Prologue: Birth of a Deity
“We are taking you with us.” The gold-robed Elder reached for Arianna.
I gripped Arianna by her wrist and took off at a run for the door. Darkness whipped around us as we both channeled power into our legs so we could run faster. This entire situation felt wrong. Whether it was the Elders’ suffocating power or something else I wasn’t sure. All I knew was that my instincts were screaming for me to get Arianna away from these people. I wouldn’t let them take Arianna away. They frightened me more than any of the scum we had come across in our missions, and more than any of the monsters wandering the wilds between our respective kingdoms.
Men with feathered wings of varying colors appeared from golden portals and surrounded us. One of them shoved me out of the way and another hit me upside the head with the flat of a gaudy silver sword, dazing me. I stumbled and turned to snap at the intruders but my pulse leapt into my throat as the pressure of the men’s’ combined auras silenced me.
‘I-It’s like the last time people tried to take her away.’ I swallowed hard, a tremble entering my hands, ‘Except instead of Human slavers, these people… The Elders and their servants are supposed to be on our side! Why is this happening?!’
A female shriek snapped me to my senses. I looked to my right, where Arianna had been standing, and my heart sank. ‘Where did she…?’
“Let me go!” Arianna clawed at the hand gripping her curls and dug her heels into the floor, “N-Nali!”
“Children who encroach upon the duties of gods will be punished.” The winged man sneered, jerked Arianna off her feet by her hair, and then dragged her across the floor.
“Unhand her!” Lucifer roared, moving to storm past the Elder Gods.
One of the Elder Gods blocked Lucifer’s path, placing a hand on the king’s shoulder. At first, the man spoke calmly. However, Lucifer refused to comply. For all his strength, the Devillian king couldn’t dislodge the man’s grip from his shoulder. The distraught expression on his face made reality crash around me. These people, the Elder Gods and their servants, were intent on taking Arianna from us.
‘What are you waiting for, Nalithor?!’ a male voice growled, accompanied by a puff of violet smoke as Djialkan, Arianna’s fae-dragon, appeared beside me, ‘I cannot interfere with the Elder Gods, but you can. Will you just let them take Arianna?’
When I didn’t respond, the fae-dragon lashed his tail across my face and snarled. Snippets of memories flooded through my mind all at once. Humans in the Vorpmasian wilds had knocked Arianna unconscious and dragged her from our camp in the base of a tree while I was tending our horses. When I’d found her, they’d been arguing about who would get to “break her in” during the return trip. Others knew who she was and wanted to slay her. My Arianna, they had wanted to kill her.
‘Just like these bastards do.’ The thought turned my blood to ice.
More Angels filed out of golden portals as I turned to chase after Arianna and her captor. I sped past several while shoving others out of my way with darkness. They couldn’t take her away. I wouldn’t let them. I didn’t give a damn if they were Elder Gods or not; they didn’t have the right to punish her.
“Don’t take her away from me!” I screamed with enough force that my voice cracked and my lungs burned.
The Angel ignored me and continued yanking Arianna across the throne room towards the exit. Arianna clawed at the bastard’s hand and wrist, unable to reach his wings—but he didn’t seem to care. I called out to Arianna, extending a hand towards her. ‘Not close enough yet. I have to be faster!’
“Nali, my sword! Where is—?” Arianna yelped in pain as the Angel yanked her long hair again.
I managed to close the distance and grasp Arianna’s hand. She gripped back tight enough to make my joints creak, and I felt a sense of relief. The moment was short-lived. The Angel ripped Arianna upwards and out of my grasp, making me lose my balance and fall to my knees. I glared up at the Angel as he dangled Arianna above my head like bait. A sneer stretched across the Angel’s face, taunting me as I growled.
Before I could spout off at the winged bastard, a silver blade blossomed out the front of Arianna’s chest. Black blood dripped from the point of the blade and down to the floor between us. Her eyes went wide as she began coughing up blood. Something reflected the light as it fell from her chest, and seconds later I felt it land in my lap. Shaking, I pocketed it as I tried to process what to do. How could I help her? How could I get the Angel away from her?
My world ground to a halt when I shifted a glare towards the Angel and then looked back at Arianna. She…wasn’t breathing.
A sound between a scream and a roar left me. Hatred, loss, and terror ripped through every fiber of my being. She couldn’t be dead, it wasn’t possible! These bastards would pay for harming her. I would make them pay with their lives, and then Arianna and I could continue on as normal…right?
