'That's a joke, right? Aris, Teris! That's some prank you played on me, right?' Set shouted at his cronies, while they cowered in fear as he loomed closer. Well, that was terrifying, so I don't blame them.
The moment Ahmos's blood fell on ground, the entire land sizzled out to reveal a giant pentacle emblazoned on it. Light pouring out of the pattern was blindingly bright and painful. It looked as if Set had similar assessment; except that he recognized the magnitude of the situation better than me.
'Demon summoning? That vile woman! It must be her work!', he cut his finger to let golden ichor drop on the pattern, but it didn't work out. 'Even this didn't work?! Must be your blood, demon child!' he aimed a punch at Ahmos's face angrily, but was blocked as a two horned creature caught his elbow midway.
That was the first time I saw demon powers, which seem to be at par with Set's so far. He gave no leeway to his minions too, who writhed on the ground, rolling to and fro in pain, wailing for their master. Various other contorted creatures, some beautiful, some equally monstrous followed soon after the first. I stood in wonder as Set's minions were forced into submission before my eyes in matters of seconds. But a different question arose- why they came in first place? Is Ahmos that powerful? It raised more questions than answers. But I was not the one to be ungrateful when they so obviously saved me …
And that's when I finally realized my mother's words.
No matter what the race, believe your heart first…
Set stood dumbfounded, his eyes gaping at the demonic group, cornered, and hovering close to me. Both groups cautiously measured the other sides with a clear warning in each step. Even cornered he somehow managed to look magnificent.
Perhaps that was the only time I would describe him that…
Because the next moment, he gripped me tightly, murmured 'Peh-t' softly and to my amazement, everyone disappeared from sight. It didn't take me long to realize it was us who disappeared, and apparently at some other place.
I didn't know my dad, I never felt for him…
I was not a social person to begin with, and since I was a loner, losing friend has never been my issue…
The only family I cared about, though… got destroyed… and I couldn't do anything…
Mother, brother, home, everything gone…
Just for my sake…
Shouldn't it be lot better if I disappear?
And I hated myself how late I came to realize it…
A new place. Gods, I hate changes. But the last month was nothing but changes. Last month was hate. And the fate decided- it was just the beginning. Set ensured it. I wasn't just trapped in a small, dingy cabinet.
I was entrapped in the biggest cage of all- my mind.
It was long before I regained consciousness, the patterns faintly visible on my body. A shock of pain coursed its way throughout the pattern, which made me see stars for a while. Astaroth warily examined me, avoiding the pattern while he held his other hand in his signature two fingered sign. He shook his head slightly, his face clearly showing disapproval.
'I see you are awake' he said casually, but the next words were unadulterated acid, 'However, you condemned my name in Book of stupidity for rest for my life' he made a clicking sound, 'I can't believe how a unconscious human can wreak havoc of monstrous proportions in the safest havens for demons! Just when I was supposed to ward Gods off, you sent a firecracker blasting "I'm here!" Lucifer's blood, Rukh! Can't you even do a single thing without glitch?'
I simply blinked at his angry outburst. Usually he was a calm headed guy, but now he literally gave me shivers. Well, it would be very inhuman if I didn't have the basic courtesy to appear guilty. I avoided his gaze, in case I feel real guilty, but Astaroth stopped me.
'I told you I can read minds' he looked coldly, 'We all can, actually, to some extent. But my powers are greatest even among gods and demons alike. You can't escape me. So please restrain yourself lest I unleash my fury on you' Warning ran real. This was the first time he flexed his muscles to calm me down. I really had tested his limits this time.
Seshat cleared her throat before she addressed Ahmos, who appeared mildly disoriented. I frowned slightly. Why was he so disoriented? This didn't happen last time. I turned to glare at Astaroth, who gazed upwards, murmuring series of incantations and I felt the air shimmer. He couldn't control his powers here, I realized. Ahmos was in complete thrall, unable to think for himself.
