That night as Dionysus prepared to leave, both Charlotte and Jeffrey had insisted he stay. Though, the man was very adamant that he keep moving. Not before Charlotte demanded he have a serious conversation with her. The two sat on the front porch, looking into the dark night of Fortitude. “What is it?” Dionysus asked. “You’re mad.”
“I’m not mad,” Charlotte said, clasping her hands together. “I’m upset that my daughter is in so much pain but I’m not mad. Not at you anyway.”
“You think I can do something about this,” Dionysus replied calmly. “I can’t save your daughter. I also can’t tell you the truth about what’s happening to her.”
“Why not?” Charlotte exhaled loudly, letting out all of the weight that burdened her with that one breath. When she inhaled, it would all return and she’d be back where she started- a big bundle of nerves. “It better be a good reason, because it’s my daughter we’re talking about. You know I’ll do anything.”
“That’s exactly why,” Dionysus said solemnly. He looked away from the grief stricken mother and up into the moon that hung overhead. “You’re her mother. You’re going to try your hardest to stop the inevitable. You’re going to do something stupid and get hurt, or hurt the rest of your family who needs you.”
Charlotte shut her eyes tightly. “Hurting myself is worth it for my daughter’s sake. Jeff would understand.”
“You might anger the wrong person and hurt other people,” Dionysus said. “Like I did. I’m still paying the price for it. You can’t break a god’s prophecy, no matter how hard you try. Graciela has been imprinted by the goddess Elora and there’s nothing you or anyone else can do about it.”
“What happened to Timothy Gray?” Charlotte demanded. “When he was imprinted, what was his fate? Did he die? Did the darkness devour his soul?”
Dionysus knew there would be no use hiding this from Charlotte, but he also knew he couldn’t stop her from doing something ridiculous. It was no use, she couldn’t stop Elora’s will. All who had tried before her suffered- some still suffering. “When the darkness gets too powerful, a vessel is chosen to absorb the dark energy inside of themselves and transport it back to the under realm where it’s supposed to reside. Though given the amount of energy needed for the task, the vessel is torn apart when the darkness leaves their body and they die in the under realm where their soul cannot escape.” Dionysus reached out and grabbed hold of Charlotte’s hand, willing her to look at him.
“My daughter is going to die?” She asked, trying to keep the tears from biting at the corner of her eyes. “What was all that nonsense about Graciela finding her light to dispel the darkness? Was that false hope for her?”
“Not much hope,” He mumbled, squeezing her hand. “She didn’t believe me. Graciela is just like you, strong minded as hell. She’s not happy about everything and I can’t blame the girl.” He paused for a moment. “I want more than anything for her not to have to shoulder this burden. If I could trade places with her, I would. Charlotte, I’m sorry.”
“No,” Charlotte cried out desperately. “I refuse to believe any of this. I’ve never even heard of this Elora! I’m supposed to just believe you’ve been alive since the time of my ancestors and somehow know all about gods and goddesses and legends and…” She rambled on as the tears fell from her eyes. She couldn’t hold in the waterfall of emotions. She knew in the bottom of her heart that Dionysus would not lie to her after all they had been through. But she also knew that she couldn’t just accept that her daughter would be torn apart by darkness. There had to be something she could do.
“I do think you should talk to the Sikes. I don’t know how Lapis fared dealing with the voice that spoke to him, what the voice said, or what it had wanted. I had always thought it had to do with the fact that Lapis was a seer, someone who can see events of the future before they happen. But if Graciela can hear it, I’m not quite sure what it means.” Dionysus stood up and dusted his pants off. “I hate to tell you bad news and just leave like this but I can’t stay.”
Charlotte reached out for his arm and pulled him back towards her. “You’re not dropping that on us and leaving. You’re staying until we at least find out more about Lapis. I respect that you can’t tell us anymore but, Dio, we need you. Please.” He turned to face her and she stood up as well. “I’ll prepare the guest room.” Dionysus let out a sigh but he knew he couldn’t abandon his best friend in her time of need.
As the darkness fell over Fortitude, everyone was asleep. All but Graciela who had noticed the absence of all light from her window. The street lights that were usually bright seemed to be overshadowed by a deep fog. Creeping up to peer out of it, she let out a small whimper.
“What an ugly forecast, don’t you think? Wouldn’t you much prefer a lighter atmosphere?”
“Of course I would,” Graciela replied, reaching up to touch her heart. “What’s happening out there? The lights are on but you still can’t see a thing out there.” Squinting, Graciela could barely make out the outline of the tree that sat outside the front of the house.
“Terrifying, isn’t it? The storm is coming through your world again. The darkness is gaining power and will try to overthrow the light. ”
The words washed over her. The storm was coming through her world again. This was what had happened in legend, when Fortitude was bathed in only darkness. Dionysus’ story seemed very unlikely but looking into the darkness of the night, Graciela wasn’t so sure anymore. “I’m wrapped up in this whole mess, aren’t I?” Graciela recalled the screams just the other night begging her for help. “What’s my role here?”
