“Melissa” the scream that tore through my mother and father was gut wrenching. In front of our eyes Melissa started transforming. Her body slowly contorted and the bone crushing noise was nerve-wracking. Dad held on to my mom as she ran towards Melissa. The creature in front of us was not Melissa anymore. It had transformed into a hideous abomination. Angel stood by my side supporting me. If not for her I would have ran towards the black-one who stood in place of Melissa. The black-one slowly looked around the room and its eyes fell on me. It started staring at me and Angel, and suddenly screamed. The scream was piercing and the glass panes in the room shattered spraying in. Everyone tried to take cover and in that confusion, Melissa vanished. Father and I ran out but we couldn’t see her anywhere. We walked in and helped mother to her room. Angel and grandmother stayed with her. Grandpa ensured every guest had left and asked all members of guardian council to stay back. Once the ladies were settled, all the guardians gathered in the war room on the last floor of the palace. As father and I entered the room, all the guardians stood up ready in combat gear waiting for orders.
“We have been battling with the black-ones’ for centuries and this time I wish to put an end to it. They not only attacked Empyrean, but my family using Melissa as bait. This needs to stop now.” Announced Grandpa and with every word his octave increased and his voice thundered with rage. Father formed two groups and sent them on mission to secure to Empyrean borders. We three were joined immediately by Uriel with Judith dragged along by his militia.
“Where is my daughter?” asked my father in calm voice, but all of could feel his anger hidden behind his gentle voice.
Judith remained silent, not even bothering to look at him. After waiting for few minutes, my father stepped closer and lifted her chin and repeated the question looking into her eyes. Judith laughing sinisterly and the next second started crying. She ran towards me and held the lapels of my shirt and said “Please save me. I didn’t do anything. Melissa was like that always. She has promised me nothing will ever happen to you if I did everything she asked. I only did what she asked. You are safe. Let me protect you from her and all. Nobody wants you the way I do. Come let’s go from here. It is not safe here anymore. This place will burn soon. Yes it will burn with the fires of hell.”
“What are you talking about Judith?” I asked trying to keep my anger and fear in check.
“Raphael, he is coming for her. He wants her alive and Melissa is helping him. You do not know but she is not your sister. She…” rambled Judith her fear mounting with every second.
“Not my sister. What are you talking about?” I asked pushing her away from me.
“Only we can answer that” Said Grandma from the entrance to the room.
Uriel instructed his men to take Judith away from the room, but the minute they approached Judith, she started screaming and tried attacking them. Seeing her distress Angel approached her cautiously. “Judith, you said you wanted to save Ralf, can I help you in saving him.” Asked Angel walking towards Judith ensuring she didn’t spook her.
“Yes, I need to save him from you and Melissa. Because of you both, he will die. You should not be near him.” Said Judith looking from me to Angel
“Can you tell me how can we save him? Maybe we can talk in that room so that no one can listen to us. Ok?” said Angel
“Will you help me save him?” asked Judith taking a step towards Angel
“Yes, I promise to save him.”
“You must swear in the name of goddess Athena.” Said Judith
“Yes, I promise in the name of goddess Athena. Now come let’s go.” Saying Angel took Judith’s hand and took her to the room opposite the one we were in. She returned shortly after sometime to find all of us waiting for her. Uriel had the door closed before grandma narrated the events that took place twenty decades ago.
“It is about the time when Ralf was away on his mission to join the guardian council. Cearul and Conall were battling furies on the eastern border. Evelyn was taking care of the centaurs that had been attacked by furies. We had set up camp just outside the Empyrean walls for all those seeking refuge. She came across a baby, not angel nor centaur, outside her marquee one night. It was a sickly child, starving. She was abandoned, with only a note in the basket she was left in. It said the child was half angel and the mother couldn’t take care of her. Evelyn and I tried searching for the mother, assuming she must have been one of the centaurs. We didn’t know the mother was fury until Gordon, lord of centaurs stopped by. One look at baby and he was disgusted enough to try to kill a child, but your mother stopped him saying, what the child’s mother did does not reflect if the child would do the same. But it appears Gordon was right.”
“Moirin, I still do not believe it is Melissa. There is something we are not seeing clearly” Said Mother wiping tears on her face.
Walking to mother, grandma said “Evelyn, I wish the same dear. After all Melissa is my grandchild, it doesn’t matter to us they way she came or where she came from, but tell me how do I deny what we saw with our own eyes.”
“Just think about it, Moirin. We had bound her powers. They can be unbound only by me or you. That thing we saw is not my child.”
All of us were silent trying to absorb the conversation between my mother and my grandmother. I had never known Melissa was adopted. She was a bundle of joy, always on her toes running from one palace room to other. Even after us witnessing the transformation, it was difficult to believe it was Melissa.
Solange cleared her throat, and said timidly “You all are mistaken about the creature in the ball room. She may have been fury, but I know for sure that she is a witch, a powerful one at that.”
All of us looked up at her, as we did she looked down at her folded hands in her lap. Took one long breath and looked up at me. Staring in my eyes, she said “I know why you couldn’t sense Melissa’s transformation. She has been consuming angels’ blood for past three years to mask herself. This masks the stench you can detect when you are near a black-one. She is born of a fury and Cerberus.”
