A/N: Here it is. The final chapter of Ashes. Thank you to TwiliteAddict for your time and careful devoted work to this story. Gasaway Alley also deserves my hugs and kisses for her input over the years. Years! Many of you have been waiting for this story to come to a completion for four years. I'm sorry to have kept you waiting for so long, but life unfortunately is not always a straight line. Thank you for sticking with me through the twists and turns. Love to you all.
"Ye gods. This is not the Sanctuary I remember," Eleazar protested, looking around with wide eyes as he followed closely behind Benji and me. Siobhan had stayed behind to guard the other side of the door.
"It certainly isn't how you described," I agreed noting the lack of an idyllic lake and little bunnies hopping along the grass. We stood upon a rocky shoreline sparsely framing the edges of a vast, rolling ocean – Hathor's island a good three mile swim from us. I could not tell if it was day or night. Time seemed to hang in the balance as the only source of light was a nebulous ball smoldering like a dying coal in the dove-grey sky. Benji made a beeline for the shore and began shucking his shoes and shirt. The sight of Edward's shocking white, vulnerable human body combined with the thought of it tossed about in that calamitous, enchanted ocean made me prickle with fear.
"What are you doing? You're going to swim?" I questioned, incredulous. Though, I really don't know what else he could have done. There was certainly no boat to be had. I peered into the waters to see if what Eleazar had relayed to us was true. Indeed, there were memories swirling around like spectral marine life in the water. Before Eleazar could stop me, I lightly skimmed the water with my fingertips, regretting it immediately. The water soaked into my spiritual skin and downloaded a highlight reel of intimate moments between Hathor and Benji. I was not an observer, however. I was participant. Emotions, sensations, everything. I didn't know where she stopped and I began. We felt as one.
At first, the cool kiss of liquid on my skin saturated my consciousness with the bliss of Benji's touch, his words over her skin for thousands, upon thousands of years. But then, came the searing, soul rendering pain of loss and I was feeling the visceral grief preparing his body, now only a shell, for burial. His soul damned and deviled for eternity far from our grasp. I wept with the gutting absence of our soul mate. Our champion. Our immense loss triggered my own deeply seated fears of suffering the same nightmarish fate. Even after the water on my fingertips had dried, I still had difficulty separating her emotions from mine and became adamant Edward...Benji, not go.
"No, Benji, you can't. I only had a lick of it across my skin and I..." Unable to formulate to words what I experienced, my tears spoke instead. He looked pained to see me in such distress, hesitating for a moment before continuing to take of his shoes. I pitched forward and grabbed his arm in desperation. "If you immerse yourself in an entire ocean of those memories...your consciousness could separate from Edward's, what if he drowns?"
"Isabella. I swear to you he will not drown. Please. We've come this far. There is no other way," he protested gently as if speaking to a child who didn't understand. He didn't do it in a condescending fashion, or else I would have been quite pissed with him for speaking down to me. No. He was calm. Resolved.
"Besides, if anyone was meant to absorb those memories, what better candidate than the amnesiac Djinn lover they are actually about?" He grinned with the absurd simplicity of the idea.
I knew from experience usually the most simplistic answer was the best one. I looked across the ocean of emotions so powerful, I dared not immerse again my own self, lest I be lost forever. But these were his memories as much as Hathor's. A small part of me, the part I was learning was intuition, suggested that perhaps this was The Source's plan all along. I nodded my support.
"You are letting him go?" Eleazar whispered beside me, resisting all urge to stop the Djinn. He wore his worry on his face as prominently as I wore my own.
"Eleazar, my instincts tell me this is part of the quest in bringing them back together. We have to let him go."
Eleazar mustered encouragement for his friend just as Benji turned to give us one last look before he braved the strange and soon to be intimately familiar waters. We waved him on, giving the Djinn the confidence he needed to run and shallow dive beneath the ghostly depths.
The first time he surfaced, about fifteen feet from where he dove in, I knew that Benji and Edward were in terrible trouble. From the moment Benji entered the water, it boiled around him, the winds became more intense pushing the white caps into walls of water. The Djinn was pulled beneath the surface several times, wrestling with a force below the depths. Before Eleazar and I could reach the water's edge, my beloved's body shot out of the ocean on top of a huge geyser, lunging into the sky with frightful force.
"Edward!" I screamed helplessly as I watched the geyser sprout anthropomorphic aquatic tentacles, grabbing him and holding him in place. One tentacle grabbed his hair yanking his head backward, but when he screamed, another tentacle snaked down his throat, pumping him full of water. So much water. Could I even call it water? It was liquid, yes, but it also seemed solid from the silt of centuries of memories, no doubt creating this sentient consciousness attacking the Djinn. Eleazar and I watched in helpless horror as three separate arms speared through the top of his head, then the center of his chest and abdomen sucking something out of him. A navy blue aquatic form burst from his body morphing into the shape of a man, a man who was desperately trying not to be separated from Edward's body.
