Kept in the Dark

Being dead is easy—the hardship lies in the dying. Fret not, the story is not ruined because you know of my demise. The narrator isn’t always the person of import in a tale. That honor belongs to my daughter, Cassandra, though I fear she will never regard her tale as one worth telling. I have learnt to embrace my death—it is how I am able to access the memories needed to tell her story.


Torab – home to the gods, goddesses and their offspring. It is ruled by Avarin – the god of all and giver of breath. Shrouded by the clouds that hovered over their worshippers, the gods rule in lavish comfort from gargantuan castles nestled in the mountains and carved from the sturdiest marble Earth had to offer. Downwind from the castles and cradled in the valley, are small communes made of a lesser grade of marble in line with the lesser beings that inhabit them.

The morning was bright and a wispy breeze rolled down from the verdant mountains into the needy valley. I was a minor goddess whose only gift was anticipating the needs of those who were unable to communicate well. I was Gerena—goddess of the silent ones. Because of this I was in charge of the young demigods that were deemed worthy of Torab.

The last demigod in my care had started to speak freely and as such had been transferred a week prior. Until more babies arrived, I was free to spend time with my own child. Cassandra was ten years old and wouldn’t have been living with demigod children had anyone known who she was. Only one other person knew of my ill-advised tryst with Darmalin—the god of fire and destruction—at the annual Torbian Feast of All Creatures.

That night, gods, goddesses, demigods and their mortal emissaries had come together to celebrate their mutually beneficial relationship of worship for favor. The more the mortals worshipped the gods, the more powerful the gods became. The more powerful the gods became, the more they were able to do for the mortals who worshipped them. It was a cycle worth celebrating and maintaining.

Royal purple drapes ribbed with gold had adorned the Great Hall from the ceiling to the floor. The air had been heavy with the scent of jasmine and orchids. Intoxicating to some but nauseating to me. I had stepped out unto the balcony for relief when Darmalin found me. I had not planned to lie with anyone that night but he had proven to be as charismatic as he was powerful.

After a few hours with Darmalin, I had been about to leave the festivities when Demora—the olive-skinned goddess of fertility and childbirth—had pulled me aside.

“I saw you with Darmalin, Gerena. Did you lie with him?”

Her piercing cerulean eyes had peered at me beneath hooded lids as if she were somehow curious and apathetic with equal measure.

“No Lady Demora, I did not. He wanted to but I… refused.”

I had tucked my hair behind my ear to keep my hands busy and my mouth closed.

“It’s just as well. No one likes to speak of it but he has a tendency to sacrifice his children to Elotor before battles he thinks will prove to be… problematic. But as you said, you did not lie with him so you have no worries.”

She had cast a glance at my then-flat stomach before gliding away. When my pregnancy became apparent, I told anyone who asked that the father was one of the mortal emissaries that had attended the Feast. No one had reason to question me and fortunately Cassandra was born with a darker version of my lavender-hued locks instead of Darmalin’s flame-red ones.

I was a minor goddess and my child was seen as even less than that. I never minded because it kept us from drawing the interest of the seers and oracles seeking out fodder for their latest prophecies. But, at the age of five, Cassandra threw a tantrum and tiny balls of fire fluttered from her fingertips. Instead of stubbornly keeping the secret, I sought out the Chief Oracle.

A large silver-framed portal lay at the fore of the community. It shone as the sun in the center of the courtyard, facing the communes radiating outwards in a semi-circle. My commune was close to the courtyard and as such, a brief walk brought me to the portal.

“Whom do you seek?” the guardian enquired.

“Lady Janara.”

I held my breath while the portal’s guardian sought the Chief Oracle’s approval. Thankfully, only the portal to the gods requires a guardian. Anyone with god’s blood running through their veins can move through the other realms.

“You may proceed.”

I stepped through the glimmering surface, quickly trading the cool concrete for a lush maroon carpet. Janara regarded me with deep-set hazel eyes. Her marigold-streaked ebony hair hung in loose curls around her shoulders.

“Take a seat, Gerena.”

While I hesitated, Cassandra boldly stepped forward to slide into one of the large pink couches in the room. I cleared my throat and plopped into a mauve chair close to the oracle.

“Goddess, I need your help.”

“I can see that. You are worried about your child but you needn’t be. Her future holds great promise.”

