Kalona’s Fall, Page 2P. C. Cast
In the corner of the Goddess’s chamber, within the deepest of the shadows, something dark quivered. As if it cringed away from the contagious happiness of the Fey, it slid, unseen, from the room.
* * *
Mother Earth was waiting for Nyx. She had already taken form and was standing before the grove, breathing deeply of the fragrant evening primrose from which she had fashioned her hair. She stroked the smooth, curvaceous skin she had fashioned for her body from the purest of clays. She called Air to her, directing it to lift the diaphanous gown adoring silkworms had created for her. She knew she looked especially alluring. The sun had beamed down on her grove from dawn to dusk, and now, enrapt, the moon watched.
Mother Earth was pleased.
The Goddess manifested when the moon, full and attentive, was high in the clear night’s sky.
“Nyx! You delight me! You’ve chosen my ivy for your hair. It complements the headdress as flowers complement a meadow.”
The Goddess had chosen to wear the visage of a young girl with silver-blond hair and fair skin, and the familiar delicate tattoos decorating her smooth shoulders. Mother Earth smiled as Nyx flushed in pleasure.
“Thank you! The Fey helped adorn me. They are clever and considerate, though they rarely speak.” Nyx touched the crystal necklace. “A coblyn made this for me.”
“Why, that is as lovely as your headdress! They must be very special creatures. I am intrigued to learn about them, as I have created nothing like them. Nyx, would you give them leave to visit me? I would welcome the presence of the Fey.”
“Of course! I’m sure they would be delighted. Would you mind if they allowed themselves to be seen by your children? I think it would make them less lonely, though I must warn you, some of the Fey can be rather mischievous.”
“Oh, do not let that concern you. My human children could use a little divine mischief. Sometimes I think mankind has become far too serious. They forget the special magick that can be found in fun-loving mischief and laughter.” Mother Earth’s own laughter caused the sleeping bluebells in the meadow before the grove to wake and burst into full bloom.
“Those flowers are so beautiful! The Fey especially love bright colors. Thank you, Mother Earth.” Nyx and Mother Earth smiled at each other and the isle glowed with reflected joy.
All the while the moon watched.
“Nyx, would you tell me more about the Fey? I have never met one.”
“Oh, yes! There are so many types of them.”
Mother Earth’s smile turned satisfied as she stroked a white boulder that had been saturated by moonlight and called moss to carpet it. “Come, sit beside me.” While Nyx gracefully settled herself, Mother Earth gently waved her hand through the grass that grew in tufts around the boulder. Instantly, several plants sprung to life, producing white, trumpet-shaped flowers. Thanking each plant, Mother Earth gently plucked the blossoms free and offered one to Nyx. “Sip slowly—the nectar is as delicious as it is potent.”
Sipping from the living chalice, Nyx began describing the different types of Fey to Mother Earth, who listened, attentive and smiling, until the moon reluctantly began to depart. Where the horizon met the gray-blue waters surrounding the island, the approaching sun caused the sky to blush.
“I had no idea it was so late. You must forgive me. It has been too long since I have had an opportunity to practice conversation.”
“Lovely Goddess, I have enjoyed myself more tonight than I have in eons. And I have a confession to make: you are not to blame for the length of our conversation. I kept you with me purposefully until now. I wish to reward your fidelity.”
Nyx looked startled. “But that is not necessary. Mother Earth, I will remain and watch over your children. I have given you my vow. I will not ask for a reward for keeping my word.”
“It is because you do not ask that I wish to reward you.” Looking inordinately pleased with herself, Mother Earth stood. Turning to the east, toward the rising sun, she lifted her face to the fading moon.
“But what—” Nyx began.
Mother Earth smiled fondly over her shoulder at the Goddess. “This gift is not to tether you to me. I trust your fidelity. What I create tonight is fashioned from friendship and appreciation. Tonight my only purpose is to end your loneliness by bringing you joy.” Then, with the young Goddess looking on in curiosity, Mother Earth raised her arms.
