Cecilia adjusted her quiver and touched her circlet. The two headed west towards the dipping sun, but Ephraim and Cecilia weren’t afraid of moving in the dark. Ephraim had his light magic and Cecilia was a deadly shot even in the night. Cecilia breathed in the scent of dying leaves, an oddly comforting smell. It’s been years since Cecilia had traveled further than the general territory of Taiyorka. They were just past the bridge, leaving the Avira Plains. Her stomach felt filled with fairies.
“Don’t let your guard down,” warned Ephraim.
“Come on, we’ll be fine. I’ve got the most powerful wizard in Feridela with me.”
Ephraim gave her a disapproving glance, sharpened by his elven features. His look softened.
“You flatter me, Cece. You’re lucky to be related to me.” He chuckled slightly, bringing a grin to Cecilia’s face. It was always a victory to make Ephraim laugh.
“Joking aside, we don’t know what we’re getting into here, and I need you to be prepared to use everything I’ve taught you.”
“If only you taught me about magic,” Cecilia muttered.
Ephraim ignored the comment.
“Feridela would be nothing without the Goddess’s gifts. If something is wrong, we must do whatever is in our power to protect her.”
The lands would not bare crops and magic would run without limits if not for Ferina’s rule. The land was said to be doomed without her presence. At least, that was what Feridelan children were told.
Cecilia’s nose twitched. Smoke. She glanced around, searching for the source. There was a campfire glowing faintly ahead.
“Brigands. It’s best to avoid them,” whispered Ephraim. “We’re close to Munt territory.”
Cecilia and Ephraim crept silently, sticking close to the ground. Muntsmen were not to be messed with. They were one of the few villages that did not worship Feridela, and the lands there were practically barren. The townspeople usually turned to lives of thievery in hopes of providing for their families. Cecilia wondered why they don’t want Ferina’s favor. Cecilia tried to prevent rattling her quiver and bow slung across her back. In the distance, Cecilia could make out the tips of buildings that must be Edela Village. Her forehead began to tickle. She reached up to poke the circlet back into place, but a spark appeared from the gem stone. It dropped on the forest floor in a small purple flame. Ephraim began to chant a water incantation but the flame didn’t die.
“What did you do?” He scolded.
The purple flames began to lick the trees, to Cecilia’s horror. The fire was bright and hotter than she’s ever felt.
The two of them began to sprint ahead, hoping to reach the edge of the forest. An axe whizzed past Cecilia, whacking into a maple. She flinched violently.
“Who’s there?!” A deep throaty voice called out.
Cecilia and Ephraim sprinted away from the flames as brigands started to wake and yell war cries.
“I’ll make a cover!” Ephraim yelled. His tome shook up and down as they ran, but soon enough, a layer of fog began to rise from the ground. Purple lights glinted within the fog appearing all around them. The brigand’s stiffened and their eyes lit up with lavender lights.
“Come, Cecilia.” A droning voice moaned from one of the Muntsmen.
“It’s the other Catria Mark!” Shouted Ephraim as he furiously conjured barrier magic. “They’re possessed!”
Cecilia ducked as a mace came close to her head. She drew her bow and fired an arrow in his foot. The arrow was lit with the same purple pyre.
Cecilia shot out more, heart pounding in her ears. She wasn’t shooting to kill, but flames lit every arrow she pulled from her quiver.
“Cecilia. The Tower of Two Goddesses,” a possessed brigand groaned.
“Two goddesses?” She said aloud.
Ephraim yanked another tome out of his satchel.
“Get behind me!” Cecilia gripped Ephraim’s cloak as he began to cast Flash. “This will disorient them for a while!”
A blinding light exploded around them in the fog. The brigands collapsed to the ground, writhing and screaming as the purple flames were extracted from their eyes. The cover began to settle as the Muntsmen quieted, passed out from the Flash spell. The purple flames subsided as well. Cecilia and Ephraim caught their breath, pulling each other in for a hug.
“What in Ferina’s name just happened?” Ephraim asked against Cecilia’s ear.
As the fog settled, a small figure appeared, a violet aura surrounding them.
