It was just before dawn when Odell woke up and got dressed by the light of her candle – no electrical lighting where she was. A simple cottage on Mount Alba, under whose foot lay the sacred spring of Pax, the god of peace. It was in the sacred waters of this spring that her daughter was conceived and it was to be in that spring that she would be baptised on her seventh birthday by the priestess of Pax. And today Harmony would turn seven.
Odell walked up to the window to take a look outside. There was nothing to see but her own reflection cast upon the black panes by the glow of her candle. She closed her eyes to listen for the sound of dawn. It was near. The soft chorus of small songbirds had begun. In ancient times, when belief in numerous gods and goddesses was prevalent, it was considered that dawn was a goddess in her own right and that the small songbirds were sacred to her, thus the reason why they always sang just before her appearance.
The arrival of today’s dawn, sharing its breath with her daughter’s birthday, was to be significant, for it ushered in a new era – an era of peace. For twenty-five years the world was plunged into utter darkness as wars, famine and plagues decimated whole populations. No one knew or even suspected that all this suffering was the work of demons. And why would they? No one believed in demons. No one thought that they existed. But she did. How could she not? She knew them. She knew the entire tragic saga of how seven sisters of unparallel beauty, deceived by their own father, turned into demons.
She wept for them for many years. It was not strange for her to do so. They were her sisters. And such a fate could have easily befallen her, had the priestess of Pax not taken her to a distant land where she knew a kindly farmer, whose wife was barren, to raise Odell as their own.
Odell grew up believing that she would one day become the priestess of Pax, so she rejected every marriage proposal that she received and there were many. Odell’s beauty was the talk of many people, even though those people were mostly country folks. Still, there were many handsome and eligible country squires who wanted to marry her, if she would have them, which she did not. She wanted to devote her life in the noble service of god Pax.
It was on her twenty-first birthday when in a dream Odell was instructed to visit the sacred spring. She was now fully convinced that she would be chosen by Pax to become his priestess, for that was how Pax chose his priestesses – through dreams. When Odell arrived at the spring, the priestess welcomed her as her successor. The priestess gave her a special garment, made pure in the holy waters of the spring, and told her to wear it and sleep by the spring for Pax to appear to her in a dream to give his final blessing. But Pax did not appear to her in a dream.
Odell was about to fall asleep when Pax came to her in all his radiant glory and said: ‘Odell, you are to bear me a child, a daughter, whom you shall name Harmony. Only through her I can truly vanquish Chaos and banish evil forever.’
Their lovemaking was like no other. She submerged herself in the spring and there in its clear waters, she saw herself surrounded by a dazzling golden light. And when the light gradually faded, she knew that she was with a child. Nine months later, Harmony was born.
In the meantime, the demons weren’t idle. Once they knew that Odell was with a child, they set out to learn the identity of the father. With Odell not being married and with no man around to lay claim to paternity, it was obvious that the child could not have a mortal father. Given the purity of Odell, the only logical conclusion they could draw was that the child had to be Pax’s. They were then in a state of frenzy, for their doom was nigh. It was a well-known fact among demons that only an offspring of Pax had the power to destroy them.
So a plot was hatched. If they took Odell’s child hostage, they could force Odell to join them. Chaos needed the power of eight sister-demons to open the gate of Infernus for him, so he could enter the world. The fact that Odell was pure made no difference. All she needed to pollute herself was to mix her blood with the blood of her sisters. And once that happened, Harmony would cease to be a threat, for she would never be baptised.
Harmony was barely three years old when she was kidnapped by Daemon Custos. There was nothing Odell could do but to call upon Pax to come to her rescue, but there was not a word from him. Then a message arrived via a courier from Pax. He was imprisoned by Chaos. There was but one way for him to be freed and that was through Harmony. On her seventh birthday, so said the message, Odell must take Harmony to the sacred waters of the spring for the priestess to baptise her. Only then he would be able to free himself.
But how could she bring this about when she didn’t have Harmony? For months she had been praying to Pax, begging him to rescue their daughter, and now she was told that he was imprisoned. So she came to Mount Ater where the demons’ lair was, and there she chanced upon an abandoned old hut at some distance from a nearby village. The hut, despite its state of disrepair, was a perfect place for her to stay, since she didn’t want too close a contact with people, fearing that they might be dragged into danger.