“You mean… she survives?”

“Oh, she does more than that, my love. As for the matter of her father—you acted justly. You must continue to guard this secret.”

I started to say something but she interrupted.

“Yes, I will do the same.” She paused before adding, with downcast eyes, “In the event of an unforeseen circumstance, I will guide and protect Cassandra.”

I didn’t question her as I was wise enough to know that no event is unforeseen to an oracle.


I have played this memory several times yet it still intrigues me that this started with one man’s quest for eternal life. This memory is bright and buzzing with the electricity of Elotor’s excitement.

Fanoor – the underworld ruled by Elotor, god of death and the damned. It is a large gray cave burrowed into the bowels of the Earth and littered with a multitude of smaller, even grayer caverns that house damned souls for all eternity.

Elotor regarded the jittery mortal with mild amusement. The man kept thumbing his nose as if the mere action would somehow reduce the yeasty odor of the black mold that sprouted unbidden from the walls and the suffocating stench of the unrelenting sulphur fires that tormented the damned.

“Lord Elotor, your plan has been set in motion. Through my interception of various means of communication, both kingdoms believe they have been wronged by the other and have waged war. The misdirection will likely be discovered in due time but I’m certain many souls will have filled your coffer by then.”

Elotor gazed at the large black cauldron at the end of the hall. It was infused with power each time a soul entered Fanoor as well as when he was worshipped by the mortals. In times of war, the cauldron glowed brilliantly red as souls flowed in, mimicking the burgeoning pools of blood on the battlefield. His followers grew as soldiers prayed for his aid while their waiting women prayed for him to take the enemy instead of their loved ones.

Without warning, Avarin and a few other gods had visited the mortals and made arrangements for peace. In return for this peace, the mortals received increased fertility, lived longer lives, raised healthier animals and reaped more crops than they could store. They worshipped the gods who benefitted them and Elotor was left to survive off the few errant mortals who defied them. He wanted that power back.

As I watched, he returned his attention to the waiting emissary.

“Well done Eltan. Times have been so peaceful as of late, favor only trickles into my coffer.”

Eltan lifted his gaze to meet his lord’s glistening gray eyes and shifted from one leg to the other. He swallowed audibly.

“Thank you, my lord. Now about my, um… payment.”

“Ah yes, your payment. I have it here. Tell me Eltan, did you think it would have been this easy when you first made your petition to me a few months ago?”

Eltan smiled nervously before replying.

“No my lord, but I meant to try my hardest. I’ll admit there were times when I had my doubts about being able to bring the plan to be but now here we are. I have given you a war for your blessing.”


Elotor reached behind his dense throne of blackened skulls and bones to bring forward a bejewelled golden chalice. Elton took the cup carefully, afraid to spill even a drop of the promised elixir. With a last glance at his lord, he gulped the liquid greedily. His satisfied smile became a grimace as the soothing warmth in his belly turned to a searing fire. His blood boiled and churned before thickening to sludge. His organs hardened to stone as his bones lengthened and twisted upon themselves. Pain speared through his body with such speed and ferocity, the transformation was almost complete before he opened his mouth to let out a gut-wrenching scream.

At least he tried. Eltan’s face was locked in a grimace but only air passed his lips. He stared at Elotor with blood-rimmed eyes, willing his lord to explain. Even in his torment, he was hesitant to accept he had been betrayed by one to whom he had been so loyal. Surely his lord had made an error.

“Oh Eltan, it hurts to have you look at me with such disdain but let this be a lesson to you regarding the specificity of your requests. While you can live forever, it doesn’t mean you will want to.”

Elotor snickered and stroked his elongated chin, savoring the successful deception. He felt Eltan’s emotions shift as rage surged through the emissary’s monstrous frame, spurring him to lunge at his once-lord. Elotor twirled his index finger and Eltan froze in place.

“Don’t waste your rage Eltan, you’ll have use for it yet.”

With a dismissive wave, Elotor sent his emissary to a charmed cage with others who had sought to bargain with him.

“Soon my pets. Soon.”


This memory is just as bright but tinged with amber. Elotor himself knows not what that means and I do not wish to guess.


Elotor waited by his portal while the guardian asked his brother, Avarin, for permission to let Elotor enter. When it was granted, he paused, allowing the stench of sulfur to spread into Avarin’s chambers. Avarin shouted through the portal in annoyance.

