She laid frail and broken on the arid sand, her spine bent along the twisting gnarled root of the Great Tree, the home of our salvation. The churning sand heaved and raised, carrying our queen into the broken limbs of the tree, careful to keep the rough bark away from the burns that mangled her flesh. Scars that spread across her dry skin cracked and oozed and exposed her muscle to the air. She laid in the caring branches of the tree as a group of men surrounded her. The Nine, led by Yoel, her father’s age-old companion, held their hands above her and sang in low voices. In each of their hands a knife. As their prayer to her came to a close, they plunged their blades into the depths of their bodies and fell, in service to her.
Ethereal forces slipped from their mortal shells as each of the Nine fell and died, and offered their lives in service to the Queen of the Sovereign Circle. She awoke and saw them dead before her, the wounds on her flesh healed by their sacrifice. Nine lives offered to the Blood.
This was the first death of the Brilliant Queen Palladia.
“Give it back!” A young girl shouted as her brother pulled a small straw doll from her hands. The sun burned overhead in the midday heat as he ran.
“Catch me then, Dia!”
She took off in a dead sprint through her father’s sprawling farmland as she chased her brother. The children raced through plots of grain and pools of water as they shouted back and forth with threats as they passed beyond the edge of the farm and towards a small river at the edge of their land. Dia slowed as she approached the riverbank her brother had leaped over. Two years her senior and her father’s regular assistant, he was more agile than she’d ever hoped to be. The doll wiggled in his hand as he waved it above his head across the river.
“Come get it, are you scared?” He shouted back at her.
The water rolled past beneath her as she counted the distance. It was easily as wide as she was tall, and she took a step back.
However, it was her favorite doll.
She braced herself and ran towards the river, and leaped forward, sailing through the air for a short moment before she crashed against the dirt and tumbled to the ground. Her brother stopped shouting as she tumbled across the bank.
“Dia?” He ran to her side and set the doll in the sand as he reached her. “Dia are you okay?” She felt him kneel beside her as she remained as still as she could in the sand. He gently shook her, careful not to hurt her. “Dia are you alright?”
She snapped her eyes open and snatched the straw doll from her. With the doll in hand, she scrambled up and ran back through the river away from her brother. He shouted as she moved and his footsteps pounded behind her as he followed.
“You frightened me, Dia.” He called out to her as they passed through their father’s crops.
“I’m not that fragile, Dawid.” She laughed as she ran, her doll safely tucked inside her shirt.
They ran back the way they’d come and arrived at their home, where they found their father seated across a man in unique clothing with a bright cup in his hand, hewn from white stone unlike any she’d seen before. Her father noticed and waved them into the room.
“Yoel, these are my children, Palladia and Dawid.” He embraced them both as they entered and the man turned his attention first to Dawid, and then to Palladia where his eyes lingered.
She watched him inspect her as his radiant lavender colored eyes bored into her. “Your children are beautiful, Shalim.” He took a long drink from the strange cup as she turned away and found her mother who was rolling dough near their hearth.
“Who is that?” She tugged on her mother’s sleeve as she worked through the dough.
“Yoel, he is one of your father’s old friends.”
“Do men have eyes like that where he comes from?” Dia looked back towards the man and caught him glaring at her, a hungry look in his eyes. Her heart began to pound.
“No, not many. He is a special man, Dia.” Her mother’s words came carefully from her lips before she wiped her hands clean and knelt beside them and whispered. “Take Dawid and go to the bedroom.” Her rushed whisper reached Palladia’s ear and she shivered.
She turned to fetch her brother, as she was anything but disobedient. As she approached, the man, Yoel, set his cup down and exclaimed.
“Shalim! I have gifts for your children, from my home.” He grinned, his eyes shot towards her briefly before he reached into his satchel.
The Stranger revealed two small figurines and placed them on the table as Shalim’s eyes widened.
“Yoel, we can’t possibly accept these.” He plucked one from the table, which depicted a ferocious wolf with nine legs who was mid-run, hunting a rabbit. Her father turned the trinket around in his hand, such careful precision and design went into them. Each curve of muscle in the wolf’s legs had been delicately molded. She studied the other statue.
