The Divine Everlasting, High Manifestation, Supreme Deity of the Universe, Creator and Overseer of the Heavens, Guardian of the Cosmos... was sitting next Marcus with a patient smile on his face.
This being’s existence was responsible for everything Marcus knew. The figure who was worshiped as the central figure of the most dominant religion in the world. The one whose word was so holy that only a few men of renowned purity were anointed to hear them and write the Testament. The man whose existence has been the source of contentious debate, causing untold-
“You have to stop thinking about who I am,” the Divine said. “Who I am will overwhelm you. It would be better for us both if you thought of me as your long lost grandfather. How does that sound? Me being your Papa? Or your Mama? I do not have a gender, but I can be whichever will make you more comfortable.”
Not being here is what would have made Marcus the most comfortable, but here he was. All he could do was stare at the Div…at Papa. Marcus was shocked when it actually started working immediately. The thoughts about the magnitude of this man or…wom...no, man…one thing at a time. The thoughts about the magnitude of this man became less pronounced and Marcus’s heartbeat steadied.
“What’s going on?” Marcus asked.
“Your uncle finally listened,” Papa answered.
Marcus frowned but then he remembered his uncle’s final warning. “His recurring nightmare?” he asked.
“I can only be here for so long before the Laws of Ma’at come into play and I can speak with one of my children face-to-face even less.”
“The Laws of what?” Marcus asked.
“We don’t have time for all that, my child,” Papa said. “I need you to listen. Armageddon is coming and you are going to be very near the center of it.”
“Am I the Prophesied Son?”
Papa chortled. “No, my child,” he said. “That one has yet to be born. The son of Apophis however is roaming the world as we speak.”
Marcus frowned at the unfamiliar name. “Who is Apophis?” he asked.
“The Lord of Perdition.”
That was familiar enough. Just hearing the name made Marcus kiss his thumb and touch both shoulders. He needed to change the subject.
“You told me you could answer my questions,” Marcus said.
Papa nodded and silently urged Marcus’ questions.
“What are these rings?” Marcus asked.
“In the Third Age of the Universe, Apophis began a war called the Cataclysm, but we Manifestations did not know how to kill one another. So we had our worshipers kill each other instead. It was the only means of weakening each other that we knew and the rings were the weapon of choice wielded by the greatest warriors among our flocks.”
“Why is it that nobody knew about them?” Marcus asked. “Why give one to my uncle all of the sudden?”
“Because it was time,” Papa said. “Apophis is nearly free and we do not have much time left to prepare.”
“Armageddon is really coming isn’t it?”
“Armageddon was always coming, my child,” Papa said with a sigh. “Hold your ring out.”
Marcus’s arm moved without his conscious thought. Papa took Marcus’ hand and pressed a finger on the face of the ring. As Papa’s finger came away, Marcus saw that the stick figure and the writing on the band were glowing.
“I have fully activated it,” Papa said. “Your descent from Nephthys-“
“What?” Marcus cut in.
Papa smiled. “Yes,” he said. “You are a descendant of Nephthys and-”
“No, the ring,” Marcus said. “What do you mean activated? What’s different?”
“Rings could be stolen and used by another Manifestation,” Papa answered. “The fail-safes against this included making the ring dormant even though it was impossible to stop its function entirely. Now you will have the full range of the ring’s powers and abilities.”
“Okay so who’s Nephthys?”
Papa sighed. “Back then, she was the most wonderful woman in the world,” he said.
“I’m sure she was, but who was she?” Marcus asked. “Was she a human or a Manifestation?”
“She was a half-human demigod,” Papa said.
“What role did she play in all this?”
“She was the mother of Eran.”
“And who was Eran?”
“That is the true name of the Prophesied Son,” Papa said. “The original one before he was reincarnated.”
“So am I a descendant of the Prophesied Son?” Marcus asked.
Papa motioned to their golden eyes. “Makes more sense now, right?” he asked.
“Does she play a role in any of this today?” Marcus asked.
“She is the conscious representative of the dead souls,” Papa said. “She is the final judge of every soul and determines whether that soul is reincarnated or moves on to enter Salvation or Perdition.”
Marcus frowned, looking away in thought. Those sounded a lot like the responsibilities of-
“The Mistress of Death?” Marcus asked. “Nephthys is the Mistress of Death? Meaning the Minos Dynasty is descended from the Mistress of Death?”
That foolish legend… that one foolish legend that has been attached to the Minos family mythos for time immemorial. That foolish legend that the Church used as justification to enact the Culling of the Lions. That foolish legend was true.
The sons of Minos truly were the sons of the Mistress of Death.
Then his family truly wasn’t fully human. Did that mean the Church was right in trying to kill every person sharing his blood hundreds of years ago? Does that mean he should…die now? Should he ki-
“You are not some kind of evil creature,” Papa said with gold swirling on the rim of his eyes. “You are a child of love in the purest and truest form. The kind of love all my children were guaranteed before the Cataclysm. The kind of love you only hear stories of now.”
Marcus heard nothing. He was too busy absorbing that one of the few things the Church was right about was the Mistress of Death. She was real. She was an ancestor of the Minos Dynasty. How would he ever be able to reconcile this within himself? Marcus felt lightheaded with the attempt to move on past the fact the he was a descendant of death herself. He felt himself swaying when he heard a resounding snap.
“Marcus, my child, look at me,” Papa said.
Marcus looked up and focused the face with glowing golden eyes.
“We do not have time for this,” Papa said. “I know. I understand what you must be feeling, but the time has come. Humanity’s time to prepare for the revenge of Apophis is ending.”
“Prepare?” Marcus asked. “I thought the Prophesied Son was going to slay the Lord of Perdition when the time came? That’s what the Church...your Church preaches.”
“Armageddon is not as open and shut as the Church has led you to believe. The minions of Apophis are strong in the Church and I can do nothing against them without doing irreparable damage to the chains on Apophis.”
Marcus finally felt the full gravity of what was going on. He was currently talking to the one of three deities that governed the reality in which he resided. Papa nudged on the threads of destiny because he couldn’t allow the Lord of Perdition anymore influence on the world than he currently had. Papa was having a full conversation with him. This wasn’t a nudge. This was a full on shove and Marcus was worried about the direction he’d now be falling.
“The forces of Apophis have already began bubbling up,” Papa said. “The world is not ready, but that may never change. I need you to help me foster a reality in which my reincarnated son will be given the necessary training to defeat Apophis during Armageddon.”
“That’s not an easy task for a man to do on his own,” Marcus said failing to swallow in a dry throat.
“You will not be alone.” Papa said smiling. “I have activated your ring. You now have the ability to make officers. We called the officers Ota in the closest human approximation of the language of the Two. These officers will have the ability to make soldiers. We called them Akara. Ota and Akara are given fractions of access to the powers the ring. With them you will create the army you need.”
Marcus blinked when Papa fell silent. “Isn’t there anymore you have to say about the ring?” he asked.
Papa shook his head. “No time,” he said looking out the window.
“So that’s it then?” Marcus asked. “A history lesson, a warning and a mission?”
Papa nodded before he got to his feet.
“What about everything I need to learn about the ring?” Marcus asked, watching Papa walk over to the window. “There has to be more to this thing than the ability to make an army. How would I even do that? I need someone to teach me all this!”
“The ring is active and I myself blessed it,” Papa said. “You already know everything you need to know about the ring. You just have not thought about it yet.”
Marcus frowned and then he gasped. Papa misted into the air as though he was broken down to the molecular level. The small dark molecules wafted in th and carried away on the light of the moon. However, what really shocked Marcus was that he understood what he was seeing.