Nebunang inside my head was enough to eventually snap me out of the vision and I fell to the ground, We the pain subsided.
What I‘d just then was indescribable.
And not just seen but felt. I‘d felt what they had; what both Thea and Selene had gone through. Their pain,43s a universe-spanning far beyond my limited knowledge, a timeline as old as time itself.
And it has now been burned into my brain.
Sene had been right. Only describing this story wouldn‘t have been enough. What I‘d just experienced gave me angrer understanding than just simply being told.
that cont mean l accepted what this meant for me. For all of us. Something she was probably electing me to be lenient on given her status.
We don‘t mean anything ” I whispered to myself, still somewhat in a daze. “We‘re just… fodder. Pawns. Foot soldiers for you.”
I locked back up sharply and met her eyes. She was staring at me with caution, taking in my manner. And she probably was right to do so.
This is why you didn‘t tell me earlier. Why you kept everything a secret,” I said, my voice slowly becoming stronger you knew that if I knew the truth, the real truth, that I would have immediately declined to come back We‘re not stopping a war to protect *us“, we‘re fighting it purely because of you.
Because of your own selfish actions that began all of this. *We* didn‘t do anything to Thea. We didn‘t hurt her, betray her or even ask to be reborn with her powers. You made that decision.
You put us in the front of Ene to face your mother so you wouldn‘t have to take responsibility for your actions. And once we‘re done Thea will just continue with her original mission for revenge.
All because you couldn‘t accept losing something you loved again. Just like when your brother died. Tell me, Selene, how many more of my kind need to be because you couldn‘t accept that fact?”
My mentioning of her brother must have been a sore spot as I could feel the pressure start to exude. her, a nerve apparently now struck.
My child, let us not forget–.”
“But we‘re not,’ I interjected, shakily getting back up to my feet. “Your children, that is. Not really. We‘re born of Thea‘s powers. She is, by technical definition, our so–called ‘Great Mother‘. Her powers gave us new life and we carry her blood. You are merely a surrogate, at best.”
you carry a piece of me directly,” she argued, a tone of anger now obvious in her voice. “However you want to look at it for the others, that is your choice. But I, personally, gave you this new life. How dare you acı ungrateful.”
And were the others grateful too?” I asked. “The ones who came before me? Because I know I‘m not the first one you have ‘blessed‘ with your mark. What happened to the other Saints, Selene? Did they die for you too?
Her eyes narrowed, clearly not happy with the change in the topic…Were they descendants as well?” I prompted when she still hadn‘t replied. “From the other two lines that died? Are they gone now because of your actions?”
Finally, she spoke, her voice low with the undertone of warning.
“…They were.. mistakes.
Mistakes? What did that mean? That they made a mistake… or that she regretted marking them?
…What had she done to them if she thought that way?
What would you do with something that failed to do its job?‘ The voice inside whispered. We were created only to benefit her, an organic tool to keep her mother trapped on the mortal plane. What do you think she‘ll do to us if we aren‘t useful?‘
She wasn‘t wrong but I wasn‘t sure what I could do about it.
‘Think for a second,‘ the voice continued. ‘When she gave us a piece of herself, she was weakened, remember? She told us she was. Just as Thea was broken into pieces, she, too, broke off a piece of herself for us. What do you think she‘s going to do once Thea is gone?‘
And suddenly I realised what she was implying.
‘If we truly want to survive this then…
… Then I needed to be wary of Selene too.
‘Not just wary,‘ the voice corrected. ‘There is little chance she‘ll let you keep that piece of her once we‘ve removed her biggest threat. She‘ll want it back – she‘ll want to become whole again.
And who‘s to say what is even keeping us alive right now? What if that piece is the only thing sustaining us? We were meant to be dead. We don‘t even belong in this timeline.‘
…She was saying that Thea wasn‘t our only enemy.
‘At the end of the day, it‘s you or her,‘ the voice said.
But what was I meant to do? Kill Selene? That was insane. She was a Goddess.
So is Thea‘
But I couldn‘t kill her. I wasn‘t strong enough for something like that. Thea was at least weaker.
‘Do you honestly think you‘ll get a better chance than right now? Or do you want to wait until she comes back to rip that piece out of you? After we‘ve done her dirty work and we‘re tired from fighting against a different Goddess? What do you have to lose by trying?‘
I didn‘t disagree per se but that didn‘t mean
‘We‘re going to die either way. You need to act now!‘
‘DO IT NOW
And almost as if acting on reflex from her order, I pulled my dagger from my hip…
‘She is the enemy
… With one goal as my hand came swiftly up, adjusting my grip…
‘She is the enemy‘
…Aiming for her throat…
She is the enemy.‘
“She is the enemy.‘
She is the enemy
“KNEEL!” Selene roared.
And I immediately fell to my knees before her, crushed under the command.
We‘d had the element of surprise but we‘d been just a second too slow. Just one second away from accomplishing something I‘d originally thought impossible.