A serpent curled around a small tree, with thirteen branches. Atop the tree, the serpent stretched to the sky with its mouth stretched wide as if it were preparing to devour the small tree.
“That one is for you.” The stranger remarked to her. “And Shalim, I insist. Please. These are toys where I come from.”
“These are solid gold, old friend. They are worth more combined than my farm is worth alone.”
The man let out a hearty laugh as Dawid took his statue from his father.
“Don’t be foolish, old man.” He smirked. “I’ve come to talk business, after all.”
Dia watched his eyes bounce to her briefly before she snatched the snake from the table and took her brother’s hand.
“Come on!” He protested, but she pulled him down the hall. As they entered the bedroom the sounds of the men speaking grew muted.
She pulled the curtain across the doorway and sat across from Dawid, inspecting the golden statue. Each scale on the snake’s body had been delicately shaped and formed, the whole piece looked as if it had been molded from a single chunk of gold. She twisted it around to see every angle, with each turn the intricacies of the new piece seemed to grow deeper.
Dawid was much the same across the room from her, devouring the sight of the wolf and rabbit as he stared at the thing.
Outside their room, their conversation grew louder and more excited as they threw words she didn’t understand around. Like tax, and business. She continued listening as Yoel mentioned a wine he’d brought from his homeland that he’d like Shalim to try. There was a slight pause before she heard her mother’s voice, sweet and delicate. Then, her father once more.
“No! This is a time to celebrate, beloved. This is a wonderful evening!” He shouted. She glanced up to the small window in the bedroom, the sun had begun to set.
She chose to ignore her father and his friend in favor of the toy. She continued looking at it, the way it shined in the remaining light cast an eerie glow onto the floor below her. Before long, her attention had fallen completely to the thing and all sound had drowned out around her until she slumped to one side and fell, asleep.
Dia awoke to the sound of screaming. Her mother.
Across from her, her brother didn’t move. Gentle sounds of snoring escaped his mouth. The room had gone dark, but she stood and made her way to the curtain regardless. Down the hall her mother was crumpled beside the hearth, her face drenched with tears. Dia ran down the dim hallway towards her mother and as she neared, she heard Yoel’s voice, but it wasn’t the same as it had been.
“I saved you, woman.” He growled. “Don’t cower. Stand. You get to live another day.”
Dia burst around the corner, her fists balled as she stepped in front of her mother to intercept the stranger’s approach.
“Young lady,” He grinned at her, his teeth stained red. Blood drenched his mouth. “You are quite the treasure.” He extended an arm toward her. “You are different than the rest, I can see it.”
She backed towards her mother, who muttered under her breath.
“Dia don’t, you should have stayed in bed.” She continued sobbing.
Dia didn’t move.
“I imagine you don’t want to come with me?” The man who was not the Yoel she’d met before gestured towards the door. She let her eyes follow briefly to her father lying on the ground in a pool of blood, a massive chunk of his throat torn free, the bloody pulp rested on the ground a few hand spans away.
She didn’t speak, only returned her gaze to the stranger.
“All is as all should be, Palladia. This world is much safer without your father in it.” Not Yoel turned away from her and made his way over Shalim’s corpse to the doorway.
“Make sure you keep a tight hold on that gift, if you lose it I’ll come back for you.”
Then, he stepped out into the night. Her mother scrambled to her feet and rushed to Shalim’s side as she began to wail. Dia watched her mother’s hands and knees splash through the pool of blood as her father gasped for air, and the world turned black around her.
Palladia sat outside her home, beside the small memorial of her father as she Dawid worked through the fields. Her mother had gone to the city to negotiate trading contracts and manage their ever-growing debt. She stared, absently into the fields as her brother slammed a hoe into the ground and cursed. The farm was hardly comparable to what it had been when their father was around. The last eight years consisted of them barely providing enough to feed themselves, let alone have surplus to sell.
