A/N – It's a week late, but we got hit with a nasty flu which put the whole house out of commission for a few days. I would like to thank TwiliteAddict and Viola Cornuta for the editing and tidying up of this chapter.
This chapter picks up where we left off with Eleazar jumping into the portal. Enjoy and please review!
I'd like to say travelling through the portal was similar to Lewis Carrol's depiction of Alice falling through the rabbit hole, with visions of tree roots and floating furniture with tables set for tea, but our plummet into gods-knew-where had nothing to do with the force of gravity.
The snake, which used to be a walking stick, was wrapped tightly around my head like a turban, its own head protruding from my forehead like the prow of a boat, steering us through the slipstream of light we were riding. Beyond the blackness, I could see other shafts weaving this way and that, like translucent highways forming a type of web. Where the shafts intersected there were larger nodes...some were lit, some were not.
As we passed through the ones which were not lit, there was a cold drifting feeling in our trajectory. I didn't mind those so much as the lit sections, which had a flash and pull of sensory overload similar to a riptide trying to grab hold. Yet the snake seemed to buoy us through and onward after only a few terrifying seconds.
"Where are we?" I asked the snake timidly. I wondered if it would answer, as I had serious doubts it had spoken to me in the first place. Maybe I was experiencing some sort of supernatural psychotic break...
"We are deep below the surface of the earth, travelling through her electromagnetic grid...the energy lines."
"You mean like... leylines?"
"Yesss. They are known by many names, in many cultures all over the world. In China they are called dragon lines. The Shamans of the Americas call them spirit lines. The Aborigines call them song lines. I like to call them by their original name – Lines of the Serpent."
I peered into the lattice work of the Serpent Lines to try to discern if there were other travellers. I found none.
"How come I don't see others using these conduits?"
"Othersssss travel the lines, but not safely...only I, the great Wadjet, am able to guide one safely through."
Wadjet. So this was the Cobra's name.Which made "it" most definitely a "she". In fact, if memory served me correctly, Wadjet was an ancient goddess in her own right, though not much was known about her. She was the protector of kings, the cobra-headed Uraus that the pharonic kings wore on their crowns and funerary masks. It now made perfect sense why she chose to wrap herself around my head in the manner she did.
"I used these linesssss to span the world and look for the sons of Ra. He was known as Atum then – the very first god of the Universe. He was so happy when I found Tefnut and Shu, he wept. It was from those tears humanity was born."
"I am most honoured I have you to guide me, Goddess." My tone was humble. This snake had saved my hide in more ways than one.
"Pleassssssse. Call me Djet. Hang on! Here comes another intersect. Two more before the final destination you have chosen."
Suddenly remembering the precious cargo I carried, I squeezed the Djinn's bottle against my chest, petrified it would be pulled from me. Yet, Djet continued to navigate us through the strong pull of the criss-crossing energy lines with ease.
"Where do those cross sections lead to?" I thought of the empty, ancient pool I had to jump into and began to wonder what our re-entry would be like.
"Like churches and mosques?"
"Those are the more recent ones, but most of these have built over the older pagan sites. Stone circles, dolmens, mounds and pyramids are also portal markers."
What she said was most definitely true. Most temples and churches were constructed in this manner and if they were all built on locations where the energy grid intersected, it certainly explained the surge of spiritual energy one felt in these ancient places of power. I wondered if the lit sections had more strength than the darker ones.
"How come some of these sections are lit and some are not?"
"Sssssssome entry sites have been destroyed. Buried. Blockaded. Mostly by humankind. A few by the gods themselves."
An awful realization hit me...
"Errrm, Djet, what if our intersect is a darkened one? What happens then?"
"It could be an interesting cross over. And it looks like you are about to find out."
Darkness loomed ahead except for a thin shaft of light slicing through a bright sliver of hope in the depthless gloom.
"Not completely closed, but this will be a tight squeeze, nonethelessssss..."
Djet manoeuvred us through the cold blackness towards the beam and it became evident the size of the opening had nothing to do with its strength. As we entered into it, I felt an unbelievable compression seize my entire body, and I could swear I was probably changing shape in a way I doubt even today's quantum physics could explain. Djet brought levity to the situation with her emerging dry sense of humour.
"Sssuck it in, Eleazar!"