"Dear goddess!" Eleazar exclaimed. "The memories in the water have extricated Benji out of Edward's body. They must have recognized his soul and melded with it."
"Edward will die if Benji is separated from his body!" Just as I said that, the tentacles released Edward, causing him to crash into the waters and sink beneath the waves. The form that we assumed was Benji tried to dive after him in an attempt to keep his promise to me to not let Edward drown, but was prevented by a twenty-foot tall wave which pushed him towards the island. I could not count on Benji's help as the entire force of the ocean seemed hell bent on sending him on his way towards Hathor's island.
I thought to call my spirit animal and simply fly out to retrieve Edward, but the swells were ten to twenty-feet high. How would we get him out of the water without becoming wet and tainted by its enchantments? Neither could I walk on the water to reach him. I then found my answer, recalling the bible stories Charlie used to tell me about a holy man named Moses parting the waters of the Red Sea so the Israelites could cross and escape the Pharaoh's army. I rooted myself to Mother Earth, imagining my silver spiritual cord was umbilical, receiving energy from her powerful center. Focusing my attention on the bobbing glimpses of my husband's head, I clapped my hands together visualizing I held the ability to part the ocean if I separated them, making a pathway straight to my lover. When I pulled apart my palms, I knew the magic was working as my supernatural strength was actually straining against the tension of the physical manifestation of the force it would take to complete such a feat. I dug deep, refusing to give in, imagining I was the moon, pulling back the tides like a blanket, revealing the bedded ocean life beneath. From the depths of my guts I howled at the moon, channeling my ancestral wolf genes. The waters began to froth, then churn, then separate.
I walked to the edge and the waters began parting like a curtain as I moved forward, clearing a path. Picking up speed, I ran as fast as I could to Edward, who was in the mud, barely conscious and pale as bone. "I'm here." I said to him, picking him up and cradling his vulnerable body to my impenetrable one. I don't even think I stopped running. I simply scooped him up and made straight for the island. I could not lose time. I had to catch up to Benji and get Edward to the healing powers of The Source.
I looked down to see him staring at the wall of water on either side of us. With a weak smirk he drawled slowly. "First walking on water...and now parting it. You are giving the past masters a run for their money."
"When in doubt, it's best to go with the classics."
I tried so hard not to cry. He was like a feather in my arms. I had so little time; I could feel his life force bleeding away into oblivion. My feet finally hit the island's more solid ground and the parted waters behind me collided, a crashing crescendo of sound announcing our arrival. Frantically, I looked about for Benji or where he could have gone and noticed a three-foot wide stream which was running from what seemed to be the center of the island into the ocean. One look at the stream confirmed it was full of Hathor's memories. The stream was the source of the ocean! The Source. Life had so many interesting layers of meaning. I followed the stream. My gut instincts were driving the bus and that was fine with me. They'd gotten me this far.
The stream led us to a wooded grove. At the very center, surrounded by a watery moat, was a rose granite altar. Rising up from the moat was the aquatic form of Benji, leaning over ghostly female made entirely of light lying on the altar. The Source. There was nothing solid left of her. She was exactly as Ra had said, dissolving into Ocean and Aether. One could still make out the imprint her material body had left behind. Her eyes were closed, yet from their corners ran a continuous flow of tears, cascading down the granite, wearing a trail into the hard stone before dropping into the moat, which fed the stream, which fed the ocean. For hundreds of years this mourning matron of Creation had been weeping away her existence, one tear at a time. Were we too late?
"Please, my love, wake up. I am here." He was pleading desperately trying to shake her awake, but his hands slipped through and she was unaffected.
"Please stop crying, my darling. I remember it all. Come back." His begging and surging desperation was too much to bear, and I clutched Edward to me in fear, attempting to get closer to try and help. If he couldn't wake her, we were lost. Benji startled at our approach and turned towards us. I was better able to see his features, which very much resembled the man I had seen when I was infected with Hathor's memories. What would happen to him if he couldn't wake her? Was he doomed to haunt these waters forever? I felt such pity for him. Here he stood in front of her after hundreds of years and all he could do was watch her continue to fade away.
"Tell him to kiss her." Edward whispered. Though the act was a foundational cliché of fairytales, we weren't past considering it. Shaking her awake was an act of aggression...yet a kiss, this was an act of love.
"Kiss her! Express your love through a kiss!" I urged Benji.