It was a blow for sure, knowing Selene wouldn‘t ever let her guard down like that again. It meant that, like i t or not, we probably weren‘t going to survive this ordeal to grow old one day. She‘d made it clear that we were created to fulfil only one purpose; to protect everyone else.
Around Selene, it was as if the air had suddenly become thick and almost electrical. So much so that even the rocks and dirt were vibrating from the pressure radiating off her. And her eyes… her eyes were now ablaze, blindingly bright like silver stars.
But I saw it… on her shoulder, just barely drawing blood… I saw where I‘d nicked her skin as I‘d fallen.
It proved one of my suspicions correct; she really was part mortal now and capable of bleeding. It may have been caused by the tiniest of pieces missing from her but it was enough. Enough for me to know Selene wouldn‘t want to remain this vulnerable forever.
“I have given you everything, and yet you act this way?” she said furiously. “No, forget it. I have grown tired of this. You now have had more help than what any of the others received. Perform your duty, Ariadne.”
And with that, she began to walk back into the forest, the ground still trembling as she left. It was a testament to what a complete Goddess looked like.
…Or, at least, an almost complete one.
A chuckle started to bubble in my chest, building more and more until it became full laughter. Almost hysterical as the adrenaline pumped through me from accepting my new fate. Something that caught Selene‘s attention enough for her to turn back around.
Her silver eyes looked me up and down, a frown forming between her perfect brows.
“You are a coward, Selene,” I said, a smile slowly straining against my lips. “A coward and a liar. The weakest creature I have ever met. You once told me I could choose my own fate… and yet you knew from the very beginning that such a thing was impossible.
But I want you to know something… Even if I should fail, I want you to know that I‘ll live my eternity in the Abyss happily. That just the thought of you getting what you deserve will mean I can rest easy in hell.”
Her frown only deepened as she took in my words, her head slightly tilting….
…And then she vanished. Vanished back into thin air, just like she‘d done the first time I‘d seen her.
But it was more than just that, more than just a frown.
Because I could have sworn I saw something else in her eyes.
It was for just a split second, just behind the surface, but it had been visible enough.
…For just a moment… I‘d seen Selene show her fear,
The days that followed felt… empty. Like I wasn‘t sure why I was trying.
Not long ago I‘d been prepared to die… then felt relieved when I‘d lived. Now, after being shown the cold truth of my world from Selene, nothing felt as though it mattered anymore. I‘d already lost everyone! cared about, everyone who I truly wanted to protect.
And now it was like I was just waiting for the inevitable.
As though I could feel my expiration date looming above me; something that I‘d thought I‘d prepared myself for and yet having to suddenly acknowledge that made things feel so… pointless.
Because the chances of killing not one, but two Goddesses were extremely low. That was just the brutal reality whether I liked it or not.
And, sure, I had the pack… but even that didn‘t hold the appeal it used to.
After all, we were just disposable objects. All of us. Just so long as Selene survived. And stopping Thea would help them… but it wouldn‘t help me.
It meant that I would be fighting this war for just their future; for just the rest of my species. For even the ones who hurt me, betrayed me, rejected and humiliated me.
For even the ones who stood in opposition of me with such prejudice even though I was just trying to broker peace.
Which was exactly what the majority of packs were still doing in the pending alliance war.
So why should I concern myself with such standard definitions of right and wrong when the only thing that mattered was the results? Just as Selene had said, we were all children in this universe with our naive perspectives.
But, unlike everyone else, I‘d been enlightened now. I knew that they didn‘t truly know what was in their best interest because they hadn‘t seen the real truth as I had.
It was something that she* had helped me to see too; my other self. She‘d shown me how all of these niceties to avoid war were pointless when none of these children held the same power I did.
…When I could just make them all kneel before me anyway.
Because that‘s all the ranked system was. How much of Thea‘s power you held; how much ‘Goddess‘ was in your veins.
The things Selene had shown me had given me a higher understanding of how all of this worked; probably more so than even all the Elders combined. It was clear to me how we‘d built a hierarchical system in our society based around those varying levels of diluted birth authority.
…And I held more power than any other Alpha.
Sure, I couldn‘t force the Silver Lake to submit thanks to their lineage, but that didn‘t stop me from commanding loyalty and respect from the other packs. To force them into a submission that would ultimately be for the better good.
So, no, there would be no war with the Silver Lake. Nor would there ever be.
Why would there need to be war when I had the alliance, and more, completely back under my command within the month? Starting a war with the Winter Mist now would be only a death wish for them.
I did make sure to constantly keep tabs on Cai though; Iris having helped to secure an inside source to notify me should Thea ever return there.
I even sent Elder Luke to visit him and assist with his ailment. Because whilst I still didn‘t trust him, it didn‘t mean that I wanted her to retrieve her powers back from him either.
She might not be able to physically hurt him but who knew what her level of manipulation was truly capable of?
… Before too long had passed, I‘d made sure everyone knew Thea‘s name, knew she was public enemy number one. And, without any further arguments from opposing forces, she quickly became the most wanted woman in the entire country. Just as things should have been from the very beginning.
