Truce

(Written for NYC flash fiction challenge. 48 hours, 1000 words. Prompts-fantasy, a mountain stream, milk.)…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

Many years ago in the land of Ardanelle, Mikel and Melane, king and queen of the unicorns, set off to Silver Mountain, their horns encircled in vines of butter milk flowers…

“Unicorns!” laughed Jacob. “Hey, shouldn’t I be telling you a story?”

“Shush, father. You said you’d listen,” scolded Ceri.
The king nodded wistfully, stroking the raven waterfall of her hair. Outside her tower window, distant tallow smoke hung acrid on the night breeze. In the morning he would ride for the outlands. Amongst the burnt huts and bodies of subjects he could no longer protect, he must sue for peace with the mad prince at whatever the cost.
“Men never listen!”
The familiar tone jolted him back more than the poke in the stomach. So much like Kaetrina had been. As beautiful as the spring fields. Determined as the moon season rains. The dry crust of grief caught in his throat. Five bleak years had passed.
He kissed the top of Ceri’s head. Where a crown was predestined, but now never going to sit.
“I’m sorry sweet child. Please go on. Flowers? Why?”
“Butter milk flowers,” sighed Ceri. “As a sign of truce of course,” she added, dismayed that a king would not know this.

King Mikel and Queen Melane followed the narrow track ever upwards, between boulders growing ashen as they climbed. Every step sensing their enemies upon them.
Feeling their eyes and dreading their claws.
Trusting an ancient law and a circlet of pale blossoms to keep them safe.
At last they topped the plateau. Where the mountain stream began as a trickle from the snow capped boulders. Where their eternal enemies held court high above Ardanelle.
The eyrie of the griffin.

“Griffins!” remarked Jacob. “With the head of an eagle and the body of a lion?”
“Of course,” groaned Ceri, waiting for further interruption before continuing.

Lord Leonid and Lady Enora were paired for life, the only custom the unicorns agreed with.
Leonid’s honey flecked eyes met those of his counterpart. Mikel’s glared back, cold and blue as the stream beside him.
“This must end Leonid. Where is Mikaley? Where is our daughter?”
Enora hissed, ruffling her golden feathers angrily. “Mind your tongue horn horse!”
Melane stepped forward. “But for the snows we would have come earlier Enora.” Her sweet voice lowered. “We heard the beat of wings the night she was taken. Only a griffin…”
“Always the griffins,” snarled Leonid. “Why should we believe anything you say? Those who would trample the forests to starve of us prey? Drive the dograbbits and jackalope far from the flat lands? Use their cruel horns to gore our kin? Their hooves to crush our skulls?” He paused, the fire momentarily dulled. “What of our son. What of Levaris? “

“We know nothing of his fate,” snorted Mikel.
“Liar!” screeched Enora. “Trust nothing they say my husband.”
“And why should we trust those who would dam the river? Forcing us to drink at the valley pool, easy prey to vicious claws and razored talons? The corpses mount at the lake edge, bringing deathfly and disease.” Mikel raised his proud head. “The grasslands shrink without the river and creeks. By sun season’s end there will be no grazing lands left,” he added quietly.
“Then you too will know hunger,” growled Enora. She stepped forward, drawing close to the unicorn queen. Melane recoiled from the fetid stench of the carrion breath.
“Don’t worry,” sneered Enora, “That’s not her you can smell.”
Melane lowered her head, her horn at the throat of the Lady griffin.
“You would attack while wearing the garland of truce?”
“If you are to mock my grief for Mikaley,” growled the unicorn, “I will carry home your head.”
Enora’s fierce eyes narrowed. Her powerful hind tensed, prepared to strike.

They turned at the soft clop of hooves.
A unicorn stepped into the clearing, prodded forward by a male griffin.
The length of her body was almost hairless, a myriad of scars. Her abdomen was etched in dozens of thin stripes; fresh, cruel, weeping cuts. Her legs trembled to hold her thin body upright.
“Mikaley,” gasped her father
“You!” cried Melane, charging at the griffin. She drove her horn into his eye, puncturing through his brain and the top of his skull. With a violent twist of her neck she threw him to the water’s edge.
The garland of flowers slid from his eye socket and followed the reddening stream away on the current.
“Levaris!” howled Leonid in anguish.
Melane turned to her daughter, but Enora was already at her.
“No, wait” pleaded Mikaley as the talon opened her long throat. Enora’s screech of vengeance tore the clouds above them to shredded rags. Mikaley slumped to the ground, her face a visage of disbelief.

Jacob nodded, recognizing the madness of war in his daughter’s tale.

In the second of silence before the madness continued, came a rustling from beneath the great golden wings of Levaris.
Two small heads emerged. Eagle heads. Eyes closed, they sniffed the air excitedly. Dragging themselves from under their father’s wing they tottered towards the fallen unicorn. They pushed at her back leg with their beaks, seeking to feed at her soft underbelly.
Melane raised her hoof, blind with rage. Mikel stepped forward to halt her strike.
“Their legs my love. Their hind legs.”
Enora’s head fell in shame. Leonid wrapped her in his wings
The young ones had hooves.
The four of them watched as their grandchildren suckled.