“That’s up to you to decide, little lamb. I do so look forward to seeing what you have in store for us. It’ll be fun to watch.”
Graciela didn’t bother responding. This was a constant battle between the two of them. Graciela would express her frustrations and the voice would simply respond in as vague a manner as possible. Her stomach churned with anticipation of what was to come. She didn’t know what was going to happen but she knew in her heart that everything was about to change. Dionysus’ visit was just the catalyst. She crawled into bed and stared up at the ceiling. On a night like tonight, she would not dare let the darkness creep up on her as she slept. So, she remained awake with her mind racing.
Everly tapped her fingers against the wooden floor of Angel’s so called dungeon. There was a bed, an all-in-one shower, a small table to have meals, and an old painting of a ship at sea hanging against the wall. She didn’t exactly feel like much of a prisoner. Everly had been stripped of all possessions except for the clothes on her person and the large hoop earrings that had tore at her earlobe when she was carried away by a blue alien man. Reaching up to make sure they were still intact Everly let out a sigh of relief. Similar to the key chain she had enchanted years ago to keep an eye on Angel, her earrings were sending a signal to her own contact of not only Everly’s current whereabouts but a live feed of whatever she had seen. That part wasn’t merely magic, but as Angel had said herself- nanotechnology.
Angel had been wrong in assuming she was a woman who had known everything there was to know about a world, or multiple worlds. Everly had tried to explain to Angel all those years ago that messing with alternate planets, worlds, dimensions, whatever you wanted to call them, was dangerous. For, she too was from another dimension. One her parents had needed to escape because of massive rifts that had tore their world to shreds. It had one day ceased to exist, and Everly was the only remaining piece to show for it.
Footsteps alerted Everly of a presence, but it wasn’t Angel who she had expected to see. A woman with dark black lips and a blonde ponytail hung onto the bars of the cell. “You’re the new girl, aren’t you? Way too pretty and fragile. You’ll get devoured alive in our line of work.”
“Roxana,” Everly replied. She had recognized the girl from the key chain she had given Angel when they were younger. “Warrior Princess. What is someone like you doing working with Angel?”
“I got bored,” The girl said, rolling her eyes. “Don’t worry about my intentions. All you need to really care about is enchanting something for me. Then, I’ll let you go to a nice little island away from everyone and everything.”
“No,” Everly said. She shook her head ferociously. “I’m not enchanting anything. You can keep me locked away here forever. You can even kill me. I don’t care, but I’m not helping you guys do anything that’s going to cause even more rifts in the dimension. It’s like a huge game with you and Damian. Which one of you guys can pull the world apart faster.”
“What’s a little game of cat and mouse to keep us busy?” Roxana asked, crossing her arms over her chest. “Eventually you’ll see that what we’re doing is the right thing. Wouldn’t it be so wonderful to be able to travel from one dimension to another safely, with no consequence? Imagine a world where all of our dimensions are connected with something as accessible as a bridge to cross.”
“You can’t do that,” Everly replied, suddenly standing up herself. “Don’t you see by forcibly tearing the dimension open you’re not creating pathways but holes that will make them crumble? You need to stop.”
Roxana placed her thumb on her chin as if she was thinking about Everly’s words. “You seem to know a lot about dimensions. Weird, for a mage to be so informed. I thought you were just someone Angel knew in Moonlight Falls.” Roxana began to chuckle. “I can smell the lies emanating from your pathetic body. If you were in my homeland we’ve had already skinned you alive. But alas, I’m not the one in charge.”
“You should have stuck to being in your homeland then,” Everly said. “Where you’d be in charge. You’re a princess right? You’re taking orders from someone like Angel. She’s ruthless sure, but you could probably snap her like a twig. She’s all smoke and mirrors.”
“I don’t need to snap Angel in half.” Roxana shook her head. “You’ll soon learn that making allies is a good thing. Turning against people who can help you is a bad idea. So, I’ll offer you once more to enchant something for me and I’ll let you go without a single scratch to a place where Angel can’t find you.”
Everly reached up to her earring, tugging at it absentmindedly. At least, she had hoped it looked like that. She was making sure they were capturing the moment before her with as much clarity as possible. Roxana had been offering a trade of her own free will not as a member of the guardians, but as herself. The members of the guardians did believe they could operate under Angel’s nose without her noticing, and that was a huge discovery. Perhaps the guardians weren’t as strong as they had presented themselves. There was at least one weak link in the chain. “What do you want to be enchanted?”
Roxana tugged at a an animal tooth that hung loosely on a brown leather strap around her neck. “I need to make sure this never breaks or gets lost.” She passed it to Everly through the bars of the cell. “No funny business, I know the spell you need to recite, I just don’t have the powers to so it myself.” The green haired girl squeezed the tooth in her hands and listened to Roxana’s spell. It was a harmless barrier spell that confirmed for Everly that this wasn’t something that could give Angel the upper hand. Whatever this tooth represented to Roxana, was important enough that she had never wanted to see it disappear. Everly recited the spell and handed the tooth back to the warrior princess who let out a sigh of relief. “Thank you,” She mumbled, holding it close to her heart.