God Complex

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Bonds


Fea didn’t know why she hadn’t fled. Or moreover, why she stepped over to protect the other girl. Maybe it’s their resemblance and how the sight of her crying made Fea herself feel weak.

Fea sought out this apartment because it was one of the biggest divinity reservoirs on the east coast. Though now that she’s here protecting this other girl, she feels there might’ve been something else tugging her in this direction. That isn’t even touching on the fact that someone had been murdered within minutes of their meeting. Fea isn’t one for believing in fate or divine intervention, despite being a deity herself but this was all way too convenient.

Grabbing her twin’s wrist, Fea pulls her towards the window but she’s met with resistance. The girl doesn’t want to leave the dead guy’s body.

“Come on,” Fea squawks and gives the girl a forceful tug.

“I can’t,” she whispers and Fea rolls her eyes.

“You can mourn yer friend later. Right now we should get outta here before that freaky lady comes back to finish us off!”

Just as Fea gets her feet onto the windowsill three other girls barge into the room. To hide her identity, Fea pulls her feathered mask back down over her face. One of the girls, the one with blue hair and red eyes, looks at the dead body. She doesn’t stare for long before turning her attention to Fea’s doppelganger and then to Fea herself. Shock passes over her face and goes right to anger as she bellows before them. Fea feels the howl flutter through her feathers, ruffling the plumage. Capitalizing on the moment, Fea compounds the problem. Fea’s feathers shake once more, but this time with the aim to force the girl’s anger to the surface. It would be hard for anyone to notice the red glaze over the girl’s ruby eyes but Fea knew she’d taken hold. The angrier the girl becomes the tauter Fea’s muscles grow.

Just as Fea feels her power climbing towards its peak, the girl throws her arms forward. Lightning blasts from her palms and takes physical form as it rockets towards Fea. Plasma becomes solid and Fea is faced with a war hammer that’s twice her size.

“Look out,” shouts her twin as she tackles her out of the window.

This should’ve been easy. Sure Fea hadn’t surveyed the occupants, but given what she’d heard through the grapevine this domain had little in the way of defenses. Her plan was the same as always: Force the inhabitants to their knees and make them swear loyalty to her. WIth their fealty, she’d add yet another domain to her list of expanding territory.

Of course, not every run would be perfect, but judging by the injured girl to her side, this was a botch. Fea’s twin runs a hand over a bruise on her shoulder. She must’ve been clipped by the hammer on their way down. From the looks of it, she hadn’t landed with much grace either. Sighing, Fea helps the girl to her feet and dusts her down. Fea should cut her losses and run. It’s obvious that the girl up in the apartment was looking for someone to blame even before Fea egged her on. It’s the logical thing to do and Fea likes to think she’s got a good head on her shoulders. Yet, she’s still here with her twin. Despite the whimpering, the trembling and the innocent looking eyes, Fea is drawn to this girl. She needs her fealty.

“Head north and go into the first town you see,” Feay says watching as the weak thing before her chokes back tears. “The others should be down here any minute. So hurry.”

“C-can’t we talk to them,” asks the twin. “They’re my friends and t-they’ll understand...besides. Jesus. I need to. He’s...I need to go back and...”

“He’s dead. You saw it yerself didn’t ya? Then, without so much as a question, that bitch threw her hammer at me.” Fea groans. “I’m not exactly keen on talkin’ it out with her. She wants a fight, so I’ll give her a damn fight.”

“But she’s my-”

“I. Don’t. Care.” Fea glares at her twin. “Didn’t ya catch the look in her eyes. Have ya ever seen that before?”

The twin looks away from Fea and shakes her head.

“That’s what I thought,” Fea says. “She wanted to kill me. Had ya not intervened back there I might’ve gotten splattered.”

Fea lies, but she does so with ease. She steps towards the girl and rests a hand on her uninjured shoulder.

“You can feel we’ve got some kind of bond, can’t ya? Now that we’ve come together like this we shouldn’t be apart. Do you really think someone who wanted to kill me without any hesitation is the kind of friend ya want?” Fea turns to look up at the apartment. “Besides, I saw the look on yer face when ya came into the room. Somethin’ was already botherin’ ya. So between that, yer friend’s seething anger and yer other friend gettin’ wasted, I don’t feel like this apartment is gonna be a safe place for ya anymore. So...”