Unicorn tears fell as diamonds. As only they do in times of peace.

Ceri gripped her father tight, her small fingers clutching the leather of his tunic. “Hippogriffs?” he whispered. She nodded, easing from the embrace.
“The union of Levaris and Mikaley gave both sides something in common. They ended the war with love.”
He bent down to kiss her cheek, but her head turned away, tucked behind her drawn up knees. She rocked gently upon them.

Jacob was nearly to the door.

“Did you really listen?”

“Ceri? Honey?””

Then he noticed.
And couldn’t help but hear.

The chair.
Her saddle on its high back. The neat pile upon it, wrapped in a pelt blanket. Beneath; her favorite boots, brightly polished.
His voice deserted him though his lips formed the words.
“Oh Ceri.”
On a wooden peg next to the chair hung her best white dress. Her long travel cloak.

And a circlet of buttermilk flowers.

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Make It Rain

The screech was ear splitting. The anguished scream of the goddess. It tore the sky into ragged black shreds of woe. Isis had thrown back her white hair, her naked breasts heaving with exertion. She shuddered in sobbing gasps of breath. The remnants of her shredded clothes hung like carrion on her body. Mad with grief and frustration she turned to Nephthys/Aleesha. Her eyes dangerous vivid emeralds.
“Make it rain” she demanded. “I know you can do it”
Her skin glowed as her power regathered.
“Make it rain!” she roared. “Now!”
The demand came as a piercing spear. Aleesha felt the sting as it struck.

Nephthys raised her hands to the sky. She focused her thoughts on her mother. Called the clouds to them. Projecting her spirit among them, she felt the dampness in the air high above.
Slowly, steadily, she curled her fingers into fists. The temperature dropped as ice crystals formed overhead. With the same slow method she opened her fingers until her hands were flat.
“Yes!” hissed Isis as the first drops fell. The clouds burst into life, delivering in a torrent.
Isis looked down at him. Her eyes blazed with anticipation. This would work. It must work. This was all she had left to try.
Around her body, a ripple of blue static began to build. It crackled like a fire all over her. Aleesha could feel it’s’ intensity building. Pulsing. Growing.
And through Nephthys she knew what Isis was attempting. It may have been a mystical spell with an appropriately romantic name but it simply came to Aleesha as two words. Lightning rod.
With an enormous crack, a massive single bolt struck.
Isis and Osiris vanished in a blinding sheet of white. Nephthys was knocked off her feet by the blast, landing twenty feet from where she stood. The vegetation all around was dead and blackened by the heat.
Picking herself up from the ground, Nephthys ran to where Osiris lay. As she approached there was no sign of Isis. The blast had thrown her clear of the area. Nephthys put her hand to her mouth at the stench of burnt hair and flesh. But the sight of him was almost too much to bear.
The king of all men lay on the mud soaked ground. His severed limbs had been meticulously reattached. Amongst the sutures, written incantations protected the wounds from further detrition. Around his throat, spells proclaimed his desire to see again. To look upon his love and know her. On his legs, to come to her. On his arms, to hold her. And on his penis, to consummate their love.
But there was also more. Parts of his face and body were charred from the lightning strike. Flesh had bubbled and sagged. Steam rose from his fiery wounds as the rain cooled them.
And on his thigh.
Oh dear sister.
Dozens of slits, many overlapping into crosses and stars. Fresh and raw. Part of no ritual for his resurrection. In her insane rage she had used her small jewelled dagger. The one he had given her.
She had stabbed until the knife had disintegrated. The broken blade was still in his leg.
Nephthys tried to pull it out but the fury of the blow made it impossible.

Despite his condition, she could not contain her desperate love for Osiris. This beautiful man had opened her heart. And taken it forever captive. As her tears spilt the rain intensified.
She leant over his face, handsome despite everything.
And longed to see him open his eyes.
To look upon his love and know her.

For love.

Once for love.

She spoke the name of Ra.
And held her breath.

“Get away from him!” screamed Isis. She conjured a blast of energy which thundered into Nephthys’ body. Her right arm took the brunt of it, the bones splintering into fragments. Most of her ribs broke, puncturing both lungs as she flew twisting like rag through the air. She landed contorted and broken. Her eyes filled red with blood.
“Stay away from him!” Isis stood over his body as a lioness over its kill.
“Not you” she cried.
“Not you” she waned.

She knew.

Nephthys tried to breathe, gurgling blood and mud and wet air.

Then Isis gasped.

“It worked!” she shrieked. “Dear Ra it worked. His eyes are open!” She pecked him with kisses, muttering thanks and praising her forefathers.
Through a crimson veil Nephthys watched their dark silhouette against the magenta sky. Her sisters’ hand grasped his penis, working him to arousal. Isis mounted him quickly, holding him in place as she rose and fell. Osiris moaned as her pace increased furiously.
Nephthys shut her eyes and prayed for an end to everything.