For months Odell made numerous attempts at trying to get Harmony back, but each time she met with failure. Daemon Custos was quite clear about it: ‘Either you join us or we will keep Harmony permanently asleep and trapped in the womb of darkness. She would never grow up and she would never wake up.’
With Pax a prisoner of Chaos and Harmony a prisoner of Daemon Custos, Odell was without hope. So she turned to the ghosts of the ancient priestesses. She called upon them for help. She didn’t know if they could help her or even if they could hear her. She hoped they could. But when no help arrived, she gave up calling on them. Perhaps their ghosts didn’t exist, after all.
Then came a plane crash. It was a military plane whose captain, Valfer Rastin, had, unwittingly, managed to get some of his men trapped in a cave where the demons kept their abode. He came to her for help. Not that he knew who she was. He was told by a villager that she knew something about the cave, so he came to see her about it. But how could she help him when she couldn’t help herself. That night, after Rastin’s visit, she had a dream in which several old women, all of whom appearing as the priestesses of Pax, told her that Rastin was going to blow up the cave, so this was her opportunity to rescue her daughter in the ensuing confusion.
The help she had so desperately been praying for had finally arrived. The ghosts of the ancient priestesses had answered her prayers. Whether they brought Rastin to her by arranging his plane crash or simply taking the opportunity of his plight and making him useful to Odell, she did not know and she did not think that it mattered. All that mattered to her was that Rastin was the means by which she could save her daughter from the demons.
It was in the dead of night that she hurried to the cave right after having this dream, hoping that she was not too late. But when she got there and saw no sign of Rastin, only four somnolent soldiers, she was unsure as to what to do. Should she wait for Rastin or should she go and see Daemon Custos herself? She settled on the latter. If Rastin was going to blow up the cave, then she had to be inside to rescue her daughter anyway.
The encounter with Daemon Custos, however, was most peculiar. When she demanded Harmony’s freedom, Custos capitulated. The soldiers were just thrown in for good measure. Odell could, at least, understand why the soldiers were let go so easily. They were not worth their trouble; a lesson that the demons learnt very quickly, much to their own detriment, once Rastin blew up the cave. But for Custos to let go of Harmony, knowing that it was her destiny to destroy him and the seven demons, was a question that would not yield an answer, regardless of how many times she poked at it. And Odell found this very disturbing.
The priestess, however, was more sanguine about it. She believed that Custos had no choice but to let Harmony go, because he was too distracted and too concerned with saving his own life from Rastin and his soldiers. She also believed that with the destruction of the cave, the demons were either destroyed, or at the very least would have become too incapacitated to exercise their powers. After all, the world seemed at peace. But Odell was not convinced, particularly given the fact that Pax was still a prisoner and would remain so until Harmony’s seventh birthday.
The soft chorus of the birds turned into boisterous chirps and Odell opened her eyes. The dawn had arrived and its light was washing away the darkness within and without, as its hand took the brush and painted the sky blue and Mount Alba green. It was truly a new dawn. The colors were more vibrant and more distinct than usual. The blue sky shimmered with light and Mount Alba was awash with color. Ancient trees splashed the mountain with different hues of green and wild flowers sprinkled it with yellow and white, red and orange, pink and lavender, and many other colors besides.
‘Good morning, Mama,’ Harmony said, as she came to join her mother at the window.
Odell smiled and leaned to kiss her daughter’s forehead. ‘Happy birthday, sweetheart.’
‘I am seven today,’ Harmony said cheerfully.
‘Yes you are and today you shall be baptised in the sacred spring.’
‘What does it look like?’
‘Beautiful – very beautiful. The spring is sacred to god Pax, your father. Its waters are pure and sparkle like nothing you have ever seen before. Even at night the sacred waters appear brilliant.’
‘When will I see father, Mama?’ Harmony asked, with a hint of sadness in her voice.
Immediately tears made themselves ready to rush into Odell’s eyes, but she stopped their advance. She never told Harmony that her father was imprisoned by Chaos. Odell wanted to protect and shield her daughter as long as she could from the horrors of knowing that such an evil entity as Chaos existed. Mercifully asleep in the womb of darkness, Harmony never learnt of the existence of demons either.
