’s anything…”
“Her Organs are phasing in and out of existence… All I could do is prolong her pain, Sam.” Corvus admitted, his features blurry as he shook his head.
“Tyris!” Samuel beseeched in a sobbing voice which tore from his throat “How much more will you have of me?”
“Sam…” Yumi murmured, gripping his arm weakly “…It’s just my time… I’ll wait for you… my… dearest love… I’ll wait forever…”
With a soft sound, she drew her last breath, her pale, wan form vanishing between one moment and the next.
Samuel’s cry echoed through the vaults of his memory, his desperate mental grasping for the Logos gently denied as Mnemosyne held him in her crystal-studded arms.
“Oh V3R1T4S…” She murmured. “…one is so sorry.”
“Tyris… It still hurts so much…” Samuel choked, clinging to the form of the incarnate Logos.
“Are you able to continue?”
“Yes.” Samuel grated, clenching his jaw.
“Then let us begin…”
“I’m going to the market, Mother” The youthful Taurean called from the door, her digitigrade hooves scraping on the slate flooring.
“Take your sister!” Her mother’s rich voice echoed from further in the house.
“Mother!” The Taurean moaned, rolling her eyes, her bovine ears twitching and tail lashing with irritation.
“Jelena, don’t argue with me.” Her mother’s voice retorted, a harder edge to it now.
“Fine…” Jelena snorted, pawing at the slate before storming from the house. Scanning the yard, she spotted a shock of blue among the swaying grasses. Grumbling to herself, she stamped towards it.
“Always babysitting my freak sister…” Jelena sniped mentally.
“Good morning Jel.” The blue-haired figure spoke without turning, her lupine ears twitching slightly.
“What in the name of Maou are you doing out here, Rei?” Jelena demanded.
“Eavesdropping.” The blue-haired Mamono replied, as if it was the most obvious thing in the world.
“Reitia… There’s nobody here.” Jelena sighed
“The birds are fighting over that nesting place.” Reitia replied, her white and charcoal wings flaring as if in sympathy with the warbling birds in the trees in the near distance. “Can’t you hear them?”
Jelena snorted. “Why do you have to be so weird all the time?!”
Reitia smiled, holding back a giggle. Jelena gritted her teeth, you couldn’t even insult her! Every time she’d tried to start a good honest fight with Reitia, her weird sister just smiled and laughed as if there was some inside joke that Jelena wasn’t privy to.
“I am so glad you’re adopted.” Jelena spat venomously.
“Me too Jel… How else would I have gotten to meet you?” Reitia offered sincerely, smiling at her Taurean sister.
Jelena’s heart melted, and the sting of shame smarted within her. She ALWAYS did that! “C-come on. We’re going to the Market.” The Taurean grated, dashing unbidden tears from her eyes.
“You sure she’s coming?” The rodent-faced youth asked, twitching slightly with nervous energy. His husky, patchy-bearded companion smirked, revealing yellow, uneven teeth.
“She’ll be here. After all the work I’ve put in? I’ll have her legs around me within five minutes.”
“What about me?”
“After I’m finished… Or you can take a chance with that weird sister of hers.”
“Enh…” Rat-face grimaced, “…I don’t like the way she looks at me. Weirds me out.”
“Bend her over then.” Patchy-beard shrugged.
“That them?” Rat-face asked, peering around his companion’s bulk. Patchy-beard scratched at his face, turning to follow his gaze.
“Yeah. Here we go.”
“Now don’t say anything weird.” Jelena ordered, swallowing nervously.
“You know Mother and Father don’t approve.” Reitia noted with a look of distaste.
“They just don’t know him like I do! He’s good inside, I know it!” Jelena insisted.
“Hello pretty…” a voice rumbled from a side alley.
“Rick!” Jelena gushed eagerly, before spotting Rick’s weasel-faced companion. “Oh… Adrian… Hello.”
“Don’t be rude, pretty.” Rick chided, delivering a stinging swat to the Taurean’s rounded buttock. “Adrian’s here to keep your sister company while we… talk. Isn’t that nice of him?”
“I S-suppose” Jelena conceded. Reitia rolled her scintillating eyes as Adrian offered her his arm. “Reitia…” She near-begged, her gaze pleading. Reitia’s lip curled, and she reluctantly slipped a delicate hand through the crook in Adrian’s arm.
“Walk with me.” Rick demanded, grabbing Jelena’s buttock, and squeezing.
“Anh! Rick! Not so rough!” The Taurean squealed, propelled forward by Rick’s insistent hand.
“Don’t talk back.”
The Taurean lowered her head submissively, walking alongside the husky youth as they headed out of the market and into the woods beyond.
“I’ve been thinking pretty…” Rick rumbled, pulling the Taurean girl up short behind the cover of a large oak “…It’s about time we took our relationship to the next level.”
“Really Rick?” Jelena gushed, her face lit up. “I’m so glad! I’m sure Mother and Father will be thrilled when you ask them!”