‘Right, Ari?’ I reached out tentatively, but was met with no response.
The Angel laughed as he slung Arianna’s limp body over his shoulder, leaving the ornate sword lodged in place. Silver filigree, two sapphires set in the crossguard and pommel. The sword looked familiar but I was too disturbed to place it. Instead, I committed the sword to memory. I would remember that sword, I would remember it and I would use it to slay every last one of the Angels and the Elder Gods if the opportunity arose.
‘But, if I can take it from him now…’ I snarled, my gaze honing in on the Angel and his cocky walk.
Opaque darkness, black lightning, pale blue flames, and chunks of torn earth formed a deadly maelstrom around me as I charged after the laughing Angel. My power shredded everything in my path, leaving gouges inches deep into the granite and cleaving the Elders’ auras from the air. A small tremble of something that felt like Arianna passed through me, but no words accompanied it. My imagination? Most likely. She wasn’t breathing, so it couldn’t possibly have been her. ‘Not…breathing…’
My vision blurred with tears. I couldn’t shelve my despair but I still tried to reach her. A dark rip appeared in front of the Angel. He turned to sneer at me again before stepping through it, disappearing with Arianna still slung over his shoulder. Djialkan barreled through the portal after them both, but it closed before I could leap in after them.
I slowed to a stop, at a loss for what to do. Nor did I know how to even begin processing what just happened. My tears blinded me as my power pulsed and warped around me, threatening to break from my control. I felt my knees hit the floor again as I collapsed in place. My entire body felt numb, but it was like a storm raged inside of me. Something pulsed with warm power from within my pocket, releasing what should have been a comforting aura and scent. Her scent, her power.
“S-she’s gone.” I gasped, pulling the warm item from my pocket. The clear crystal was shaped like a lotus and danced with the colors of darkness, cobalt flames, pale wind, and ice. My eyes widened and horror lanced through me in recognition as the heartbeat-like pulse of the crystal continued. “T-this is…?”
Vaguely, I was aware of panicked shouting somewhere behind me and a massive surge of power from the gods. I didn’t care. The crystalline object I was holding—I knew what it was. The heart of a god. Arianna’s heart. That meant the sword that pierced her had be a Godslayer, and that’s why it seemed familiar. Her heart should have shattered upon coming into contact with it, she should have died instantly. But it didn’t, and she hadn’t. ‘Why, why is it still beating?’
Power pulsed through me as I lost control over my power and emotions both. A primal wail ripped from me as my power split the palace apart like an egg around me. Arianna, my Arianna, my partner of the last ten years. It had been so difficult to get her to open up, to stop being shy or scared of me. And now I would never see her again. The Elders, and the Angels, had taken her from me.
‘I will kill them all!’ my blinding fury and grief fought for dominance as I slammed my free hand into the floor, ‘I…failed to save her. But I can still destroy them for what they’ve done!’
☽ ✷ ☾
“Rely’ric?” a vaguely familiar voice called, “Hey, wake up!”
I opened my eyes uneasily, adopting a passive expression as my gaze fell on a nude woman with jet black hair. Arcane sigils twinkled along her ashen gray skin, identifying her as a Jrachra—a Devillian race with close ties to the arcane arts. Her pupil-less silver eyes were open wide with both concern and an all-too-familiar reverence.
“Why are you still here?” I asked with a sigh, raising a hand to my head and pushing my hair back between my horns, ‘Honestly. Why must food always invite itself to stay?’
“Night terrors?” The Jrachra ignored my question and leaned forward, “I thought your powers were going to tear the room apart, Rely’ric! If you wish, I can try some of my peoples’ spells for night terrors.”
“Unnecessary.” I sat up in bed, the satin sheets drifting down my own nude body, “I have a meeting with the emperor to prepare for. You should leave.”
The woman didn’t budge. Instead, she stared up at me with a mindless reverence that I couldn’t stand. The once-proud Jrachra woman was now spellbound by my power as an Adinvyr. My rank within Lucifer’s court had only made situations like this more frequent.
Adinvyr like myself had to feed periodically on sexual energy. We could draw it from active brothels, through blood or other bodily fluids, or through participating in sex itself. Nature made sure that it wasn’t hard for us to find “food.” Our individual powers attracted willing sources to us constantly. The more hungry we were, the stronger our pull.
