The pain of death
I had never seen a grave, but then I never had to dig one before either. Wrapped in leaves and flowers, the man I had tried to save was lowered into the ground. He looked serene, a contrast to the despair that had lead him here. I couldn’t stand to leave his body where I had found it after the storm. A large branch had been embedded deep into his chest, whether it was a consequence of the storm I couldn’t know for sure.
Xyanthe was confused when I had suggested holding a funeral. She had told me that he would be taken back into the earth, that it wasn’t necessary. But I insisted regardless. Ismenara had helped the two of us bathe his body in the river. When he was ready, the mortals carried him in a silent procession to his final resting place. I tried my best to ignore the Aletheia that lurked around like shadows. They hadn’t attempted to interfere with what we were doing. I would have sent them away but I hoped that the titans were watching, so they knew that we wouldn’t forget those we lost.
Surrounded by flowers and fruits, you couldn’t see the man’s fatal wound that would never heal. He wore a thin wreath of pomegranate blossoms Xyanthe had made. Even though she hadn’t understood the concept of a funeral, I was glad that she still supported me. I dropped the iris I was holding onto his chest. I could have done more. I wondered how many other lives had ended with no-one willing to acknowledge them. Letting his death pass without a commemoration felt wrong, it was the last thing I could do for him.
I turned to face the crowd that had gathered behind me, Xyanthe and Ismenara were stood in front. I didn’t know how I could have made it through the ceremony without their reassurance. Although they were more responsive, the mortals hadn’t made any progress since the storm. The crowd remained stoic, the people still ignorant to the funeral’s significance. I remembered what Macar told me when I first met him and I hoped that in some way they would remember this moment.
I went to open my mouth and realised I never knew the dead man’s name. I was suddenly aware of how little I knew him, I wasn’t given the opportunity. I looked to him one last time, hoping that I hadn’t consigned my people to the same fate. I wanted them to have their independence, to be able to see the world as I did. But If he couldn’t handle such awareness, how was I guaranteed the others could? I didn’t know what was changing them, how soon would they follow this man’s destructive path? I swallowed down my fears before facing the crowd once again.
“None of us knew this man but he wanted to know us. He may have been alone in life but I hope everyone shares the wish that he not be alone in death. That he leaves us with memories of him that will live on.”
I nodded to the mortals beside the grave and they began to fill it with earth. I looked back and the mortals had already begun to disperse, the Alethiea following close behind them. None of them cried or looked to the grave filling behind me, my efforts had been wasted. Ismenara placed a hand reassuringly on my shoulder.
“Those were beautiful words.”
“I can’t help but think that this ceremony wouldn’t have been necessary if I had done something sooner. I failed him.”
“That man made his own choices.”
Ismenara reassured me, wiping a tear from my cheek.
“But I knew what he was going to do. Before the storm he told me a-and I let him go.”
Xyanthe put an arm around me as my voice faltered.
“But you protected everyone else. I saw you help them into the forest. If you didn’t, many more of them could have been injured or worse.”
“How is Macar?”
I asked. I didn’t want to hear any more platitudes. Since the storm, Xyanthe had been nursing Macar back to health. The pain in his side hadn’t subsided but that didn’t stop her bringing him fruit and tending to his bruises every day. The mortals behind us patted the last of the earth onto the grave and left without a word. From the nonchalant way they worked, you wouldn’t have guessed they had been digging a grave for the afternoon.
“He’s doing well. It’s still too painful for him to walk, but hopefully the bruises will fade soon. He wanted to be here but I couldn’t let him exhaust himself.”
In the days since the storm, Xyanthe had become less dismissive of Macar. I didn’t think she realised how he felt about her and I wondered if she ever would. The way Macar’s face lit up when Xyanthe approached him made me think of Eosphoros. I wished he was here with me, he always understood how I felt. I looked over my shoulder at the patch of disturbed soil.
“I wish I knew what to do now. I-I didn’t think past giving him a proper burial.”
Xyanthe squeezed my arm.
“We carry on. He’s with the mother now.”
I nodded and faced the grave.
“Just a few more minutes.”
I whispered. I couldn’t bring myself to walk away. The moment I did, he would be consigned to the unidentified masses of mortals who had lived before him. He was someone like me and being that way had driven him to his fate. Xyanthe and Ismenara didn’t complain and stood with me while I finished saying goodbye. As we were about to leave one of the Aletheia glided to follow us. She landed on his grave without any regard.