Fea hikes her thumb back.

“Get. Yer. Ass. Movin’.”

Seconds roll by, and Fea’s twin doesn’t budge. Fea sighs before looking back at her twin. Their eyes meet and Fea stays resolute even when faced with all that sadness.

“Trust me, alright,“Feasays. “I’ve been down this road with people...with friends, time an’ time again. It’ll hurt fer now, but eventually-”

“Okay,” says her twin before transforming into a crow and flying off in the ordered direction. Blunt, but effective.

Fea turns ahead in time to catch the girls emerging from the apartment. She smirks then takes off, luring them into a nearby forest where she believes she’ll have a greater advantage.

As Fea flees the earth shifts behind her and so comes the booming sound of falling trees in the distance. Damn, those bitches are coming up fast. A grin grows on Fea’s face that she can’t fight. If she wasn’t careful she’ll make herself stupid with excitement.

If her twin was anything to go by then these girls shouldn’t be much to deal with. She’ll make quick work of them, then get them to buckle and swear their fealty to her in...ten minutes, she bets. Fea’s mouth waters at the thought of all the divinity she’d get from them and her twin. Looks like she might be able to make something out of this run after all.

And there they are, emerging from a dust cloud after tearing down several trees in their path, which is totally unnecessary in her opinion. Giving them a once over, Fea concludes they have pretty solid stances overall and it seems like they should at least know how to fight.

The girl with the twin braids and the hammer stands front and center. Tch, this bitch, she didn’t even try to get Fea’s name or ask what she was doing there before attacking. She just saw that dead asshole and assumed Fea must’ve done it. Doesn’t she know how much of a waste that would’ve been? Yeah, Fea could’ve killed him and stolen his divinity, but fealty is so much better. It gives her a lackey who can then go around and collect even more divinity for her, so why waste a perfectly good subordinate? She’d be sure to instill that lesson in this girl once she made a slave out of her.

Given their positions, the twin-tailed girl must be their leader or at least the most aggressive of them. She stands there staring at Fea with this cold little look. Is that supposed to be intimidating? Fea’s not expecting a smile, but at least give her a good hard glare. It’d make sense especially considering she probably thinks Fea murdered her friend and all.

There’s a mummy to the girl’s right who drops a backpack-sized sarcophagus down at her side. Just a shot in the dark, but Fea guesses that’s her weapon. Her eyelids look heavy and she can’t seem to raise her arms so Fea doubts she’ll be much of an asset to the others in combat.

Last on her radar is the curvy violet-haired girl. Fea doesn’t know why she’s smiling, but maybe it’s an attempt at a show of confidence. She looks rather casual all things considered. Crossed arms and a cocked hip don’t worry Fea much. It’s such an obvious ruse. Only an amateur would think this girl’s defenses are down.

An Aesir, an Egyptian and an Olympian. Including Ana, and the dead boy they had quite the diverse group in that apartment. Looks like Fea would be getting divinity from all over.

“Okay, before ye’ all do something yer gonna regret, I thought I should at least make my case first,” Fea says, smirking.

Fea plans to make a big to do out of showing them she isn’t afraid. She’s fought and beaten much bigger foes. Though she might not want to judge a book by its cover at this point, given her own success rate.

“I didn’t kill yer friend. This lady in white just appeared and-”

“What the hell did you do to me back there?” The girl with the braids steps forth. “I had no inclination to attack, but then I saw you and... I saw nothing but red.”

The girl raises her hammer at Fea and shakes her head, as though trying to clear her mind.

“Where’s Ana?” she asks, voice flat.

“Ana? So that’s her real name huh,” Fea asks.

“Return her to me. Now,” she orders, deadpan.

“Wow, y’don’t sound very motivated. Is she really that important to ya? I sure as hell can’t tell.” Fea chuckles.

She gives no answer, just narrows her crimson eyes at Fea. Fea’s gaze bounces between the girls and it seems like the curvy one’s position shifted a bit from earlier. The mummy is still in the same spot, at least, so that’s good.

“So y’don’t even care that what’s-his-face was just straight up murdered? Yeah, Ana seems pretty torn up about the whole thing. Maybe yer just playin’ it cool then. Y’know, if it hurts, you can let it out.”