“Hurry in, will you, Elotor? I haven’t the continence for your putrid environment.”

Elotor acquiesced and slunk into the room. The bright light temporarily blinded him as he made the transition from Fanoor’s monochromatic darkness. He frowned at his brother’s bronzed skin. The years underground had rendered his own skin a shade of gray not easily differentiated from the walls he stared at daily.

“The wager is completed, Avarin. I have come to collect that which I was promised.”

Avarin sighed and turned fully to address his brother.

“Have you now?”

“Yes. In spite of the drain you placed on my coffer, I have ended the tenuous peace on Earth. As we speak, a war is being waged that will fill my coffer and imbue me with enough power to rule on Earth for at least the decade I was promised.”

“Ah yes. I saw that little skirmish and thought it might be your doing. I considered intervening, but”—Avarin shrugged—“it didn’t seem worth my time. I don’t know why you would think that would be enough to satisfy our wager.”

Elotor scowled but then smiled—an unsettling smile that usually curdled the contents of Avarin’s stomach. Elotor had concocted many schemes in the past that Avarin would have to dismantle. When he brought discord and death to Torab, Avarin assigned him to Fanoor. When he wreaked havoc with the mortals, Avarin limited Elotor’s power to keep his homicidal tendencies at bay.

“Is there something you wish to add, brother?”

“Perhaps it would tip the scale in my favor if the souls of a few demigods were in the balance?”

Avarin frowned. “What does that mean?”

“It means I am quite aware of how untrustworthy a god’s word can be so I thought I would employ some leverage.”

As Avarin started to question Elotor further, screams echoed from the valley below.


I was watching Cassandra mediate an argument between her two friends. Based on what I had overheard, Brianne and Vectar were at odds about a school project. I smiled as Cassandra guided them on the best way forward. Her sense of fairness and justice served those around her well.

The first scream was faint and carried on the wind like the screeching of carrier eagles returning to the apiary. The next was louder and closer to my commune. I rushed to the sitting room window and gasped when I saw five disfigured creatures in the courtyard. Bulbous limbs hung from asymmetrical gray bodies speckled with splotches of gangrenous black. They were attacking a goddess named Alonna.

While four of them ripped at her body, the fifth paused to gaze at his blood drenched claws. He slowly tilted his head back and a few drops of the crimson liquid slid into his mouth. For a moment his face wavered into a semblance of humanity before returning to its ghoulish façade. I watched as he dug into Alonna again and again, always consuming the blood. I was frightened but the children’s safety was my primary concern.

“Hold hands!” I yelled.

Brianne grabbed onto Vectar’s hand and he took Cassandra’s. With Cassandra’s hand firmly grasped in mine, I ran toward the portal, dodging those who were heading in the opposite direction. I tried running as far away from the carnage as possible, but when Cassandra started screaming, I knew she had seen Alonna’s body.

“Mom! Who was that? We should help! They’re killing her!”

“She’s already dead, Cassandra! We have to go.”

She planted her feet and tried to pull me back. Behind her, her friends stared at me in terror. Even at ten, she was developing her father’s strength so I had to drag her. The portal still shimmered, revealing how the monsters arrived. Did the gods send them down to us? I skidded to a halt when Avarin and Elotor came into view. Avarin glanced at me but did not speak. Before I could address him, he saw the monsters standing over what was left of Alonna.

“You brought these… things to Torab?” he hissed.

Elotor shrank under Avarin’s piercing gaze.

“Brother, I—I had only meant to bargain with you! Besides, I left them here with the lesser ones to…”

“For the last time Elotor, it is not for you to determine who dies! They may be lesser in station but their lives are no less necessary than ours in maintaining the alliance we have with the mortals.”

“Avarin, I…”

“Take your monstrosities and leave!”

Elotor glowered but held his tongue. He summoned the monsters and stood by the portal as they went through. One of them lagged behind and I recognized him as the one who had consumed Alonna’s blood. Elotor paused at the portal as if he had forgotten something. Avarin glared at him.

“I swear to the gods Elotor, if you mention our wager once more, I will seal you in your festering dungeon for a century!”

Elotor frowned briefly before nodding and stepping through the portal. Avarin turned to the group that had gathered and sighed. His gaze met mine.

“Was anyone else harmed?”