“It is my duty to watch.”
“I don’t care. Get off. Stand somewhere else.”
“The only orders I follow are those from the Hig-”
“I said get back!”
the anger overtook me and I pushed the Aletheia off the grave. She didn’t even stumble as she raised her wings and drifted gracefully backwards. Xyanthe gasped in shock. The angelic woman stood quietly. I had expected some kind of retaliation but she just smiled.
“Regardless of your trivialities, I must follow my orders.”
I was tired of the contempt for my people. I went to move forward but Ismenara held me back.
“He was a person! A life has ended, does that mean nothing to you?!”
I struggled against Ismenara’s grip. The Aletheia remained unfazed, which fuelled my anger.
“Callidora, calm down. You can’t treat them like that”
“I shouldn’t be surprised you would be on their side!”
I broke from Ismenara’s hold. My anger now firmly turned on her.
“There are no sides.”
Ismenara’s scales were bristling, despite her calm expression.
“Tell that to him! I’ve seen what they’re like at the palace! I know what the titan’s think of us and you are no different, putting your own agendas before the people’s welfare!”
“That’s not fair.”
“Exploitation isn’t fair! You only pretend to care because your role gives you no choice.”
“The mortals give me no choice.”
The sadness in her tone stunned me. Her eyes looked into mine with an intensity that only came from years of life. In that one look, her youthful appearance melted away and I saw the age-old deity beneath.
“My life has been dedicated to providing for them. You have only known the mortals a short time but I have known generations. There is only so long you can try to reach out. You think this is hard? Try going through it again and again. I have been tied to my river, forced to watch the cycle repeat itself.”
Ismenara didn’t shout nor did she cry, but the impact of her words left me speechless.
“Why didn’t you say something?”
I said, my anger deflated.
“Do you know how many times Xyanthe had come to my river? She would take what she needed and leave. Then one day, she comes running through the trees and talks to me. I didn’t want to question it. I just wanted to enjoy-”
“What are you talking about?”
Xyanthe interrupted, her brow furrowed. I realised how strange this must sound to her.
I said. I wanted to reassure her, but I didn’t want her to know too much too soon. Xyanthe frowned.
“You’re hiding something from me. What is it?”
“Please trust me that it’s for the best.”
“I never put you down as a hypocrite. I thought you didn’t like Astraea hiding things from you.”
I put out a hand to stop her but she had stormed off back to the meadow. I moved to follow her but Ismenara put a hand on my arm.
“It might be best to leave her be. Come on, let’s get some food.”
I nodded and let her guide me away from the grave. I had never known what it was like for Ismenara living among the people. It was a comfort to know that I wasn’t the only one who saw what the mortals were, even if I doubted that what they were becoming was any safer. I heard the swoop of wings and breeze as someone landed behind us.
“Callidora, can I have a few words with you.”
Astraea said. I didn’t know where she had come from but I didn’t want to talk to her.
“Now isn’t a good time, Astraea.”
“You will use my appropriate title and address me as Custodian.”
It didn’t take long for the superior tone to creep into her voice. I clenched my fists at the mental image of Astraea standing primly with her chin turned up at us. I didn’t want to face her, I knew after today I would do something I would regret.
“Very well, Custodian. As I was saying, it has been a hard day-”
“I just want to talk”
Astraea interrupted. I bit back my anger at Astraea’s disrespect.
“Were you at the funeral?”
I asked, keeping my voice level. I kept my back to her.
“I was watching.”
“Then you will know this is a bad time.”
“I wanted to give you another chance. To move on.”
I rounded on Astraea.
“Give me a chance? Are you serious?”
“Everything I have done is in your best interest. I’m sorry you were upset at the palace but it is my job as custodian to help you and I can’t do that if you keep pushing me away.”
“Help?! Where were you during the storms then? I had to get the mortals to safety, I had to take responsibility. Even after that I had to bury one of them!”
“I was working at the palace to get you the protection you need. There is a lot of this world you don’t see.”
Astraea shifted uneasily. She always went silent when it came to me.
“It’s because I’m different. Isn’t it? I know I don’t act the same as they do. I’ve seen the way you all look at me. I know there is something you’re keeping from me. Please just tell me what it is.”