Finally the sounds stopped. The downpour drew to an end. Several minutes passed.
Nephthys opened her painful eyes to see Isis above her. Her face a raging mask of hatred. The panther of black magic. Her hair rippling deep purple.

“He thought it was you” she seethed.

She pressed her foot into her sister’s stomach. Blood bubbled out of her nose and mouth.

“He called me by your name”

She held up the head of Osiris. The magical stitches had held. No knife.
She had torn it off.

With a thud she dropped it onto Nephthys’s chest.
And walked away.

(from the novel “Last Goddess”)

Miriam

From Aleesha’s description he knew it was her. White gloves. Pale as the moon. Long black hair with a silver streak. Eyes a funny grey, bluish in the right light. Small, delicate like a bird.
Well the little bird had flown in.
David painfully crunched the M.G. into reverse. He wanted neutral ground. He also didn’t want to hang around and chat with the seven foot, scar faced man at the gate.
He manoeuvred through several side streets, heading north towards the clinic. There was a large community park with bike tracks and a duck pond he knew of. He spun the car to a stop with a spray of gravel. By the time he had the keys out of the ignition, the woman was standing near the edge of the pond. Houdini in a nightie. David stomped down as barefoot as her, still in his running gear.
She looked out over the diamond surface of the lake. The sparkle of the moon reflected ice blue in her eyes. David thought she looked fifteen and fifty at the same time. Beneath the lustrous hair, the tired face of a child up past her bed time. But for some reason, even with his emotions raging about Aleesha, he felt intimidated by Miriam. She unsettled him. He kept his voice level.
“Did you do something to Aleesha.?”
“No. I only spoke to her.”
“I tend to think that may be bullshit.”
“I am not the one you seek.”
“Who is the one I seek?”
“Another part of me.”
“Well do I need an appointment? Tell me what the hell’s going on.”
She took a breath. It reminded him of Ruth just before she was about to deliver a speech she expected you to pay attention to.
“All of us have spiritual energies. Kas, souls, psyches. Parts of these transfer between people when we interact. Become part of our own. Giving up some as well.”
David took his own pre speech breath.
“What the fuck are you talking about?”
Miriam turned to face him, her small face serious.
“Some of these spirits are very unique, powerful, and seek a stronger body when the one they’re in becomes too old or weak.”
“Are you telling me Aleesha’s being possessed by a spirit?”
“No. But affected by one.”
The words she was saying sounded crazy, but the way she said them was not.
“Are you the body that’s become old and weak?”
“Yes.”
Miriam shivered, brushed by a chill that David couldn’t feel.
“So what is this thing? This spirit. And why Leesh?”
“It is ancient. As old as any of the spirits. It knows her remarkable qualities. It is making itself known to her, though she doesn’t want it too. But it is accustomed to being accepted, and will show her things to tempt her.”
“What do you mean show her things?”
“It will play with her appearance, her body. Seduce her. She may get ill or hurt forcing it away. It will give her gifts. Enhance her senses, give her traces of magic.”
“Traces of magic? She was collapsed in the bathroom when I got home. Puke and piss on the floor. Then she had some sort of psychotic episode. Didn’t seem very frigging magical to me!” he shouted.
“Nevertheless it was there. It probably scared you. You will need to be there for her until she can control it. It will be scaring her too.”
“It fucking scared me all right. And you’re not helping.”
“You will need to have faith.”
“Faith? Faith in what?
“Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”
“Yeah, Martin Luther King, I know. But I don’t see any of the bloody staircase. And I don’t know that Aleesha does either. Faith must be enforced by reason. When faith becomes blind it dies. Gandhi.”
“Faith makes things possible, not easy” Miriam replied calmly. “Unknown.”
“And blind faith in your leaders, or in anything, will get you killed” David growled. “Known. Bruce fucking Springsteen. Look Miriam or whoever the hell you are, something’s happened to Aleesha. But she’s not enhanced, not getting, what did you say, traces of magic. I’m a vet. There’s life, death and patch ‘em up when you can. But there’s no bloody magic. It doesn’t exist.”
He heard the familiar jingle of his keys. She was tossing them casually up and down in her hand. He looked at his empty hand. How had she taken them without him feeling it? She swung her arm in a gentle arc and threw the keys into the duck pond. They plopped below the surface twenty feet out.
“What the hell!” yelled David.
“The magic exists.”
She gestured out at the lake with one hand. She pulled her thumb and fingers slowly apart. David had already sworn more than he meant to while talking to her. But this one was worth it.
A gap opened in the water, a corridor exposing the silty bottom. A path from the edge of the pond to his keys, shining in the moonlight.
“Holy fucking shit.”
Like a zombie he walked out to get them.
“The faith is a bit harder to find” he heard from behind him.
As his fingers plucked the keys from the mud, the water rushed back in, reforming the pond surface.
When he turned back she was gone.
He waded out of the pond, scanning the park for her. A single duck squawked at him as he walked toward the car. His world had become ridiculous.
David started the car, still looking around for. There were plenty of dark shadows she could be hiding in, but he knew that wasn’t the case. This Miriam could pull out a freaking Moses. She was wherever she wanted to be.
He rattled the gear stick into reverse. Then for the first time ever, he stalled the M.G.
He hurriedly unwrapped the handkerchief from his bloody fingers. No skin was torn. No bones broken. He turned over his hand, slowly examining it.
Not an ounce of pain.
Two miracles in five minutes. “Holy fucking shit” was not a big enough statement to do the night justice. And it wasn’t over.
He had to get home.
On the way he flexed his blood covered hand. He kept glancing at it, as though it wasn’t his. But it was. Good as new.
“Holy fucking shit” was the best he could do. He’d momentarily lost the ability to say anything else.

