I was not in a party mood. The bit of self realization I had outside the East Tower was enough to ruin my mood for anything more than some solid staring at the ceiling time.
I am scared to death. Of nearly every aspect of my new life. When it was going full speed and there was no tine to think I was good to go. Adrenaline and lack of time to think kept my feet moving and my mind in neutral.
But as I tried to convince a wall to close behind us after the universe Herself spoke a rather vague and short prophecy I know of lost my shit.
I got engaged right before then to a goddess. A literal Goddess. After the equivalent of dating like three days. Now there was a whole mess tjat occured a decade ago. And then there was this other prophecy. And she is great, really great. And I love her and want to be with her. For sure.
But isn’t an engagement enough to coast on for a couple months?
If anyone ever heard my story I am sure they will agree I have handled shot rather well. Minus the multiple failed suicides.
I am a complete mess.
All of this races through my mind as my fiance sleeps next to me. The softest snore escapes her and it is adorable. See, that is when you know it is love, when she snores and it makes her even cuter.
She makes it worth it. And I have to prove that I am worth it as well.
I need to figure out how to enforce my will without needing to be freaking out. It is about control. I need information. If I can wrap my mind around this I can figure out how to be useful.
come to me
I was jerked out of my reverie. That was the voice from the meteor. “Mother?” I whispered, trying to it disturb Apricus.
I got out if bed slow and sneakily. I threw on shorts and a shirt and scribbled a note so Apricus wouldn’t panic if she woke up and found me gone.
By the time I got to the tower wall I was feeling more focused and less panicked. This was my best chance for answers. I placed my hand in the wall and asked nicelyy for it to open. Maybe it was my lack of over thinking, but it took a matter of seconds to shift open. As I walked up the stairs I heard it close behind me with a thump.
I took the stairs two or three at a time. I felt great. Like I had shed fifteen years in my time here. But that wasn’t all. I had lost some of my gut judging by how the shorts I wore kept slipping down. And there was noticeable definition forming in my arms and legs. Some things you don’t question you just go with.
I wasn’t even winded when I finally reached the top of the stairs.
The candles flared up again and the runes seemed more chaotic as they flickered. Something about them seems so familiar. I could almost picture where I have seen them before. Almost make some sense of them. But it sat just out of grasp.
I stood at the meteor and hesitated before laying my hands on it. The idea of speaking to the Mother of all creation is scary as hell. Having seen her birth the cosmos and to have that same voice speak directly to you is awe inspiring to say the least.
I set my hands gingerly on the top and said, “Hello Mother.”
hello my child
i feel your distress, your doubts, and i understand you have questions
you wonder at why you were chosen
if you have the ability to accomplish the task set before you
i am here to say to you, yes you can. you have to, the entire planet depends on the two of you to triumph
balance must be struck
the forces of destruction have banded together, have learned from the forces of creation and joined one another with one goal
you question why i allowed this
i do not interfere, i have watched countless planets destroyed, trillions of lives taken, and i have wept for each and everyone
but now the entire of creation is precariously perched at the edge of utter annihilation
and it is hidden from me
no longer can i afford to watch, the forces of destruction seek to destroy everything and that includes me, they want all of the universe to return to the nothingness from whence it began
you must not allow this
allow me to open you to your power, you must still learn to control it and quickly the time comes soon
you can do this, you were set upon this course from the moment you took your first breath, when all seems lost remember Lucy, she was the point where you accepted your destiny and when you chose to trade yourself for Beth
you made the choice to give up all you knew to save another, you are a better person than you give yourself credit for
and Apricus loves you no matter your flaws, never doubt her or yourself
And then silence. I kept my hands on the stone. Waiting for more.
“Hello? That didn’t really answer my questions at all. Hello?”
Fuck. I felt her come in but it didn’t click until She spoke.
“She never answers directly.”
I swear I nearly shit myself.
“Should I have given you a bell instead of a ring? Jesus Christ.”
“What did she say?”
“That we can do it. And it is important. And She unlocked something inside of me. I’m hungry.”
She just looked at me. Concern and confusion ending together. I grabbed her hand and thought about bacon. The world did that kaleidoscopic folding thing and we were standing in the kitchens.
Now she looked absolutely shocked.
“How what? I said breakfast and you brought us here.”
“I brought us no where. You did. And you most definitely should not have been able to do that. It took you half an hour to close a door yesterday.”
I laughed. And She continued to stare. She was serious. I did that.
“Um. Well. I wanted bacon. And frankly I was a little pissed at not having a single question answered.”
“What did she say? I need to know exactly.”
I repeated as close to verbatim as possible. She cooked bacon as I prepared some eggs in a bowl with parsley and diced chili peppers.
We ate in silence.
“She gave opened up your full powers. That is what she said?”