Finally, all unified in one single goal; to find Thea.
“Alpha,” a voice called out, making me look up from my desk.
It was Elder Luke, his face expressing an urgency it I hadn‘t seen before.
I wasn‘t sure what could make a man like Elder Luke worried but I‘d be lying if said it didn‘t pique my
curiosity, Nothing had seemed to sway him during our work together over the past month, something admired about him.
“What is it?” I asked, straightening up in my chali
He took a second to calm himself but his expression didn‘t change,
“It‘s Aleric,” he said, “He‘s demanding to see you.”
Texhaled, already knowing that much, I’d heard this same line almost every week since my birthday
“I already told you,” I said with a mild tone of Irritation. If he has something to say, he–”
“No, Alpha,” he interrupted, much to my surprise, “He‘s demanding to see you… or he‘ll kill Lucy. He‘s (jot her hostage.”
That caught my attention.
“He‘s what?” I asked, standing up.
“She was bringing him his dinner, just the same as every other night,” he started, “but she must not have been looking or came a little too close to the bars.”
“I don‘t understand how we‘ve gone all these months and she suddenly slips up today. I thought she‘d know better than to let something like this happen.”
“Truthfully, Alpha, I can‘t really blame her for letting her guard down,” Elder Luke said, “I didn‘t exactly expect him to do something like this so suddenly.”
How could he not expect Aleric to do something like this? He killed my parents. Obviously, he wasn‘t opposed to murdering innocent people.
In fact, it was partly for that reason I‘d tasked everyone with containing him until we could better understand his relationship with Thea.
He was meant to be treated as dangerous as her until we could get the answers we needed. Who knew what she‘d told him to get him on her side?
…But it did raise some interesting questions. Did he even know who she was? Who she truly was? Would he still be so determined to keep secrets if he knew?
“How long ago was this?” I asked, already moving towards the door.
“About fifteen minutes, perhaps? A warrior noticed she hadn‘t come back out for a while and discovered the scene upon looking inside. I was then immediately notified of the situation.”
And, with that, I quickly left without another word.
But as I walked to the cells though, suddenly I could hear her inside my head, almost as if appearing on ‘cue. Just the same as always. Trying to convince me that seeing Aleric was the wrong decision.
…Yet the more I thought about it, the more I realised it didn‘t hold the same weight as normal.
‘He‘ll kill you,’ she whispered inside, repeating the same words I‘d heard so often.
To which I just pushed it away, continuing to my destination.
That threat didn‘t even matter anymore. I was going to die soon anyway. Whether that be from him, Thea or Selene. I was already living on borrowed time.
‘He‘ll lie to you.‘
And that was fine. Expected, even. Nothing really different there.
‘He‘ll tell you what you want to hear so you‘ll do what he wants. You can‘t trust him.‘
I couldn‘t trust anyone. This wasn‘t new information. It didn‘t negate the need to go down there myself though. It was time to share with him some of my new knowledge so he could see just how messed up his actions were; that he was only aiding and abetting someone who was planning to kill him for her powers back.
No, there was no avoiding this anymore. I knew today was the day I‘d face him.
But over… and over… and over again, she whispered to me, showing me the images of his betrayal, of the danger he posed. And I did my best to fight it off, to ignore it and keep moving towards the cells.
Yet no matter how much she tried to convince me, all of her warnings felt so… empty. Just as empty as how I‘d felt inside the past month. He was just another person now.
Another name in a list of thousands who I would eventually end up giving my life for. All of this, of course, being on the assumption I could even stop Thea.
‘You can‘t go in there,’ she still insisted upon arriving. But I didn’t understand why though. What more could he possibly do to make me so afraid? Behind cell bars, no less?
The whole thing seemed so strange. She was literally the one who had helped me to see that there was no surviving this war with Thea. That our demise was inevitable and our only purpose in living was to serve a higher purpose. How was it then that she could be so terrified of us seeing just one man?
And so I reached out and grasped the door handle anyway, beginning to twist it open…
‘Don‘t go in there!’ she all but screamed at me inside, causing me to wince.
But I ignored her words..
…And pushed the door, allowing for it to slowly swing open to reveal the other side.
And there he was.
Seemingly unchanged since the last time I saw him, yet now viewing him in a completely different light. But it was still Aleric, the man himself. The one who had taken so much from me.
Who knew how in–depth that deceit really was in this life? There was no doubt in my mind that he was keeping secrets since he‘d refused to co–operate the entire time he‘d been down here. However, maybe telling him the truth of our existence would make him return a bit of honesty finally.
Maybe I‘d finally get a lead to Thea‘s whereabouts or her plan. Even if that meant working with the man who killed my parents and was now threatening my attendant.
| quickly analysed the scene before me, inspecting how he was pressed up against the bars, his arms around Lucy‘s body and throat as he held her from the opposite side.
It was immediately obvious that, with one small movement, he could snap her neck very easily
And with that, I took a deep breath, preparing myself for what was about to unfold.…
And the conversation I‘d been dreading for months finally began.