Prey like this woman were especially common in the streets of Dauthrmir. I couldn’t go anywhere without men and women offering themselves to me. Even the rare individual who wasn’t drawn by my power as an Adinvyr still sought me for my rank in Lucifer’s empire.
“Humph, so it’s true then.” The woman snorted as I strode past her, “You’re still caught up on that princess after 180 years? Something must be wrong with you. But I’m sure I can fix it. She was just a child, but I’m a woman. I can make sure your needs are—”
“Enough.” I kept my voice calm and pivoted to look at the woman. The Magelights in the room flickered and then flared bright in response to my free-flowing power. The Jrachra woman froze like a deer, her eyes wide.
“B-but…” she flinched and shrank back, “Her Highness is just a ghost of the past! Why do you let her haunt you? Why do you let her keep you from finding—?”
“Her Highness is the only reason we aren’t all slaves to the Desert Elves by now.” I directed tendrils of darkness towards the woman and lifted her off the floor by her throat, “You are food. A means to an end. That’s it. You knew this when you offered yourself to me. And you should know that it is terribly rude of you to invite yourself to stay in an Adinvyr’s bed.
“Leave. If you are not gone by the time I return from my bath I will have the guards remove you by force.”
I dropped the woman to the floor by her discarded clothing and then turned to leave. She directed a bolt of lightning towards me from her hands but I squashed it beneath my power. I shot her a glare over my shoulder when I sensed her building power around herself again. I strode across the room, shrugging a robe on as I walked, and stifled her power beneath mine.
“You were both mere children, yet you act like you loved her!” the woman snapped, “All the girls in town talk about it, you know. How ‘The Black Dragon has been driven mad by a shadow from the past.’ Lucifer must be mad too if he lets you serve him!”
“Mad?” I asked, turning to arch an eyebrow at the angry woman, “Tell me, how would you feel if the person you cared most for was murdered right before your eyes? If you were so close to rescuing them, only to be bathed in their blood as a blade plunged through their heart?
“What I may have felt for Her Highness is a very small part of the matter, girl.”
The woman spouted off something unintelligible and I sighed. It seemed like my allure as an Adinvyr grew stronger by the day. She was beyond reasoning with and her eyes still held unyielding reverence. Yet she acted like a scorned lover, not like proper food. The growing pool of urine beneath her suggested that, somewhere under that reverent facade, she understood that I could end her life with a mere thought if she pushed me further.
‘Tch. Perhaps I will return to drawing energy from the brothels.’ I grimaced as the Jrachra’s screeching followed me down the hallway, ‘Removing food is so much more hassle than it’s worth…’
One of the palace servants shot me a knowing yet sympathetic look before bowing to me and scurrying by—likely to fetch the guards and towels. The palace staff was well-accustomed to situations such as this by now. Adinvyr, myself included, expected our food to leave after being fed upon. It was the socially acceptable thing to do back in Draemir.
Unfortunately, the commonfolk of Dauthrmir seemed slow on the uptake.
‘Still, using Her Highness as a way to jab at me?’ I sighed as I slipped into the large bathroom at the end of the hall, passing by granite pillars and silver sconces as I went, ‘They’re growing more problematic than normal. I haven’t done anything different or changed my routine… Is my power growing?’
I raised a hand and summoned darkness above my palm, attempting to gauge if anything about my power had changed. The darkness drifted over my palm like smoke, spilling over the sides of my hands and dripping down towards the floor like water. There didn’t seem to be anything different about it.
Sighing, I dismissed the darkness and shed my robe before walking towards the bath. The steaming water was a welcome sensation against my skin. I waded into the room-sized bath and past several more pillars. Once I managed to free my waist-length white hair from its braid, I waded into deeper waters and then sat with my back against the tiled edge.
‘Arianna…’ I pursed my lips and then raised a hand to my chest. When I withdrew it, a crystalline lotus hovered above my palm. Whenever I looked at it, I never knew what to think.
Everything I’d ever been taught stated that the Godslayer should have shattered her heart. It should have stopped pulsing with power and grown dim, yet the powers of darkness, wind, fire, and ice still swirled within the crystal petals in their endless, lazy dance.
‘It has grown.’ A small frown tugged at my lips. I reached out with a small drop of my own power and hesitated before prodding at the crystal. The lotus grew warmer in my hand and pulsed faster for a moment before returning to its usual rhythm. The elements themselves seemed unfazed and continued in their arcing paths.
