“When Katherine was the Conduit, we didn’t know who—what Lillian was. She hid her true nature well, and very few sisters were even aware of the full story involving her. It wasn’t common knowledge, for fear of us losing our numbers.”
“And you needed the numbers to keep Amali well-protected whenever she was on Earth,” I added.
“Yes. Not our proudest moment in the history of the Sisterhood, but a necessary evil at the time.”
“But the Sisters are devotees. Wouldn’t they take that vow seriously?”
Farrah smiled grimly.
“Okay, so what’s the deal with Lillian? What’s her real name? What is her relation to Amali?” Liam asked.
“Lillian’s true name is not even of this world. And though the deity possesses a woman now, their true form has no gender. In some ancient texts they were given the name Kug, or Sikil, both Sumerian terms for ‘Purity’. It was the closest they could come to describing the power this deity possesses. There is an Ancient tale about the Supreme Goddess creating humans for the first time. Her partner, Kug, saw them as an abomination when they became too conscious of their existence, attempting to become gods themselves. So Kug made the decision to… ”purify” the world, destroying every human. The Supreme Goddess was severely upset, and sealed away Kug’s powers, only allowing them to observe from the heavens, but never to participate.
Over time, the Supreme Goddess created humans again and gradually developed even more compassion for, well…everyone. She became more forgiving of Kug and allowed them to live amongst the humans, but still stripped of their powers. She had hoped that perhaps Kug would begin to understand why She created us. And for a while, it seemed that they had.”
“Well, I think Kug still kinda hates humans. Just a hunch.” Liam snorted at my comment.
“It is obvious now,” Berniece began, stepping forward, “but Kug managed to convince the Supreme Goddess for some time that they had seen the error of their ways and was truly impressed by the humans. That is, until Amali came along.
You see, the deities can control a lot of things in this Universe, but the Universe still has a will of its own. And Amali was proof of that. Here was a human, chosen by something greater than the Gods for a specific purpose. From what we can tell, she was placed here to keep Kug under control. By the time she arrived, Kug had been among the humans for millennia, and had learned the art of taking on human hosts. While inhabiting the body of a young rich man, they met Amali and engaged in an affair, despite Amali’s own marriage and two children. Kug, who had grown fascinated by her, eventually tried to reveal their true nature to Amali. But this triggered a latent ability within herself to channel the Supreme Goddess’ power both harming Kug and destroying the host. It was sudden and violent. She died in the process, unable to sustain that much energy. This is how she ascended to her deity status.”
I felt a pit in the center of my chest. “She was forced to destroy someone she loved, and was rewarded for it.”
“A bittersweet fate,” Farrah replied.
“A curse,” I said, fighting a lump in my throat.
“Either way,” Liam cut in, “it appears that Lillian—er—Kug or whatever, is developing powers. She performed a ritual with Krystal’s blood while we were in the woods.” He drummed his fingers on the floor.
Farrah nodded with a frown.
“Right, when Lillian was able to force Amali forward. What did that ritual consist of?”
“We gathered blessed water and bellamer root. Lillian was chanting in a language I couldn’t understand, mixed everything into a bowl, cut my hand and dropped some of the blood in it, then drank it. When I woke up, Amali had control over my body, but she was still trapped, and Lillian was trying to convince Amali to…join her.” I shuddered, thinking back to those moments…hovering in darkness, watching my body be possessed by someone else. Did Amali feel that same darkness right now?
“How did you free yourself?” Farrah leaned forward, interrupting my thoughts.
“Well I…pushed,” I said, gesturing forward with my hands. Farrah looked from me to Liam, and back to me.
I shrugged. “It’s the best way to describe it. I just really wanted to take back control. This large burst of energy welled up and shot out from me. It felt like fire and knocked Lillian back into a tree. I’m pretty sure a bunch of her bones were broken. At least, it sounded like it.”
Farrah stepped back and crossed her arms.
“My, you are just one surprise after another. Which makes it all the more pressing to get your powers under control. Let’s go. Time is short, and you have so much to learn.”
She led me out of the temple by the hand, Liam close behind. We made our way across the courtyard, back to the main building and into the library. I realized it was my first time in this part of the building. The tall stacks and floor to ceiling windows reminded me of the college library back home. I wouldn’t have much time to enjoy it, it seemed, because Farrah continued to the back, beyond the stacks, unlocking an unmarked door tucked away in a corner. As she opened the door, the smell of what I could only call ancient-ass-books rushed my face.
She flipped a switch, and dim orbs of light popped onto wall sconces that led us down two flights of stairs. At the bottom, it opened up into a large room with a podium in the center holding a massive leather-bound book. The walls were all covered with more bookshelves, stocked full of what looked to be nothing but leather bound journals, much like the ones Liam found when we first got here.
“Wait a minute,” Liam said, making a full circle in the center of the room. “Are these all—“
“Yes, they are all journaled accounts from the Sisters during the various incarnations of the Conduit. We all made a promise to document everything we could about your family and the Great Goddess anytime she walked among us.”
“Holy shit,” I said.
“I’m not sure I’d use those specific words to express awe, but I appreciate the sentiment.” Farrah walked over to a bookshelf to the right of the podium.
“Ever since I learned of Lillian, I made it a mission to better understand her.” She gestured toward the top two rows.
“The journals here are from every sister who attended Katherine. They contain entries in which the Sisters overheard strange conversations between Lillian and Katherine…at least, that’s who we assumed Lillian was talking to. We soon learned that Amali was channeling more often than we were aware of, but covertly. I think these will provide some insight into the nature of their relationship.”
“Amali and Kug engaging in secret rendezvous…” I said, putting a finger to my chin.
“While possessing innocent humans, no less,” Liam added.
“I’m not sure which one is a greater offense,” I said. We laughed, but I suddenly felt a thud near my kidney and winced. Amali wasn’t fond of our humor, it seemed.
Wait. She was listening.
The day before, Amali stayed asleep, curled up like a cat in her favorite spot, waiting for the ideal moment to come out and play. Or maybe she was unable to come out. But ever since I woke up in the temple, it seemed she was more alert. The energy that normally sat in my stomach was now distributed through my chest. Was she getting more acclimated to my vessel? Or was she anticipating something?
And there was still the deadline to be aware of.
“There’s 6 days to the New Moon…” I said, my thoughts drifting into the events leading up to this mess. All because I wanted so badly to get rid of this fate. This thing that I now knew was a curse.
But what did I want now?