“Ask them what?” Rick chuckled without mirth.
“W-when you ask them to marry me?”
Rick’s belly laugh was long and mocking, Jelena recoiled as if he had physically struck her.
“Humans marry humans, pretty. Cows are for fun.”
“W-what? I can’t believe…” Jelena whimpered. Rick sighed, grabbing her about the neck and pushing her against the trunk of the tree.
“I’ve been patient, haven’t I? Shown you a good time? Made you feel good? How about you return the favour already.” Rick insisted, pawing at the front of the Taurean’s dress.
“Don’t touch.” Reitia snapped, sound of a hand striking a face. Jelena could barely see through the tears in her eyes. Her body was frozen, she couldn’t move… How could he do this to her?
“Rick, she’s not cooperating.” Adrian whined.
“You’re going to let yourself be pushed around by… whatever the hell that is?” Rick snarled aside to the other human. “Smack some manners into her.”
“Adrian.” Reitia sighed disapprovingly, as if scolding a misbehaving child.
“Honestly, you pissant, do I have to do every…” Rick growled, releasing his grip around Jelena’s neck.
“Jelena, I think we’re done here.” Reitia interjected shortly. Suddenly, Jelena felt a surge of strange… strength within her. Reitia was right! Why in the name of Maou was she putting up with this?
“Don’t you DARE touch my sister!” Jelena demanded. Rick turned to her with an expression of incredulous disbelief.
“You giving me orders, Cow? Guess you’re dumber than you look.” Rick snorted, raising his hand to strike her.
Jelena felt hot anger fill her being. With a powerful roar, she lowered her head, charging at Rick, her curved, pointed horns driving powerfully into his torso. Rick squealed like a stuck pig, collapsing to the earth and grasping at the sucking wounds in his chest.
“Filth.” Jelena snarled, trickles of blood running from her horns into her hair and onto her face. She turned, ready to repeat the performance on Adrian… Who was grovelling in the grass, his face staring in near-terror at her waifish sister.
“What ARE you?” He whimpered, his rodentlike face blanched white.
“What indeed…” A smooth, feminine voice agreed, as a hooded figure stepped from behind a nearby tree.
“Please…” Rick gurgled, blood spurting from his mouth as he grasped at the hooded figure, who with a note of distaste, lashed out with a booted foot, crushing his skull in an instant.
“I really am sorry. I never would have given him that much power if I’d have known he was such pond-scum.” The hooded figure offered sincerely.
“W-what?” Jelena gasped in disbelief.
“You didn’t really think a crawler like him could charm you without help, did you?” The figure laughed, walking towards the gibbering Adrian, who desperately scrambled backwards. “And this pathetic wretch? Took it up the back passage from his big friend so often that I’m thoroughly SHOCKED he hasn’t Alped.”
“No!” Adrian squealed, a high, girlish sound as the figure stretched out ermine-gloved hands to grip him by the head. With a sickening snap, the hooded figure broke the rodent-faced youth’s neck.
“As I said though, I truly am sorry. I would have much preferred a less distasteful ploy to get you out here, but desperate times… I’m sure you can understand.”
“W-who are you? What do you want?” Jelena demanded, standing in front of Reitia protectively.
“Just a servant… of someone who REALLY wants to know what makes her tick.” The hooded figure mused, pointing a long slender finger at Reitia.
“You’ll have to go through me first.” Jelena retorted in a low, threatening tone, marveling in her mind at how STRONG she felt. Was it truly Rick who had mazed her so completely? The thought of her earlier submissive behavior to that gutter trash filled her with revulsion.
“Yes dear, that was the plan…” The figure mused, before reaching out lightning quick to grab Jelena by the throat.
“Now I’m sure…” The figure drawled, turning to Reitia as Jelena struggled futilely in her iron-like grip “…That you’ll do just about ANYTHING to make sure your sister here doesn’t come to harm. So just come along peacefully, and nothing will happ…”
A snarled phrase in some unknown language interrupted the hooded figure as a blast of arcing energy blew her away from the sisters, sending her tumbling along the ground.
“Are you both alright?” A young man’s voice sounded, and Jelena turned, her eyes widening in shock.
“Kevin?!” She exclaimed “What are you doing here?”
“Following you two… Her shield did make it difficult.” The human youth admitted, running a hand through his wavy brown hair.
“Fucking meddling insect!” The figure cursed, her hood having been knocked askew. Jelena inhaled with surprise as her face was revealed.
She looked like nothing so much as a taller Succubus, her ebon horns twirling upwards from above her temples, her fretted, conchlike ears holding back a wealth of black hair. Yet unlike the Succubi Jelena knew, her skin was a dark, midnight blue, her feral eyes positively dripping hellfire.
“Apophean Demon… Well that explains a bit.” Kevin mused, raising his hands again.
“Kevin… What…” Jelena babbled uncomprehendingly.