I was shocked to be addressed by the god of all but recovered quickly.

“No, my lord. Only Alonna…”

My voice faltered when her name passed my lips. She may not have manifested any talents to earn a title but she had been a godsend with the children. Avarin placed his hand on my shoulder.

“I will see to it that she has a fitting interment.”

He stepped through the portal and moments afterwards, bearers arrived to remove Alonna’s remains. Unnerved by the unprecedented attack, I decided it was time to tell Cassandra she was more than who she thought she was.

That evening I sat with her and told her about Darmalin. I stressed the importance of keeping her identity a secret. I also told her how to locate the Chief Oracle if anything happened to me. She took the information well but still questioned my refusal to help Alonna. I tried without success to explain my decision.

When the darkness of night fell, I kept Cassandra cuddled close. She wanted to stay in her own room but I convinced her to keep me company. After several failed attempts at sneaking away, she gave in and slept soundly at my side—though sleep evaded me.


This memory is blurry and bleeds red with Elotor’s rage.


Elotor fumed in his quarters. He had suspected Avarin would find some way to weasel his way out of the wager. The deal had been clear and though he had satisfied the terms, he had nothing to show for it. The ceiling glowed as the lifeblood of another fallen soldier was added to his coffer. Well, almost nothing. He would be stronger for the battle raging overhead, but still… it would have been sublime to rule over the mortals for a decade. He would have reveled in befouling Avarin’s precious Earth.

Footsteps shuffled outside his door and he remembered his restless creatures. He needed to either find a purpose for them or kill them. He was tempted to let them loose on the Earth and face Avarin’s wrath but a century without influence on the mortals would render him powerless and that was unappealing. The footsteps shuffled again. This time Elotor stalked to the door and threw it open. He was about to berate them when he noticed Eltan was missing.

“Where did Eltan go?”

One of the monsters pointed upwards. In spite of the anger still coursing through him, a smile played at Elotor’s lips. He didn’t know if it meant Earth or Torab but either way Eltan would cause harm wherever he went. Better still, Elotor would be able to deny knowledge of the visit. At least he would be as soon as he rendered these witnesses truly mute.



Several days passed before I felt safe enough to let Cassandra go back to her own bed, but even then I was awakened by the slightest sound. I felt cursed until the night my insomnia was rewarded. At first I thought the rustling outside the bedroom window was my imagination but then I looked closer at the shadows dancing on my wall. Tree branches swayed in the gentle breeze but something between them moved to a different rhythm. I jumped from my bed and stood in the doorway between Cassandra’s room and my own.

“What do you want?” I yelled.

The figure stilled for a moment then quickly moved away. Words tumbled into my head but were replaced with silence before I had a chance to make sense of them. I crawled into Cassandra’s bed and held her to my chest for the rest of the night, my body rigid with fear. It wasn’t until the next day that I found out what had happened.

A young demigod, Fearon, had not shown up for his scheduled session tutoring the children in time control and manipulation. The son of Dinosia, goddess of time, he had manifested his talents in time manipulation at an early age when he had confounded Torab’s mythical creature tracker. His ability to manipulate time kept the tracker from pinpointing his position.

He was, as expected, a punctual instructor and so his absence warranted investigation. When his overseer, Canan, checked on him, she discovered his door slightly ajar. Splattered blood slid down Fearon’s bedroom wall, feeding into glistening pools on the floor. His mangled body lay at a twisted angle on the blood-stained carpet. Canan ran from the room screaming in terror.

Her screams drew others to the commune and they attended to Fearon’s body. I sat on my porch steps with Canan while she sipped the nain bush tea I had given her. The amber liquid swayed as her trembling hands brought the cup to her lips.

“I don’t think—I mean—I’m not a warrior goddess so I guess it goes without saying but…”


“All that blood—and his body… it was—it was torn. It wasn’t whole. Almost like it was…”


Her eyes widened at my whispered query.

“How did you know?”

“I don’t. It’s just a thought.”

I told her about the creature that had licked Alonna’s blood when Elotor and Avarin were in the valley.

“So you think it was him?”

“It could be.”

She said nothing else and as we sat there, bearers carried Fearon’s body through the portal. Canan stood and walked away without even a backward glance.


This memory is difficult to conjure each time I try. More than once, Elotor has blamed me for its continued cohesive existence.