(from the novel “Last Goddess”)

Kir-eleyne

There was a pause in the heartbeat of the earth.

The god of the sun exhaled for the last time and for a moment everything stopped. Reason ceased. A small flock of belling birds, the last thirty or so left in Etelenty, forgot how to fly. More than half of them simply fell out of the sky, their small bodies landing with muffled thumps on the dead leaf carpet.
Spreading in a concentric pattern from Ra’s body, any plant still clinging to life lost its fight, the ground blackening as though burnt. The ring spread rapidly, and in moments everything to the horizon had darkened.
At the same time, the air diluted, losing its freshness, its vibrancy. Its life.
Above the head of Nephthys, maniacal violet thunderheads surged across the sky. The hue of the world changed to a sickening vermillion in the challenging rise of the winds. Magenta explosions raged inside the swirling clouds, threatening a monsoon of blood.
A storm unlike any other. A cataclysmic storm.
Her mother had begun to grieve. Her mother the sky.

Below her pretty bare feet, she felt her father’s protest.
A rapidly intensifying tremor rumbled through the sanctity of Aedom, tumbling her backwards across the charred and brittle turf. The sudden imbalance in all things was personified by an enormous crack, the loudest sound Nephthys would ever hear. An angry jagged fissure opened up in the earth, splitting the great Acacia in half. The fountain of truth disintegrated into thousands of obsidian chips, which whistled in all directions like tiny missiles. The psychotic fissure screamed through the ground, splitting Etelenty from one coast to the other, releasing choking sulphur. Nephthys gasped for air as the great trees began to be consumed by the quake, spilling like toys into the growing abyss. Deep below, the ravenous magma began its hungry climb, preceded by the fiery glow of warning
As her beautiful Mother Sycamore plummeted into the chasm, she actually did stop breathing, the air at the epicentre too thin to maintain respiration. She slumped forward crazily, the pricked balloon of a dying goddess. As she came to rest on the ground her wavering vision tried to focus on something. Anything to give her hope.
A familiar face swam through the haze.
An important, familiar face.
Green catatonic eyes staring.
I…..know………..you.
Sister.

With the last of her strength, Nephthys gave her voice to the hellish sky. A desperate call to the one who had always come. Without hesitation or judgement.
The magnificent Kir-eleyne punctured the armies of warring clouds, hurtling towards them.
My dear friend.
Thank you.
She felt a lopsided, palsied smile on her face.
Thank you.
The mighty raptor snatched up the two sisters like mice.

The charred bodies of the remaining belling birds dropped like stones into the molten mouth.

Kir-eleyne thundered its massive wings to get to safety, but the poison in Isis climbed rapidly though its talons and into its body. It dipped in the air as this strange sensation coursed through it. Kir-eleyne had never suffered weakness. Never been afraid. It would have dropped Isis but for the call of the girl with eyes the colour of sky.
Help us.

The great bird drew upon the essence of Belleren, using it to limit the spread of poison to the blue eyed girl. Knowing that it must do this.
It struggled ahead, crashing though the now brittle trees of Aedom, trying to gain height. Magma spewed out of the ground, bringing forth deadly cannon balls of fiery subterranean rocks. Kir-elyne’s wings were punctured, leaving smoky holes.
It had never felt pain either.
Somehow it lifted the sisters over a ridge, but it flew drunkenly as blood loss weakened it more.
A little further.
A little further.

Help us.

Get them safe.

As the poison reached Kir-eleyne mighty heart, it recognised the touch of the pale man.

You will not have them.

One giant push of its wings was all it had left. It pulled the two girls in close to its body. With the help of Belleren it encircled them with its golden wings, locking itself into a ball around their bodies.
Kir-eleyne said farewell to the sky and died while still in the air.
It crashed to the earth, protecting them as it tumbled and broke.
It was far enough to be safe from the earthquake. But not the rain of molten rock. They peppered the great bird’s body, and its feathers and flesh burnt with a stench lost in the madness of the apocalypse.
The ka of Kir-eleyne passed to Isis and Nephthys, giving them the essence of its being and the remnants of Belleren. It was just enough. It would allow them to survive.