“Cecilia,” was all the silhouette said. It was a small, feminine voice like her own. The girl stepped forward to reveal her face. She wore a long, hooded, dark cloak, but what appeared to be half-elf ears still poked out. Her skin was youthful and she had sharp, dark eyes.
“She’s just a projection,” Ephraim told Cecilia.
“Who are you?” Cecilia asked.
“Cecilia, you must listen to me and trust what I’m about to tell you,” the mysterious girl replied.
“You attacked me,” Cecilia reminded. “Why should I trust you?”
“My name is Hildi. A half-elf like you. I was sent to eliminate you for Feridela’s benefit—” Suddenly, Hildi vanished mid-sentence.
“What?” Ephraim asked, dumbfounded.
“I don’t know. But I do know we have to get away from here to rest.”
They reached Edela, and the village was silent. Few lights were still on at this time of night, but the two headed into the nearest Inn. Cecilia stared out the window at the stars and she very carefully took off the circlet, which was no longer hot to the touch. How was she connected to the Goddess, and what exactly was she protecting her from?
“Don’t worry. We’ll get you to the Goddess,” Ephraim said, watching her carefully.
The purple flames danced across her eyelids as she laid down to sleep.
The next morning, Cecilia and Ephraim headed into town to stock up on anything they would need. Edela was a quaint town with sturdy buildings and relics to Ferina everywhere you look. Naturally, this made the village lavishly wealthy. Dwarves wearing pristine robes roamed the organized street, singing their praises to the Blessed town of Edela. Cecilia’s mind whirled around with thoughts of Hildi and what she had told her. Cecilia spotted an information broker with a big nose sitting by some merchants near an alley.
“Hey!” She called out.
Ephraim turned his head to find Cecilia already heading towards the broker with her hand straight in the air.
“I’ve got a question.” Cecilia pulled gold from her bag and held it out.
“I’m listening,” said the short man.
“Have you heard of the ‘The Tower of Two Goddesses?’” she asked clamping the coins in her hand.
The broker’s beady eyes shifted back and forth. “Two.”
The pieces were exchanged.
“There’s an ancient rumor that exists around Northern Feridela,” he started. “One remaining structure stands for the Forgotten Goddess.”
“The Forgotten Goddess….” Cecilia whispered.
“All I know is that there’s a place beyond the Ferin mountains up north. People say whoever does not worship Ferina is left with nothing. That’s all you’ll get from me.”
Cecilia started back towards Ephraim, her chest buzzing.
“Stay away from those guys, Cece. Also let’s leave for the tree while it’s nice and early. It’s only a few minutes from here.”
“Who do the Muntsmen worship?” Cecilia asked randomly.
“Not sure,” Ephraim answered. “Doesn’t matter. Ferina must be waiting for you.”
“Actually, I’m kind of curious,”
Ferina entered Edela’s library, an impressive building filled with the extensive history of Feridela and stories of myth. She perused for hours, despite the nagging from Ephraim. Not a single word of a second goddess or a northern tower lived with the pages. Ephraim used his magic to sort through key words, going through books upon books. Cecilia opened a particularly old book, larger than normal size that wasn’t flying off the shelf from Ephraim’s spell. It was heavy in her hands as she read the cover; Golden Obsidian. Cecilia opened the book to find that it was a hidden pocket book. She lifted the smaller, ancient text and opened it.
“Ephraim…Look at this. Your spell didn’t work on it.”
Cecilia’s eyes scanned the pages rapidly, when she discovered the chapter, “Ferina and Munteia.”
The story wove a power struggle between not one, but two sister goddesses over Feridela. Munteia, who dispersed her blessings to the needy, and Ferina, who gifted those who were devoted to her. Priests, clergy, and nobility rose above all as the highest power thanks to her. As a result, the citizens looked to Munteia. Ferina’s power declined as less people prayed to her. Ferina was jealous, so she released her people to destroy all shrines and worshippers of her sister. Blood was spilled across the region for years, but Ferina’s smaller group wielded more powerful weapons. Over centuries, the text and connections to Munteia, weakening her very existence into a sealed, dormant state. The author of the book must have wanted to protect her, The Forgotten Goddess.
“Ephraim, you aren’t going to believe any of this.”