“Run. Take Reitia and run. Don’t stop until you’re home.” Kevin demanded shortly, weaving his hands in the air in front of his face.
The demon snarled, launching bolts of dark energy at the youth, who answered with another tearing arc of his own.
“I think…” Reitia murmured, taking Jelena’s hand in her own and pulling insistently “…we should take his advice.”
Jelena did not answer, merely began sprinting in the general direction of home, Reitia gliding beside her on unfurled wings.
“I’m glad you’re back, little sister.” Reitia smiled.
Jelena tried to answer, but unshed tears clouded her vision and sobs choked her throat.
“W-why didn’t you TELL me?!” Jelena lowed, her shoulders shaking as she wept against her mother’s voluptuous frame.
“We tried, love.” Her father sighed, “But whatever it was had too tight a hold on you… All we could do was hope Kevin was able to come through in the end.”
“Praise Ammit that he was.” Her mother gushed fervently, stroking the young Taurean’s thick, cinnamon hair.
“H-he almost wasn’t…” Jelena sobbed “…Rick… He… put hands on me…”
“And he will be Judged accordingly against the Scales of Ma’at.” Her father snarled.
“B-but the Demon!” Jelena cried, gripping at her mother’s dress. “I-it will be coming!”
“Hellooo, little rabbits!” A mocking voice sounded from outside “Come out to plaaaay!”
“See to the children.” Her father said shortly. Her mother nodded, putting soft arms around the girls and drawing them further into the house.
“Father no! You don’t know what she can do!” Jelena cried.
“Trust your father, dear one.” Her mother murmured soothingly.
“Now come on Landholder, I know she’s not your REAL daughter… Surrender her to me and you won’t believe the kinds of things I can offer you in return.” The Demon wheedled.
“Away from my door, demon. By the Authority of Heaven and Hell, in the name of Tyris and of Maou I abjure you.” Jelena heard her father command in a ringing tone.
“I spit upon your Tyris, and spurn your Maou as the false queen she is!” The demon’s voice answered.
“Blasphemy.” Reitia remarked in a bored, almost amused tone.
“Yes darling, hush now.” Jelena’s mother murmured indulgently.
“Have you all gone insane?” Jelena screamed, breaking from her mother’s grasp and running for the door.
“Jelena! Wait!” Her mother cried after her. Jelena ignored her, throwing open the door to see the demon bathing her father in dark fire. Jelena screamed, reaching a beseeching hand towards him… Only to pause as the flames died away, revealing her father unscathed by their onslaught.
“By Apophis!” The demon hissed, recoiling in shock.
“Know me for true then Demon. I am Horus Amun-Thoth. High Magistrate of Ammit, and Executor of Her Justice.” Her father boomed in a voice which made her quail. “I Judge you against the Scales of Ma’at, and in the Name of the Dread Queen, declare you guilty of Blasphemy most Foul against the Divines.”
Her father stretched forth his hand, and a low rumbling shook the earth. “Duat Consume you.”
The Demon shrieked as the earth opened, hellfire spurting from the ground as the demon desperately tried to escape its sucking abyss. Her scream faded as she fell into the fiery depths, and the earth closed its maw, as if it had never opened.
“Well…” Kevin’s voice echoed as the youth burst from a swarm of arcane symbols. “…That’s certainly one way to do it, your Holiness.”
“It seemed appropriate, considering she conspired to have my daughter molested by that deviant.” Jelena’s father replied without surprise.
“Mmm. Should have let me boil his eyes out.”
“And have the backlash hurt Jelena? You mind yourself, mage.”
“Your Holiness.” Kevin bowed deferentially before raising his eyes to Jelena, concern writ large upon them. “Are you alright Jel?”
“Kevin… You KNEW?! You knew about… All of this?”
“The Hidden Circle has been keeping an eye on you and Reitia since you were born, Jel.” Kevin answered simply, as if that should explain everything.
“But why didn’t anyone tell ME?” Jelena demanded, stamping a hoof against the ground in exasperation.
“Because you were too young to understand the gravity… And because I’m a sentimental idiot who wanted to see my daughter grow up innocent and happy, free from the cares we shoulder.” Horus admitted. “But obviously that time has passed. We’ll tell you anything you want to know, as soon as you have taken your vows as a Handmaiden of Hathor.”
“Hathor? You mean Ammit’s High Priestess? I don’t even KNOW her, father!”
“Dear one…” Jelena’s mother mused “…I realize this is a lot to take in, but think about it, just for a moment.”
Jelena’s eyes widened. “Mother?!”
“Yes dear, although we’ll need to limit that when on official business, no sense encouraging rumours of nepotism, after all.”
The world faded to blackness as Jelena fainted dead away.
“So much…” Samuel gasped. “…there’s so much…”
“If you cannot continue…” the voice of Mnemosyne echoed within his mind.
“No… I need to… For Corvus… For Reitia…”