Tears ran down my face. All the puzzled looks behind my back and the unanswered questions weighed down on me. I didn’t want to be in the dark anymore. I just wanted answers.
“You’re not supposed to let these things concern you. It’s not the place of mortals to question the world.”
Her constant refusal caused me to shake.
“Spare me the pretence! At least Eosphoros doesn’t patronise me.”
I covered my mouth to stop my outburst but the words were already out.
“He’s been visiting?”
Astraea’s gaze hardened. I looked defiantly into her eyes. I guess the secret was out now.
“We love each other.”
“This is unacceptable. He is an immortal and-”
I interrupted, cutting off the words I knew she was going to say. I was mortal. That wasn’t going to be good enough for them.
“- and you are not. Don’t you see there is only one way this could end? This kind of relationship it’s……. it’s……”
“Go ahead. Say it. Wrong? Abnormal? I knew you were just like the others.”
“You can’t be selfish Callidora. Eosphoros has a reputation to keep. Not just for him but our family. After you’re gone he will be left with the mess.”
“That is enough. You have exhausted your welcome.”
Ismenara put an arm around my shoulders for support. I remained silent, the thought that he would outlive me hadn’t occurred to me before.
“This cannot be allowed to continue.”
Astraea said, spreading her wings and flying through the forest canopy. Ismenara squeezed my shoulders.
“You don’t listen to her.”
“What if she’s right?”
“They used to say the same thing about titans being with nymphs. Trust me.”
“No buts. She acts like she knows everything, but I remember a time when she was a little girl at the heels of her mother. You are going to come back with me and forget today for a while.”
“I don’t think-”
“I’m not taking no for an answer. It must have been hard keeping such a large secret. So we’re going to enjoy the rest of the day while you tell me all about him.”
I nodded. I appreciated the effort but I knew the doubts wouldn’t leave me.
Arke could taste the blood in her mouth from her endless screaming. She slumped against her chains, the pain radiating up her back couldn’t pierce her cloud of hopelessness. Cronus hadn’t visited for days since he had manipulated her. Arke had driven herself mad, thinking of Iris and the fate of the Queen. She had given Cronus the means to destroy everything precious to her. Tears beaded down her cheek and fell into the damp earth. Arke was mildly surprised she was capable of weeping anymore.
“I’m sorry Iris. In the end, even I failed you”
She whispered. The spirit of her sister haunted the edges of her vision. A flick of Iris’ amber hair or the technicolour glint of her feathers, even the soft jingle of the bangles she wore, flicked in and out of her senses. Arke shook her head, it couldn’t be Iris’ ghost. She had to hold onto the hope her sister had been left alive. Arke didn’t look up when a familiar flash of light illuminated the cell.
“I do sincerely apologise for not visiting. I was occupied with a little errand”
Cronus sneered. Arke remained silent, not from defiance but a catatonic state of misery and shame. The king tutted as if he were scolding a child.
“It’s rude not to welcome a visitor. Besides I’m sure you want to know how my visit to Iris’ little island went?”
Arke lifted her head to look into his gloating eyes. The king’s lips curled into a sinister grin as he slowly lifted his fist and opened his palm. Multicoloured feathers sparkled in the sunlight as they drifted to the ground. Arke watched at them in horror, her chest aching as if her soul was being torn in two. Her stare remained fixed on her sister’s feathers long after they landed gently on the floor among her own long, grey ones.
“Rest assured it wasn’t without a struggle.”
Arke barely heard the kings mockery. She started to shake, her focus tunnelled on the macabre token of her sister. Each feather had the same colour splattered across them. Red. Her heart beat loudly in her ears and her breath quickened. Arke opened her mouth to scream but all she managed was a small choking sound before the darkness took her.
Cronus looked at Arke with distaste. He had to break her as soon as possible but he couldn’t interrogate the feeble girl if she was unconscious. The Queen’s due date was looming and he had spent weeks scouring the ocean beyond the southern province. All his searches hadn’t been successful, no matter how many Alethiea he sent. He tapped his foot in irritation. He would have to return when she woke up. Before he left the cell, a female voice spoke from the shadows.
“When do you plan on telling her those feathers are dyed?”
Upon recognising the voice, his face twisted into a disgusted sneer.
“You will be silent!”
“or what? You know you can’t destroy me. Mother would have your head.”
“At least I can keep you here where you can’t spread your aberrations in my kingdom.”