I squeezed my eyes shut against the suffocating encasement I felt. Moving through the tiny slip in space, wishing again I was Alice and there was a "Drink Me" potion available to make me smaller. Yet, no sooner had my complaint registered within my conscience did I hear a distinctive popping sound and I found myself in a rather awkward position.
My bottom was firmly planted but barely accommodated in a small stone basin, my long legs dangling in a graceless manner over the edge. I now understood the amplitude of the light was inversely related to the size of the portal. It would be just my luck that I would jump in to an empty lake and come out the other end in a birdbath the size of a bathroom sink. At least both reservoirs were dry and I was not a sopping wet mess.
Djet slithered down off my head and onto the floor of a stone courtyard while I quickly dismounted from the small water fountain. Looking around in the dim light of dawn, I recognized the scalloped Moorish arches of San Pau de Camps, the oldest church in Barcelona. My cold heart leapt within my chest… the boisterous Ravel district in which the church was located was a few dozen kilometres from mine and Carmen's home. An easy distance for me to cover quickly and covertly.
"I thought you said you transported your charges safely?" I teased as I righted my clothing and got my bearings for the nearest exit.
"Most definitely, I navigate only the positive energy lines, so no harm comesssss to the Ka during the journey whereas others, such as Sekhmet, will use both, even the dangerous negative ones, damaging their balance."
The Ka was considered the light body or soul of the being, so it made sense Sulpicia would pay no heed to the damage to her soul. Now I knew how she was able to travel so quickly across the planet when she absolutely needed to.
"Well, I certainly appreciate the due care you take with your passengers, Djet, and I thank you for your assistance. But I'm afraid, now we are in my neck of the woods and the noble citizens of Barcelona will soon be stirring, by any chance could you...?"
Understanding my question before I could finish it, the snake lengthened into the shape of the walking stick and transformed back into the beautifully carved object Jaru had paraded around the temple with as he proudly pointed out the ancient hieroglyphs. I struggled with the sharp loss and fear for my friends back in Egypt, but I knew I had no time to emotionally wallow on what lie behind me. Making my way out of the courtyard, I vowed to get on with my mission and get the Djinn to Bella once I made sure Carmen was safe.
As I quickly wove through the streets to our home, I noticed the city was bedecked for our annual Jazz Festival. Consuming dread spurned me into a frenzied dash as I realized much more time had passed than I had originally assumed. It was early October when I arrived in Denderah. The Jazz Fest ran from the end of October to the end of November. I stopped in front of a newsstand and picked up a paper, confirming my fear - October 31. I'd been gone for almost three weeks!
Struck with how my mate must be fretting over my long absence, I reached into my pocket to retrieve my phone, only to find it wouldn't work. I surmised dimensional travel had an effect on electromagnetic equipment and not a very favourable one. I decided speed took precedence over stealth and tore through the city streets like a demon on fire.
Three weeks of Sulpicia looking for me. She had to have come to the house...dear goddess, my Carmen!
Not to diminish the strengths of my wife in protecting herself, but Sulpicia was not playing nice. I failed miserably in the attempt to push away the images of Jaru, strung up and bloodied in front of the mad monster, and to drown out the replay of the roof caving in behind me as two mighty gods fought one another. Horrific visions of what Sulpicia would do to my beloved ate away the last strings of my sanity. I had already lost Xandru. I couldn't imagine losing Carmen as well.
The thirty kilometre distance between San Pau and my mountaintop cottage in Passeig de Muntanya dissolved very quickly in my haste. The modest home I shared with Carmen came into view, seemingly untouched by the chaotic destruction I imagined Sulpicia wreaking. I all but tore the door off the hinges in my careless rush to enter and to make sure my love was safe.
Dismayed she did not greet me at the door, I rushed around the house calling her name, not caring if my voice sounded terrified. Nothing but the strains of silence answered. My methodical mind kicked in once I went to our bedroom and noticed several outfits in her walk in closet missing. Gone also was her favourite Luis Vuitton Luggage. Hope spread tiny tendrils when I spotted the envelope addressed to me on our dresser.
I tore open the envelope and unfolded the note. Folded within was a smaller envelope which tumbled onto the dresser. I paid it no mind, anxious for Carmen's words.
I have flown to Denali to be with the family for the wedding. I hope this finds you well and able to join us when you return.
My attention flashed to the smaller envelope, addressed to Carmen and I, postmarked almost two weeks ago from Denali. It was a wedding invitation for Edward Cullen and Isabella Swan.
