The demons stared at one another in silence for quite some time; Lahash returned to see Naberious, who stayed to himself in the ruins of Necropolis. Hidden away in the shadows amongst the tombs of the dead from times past.
“Why do you remain?” Lahash walked around the dreary room full of tombs while his eyes traced the walls.
Naberious said, “Why are you here?”
Lahash smirked with a raised eyebrow. “Now is this the way you treat me after I found and returned your love? You rejected her. Now you remain in isolation. Why?”
“Stop. You know damn well that is not Pandora. She is not her. This is a farce. You want me to return, so the dark one will favor you at court. To give you more power.” Naberious turned his head and cut his steely eyes into Lahash.
“Naberious, I am not one to ever truly get to the point. They have accused me of mind games, word twisting, and overall chaos. However, I have never been accused of hiding my intentions. Yes, I need you to return so I can achieve my desires. I would not trick a prince of the dark realm into acquiring something of this magnitude. If I were to be caught, the dark one would destroy me. My games only go so far, and hypocrisy is not my forte.” Lahash’s face darkened, appearing as though he was insulted by such a presumption.
“Well Lahash, I guess you and I have one thing in common, and that will pass the test.” He turned and stood inches in front of Lahash’s face. “I loathe and despise presumptions. But this still does not solve my problem.”
Lahash moved back and perched himself on one of the more colossal tombs in the center of the room where they stood. “Help me understand.”
“After Pandora was caught, and after you told me she was captured and sent away by her mother, I left the dark realm and found Selena. She told me an unfamiliar story.”
Lahash frowned. “There is no other story. Pandora was cast away. There were witnesses. Caticus delivered the book to Moloch. He knows of this, why do you fight the truth?”
“Lahash, we are demons. We thrive on mortal deceit, crime, rape, and self-indulgence of great magnitudes. I know a trick when I see one. This is a trick. The thing that person is -- is nothing more than an impostor. Pandora was said to have left with another fairy, and as long as she left with that fairy, then her life would be spared.” Naberious seated himself down, and his eyes filled with tears.
Lahash shook his head. “No, that doesn’t sound right at all. The queen was furious with her. She would have never let her live. Did it ever occur to you that Selena told you that to hurt you more? Sure, casting her away seems satisfactory, however, telling you she was with another is a demonic burn to your blackened heart.”
Naberious looked to Lahash with disdain. “And you know of such pain? You love? You have lost? I know deep down, you know of loss, but you know nothing of my pain! You get through your existence by toying with others. Get out!”
Lahash stood confident with a smile. “You and I both know the queen speaks in riddles just as our dark one does. She may have told you the truth that Pandora left with another fairy to never return, but did she ever tell you who? Did she ever deny that she went to the underworld? No, she didn’t. So why don’t you ask the queen herself?”
Lahash kept a smug composure in front of Naberious. However, things were not adding up to him. With a goal in mind to move up in the ranks in the dark realm’s court, he had only one option to find out about what happened to Pandora. He returned to the dark realm to confront the dark one himself.
He sat and waited for a greeting from the dark one. He took a deep breath in, and with it, the sulfurous rank that filled the crimson atmosphere. The infamous baritone voice spoke out, “Lahash, it has been quite some time. What brings you here, without a gathering?”
“Lord, please forgive me. I come to you with knowledge and questions. It is about Selena’s daughter, Pandora. They cast her away a long time ago. How would it be that two mortal witches or necromancers could summon her from Pandora’s Box? Is it her?”
“Lahash, who speaks of this news?”
“Lord, I met her myself.” Lahash stared up into the empty atmosphere awaiting a response.
“Then it is true. The Necromancers opened Pandora’s box.” The dark one said.
Lahash’s forehead furrowed. “Pandora’s Box?”
“The entity that has been released from the box is not Pandora. When Selena cast her daughter to the underworld, she didn’t realize that anyone could summon her back in any form. I created this.”
“Lord, I do not understand, created what?”
The dark one said, “When a fairy is cast away like this, there is always magic for protection. What Selena doesn’t realize is anyone could summon her. But it wouldn’t be the real Pandora. I made sure of that. In our agreement, I decided that if someone were to free her, the demons would benefit. Naberious left with Selena’s fairy book, and he has kept it. Sending what looks like Pandora to him would bring him back here, with the book. Why is this your concern?”
“Lord, Pandora has knowledge of astral twins, even before they connect. I thought only the nymphs carried the knowledge after the souls connect, but Pandora is more powerful. I thought it would please you to have soul keys in our realm.” Lahash grinned in his own delusion that this somehow would please his leader.
The dark one’s voice shifted. “We cannot steal soul keys! One part of the key may choose the lower path making that soul vulnerable to coming to the dark realm. Breaking a soul key is just as welcomed, though rarely happens. I admire your passion to climb to high ranks in the court. Getting close to a nymph to locate a soul key on Earth would bring you favor besides convincing my favorite, Naberious to return. With his punishment and exile, he may never return if given the chance.”