He bent down and touched his lips to hers, and she opened to him, deepening their kiss. A cascading rush of water poured from Benji into Hathor's light form, mingling and moiling light and liquid together, forming solid matter. They continued to kiss, touch and hold each other, siphoning water from the stream and the moat and up through Benji until they became increasingly more solid. Finally, the stream thinned to nothing and the moat dried up. Tremors vibrated beneath our feet as the entire geography of the island groaned, shook and stretched beneath us in great rumbling shifts. I bent my body over Edward's to protect him and felt how hot he was. His fever was raging, rendering him a red-hot coal in my arms. But his eyes were full of such peacefulness as he gazed upon the miraculous reunion and reconfiguration of a goddess and her lover before us. He turned to me, reaching out to touch my cheek,
"Love like that is Heaven to behold," he said with effort, "and Paradise to have lived, as we have, my love. As we will aga..." Green bloodshot eyes rolled back into his head. He was having a seizure, his muscles tightening and making him jerk with rigid uncontrollable movements. I kissed his forehead and whispered, "please hang on, please..."
Everything stilled. Nothing but the sound of Edward's laboured breathing filled my ears. Someone crouched down beside me, the smell of lilies, mixed with wafts of ritual incense filled my nose. A hand gently touched my shoulder, and I turned to see the Source, intact, healed by the return of her lover and luminous with gratitude.
"Isabella. You have returned my heart. If you asked me now for the moon and stars, I would name them yours."
Hathor's words washed over me and I felt the ecstasy of divine love numbing my grief, quelling my fears.
Tears rolled down my face as I offered up my husband for her to heal. "Please, Goddess. Edward's life is worth more than the moon, and means more to me than there are stars in the heavens."
"We know well of the love you speak." Benji took his place beside his twin flame, his dark features the perfect foil to Hathor's golden ones. Hathor beamed and looked upon her lover with intense devotion before reaching to take Edward from me, carrying him carefully towards her altar to examine him.
Hathor cautioned me as she laid him on the rose-colored stone. "You must realize, Isabella, I can only give life. I can't take it away. Therefore, I can't make him into a vampire. He will be human once I am finished. "
Human. The realization rushed over me like ice water. I had eased myself into the assumption he would be made back to the way he was - as a vampire. Yet, I disregarded a crucial, obvious detail: Hathor was a Goddess of Creation. Only when she was merged with Sekhmet as the Eye of Ra could a vampire be made, and that wasn't going to happen anytime soon considering our entire quest was built around making sure that merger never took place again. My decision took no thought at all. As Em loved to say, it was a "no brainer." Besides, I knew my way around the rules of mortality, as did the rest of Edward's loved ones.
"I just want him to live. I am grateful for whatever you can bless us with, my Lady," I assured her, watching intently as she worked over him, hues of healing blue emanated from the center of her palms.
The mud surrounding the bottom of the altar exploded with the blooming of blue lotus flowers, their petals opening and filling the air with the sweetest perfume. Edward's color began to warm and brighten, ruddying his cheeks and polishing the copper in his hair. I sobbed with relief and Hathor coo'd and shushed, sending me a warming rush of compassion. Her potent emotional magic wove around me pulling the parts of myself that had scattered due to fear and replaced it with serenity and security. So much worry drained away from me as I watched life seep back into my husband's body.
"Don't cry, my child. I know you are grateful. Perhaps I should explain to you what this divine tune up entails." She grinned, seeming pleased with her word play. "Isabella, humans are fascinating creatures. At one time, during the Golden Age, humans were taught by the gods the secrets to unlocking all three hundred and sixty of their senses."
"Three hundred and sixty? I had no idea there were so many!" I babbled incredulously. "I mean, being as close as I am to the supernatural world, I knew there was more than the standard five: telepathy, clairvoyance, clairaudio, clairsentience, OBE's, psychokinesis..."
"Yes! Those are but just a few of them, he will have all these and many more. Such as immortality. He will be, in essence...god-like."
Immortality?! Plus three hundred and fifty-nine more bestowing the very powers of the gods? As was always the way with divine providence, karmic balance was in essence struck in regards to Edward's soul. I had begun to see a change in his spirituality and faith after our sojourn in the In Between when he had it undeniably confirmed he did in fact have a soul. He was not as sullen and broody and became more mindful of the blessings in his life. Especially considering how much we put on the line to protect each (other?) and our own. He had spent enough of his afterlife in torment over being a vampire, a demon-like creature so far removed from what he considered godliness, and here he was being given the gift of being one! It was a spiritual reconciliation and revelation of the most profound, cyclic nature.
Hathor nodded, completely in tune with my thoughts. She was the Queen of Consciousness, after all. "Yes. He will know great peace within himself and an endless supply of love. This peace, love and wisdom, which will be very strong between the two of you, will be like a candle others can light their flame upon."
Hathor shut her eyes and took her hands off of Edward, rubbing them together vigorously. She opened up her stance, which I knew was to give herself more stability to ground with Mother Earth. Her techniques were very much like the ones I used myself. Cracking one eye open, she looked at me with a half grin.