“Something like that. Is was more like she was giving me an affirmation and saying I was a good person.”
“And all of creation is in danger?”
“So who are the forces of destruction?”
“The monsters and madmen that only seek to take life.”
“Worse than that wendigo?”
“That is one of the lesser if them. You know of some of them. Vampyr and dark mages. Those Behind the Veil. The boogeymen from tapes as old as time.”
“Vampires? Hitler? Manson?”
“Yes to the first. No to the others. They are servants of the dark. Ones who have been twisted by promises of power and love of death.”
“You seem preoccupied my love.”
“One of ancient ones. Not seen in a millenium.”
“Indeed. After breakfast we shall go to the library and you can start your studies.”
We ate in silence. I am fixated on the fact that vampires were real. I pocketed a clove of garlic, just to be safe. I opened my mouth and she kicked me under the table. The library would answer my questions.
The South Tower holds the library.
“What happened here?” I was pointing at the scars in the stone.
“Are you serious?”
“I would not lie about a dragon.”
“Fair enough. What happened?”
“She intruded in my land.”
“I had to take care of the situation.”
“And what Haley? It was handled. Now come.”
She reached out and touched the door and a mechanism clicked and the door opened slowly. We walked in and I let out a whistle. The entire tower was lined with books. The weird physics and space of the land was on full display. The room was easily a football field in length. And the smell. There is nothing as satisfying as the smell of books. And this room was glorious.
I never want to leave this room. I want to move my bed and couch here. I turned to Apricus and wrapped her into a bear hug and swung her around.
“I love this library!”
“Haley, you should put me down. Quickly.”
“But I am just so hap…”
Something wrapped around my ankles and before I knew it I was first knocked into my stomach, driving the air out of me. Then I was upside down and flying through the air. Thankfully my flight ended quickly but I found myself still upside down and hanging about thirty feet off of the ground.
While I was finding my physique to be growing better, I did not have the core strength to reach up and try and free my bound legs. I looked down at Apricus who seemed to be trying not to laugh. Or was looking on in shock.
I’m going with shock.
“Mistress, are you unmolested?”
“I am fine. Please let him down. Carefully. This is Mikhail, my beloved. Mikhail, if you can turn around I would like to introduce you to the librarian.”
“Mikhail? The one born under the blue light? Are you sure Mistress? He is not very impressive of a specimen.”
That just pissed me off. I struggled a bit and began to spin. I immediately regretted it. First, once I began to spin I had no way to stop. Second, as I spun I got glimpses of a spider the size of pick up truck staring at me with about a dozen eyes.
Panic took over and all I did was spin faster as I tried to get away. I fucking hate spiders to begin with. Little ones freak me out. Now this fifteen foot bastard was watching me.
“Look at him, no way he is the prophesied one. He is getting himself worked into a fit.”
“Lower him now Jackie!”
“Yes Mistress,” it said sullenly.
I was lowered into Apricus’s waiting arms. She set me down and I stood in front of her, shielding Her from monster. I felt my power crackling across my hands. I was ready to die to protect Her.
“Calm yourself my love.”
“Stay back. If it looks too bad run.”
“While I appreciate your bravado Jackie means me no harm. But she is not happy with your threatening stance. Relax.”
I relaxed and let the energy dissipate. And watched in horror as Jackie lowered herself silently to the floor. I felt my flight or fight kicking in again as she scurried over to us. Apricus felt my tensing and put my arm around Her waist.
Jackie scurried to about ten feet away and then bowed towards Apricus, four of her legs flaring out in a decent approximation of a curtsey, or at least the arachnid version. But those twelve grapefruit sized unblinking orbs never left me.
“Mistress. My apologies. I saw him lift you and assumed it was an attack. It has been a while since any but you came to the library.”
“I should have let you know we were coming. Things have been a trifle chaotic since Mikhail arrived.”
“So this is the prophesied one? A pleasure to finally meet you Master. I thought you would be…”
I just stood locked in fright.
“…well I do not know what I assumed. Born under the blue light is pretty vague. Doesn’t really describe a person now does it? Come closer please, let me get a good gauge of you that has swept our lady off of her feet.”
Apricus pushed me forward as my legs seemed locked in place. Jackie extended one of her legs, a great black and hairy thing at least six foot long. It could stab all the way through me, from head to foot and still have the sharp tip extended out of my shoe. I hesitantly, and by that mean it took every single ounce of willpower to sneakily extend my hand and grasp the offered leg.
As I did her face was in mine. Faster than thought she moved in. I was inches from those twelve eyes and locked into them. Frozen. I felt an alien presence probing my mind. Racing through my memories, poking into hidden pains and desires. For a moment I was flush with power, tingling with it as it swept through my limbs. And then it was over and I was on my knees.