“Moon, harken to me before you depart my sky. Mother Earth doth call to thee!” She dropped her chin so that her gaze focused from the sky above to the coral tip of the dawning sun and said, “Sun, harken to me before you climb too high. Mother Earth doth call to thee!”
For a moment nothing happened, but Mother Earth did not despair. She tossed back her fragrant hair and called Air to her again. The element caressed her, revealing her lush beauty. She called Fire to her so that she glowed with living flame. She called Water, and suddenly the sea that surrounded the island stilled and became a liquid mirror, reflecting Mother Earth’s loveliness. She called Spirit and wisps of power washed over her, enhancing her already preternaturally luminous form.
Confidently, Mother Earth waited.
The moon responded first, forever changing Nyx’s destiny.
As if a pebble had disturbed the surface of a sleeping pond, the fading moon shivered and then brightened from gray to silver. Far above the grove, a deep voice echoed from the sky.
The moon doth harken to Mother Earth’s call. What is thy will? Mighty moon is eager to fulfill.
Just then the sun lifted above the watery horizon, shining the yellow and pink of dawn on the grassy ground before the grove. From over the stilled waves, a voice, equally as deep and powerful, echoed.
The sun doth harken to Mother Earth’s call. What is it thee requires? The power of sun shall fulfill your desires.
Mother Earth’s smile was as promising and fertile as a meadow in spring.
“Mighty moon and powerful sun, twin guardians of my sky, I ask a favor from each of you.”
And what do I gain in return? Both voices spoke at the same time.
Mother Earth’s smile did not dim. She lifted her face to the moon. “To you, mighty moon, I give dominion over my oceans. After this day, the tides will follow your will.”
I accept your gift. The moon’s voice rumbled, deepening with pleasure.
Mother Earth gazed fully on the rising sun. “To you, powerful sun, I give dominion over my northernmost lands. For all of summer, you shall reign there supreme, and never set.”
I accept your gift, the sun agreed eagerly.
“You have each spoken vow to me—thus you are bound—so mote it be!” proclaimed Mother Earth. “Know first that what I ask is not for myself, but for Nyx, the ever-faithful Goddess who kept her vow and remained, the last of the children of the Divine.”
There was a ripple in the air as the moon transmitted surprise. They are all gone? All of the Gods and Goddesses?
“All but this one,” Mother Earth said.
The air around the grove heated with the sun’s shock. But it seems only yesterday that the Gods and Goddesses frolicked below and above.
“To me as well,” Mother Earth agreed. Then she turned, beckoning for the pale, silent Goddess to stand beside her. Taking Nyx’s hand, she continued. “But for Nyx, known by many names to my children, those days and nights have been long and empty.”
Were I not already bound by vow to aid, I would willingly reward this lone and lovely Goddess, said the moon.
Nyx’s smile was filled with shy delight. “Thank you, mighty moon. I have long relished your ever-changing face and your pure silver light.”
I, too, am pleased to aid one so fair and faithful, said the sun.
“And thank you, powerful sun. Your summer warmth has brought me countless days of pleasure,” Nyx said, bowing to the east.
“Wonderful! Then let us make this dream so!” cried Mother Earth.
“How? I am sorry, but I do not understand,” said Nyx.
“Tell me, sweet Goddess, if you could have a companion, brought to life by the might of the moon and the power of the sun, what would you have this companion be?”
With no hesitation, Nyx answered, “He would be warrior and lover, playmate and friend.”
“Very well then, that is what you shall have.” Mother Earth squeezed Nyx’s hand before releasing it and returning her attention to the listening moon and sun.
She raised her arms again, and this time began to turn her hands gently, gracefully, as if sifting through invisible threads around her.
“Once more, I use that which the Divine granted me. Power of Creation, I call thee forth from the sky! Couple with the might of the moon and the power of the sun, and bring forth immortal life as companion to my faithful Goddess!”