"I gather my power to me in similar ways to your own. This ingrained know how is one of the many intuitive senses you have, Isabella, helping you manage your magic. You may not have three hundred and sixty, like Edward, but you will round up on him fast. Nothing has changed there." She closed her eye again, inhaling deeply through her nose only to exhale through her mouth in powerful breath, blowing over a spot above Edward's left ear, simultaneously flooding the area with a much richer blue. "The both of you will teach others how to reach their own extra-ordinary potential. You will, in fact, spark a type of...evolution."
"My Lady, this is indeed so much more than either of us could ever expect. I can promise you that we will both put our gifts and wisdom to work helping to right the wrongs the Volturi rule has done to the vampire race, but I think sparking an evolution is a little..." I stopped myself short when I noticed Hathor's brow was furrowed and the light coming from her hands seemed unable to penetrate the area above his ear that she had been working on. "Is there a problem?" I timidly asked.
Hathor answered calmly, too calmly. "It appears Edward was cursed with some type of tracking connection to my sister. I'm going to try and get rid of it before she..."
"Finds the portal in the Mound! We left it open!" Benji and I finished for her together. Benji and Hathor looked at each other, a crucial, yet silent understanding passing between them which I was not privy to, but caught none the less. Benji stiffened, then relented, mumbling, "Risky, but the best shot we have."
"What's the best shot we have?" I demanded.
Hathor busied herself with laying her hand directly over Edward's ear and humming some sort of shamanistic song.
Benji answered for them both.
"Hathor is going to face her sister on her own. We are not to interfere."
I went very still. But inside? Kaboom. Confusion and panic scattered through me like buckshot, which always engages my mouth before my brain.
"No! That's not the way it's supposed to be." I pointed at myself then Benji, hoping to find solidarity, "Our job is to protect her. You and I should be the ones taking care of that monster."
Benji wasn't going to budge.
"Running from that monster has brought nothing but misery. The only job at hand right now is helping this courageous man, whom we are both indebted to. Now, hush. Hathor has work to do, not worry," he chided.
I stepped back in shameful chagrin not wanting to jeopardize Edward's healing. Hathor ceased her singing and clapped her other hand over Edward's forehead. The moment she did, her eyes rolled back in her head and she opened her mouth to scream, but no sound came out! Edward's eyes opened, flashing brilliant blue, and a voice we all recognized as The Forsaken's, forced its way out of Hathor's anguished mouth.
"Too late, I'm already here."
A deep purple bruise developed around Hathor's neck. She removed her hands from Edward and flooded that area of her throat with as much pure white light as possible. The beastly bruise backed away from the light, working its way up her throat, along the bottom of her jaw until she expelled a black cloud of insects from her lips. Hathor blew as hard as she could to push them out. Benji rushed to her side and I threw my body over Edward's to protect him. I watched the cloud of bugs fly off following the dried up stream bed to the shore line. I took off after them.
I turned to see my Edward sitting up, healthy and whole. His aura was flashing bright gold with edges of white. I was flooded with relief he was healed and even more determined to make sure he stayed that way. I felt torn. I wanted so much to run back to him hold him, rejoice in his healing, but I also wanted to make sure Sekhmet never got to him again. "Edward," I pleaded, pained, "I have to go..."
"This is not your fight," he said calmly, interrupting me.
"It certainly is!" I bristled. "It's what I was born for. To keep her from harm. To keep you from harm." I protested weakly, my voice wavering.
Hathor was bent over and spitting out the last few bugs. They flew off in a dizzy tizzy after the rest. Wiping the back of her hand across her mouth she stood tall and said,
"No harm will come to anyone. There will be no fight."
"Be no fight?" I scoffed. "What are you going to do? Go hug it out?" I couldn't help my sharp tongue. This was crazy talk. Hathor couldn't go to Sekhmet! I looked at Edward. He slipped off the altar to come towards me. I met him halfway, and what he said next made me realize how close I had come to repeating an old, worn out pattern, I had only just broken free from.
"Isabella, you of all people should know how important it is for Hathor to stand in her own power and face her sister."
Edward stood before me, the closest representation to an angelic I have ever seen, and I have kept the company of gods. Eyes as green as spring grass held the fresh promise of love, but there was an added depth – an understanding, a compassionate chord rooting me in the rightness of the revelation of his statement. Or rather, reflection. In stunned silence I fully grasped the meaning in the mirror Edward was holding up to me. Innate wisdom was obviously one of the senses Edward manifested first.
Hathor's need to defend her own destiny was a mirror reflection of my own. Hathor had been protected, hidden, secreted away, her lover was made to be her protector, and when he was taken from her, she was debilitated by grief. She had been denied on every turn to defend herself. To stand in her own power. For years my past was hidden from me by my father, my love denied by my lover and my heart immured by my best friend. It wasn't until I stood up for myself that was I able to rescue my heart, take control of my life and get back on my true path.
Ra, Benji and hundreds of thousands of OurosBouros, my entire familial line had dedicated our lives and afterlives to protecting Hathor, and still, we couldn't keep the sisters from each other. I thought of Xandru and Ioana – how much heartache it was for Xandru to keep his true identity from his sister even though hers was lost to the fires of change, proving the connection between twins is a cosmic one and cannot be denied.