‘Why, today, my darling, right after your baptism, and then we can all celebrate together,’ Odell said, with a cheerful smile. And it was the truth. Pax will be able to free himself once Harmony was baptised.
‘Do I need to do anything for my baptism, Mama?’
‘Nothing, darling. As I told you last night, the priestess will change you into your baptism garment and then she will paint your face with the sacred symbols before dipping you in the water. But first you are going to have a very special breakfast.’
‘In what way is it special, Mama?’
‘It is a ceremonial breakfast, darling, and part of the ritual of your baptism. I am going to make you a special wafer bread and spread it with a little honey that comes from the bees that the priests keep at the temple.’
‘Where is the temple?’
‘I will show it to you on the way to the spring.’
When Odell and Harmony left the cottage, the sun was fully up and already on its task of warming the chilly mountain air and taming the hasty wind into a gentle breeze. The walk to the spring was not far, but it was steep, so they had to be careful, for haste meant fall.
As the temple came into view, Odell showed it to Harmony. The temple was a big two-storied circular white building, with high arched windows, upon whose cone shaped roof a bell chimed melodiously, calling the priests and the novices, who lived within its walls, to morning mediation.
‘Who built this temple, Mama?’
‘Two thousand years ago, the priests of Pax approached Emperor Metsuba, who was the ruler of just about half the known world, and asked him to build a temple for them on this mountain. At first he refused, but then he had a dream in which he saw this temple, so he ordered his best architects to build it. And ever since then the priests have been maintaining it, so it would never fall into disrepair.’
‘Could we one day go inside it?’
‘Of course, my darling. We can do it right after your baptism. I am sure the high-priest will be very pleased if we paid him a visit today.’
‘Will father come with us?’
‘We will ask him,’ Odell said, smiling. ‘Now we’d better start moving. We don’t want to keep the priestess waiting.’
‘Could I pick a flower and put it in my hair?’
‘Of course, sweetheart. Here, let me do it,’ Odell said, stooping to pluck a white flower and tucking it in among Harmony’s golden curls.
Resuming their walk, Harmony started singing her favorite nursery rhyme and Odell happily sang along with her. When they reached the entrance of the cave, Odell took her shoes off and told Harmony to do the same, for they were about to walk on holy ground. On entering the cave, the priestess greeted Odell and Harmony and inquired if they slept well.
Odell smiled. ‘Yes, very well, Sister Pia. And thank you for letting us stay at your lovely cottage.’
‘Well, where else could you stay but my cottage? In the temple?’ she snorted.
Odell opened her mouth but no word passed her lips. She didn’t know what to say or even how to react to the way the remark was made. It was not made in good humor. Something was changed in Sister Pia. Her thoughts broke when the priestess asked for Harmony to come to her. Releasing Harmony’s hand, Odell let her go to the priestess. But as she did so, the same old question once again started to nag at her. Why would Custos let go of Harmony so easily, knowing what he knew of the fate that awaited him upon her release?
Odell found herself totally unnerved and her heart began to hammer against her chest mercilessly. As the priestess changed Harmony into her baptism garment, an unknown fear came over her, urging her to grab Harmony and run away as fast and as far as she could. But that would be madness. She could not stop the baptism ritual, since it was imperative that Harmony was baptised today, for Pax’s freedom depended on it, and the only person who could baptise her was Pax’s priestess.
Odell closed her eyes and drew a deep breath to try to calm herself. When she opened them, the priestess was starting to paint Harmony’s face with the sacred symbols, but with every brush stroke, Harmony was making soft little whimpers as if she was experiencing pain.
Something was definitely wrong.
‘What is it, darling?’ Odell cried in alarm.
‘No talking,’ the priestess growled, tossing a savage look at Odell.
Odell blanched with fear, but before she could do or say anything, the priestess threw Harmony into the water and immediately began the prayers, only they were not prayers. The prayers were always uttered in an ancient tongue of an unknown origin that only the priestesses of Pax could speak it, but Odell had enough knowledge of the language to make out that what the priestess was now uttering was a form of incantation for summoning Chaos.