She’d thought every day of Yoel’s face, the blood laced grin that had burned into her mind. The way his eyes flickered in the light as if they weren’t truly his. She’d slept poorly again the prior evening, which she’d grown accustomed to over the years. Nightmares plagued her in daylight and sleep. One of them in particular haunted her more than the rest. A swirling mass of black smoke that followed her from her dreams into the waking world and spoke to her. It spoke of revenge most days, but on that particular morning before her sixteenth birthday, it spoke of gifts.
“Shalim was my first choice, you know.”
The unnatural cadence of the voice edged through the air behind her as she kept her eyes to the field. A slick sound like someone speaking through water, it tormented he rin her dreams. When she was awake she refused to look at it.
“I didn’t want to have to find another, but you should know Palladia, if I do find him I will get revenge for your father.”
She rubbed her thumb hard against the golden statue she’d exorcised her anguish with since the night her father died. The shine had worn down over time and left behind a dull patch atop the snake’s skull.
“No.” She replied for the first time since her childhood.
“No?” the voice answered back, joy in its tone.
“No. I want it.” She squeezed the statue and thought of Yoel, the tall man, his skin paler than her own. His hair a lighter shade of brown. She’d studied as much as she could. He was from the north. The sun wasn’t as hot there or he didn’t spend as much time in it. She gritted her teeth.
“Well, my dear… if you mean that I hope to see you soon. Your birthday is approaching and I know what you want most of all.”
She didn’t reply.
“I’ve got a book with a way to find Yoel inside of it. If you want it, come find me this evening at the oasis beyond the river.” The shadow vanished. She felt the burden of its presence flee from her slowly as Dawid returned from the fields.
“Still mulling about today, sister?”
She rolled her eyes. “Still wasting my time?”
Dawid set his tools on the ground and retrieved his waterskin. “I don’t see what worrying is going to do for you, that is all.”
“It will make me feel better.”
Dawid laughed. “Has it yet?”
She shook her head.
“Exactly, you know, mother needs help around the house. You could spend less time with the scholars and the guards and more time helping her. We are drowning without you, Dia.”
She nodded to him slowly. “I am getting there. Father was my best friend, you know that.”
“I know that you saw him that night. I know you worry about Yoel coming back, you haven’t let that toy out of your sight since then.”
“I don’t want him to come back.” She muttered at the statue.
“He won’t, Dia. You worry too much. He got what he wanted. We all but lost the farm. Father hadn’t trained me.”
She gritted her teeth and stood. “I’m going out for a while.”
“So you can put off your duty longer?” He returned his waterskin and took his tools. “Don’t let this tragedy ruin you, Dia.”
She didn’t reply.
Palladia continued through the dilapidated farm and passed the pools which ran over with moss until she found the river. Each year, it ran larger and larger, and eventually, they had to build a bridge to cross it. She stopped at the edge of the bridge and her mind took her back to the day they’d built it. Dawid had smashed his hand beneath one of the logs and thrown the whole project out, but their dear mother came to him and calmed him. She allowed herself a brief smile as she crossed over the poorly constructed bridge and considered her mother, who’d spent more time in the city than in their home after the murder. She changed so much in the time that Palladia hardly recognized her. While she may have taken her father’s death the hardest, her mother was plagued by sorrow as well. Dawid seemed resilient to the sorrow, but he didn’t see their father that night.
She cast the spiraling thought from her as she crossed and made her way to the oasis her shadow spoke of. A small collection of palm trees and a single spring which they’d used as a place to relax in her youth. None of them had the time to return since Shalim’s death. They’d tied themselves up into their duties and abandoned their dream of relaxing. She took a seat on a stump that her father had cut down before she was born and waited. The sun would set before long, and the voice didn’t tell her when it wanted to see her.
“What are you doing?” She asked herself. “This is madness.”
The spring bubbled gently, making small waves from the center as her mind sailed into a daydream where Yoel had never come home. Her father lived, and they continued their journey as a family. She rejoiced in his successes and mourned his failures. In her mind, where she was safe, he lived a long full life.