They were safe.

from the novel “Last Goddess”

Nephthys

14 B.C. The Sea of Galilee.

I have been discovered. Without the ability to take to the air, I run, stumbling from the assassins working for my brother. They are so close behind I hear the exertion of their breathing, the thunder of their chasing feet. Through dusty alleyways I run, looking for a way to shake them off. Finding none.
But wait. Of course there is a way out. Where the likes of these brutes could not follow. I turn east.
In the moment it took to decide this, I had paused long enough for a rough hand to rip at my shoulder, spinning me off balance. The tendons in my ankle strain to breaking point and only barely hold.
I scramble over a low wall, landing on rocks. The man who had just slid past now vaults the wall, inches behind.
“There is no way I can make it” I think. Not like this anyway. The body I inhabit is now so weak I barely have any coordination. I back away as he closes in, both our chests heaving. His eyes full of hatred. A string of curses pour from him as he threatens a multitude of cruel fates for me. More men appear behind him. The same threat in their eyes.
Across the rocks I edge. The men are not bothered of course. For at my back lays a great expanse. I am almost completely out of energy. The flight is at an end.
This will have to do.

Strong hands reach out for me as my eyes roll back in their sockets. With my mind I reach out far beyond this time and place. To a kindly old man in a beautiful garden. I call for my grandfather to aid me.
“Ra take me”

And all the assassin felt was the dampness on his outstretched fingers.

As liquid I run between the rocks and stones, dispersing and reforming. Before trickling into the soothing welcome of Lake Galilee.
The water comforts me though I struggle to keep my spiritual form intact. I drift in body and mind across the broad lake.
Is this to be the end of me? It surely cannot be. For I know there is much to be done. But my purpose is diluting and dissolving.
My thoughts reach out. Seeking my sister. My friends. Nothing returns to me. It was futile to try anyhow. My sister is lost to me. Friends long gone.
I am so, so tired.
I am alone.

On the rocky shore, the man who had nearly caught her stands in shock. His comrades search in vain for a trace of the woman. What will the pale man do to them if they come back empty handed? They shake the stunned man, who doesn’t react.
He is looking at the shapes of the clouds. The blue of the sky. The shimmer of light across the lake. He sees it as a blind man cured. It is marvellous and new. His broad knife clatters to the rocks at his feet. Nicoli is going home to Chorazin. To see his wife and son. It has been three years.

For an indeterminate time I drift in the silken lustre of the lake.

Lightly, the stroke of a downy feather, I am aware of an attraction at work. I am gently being pulled back toward the western shore. Something waits for me there.

There is an old saying “Left in the lap of the gods.”

For better or worse, I am truly there.


(from the novel “Last Goddess”-available on amazon)

Petrov

Serpukhav-15 Bunker, Russia September 26th 1983.

Shortly after midnight the unthinkable happened. The button that must never light up flashed red. The alarm that must never be heard cried out loud and shrill as a screaming child.
Lieutenant Colonel Stanislov Petrov stared non-believing at the blinking light. The room burst into a cacophony of voices.
“They’ve launched! The Americans have launched” “Call Moscow!” “ We must counter attack” “American pigs!”” My family!”” My wife! My children!”
Petrov tried to focus among the crescendo of panic and anger. Surely they would not release a single missile. It made no sense. Why would they risk a retaliatory strike? Perhaps there was a glitch in the system.
“Sir, our orders are clear!” A phone was thrust towards him
Trust your instincts.
Despite the pandemonium around him, Petrov heard the voice clearly. A woman’s voice, little more than a cool whisper.
Trust your instincts.
“We will wait” he announced calmly.
The soldier next to him lowered the offered phone in shock.
“But sir!”
“What does the computer analysis say?” asked Petrov.
The piercing alarm was silenced at last.
“Not static sir. The evaluation is…” The last of the panicked voices dwindled away to hear the answer.
“Well? The evaluation is what?”
“That it’s a real launch.”
Stay calm Stanislov, she cooed. He glanced around the busy room.
Was his conscience female?
Stay calm.
“Sir, we must report this!”
“For the moment we shall wait, is that understood?”
No one answered. Petrov scratched the scalp through his short hair. On a double shift he didn’t want, he felt twice his forty four years. As commander of the facility, it was his call as to what action to take, though the other men were adamant that there was only one course of response. Report immediately. Launch the counter attack.
But just one missile?
Petrov dropped into his chair. The red glow of the button taunting him from the display panel. But only one.
No.
Not only one.

A second satellite report triggered another button to flash red.
Then another.
And another.
And another.

Five.

“Sir. Computer analysis predicts the launch of five minute man missiles.”
Only five, said the woman.
True, thought Petrov. They would not send five when they could send a hundred and five. A thousand and five.
It is a mistake. There are no missiles.
“Sir, the phone.”
“I didn’t ask for the phone.”
“It’s Moscow sir. They have been automatically notified of a multiple launch. The phone was extended towards him until he reluctantly accepted it.
“Petrov. Are you there?” The voice sounded metallic and distant.
“This is Petrov.”
“Do we have inbound warheads Lieutenant Colonel? Are we being launched upon?”
Be brave. Tell him what you think, said the cool whisper.
“I doubt it sir” answered Petrov. “I believe the system is compromised. It is a mistake.”
“You believe? What does the equipment tell you?” rattled the distant voice.
“The equipment is indicating five incoming missiles.”
“But you don’t think so?”
“No sir, I doubt it very much.”
“Lieutenant Colonel, you realise that we have very little time to launch a counter strike. Your judgement as a soldier, and a scientist, must be correct.”
“Yes sir.”
“Then your recommendation is what exactly?”
Nothing.
“My recommendation is that we do nothing.”
Silence filled the phone line. Then Petrov heard muffled voices. His name mentioned. The murmur of discussion. The metallic voice returned.
“Nothing?”
Trust your instincts.
Only five missiles?
“Nothing” Petrov heard himself say.

