The ocean churns and crashes against the black crags of Shayd. The fortress-like continent of darkness towers above the wild waters, its steep sides rising toward the immortal storm clouds above. The smooth walls shimmer softly in the feeble light as if they are challenging everyone in view to attempt the deadly climb. Scattered about the rocky shoreline are the splintered bones of many who took up the challenge and failed. An occasional bolt of lightning illuminates the shore, revealing jagged edges and shadowy creatures. They stare with eyes that are slits of primeval hunger while they guard their precious territory. The creatures scamper into their narrow dens when a loud splash erupts above the storm’s bellowing screams, a tell-tale sign that something large and hungry has left to hunt the ocean depths.
“Why did he wish to meet here?” asks a majestic elven woman in leather armor. Her chocolate-colored hair whips in the wind as she stands upon a small circle of calm water. She is openly annoyed and uncomfortable, her golden eyes never straying from the dark landscape before her.
“I should apologize, dear Uli, because I chose this location,” replies another woman, her red hair untouched by the wind. Like the elven goddess, this woman is standing upon a circle of ocean that resists the urge to churn and froth. She straightens her white satin gown, which grows sleeves that flair at the cuffs.
“The ambiance isn’t that bad. It reminds me of the early days before we finished creating everything,” a third woman declares as she floats above her companions. The rotund, black-skinned woman with silver hair and rainbow eyes flashes a friendly smile at Uli. “You remember those days, you old maid. It was a chaotic, but fun time to be a deity. True freedom to create whatever your mind could conjure. It’s a shame you weren’t around back then, Zaria. I’m sure you would have made some amazing additions to Windemere.”
“Thank you, Cessia. It is an honor to hear such praise from an elder god,” Zaria says, bowing her head to the luck goddess.
Uli clears her throat, which causes the wind to briefly settle. “May I ask why you chose to meet here, Zaria? Given your history with . . . him, you are the last one I would expect to venture this close to Shayd.”
“I have come to terms with that event. Thank you for your concern and kindness,” the goddess of purity responds, her hands briefly rubbing her stomach. “I chose here because the prophecy is moving quicker than it ever has. The three of us have devotees involved in Gabriel’s plans and this is where their path will inevitably lead. So, I thought it appropriate that we meet and discuss our progress within the shadow of the enemy.”
“I think dear Zaria wants to tease our old foe,” Cessia claims, her tapestry-like dress changing from a swirl of yellows and greens to a picture of a sunlit bay. She slowly lands on the crest of a wave that freezes in place.
“That is very dangerous and unbecoming of you,” Uli states, failing to stop the smile of approval on her face. The elven goddess shivers when a cold wind dances off the shoreline and slices through her circle of serenity.
Zaria senses the breeze and waves her hand to send it swirling into the distant clouds. “I think we have earned someone’s attention.”
“Probably that cowering chaos wench,” the elven goddess says with disgust in her voice. “I do not understand why Ram lets her stay in exile. We all sense when she sneaks out of Shayd, so we can bring her back for punishment without conflict.”
“You mean bring her back for a trial. Yola Biggs fled before she could be judged and fell into the lies of that man,” Zaria calmly argues, a few glistening tears rolling down her cheek and into the ocean. A sphere of light erupts beneath the surface, revealing large creatures of the deep that have risen to observe the goddesses. “I pity that poor woman.”
“Do not pity the fool, Zaria. She willingly ran to our greatest enemy, so she deserves every lie that she swallows,” Uli contends, her body glowing with a simmering aura of power. Her hand drops to the hilt of a purple-bladed longsword, the goddess preparing to draw her weapon at the slightest provocation.
“Be careful, dear Uli. It may be centuries since I held a blade, but my skills have never faded,” the red-headed goddess promises. She holds her hand to the sky and an ivory rapier materializes in her hand.
“You two should hug,” Cessia suggests with a laugh. The luck goddess spins on her toes and creates a strong net of wind that forcefully pushes the two goddesses together. Zaria winces as the angular chin of Uli strikes her delicate nose and Uli grunts as Zaria’s knee collides with her shin.
“Let us go, Cessia. We promise to put our weapons away and stop threatening each other,” Uli swears, struggling to break free of the elder goddess’s spell. “It was only some friendly bickering. You know Zaria and I are good friends.”
Zaria grips Uli by the wrists to stop the warrior goddess from struggling. “What can we do to appease you, elder goddess?”
Cessia is about to answer when a melodic laugh cuts through her spell and the freed goddesses plunge into the ocean. They swiftly rise out of the water, their clothes and hair showing no sign of ever being wet. All three goddesses turn their attention to the black-haired man sitting atop an ebony unicorn. He fluidly dismounts from the eerie steed, the god’s black and red cape leaving a magical distortion as it waves through the air. This imposing being takes his time taking off his leather gloves, letting the goddesses regain their composure. Like the goddesses, he stands on a patch of still ocean, but the water is gently bubbling beneath his booted feet. He smirks at the palpable waves of hate that flow off Zaria and Uli while they patiently wait for him to speak.