“Lord, if that is not Pandora, then who is that, and where is the real Pandora?”
The dark one’s speech was slow as he said, “Astaroth, the demoness is Pandora as of now. She knows much of Pandora’s memories. The real Pandora is in the underworld. The only way she can be released is by the necromancer. The necromancer must be a human, capable of infiltrating the underworld and passing the sphinx riddles. The human that has released Pandora, has opened the gate, but she has not entered. Naberious is very keen, he knows that is not Pandora, therefore he keeps the book.”
Lahash stared into space as his mind went wild with possibilities. “How would this human know that she must go to the underworld? And what if I can convince the necromancer to bring Pandora to life? Pandora is released, and she finds Naberious, and he returns, would you accept Pandora here in the dark realm?”
The dark one hissed, “I hate fairies! Manipulative, ruthless, and they change with the wind.”
Lahash sunk into his chair and muttered under his breath, “Like we aren’t any of those things.”
“Watch it Lahash, I do not appreciate your sarcasm in my house! We are all of those things, but the fairies possess the ability of magic on any kind. It limits our reach in dreams. As long as Selena does not have her book, her power is limited. If you have noticed, the fairies do not come to Earth often because their power is less than what it was. But if we can release Pandora through the human necromancer and Naberious returns, this would be most pleasing to me.”
Lahash left his meeting and journeyed to Earth in Search of Astaroth, of whom he once had a love affair with. There she was just in the place she entered. Nevoc.
“So, when did you figure it out,” Astaroth stood outside Nevoc watching Lahash. “How did you get that secret from the dark one?”
“Astaroth, why didn’t you tell me it was you?”
Astaroth snorted, “Because I enjoyed watching you through the eyes of another. I am wonderful at what I do.” She approached him and ran her finger down his neck. “After all of our times together, you can’t figure it out.” She jerked her hand away from Lahash and turned her back, “As long as Naberious believes that I am not the real Pandora, then he keeps the book, and that was the plan. The real Pandora can’t be released onto Earth without a human necromancer. Raina is the one, the witch who can accomplish this. One necromancer to the other is all that will work.”
Lahash smiled his cocky smile. “Good. Since you are the one who infiltrates dreams better than any of us, you will infiltrate Raina’s and convince her to do the real ritual to release Pandora.”
Astaroth’s eyes narrowed, “Why should I? I do nothing to help you!”
Lahash crinkled his nose, “Oh, get over it, Astaroth. Just because our brief lusty interlude didn’t end your way shouldn’t keep you from doing your best work.”
She jumped and appeared in front of his face, “Lusty interlude? Lahash we spent a millennium together in darkest, perverse, and sacrificing ways. It wasn’t an interlude. You destroyed something good.”
“Oh, Astaroth it was good only for you. I grew tired of your games. I wanted what I wanted, I got that, and I grew bored. Demons do not love. Besides, you found that you had a way with mortal men, and you seemed to enjoy yourself.”
Astaroth sneered, “Yes I did. Still do. We may not love, but we conquer, and they will regard it as I conquered you.”
Lahash smiled, “Okay, whatever you wish to call it, now go to work on Raina. Infiltrate her dreams. Make her see that she can get more. Disappear. Make her look for Pandora once more. Once the ex-girlfriend of her new flame shows up, and she sees that the magic doesn’t work, she will seek her. You will help her find her way to Pandora.”
Astaroth glared at her ex-demon mate with disdain. “Why do you want her out so badly? Just for the book to be returned? That is all? The book? You get to unlock the astral codex she carries for twin souls? That book is not the only place that the astral codex secret is kept. You are a fool. Spoken like a true egomaniacal tyrant demon.”
She vanished before Lahash could say anything back to her. Not knowing where she went, all Lahash had to do was wait, and time was all he had.
“You will not speak to the guys about any of this! Do you promise?!” Amelia unhinged was out of breath with hysterics, “Promise?!”
Raina remained dismissive, “Yeah, sure cool. I won’t say a word about it. Hey, at least we both get to go on a great trip, and I don’t have to worry about Derek’s ex showing up ruining things.”
They stood with Gabe in his house and as speechless as he was with the quarreling witches, he forced himself to say something. He fidgeted and paced.
“Hey, I know that this might not be the best time, but Raina, that fairy you have called; she seems a bit, you know...mysterious. I mean I realize what we are dealing with and if anyone knew, or we said something, they might want our heads examined. So, I think what Amelia hopes for is that you all can have a great weekend with your boyfriends. No one says anything and Raina you get what you want. Can’t you understand?”
Raina snorted as she stuffed her jacket in the duffle bag she carried from her office at the bar. “Well, Amelia has nothing to worry about, she has a rich boyfriend who is in total love with her. I am the one who can’t get a boyfriend.”
Amelia grabbed the bag from Raina’s hands and threw it on Gabe’s couch. “How dare you say that to me! Why are you jealous because I have found someone I can be with, that loves me for me? That I may have a future with. I can’t help it you screw things up with men. I tried to help you with Derek and remained nothing but supportive of you. Forget this! Forget it! Raina, you aren’t going on the trip, and I don’t care what that fairy says or does.” Amelia grabbed her purse and shot out of Gabe’s house and slammed the door.