‘Harmony,’ Odell cried, her eyes wild with fear. She was about to leap into the spring to save her daughter, when the water began to boil. Simultaneously, the bright light from the spring went out and the whole cavern became the color of blood, as an acrid smell filled the air. Odell could clearly see that the water had changed into acid. The spring was a bubbling pool of acid.
‘No,’ Odell cried at the fate of her daughter. She readied herself to jump into the bubbling acid to save Harmony or die with her, when suddenly the priestess thrusted an arm in her direction and threw her against the wall.
Odell found herself pinned to the wall. She could not move. ‘You are not Sister Pia. Who are you?’ Odell demanded, though knowing full well the answer.
‘Your big sister Inopia,’ the priestess growled, as her form changed shape and she turned into a grisly grey creature.
‘What have you done with my child, demon?’ Odell shouted, tears flowing from her eyes.
‘Behold,’ the demon bellowed, pointing at the pool of acid.
Odell screamed in horror at what she saw emerging from the pool of acid. The huge creature, far grislier than the demon, was covered in iron-grey scales, with long twisted horns on each side of his head.
‘I AM CHAOS,’ the creature roared in a terrifying voice, brandishing his serrated iron teeth, as he stepped out of the pool of acid.
‘What have you done with my daughter?’ Odell screamed in panic.
Chaos twisted his neck to cast his malevolent fiery red gaze at Odell. ‘She was a gate through which I am come.’
‘Pax, Pax, help me,’ Odell screamed, even though she knew that Pax wouldn’t be able to help her.
A savage laugh went up from Chaos. ‘Pax?! You are calling for Pax?! You fool of a woman! You ought to know that he is in my prison. He has been there for seven years and will remain there for seven thousand years more and seventy thousand years after that and seven million years after that, until the end of time.’
Odell groaned in pain, watching Chaos leave with the demon. The question was now answered. That was the plan all along. To give Harmony back, so they could prepare themselves for this – to use Harmony as a gateway for Chaos.
Looking at the bubbling pool of acid, Odell walked up to it, ready to let go of her life. She had no longer any desire to live and she did not want to live in a world that was ruled by such an evil entity as Chaos. With Pax in prison and her daughter dead, there was no world, only darkness. She was about to throw herself into the pool of acid, when she noticed that there was no trace of Harmony in there. Surely, there should be something of her left. Her bones! What happened to her bones?
Maybe Harmony wasn’t dead! Maybe she could still rescue her daughter! Maybe Harmony was trapped in Infernus!
Odell moved away from the pool of acid. She would go to the temple to seek the help of the high-priest. Surely, he would know what to do. As well, he had to be told of what had taken place here. He had to be warned of the presence of Chaos in the world. And he had to be told that the demon had quite possibly killed Sister Pia. Yes, she would go to the temple.
As soon as she emerged from the cave, the first thing she noticed was the color of the sky. It was no longer blue. Heavily veiled by dark clouds, the sky gave the appearance of the blackest night. And in the distance, the sky was rumbling, announcing to the land below that a savage storm was fast approaching.
Odell ran uphill towards the temple. She was halfway there when it began to rain. It was not a rain of cleansing, but of polluting; the raindrops were the color of soot. It did not take long for her blue dress to become black. When the temple came into view, Odell could not help but stop for a moment to absorb the shock of what she was seeing. The temple was no longer white; it was the color of charcoal.
On entering the temple’s courtyard, she met with a few priests who were milling about under the awnings, wondering what in the world was happening.
‘Help me, please,’ Odell pleaded.
Quickly the priests rushed to her and took her inside.
‘Are you lost, sister?’ asked a young priest.
‘No, no, I am not lost, brother,’ Odell said, fighting her tears. ‘Chaos … Chaos has invaded our world and has taken my daughter.’
‘Chaos?’ they gasped, looking at one another in fear.
‘That explains the black rain,’ the high-priest said, upon entering the room. ‘The ancient sacred writings mention that black rain portends the arrival of Chaos in our world.’
‘Yes, Father, he is here, Chaos is here,’ Odell cried in urgency and in fear. ‘And I believe that the priestess of Pax has been murdered, since it was a demon who assumed her shape to deceive me to give her my daughter so she could use her to summon Chaos. Father, please, you must help me to rescue my daughter. Chaos has taken her.’
