AUTHOR'S NOTE

Hello there! Alice the author here. Please leave a comment or follow me if you enjoy this story. It would make so happy. I'm also on Instagram and Wattpad under the same username, uxecila, so feel free to look me up. I'll be posting more writing and updates there! :)


CHAPTER 22

Cora eyed her aunt intently. "What do you mean, 'from the very beginning?' I am quite baffled."

Aunt Amelia explained, "What I mean to say is that, from the beginning, I knew what you were and what you were capable of…"

"I am still confused, Aunt Amelia. Am I human or not?"

"Let me be clear, child, you are neither human nor weaver. Nor hell-born, for that matter. You are a being who was born from the light and shadows that exist along the circumference of mortality. Your kind exists to serve as a compass for mortal souls on their journey after death. Beasts from hell are the ones who refer to your kind as gatekeepers. To mortals, you are probably closer to an angel or a harbinger of death, depending on the form you take when you greet them at their final threshold."

"My goodness. Cerberus was right about me, then?"

"I suppose… the mutt is not wrong," Aunt Amelia admitted begrudgingly.

Cora pursed her lips. "What were you hoping to achieve through someone like me? Cerberus claims that you were using me for my powers."

"I suppose… there is some truth in that as well," Aunt Amelia answered smoothly, "but our intentions were never as vicious as that hound makes them out to be. It all began innocently enough. Mathilde and I first learned about your existence when we experienced a near brush with death many years ago. We began to study the scope of your abilities and were delighted when we discovered that they would suit our needs superbly. We have never harmed you in any way, though, and we never will. If anything, our presence and influence has given you a life of purpose, a glimpse into possibilities beyond a duty-bound existence. Without us, you would be like all the other harbingers, mindlessly ferrying souls from one point to the next!"

Aunt Amelia stared at Cora expectantly, as though anticipating a gesture of gratitude or a proclamation of appreciation.

"To ferry or not to ferry," Cora replied archly, "perhaps that was a decision you should have let me make—instead of taking it upon yourself to choose for me."

Aunt Amelia narrowed her green eyes keenly. "You are foolish to think that any of us have a choice in life. Fate is always licking at our heels, waiting to dictate our next move."

"Hmm," was all Cora offered in response.

"We afforded you more freedom than fate ever could," her aunt insisted. "Mathilde and I altered the fabric of your destiny to twine your threads with ours. Your stars have been rewritten—thanks to us."

"I feel as though you are spending a good deal of time justifying your misdeeds and not enough time explaining what you actually did to me," Cora remarked. "You have yet to reveal why you and Aunt Mathilde exerted so much effort to borrow my powers when you both appear to be quite magical in your own right."

"When did you become so direct in your mannerisms? That red-eyed mongrel has been a terrible influence on you!"

"Please, Aunt Amelia, just tell me what I wish to know."

"Fine." The old woman's mouth flattened into a cross line. "If you must know, Mathilde and I needed you to open up this realm, this In Between, to house our… magic. To hide it away where it cannot be found. There is a terrible fate awaiting both of us, you see, and it wishes to snatch away everything we have worked for in one fell swoop. I simply refuse to give in so easily!"

Cora felt lost once more. "Are you telling me that there is someone—or something—that is trying to steal your powers?"

"In a way, yes," Aunt Amelia confirmed cryptically.

"Are you talking about Cerberus? Because he wishes to eat you?"

"Ha! That insipid little beast hardly registers as a threat to great weavers like Mathilde and me."

"He bit off Aunt Mathilde's hand, though," Cora reminded her mildly. "I would not be so quick to write him off…"

"And look at what a mess he made with the very essence he stole from her! The beastie could not even contain the most basic of summoning circles!"

"Are you suggesting that Cerberus only acquired the ability to draw a summoning circle because he consumed Aunt Mathilde's hand? Did he somehow absorb her powers in the process?"

"Naturally."

Cora's eyes widened as she filed this useful tidbit of information away for future use. Perhaps this explained why the spirits had escaped Cerberus' circle. The power he wielded hadn't been his own.

Cora's mind then took a dark turn. Were Cerberus' intentions pure? Or was he secretly scheming to consume her and her powers underneath his playful demeanor?

These suspicions led Cora to question her aunts' motives even further, which prompted her to ask, "I am curious. If there are others like me, 'harbingers' as you call us, then why did you target me, specifically, and not another?"

"You were young compared to the other harbingers we initially sought out, and, therefore, easier to contain within our spells since your powers were not fully formed yet."

Cora grunted unhappily. "I feel as though that is a roundabout way of calling me weak…"

Aunt Amelia cackled in amusement. "You are weak, though, Cora dear, but Mathilde and I can help you draw out everything that thrums inside you. Together we could become as formidable as the ancient goddesses!"

Cora turned away from Aunt Amelia to check on her other aunt. Aunt Mathilde was still lost in a glassy-eyed stupor. Trauma vibrated from her very core as she mumbled nonsensically under her breath. Cora could feel the waves of fear and torment rolling off of her aunt's person, and it brought a heaviness to her heart that she had never experienced before.

A thought as clear as day suddenly crossed Cora's mind.

In resolute tones, she declared to Aunt Amelia, "But what good is it to become a goddess if one still suffers as Aunt Mathilde is suffering now? Shouldn't we be seeking peace of mind over power?"

"Spoken like a true harbinger," Aunt Amelia chided softly, dangerously, "but do not assume that peace of mind is so easy to obtain. If it were possible, I would have acquired it ages ago. Our way is the only way, and, should you refuse to comply, then I shall not hesitate to use more stringent methods of… persuasion."