The heart of a goddess, separated from its owner, and yet it still beat on as if she was still alive. I didn’t know what to believe anymore; the Elder Gods, or the heart I’d kept with me for the past 180 years. Shaking my head, I let the crystal lotus sink back into my chest before I slumped back against the bath’s edge and stared blankly at the water.
That heart, Arianna’s heart, was the only reason I was still alive. There had been many times, especially during a Devillian’s equivalent to teenage years, where I had considered ending everything. Sometimes it was because I wanted the chance to see Arianna again; sometimes it was for foolish or selfish reasons. Regardless of my reasoning, soothing warmth would radiate from Arianna’s heart and calm me down. Even in some of my darkest or most distraught moments, it had made me stop and reconsider what I was doing.
“Jich!” I cursed, batting at the water, “It has been a long time. Maybe I really have gone mad.”
I glanced to the side at a clock and then grimaced. The Court was expecting me to show up today, and having Lucifer being angry with me was one of the last things I needed. That Lucifer hadn’t slain me as punishment for being unable to protect his daughter was already a minor miracle as far as I was concerned.
Soon enough I found myself sweeping through the hallways of the Dauthrmiran palace. Something about the air gave me the feeling that the Jrachra strumpet’s rudeness was going to be the least of my headaches for today. Everything crackled with a vaguely familiar energy that made my skin crawl.
I paid little mind to the decorations of the palace as I honed my senses, attempting to identify the source of my displeasure. If the servants milling through the hallways called greetings to me, I didn’t hear them. The power I sensed felt similar to that of the Elders responsible for taking Arianna away from us. Nowhere near as suffocating, but still too similar for me to ignore.
“General Vraelimir, they’re expecting you.” A guard bowed deeply to me as I approached a pair of large doors.
I glanced up at the intricately carved ebony doors before turning to acknowledge the guard, taking note of his uneasy shifting. The Imperial Guard weren’t known for being easy to rattle. Something within the throne room had managed to perturb them. ‘So, I wasn’t imagining that presence.’
I pushed my way into the palace’s secondary throne room and glanced around quickly, taking stock of everyone’s locations. The original throne room, which I had destroyed in my grief, had been left in ruins. Lucifer kept it sealed off completely in remembrance of that day and wouldn’t let anyone inside—not even me.
The new throne room looked drastically different compared to the old. Although both were made of granite and obsidian—like everything else in the palace—this room was decorated with dark and grim paintings and artifacts. The original throne room had been a colorful, cheerful place.
This room, however, housed the spoils of war; bloodstained banners, confiscated weaponry and armor from defeated foes, and even the skeletal heads of some of Lucifer’s enemies. After the deaths of his heirs, the enraged then-king had gone on a bloody rampage. He had conquered the last of the surrounding Devillian tribes, the wilds between them, and the border with the Suthsul Desert. The death of his children was essentially the birth of the Vorpmasian Empire.
Although he claimed it was for both the children he lost that day, we knew it was more for Arianna than it was for her twin brother. Darius had been raised by his mother, an Angel, far away from Dauthrmir and its Devillian influence. The guards insisted that both of Lucifer’s children had been in the throne room on that day…but I couldn’t remember seeing the boy.
How I had wished I was old enough to participate in the wars alongside Lucifer and my father, Lysander. But no, I had to stay behind with my mother and younger siblings. Even if I had been old enough at the time, I doubted they would have let me go. In hindsight, I wasn’t in the right frame of mind for battle.
“You all look absolutely livid.” I commented once I was closer to the dais at the back of the room, examining the gathered Royal Families and several dignitaries I didn’t recognize, “What happened?”
“You tell us, Nalithor.” Lucifer’s tone was firm as he crossed his arms over his chest, his mismatched emerald green and electric blue eyes settling on me with an intense glare, “The Elder Gods have formally requested your presence.”
“The Elder…?” I trailed off into a scowl, turning my attention to the trio in plain white cloaks, “Unless you’re here to tell me that I can execute the bastard that took Her Highness and her brother away from us, I have no interest in speaking with you.”
The smallest of the three Elders approached me as my blood lust rose to near intolerable levels. I wanted to shred the gods before me apart with claw and blade alike. I wanted nothing more than to drench the throne room in their blood. Even if it didn’t kill them, it would certainly make me feel better.