At that point the world had less than two minutes to find out whether his instincts were right. If he was wrong, five cities would soon be reduced to ashes.
There was no greater agony than watching the seconds tick by. One man placed a hand on his shoulder. The only silent support he received. One slumped to the floor. One went to the lavatory to cry. One went to vomit. Others stared transfixed at the display screen forecasting their impending destruction or on phones talking to loved ones.
A minute passed.
Petrov gripped the arms of the chair, tapping a finger for each second. Prickling beads of sweat gathered on his high forehead.
Two minutes.
At three minutes he allowed his grip to relax. He wiped his brow.
Four minutes.
They were safe.
He was right.
Wherever she was, whoever she was, he silently thanked the calm voiced woman.
Further analysis showed the satellite had picked up a group of reflections on the cloud tops. Petrov never heard her voice again.
But they had averted nuclear war.

They were right.

(from the novel “Last Goddess”)

Paris

Paris

The elegant pale man wiped his mouth with a napkin and calmly pushed his chair back.
Sitting opposite him, the girl wondered where he was going. They’d just started their meal.
“Is everything O.K?” she asked.
Lindy hoped it was. Up until now, it had been like a dream. The way he picked her out of the crowd at the nightclub, with his intense eyes. How he’d flattered and wooed her. But respected her. They hadn’t even made love yet. A romance novel hero, with her the leading lady. A chance meeting she knew would change everything about her life. Give her a future. And erase her terrible past.
The way he listened to her, and looked at her without the obvious lust that all other men couldn’t conceal. He saw beyond the pretty face that had been more of a burden than a blessing.
But he wasn’t listening now. He was distracted. Perhaps a business matter. Lindy had no idea what he did, but money was not in short supply. She fingered the gold chain around her neck, one of several expensive gifts he’d given her. The dress she was wearing had cost more than the last car she owned. It was the beautiful salmon pink gown of a princess. The look on the waiter’s face told her it was something special.
“I need to take care of something” he said simply as he stood. “I’ll be gone for a couple of days.”
Lindy tried not to look worried, but she had no idea what she would do while he was gone. She had put herself totally in his hands. She had no money of her own and nowhere to stay in Paris. But her guardian angel put his hand in his pocket and extracted some reassurance.
On the table he placed a room key to the hotel they were dining at, and a thick roll of money.
“Stay out of trouble” he smiled, kissing her gently on her hand. Lindy was aching for his return before he had even left the table. She had the nice feeling, the warm feeling. They were going to have so much sex when he got back.
She placed the key and the money inside the designer hand bag he had also brought for her. A quick flick of the roll made her gasp. He had left her with over a hundred thousand Euros.
Lindy returned to her entrée. She would take her time over dinner, even though he was gone. The other people in the restaurant would look at her in her beautiful dress, with her beautiful things. They would admire her. Envy her. She would go up to her room-their room, and bathe in a rose petal strewn bath. And she would drink champagne looking at the lights of the city of love. Princess Lindy.
She sneaked a peek around. They were already looking at her. Staring.
But they didn’t look with envy. Their faces had strange expressions.
She suddenly felt itchy all over. She looked down and saw something surreal. Impossible.
She wasn’t wearing the beautiful pink dress.
Her outfit was brown sack cloth.
She couldn’t feel the gold chain against her skin.
Her hand reached for her sequinned purse.
Her fingers crinkled the brown paper bag that had replaced it.
She tore it open, fighting her rising hysteria.
It contained no key. No money.
It contained cockroaches.

from the novel “Last Goddess”

Then she burns

He loves the smell of burning meat. It fills his lungs alongside the choking smoke. The fire races through the building, climbing and consuming. As it reaches the top floor the screaming intensifies.
A little girl, no more than five or six, appears at a window. She yells down to him to help. He sips from his wine goblet. One by one the other voices fall silent beneath the crackling flames. The girl pleads. Then she begs.
Then she burns. She is the last one.
She jumps from the window in desperation, breaking a leg and an ankle on the cobblestones. Her nightdress is aflame. Her hair is quickly gone. Her skin bubbles and blisters as she screams in an agony beyond comprehension.
He finishes his wine. It is a nice accompaniment to the meat.
The wonderful burning meat.

