After making the call, he went into the room, unsurprised to find the windows closed and the lights dimmed. Even so, he could see faint characters running up and down the walls, creating a mesmerising pattern that danced across one’s mind and consciousness. Ignoring it, he found Sukina sleeping peacefully in one corner, curled up in Naoko’s arms. She was sleeping peacefully, like a daughter safe in the knowledge that she is loved and who is being held by a mother. Her face was peaceful as she slept on her sister’s chest, holding Naoko’s right hand with both hands between her breasts, like she was cradling a loved doll. It was almost as though the three hands were intertwined in prayer.
Naoko’s face, forever open to her siblings, told a different story. She was exhausted, dragged through hell and back. He had seen her only once this exhausted; long ago when they were children and they had found a stray kitten. The kitten was deathly ill and they had tried everything they could to bring it back, but the girls had not been skillful enough then. Naoko had watched Sukina try all her might, and finally she lent her strength to her sister. He had warned them, but the girls were never ones to listen anyway. They had laboured through the night, and when morning came, the kitten was sleeping peacefully, though his illness was not gone. The girls had learnt enough to grant him a peaceful night, and that morning, he had found his sisters in much the same way they were now.
Just like then, he shook Naoko awake and carried Sukina in his arms. Putting Naoko’s hand on his shoulder, he guided her out of the room and into her bed, watching her more or less collapse onto the bed, curl, and sleep. Sukina did very much the same thing, though she had the sense to pull the covers over herself before she turned and went back to sleep. He made sure to switch off all the alarm clocks and closed the blinds so that Sukina could sleep in peace. Then he went into Naoko’s (perpetually) messy room, gingerly walked around the books on the floor with the papers and did the same. Only for his sister, he turned off her mobile phone as well. She had a busy social life that could wait right now.
Once that was done, he went into the kitchen and started rummaging around. There was a packet of herbs labeled “Gods Comfort food” in which he suspected were chocolates. Upon reading the instructions, he took out three large mugs, a glass kettle, and a spoon. He opened the packet, poured the powdered contents into the kettle, and added some hot water. Then he put it on the stove to boil, reading the instructions carefully. After letting it boil for about two minutes and inhaling the pungent fragrance, he took it off the stove. Carefully, he measured three equal portions to the mugs, then he put it on a tray and carried it to the room Kivuta and Assiel was keeping watch over Celeste, though dozing was more the appropriate word.
He set the mugs down on one side and opened the windows again, letting the breeze in and the darkness out. The smell seemed to have brought a change in the atmosphere of the room, and it was not as tense nor dark as before. There was almost a sense of relief and just as he was about to leave the room, a gust of wind came in through the open windows. The wind materialized into a woman with long blond hair and sun-kissed skin, dressed in a garment of flowers. On her head though, was the Diadem of the Underworld, meaning that the woman was Persephone, the mother of Celeste. She took in at once the sleeping people, and said nothing, going instead to her daughter’s side and sitting on the floor by the bedside, her hand gently stroking her daughter’s hair as she murmured softly. He bowed deeply to her and left her in the room with her daughter. Persephone was truly beautiful, but unless she made her mind to do so, she often did not bother. The one who took notice of her often was her husband, and the relations between them now was rather warm, though nothing like what a couple who had been married a few hundred years should have been.
He left them alone, trusting that Dementer would be along soon.
They stood in a field. Around them, several rocks were arranged in a seemingly random order, but two of the more larger rocks had been marked with chalk. There was just a simple character on them with one unmistakable meaning to those who understood it. The clouds gathered overhead for a truly large storm; it was going to be a long, rainy day with flashes of thunder. Working out in the open, the trio seemed not to care. They were pressed for time, and it was only a few minutes before dawn arrived. They needed to be ready when it did.
Without a word, they suddenly stood between the stones, so that it formed a rough pentagram. A crystal stood in the center; a small one hardly large enough to fit the palm of a child. This was the focus though, and they turned towards it, chanting, keeping the destination they had in mind. The ley powers shifted; the whisper of dawn crept over the land. The chanting reached a crescendo, and then with a crack of thunder, a lightning bolt struck the crystal and the plain was filled with power, drawing upon the magic cast by the trio and the stones. There was a sharp crack sound, and all of a sudden, in the place of a crystal was a glowing door. One of the trio looked at the eldest in the group.
“Show off,” and then took off to the open door. The one addressed grinned and followed, as did the second, sighing ruefully.
