Cessia sighs, placing a hand on Gabriel’s shoulder and looking at the other goddesses with motherly amusement. “Please forgive them. Zaria and Uli find it difficult to admit what I’m about to say. We are concerned about you, Lord Gabriel. This prophecy is very important to you and you have spent your entire godhood struggling to make it come to pass. All of the gods can see that you have become more passionate about this over the centuries. At times, you appear to be desperate for support and understanding. So, we are concerned that you won’t be able to handle another failure. After all, madness has infected every destiny god that has come before you and chaos reigns during such times.”
“I am not as weak as my predecessors,” Gabriel says. He tries to maintain his mask of arrogant pride, but Cessia can see a hint of red in his cheeks.
“It is not weakness that causes the fall of destiny gods, but the stress of playing both sides while remaining neutral,” Uli explains, relishing the chance to speak to Gabriel as his superior. “Eventually, a destiny god will forge a prophecy that does not go the way he wanted and he will snap. It is an erosion of sanity that has taken all of your kind at some point. To be fair, you are the only god of destiny who has ascended from the mortal coil. It seems to have given you an insight that your predecessors were lacking. Yet, that does not mean you are immune to their downfall and this specific prophecy could be the anchor bond to your ankles.”
“I am both surprised and . . . pleased by your concern,” Gabriel admits, his voice a mixture of choking sincerity and mild laughter. “I will make sure to emotionally distance myself from the coming events and avoid falling from sanity. We all know that my fall would be as devastating as the Great Cataclysm if not more so. I am sure Windemere will never be the same even if it is left standing.”
“Your assurance is not enough. We want this to be the last time,” Zaria demands, fixing her dress and wiping the remaining tears from her face. “This destiny ends with this attempt, so we ask that you be very careful with the champions. If these children fall then there will be no others and our enemy will be left in peace.”
You ask for the impossible!” Gabriel exclaims, his terrifying anger rising. “If these champions fail then I must try again. Otherwise, our enemy will remain in the shadows and we will never know peace. I know you have many sleepless nights because he still exists, Zaria. How can you ask me to dispel this destiny because one set of mortals were not up to the task?”
“It has been hundreds of sets over the centuries,” Uli emphatically argues. She rubs at a grotesque scar that appears on her neck until the magical wound disappears. “Many have died while others never even found the path. Yet, in all this time, our enemy has remained in containment. If these children fail then I say we stop antagonizing our nightmare. If we leave him alone then he will do the same to us.”
Cessia runs her hands through her cloud of silver and dull yellow hair. “I must agree with the other goddesses. Your game has always contained the risk of our enemy breaking free of his cell and returning to Windemere’s memory. Over the centuries, you have become more and more obsessed with his destruction. We fear that you may push too far and cause the disaster that you are fighting so hard to prevent.”
“Baron Kernaghan must be destroyed!” Gabriel shouts. His voice ripples through the air, carrying a touch of raw aura. The power hits a nearby reef, which shudders and shifts until it collapses into the roiling ocean.
“Calm down, Gabriel,” Zaria sternly demands. She flashes a knowing smile at the angry god, who eyes her suspiciously. “We have already put our own plan into action to increase your chance at victory.”
“You have my interest, but not my thanks. Please explain,” he politely requests, his face still twisted with rage.
“We have spoken with Ram and convinced him that it’s in everyone’s best interest to assist. They promise assistance upon your request, so none of the gods will involve themselves without your invitation,” Cessia explains, watching a smile grow across Gabriel’s face. “The part that you won’t like is that you must acknowledge the opinions and criticism of all deities that you call upon. I assure you that this doesn’t mean you have to obey every statement because you are still the God of Destiny. All final decisions are to be made by you as long as you grant an audience. If you refuse to listen then all assistance will be forcefully revoked, including our help. This means you have to play nice with everyone, Tri-God.”
“I have spent centuries demanding assistance from the others,” Gabriel says in genuine awe. “You ladies must tell me how you convinced that stubborn horse to change his position.”
Cessia and Uli look at Zaria, who has turned her attention to Shayd. She can feel a sinister presence watching her, making her feel naked and helpless under its cold gaze. A thin layer of ice forms around the deities and a snowy breeze spirals down from the threatening clouds. The others watch as Zaria swiftly fades away, a soul-crushing fear forcing her to flee to the safety of Ambervale. Within seconds, the Goddess of Purity has vanished and the chill in the air has disappeared. Uli gives a quick nod to Cessia and Gabriel before becoming a whirlwind of leaves and racing across the ocean to comfort her friend.
“Zaria was not strong enough to come here,” Gabriel states with a tired sigh.