She lived in her daydream for the rest of her father’s life, imagining what would have been before she noticed it. The black cloud of smoke that followed her emerged from the air above the spring and approached.
“So you were serious.” It floated toward her and began to retract into itself as if pulled from a point in the center of the swirling mass as it stretched vertically into the shape of a man, taller than her, wider than her, although that wasn’t necessarily a challenge.
The smoke formed this man who stepped toward her and the blackness around him evaporated to reveal a figure with sharp features and silvery skin. He smiled at her, where his teeth would have been there was an empty black void. She jumped from the stump and backed against a nearby tree.
“I suppose I was.” She kept her eye on the man’s approach. “What do you have to give me?”
“Sit first, please.” He gestured beside him as smoke poured out of his body and formed a small stool. “I would hate for you to think me discourteous.” He swung his head to the side as the long mane of black hair fell behind him. “Please, Palladia, I’ve been dying to meet you.”
She warily took the seat as he backpedaled and raised his hands.
“I mean you no harm.”
She blinked, and a cup apparated in his grip, filled with bright red wine. “Thirsty?” He offered it to her.
She shook her head. “What are you?”
“You may call me Ashur.” He smiled and took a sip. “You sure you aren’t thirsty?”
“How did you do that?” She pointed at the cup, then to the stool.
“Magic.” He clicked his tongue and set the cup down beside him. It suspended in the air as he pulled from a side bag a large tome. “I chose you because you are clever, Palladia. Shalim was a wise man, and while he had the chance he raised a fine daughter. I am pleased to see how far you’ve come since he was taken from us.”
She gripped her cloak.
“How did you know my father?”
“Why, I introduced him to Yoel. The real Yoel, not the imposter who killed him.”
She cocked her head.
“What do you mean?”
“I mean the Yoel you met when you were a child wasn’t Yoel. It was a fake.”
“Do you want revenge or not? I have but limited time.”
“Then listen.” Ashur offered the book to her. “This contains what you need. Happy birthday, child.”
The moon hung above her in the sky as she peeled open the first pages of the book. In the darkness, the red thread that held it together glistened. The face of the book was pressed in black leather she didn’t recognize. Ashur took another sip from his cup. “My birthday isn’t for many days.”
“I don’t have many days.” He growled. “The stranger your father blindly let into his home requires punishment. Soon.”
She parsed through the pages of the book as the strange glyphs and symbols jumped from its pages. A few of the pages had been earmarked with small pieces of parchment tucked safely inside. She withdrew one and read the first line.
“Remember the Rule of Nines.”
She looked to Ashur, who had himself taken a seat, but hung in the air beside his cup.
“The Rule of Nines?”
He nodded. “It’s a promise. The number Nine is everywhere. You will notice it. Do you remember your brother’s statue from the stranger?”
She thought back to the house, her brother’s bed mat, and the golden statue that sat beside him each night. A wolf with nine tails.
“What does this mean?” The words, written in her language were jumbled and mixed.
“It’s instructions. You won’t understand much, at first.”
“How will this help me get revenge?” She shut the book and threw it to the sand. “I thought you would help me kill him?”
Ashur began laughing.
“Help you kill him? No, child. I won’t be doing anything. This is your revenge plot. You demanded it.” He calmed his laughter long enough to drink.
“What do I do.”
“Stab him, most likely.” Ashur shrugged. “Use the appropriate knife, though.”
Palladia stood and brushed the dust from her thighs as she began to leave. “You are a waste.”
She took a few steps before something clutched her cloak.
“Don’t try to get away,” Ashur growled. She jerked back toward the spring as he pulled on her. “You requested this.”
She fell against the dirt and braced herself against a nearby tree.
“I don’t need your help.”
Ashur fought another fit of laughter.
“Yes child, kill an angel by yourself, without my help.”
She eyed him. “An angel?”
“I said what I said.”
She felt the book beneath her calf, half-buried in the sand.
“I will take it, and I will read it. Perhaps, I will use it. If not, I will find a way.”