"I do know." I turned to the goddess who had been watching Edward and me with great interest. "I know what it's like to not be listened to, to be considered weak."
"Yes. Which is exactly why you were chosen to by my Champion after Benji was taken from me. Only you would know the best way to defend me was to let me defend myself. I can assure you, I have never felt stronger. Thanks to the gift you have given me." Hathor turned to Benji and took his hands in hers. "Soon, all will be as it should have been."
"And ever will be," he replied, pulling her to him for a brief kiss.
The sky darkened and thunder cracked in the distance. Eleazar's voice carried across the wind, "You shall not pass, you Beastly Bitch of Blasphemy!"
We all ran to the edges of the island, which had come much closer to the opposite shoreline. I didn't realize how much of herself she had poured into water in the attempt to ease the pain of her memories, until I was able to take in the scope of shift in the landscape. The ocean had contracted to the point that the body of water was once more the size of a small lake and we could very easily see what was going on the other side.
Sekhmet's guise as Carmen was gone, and her true countenance, burned and scarred from her battle with Ra before Eleazar escaped with Jaru and Wadjet. Knowing what a mind trip it was for Eleazar to face his wife's evil doppelganger at my wedding, facing this gorgon might have been easier for him. Unfortunately, though Eleazar was valiantly defending himself against Sekhmet, it was clear she had the upper hand.
Siobhan had already fallen prey to decapitation, her corpse lying just inside the portal's entrance. Her head however was dangling from a chain hanging from Sekhmet's neck, along with Ra's. Hathor was visibly sickened and shaken at the sight of her father's head. Her anguished scream soared across the water on wings of pain and disbelief.
"Sekhmet!" Hathor wailed. "Stop this madness. There is no more need for death."
Sekhmet cranked her neck towards her sister and grinned a hellish grin, invoking dread's dark tendrils to squeeze my insides and drum up my defenses. I readied myself to fight, to call up my phoenix and attack her, but Edward grabbed my arm and projected a firm "Don't. Watch only."
Hathor walked into the water, tears flowing once more, the emotional elixir churning up the heavily silted bottom, the horror of her sister's patricide muddying the water with her pain.
"Oh dear twin, don't cry!" Sekhmet teased cruelly, "There is always a reason for death. I was merely waiting so you could watch me extinguish yet another life that you put in front of me in defense."
"Sekhmet, NO!" Hathor boomed like the thunder rattling across the heavens, but in less than a lightning's flash, Sekhmet grabbed Eleazar and ripped off his head! His corpse joined Siobhan's on the ground. Speaking a strange guttural language, she hooked our friends head to her most heinous necklace, her eyes glowing a deep red as she hissed and spit her malevolentmantras.
"My friends," Hathor turned her back to her twin, imploring us. "We must now pray. Pray for love. Pray for an end to this hate that has made that creature what she is."
Benji immediately dropped to his kneesand began muttering prayers to the ground, to the sky, and the stars beyond as tears flowed freely for the women who were about to decide the fate of the world.
Sekhmets roaring ravaged the air, her body contorting and twisting into a therianthropic form. Not the lioness this time, something more reptilian in nature. Her skin mottled with murky mauves and hues of grey before hardening into serpentine scales. The decapitated heads around her neck mushroomed and morphed in an ashy fog of necromancy, shifting into snake heads, hissing and baring fangs of venomous, vitriolic vengefulness.
"Holy Hydra, Hathor! We're going to need more than prayer! Do you not see the size of that thing? " I protested.
The multi-headed monster was rapidly growing in size, reaching beyond thirty feet in height. No one moved. Hathor, Benji and even Edward, were all meditating very intently and transmuting their energy into the waters. My auric vision helped me see the rainbow of raw, pure emotions of compassion, love and empathy surging into the lake by the others. It was then I understood. I knew exactly what Hathor was doing. Benji was right, her plan was risky, but that was exactly why I loved it.
Hathor was hoping to lure Sekhmet into the water, which was still swarming with her memories. There wasn't only the recollection of loving and losing Benji that Hathor had bled into the waters, but that of loving and losing her once beloved twin as well. From experience I knew it would be impossible for Sekhmet to deny or defend against the complete, intense immersion into her twin's life, love and loss. With but a drop on my skin, I was Hathor. I felt her greatest joy and most profound loss. If I had known I was the cause of it I surely would have gone out of my mind and matter to make amends. Sekhmet broke their bond and covenant to maintain balance within the cycle of life and death, and now she must choose to repair it. Empathy and contrition from the goddess of Chaos herself was our only shot at victory.
"I knew you'd see it eventually." Edward telepathically communicated to me. "Just as fire is subdued by water, fear is subdued by love." He grabbed my hand. When he did, I could feel the immense power thrumming through him that he was exchanging with Mother Earth.