'And maybe I should do it for you too' Astaroth thought out aloud. He stared at me with an unholy gaze, sending chill down my spine. Suddenly, he threw me on the ground, his finger pointed at my forehead. 'I am sorry. You are too useful to die, but too much of a trouble to live' his finger glowed blue, the same colour before Ahmos was enthralled. OH MY GOD. I didn't really want to become a demon's puppet.
'Don't! Please don't! I'll be good, I promise! Seshat, do something!' I turned wildly towards her, before I got knocked out for good. Seshat looked anywhere but me, guilt apparent in her stance. I had to go through this shit in order to be alive. Awakening in demon haven, even in subconscious state was no excuse. But I would never allow myself to become someone's pet. I need to do something. Soon.
'Can't you teach me wards or anything? Like Ahmos?' I asked desperately.
'It won't do you any favour if your soul leaks out the moment you faint or sleep' Seshat countered. 'Ahmos had better control'
Great. Another way to tell I suck. But something bugged me badly all this while. And I needed answers.
'Alright! Alright! ' I was still wary of the bluish glow pointed at my head, 'Why the hell Amun send Set to capture me knowing very well I could have complied better in his absence?'
The glow dimmed. 'This troubled me too' Astaroth mused, 'However, I cannot help but shudder to think of the consequences this alliance would ensue. Set is already considered merciless by demon standards, and I heard some nasty rumours about revival of the ancient god-'
'Ancient god? Are you talking about the One?'
Just how many gods were ruling the realm? No wonder everything fell apart.
Astaroth nodded coldly, finally getting off my body as he walked towards Ahmos and continued the sordid tale.
'Very few knew the dark core inside the One in fact intensified instead of getting cleansed. It became like a black hole for malice and miseries. Shrunk, dangerous and lurking in shadows. Those with darkness gets most affected'
I didn't realize Astaroth talked about himself that time. And as insensitive my repertoire was, next words were priceless.
'Isn't that good darkness is being absorbed? All will be good and fair. No fights. Peace all around'
Astaroth looked at me strangely. 'How will you define love and light without darkness? Just because you love rabbits don't mean you will kill its predators ruthlessly. Wipe out predators, and they multiply only to invite their impending doom. Balance is the rule of nature. If there are gods, there are demons too'
I couldn't believe he just went scientific somewhere down in his explanation, but I got his point. So absorption of darkness was bad.
'Not only is that, but concentrating power at same place with high instability is nothing but digging our own grave. If corruption sets in as before, everything will get destroyed instantly. Moreover, losing darkness is akin to loss of identity for demons. The emptiness itself will create disharmony. Ask a person who lost his will. Ask yourself'
Again the old jab. Those few days with Set were torturous life sessions. I almost lost sanity in the process, ready to beg for whatever he wished. Had I given it the first day, I would have saved myself a lot of trouble. My mother would have been alive.
'And put world in danger?' he arched up an impressive eyebrow. 'Whatever your brother's claims are, yes, it is possible to bring back dead, or I should say the one who has not crossed the giant veil yet'
'Giant veil?' it was my turn to sound surprised. 'What's that?'
Astaroth stared on enigmatically, Seshat answered for me. 'The veil separates the world of living and dead. Once you cross that, there is no coming back. The soul enters realm of Osiris'
She looked strangely dreamy, and I turned to glare at Astaroth. Is he exerting his powers over Goddess too?
Astaroth, admiringly, snorted derisively. 'You just went into a forbidden zone, son' he winked and returned his attention back to Ahmos. I recalled the old forgotten story of Osiris and Seshat, how desperate she was when he was hacked into pieces. My mind understood it as platonic love during childhood.
Innocence, please come back! I don't want to see Godly crushes!