“You don’t want help?” Ashur took a long drink.
“I don’t trust your help. Why would you give me this thing? If it really would give me power, as your translation says, you would demand a price?”
He cocked an eyebrow. “What price might I demand of you?”
She glanced at the cover of the book, then back to him. “How should I know?”
“There’s no price, child. No contract. Nothing. Not even a promise. If you can’t understand it, I’ll find someone who can. I have my suspicions you’ll do just fine.” He placed the chalice into the air and reclined.
“We have a common interest, Palladia. You want to kill the thing that killed your father, and incidentally, I want it dead too.”
“That angel has my child.” He leaned up and stared at her. “I want Hazar back in my arms, safe and sound. No excuses. The way I see it, I have to kill him.”
Palladia felt his gaze bore into her as the silence grew between them.
“Sounds like we have an agreement.” He said after a long pause, then Ashur winked and vanished in a puff of smoke. The cup, no longer suspended, fell to the sand. The remainder of the contents spilled out as it rolled toward her.
She took the objects and stood, careful to keep an eye out for him lest he return. Dia then continued down the path toward the city. Tome in hand and a silver chalice, she followed the path along the stretch of river until it veered off and spilled into two gates built of palm branches. The men eyed her as she approached, and she shrunk into her cloak as she passed by them. Inside the city, she saw only a small inn open, and an old man outside smoking from a pipe. She approached him and bowed.
“Sir, do you own this inn?”
He furrowed his brow. “Raise your head, girl.”
“I do. You want to stay?”
“What kind of money do you have?” He scoffed and took a puff of his pipe.
“This.” She offered him the chalice she’d hidden beneath the folds of her cloak and he gasped.
“Did you steal this from your parents?”
“My parents are dead.” She returned a straight face to his query, refusing to let herself be caught in the lie.
“Come in girl. You’ll have a few nights’ stays.” He took the cup and stood to open the door. She followed him into the building where he gestured down the hall to a far room. “Stay there, two weeks.”
She offered him a quick thank you and made her way to the room.
Behind her, the man spoke but didn’t care enough to answer. She closed the door of her room and locked it before she opened the tome on the floor before her and began reading.
Two weeks evolved into six months as she made her way in the underbelly of the city by night and studied the tome by day. Each page that she translated, she began to understand more and more of what was written within. The thickness of the book hid the true density of the words within, glyphs stacked atop one another cluttered the pages, words were written upside down and when any of the text was reversed, it read a completely different way. After three weeks at the inn, Ashur returned occasionally to ask her how her studies had been going, and she explained to him the intricacies of the book. By the end of the second month, she realized why he needed her.
He couldn’t read what was written on the pages.
She tested her theory one day after she’d stolen a few loaves of bread from the local bakery and a pile of parchment. She wrote the symbols on a piece of paper and placed them into the book. A unique property of the text that she’d discovered, was that new items written and placed carefully along the spine would soon be absorbed into the book. For whatever reason, the translated pages Ashur had left there didn’t take. After nine days, if the text wasn’t reused, it would be ejected. On this particular occasion, she’d asked Ashur to read the text she’d placed, and he couldn’t.
He left her and she realized that he was using her, so she tore up the translated writing she’d discovered and continued her study. The book itself seemed to have been written, by itself. She didn’t understand at first, but the more she read, the more she realized that when it referred to something called “The Sovereign Circle,” it was referring to itself. This discovery hastened her studies as she came into the fifth month and reached a page devoid of the glyphs she’d seen. This page instead was decorated with concentric circles and lines that intersected themselves, painted in thick black ink, it looked like a map of the stars. Nothing around the large sigil made it seem any more apparent, and she passed by it until the day that Ashur arrived, his final visit in the sixth month.
He stepped from the shadowy mass as he always had, and stood beside her.
“What have you learned?”
“I’ve learned much. The Circle needs something to fuel it. Beyond this passage,” she pointed to the circular sigil. “Nothing can be translated, it is too thick. The rest of the book is this way. I’ve made it through thirty pages of histories about the skies and the underworld and nothing within has helped me.
