What awaits Metis at Europa's Haven?
After several long hours of travelling through snowy forest the five of us reached the outcrops. Snow-capped mountains were scattered along the horizon but for the moment I couldn't see anything beyond the steep outcrop ahead. Flecks of snow covered my hair like dandruff.
Van and Lulin wore their hoods. Larsen's head was covered in bandages and Giaco didn't have hair. At the moment being snowed on was the least of my concerns and didn't draw enough attention to be a nuisance.
We're almost there. After reaching the tip we began to descend, sliding carefully down the steep slope. The other four took no notice of the sheer natural beauty of their home. Black rocks jutted sharply, covered in a layer of ice and snow.
Irregular formations filled the landscape. I didn't take long staring, one look to register the awesome sight before I followed the others carefully down the side.
Dione Bridge was exactly the same as I remembered it. This didn't surprise me, the whole structure looked to be something that existed outside time. Spiral patterns covered the edges, I followed them with my eyes as we pressed forward.
"How much further until we reach Europa's haven?" I asked Giaco as we started jumping again.
"We should make it there two hours before sunrise." He answered with his eyes forward.
Lulin shot me a worried glance. I could tell she was concerned by my obvious state of sleep deprivation but thought better than to comment.
Looking over the edge of the wide bridge I stared at the enormous gorge that seemed to reach the planet's core. Precarious pillars and pikes of black stone reached up through the cloud of mist several kilometres below.
It gave me a sense of forced humility, witnessing the vast size of the expanse. Despite the length of the bridge due to our speed we were soon running along rocky ground again, in Europa territory. Our trail winded along uneven mountains, their tops were thin and angles random.
It wasn't much further before I spotted the hidden fortress. The secluded mountain seemed completely normal until our winding path around the landscape brought me close enough. At the base of this ordinary mountain was a black stone entrance, flecked with light snow.
I was sure only a fraction of the majestic palace was visible from the outside. Like Calisto's haven and Dione Bridge it seemed a part of the nature itself. Almost like it had grown here alongside the mountains, being made from the same black rock.
"I can see you gawking." Van appeared by my side with a slight smile. "The Khadija Ridges are rumoured to be the most beautiful part of Amalthea." He spoke proudly of their home. I tried to conceal my awe and withhold his satisfaction.
"I've heard the Samaratan Canyons are just as beautiful."
He nodded, conceding.
"A matter of opinion no doubt. You'd have to see both of them to make your own decision. I might be biased but home has always been my preference."
Giaco led us down a narrow slope towards the entry. Vampire guards stood evenly spaced, their blue hoods drawn. Despite not having a body temperature I became aware it was cold, and that I had travelled here wearing my Calisto robes.
Reaching around I tore them off, abandoned to be covered by snow. While the other four approached the wide opening I dipped down and grabbed some snow, hoping as I wiped it would clean my face. I followed them along the smooth black ground, chiselled to look like tiles.
Walking under a large roof and beside black pillars I made my way past staring guards. With the snow behind me I noticed great black doors fully open. Inside was a vast circular room, vampires in regular clothing paced in groups.
Off to both sides were curving staircases that led to a second level overlooking the first room. I stared in wonder, first at the size of the polished black interior and then at the pedestal in the centre.
An egg-shaped rock covered in ridges stood on a platform. It was taller than me and much wider. The stone was a dark grey colour and shined metallically. As I followed the others inside it was impossible to discern whether the object was metal or rock.
A plaque on the pedestal had symbols I recognised to be Himalian script, and underneath it was written 'Himalia est Avantium'. I stared at the strange boulder, pondering its significance before hurrying after my escorts.
We travelled up the stairs and turned down a hallway, I stared beneath the banister one last time before continuing on. This haven is not as well lit as Calisto's, I realised as we walked down a rigid hallway. We seemed to be sloping underground.
After reaching another opening Giaco approached a vampire and questioned him before moving off again.
"Are you taking me to Europa?" I demanded.
"Indeed." Larson gravelly replied. At the centre of this opening was a profound statue which I at first assumed was of Europa. Its divine look made it akin to a goddess, that was when I realised it was Himalia.
As we passed through more hallways I became observant, and noticed miniature statues of the vampiric goddess in alcoves of each wall. She was depicted in a self-glorifying pose.
Calisto had told me Europa was a fervent believer in Himalia, still I had no idea she was this devoted. The following chamber was wide, akin in size to the banquet hall. Familiar black stone made up the interior, there was also a faint roaring noise which I realised was a waterfall.
Several waterfalls of a red liquid akin to blood fell into ponds, linked around the edge of the room. Several fountains with statues leaking blood had stools around them.
Europa had been speaking with a couple of vampires who bowed and left the room.
"My Mistress," Giaco fell to one knee and bowed, the others mimicked him. I remained standing, but not awkwardly like last time. Europa's silver eyes analysed me within a delighted expression, I stared back.
"Giacobini, Larsen, Van Biesbroeck and Lulin. You did well to deliver Metis to me. Now leave us." His head still bowed, Giaco nodded and swept from the room, the others exiting closely. Europa reached up and drew her hand through long white hair.
She faced away and took a few admiring steps across the huge room "This is the meditating chamber, free to use by any of my servants except when I'm in it." I glanced at the closest red waterfall before my eyes flew back to her.
Europa was facing away from me, she took another step forward. "I wasn't sure you would come," she glanced back "but I'm glad you did." I remained impassive as I looked at her, a slight smile on her face.
Europa was wearing a flowing white dress with large oval earrings, what appeared to be the same material as the egg-shaped boulder in the entrance room. "Speak Metis, I'm growing tired of only hearing my voice."
"Europa," I began "you should know why I came. When we last met you offered me greater power."
"I said your power would be useful to me." She corrected.
"I followed your vampires here because I need you to train me personally. You do believe I have the potential to be strong, don't you?"
She paused, savouring my intense curiosity.
"Perhaps… we could always try and find out. Why do you have such a thirst for power now? What drives you?"
"I want to kill Calisto." I spoke resolutely.
Her smile returned, even wider. I could tell Europa was very pleased.
Phew, first book completed. The sequel should be even better - 'Metis Chronicles: Ganymede' is complete and can be found on my profile!