“Yes, those precious mortals you made. I do much less harm than the rest of my siblings”
Cronus pointed his finger at the voice.
“Silence! You are the worst scum of your kind! Your power is the foulest of them all. I will not have you taint the mortals the way we are inflicted. I will keep them perfect and pure.”
The voice laughed. Cronus’ eyebrow twitched.
“Perfection? I’ve seen what you have done. If such means are necessary, is what you are trying to preserve truly worth it?”
“A base being such as you wouldn’t know the concept of perfection.”
“I remember your father thought he knew what perfection was too. It was his downfall.”
Cronus’ blue eyes darkened to black, the torque on his arm radiating a sinister golden glow.
“I am not my father.”
“I’m sure you believe that.”
The voice replied, unfazed by the display of power.
“I will find my wife and I will defy the prophecy. Then I will purge the world of your kind.”
“I look forward to the visit”
Cronus gave the voice one last sneer before disappearing in a flash of light.
Death, I beg you, take me to my sister. I don’t want to see the light of the world again
Arke thought as she slowly roused from sleep. She kept her eyes shut tight, unable to face her failure. She didn’t want to see Iris’ dismembered feathers.
“It’s alright. I’ve swept them away. There’s nothing to fear”
Arke felt a reassuring hand on her arm. Slowly, she opened her eyes and saw a woman sitting cross-legged in front of her. She smiled at Arke like she was an old friend, her dark eyes were comforting. Arke quickly averted her gaze, resisting the urge to stare. The other woman stood and brushed down her light peach chiton.
“I don’t deserve such consideration.”
Arke said, her voice hoarse. Her cellmate walked to the other end of the cave. Her full face maintained a sunny look as she returned with a cracked bowl in her hands.
“A heart as full of love as yours is always worthy of help.”
As the woman got closer Arke could see the bowl was filled with water. Her throat ached for the relief but her shame fought back the urge to drink.
“Don’t waste it now. It took a lot of effort to dig out a spring.”
The woman sat next to her and lifted the bowl to Arke’s lips. Despite her reluctance, Arke drank deeply. The fresh water soothed her throat and made it easier for her to talk.
“Thank you. But why am I only seeing you now?”
“A heart with walls needs solitude to heal. I sense the responsibility weighing it down and you needed to let the emotion out.”
“But Cronus never acknowledged you once.”
“He likes to pretend I don’t exist. He wouldn’t dare destroy me, mother scares him too much. But he’s too paranoid to just be rid of me so he has kept me here.”
Arke raised an eyebrow, the woman’s reply made little sense.
“I should explain. Before Cronus was king I was known as Philotes, daimone of affection.”
Arkes eyes widened, her chains holding her in place as she tried to shuffle away.
Arke had heard the stories of their dark cousins. Rhea had told her they did nothing but spread their individual breeds of destruction and misery.
“No. Please don’t misunderstand. I’m not like most of my siblings. History has tended to tarnish us all with the same brush.”
“I was told your kind could be deceitful too.”
Philotes face fell, she sat back as if Arke had struck her.
“I-I promise you. I only want to help you.”
“Cronus wanted to help me too.”
Philotes fiddled nervously with the pins holding her hair up. Stray strands fell into her face as she considered her reply.
“Not all titans are like him. I know you think of Rhea like a mother. She has been good to you.”
“How do you know that?”
The thought that this woman could see into her heart made Arke more uncomfortable than she expected.
“My power allows me to see the people you hold dearest to you. The point is, could you get to know me first? Then decide what you think of me?”
Arke’s stern expression softened at the hurt in Philotes eyes. Arke sighed.
“I’m sorry. You are right, I should be more grateful for your kindness.”
Philotes crawled forward and retook her place next to Arke.
“Apologies are not necessary, considering the circumstances. You are chained to the floor after all.”
Arke laughed but she quickly cut the moment short.
“I shouldn’t be judging you after what I’ve done. Laughing at a time like this is shameful.”
Philotes shook her head.
“You have nothing to be sorry for. There is something else I can do for you, if you don’t mind me coming a little closer?”
Arke lifted an eyebrow but nodded her consent. Philotes moved so that the two of them were kneeling face to face. Arke felt her heart beat faster with the other woman so close. Arke tried to breath steadily as Philotes leaned closer.
“Close your eyes.”