He is considering eating some of the girl when he notices he is not the only onlooker. A tall, incredibly attractive woman is looking at the burnt girl from beneath a stair. Her hair is a similar colour to his. Her face is serene. She had enjoyed it as well.
Smoke among smoke he appeared at her side. She did not respond. Which he feared and liked. She had some power to her, but not like his. A demi-god. Offspring of one who is mortal and one who is not. There were many of them, the sexual appetites of some of his family were formidable.
She stared until the blackened girl smouldered.
Then she turned to him. Her beauty is such that any mortal would be putty in her hands.
“Who are you, who would do such a thing to a village?”
“I am Chaos” he replied with a smile. “And who are you that watches with such interest, and does nothing to save any of them?”
“I am Hell” she says in a honeyed whisper.
“I like that name”
She flashes a grin, revealing her yellowed teeth. They are filed to points.
Chaos and Hell.
A match made in heaven.

They leave together. There is no sport left here. She has a criticism that amuses him.
“They died too quickly”

They won’t next time.

(from the novel “Last Goddess”)

Belleren

The sisters faced each other, holding hands. A tremble ran between them.
“Calm down” demanded Isis. “If you cannot control yourself, you will not be able to control the outcome”
“I’m sorry” replied Nephthys humbly. It was not nerves that made her shake. It was excitement. She rarely saw her sister. Now, for the first time, she was learning projection spells with her. It was hard not to be overawed.
“Stop it!” snapped Isis. She was always so serious. Always. Nephthys wondered if she ever relaxed, ever had fun.
She wrinkled her nose in the way that even Ra could not resist.
The emerald eyes of Isis narrowed frighteningly. Nephthys felt the vicious slap of nothing but air across her face. Her cheekbones sang in pain. A rivulet of blood escaped her nose and ran to her mouth. She had never tasted it before.
The mistress of magic did not play childish games.
Nephthys felt sorry for her.
The slap came from the other side this time. Harder.
“Save your pity. And focus! There will be things you can do by touch as we all can. But not everything can be done directly. A time may well come when your life, and the lives of others, will rely on what you learn here. Will you behave like a child then? Or will you behave as the daughter of earth and sky?”
Nephthys nodded, working her jaw. Thankfully it was not broken.
Isis resumed the lesson.
“Behind me is Sandar-akh. Do you see it?”
Nephthys couldn’t help but see it. The towering pine was one of the biggest trees in the garden. Sky reaching and proud, it was the one that made her think of Osiris. Their beautiful brother. She tried to keep the thought from Isis, who looked at her suspiciously. Nephthys braced for a blow. It didn’t come.
“You know of Belleren?”
“Yes.” The unbreakable shield of Sekhmet was one of the two magical items created by Ptah for the warrior goddess. The other was the lance of Ra, Verinor. Belleren was an incredible item, able to change shape and size to defend the user. Light to carry but impenetrable, Ptah had imbued this piece of living metal with part of his own soul.
“The idea is simple. Imagine Belleren covering Sandar-akh, disguising it from view. And it is simple. It must be kept so. What is difficult to master is the transference of the energy. The maintaining of it. It is a glamour to deceive the eye, and if doubt enters it cannot work. Through my hands you will be able to feel the course I take. Ready?”
Their grip tightened momentarily before relaxing again.
Nephthys felt Isis concentrate her energy at Belleren. Into it. Her spirit swimming through the amazing shield, becoming part of it. Feeling the cool touch of the metal inside and around her. Then seeking out the mighty cypress of the sacred garden. Holding it in her spreading golden arms. Wooing it. Willing it to be still. Silent. The breath of the goddess upon it. Seeking its ills and soothing them. She felt the powerful drain on Isis. The price to be paid for casting the deception.
It was done.
She looked over her sister’s shoulder.
Sandar-akh was gone.
Isis looked at her shocked sister’s face. Her eyes were glittering green gems of challenge.
“Your turn”

(from the novel “Last Goddess”)

The Blue Truth

It cannot be real.

It must be an illusion.

I have been drawn here. With the help of the old woman and the flow of the river I have been carried far from lands I know. But not all the way to this hidden place. The sweet voice in my head guided me to the spot she resides. The massive hollowed eucalypt is her home. It stands guard above and around her.
No others dwell here but this pretty girl. This child.
She is fragile, smaller than me, but we are related. I know this regardless of the aura she gives off. Her eyes are shark grey around her enlarged pupils. She wears a simple light blue shift over her moon pale body. Her hair is dark and straight like mine. But mine stops before it reaches my feet. Hers must have started growing when the giant tree was a sapling. It extends across the ground in all directions, up the inside of the tree and across the roof.
It parts where I take a step.
I hesitate as I get close, for I sense danger. A wave of hair rises where I stop and forms an elegant stool. I take my seat.
And I notice her skin.
It is pallid, untouched by sunlight. Mine is as dark as Osiris in comparison.

And through it, underneath it, I see an illusion that I know is not.

It swims beneath her flesh. It is purple and grey, silver and gold, swirling through oily blue. It is sharp and angry. Smooth and soothing. It both heats and cools her. It converges and dissipates as it whispers and teases and torments and screams.
I recognise it and therefore also her.
She is myth made real.
She is purity.
Ma’at.
The Truth.