“So you can truly understand…” Ashur paused with a thumb to his chin. “Palladia, I have another gift for you.” He produced another chalice, a decorated gold cup this time, and placed it on the table. She glanced and saw that it was full of a sticky dark red liquid that seemed to move of its own accord. It rippled in the cup gently and moved away from her gaze.
“Let’s have a toast.” He sat across from her with a second chalice, a much thinner liquid in his.
“You trying to poison me after I’ve done your hard work?”
He laughed. “Child if I wanted to kill you, I would have done so before you were born.”
She shrugged. She’d become quite accustomed to Ashur’s strange threats and suggestions over her time in solitude. She took the chalice and peered into it.
“So what is this?”
He looked across the table and into her eyes for a long moment before he told her.
“This… is the blood of a god.”
“Looks more like moss buildup.” She swirled the viscous liquid in the chalice.
“It is the piece of the puzzle that you are missing, and it is the symbol of my trust. I believe that you will take this and thrive.”
She eyed him, read his facial expression, watched the shifting of his eyes.
Then, she put the chalice to her lips and drank.
Ashur jumped back from his seat as she swallowed the whole of the contents. The thick, sticky liquid oozed through her throat and into her stomach as she fought the urge to gag. It tasted like coal and saltwater.
Then, she heard the voices.
Tormenting things that spoke over the top of each other. Some whispered some shouted, all of them spoke quickly as if they wanted to end their speaking quickly. Ashur watched from across the room as she closed her eyes and took some ink into her quill and began writing. A burning sensation flared in her belly as she wrote whatever she could understand from the cacophony of voices on the pages of the Sovereign Circle. She removed all other thoughts from her mind as she felt a swell of energy growing in the room.
“What are you doing?” Ashur took a seat from the table and placed it across the room.
For the first time since she’d known him, he obeyed.
That night she wrote and did not stop writing, asking Ashur regularly for more parchment as the voices spoke on top of one another without ceasing. By the following sunrise, she felt them slowly come to a halt one by one, and when they’d finished speaking, she set the quill beside the stack of parchment and Ashur looked at her in awe.
She heard a sinister voice whisper in her mind.
You have survived, and I am pleased.
“You expected me to die?” She narrowed her eyes. “Would you try to trick me, angel?”
Ashur’s eyes widened. “What did you say?”
“I know what you are, Ashur. The Circle told me.”
He stood and backed away. Her singular voice became two as she stood.
“I know the truth, and I am ashamed.”
The sinister voice continued to whisper to her as she approached the man.
“You should run.” The air around her grew hotter as she closed in on him. He cowered for a short time until he vanished in smoke. The voice congratulated her.
You are one with me, child. I am proud of you.
“I am proud, too.”
She left the inn that day with the tome in hand as she set out to return to the home she’d left what felt like ages before. As she stepped into the sun, she felt a presence within her, something pressing upon her mind. She refused to let it in.
It was a day’s walk back to the farm, and she made it by sunrise the following day. As she crossed the bridge, which had been repaired, she passed into the fields to find the crops healthier than she’d been when they left. A handful of bondservants worked the fields as she passed through them, the ponds had been cleaned of water. As she rounded the corner at the end of the fields she saw her brother, dutiful as ever with a bit of hair growing on his jaw in the throes of a conversation with a man she didn’t recognize.
“We will pay when we can, I promise.” He muttered.
As she drew closer, she realized he was in tears.
“We won’t supply you until we receive payment in full. You have the supplies, build it yourself.” The man was rigid, his long beard tied with a small leather band. He wore a dark brown robe and bore a necklace with some kind of symbol she was unfamiliar with.
“I don’t have time to build a coffin.” Dawid wept and fell to his knees. “It is my mother, sir.”
He crumpled to the ground and wailed as the man turned to Palladia.
“Girl, this is none of your business.” He began, but she interrupted him with a wave of her hand.
Give in to me.