She whispered. When she did what she was told, Arke felt Philotes press their foreheads together and place her hands over Arke’s heart. Under her eyelids Arke could see an image of the island come into focus. Her heart leapt when she saw her sister appear at the cave entrance. The sunlight glittered around her as she sat on the rocks, staring out at the spray.
“I hope you’re safe. I miss you, Arke.”
As abruptly as it came, the vision of her sister was gone. Arke raised her head in disbelief, fresh tears streaming from her eyes.
“My sister is she……….? Was that………?”
“Yes. Cronus hasn’t found them. Your sister is alive and well.”
“Using your connection to your sister I was able to show you an image of where she is.”
Philotes beamed at Arke gratitude.
“It was my pleasure. Just don’t let the king know what I have shown you. There could be consequences”
Arke’s voice had lost its despondent monotone. She had hope and it had come from an unlikely source.
With a thick sheen of sweat on his brow, and a deep ache in his arms, Dolos continued his craft. It was difficult keeping up with Prometheus’ pace but the thrill of weaving his deception had fuelled him. Every day that passed he made more Pseudologoi and neither of the brothers had noticed. Like most days, he and Prometheus had been sat at the same stools for hours. Prometheus’ unquenchable enthusiasm for working with clay meant Dolos had to keep working too. For the plan to work he needed to make sure the Aletheia didn’t outnumber his Pseudologoi when they were awakened. Despite working closely with him, Prometheus had been the easiest to deceive. He was too absorbed in his work to notice the words Dolos whispered into the ears of every Pseudologoi he made. The titan’s field of vision was scrutinising but narrow to a fault.
“Keep working like this and your fingers will start to bleed”
Epimetheus clapped his brother on the back and jolted Prometheus out of his trance.
“Impossible. Clay is a soft material and the use of tools prevents strain of the hands and digits”
Prometheus stated, his eyes still fixed on the Aletheia in front of him. His shoulders tensed where Epimetheus held them.
“It may be soft but it’s not edible. Come on. Food.”
Prometheus pursed his lips.
“When I’ve finished this one. There are only a couple of details in the face left.”
Epimetheus eyed the statue.
“It looks like it has a nose and two eyes. Time for a break.”
“But you said father would feel better if we have more protection. I need to make as many as possible.”
Prometheus insisted, his tone becoming terse.
“Menoetius and Atlas are with him, remember? They will help him. He would want you to take care of yourself.”
Prometheus pursed his lips, he wasn’t going to be moved.
“Alright. I’m going to set the food up on that table. It’s going to take five minutes and I expect you to finish up by then. Okay?”
A curt nod was Prometheus’ only reply. Epimetheus had become adept at tearing his twin away from his obsessions, but that didn’t mean he was successful every time. Dolos could feel Prometheus tense on the stool next to him as the sound of plates and cutlery clattered behind them. Dolos hoped Prometheus would give in, he needed the break. Epimetheus tapped one of the plates with a knife.
“Don’t let it go cold.”
He said. Prometheus exhaled deeply and threw his tools to the floor. He stayed quiet as he got up from the stool and took his seat at the bench behind them. Dolos rubbed his arms with relief as he stood. Epimetheus clicked his fingers when Dolos walked towards the exit.
“Where do you think you’re going? There’s a forge to be cleaned.”
Dolos paused in the entrance and clenched his fists.
“I don’t think so. I’ve had enough.”
“Uh huh. When you’re done with all of this drama. You can start with those spare swords. Move them to storage”
Epimetheus waved a hand dismissively at Dolos while carving a joint of meat. The brothers never took him seriously. Dolos grinded his teeth, his kind used to be royalty. The power of the daimones had been something that was feared. Since Moros’ visit he had hope they might be restored, which made his treatment all the more unbearable. If Epimetheus wanted the swords stored, Dolos knew the perfect place to store one for the titan’s disrespect.
“Hurry up. I want them moved before we’re done eating.”
Epimetheus commanding, taking his seat. The twins continued to eat their food, as if they were the only ones in the room. Dolos turned and walked past the unfinished statues. He stopped at the large pot filled with steel swords. His hand froze on the hilt of the nearest weapon. Dolos hadn’t planned it, but he knew his injustice at the hands of the titans was done.