Elotor was watching the mortals call a truce through his orb when the globe atop his staff glowed red. He raised an eyebrow in surprise. A death on Torab? How? The souls of gods, goddesses and their progeny had no place in Fanoor but he was still notified when one of them transitioned to the realm of Persella. Even in death they were too precious for his company. He switched his orb’s view to Torab and searched for the dead. He froze as the demigod’s massacred body came into view. How is this possible?

He took out the enchanted map he had of Torab.

“Show me Eltan.”

A dark circle formed above the map but wavered from one end to the other. A frown creased his pallid face as he contemplated what his former emissary was seeking. He had tracked Eltan while he was on Earth and been amused at the number of souls that had tumbled into his coffer lamenting about a monster cloaked in darkness. Even though Eltan’s soul became diluted with each person he devoured, Elotor had still been able to track him. Something had changed. Without a precise location, he would not be able to pull Eltan back to Fanoor.

How was he even been able to access Torab without godblood in his veins? Elotor sighed and massaged his forehead. He could already hear Avarin’s thunderous voice echoing through Fanoor’s cavernous walls as he berated Elotor for another ill-conceived plan. The black dot sputtered before fizzling out altogether. An idea formed in the back of his mind. Eltan was no longer on Torab but he would certainly return. Perhaps Elotor could set a trap and resolve the problem before Avarin became aware of it. He bit his finger and placed it on the edge of the aged parchment.

“Mark Eltan.”

The map suckled at his finger, spreading blood through the thick paper. Dark red lines appeared, showing Eltan’s varied paths through Torab. The map made clear that he had loitered for some time outside one of the communes more than once. I wonder who inhabits those quarters.



With everything that had happened, I shouldn’t have been surprised to find the god of the dead at my front door. But I was.

“How can I be of service, my lord?” I ground out through gritted teeth.

He paused a moment as if weighing his answer.

“Well, you can start by telling me who you are and why you would hold the interest of one of my creatures.”

I gasped. How does he know about that?

“I am no one, Lord. I am only Gerena, the goddess of those who are silent.”

He frowned.

“Yes, ‘no one’ does seem an accurate description for such a title. However…” He pushed his way through to the inside. “…I am sensing—yes, I am sensing a great power here. Your daughter. Who is she?”

“She is but the daughter of a mortal emissary, my lord. She has yet to manifest any talents of note.”

“Oh but you don’t expect me to believe that, do you? I can sense the strength of her soul from here and apparently so could my creature.”

I glared at him in silence. Abruptly he shrugged and moved toward the door.

“Well if you’d rather take your chances with the creature, or worse yet, hope that Avarin will care about your daughter…”

I thought of Cassandra’s safety and my resolved crumbled.

“Wait. I… What did you have in mind?”

His lips curled into a smile so wide, it could have been a snarl.

“I need to set a trap for the creature. I am quite certain he will be back for you—well, your daughter, in truth. You need to summon me with this when he gets here.”

He handed me a small black horn speckled with red. I held the instrument gingerly as if it would somehow defile me. Elotor scoffed and walked away.


A few days passed without incident but my vigilance never waned. I only slept for a few hours at night and napped briefly during the days as my schedule allowed. On the seventh night following Elotor’s visit, the creature came to my commune. I expected him to be as timid as he had been previously but I was wrong.

The bulky figure slammed against my window and I was barely able to leap from my bed before glass rained down on it. He shoved the bed aside roughly, glaring at me with rheumy yellow eyes. I kept my gaze on him as I fumbled for the small horn that had fallen from the bed when the creature entered. My fingers brushed against its smooth surface as he approached me. Once again, disjointed words and phrases lashed my mind. I was too terrified to focus but the words “find” and “girl” stood out.

My fingers curled around the instrument just as the creature moved toward the door leading to Cassandra’s room.

“No!” I shouted.

The creature halted for a moment before moving again. It was now certain I had no power to wield or I would have already struck. I ran to the doorway and blocked what I could of it with my diminutive frame. I held the horn to my lips and blew. Nothing happened. The creature ran toward me and I screamed as I braced for the impact that was sure to bruise, break and burn.

My eyes flew open as tiny arms grabbed my waist and shouted.

“Leave my mother be!”