I rooted myself and did the same, releasing positive, cleansing emotions with a little twist - an ages old karmic curse I had found amongst the Codex of spells and journals of my ancestors.
"May the full horror of your actions be revealed to you," I chanted, "Be there no harm done except to undo that which needs to be undone."
Edward reinforced my little spell by twining his energy around mine to strengthen its flow. Joy bloomed within me to be able to work with him in this magical manner. To connect so readily on every level, especially on the telepathic one, once more.
"What if Sekhmet figures it out? Wouldn't she be able to detect her sister's magic in the water?" I asked Edward. "Thoth trapped the Eye of Ra by filling a river with beer, tricking the Eye into drinking it by dying it the color of blood. How can Sekhmet not see the parallel to what Hathor is putting into play?"
Edward grinned and wryly answered, "Despite having four heads, Sekhmet is none the wiser. She is blinded by her egotistic quest for vengeance, just as she was once blinded by her all consuming blood lust She refused to learn the lesson the first time, Hathor is giving her another chance to make amends in accordance with Universal Law – What you resist, persists."
Sekhmet bellowed from across the way,
"Yes Pray! Pray for a quick death, you fools!"
The other four heads hissed and bore their fangs, ready to strike. She did not see magic moving beneath the surface so focused was her consuming intention to dominate then eliminate what she assumed was passive prey.
"She believes we have given up and are praying for the end!" I was relieved and reinforced to see what Edward thought was true.
"Yes. Little does she know what we are really praying for is a new beginning."
I joined my friends in prayer, sending as much hope for love and compassion as I could into the waters. Hathor dove into the water. Sekhmet slid in, slowly submerging her massive body, believing her sister to be nothing but lamb to the slaughter, not realizing the only prey in the water was her.
The water immediately had a chemical reaction on her scales, dissolving the layers of leathery skin like acid. One by one, the long necks of the snakes shriveled and balled back up into the heads, leaving Sekhmet without her magic and muster. Sputtering and splashing about blindly, consumed by Hathor's memories and crazed by the consequences of her actions, Sekhmet begged desperately for the chance to offer contrition. The beast's screams for mercy were being answered to the best of our ability, as Benji, Edward, and I had all felt the irrefutable pull of the waters intense magic and sent as much compassion as we could into the lake in the hope of easing Sekhmet's excruciating emotional, mental, spiritual and physical pain. We had no doubt Sekhmet was experiencing karmic hell beyond anything she could have ever imagined or enforced upon anyone else. There is no greater equalizer than the realization we are all the same. Ego has no choice but to quiet its rage and succumb.
Watching her sister flail under the onslaught of her empathic prison, Hathor serenely treaded water, demonstrating no sign of trouble managing the needling pain of the past, for she had lived it. Came through it. Rose above it. Hathor had allowed it to shape and mold her into something new. Something stronger, capable of negotiatingthe waves regret and despair which had overwhelmed her in a life past. Baptized within the waters of this past, the Goddess of Creation was reborn.
Hathor swam slow circles around Sekhmet singing a sorrowful Siren's song of all the hurt and heedless destruction wrought in the name of the soul's anchor – Pride.
Sekhmet reached out desperately, trying to grab her twin, screeching over and over until her voice went hoarse,
"I'm sorry! I'm so sorry." Sobbing, she curled into fetal position and let the waters take her down.
Hathor, satisfied the repentance was authentic, grabbed a hold of her sister. Sekhmet, who seemed relieved for the respite, gave no protest when Hathor removed the horrendous necklace of heads from her neck and tossed it to the shore. Placing her hands against either side of Sekhmet's face, she pulsated white light through her twin, healing her wounds, lighting up her body with the healing magics of her compassionate heart. Wrapping her arms around her penitent sister she commanded, "You will recall. You shall repent. But not before you feel it all." Hathor dove to the bottom, pulling Sekhmet with her. In their wake, the water funneled and swirled into a massive whirlpool.
The centripetal force of the whirlpool was pulling all the water of the lake into a massive sinkhole, draining it dry. Edward, Benji and I scrabbled backwards, watching in amazement as all the water drained into the crown chakras of the twins' heads. They knelt across from each other at the bottom of the lakebed completely covered in mud. So thickly coated with the muck of memories there was no telling one from the other. One of them reached out to wipe the filthy film partially off the other's face, chanting, "
The Light shines in the Darkness."
The other sister, repeated the gesture, leaving the same yin-yang mask on her twin's face, while reciting in kind,
"And neither can the Darkness overcome."
Together they completed the incantation:
"Whether you are the night sky
Or I a distant, far off sun,
The magic shall be balanced
when two work as one."
Their voices began to build in power and purpose, ritualizing, reaffirming and re-establishing the balance between the forces of Light and Dark, Creation and Destruction, Life and Death. The winds picked up speed, carrying their voice throughout the valley, as they finished the spell, "
Returning to rights what was undone."