“There was a time when my mind was honoured as the sharpest sword in existence”
Despite his rage, Dolos’ voice was calm and steady. The sword slid cleanly from its place among the others. He turned the blade in his hands, staring up and down its length. A thin line of orange light shone on his face where the metal reflected the flames from the sconces on the wall.
“Deception was my forte once. Apate and I had no equal. My brothers and sisters were free, we had the world-”
Epimetheus absentmindedly lifted his head from the meal, tearing the meat apart with his fingers.
“Did I ask for you to narrate? No. Move the swords.”
He said, licking the juices off his fingers. Dolos flared his nostrils, his knuckles turned white as his grip tightened on the hilt. He continued despite the interruption.
“Then Ouranos had to be cast down and your fathers and mothers decided that we weren’t good enough for your precious realm. All I could manage was this. But now I have an opportunity and I plan to take it.”
He looked Epimetheus in the eye. He grinned when the titan paused and slowly took his brothers hand. Prometheus batted it away and continued eating, unaware of the change in Dolos’ demeanour. The sooner he finished the meal the sooner he could get back to his work.
“Put the sword down”
Epimetheus stood from his chair and put himself between Dolos and his twin, his gaze fixed on the blade. Dolos discreetly moved closer to the Pseudologoi he had been working on. It was time to lift the curtain on his elaborate trick, or rather lift the chiton on absent feet.
“After all these years cooped up here you think I would do that kind of dirty work myself? Don’t panic the only weapon I use is this one”
Dolos tapped his left temple. Prometheus turned away from the table and peeked out from behind his brother.
“I’ve finished. I’m going back to work now.”
He said, wiping his mouth. Dolos pushed the sword into the Pseudologoi’s hand.
“You won’t be working here anymore.”
He said. For the first time, Prometheus’ focus went to the statue. Dolos grinned when he saw the realisation dawn on Prometheus’ face.
“He’s tainted them!”
Prometheus exclaimed in a rage, lurching past his brother. Epimetheus held him back.
“Pseudologoi of the forge, awaken!”
At Dolos’ command, a dark sheen crept up the statue next to him and brought it to life. Prometheus broke from his brothers grip and lunged for Dolos. The Pseudologoi was between them, lifting her sword high. Epimetheus pulled Prometheus back by the belt holding his chiton, the blade coming down where his head had been. Dolos didn’t cower from the titan’s anger. He knew a small army of Pseudologoi was coming through the tunnels, too many for a pair of unarmed craftsmen. He would watch them die in their precious forge. The twins struggled as Epimetheus tried to get them out of the chamber. Prometheus pushed his brother away, stumbling backwards into the path of the oncoming sword.
Epimetheus shouted in horror, reaching for his twin. Prometheus was knocked back into his brother’s arms. The unfinished Aletheia stood where Prometheus had been. Sacrificing her life for that of her creator, the blade protruded from between her shoulder blades. A single word on her lips.
She slid to ground, graceful in death, as ichor the colour of liquid amber pooled around her. Epimetheus wrestled his brother out of the cave. Prometheus continued to shout and scream in anger.
“Go after them.”
Dolos commanded. The Pseudologoi flew swiftly after the twins. He took a slow breath, even they left alive he would make sure they would perish one way or another. Dolos stepped over the dead Aletheia. He tore a chunk of meat from the joint the brothers had been eating. He ate calmly, watching the Alethiea bleed out.
“My masters……………….. will not be beaten………………”
She said with ragged breaths. Dolos swallowed a mouthful of meat.
“I think you’ll find I already did that.”
“They……….. will return.”
She replied, her breaths becoming further apart. Dolos ignored the Alethiea and continued his meal. He eagerly licked his fingers when the Pseudologoi returned. He growled in anger when he saw the blade of her sword had been broken off.
“The brothers have escaped into the mountains.”
“Then rally every Pseudologoi you can find. I don’t care if you have to hunt them across the entire eastern province!”
He looked to the Alethiea as she took her last wheezing breaths. He had to admit she had a point. The last time he faced the titans alone it had not ended well.
“Actually. Forget that.”
He retrieved a sword from the pot and handed it to the Pseudologoi.
“Only send a small retinue after the brothers. I need the rest to carry some messages. Perhaps I can use the position of the forge to my advantage.”
The woman bowed out of his path as he left the chamber. He paused before turning down the tunnel.
“But first, finish off that one in there and any of her sisters still in the forge. I will need to be ready for when my siblings come.”