‘Bring her a glass of water and some clean clothes,’ the high-priest said to one of the young novices.
‘No, Father,’ Odell cried, ‘I have no need for water or clothes. I need to get my daughter back.’
The high-priest looked with pity at Odell. He had no words of comfort for her. No guidance to give. Chaos had taken her daughter. What could he say to her that would be of help? Chaos would take more daughters and more sons, and there was nothing anyone could do to stop him. Only Pax could stop Chaos, but if Chaos was in their world, then Pax must have been vanquished. ‘My daughter, I wish I had some means of helping you, but I am just a simple priest who maintains’ —he waved a hand about the room— ‘this temple for those who seek peace and quietness of mind. I have no power to exert anything that could be of any use to you.’
‘Father, what about some special prayers to send Chaos back to the darkness from whence he emerged? Surely, you have access to such things! Surely in the ancient sacred writings…’ her voice faltered in dismay when she saw the high-priest shaking his head.
‘There are no such prayers, I am afraid. Mere mortals cannot defeat Chaos. I am sorry, my child, I wish I could have been of more use to you.’
Odell’s eyes filled with fresh tears. ‘Once before I lost my daughter…’ she began, but then her voice died in her throat. The desire to want her daughter alive had been so strong that it had beguiled her sense of reasoning. Harmony was dead. The demons wouldn’t have let her live. She was sacrificed to Chaos. She could not be rescued. No point in harassing the poor high-priest. There was nothing he could do about it. No one could do anything about anything.
Without further words, Odell rose to her feet. She would go back to the cave and throw herself into that pool of acid where the life of her daughter was taken away.
‘These are troubled times, my daughter, why don’t you stay here with us for a little while,’ the high-priest said.
‘No, Father, I have business to attend to,’ Odell said and then quickly ran outside.
The acrid fumes filled Odell’s nostrils and burnt her throat. But the tears in her eyes were burning her more. She would not live without her daughter. It was better to be completely dissolved in that pool of acid than to live with the pain of her loss. With a leap, Odell plunged herself into the pool of acid.
At first, all she felt was an indescribable searing pain that burnt her flesh away, but then she felt nothing. Was she dead? She did not know. Her eyes were closed, so she couldn’t see anything, but she felt that she was still alive, for she could think, she could remember, and she could still feel the pain of losing her daughter. Odell blinked her eyes open.
Her body erupted in a flurry of movements as she thrashed about her arms and legs. How could this be? The entire cavern was shimmering like a jewel, as was the spring she was in, for it was no longer a pool of bubbling acid. An involuntary gasp escaped her mouth when she noticed that her arms, her legs, her hair and her dress were totally bleached white. Another gasp soon followed when she saw the white halo around herself. Maybe she was dead and had turned into a ghost. There was only one way to find out if this was true. She had to go and take a look outside. If the world outside this cave looked as beautiful as the spring inside the cave, then she was dead and had gone to afterlife.
Quickly stepping out of the spring, she ran to the mouth of the cave. Both the darkness and the storm looked even worse than before. Definitely she was not in the hereafter. Puzzled, she walked back to the spring and looked at her reflection in the water. Her face was completely bleached white and her eyes had lost their violet color. Her eyes were now the color of silver.
Odell stood by the spring, gazing at its sacred waters, trying hard to find an explanation for both the way she looked and the spring returning to its normal state. Then it gradually dawned on her. The waters of the spring were polluted deliberately by the demon to bring Chaos through and now they were purified upon her entry. Odell dropped to her knees. By jumping into it, she had purified the waters herself and in the process, her physical body, somehow, changed. Strange though she looked, she should hurry to the temple and tell the high-priest about it.
She rose to her feet and was about to turn around when she noticed that there was movement in the water. Then a golden light burst forth from the water. It was Pax.
‘Pax! Oh, Pax! You came. You are free!’ Odell cried, breathless.
‘Yes, I am free,’ Pax said, emerging from the water. His robed body glowing in blue and white light and his hair a halo of gold. He looked just the way she remembered him. As he stepped out of the water, Odell threw herself into his arms.