Two hairy limbs lifted me to my feet.
“He is very impressive. I should have known not to judge a book by its cover. Impressive indeed. He has as much latent ability as you Mistress. Possibly more in terms of raw power. And it is all open to him, no safety blocks in place. Very dangerous that. I feel Mother had something to do with that. Her touch upon him is strong. Strong indeed.”
“Yes. I agree.”
“And he is very much in love with you. And in need of sex. So many thoughts of you sexually. Rather pent up. My goodness. And he knows next to nothing. A lot of useless information and hardly any practical.”
“It is why we are here Jackie. He has many questions and you have all the answers he seeks.”
“He doesn’t care for spiders much. It is going to be an issue.”
“Then change form.”
“But it is itchy being in a different form.”
Apricus just stared at Her as I stood, seemingly forgotten. It is annoying being talked about as you stand there. But I felt maybe discretion is the better part of valor. And besides, I know lots of stuff. It isn’t all useless
Most of it. Like seventy percent.
As I watched the giant spider shimmered looking like the way it felt when we teleported. The shimmering grew stronger and brighter until I was forced to blink. And when my eyes focused again a statuesque nine foot tall African woman. With twelve unblinking eyes. Just as fucking creepy.
“Come my love. Jackie will be in charge of getting you the texts necessary to broaden your understanding.”
“What about you? Aren’t you going to help as well?”
She came to me and kissed me fully, I felt like I was melting.
“I will come check on you soon.”
“I love you.”
“And I you.”
And then it was just me and the spider woman. I walked the aisles of the library looking at the spines of books I had never imagined existed. Most were in languages I had never seen. Some I recognised, some that seemed inhuman. A few sent chills through me and if I concentrated on the writing to hard a piercing painshot through my temples.
“Those are not meant for the eyes of man. They are the sacred texts of the destroyers.”
I knew she was following me. Watching me. She had been inside my mind and I worried she knew me better than I knew myself at the moment.
“I saw the forming of creation by Mother. Apricus took me there. We watched it all in time lapse over the span of seconds I saw countless years fly past. But I still don’t understand the sides. The battles and why they were fought. Who we have to fight to save the world.”
“You need to know everything. Need to run before you can crawl. And time is not on our side. But it seems Mother is and that is enough to give us a chance. Do you trust me Mikhail?”
“I don’t even know you. But Apricus does, so I will try to as well.”
“Good, very good. I have read every one of these books. I can help expedite the process of learning.”
“What are you? No offense but you were a giant fucking spider and now you look like am African queen. And this is seriously a shit ton of books and you have read everyone?”
“Direct. I prefer that. I am originally from what you call Africa but long before it has a name. I was a goddess of knowledge. Come closer. There is a more efficient means of teaching.”
I walked up to her. Those eyes were beyond unsettling. Five in roughly the same place a normal two would be and the final two in the center of her forehead. She was still elegant and otherworldly beautiful. She reached a hand towards me and I only counted four fingers, long and with too many knuckles. One of them touched me in the center of my forehead and the room shifted…
We were standing on sand dune in the middle of the day. It was blindingly bright. Jackie had returned to her spider form. The great desert stretched on behind us, an endless sea of swirling sands. In front of us a tent city spread out, dotted palm trees sat at the edge of small pools of water. People moved between the tents, a bustling and thriving small village. In the center stood a large stone building, out of place and ancient in appearance. Jackie began to scurry towards the makeshift village and I followed, difficult walking across the deep sand.
“They cannot see us, we exist out of frame to this. Fear not and keep close.”
She was right, of course. As we walked in between tents the people continued to move about on their own set paths. A small child ran through me, a frigid sensation and no disturbance to her at all.
“Are they ghosts?”
“No. This is a memory of a place long ago.”
We walked through this memory. Men hustled wares in front of their tents, dates and food stuff, dishes and clothes. A giant bazaar like from the begging of Aladdin, but not cartoony and frivolous. Women walked with pots of water balanced on their heads and children scampered about playing some sort of hide and go seek. It was full of life, a hard life but not a horrible. I noticed a lot of people adorned with makeshift spider pendants and rings.
“I was worshipped here. These are my people, the roving desert people.”
We stepped onto the large worn path that led to the center, to the building. The only permanent structure in this temporary village.
“Twice a year they gathered for the grew celebration. A time to sell wares and tell tales. They came to me for their blessings.”
Sorrow tinged her voice as she spoke.
“This was my favorite time of the season. A time to set aside my scrolls and learn of the world around us. I had grown content. Fat and full of knowledge. This is the place where I sprang forth the idea of the pyramids.”
“You were the architect of the pyramids?”
