The sky seemed bluer the closer Cecilia and Ephraim traveled to Lake Ferina. They could see the grandeur of the ancient tree from miles away. There was a paved path towards the mystic lake where friendly fairies and benevolent magical creatures milled about. Cecilia couldn’t keep her mouth shut. Every new wonder dropped her jaw open in awe.
“This is amazing!” she exclaimed. She wasn’t sure what was waiting for at the Lake of Ferina. The words of the book she found in the Edela library haunted her. Unease crawled around her back like a snake.
“Indeed,” Ephraim agreed, his head whipping left and right.
Finally they arrived at the base of the lake, a vast, sparkling body of blue. It almost appeared to be illuminated even in the daylight. In the center of the water, the humongous tree stood, stretching its branches as if reaching to the ends of the earth. Cecilia felt the familiar divine warmth from her vision once again as she stared across the lake. Transparent stepping stones surfaced, leading Cecilia closer to the Goddess’s tree, and Ephraim followed close behind. A gentle chiming noise echoed as Cecilia reached out a pale hand to touch the trunk. She took a deep breath and closed her eyes. A gentle light fluttered in front of her, and Cecilia stepped back to see the silhouette of a familiar shape from the Taiyan Temple. The Goddess Ferina herself descended as though made of thin silk. Cecilia and Ephraim both fell to their knees in adoration.
“I am glad you made it here, Cecilia,” Ferina’s wispy voice whispered. “You possess my blood, although sullied through generations.”
Ephraim and Cecilia picked their heads up in shock of her words, but they do not dare to interrupt. Ferina continued.
“My sister, Munteia is roused, and her presence threatens Feridela’s peace. I need you to destroy what is left of Munteia’s blood in the world: the half-elf, Hildi.”
“Destroy…Hildi?” Cecilia murmured.
“If the last of her blood is vanquished, we will never have to worry about Munteia’s resurrection again.”
Was Munteia actually cursed? The familiar blur of violet caught Cecilia’s eye. She watched Ferina fade as heat rose from her feet. Hildi stepped out of a swirling magic tortal, a staff in one hand. Her black hair tumbled over her shoulders, casting a shadow over her face.
“You don’t believe her, do you?” Hildi asked softly. “Come with me to the Tower of Two Goddesses.”
“If Munteia is brought back, then Feridela will launched back into war,” Cecilia retorted. “The people can’t handle that.”
“Munteia will bless everyone, and not just her devoted.” Hildi argued.
The creatures floating around the tree fled as the purple flames grew. The Mark of Catria glinted above Hildi’s portal. Ephraim gripped Cecilia’s hand protectively, prepared to cast.
“Come with me now and let us bring Munteia back together. I left Golden Obsidian in Edela for you to discover the truth, and make the necessary sacrifice.”
Cecilia drew her bow and her circlet surrounded her with aura. Cecilia felt herself waiver when she met Hildi’s intense eyes.
“That’s nonsense!” Ephraim screamed. He cast a Freeze spell, and shards of ice splintered towards Hildi before bouncing off pathetically. Hildi raised her staff and summoned large bubbles to capture Cecilia. Cecilia shot magic arrows at them as they lingered closer. Only her magic could match Hildi’s. The speed of the bubbles increased, flying towards her before she could draw. Ephraim grabbed Cecilia to prevent them from being separated. Hildi swung her arm, flinging the bubble into the portal. Cold washed over Cecilia and suddenly she found herself lying on damp stone. She picked up her head, slightly disoriented by the sudden teleportation. She touched Ephraim’s arm as they watched Hildi step into the round.
“We’re in the Tower of Two Goddesses.” Cecilia observed the dilapidated thrones and the torn, deep red carpets. The air smelled stagnant and mossy.
“Good observation,” Hildi commented, sarcastic. “Now, disappear!”
A tiger of flames launched out of her staff, sprinting full speed at Cecilia and Ephraim. They rolled in separate directions, swiftly attacking back simultaneously. Cecilia focused her energy, and a fiery spirit imbued her arrows, making them follow Hildi as she glided around the throne room. Ephraim couldn’t touch Hildi, but he could destroy her spirit tiger. The tiger let out a cry and lunged, clawing Ephraim’s leg. Ephraim collapsed to the ground, his satchel spilling books over the stone ground. He inched forward to reach his Book of Water. He chanted an incantation, rising his tome to conjure a waterfall, dousing the lavender fire, dissipating the creature. Hildi retaliated. She shot a sleep spell at Ephraim, causing him to stay motionless.
“Stop this, Hildi!” Cecilia screamed.
“I won’t stop until Munteia is awakened! She is the true goddess!” Hildi cried.
“Your battle is already lost!” returned Cecilia. “Bringing her back will only bring pain and confusion,”
“You don’t understand. Anyone who isn’t obsessed with Ferina lives in poverty. You don’t get to see those people though, do you, a daughter of Catria and Elven nobility.” Hildi jabbed. She sent a rain of purple flames, igniting the throne room.
“People will die.”
“But, may everyone have blessings.”
Cecilia concentrated and her circlet lit up with flames. The land would undoubtedly fight over the Goddesses, just like in ages past. She could imagine how theocratic leaders would be torn out of power and their goods being distributed to the poor. The leaders that she has followed since birth. Being the daughter of Catria has had it’s perks. She just wasn’t well-traveled enough to see how everyone lives. Feridela was ever-present. Every meal and every lucky chance was an opportunity to worship the selfish Goddess.
“We can’t endanger Feridela,” she announced firmly. The aura around her blazed brightly. “I’m sorry, but the Forgotten Goddess must remain forgotten!”
Cecilia stamped her foot down and the ground rumbled intensely. Hildi was blown backwards, banging her head on one of the two thrones. Her eyes fluttered and she yelled as she became engulfed with Cecilia’s fire.
“I thought you would be strong enough to oppose Ferina. You are a fool if you think things will never change.” Hildi said weakly.
“I will protect the people I love.” Cecilia approached Hildi, her hands filled with purple fire. Hildi raised her arm again, but Cecilia sent a blast that sent her across the room, sealing Munteia’s existence forever.
Cecilia released the breath she didn’t even know she was holding, and she ripped the circlet out of her long hair. Ephraim lay in the corner, still sleeping. She went to him and held his hand.
“I will protect the people I love.”