‘How did you become free?’ Odell asked, hardly believing anything that was happening.
‘You freed me.’
‘I freed you? How?’
‘By throwing your pure body into that polluted liquid, you purified the spring and opened the door to my prison. I came here as soon as I was freed.’
‘Pax, our daughter, our daughter, she is gone,’ Odell cried.
Pax held her face in his hands tenderly. ‘Oh, my dearest, I am sorry. I am so sorry. I didn’t know that my courier was captured by Chaos and under torture had revealed to him my instructions regarding Harmony’s baptism. I just found out about it as I was rushing to you.’
‘What shall I do, Pax? What shall I do? I can’t imagine life without her.’
‘Harmony’s destiny was to close the door permanently to evil. Originally, her baptism was supposed to take place on her twenty-first birthday, whereby she could metamorphose into an angel, bringing harmony to the world, which would have put an end not only to the power of the demons, but to their existence as well. Demons feed on blood and misery, so by starving them of their food, they eventually die. But when I was imprisoned, I had no choice but to bring her baptism forward to the age of seven. Though still very young, Harmony would have been able to make the transition and become an angel. But the demon that you saw killed my priestess and switched places with her as it switched the paint.’
‘Harmony was whimpering when the demon was drawing the symbols on her face.’
‘The paint was burning her. It was mixed in with the blood of the demons. Harmony was sacrificed so the gate to Infernus could be opened. An angel, pure and innocent, painted with demon blood was thrown into my spring to pollute its waters.’
‘Pax, where are her bones? That acid…’
‘That was no acid. The polluted liquid that dissolved Harmony’s bones is the same unholy liquid fire that runs in the rivers of Infernus.’
Odell let out a loud groan and broke into convulsive sobs.
‘Odell, the world has fallen apart. I cannot have you fall apart too.’
‘But I have already fallen apart, Pax. I have already fallen apart. To watch Harmony die in such a horrific way has torn me into so many pieces that I cannot be made whole again … not ever.’
Pax held her with his sapphire blue eyes for a few moments and then wrapped her in his embrace. ‘I share your pain, Odell, and I grieve with you, for Harmony was my daughter too. But the world needs me … needs us.’
Odell turned her face away and freed herself from his embrace. ‘The world needs you, not me,’ she said in a broken voice.
‘Odell, look at me,’ Pax said, lifting her chin up and turning her face around gently. ‘With the angel of harmony now gone, I need an angel of hope.’
‘Why do you need angels to bring harmony or hope to the world? You are the god of peace, so why can’t you bring harmony and hope to the world yourself?’
‘Among many other miseries that Chaos has brought with himself is despair. For me to bring peace and harmony to the world, I need people to have hope,’ Pax said, looking at Odell’s non-responsive expression. ‘You know, while Chaos can create demons by the dozens, if not by the hundreds, creating an angel is a one-time event, for I have to father one. And for that a very special woman is required. Odell, you were that special woman, pure and selfless. In you, I saw the hope of having an angel, an angel that could stay in the mortal world and guard it against demons…’
‘Are you suggesting for me to bear you another child, so you can have your angel of hope? Odell said, wiping at her tear-stricken face.
‘No. My angel is already here.’
Odell furrowed her brow. ‘I don’t understand. You just said that creating an angel is a one-time event. So how could you have an angel when Harmony is dead?’
‘You are my angel … my angel of hope.’
‘Me?’ Odell frowned, looking bewildered. ‘How could I be your angel? You did not father me!’
‘Odell, you are the miracle I never expected. By purifying the waters of my spring, you automatically metamorphosed into an angel. All it remains for me to do now is to bestow on you the name of Hope and ask you if you take that responsibility. Will you?’
‘I … I … I…’ her voice wavered in tears, not knowing what answer she should give. But could she reject the request of a god? Nothing could bring back Harmony, but perhaps if she did her part to help Pax to get rid of Chaos, other children just like Harmony would remain safe. Odell drew a sobbing breath and nodded her assent.
‘Thank you,’ Pax said softly, placing a hand on her head by way of blessing. ‘Henceforth, your name shall no longer be Odell, but Hope, for you are the angel of hope, and your task is to cross different worlds, walk among different people, and spread hope.’