Edward and I wept with gratitude as we watched Eleazar and Siobhan's bodies lift off the ground to float towards Hathor and Sekhmet. They were healing them! The sister that must have been Sekhmet walked over to the gruesome necklace of lifeless heads and removed Siobhan's first, handing it to Hathor, who blessed it with light and then reattached it to her body. Eleazar was next, and upon being reanimated, both vampires bowed or curtsied deeply in thanks to the primordial twins, who seemed very pleased to help, but turned their solemn focus on the last head - their father's.
Sekhmet gathered it as she had gathered the others, only she wept in apology over his skull before presenting it to Hathor. Hathor took the head and placed it on the ground between them. They both began to sing what sounded like a hymn of praise to Ra. With their hands they scraped the mud off their bodies and clothing and molded a new body for their father. After they had pulled all the mud from their own bodies, they began collecting it from around them. They formed him from their memories, their combined love, and from the very Earth itself.
Everywhere Hathor stepped, collecting Earth, blue lotuses would emerge from the mud and bloom. Sekhmet left a trail of white lilies and began picking both sets of flowers. She crushed them in her hands, passing them to her sister. Hathor spat on the crushed petals, mixing her saliva with them, which no doubt had some sort of restorative properties science couldn't even begin to explain. The resurrective compound was then placed on Ra's chakra points.
A small string instrument appeared in Hathor's hands and she strummed an ancient solfeggio while circling around his body three times. Sekhmet lit a circle of fire around his body to bake the clay. This magical fire, spitting purple flame and smelling of slightly of sulfur worked quickly to fire the clay. I noted how they incorporated all of the elements of earth, air, water and fire to perform their resurrection ritual. This magic was as old as time and ran in a strong vein throughout the world in various cultures and traditions. The atmosphere was completely reverent, we were all so incredibly rapt with the sacred solemnity of this resurrection ritual.
Once the clay had fired to a porcelain finish, the sisters worked together to smash and crack open the casing around their father, then each one offered her hand to pull him out of the shards. The sun, which had been nothing but a sputtering spot of nebulous light immediately strengthened rising high above us, shining brilliantly and drying up the land.
Ra's joyous laughter rang throughout the Sanctuary. He hugged his daughters to him exclaiming,
"What miracle is this which brings my loving daughters, shining with sisterly love, together before me?"
"Not a miracle Father, only compassion," spoke Hathor.
"And forgiveness," added Sekhmet.
"Only?! My darlings, but these actions are the miracles of miracles!" Lord Ra looked out among us. "All of you are responsible for this miracle in some way." Ra walked towards Siobahn, who was the closest to them. "Do not kneel before us Siobhan, for you gave two lives to protect the secrets of the OurosBouros and guard the medallion until Benji's return. Name your desire and it shall be granted."
Siobahn gave a graceful bow and asked confidently,
"My Lord Ra, the history of the vampire race needs to be rewritten, and being a warrior and witness to the culmination of it's unveiling, I would like to head up this task, devoting the entirety of my days to the collection, recording and dispersion of it."
Ra was surprised and extremely pleased with Siobhan's request. "Your offer is most gracious. I certainly approve, as such an undertaking would be a chance for me to right the wrongs I made in obscuring their history. But I was not the only one in the creating of it." He looked to his daughters.
Benji had walked over and was standing by Hathor, who was only to glad to see him, both gave their assent quickly. All eyes were on Sekhmet. Would she approve of this? Especially considering her role as villain in the tale?
She stepped forward and looked us all in the eye before speaking.
"I think the vampire race could benefit from knowing that there is redemption even for the most stained of souls. All of us hold a darkness within us." Pausing, Sekhmet looked directly at me and then Edward. "Some of us more than others."
I knew of what she spoke. When I first gained my powers, I had much difficulty keeping my magic pure in intent, especially when my emotions were not in balance. In one particular horrific vision before we battled the Volturi, I saw Edward's body burning along with the rest of his family and it sparked a rage within me which would have damned my soul for eternity had I acted upon it. I would have marched down the path of revenge and ruination just as Sekhmet had.
I glanced at Edward. He knew darkness as well. All vampires did at some point of their lives and Edward made sure I was made aware of this fact when we first began to see each other. I was young and barely understood the forces of darkness and light within men, so in an effort to scare me into realizing the severity of danger I was in should he lose control, he confessed the spiritual and emotional crisis he went through when he rebelled against Carlisle and became a consumer of human blood. But even though he only drank from the evil doers, the violence of this seeming sacrifice was still something he struggled with.