Apparently, Seshat got that. She threw a dirty look my way and arranged her features. 'Anyways, if not for his call of duty, he is one of the kindest and bravest guys I have ever met. Damn that Iris, she took all the credit! Thoth is fine, but-'
Ahmos suddenly let out an ear- piercing wail, cutting off whatever she was about to say. I was still weak from awakening, and nearly stumbled when I tried to shake Astaroth off Ahmos' neck, disrupting his ritual. 'What's the deal with you? How can you do that to your son?' Ahmos was rolling back and forth, clutching his eyes tightly, and shrieked again. 'Stop it! Don't! Stop it!' the air about him started to swirl to form a mini tornado, with him as the epicentre. It strengthened with every word uttered.
Astaroth paid little heed to my words and resumed his chants. Before I could interrupt again, Seshat clamped my mouth shut, hissing 'Cut it out! It's Mark of prophecy! You are not supposed to disturb when oracle is announced!'
It was then I saw the familiar mark on Ahmos's forehead, livid red and raw, bleeding as the spell continued. With a chilling comprehension, I finally understood what decorated our house walls.
'The Lesser Key of Solomon', remembering the similar pattern engraved. 'It was all you' I spoke aloud, nearly avoided being whacked out by the flying rocks and stones, no thanks to him.
'STOP IT!' the agony was palpably obvious, I watched on as the gruesome mark switched on to radiate ugly green, his hairs wild and eyes still held closed. No wonder it came as a shock when his lips broke into a sinister smile and his body started to float on its own and he looked straight onto me.
And he finally opened his eyes.
The same sick green eyes with Lesser key of Solomon.
As our eyes locked, I didn't immediately realize the relative calm before the figurative storm arrived. Everything went quiet, Astaroth breathing shallowly on the ground, Seshat taking in a defensive stance against the unknown foe.
He raised his hands slowly, pointed at me, his voice taking in an eerie tone 'the son, but not the son indeed. He who lived everywhere, and stayed nowhere, betrayer of the holy sire, all shall hail the key "tres-nemes" when life flow of Gods sheds!'
Seshat gasped visibly, her expression going appalled by every second, her hands flailing weakly for support. 'Tres-nemes? They hadn't been invoked for thousands of years! How can we survive in this era if it's done again?' she blurted out, uncharacteristic of her usual mannerisms. That was enough to grab Ahmos' attention as he continued, 'Seshat, long time no see'
'What have you done, Wadjet?' she whispered, 'just what have you done?'
'Merely stated the truth as Astaroth asked. Tell him the last favour is repaid and the next time I meet him, I will kill him' his eyes reverted back to their original hue, as he dropped on the ground. I moved as fast as I could, checking his vitals. His sick pallor was disturbing to the least, not to mention the constant litany of apologies he muttered under his breath for sins he never even committed.
Weeks of madness finally caught on to me, with questions raised, nothing answered and almost everything gone. Ahmos was clearly flummoxed by the whole fiasco, imagine my ire I couldn't even take it out on Astaroth, who was barely conscious by summoning. Why do it in first place?
I turned to lash out at Seshat. 'You knew this all along? How can you allow him to do this? My brother had already gone half crazy, thanks to a useless prophecy good for no ears!'
And that was the first time I saw her for what she was. A goddess, after all. With regal bearing and stoic face, she replied coldly, 'you do not well understand what the oracle pertained, son of Amun' her eyes flashed, 'Key of Tres Nemes is one of the lost weapons pivotal for the battle long before age of men. For it to be forged again in this era is a forewarning for all of us. Minor sacrifices are essential'
Believe me. It wasn't like she had suppressed her emotions or she had choked on her words. Perhaps my slow mind found it difficult to understand the gravity of situation, but she sounded as cold as freezing Antarctica!
After an hour or so (difficult to judge time in this realm), Astaroth finally stirred. He was unsteady, but was coherent enough to jump straight to the point. 'What did Wadjet say?'
Seshat, still in Goddess-mode, explained him briefly about prophecy and her conclusions. So it came out as a major surprise when Astaroth started laughing all of a sudden, holding his belly hard.
'So that's how it is'
'What's it?' we both pounced at the same time.
'Hold on, folks. Why don't we first look at Ahmos before answering your questions?'
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