I didn't bother packing. The wedding was today. In less than one hour. Grabbing the walking stick slash serpent god, I rushed back to San Pau de Camp as the sun climbed its way towards early morning. With any luck, there would be a portal very close to a certain wedding ceremony.
Santiago sat in front of a panel of monitors, all showing live footage from various strategic angles in Eleazar's house. He had installed the cameras over almost two weeks ago at Sulpicia's bequest. Santiago was relieved the fool had finally come home and taken the bait. Mistress would be so pleased. Now things were finally getting interesting. He rewound the footage and watched again how the traitorous, thieving rat ran through his house in such a horrid panic looking for his mate.
Muffled groans sounded behind him. He pushed himself away from his spying station to check on the beautiful Catalonian vampire chained to his Mistress's wall. Despite her bonds, she was treated very well and force-fed daily. Mistress was very firm on these instructions – Carmen Morales was to be kept healthy and unmarred.
"Such concern for you, everyone has. Especially your Eleazar. If he only knew where you really were..." Santiago stroked her cheek as she seethed and railed against her enchanted restraints.
The crackle and hiss of the fire pit Santiago's Mistress used as a travel portal drew Carmen's gaze, her eyes widening in horror when she realized Sulpicia was returning. Sulphur and blood stained the atmosphere with the heady notes of death and destruction as Sulpicia appeared out of the haze and into Carmen's reality.
More like nightmare. Half of Sulpicia's face was badly burned and her clothing hung in bloody tatters. The dust of crushed stone powdered her hair so that it was streaked with white like the crone witches of fairytale.
"Oh god..." Carmen whispered.
"God is dead." Sulpicia hoisted an object into the air, shaking it with barbaric pride. Clutched in her fist by its hair was a head, but not one Santiago recognized. Were there more Ourosbouros brethren than just Eleazar left? Not that it mattered, as whomever it was, they were no longer a threat.
Sulpicia stalked over to them, swinging the head as she came. She placed her gory trophy at eye level with Carmen.
"Do you think the Cullens would approve of my wedding gift? I so want to impress, and buying from the registry is so...passe. I can't think of many couples who have ever received the head of a god for a gift. Can you?"
"The head of a god?!" thought Santiago. His Mistress certainly had been busy.
Horrified, Carmen struggled to back up, having nowhere to go. If she could melt into the wall, Santiago had no doubt she would.
"Too much? Oh well, I guess there is always the gravy boat."
Carmen whimpered and closed her eyes.
Tossing the head dispassionately onto the floor, Sulpicia frowned down at her apparent disarray. "Oh, yes, I must look dreadful. Certainly can't go to such a blessed event like this. First impressions and all. You know the family well, what would you wear?"
Sulpicia drew in closer to Carmen, who shook her head back and forth and whispered, " I don't know."
"Don't know?" Santiago's Mistress inhaled the mixture of fear and anger rolling off Eleazar's mate, revelling in its potency. "Or don't care to tell me?"
"Both, you bitch. Burn in hell."
Carmen opened her eyes and blasted Sulpicia with such defiance and hatred, Santiago thought she would burn off what was left of his goddess's face. Santiago soon realized however, that his Mistress though burned, was certainly not beaten.
"That's what I love, Santiago. The fire, right up until the end. Adds spice. "
Quicker than even Santiago could track, Sulpicia forced herself upon Carmen for a soul sucking kiss, swallowing the captive vampire's screams like a delicious aperitif.
Santiago watched with amazement as Carmen's entire body began to dehydrate and darken while his Mistress drew the vampire's life force into her own body. The consumption of it healed and transformed Sulpicia into the exact likeness of Eleazar's wife.
Backing away from the blackened shell of her victim Sulpicia ran her hands over her new, naked form, seemingly pleased with it.
"Mmmm... lovely body. Such a sin to not know how to clothe it. Santiago, is it still out of fashion to wear black to a wedding?"
"I'm sure my Mistress can wear whatever she desires."
A bored sigh sifted from her beautiful, pouty lips. "Yes, but I wouldn't want to upstage the bride. After all it is her day."
The laughter that rang from his Mistress rustled the brittle husk on the wall, causing it to break apart flying about the room like drifting ash until all that remained of Carmen Morales was a carbon imprint on the wall.