Sekhmet continued, "The vampire myth needs to come out of the shadows and into the light of truth in order to set them free from centuries of shame and fear." She turned to her sister, taking her hand. "The vampire exists because my sister could not abide such a loss of souls. It's time to bring this truth, and the beauty of it, into light and set the vampire free from the belief they are a sinful demonic creature. I denied myself the warmth and revelation of this light for sake of my pride...my monstrous ego terrorized the entire planet for too long. I have much work to do to right that wrong, if I can at all. I've been forgiven by my family, and I've forgiven myself...in these things I will have the strength to withstand the judgment of the rest I have wronged. Besides, the truth, once set free, is a lion. It can defend itself."
I was nothing if not impressed with the complete turn around and sensible sizing up of the matter at hand. These empire-rocking revelations would be nothing but explosive if not handled properly. After seeing the transformation take place and hearing the words from Sekhmet herself, perhaps the vampire race had a chance to recover from the lies and flourish in the truth.
Eleazar stepped forward and said simply, quietly, "I forgive you, Sekhmet. I know the truth. I have witnessed it and will profess to the power of the compassionate heart."
Sekhmet dropped to her knees before Eleazar and wept. "Eleazar Morales, you, most of all, were not expected to offer forgiveness. I took from you what mattered most. Carmen fought bravely and never backed down. I offer you my repentance, and most sincere condolences.
Eleazar flinched, grief still resting just below the surface. I felt his energy snap into action to keep his negative emotions from capsizing his control at the mention of his dear Carmen. He held his center as Wadjet emerged from inside his jacket and wrapped herself around his arm.
Rising and swaying above Sekhmet the snake gazed into her deep blue eyes, and projected to us all,
"Eleazar has something to ask of you, and as your advisor of ages old, it would be very wise to grant him his request."
"But of course." she said as she rose.
Satisfied with Sekhmet's acquiescence, Wadjet made her way back inside Eleazar's coat, making it apparent she was going to stay in close proximity to her new friend. Wadjet would do much to ease Eleazar's grief if she remained with him.
"I am unsure how the new governing body of the vampires will now emerge given the scope of what will be revealed, but I do know I very much want to be a part of rebuilding the regime."
"Your help will be needed, Eleazar. I thank you. The leadership of the vampire race will be a decision that will not be made lightly but will have my full support. After all, I know where all the bodies are buried. Literally and figuratively."
Sekhmet's dark humour was not without a very solid point. She would very easily be able to ferret out the would-be dissenters and trouble makers within the ranks, especially considering most of them used to be on her payroll. To be entirely honest, I was simply thankful the job of restructuring the governmental affairs of the vampires was not going to fall into my lap.
"Besides, there shouldn't be too many left considering Isabella incinerated most of the lot," she added for good measure.
Edward snorted. "And here I thought Isabella was the queen of sass!"
Ra laughed. My penchant for running at the mouth was obviously a trait his daughter and I shared, which explained why he was so patient with me during our first encounter.
"I'm perfectly happy to give up the throne," I quipped before impulsively pushing forward for one small request of my own. I gave Edward a sidelong glance. He knew what I was going to ask for and was, of course, completely on board.
"Anything," all three divine beings unanimously answered.
"Edward and I want to go home. We want to return to our new lives and...live them."
Edward's arm wrapped around me pulling me close, planting a small kiss on the top of my head.
Wadjet poked her head out of Eleazar's coat, "Do you need help finding the way?"
"We know the way," I said, turning into Edward chest, reveling in the sound of his beating heart.
"It's where the heart is."
"The Light Shines in the Darkness, And Neither can the Darkness overcome" is a passage from John 1:5. I have a fondness for biblical lore and prose which I've scattered throughout Ashes. This is one of my favourite passages because I think we all need to acknowledge the darkness inside ourselves, offer forgiveness and compassion and move on with a more balanced outlook on life. If you can do this for yourself, you can do it for anyone.
Egyptian mythology also did not escape my muse's whims. You may not realize this, but the Ten Commandments was drawn from spells in the Egyptian Book of the Dead. Many of the hymns in Proverbs attributed to Solomon are a replica of the writings of an Egyptian priest named Amenemope, who based his teachings on a book written 2000 years prior to Solomon's supposed existence, entitled the Wisdom of Ptah-Hotep. If are wondering about Hathor's statement of humans once having access to three hundred and sixty senses, this is rooted in Khemitian (Ancient Egyptian) Mythology. One of my favourite documentaries about the wisdom of the ancient Egyptians is called The Pyramid Code. You can find it on youtube easily. It blew my mind and introduced me to the Khemetian Wisdom teachings of the late Abd'el Hakim Awyan who provocatively stated: "Don't compare the people of today, like the people of the ancient days. The people of ancient days were healthy. They were able to use all of their senses. We are looking at things as a crippled people, who only have five senses. We are supposed to have three hundred and sixty senses. Three Hundred and sixty senses, but only five are used, the glandular senses. Any muscle you don't use, shrinks."
One muscle we all have is our hearts, and you all filled mine with your support and kind reviews of this story. Thank you for reading and being so patient in the long wait for me to finish. Blessings to your and yours!