“Give this man what he wants, free of charge.” She waved her hand to Dawid and the rigid elder shuffled his feet in the sand.
“I suppose…” He began “We could arrange an agreement.”
Dawid looked up in disbelief and met her eyes.
“Thank you, sir.” He stood and took the man’s hand. “Have you met my sister?”
The man nodded. “I’ve seen her kind.”
“No, you haven’t,” Palladia smirked. She waved him off as she made her way back to the house. Dawid was close behind her.
“So mother is dead?” She pushed the curtain aside and stepped inside the cool room.
“Dying, and where have you been?”
She raised her hand and motioned for him to be quiet. He refused.
“Dia, you were gone for months. I thought you’d died. Mother is sick.”
She flashed him a look. “Sick with what?”
“I don’t know.”
He opened his mouth to chastise her for her immaturity but she waved her hand a second time.
Dawid fell to the ground and began snoring. She passed through the house and into the bedroom where he found their mother lying atop a small pile of hay.
“My dear child…” Her voice had weakened since the last time she’d been beside her. “I am so glad you are home.”
Palladia knelt beside her mother and took her hand. “You aren’t going to ask where I’ve been?”
Her mother struggled to shake her head. “I am only happy you’ve returned.”
“No.” She replied to the voice in her mind as she looked over her suffering mother.
It will save her.
A powerful pain rocked through her mind as she denied the voice. She clamped her eyes closed in pain as the thing within her reached out.
“What is the matter, my dear?” Her mother’s words came softly through the sudden fog of her mind. She opened her eyes and saw something above her mother, a playful light no larger than her fist. It flitted about, above her mother’s chest. She glanced down and saw the crippled woman staring up at her as if the light did not exist.
“It is nothing, mother. Only minor pain.” She closed her eyes.
She needs you to do it.
“No.” She replied. Another wave of pain burst through her head.
“I am glad you are home, child. Please. Take care of your brother.”
Palladia lifted her head and rested it on her mother’s chest. “I can fix this.”
Her mother shook her head and gasped for breath. “You have done more than enough for me.”
She felt a tear in her eye as her mother softly hummed a song.
Before long, the hum turned to a gentle snore as her mother fell asleep and Palladia stood.
“I want to understand you.” She spoke aloud to the thing inside of her.
I am everything. Light and dark, I am the ruler of the Nine.
She shook her head. “The Nine worlds?”
She set the book upon the table where Shalim had been killed and flipped through it as the shock overwhelmed her. She understood the words on the pages clearly. She began reading through them, searching for an answer to save her mother.
It is not here, child.
“What do you mean?”
You must find one with power.
She shook her head. “This is power.”
Not yet. It is a seed, to a great tree.
She grimaced and remembered the golden statue. She pulled it from her bag and looked carefully at it for a moment. “What should I do?”
Let me in.
She placed the statue on the book and took a deep breath.
“On one condition.” She glanced at Dawid, asleep on the floor beside her.
What condition would that be?
“My brother, and mother live and you help me find the stranger.”
The real stranger, or the friend of your fathers?
She gritted her teeth. “What do you think?”
She felt the pressure in her mind mounting as the thing attempted to break through. “I will let you in after we kill him.”
The voice growled at her but released.
Ashur, the Impostor has made the arrangements already.
“What do you mean?”
He wanted to test you. The stranger is there, outside your doorway.
She stood and looked through the small open window and found the carpenter Dawid had just spoken to standing outside, with a fresh pair of glowing lavender eyes and a grin on his face.
“What can I do?” She thought to herself.
Anything you want.
She felt the surge of pain as the voice tried to claim her, She leaped through the doorway toward the carpenter and crashed into him, her emotion flaring as they tumbled to the ground.
“I knew you were destined for greatness.” Yoel’s voice spoke through the man’s lips as they rolled and he drew a knife. “Shame it will end this way.”
He thrust the knife towards her throat and she rolled to one side. It jammed into the sand as she pushed from the ground, anger boiling over.