“Did you hope it was the aliens? I suppose in a way it was, but not like your scholars have insinuated. It was a matter of physics and geometry. Algebraic equations. All born here by my people. It was hard work, not magic, though I can see how it appeared that way as times eroded things. Like Stonehenge, your lot still hasn’t figured out the meaning behind that yet.”
“What is the reason?”
“A different tale for a different time. Come.”
We entered the building and it was similar to the library in the castle. The main difference was the walls were lined with papyrus and scrolls. And in the center, sitting on a gossamer throne wives from web sat Jackie in Her spider form. A scroll in each of her front four legs. She looked at us, directly at us.
“This is not healthy future self. You can not change the past.”
“I know past self.”
“Is he the one foretold by Mother?”
“It comes soon.”
At that an explosion echoed from outside followed by screams of pain. Both Jackies and I rushed to the door. The tents were on fire all around us. Hovering in the sky was gigantic lizard belching flame and destroying all around it. Past Jackie flew into action.
“Dagon! You dare attack my people in a celebration of peace!”
“Peace is the tool of the weak. All shall be returned to nothing. Join us Ja’keinthophet, give up your pursuits and help bring about the end of life.”
The dragon spoke with no inflection, just a certainty. Jackie spun webs to bind the beast and he shredded them as with talon and tail. She bounded towards him, dodging gouts of flame and lashing out with her talon tipped legs. She made a huge tear down the beasts left wing and it fell, unable to support flight. He bellowed in rage as she tried to wrap him but his anger and strength tore through the bindings. She struck again and again, her speed more than a match for the dragon’s mass.
Until he struck a glancing blow with his right wing and knocked her onto her back. She writhed in pain and tried to right herself but the more she struggled the deeper she sunk into the sand.
“And now you die. Your knowledge would have been a great boon to us Ja’keinthophet. But it shall be destroyed along with you.”
As it raised it’s claw to deliver the death blow a sudden spear of ice was protruding from it’s chest.
“Jackie! Are you alright?” came a familiar voice as the dragon roared in agony. Apricus ran in to the burning remnants of tent of bodies. She reached Jackie and a hole ripped in reality, the castle showing through it. Apricus lifted Jackie from the sand, a might effort and carried her through the gate. But the dragon was not finished yet and leapt forward through the gate as well.
We were suddenly on the ramparts. Jackie lay on the ground near the throne, unconscious from the hit and hard landing. Apricus stood on rampart at the side of the tower. The dragon swept his talons at her head and a huge rent was formed in the side of the tower where Her head had been. She lashed out with spears of ice, shredding the wings of the great red beast. She was faster and her aim true, confounding and angering the beast as She slowly dealt damage. Her victory seemed assured.
But She lost sight of the tail, the long serpentine tail with a cluster of spiked scales like a mace. It struck Her in the side and launched her into the tower wall where She crumbled in a heap to the stone floor.
I screamed in anguish and rage as She fell. Jackie tried to restrain me but I was beyond her attempts to quell. I was filled with righteous anger and the need to protect. I sent lightning from my hands into the beast and it spasmed as every nerve fired. Again and again I hit the monster. I leapt onto the dragon, climbed it’s back as it shook. When I reached it’s head I put my hands on either side and poured as much raw voltage through as I could until the eyeballs popped, cooked in their sockets. It fell dead on the stone ramparts.
“What have you done? How have you done this, it is impossible.”
I didn’t answer her but ran to Apricus. She was alive, knocked out and injured but alive. I cradled her head and kissed her gently on the forehead.
“I will be with you soon my love. Wait for me and I will come.”
I swear she smiled slightly as I spoke.
“We must go. Now!’
We were back in the library, a mere hundred feet from where we had just stood by the dragon corpse.
“What the fuck just happened?”
Jackie just stared at me for a moment. She see me shakes by what She had witnessed.
“I never came to the castle when I revisited the past. It was blocked from me. Apricus and I assumed Dagon expired from his wounds.”
“That is impossible. I wasn’t around to save you. It is a paradox.”
“Paradoxical yes, impossible no. Time is not a straight line.”
“If you say time is a flat circle I will fucking scream.”
“That is a very simplified explanation. But slightly accurate. Where did you learn that?”
“A wise man.”
“That is enough for today. I have much to think on. Much indeed. And you have learned the most important lesson I could show you today.”
“And what is that? I can kill a dragon with lightning?”
“No. Mother always gives us the means, it is up to us to utilize them.”
“Should I tell Apricus? About all of this?”
“Allow me to tell her Mikhail. After I wrap my mind around what happened. But remember this, I owe you a great debt. A life debt. Now please. I need time to digest this. This is very confusing and I hate not understanding something.”
I walked back to the apartment at the top of the tower and collapsed onto the couch. I was exhausted.
And I slayed a fucking dragon.