Mother Earth’s voice took on a rhythmic cadence as she spoke the spell:
I am She
Loved so well by
Creation is my gift
I am She
Cherished so well by
My call from Earth to Sky shall lift
I am she
Beloved so well by
Moon! Sun! Sky! Join true—join sure—join swift!
Create warrior and lover, playmate and friend.
Do not leave my Goddess companionless, lonely with no end!
The sky above the grove came alive with currents of glistening magick ancient as the Divine—unending Energy bound to obey the Earth’s command. It multiplied and divided, pulsing with the light of creation so brightly that even Mother Earth and the Goddess Nyx had to shield their eyes. Then the currents swept up, up, up to the fading moon, and up, up, up to the rising sun. The moon and the sun blazed, pulsing with the joining so beautifully that Mother Earth thought it seemed that the sky kissed first the moon, and then the sun.
There was an explosion of light above and around Mother Earth and Nyx, and then all was still.
The sun continued to rise, silently, distantly. The moon faded into the heavens.
Mother Earth had just begun to frown and was considering how she would penalize both moon and sun for not fulfilling their vows when she heard Nyx’s surprised gasp.
Mother Earth shifted her gaze. She had been staring up, expecting a being to float down from the sky. But her expectations had been incorrect. The beings were already there, kneeling before Nyx.
In shock, Mother Earth watched as two godlings fashioned from the joining of the sky and the moon, and the sun and the moon, lifted their faces and gazed with utter adoration at their Goddess.
“They have wings!” Nyx exclaimed.
“And there are two of them,” Mother Earth said, furrowing her brow in consternation. “Nyx, this did not go exactly as I had planned.”
“I think they are perfect!” said the Goddess.
SHE WOULD BE A MIGHTY ENEMY …
Newly created, Kalona opened his eyes. His first sight was that of Nyx. He didn’t know her name then. All he knew was that her beauty arrowed into him and lodged somewhere so deeply that it made him unable to speak.
She approached him first, though he was hardly aware of the other being kneeling beside him. She held out her hand to him and said the first words he ever heard: “I am the Goddess Nyx, and I welcome you with all of my heart.”
Her voice was sweet and musical and soothing. Kalona took her slender hand carefully within his own much larger one, noticing the unique beauty of their contrasting skins—his darker, burnished, rougher, while hers was soft and pale and utterly flawless.
Still, he couldn’t seem to speak. Her smile had his blood heating and his body feeling flushed.
“And what is your name?” she asked him.
“Kalona,” he blurted.
“Kalona. What a beautiful name! Your wings are the silver of a full moon. You must be the son of the moon,” she said.
“I am,” he said, without stopping to wonder at how he knew it. “And I was fashioned for you.”
Her smiled blazed, and Kalona could feel his heartbeat increase.
“Goddess Nyx, I am Erebus, son of the golden sun. Hence the reason my wings are not the color of moonlight. I, too, have been fashioned for you.” The other winged godling stood. “Excuse me, brother, but I cannot allow you to keep the Goddess to yourself,” he quipped as he stepped around Kalona, gently pulling Nyx’s hand from his before Erebus bowed with a flourish of golden wings.
Nyx turned her luminous smile to Erebus and her delighted laughter seemed to sparkle in the grove around them. “Erebus! I welcome the son of the sun with all of my heart as well.”
“Lovely Goddess, have a care for how much of your heart you give away. You give Kalona all—you give me all. Surely one of us will come up short?” Erebus’s golden eyes flashed as mischievously as his smile.
Kalona frowned at Erebus and found himself having to grit his teeth against a feral growl. He should not dare to speak to the Goddess thus! Kalona would have liked to knock that cocky smile from the godling’s face!
“I do not think you should begin this relationship by admonishing your Goddess, young Erebus, especially as I can see it incites your brother’s ire.” Kalona hadn’t even noticed the other being until she began to speak, moving forward so that she positioned herself between Nyx and himself and Erebus, almost as if she thought the Goddess needed protection against them. Kalona narrowed his eyes at this lesser woman, ready to correct her, to tell her that Nyx would never need protection against him! He would never—could never—hurt her! But the woman’s eyes caught his before he could speak, and a warning in their dark depths silenced him.
