PART ONE: THE ANSWER
Amabel sneeringly sized up all unwelcome guests to her home and scowled at them. Her guests didn’t even flinch and instead stood their ground, a testament to their bravado. It was clear to the Lady of the Placid Lake that these were adversaries she could not easily intimidate and fighting them might prove a pain in the neck considering Skip, the Lake Guardian, had power much like her own.
Amabel reflected on how best to answer the question posed to her. It was certain that she would not reveal any details to put the deity she served in a worse position than the latter was already in but she knew these unwelcome guests would not leave without satisfactory answers and so she decided on directing their efforts towards something else entirely.
“I wouldn’t be too worried about my goddess. Gaia has made sure that she can never come back to this world. I’d be more worried about her siblings though,”
“Her siblings?” asked Emre, flabbergasted by the reveal. Amabel smirked. Her plan to misdirect was thus far working.
“Oh yes. My goddess has siblings and they are far worse than she could ever be,” Amabel continued in an almost sing-song voice.
“How do you know that?” Skip asked skeptically.
“Because she told me herself. There is one in particular, who has taken a keen interest in this Reality. Her name is Oralie,”
“And why has this Oralie suddenly taken an interest in our Reality?” Skip pressed on.
“The Armageddon drew her attention here,” Amabel reluctantly responded.
“What does this Oralie want?” Emre asked her frightened by the realization that there was more of Ilya’s kind.
“The same thing every deity wants, your majesty; followers,”
“And just where can we find this Oralie? And since she is Ilya’s sister, doesn’t it stand to reason that they are working in cahoots together and are therefore staying in the same place?”
“That’s not how things work, dearest Skip. Deities prefer to cultivate their own followings. There is no way my goddess and Oralie are working together,”
“That still doesn’t answer our question. Who is Ilya really? Where does she come from and what is her true intention for this world?”
“Ilya is a goddess hailing from a Reality with deities like her. Her only intention was to grow a community of believers. Beyond this, I do not know anything else,” Amabel answered defeated.
“So she is legitimately a deity?” Emre asked terrified.
“You bore witness to what her wrath was capable of. Do you really still doubt it?”
“Where is she hiding?” Skip asked Amabel.
“I don’t know,”
“But you can get there, right?”
“Only if she wills it,”
“Then pray to her and take us to her right away!”
“You know I cannot do that, Emre,”
“And why not? Why are you even loyal to her in the first place? She isn’t even from our Reality,”
“She is my goddess and the only god I am willing to worship from now on. I have free will, the right to worship whomever I please. Now, if that will be all, I ask you to please leave me be,”
“Oh no you don’t. You are not off the hook yet. We need to find Ilya right away. Don’t you see it? She is a danger to our Reality. We need to understand what we are up against, Amabel, and you’re close enough to her to find exactly what we need to know. By understanding Ilya, we can understand Oralie and their other siblings. We can find the means to defeat them but we can only do so with your help,” Skip stated.
“Do you assume that my goddess is so foolish as to reveal her vulnerabilities to me? She is a powerful deity with no discernible weakness. Essentially, she and all her siblings are invincible. I have already shared everything I know about her. Now please, get the hell out here!”
Skip and Emre were terrified to say the least and Emre found it best to alert Director Shaw of the imminent threat to Reality posed by the mere existence of Ilya and her siblings. Director Shaw promised to get the resources required to investigate Ilya and Oralie including finding the means to destroy them by involving all world leaders considering the potency of the threat. Emre then returned home to his beloved family, savoring every precious moment he had with them as if it was his last.
When he and Avery were finally alone, she asked him what was bothering him and though he was reluctant to involve her considering everything she had already been through, he ended up caving into pressure and telling her everything.
“So we are legitimately facing off against gods now?” Avery asked worriedly.
“It would appear so. I am as shocked as you are that such Realities exist,”
“There must be some way to defeat them, I’m sure of it. Maybe we should summon Purity and ask if there is some way she and the other Messengers can defeat Ilya and more of her kind,”
“I suppose that is as good of an option as any. Maybe we should run this by Alyona first though,”
“Good idea. Let’s do that tomorrow morning,”
Emre smiled and nodded and went to sleep shortly after that while Avery stayed up a while longer processing everything she had learned so far. Eventually, when she fell asleep, she dreamed of entering a vast library which had rows upon rows of shelves extending on all sides; further into the skies than she could see and stairways leading far below where she could see.
In the dream, Avery had a sense that there were books on those shelves but for some reason, she could not perceive a single one. She walked along the endless rows of shelves before a lectern bearing a single book suddenly appeared before her.
Intrigued, she walked towards the lectern and noticed that the book upon it was one she was all too familiar with. It was the Ancient Tome that had suddenly appeared to her after her brush with the Shtriga curse. The Book began to wildly flip its pages, all written in the strange tongue which only she seemed able to decipher.
The Book seemed to flip between pages randomly before suddenly settling on a page that startled Avery enough to wake her up in a cold sweat. She remembered the page almost as vividly as if it had happened in real life. Avery hastily got out of bed and tried summoning Purity who promptly bid her call.
“Purity, I need that Ancient Tome back. It has information on how we can defeat Ilya and her kin,” Avery stated.
“Auntie A, don’t you see? That insidious book is still trying to ensnare you. It knows what you desire and is using it against you,”
“Ilya is the greatest threat our world could ever face. Don’t you think it is worth the risk, sweet pea?”
Purity vehemently denied Avery’s claims.
“No good can come from using that Tome, Auntie A. Please, you need to stop giving it chances to continue latching onto you. Resist its temptation, Auntie or else Ilya shall be least of your worries,” Purity warned her and dramatically dematerialized.
Avery shook her head in shock. Could the Ancient Tome really be all that bad? Shouldn’t they use whatever resources they had on hand to give themselves as much of a fighting chance as possible? Could the purity of her soul alone truly be of more worth than the souls of trillions across their Reality? What was Purity so worried about concerning the Ancient Tome?
Avery was barely able to sleep a wink for the reminder of the night. She also found it hard to concentrate knowing that the answers she and Emre sought were so near and yet so far. As she settled in for night, she was as disturbed as ever and when she fell asleep, she had the same dream.
However, rather than becoming startled when the Book opened up to the description of Ilya, a lucid Avery instead willed herself to read whatever was inscribed in the book, consequences be damned…
TO BE CONTINUED…
What secrets shall the Ancient Tome reveal? Was it worth it for Avery to read what it contained? Stay tuned to find out.