‘How, my Lord?’ Hope asked, knowing instantly that as Pax’s angel, she could no longer refer to him informally by his name.
‘With this.’ Pax extended his right hand and before Hope could draw a breath, a shimmering silver staff appeared in Pax’s hand. ‘This staff is your key to countless worlds. All you need to do is to strike it once upon the ground and it will open the door for you to enter another world.’ He then placed the staff in her right hand. ‘Know too, that you no longer require food or sleep, for your body has shed its mortal needs as it has shed its visibility to mortal eyes.’
‘Would Harmony’s transition to an angel have been as drastic as mine, my Lord?’ Odell asked, looking at herself and wondering how would Harmony have reacted to losing her normal appearance.
‘No. She wouldn’t have looked any different. The process that changed you was the result of that liquid fire burning your flesh away. When the light was restored your body was healed by absorbing it. So now you have become part of that light as well as an angel. The only thing that would have changed in Harmony would have been her sense of awareness. She would have become fully aware that she was an angel. And by becoming an angel, she would have reduced the power of Chaos while increasing mine, so I would have been able to free myself from his prison.’
‘Will you be returning to your domain, my Lord?’
‘No. Since Chaos is loose in the mortal world, I too must remain here to balance the scales.’
‘Won’t you be able to send him back to Infernus, my Lord?’
‘No, I can’t. A long time ago, I weakened him by frustrating all his evil deeds and he eventually gave up and retired to Infernus, where I placed an eight-layered samadan gate, the strongest metal in the universe, to keep him there for all eternity. So I don’t believe that he will ever go there again, regardless of how frustrated his plans get. Because if he goes there, he knows that he can never get out again.’
‘So, what you are saying is that the world is now forever locked in combat between good and evil … between chaos and peace.’
‘It sounds grim, I know, but it could have been worse.’
‘The world without you. The world without hope.’
‘How do I go about my task, my Lord?’
‘First, you walk amongst the people of this world and spread hope, then when this is done, strike your staff upon the ground to enter another to do the same.’
‘What about your spring, my Lord? Who will guard it? You have no priestess.’
Pax glanced at his spring. ‘I shall seal the entrance to the spring, so no one can ever enter it or exit from it.’
‘Where is the body of the priestess? Do you know? Because it is not here.’
‘There is no body,’ Pax said with a sigh. ‘A demon always pulverizes the body of its victim with its breath.’
Hope cast a tearful glance at the spring where her daughter’s life was taken. ‘How was Chaos able to use this spring as his gateway? I mean, he is in Infernus, so how could he get here, even if he did poison the spring?’
‘The history of this spring is quite complicated, for it can be a gateway to both my domain as well as Chaos’s. And that was the reason I always placed a priestess here to guard it against evil. So long as its waters remained pure and holy, it only led to my domain. However, by turning the water of this spring into the same unholy liquid that runs in Infernus, this spring could easily be connected to the rivers of Infernus if the right words were spoken for summoning Chaos. Then Chaos can easily emerge in here. When I put the samadan gate in Infernus, I never anticipated such a possibility. Chaos wouldn’t have either, otherwise he wouldn’t have been after eight sisters who could become his demons to force open the gate.’
‘Why eight and why sisters?’
‘It corresponds to the number of the layers of the samadan gate. Had I made it ten, then he would have been after ten sisters. And they would have to be sisters, for not only blood ties generate strength – the stronger the blood ties, the stronger the force of the demons – but they also have to be of the same kind. The layers of the gate are of the same kind, so Chaos could not have siblings of varied genders. And he wouldn’t have gone after brothers either, for he normally selects his demons among females, and his demon keepers and agents among males.’
‘One thing I don’t understand, my Lord. If your samadan gate was supposed to stop Chaos from leaving Infernus, then how did he manage to get to you?’
‘The gate only stopped him from entering the mortal world, not mine. There are hidden passages that connect Infernus to my domain Caelum. One day I will show them to you when I take you to Caelum.’
Hope drew a long sighing breath. Her old life was over. Odell was dead, dissolved in that pool of liquid fire. ‘I am ready, my Lord, to start my new life in your noble service as your angel.’
To be continued…