The place was in chaos. Women dressed in black gowns were running everywhere, with small figures in white sometimes interspersing the chaos. As they made their way through the chaos, they came to a large building built into the side of the cliff. There was no one there, but as they moved among them, they could hear words and fragments of rushed conversations and alarm. Something had scared these women out of their wits, and it was unnerving, for the trio had never seen the women but in complete and utter control of themselves. They made their way quickly to the entrance of the building, where a woman in a black gown and a white carnation in her hair answered their bell ringing.
“We’re here to see the Lady Celeste. We are the Foxholes,” he introduced himself. His two companions followed him quietly, adjusting their bags once in a while.
“Lady Celeste has been wounded and is seeking treatment elsewhere. You may wish to check with the Lady Karma for your needs,” the woman turned away.
“Is the Miakan in then? Or her Rikan?”
Now she favoured him with a cold stare. Her tone was cold as she spoke, clearly meaning that she had no time to deal with such foolishness. “The Lady has no time to listen to musicians now.” She turned away from them, and as she did, they caught a tattoo on her back; a cypress tree in miniature, just at the base of her neck. They looked at each other, understanding almost immediately. This was no longer a safe haven. They looked towards the youngest of them, and she nodded. As the two older ones turned to leave, she made her way deeper inside, towards the Outer Sanctum, the furtherest one could reach if one was not a Priestess. Here the atmosphere was more subdued; the Outer Sanctum was more or less an accurate replica of countless other temples of Celeste, but this one was simply for the random visitor brought once in a blue moon to this private sanctuary.
As she thought, some ravens and doves were kept by the side of the altar, to be released as an offering to the Greater Gods above, requesting for their punishments to be lightened. Most often sent up white doves, but there were a number that preferred to send up Odin’s ravens in hopes for a more equal sentence; these were the ones who often had their punishments removed for they were the innocent ones. In her case though, Odin was a good friend, and a just one. She could not afford to waste time here for people who could not answer her, and neither could they afford to watch the Temple of Celeste fall apart.
She lit an incense stick and said a prayer. Even if the Goddess was injured, Life went on, and she was well aware that Celeste’s avatars, her Daughters who had been invested with a bit of her powers, were walking in the Worlds with the creatures called Shinigamis at their sides to help them in their work, though for the next few days there would be less souls gathered. They were to be activated if anything happened to the Lady, and she knew that they been activated, for the daughter of Celeste that had turned them away so coldly earlier was wearing the uniform of that elite unit.
Once the incense had been lit, she walked around the altar to the birds sleeping in the holes in the wall, and selected a grey pigeon. This one cooed softly as she lifted it from it’s resting place, but she tucked it carefully in her bag and took it outside. None of the Priestesses even gave her a second glance, which was a good thing. Once outside, she went over to where her siblings waited, and they tied a string around the neck of the dove. It was a simple blue string made of satin. Those who received it, would know what it meant immediately. To send a message, they would have to hold the bird tightly in their arms for one minute, with the image or name of the receiver firmly in their minds. Once the minute was up, they could release the bird who would be guided to look for the said person.
Their message was simple enough, and she released the bird. Once it was on its way, they left the temple and went back to the small village and the portal they came from.
It was late at night when the dove came into the room of the sleeping Goddess. She opened her eyes as soon as it appeared, her hand reaching out a finger to allow the bird to perch on her. She took a close look at the bird’s string tied around its neck, and then put the bird gently on the stand next to her bed that she kept for such emergencies. Swinging her feet off her bed, she got out and pulled an apron on, unveiling the mirror on one side of the room. It was a large brass-backed mirror carved with images of nature, dryads, nymphs and druids, just to name a few. She waved her hands in front of the mirror, whispering a name, and it blurred from her reflection to a view of something else.
The pale young woman sleeping in the large white bed awoke. Her large violet eyes opened as a bird chittered impossibly outside the penthouse and her room. Around her, everyone was asleep, including the Priest. She sat up, careful not to wake the woman kneeling by her bedside and the woman in the chair. Ignoring the fact that she was all but naked, she walked to the window and climbed on window’s edge. Standing up, she took a deep breath and stood naked, even as the morning sun’s ray crossed the horizon and illuminated everything. The warm rays touched her toes, then her legs, then her lower body… all the way till she was bathing in the sun.
Then she leant forward and released her hold on the window’s frame.
She woke up to find a dark winged goddess naked with only her long jet-black hair covering her standing at the foot of her bed. Her voice was chilling as she spoke.
“The Hunt is on, my Daughter,” it sounded like she was speaking from inside her thoughts and not her lips. “We have not much time,” she turned and left, obviously expecting to be followed.