“Cerberus fathered a child, that is impossible” said grandpa looking straight at Angel and then asked “And how do you know all this when you have not even heard of our existence until few days ago”
Not cowering under scrutiny, Solange stood up and faced grandpa and said, “I need to confess that I had few powers since I was young. As long as I can remember I have been able to read everyone’s thoughts. It is not just what you are projecting at me when I am in room, but your own personal thoughts, all your secrets hidden behind the most complex mind. All I need to do is touch the person’s hand and all their memories rush to me. When I read the memories, it drains me of my energy. I am not ashamed of what I can I do, but I do apologize all for having hidden it from you.”
I walked towards Angel, took her hands in my mine and lifted them to kiss her knuckles. The blush that came across her face at my bold move, made my heart warm with love for the girl who was brave and honest. Angel nodded her head once and pulled her hands away from mine. Having lost the warmth of her hands, I turned to find my parents and grandparents waiting for us to continue.
“Conall, I know you are still not sure to trust me, but I will promise you that I will do everything in my power to help in any way possible to save Empyrean.” Said Angel
Grandpa still watched Angel with critical eye and I wanted to tell him, to let go of prejudice and help us find Melissa, and then he said, “I will believe you once we get to the bottom of this. So tell us what else you learned when taking Judith to the other room.”
“It was Melissa who transformed today into the black-creature in the ball room. I am sorry Evelyn to be telling you this” Said Angel walking towards mother and kneeling in front of her. “Judith believes Melissa is Hecate child.”
“No it can’t be. Why would Hecate leave her child for me find?” said Evelyn crying out loudly. “I should have known she would never let me live in peace.”
“Who is Hecate?” I asked
“Ralf take Solange to her room and stay with her. I will join you both there after sometime.” Said father and turned towards grandma to request her and grandpa to join them. Four of them walked away with me, Solange and Uriel in the room.
Uriel, Ralf and I were waiting for Conall. Reading Judith’s thoughts had drained my powers and left me fragile. Ralf sat beside me supporting my weak body. Ralf’s father and grandpa entered the room after almost about an hour later. Both of them suddenly looked old, beat down by the events of the night.
Conall and Cearul settled in chairs next to mine. “How is Evelyn?” I asked
“Moirin ensured she slept.” Replied Cearul
“Solange, tell us everything you learnt from Judith’s memories. May be it will help us find a solution to the predicament we are in.” asked Conall
“Conall I told you everything I could learn from Judith about Melissa. Wait, there is one thing…”
“What?” all of them asked together.
“She kept repeating to herself that she is supposed to forget about ruins of the Eden.”
“Cearul, Conall I will leave immediately to Eden” saying Uriel left not waiting for their acknowledgement.
“Grandpa, dad I will leave too and see if I can find Melissa.” Said Ralf
“I will go with you Ralf.” I said holding his hands
“It would be dangerous Angel, stay here with ma and grandma. Father and grandpa can protect you better than me.”
“No, I need to go with you. If you leave without me, then I will only come behind you on my own.” I insisted.
Before Ralf could reply, Cearul said, “You should take her Raphael, this is her journey and she needs to embark on it, otherwise she will not be ready. From what I have seen in training she is very much capable to take care of herself, but needs field practice. Take her.”
I thanked Cearul for his support and changed into my comfortable jeans and shirt. I strapped my bow and walked out to the courtyard to find Ralf waiting for me on his horse.
“I thought you were flying being Angel and all I said”
“I could fly if I didn’t have baggage.”
“So I am unnecessary baggage already?” eyeing him seriously
He extended his hand towards me and said “Not unnecessary baggage, but my partner I would love to ride along with me.” He pulled me in front of him and we drove out the city of Empyrean. As we reached the city gate, Gabriel flew down next to us. He landed on the ground in front of our horse.
“I tried to reach as fast I could from Caitlin’s parents. Uriel called and told everything.”
“Thanks for coming Gab.”
Nodding he asked if I was feeling better. We narrated the events of the day to him on the way to the ruins of Eden. It took us almost two hours to reach the place. Ralf told that ruins of Eden are the place where all angles lose their powers. So it would make sense for Melissa to come here to hide. Gabriel decided to scope the place from above and left. Ralf and I walked towards the entrance of the ruins on foot. The silence of the place was deafening. Everything was still, there was no sound of life, one could feel the death stillness of the place and it was slowly getting to me. We both walked up the steps towards the top of the hill leading from entrance towards monumental building ruins. It must have been magnificent building in its hay days, but it was now dilapidated. As we reached the top hill, we couldn’t find Uriel or his militia who had left before us in search of Melissa. Then suddenly a scream erupted from behind us and we heard Gabriel and Uriel shouting from opposite side at the same time to run, but it was too late, for something dragged me by my hair towards the cliff. The creature appeared like a bat and it held me dangling over the cliff. Ralf came running towards me ready to take flight, but before he could reach, the creature dropped me plunging towards my death.