Orange-red flames engulfed the creature and its mouth distended in a soundless scream. Elotor leapt through the jagged hole left by the shattered window. He stared at the burning creature and understanding blossomed in his eyes. A smile streaked across his face, revealing teeth as black as soot.

“Ye gods. No wonder you hide her. She is of Darmalin’s seed!”

I opened my mouth to deny it but knew it was pointless.

“You cannot tell him.”

He snickered.

“Oh, I don’t plan to. It has been ages since I consumed one of his spawn. They always give me such a boost of power, but this delightful girl…” He licked his lips as he stared at Cassandra. “She would give me power like none before.”

I hugged Cassandra closer.

“You can’t have her!”


He stepped over the ash that was once his emissary and walked menacingly toward me. My mind raced to find a solution, knowing I couldn’t fight a god and I certainly couldn’t depend on Cassandra’s powers to be enough.


Elotor paused and regarded me with a crooked smile.

“You can take me,” I whispered.

He guffawed.

“You are a poor replacement for that girl, my dear. I have no wish to take your life but will gladly do so to get to her.”

“Lord Avarin won’t approve.”

“Avarin won’t know about any of this. A rogue creature killed you both before I was able to get to it. If anything, Avarin will be thankful I killed the creature before any more blood was shed.”

“Thankful? Is that what you truly believe?”

He paused.

“What do you mean?”

“I mean, what has happened thus far to make you think Lord Avarin will do anything but blame you for the havoc the creature has wreaked? I heard his threat to you about banishment if things went awry. Perhaps if he saw this…” I nodded toward the shattered window.

He frowned but made no more movements toward me. “What are you proposing?”

“Do you have more creatures at your disposal?”

“I do.”

“What do you have planned for them?”

“Nothing at this point. They are powerful but mute. Without communication it’s impossible to use them for anything other than random brute attacks.”

“They’re not mute. I can hear them with my gift. If you… if you consume me, you will be able to hear them as well. All I ask in return is that you keep Cassandra’s identity secret until she is of age.”

He smiled broadly and nodded.

“I need to hear the words. Even as a lesser goddess, I am well aware of how oaths work.”

“I, Elotor, swear to keep the identity of this young girl in confidence in exchange for her mother’s flesh and abilities.”

I grimaced when his tongue curled around the word “flesh” but nodded slowly. I dropped to my knees and cupped Cassandra’s cherubic face in my hands. I smoothed the worry from her wrinkled brows with my fingertips and smiled.

“Sweetheart, do you remember what I told you to do in the case of an emergency?”

“Yes Mother, but—”

“I’m afraid the time for arguments has passed, little one. I will miss our debates but you must go now. Remember I will be with you always.”

Tears ran down our cheeks as we embraced. When I pushed her away, she glared at Elotor.


She sighed and with a lingering glance in my direction, climbed gingerly out the broken window. I waited until her footsteps no longer echoed on the stone before turning to Elotor. He wasted no time. He bit into my neck and lapped at the blood that bubbled from the wound. The blood loss weakened me but I remained conscious. Elotor tore chunks of my flesh from my body and consumed them before my eyes.

I transitioned into death when Elotor finally ripped my heart from my chest. Even then, my spirit was cursed to sit intermingled with his until I was no more than a small pool of blood on the floor. Sated, he rose and addressed me.

“Not as satisfying as the girl would have been, I’m sure. Still, an oath is an oath. Come… your new quarters await.”



Fanoor is a dark, dreary place only suited to the likes of Elotor. He complains Avarin banished him to this place unfairly but in truth it is where he belongs. He will never admit it but since I am one with him, with access to his memories and emotions, I know the truth. He is happy here. He is happier still using my talents to guide his monsters in terrorizing the mortals. Over the years they have been called many names, but the most popular in these times is “ghoul.”

I am loathe to sit by his side but I do not regret my choice. He kept his oath and Cassandra has matured into the woman I had hoped. Occasionally Elotor allows me access to his orb so I can see her. She thinks I have passed on to Persella and has yet to be told otherwise. I hope she never finds out, because despite achieving the status of a major goddess, I know she would throw it all away to set things right. To me, she will always be that confident, outspoken child with a clear moral compass. To everyone else, she is Lady Cassandra—goddess of fair play and justice. Under her guidance, they were able to establish laws that are beneficial to all. The mortals have never needed me but they will always need her.