“Kalona, Erebus, please greet my friend, Mother Earth. You must thank her, as it is she who enabled your creation!” Nyx said breathlessly.
Erebus’s smile was charming, his voice deep and gentle, as he bowed to her saying, “Great Mother, I greet and thank you, and I ask that you forget my first, mistaken attempt at humor. I assure you that my intention was not to admonish my Goddess, though I admit to finding it amusing that I was able to so easily incite my brother’s ire.”
“Precocious, so precocious!” Mother Earth smiled at Erebus as she spoke, embracing him gently and making it obvious that she liked the sun godling’s precociousness.
Kalona stood and bowed deeply, respectfully. “I greet you, Mother Earth, and thank you for the role you played in my conception.”
“You are welcome, Kalona.” She embraced him as well, but Kalona thought it was with much less warmth than she had embraced his brother. Mother Earth stepped back and addressed the three of them. “So you each acknowledge that I do have a maternal responsibility here,” said Mother Earth.
“Indeed you do, my friend,” Nyx responded readily. “And I shall eternally thank you for it.”
“Eternity is such a long, long time,” Mother Earth said, studying Kalona and Erebus in turn. “I suppose you will want to take them back to the Otherworld with you?”
Kalona’s gaze locked with Nyx’s. He saw that her cheeks had pinked alluringly, and though her gaze did not leave his, her voice softened, seeming almost shy. “Yes, I will.”
“Today!” Nyx said, nodding her head, still not looking away from Kalona.
“The Otherworld,” Kalona said, finding his voice. “Even the name sounds magickal.”
Nyx rewarded him with an intimate smile. “It is beautiful, much like this planet, only it is filled with ancient, Divine magick and powers that are sometimes difficult for even me to wield. Such powers can be exhausting,” she finished, suddenly sounding older and tired.
“My Goddess, I will help you wield the powers that exhaust you,” Kalona said, taking an eager step toward her.
“And yet it is not your place to wield the Old Magick of Nyx’s Otherworld,” Mother Earth said, also taking a step closer.
Kalona felt the heat of Mother Earth’s power, and of her displea
sure. Their gazes met, hers even more unflinching than his. She would be a mighty enemy … The knowledge echoed through his mind.
Kalona backed down and bowed his head slightly in acknowledgment of Mother Earth’s might.
Erebus seemed not to notice Mother Earth’s intense displeasure. His voice was as light as his smile. “What would we want with Nyx’s magick? There is magick aplenty in the Divine Ether that created us. Should we need power, we have but to call on it. It must answer us, as that is our blood right as sons of the Divine. Great Mother, our matriarch, I assure you, my brother and I have no desires other than to serve Nyx.”
“Remember, Mother Earth, the winged immortals were created for me and not against me,” Nyx said, agreeing with the golden-winged immortal.
“Yes, I know. They were created by me.” Mother Earth was not so easily placated. She faced off against Kalona and Erebus. “You were created by me to serve Nyx; therefore, it is my responsibility to see you are willing and able to fulfill your twin destinies as warrior and lover, playmate and friend. Nyx, do you agree that this is my responsibility?”
“My gratitude is such that I will never debate responsibilities with you. Instead I freely acknowledge that you are Mother and Creator of all of this.” Nyx paused, sweeping her arm gracefully in a gesture that took in the whole of the earth, as well as the two winged immortals. “Simply tell me how you propose to fulfill your maternal responsibility. I shall not naysay you.”
Kalona felt his stomach tighten as Mother Earth continued to study them carefully, as if searching for flaws.
“I take you at your word, Nyx. This is what I propose,” Mother Earth said, sending Nyx a maternal and very satisfied-looking smile. “Under my supervision, your two winged immortals must complete three tasks each for you, proving that they are powerful and wise and loyal enough to be worthy of you.”