It must have been my preoccupation with Lilith or my excitement at being able to free so many of father’s prisoners after Lilith left. I’ll happily blame what happened next on either of those things. Because what I did today was stupid, even for me. I’d just finished telling the party that I would lead them through the rest of my father’s tower when we walked into a hallway, the crowd of twenty or so prisoners following behind me. My steps echoed on the stone wall with a confidence that was altogether unlike me, even though we hadn’t managed to find Lady Tul among the other prisoners.
Lilith revealed that father had taken Lady Tul with him to the heavens, but we’d still managed to free Lord Tul. That meant there was only one member of my family left to rescue.
I was still hurting from our battle with Lilith and even though I’d taken the time to heal myself, I wasn’t completely okay.
Which is why I walked right into one of father’s traps and wasn’t nearly quick enough to dodge out of it as the fake wall came crashing toward me. I remember white hot pain slicing through my body, my insides being squashed as a hunk of stone slammed me into the wall and crushed the life out of me. Then, there was sweetness of nothing, of black, of no longer feeling pain even though pain should have been there, of no longer having to worry about what everyone was thinking of me or who hated me most. There was just a release from it all.
The next moment, strong arms cradled me as Pelor’s warm light filled me and I took a deep breath into sore lungs. My eyes fluttered open, taking in a pair of concerned green ones: Teo. I could feel myself pressed against his chest, dizzy from his nearness and the fact that I had just passed out.
Still foggy from being crushed, I couldn’t stop the words flowing from my mouth.
“You have the most beautiful eyes,” I said.
I mean, it’s true. No one has kinder eyes. It’s one of the first things I’d thought when he found me, one of the reasons I decided to trust him even though my instincts told me to run. But to say it to him out loud...well, I must have hit my head. He seemed to think so too, because he just shook his with a smile and lifted me up.
I waited for my feet touched the ground, for when his warmth would no longer be mine, but it never came, Worry shone in his eyes as he held me close to him and walked onwards, pressing me near him like I was something precious. And for a brief moment, I closed my eyes and let myself believe it was true.
How can we be back in Hell, how can I have already faced some of my worst fears and have someone fallen into the sweetest of dreams?
All too soon, my time for dreaming drew to a close. As we descended the top of father’s tower, we came across a strange looking machine, sitting bathed in weak moonlight. It was sharpened to a point and had a slot for several different stones which were still sitting in their holders. In fact, this was the same machine Ari had described to us a few short days ago that she encounter on her journey through father’s domain.
This was the machine that sent my father into Heaven, the one that we inadvertently helped father power by gathering the stones up for him.
One of the things we have been looking for.
As we walked into the top of the tower to further examine this monstrous creation that had caused the new devilish star to be born in our world, yet another horrifying thing happened since father is full of tricks after all. A few of the prisoner walked in behind us, since we promised them their freedom...and promptly exploded into goop.
I turned around, splatter from what used to be living, breathing, talking people now on my dress and looked into the terrified faces of the remaining prisoners. One of them explained a horrible rumor that they’d heard...a rumor that was now confirmed to be true. Clones couldn’t leave the tower or they would be immediately killed. The only problem was...we didn’t know which were clones. Was that woman and her child one? Maybe the man who helped catch Butter when she tripped?
Or perhaps, I thought as my heart sank, perhaps the man we had come all the way down here to rescue...perhaps we didn’t have Teo’s father at all but something false, something my father created to torment us further.
I held my breath as Lord Tul’s foot crossed the threshold, waiting for the moment when his boot would hit the floor and all would be revealed…
And offered a prayer of gratitude up to Pelor when he wasn't instantly killed. We'd found the real one. Now just to find Teo's mother. Then my work will finally be done.
May Pelor Be With You,