“Burn.” She thought as if the word had come from elsewhere. In response, fire exploded from her hands and launched the carpenter from her back. She swung to grab the knife and turned to face him as he stood.
“It is too late, I see.” He shook his robe clean of dust and took a short step towards her.
“Your time is nearly up. It was too late when you killed my father.”
“I saved him.” The carpenter shouted.
“I don’t believe it.” She swung the knife forward and caught his robe.
“Ignite” She heard herself speak. The man’s sleeve burst into flames. He recoiled and stepped back.
“You’re an angel, aren’t you?” She swung a second time. Her blade caught his ribs.
“I know of no such thing.”
She spit in his eyes as he tried to back away.
“Lies.” She twisted the knife and jammed it forward, the blade sunk into his shoulder and he shouted, his eyes flickered back to the brown shade they’d been when she’d first met him. They reverted to lavender and he grabbed her wrist.
With a single, powerful twist she felt the bone splinter inside of her forearm and hot pain ripped through her. She screamed as the man pushed against her broken arm and crumpled her to the ground. His strength dwarfing hers a thousand times.
You are frail, girl.
“Shut up.” She mumbled through her cry.
“Get away from me!” She shouted.
A wave of force blasted through the air from her body as the man was sent flying. The wave slammed into her house and cracked the wall as the man slammed into the ground on his shoulder, she heard the bones in his neck snap.
He stood and turned his body to face her. Then he charged, a bright light burst from his body as he drew near and she dove to the side.
“Move.” She whispered to herself and her short leap sent her flying from the ground and landed a whole length of crop away.
She blinked and braced herself.
“What is happening?”
My gifts are yours for the taking, child.
She shivered as the pain of her broken arm throbbed. “Tell me what to do.”
Are you permitting me?
She felt the pain in her arm expand a thousandfold as something impacted her chest. The carpenter slammed into her with his shoulder and sent her swirling backward into the ground. Her head began to pound as the voices returned. She rolled to one side and pushed with her good arm to stabilize herself and saw all around her, hundreds of floating lights the hung and danced in the air around her. Some much larger than others, but all of them focused on her. She stared in awe as the sounds of the carpenter drew near to her. She turned to face him and felt a searing pain through her head. The fat man burst forward in a surprising lunge and she caught his arm with her broken hand. The pain of movement surged, but she grabbed him without thinking.
“Omnius.” She spoke the word against her volition as the carpenter’s eyes widened. He tried to pull free, but her grip was far too tight as he began to get warm.
“Let me go!” He shouted, but no longer fought. Instead, he began clawing at his chest with his free hand.
The man looked toward the sky with his lavender eyes as they began to sparkle, then swell. Whatever she had invited into her body dragged the man closer and wrapped her other hand around his head before it forced her to meet his eyes.
“Omnius Experra Aghartha.” She spoke, and a great light burst forth from her hand that blinded her. The being refused to let her move her eyes away from the light as the man’s flesh melted beneath her, his skin dripped from her fingertips.
The light faded, and wrapped in her arms was a humanoid figure with silvery skin and short blueish grey hair, cauterized holes where its eyes had been, and a tattoo on its chest. She released her grip from the creature and allowed it to fall to the dust. The thing relaxed its hold on her and allowed her to stand and back away in horror.
“What are you?” She muttered, her eyes locked on the sight of the angel dead atop a pile of melted flesh and muscle.
I am what the angels fear.
The throbbing pain in her head grew to be too much, and she collapsed. She fought to remain conscious but failed, and the last thing she remembered then was the sound of Dawid calling out to her, and those small lights flitting about in the sky.
There will be no end to the screaming.
Thank you, for coming to hear a new story from the Otherwhere. This is only the beginning. I hope to see you back over the next few days until the end of this year. These are not only retellings of a world long ago. They are a recorded history, a warning for all of us. I am merely the vessel they are speaking through. I hope you share these warnings with as many as you can. The time is not long now. Do not be afraid of the shadows.
I’d love to hear from you on Social Media if you have it, and I hope that you’ve enjoyed thus far. I’ll be back with more.
See you soon.