Her speaking voice is the one from my head.
“Hello little queen” she says. That which the gold man called me many seasons ago. She is the love that Ptah cannot hold.
Ma’at answers the questions I don’t need to say aloud. And the ones I don’t want to.
As she speaks, her tale plays out under the paper lantern of her skin.

“My mother was Wadjyt, a beautiful mortal woman. She caught the eye of your grandfather, who befriended her. In awe of what Ra was able to show her, she feigned an attraction for him to find out all she could of his secrets. When she still remained unsatisfied, she devised a plan to sleep with him with the sole purpose of learning all of his knowledge. He resisted her seduction for many years, and the longer she waited the more bitter she became. Practically insane, she finally succeeded but the lovemaking he had avoided so long was cold and spiteful. At the point of his climax she screamed to the heavens to know everything and to be everything. Ra, cheated and angry, granted her request. Into her flowed what she sought and beyond. But Wadjyt did not benefit from it. She gained only longevity, to suffer for longer. The rest entered via the twins conceived by Ra. The first born was given the physical everything. The most beautiful woman of existence. Desirable to men and women alike, her face and body never ravaged by age or blemish. But none could desire her more than she loves herself. Her selfishness has festered into an apathetic cruelty and continues to worsen. The beautiful façade hides her complete lack of morals. She is vile and false. When she encounters a kindred spirit their partnership will threaten everyone. Everything.
Her twin was given the answers. All of them.”
She held out her thin arms and the colours and movement beneath her flesh intensified.
“All that has been, and is, and will be. The truth of everything. It is so overwhelming, the touch of my skin by a mortal is fatal. Even one like you would be lucky to survive. It fills me. Then overfills me. It moves within me endlessly. Relentlessly. Overlapping. Day and night. Always being added to. Always more. With every second, more. Sometimes it pauses for a moment, but only a moment. But when it does, I see things clearly.
”I have seen you” says the little voice.

“I told my mother I saw you on that high ledge. It was in the future, but I didn’t know when. I could see your fate, but you could not. There was something you hadn’t realised, and your ignorance would cost your life. In that instant I also saw within you, and knew that you could not perish there. That we must meet.
My mother, as willing penance for her sin, offered to go to the place I described and wait for you there.”

I wondered how long poor Wadjet had sat there awaiting my wedding day.
“Six and a half thousand years” said the Truth.

Ma’at had spoken of Wadjyt in the past tense. To avoid giving me away under Seth’s torture, she had followed me over the edge.

Her penance is over. It has saved me.

The Blue Truth has saved me.

I look at the tiny girl and can see within the storm of the truth, the tortured child who carries an unbearable load. She reads my pity and her soft tears follow well worn paths down her cheeks.

I want to hug her. Kiss her. Thank her.

I get up and step forward a little. The stool drops back to the floor and a new one appears where I halt. I can feel the electricity of her. It rages and surges, liquid and dangerous. It threatens me. But her face is so terribly sad. I cannot come closer and she knows I wish to comfort her. It adds to her existing torment. At that moment, it is worse. I wonder if she has ever been held.

She does not say it but the colours and patterns in her flesh do.

No.
No one.
My heart doesn’t just break, it shatters.
I rise and go to her. I must.
Her eyes tell me even she did not foresee this.

As our skin makes contact it feels as though insects are running through my fingers. The sensation rushes through me like forest fire, an avalanche of rapid, vivid images. A maelstrom incinerates my mind. Faces and futures. Two fair haired girls. A freckle faced boy. A kind faced man with my sister’s eyes. A short middle aged woman, her forearms dripping blood. A gaunt man nailed to a cross. And others.Countless others. Thousands. Millions. A small red gem that sings my name. Buildings and vehicles of strange construction. Storms made by nature and storms made by man. Burning forests. Burning houses. Burning cities. Burning children. There are pleasant things, but the bad swamps and overwhelms them. Pain. Pollution. Disease. Famine. Murder. Insanity. War. Endless death. It tears through me, a clawing biting squealing hurricane. It lasts an instant. A half instant.
I am thrown away from her in a shockwave and my body slams into the ground, cracking bones and ripping flesh. I feel detached from the neck down, unable to control my limbs. Vomit gushes from me as my body purges violently. Attempting to stand, I crash back down face first. I do the same a second time. On the third attempt I get to unsteady feet.
It is beyond comprehension. An unliveable life. Every second is an agony for her. Every single second.
Her way out is the same one I have just faced. The only freedom is death.
She has seen herself free. She wears a dark crimson gown, almost black. Her face is at peace.
But she is not yet ready to don the dark gown.
She only wears the pale blue dress. Despite her endless tortured existence she lives to help.

I have never been so humbled. Felt so unworthy.

She is noble. Innocent. Terrifying.

I am the goddess Nephthys and I try to run from her despite broken limbs. Blindly I stumble away, the physical pain ignored. I fall. I run.
She calls me queen but I am a coward.

I run.
Leaving behind the lonely child.

The bravest girl on earth.

(excerpt from the novel „Last Goddess”-available on Amazon.)