Raina walked to Gabe’s window. She stood with her arms crossed glaring at her best friend charging down the sidewalk. “We will see about that.”
“What did you say, Raina? Look I am sorry, but you are getting out of control. You can’t force someone to love you or be with you. It doesn’t work. Now you have upset Amelia; she cares for you and I think you need to fix this.” Gabe pleaded with his large and soft eyes.
Raina’s eyes squinted, “How could you defend her? I didn’t do anything wrong. I summoned Pandora and if she can get her love back by helping me keep mine, then I would say that is a fair deal. Right?”
Gabe shook his head. “Raina, my gut feeling is screaming this is a bad thing. All I can say is you need to fix things with her. But I have to study for an exam. If going and patching things up with Amelia isn’t the plan, then you are welcome to stay, but if I don’t get to study, I will fail.”
Gabe disappeared back in his office to study, leaving Raina fuming in the living room. She kept her back to Gabe and continued to stare out his window. After she heard his door close, she grabbed her things and let herself out of the house and headed back to her home with Esmra.
When she arrived, Esmra and her friend Tallulah were gone. Esmra left a note on the fridge for all the girls in the coven to see.
Gone to town, will be back later this evening. Start dinner without me. Love Esmra.
Raina ripped the letter off the fridge and studied it for several seconds. After, she walked outside into the garden area that Esmra kept up so well. It was like another world, and with the spring in full swing, her rose bushes were stunning. The lavender filled the air, and the blue irises were stunning to look at. She sat in Esmra’s chair, leaned her head back and allowed the setting sun to warm her face before it disappeared for the night. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath.
After several minutes passed, her phone buzzed. She leaned forward and fished it out of her back pocket. It was a message from Derek.
“We need to talk now.”
Raina stared at the message for a moment and let out a sigh as she replied.
“What is it?”
After several minutes, another message came through.
“Too long to text. Meet me at the café. I will be there in half an hour.”
She darted upstairs to find Amelia in her bed asleep, but it looked as though she had been crying. Her phone was lying on her nightstand, so Raina picked it up and read some messages from Brian.
Raina sat on her bed and covered her mouth as she read just a few of the lengthy messages that Brian sent to Amelia. Before she snuck the phone back onto the nightstand, Amelia’s eyes opened.
“Raina! What are you doing? Reading my messages?!”
“Amelia, I am...I am sorry. I didn’t know you were here. I came upstairs, and you are here asleep with mascara running down your cheek like you had been crying. So, I snooped I am sorry. But why didn’t you tell me Brian said all those things? I read the messages. Why didn’t you tell me?”
Amelia got out of bed. “Tell you! Raina! It amazes me you don’t see what you cause. That’s right, Brian thinks there is something wrong with you, and he doesn’t like me being around you. There is no way I can take you with us on that trip, and I don’t want too anyway. I tried to stick up for you with him. But he walked in on you and Derek having sex, and he said you were almost happy that he did. You made Brian feel strange and after that he and Derek had a brief talk. Derek feels the same way. Is this true? Brian walked in on you and Derek?”
Raina stood up and walked into the bathroom. “Yeah, so what of it? What is the big deal? It was an accident. I wasn’t happy he walked in, I forgot to lock the door was all. We were quiet, and he didn’t realize I was there.”
Amelia walked into the bathroom and sat on the toilet. “Are you telling me the truth? That both of them have it wrong?”
Raina nodded, “Yes. Just because I don’t act like some little bitch who can’t handle getting caught having sex, doesn’t mean there is something wrong with me.”
Amelia leaned over and put her forehead in her hands. “Raina, things are getting strange. This fairy we have summoned, is a dead fairy. She claims if she gives us all this help, then she will be set free to find some demon she was in love with from two past lives ago. Do you not understand how crazy this sounds? We have to go to Esmra with this. We have to find out what in the world that box really is. Please. Maybe we can work through all of this and fix things and be happy. But with this, Pandora running around. I am scared. She scares me.”
Raina had a hairbrush in her hand, and she slammed it down on the sink and hollered out, “No! If Esmra gets involved and finds out what I did, she will kick me out of the coven.”
Amelia leaned against the toilet in shock.
“Raina, she will forgive you; she will forgive me. Please! The only way I see her not forgiving us, is if we keep going. We need to find out what this thing is.”
Raina’s face tightened, and her lips stiffened as she gritted her teeth. “I said no!” She leaned over and was in Amelia’s face forcing her to hunker down.
Amelia rose and slid away from Raina, who was breathing hard. She grabbed some clothes and her purse and took off running down the stairs and then texted Brian. Amelia darted out of the door and picked up a slow jog away from the house as she headed down the street.
Raina remained upstairs, and she grabbed her face and ran her fingernails down her cheek as she screamed at the top of her lungs, a guttural scream. She mumbled to herself, “What is happening to me?”