“Then you have sensed it, have you not?” the female of the trio inquired with a smile as she lowered her hook, revealing delicate features, blonde hair, and solid golden eyes that were void of sclerae or pupils, “She was not meant to die, therefore she did not.
“You have kept her heart, yes? It still beats within you. I can hear it.”
My scowl deepened as the female Elder circled me in silence. Her warm expression only made me want to shred her even more. However, she seemed more interested in examining the dark Brands of Divinity that covered the right side of my body from my throat and down. She looked intrigued, and I could feel her poking and prodding at my magic with her own.
That this woman would taunt us in such a way infuriated me. ‘Claiming that Her Highness isn’t dead? I should rip these bastards apart for expecting me to believe such a farce.’ I saw Arianna stop breathing with my own eyes, seen the amount of blood that spilled from her wound and mouth alike. There was no way she could have lived through that.
“You already know that only deities have crystalline hearts, yes?” one of the male Elders inquired. I nodded my reply in silence.
“We would speak with you, and you alone, about the events that transpired that day.” The other male Elder continued, “What we have to say is of no concern to the Lesser, Middle, or Upper Gods, but it will be of great concern to you.”
I frowned deeply at the Elders. What could they possibly have to say to me that they didn’t want the other gods to know of? Before I could question them aloud, blinding light engulfed us. When we reappeared, I found myself under a brilliant blue sky with plush green grass below my feet. Wherever this was, it certainly wasn’t within the Vorpmasian Empire. It seemed as if this small strip of land was levitating in the sky, but I couldn’t be certain—and I wasn’t prepared to show the Elders my back so I could check for supports beneath.
“The twins were meant to compete over the role of Balance,” the female began as I prodded at the ground beneath us with my power, “You worked closely with the girl, so I am sure you noticed the way she seemed to ‘sense’ things that were wrong in the world. Things that should have been beyond a child’s knowledge.”
‘The Elder isn’t wrong. Arianna truly did sense strange things, and she was never mistaken.’ I thought begrudgingly. Arianna had been my partner in play, training, and in work. She had always been unusually aware of the events of the world despite her lack of interest in political lessons. ‘But…it is supposedly for that very reason that the Elders deigned it necessary to execute her.’
My frown deepened. That wasn’t quite right. It was an Angel that had run Arianna through, not the Elders. The Elder Gods had simply said they were taking Arianna with them—they never said what their intentions were. ‘Even so, their intentions couldn’t have been good. Not when they were exerting their combined auras in such a way.’
I glanced to the side at the Elders and took in what I could of their individual forms. Their robes did not glow, none of them wore a gold robe, and one was a woman. The Elders that had appeared on that day in Dauthrmir were all male. Their attire had been fancier, and their power stronger. I scented the air discreetly and bit back a grimace. They still smelled unpleasant.
“The Middle and Upper Gods have become too unruly. They spend their time bickering amongst themselves and looking for mortal toys.” The Elder continued as if she hadn’t heard my thoughts, “Balance’s role is to manage the Upper Gods, particularly Good and Evil, so that they can all function properly in their roles.”
I furrowed my brow and crossed my arms over my chest, waiting for the Elder to continue. My scaled tail twitched in agitation as I tried to rein in my thoughts and focus on the problem at hand. This woman hadn’t even bothered to mention the Lesser Gods, such as Lucifer or my parents. Arianna had been concerned with the dealings between Lesser Gods—also known as Racial Gods—when we were young.
The Middle Gods ruled over, and represented, lesser archetypes. These deities were the ones that the commonfolk worshiped on a day-to-day basis. Deities of fishing, hunting, forging—if you desired a boon for your work, it was likely a Middle God you would ask for help.
Upper Gods, however, represented major concepts. Good, evil, chaos, tranquility, time, war, emotions, and many more. These deities tended to be more removed from society, influencing the world through their followers or their Chosen who tended temples and shrines throughout Avrirsa.
‘Why would they be speaking to me about these matters instead of someone more qualified?’ I tapped my claws against my forearm as I thought, ‘I am a demigod, but my parents are only Lesser Gods—the God and Goddess of the Adinvyr. If the Elders want a demigod for something, there are many more to choose from.
‘Although…we are not supposed to be privy to the workings of deities.’
“Our intention was for one of our candidates to become the God or Goddess of Balance, while the others would be free from the responsibility.” The shortest male Elder continued, making subtle motions as he spoke, “I won’t go into the details of our selection process—we have not the time for such a lengthy discussion.”
“In short, a divide has formed amongst the Elder Gods. Several of them rebelled against the plan to find a deity of Balance.” The female stated. A sad expression formed on her face as the others fell silent, “Our former allies chose to eliminate the dozens of candidates that we and our allies had selected.”
‘Dozens of candidates?’ I stared at the Elders in disbelief.
What they had said to me thus far made sense—that the Middle and Upper Gods had been neglecting their duties was something that neither mortals nor Lesser Gods had missed. It seemed logical that there would be someone to keep those deities in line. However, I had always thought that job fell to the Elder Gods.
‘A rift between the Elders. That is disconcerting.’ I glanced between the Elders and then down at the grass as I thought. It never even occurred to me that what happened to Arianna may have happened to other people—likely to other children. Why would the other Elders take such a drastic measure? Furthermore, which Elders are the rebellious ones; the ones before me, or the ones that had Arianna taken away?
“You mean to tell me the other Elders went as far as to kill dozens of children who could have become The Balance? Not just Arianna and Darius?” I shot the female a pointed look, watching as she gave me a sad smile and nodded in reply.
“We thought that all was lost…but it would seem that Arianna’s heart has changed you, has it not?” the taller of the two male Elders motioned at my chest, “You have begun to sense things the way she did. Perhaps not as strongly, but you sense them all the same.”
“I don’t like where this is going.” I muttered, settling a glare on the Elders, “You couldn’t possibly expect me to take on the role of a god in her place.”
‘What are they thinking?!’ I grit my teeth, attempting to keep my outward appearance calm, ‘A role as they have described would lie between an Upper and Elder God in the hierarchy! How could they even insinuate that I should take on such a role?’
I dug my claws into my forearms and attempted to calm my racing thoughts. Even if Arianna’s heart had changed me in some way, that hardly made me qualified to bear such a heavy burden. I couldn’t deny that, over the past few decades, I had begun to see the world in a different way. It wasn’t a conscious thing and it was separate from just growing older. At times I just knew where there was a problem—and how to fix it.
“We desperately need your help with the things that are about to happen to this world.” The female Elder sighed heavily, “We will need your help to fix Avrirsa and its deities.”
“Even if I did agree to help you, I do not see any upsides to this.” I stated in a flat tone and maintained my glare. My tail thrashed with irritation as I continued, “How could you expect me to—?”
“We are not giving you a choice in this matter, Adinvyr.” One of the males interjected plainly as he lifted a hand and summoned a prison of golden light around me, “As mortals say, desperate times call for desperate measures. You are the only one left who shares the instincts she possessed.
“You are the only one that can truly save her and we need your help fixing what is to come.”
“Save…” I trailed off and attempted to process the notion before gripping the bars of my cage, snarling, “You’re telling me she’s alive?!”
‘They…they weren’t simply taunting me?’ I attempted to swallow my panic.
How could she be alive after sustaining such an injury? Did they simply mean that they had reincarnated her soul? Or, had the other Elders lied when they claimed Arianna and Darius had both perished? It always struck me as strange that they refused to give us anything to bury. Was she a prisoner somewhere? Did she remember what happened? Did she…remember me?
I staggered back against the bars and lifted a hand over my face, struggling to process the information. Somehow the notion that Arianna had been alive all this time was more painful than believing she was dead. She had been everything to me. I would never have left her somewhere willingly. ‘But…does she know that?’
“Sit down and listen, boy.” The female ordered, ignoring the threatening look I shot her in reply, “We have much to disclose to you and precious little time to do it. You need to know the rules of being a God without a Goddess, the rules of Balance, and the risks we are all taking.
“After that, then we will tell you of your precious princess and what has become of her.”
I shot them another begrudging glare before nodded my head sharply to indicate my compliance. I wanted nothing more than to rip all of the Elders and the Angels apart for what had happened so many years ago. But, if she was still alive, then perhaps there was a faint sliver of hope left. For now I would shelve my whirlwind of questions and emotions so that I could listen to what the Elders had to say to me. Only by listening would I determine who needed to pay for the harm that had come to Arianna.
After 180 years, all I could do was hope that no one had made her suffer.