They can try to hide it all they want, but Fea can feel their anger brustling her feathers.

“Fer someone who claims to care so much about Ana, y’had no problem hurting her,y’know,” Fea says. “Yer reckless behavior with that hammer a’ yours is causin’ her a lotta pain right now. If just grazing her did that much damage, just imagine what would’a happened if ye actually hit her with it. Ye’d prolly be cleanin’ Ana off the walls, just like that other guy.”

Fea laughs and her feathers dance.

“Maybe she’s safer with me, then, away from people who throw weapons at her. Can you believe how she reacted when she saw a dead body? Just how coddled has she been? It’s pathetic... You guys raised a complete coward. A coward with my face.” Fea narrows her eyes. “Do ye know how offensive that is? So yeah, maybe I’ll keep her. I’ll whip her into shape fer sure.”

There it is, the first reaction. For the briefest of moments, The hammer toting girl’s stoic stare falters. There’s no denying it, Fea catches that subtle twitch of her eye. It’s time to make the offer.

“Look, I’ll cut ye a deal. You obviously call the shots ’round here and ya look smart enough. I’ll give Ana back, and maybe even offer my help in avenging the dead guy. Ye just have to do one thing fer me.”

Hammer girl seems to remain resolute and refuses to lower her weapon. Her impassive eyes lock on Fea’s corvid mask. Maybe it’s time for the big reveal, then.

“Swear fealty to me. All of ya. Give me dominion over that apartment and all who reside in it. I’m only gonna make you this offer once. And ya don’t wanna get on the bad side of Morrigan,the Phantom Queen.” As Fea finishes she pulls her mask back, revealing her face to her opponents. As always, Fea relishes the moment and anticipates their reactions.

Only one of the girls so much as blinks. The hammer toting Aesir’s cold stare melts away as her lips part. Something escapes her; a gasp, a sigh, a whimper? Maybe it’s the news that she’s the Phantom Queen? The reality of the situation setting in faster for her than the others who might doubt Fea’s claim based on her short stature. Then again, it might be something else. It could be that her face resembles that of ‘Ana’ so closely. Whatever the case, she’s definitely psyched out their leader. So this should work to her advantage.

A faint “Oh look.” comes from one of the girls, the mummy. “It’s Ana.” The mummy faces the other two and points. “Look. I found Ana. We can go home now.”

“No,” the Aesir responds. “That definitely isn’t her.”

Twin braid’s determined look returns. Her glare steadies on Fea, and she hears the sound of leather giving in under a tightening grip.

Fea tries to hide her own surprise but might’ve done a terrible job. Her own confident expression contorts into one of disbelief. Granted, it does make some sense. They’d all grown accustomed to her face through Ana, so of course, when they see Fea they don’t see The Phantom Queen, but their little friend instead.

“Well this is annoying,” Fea whispers.

The curvy olympian chuckles. Did she notice Fea falter? Fea looks over to check, only to see a haughty expression on the girl’s face and a smirk curling on her lips.

“So that’s your weakness, hm? Your pride? Adorable.” She speaks in a refined manner, as though she’s better than everyone, and boy, is that annoying. As that final word passes her lips, the Olympian fades from sight. In her place is a mere spear, rusted over and stabbed deep into the ground. Inwardly, Fea panics. This was some sort of bait and switch? An illusion? When did the change happen?!

Fea looks back to see the Aesir charging her. Only then does Fea realize how open she is. The Aesir swings her hammer up at Fea. They lock eyes, cold sapphire meeting hot crimson. Just before the hammer can connect with Fea’s body, though, her opponent spins, instead delivering a kick to Fea’s stomach. While the kick does send Fea flying, she sees the damage from the hammer, even on a miss. All the trees above them bursts and the clouds part. As far as Fea can tell a hit from that hammer would’ve pulverized her. The Aesir spared her, though not out of kindness. If Fea dies, they might never reunite with Ana, after all.

Fea goes careening through several trees before hitting the ground and skidding to a stop. It takes a moment, but she does manage to stand. All her bruises and cuts heal on their own as she gets to her feet. Off in the distance, obscured by a mixture of the blanket of night and several thickets of treetop foliage, Fea sees something glowing. It ignites like a flame, a cool blue that pierces the darkness. It moves toward Fea slowly, malevolently.

Fea braces herself when she hears the Aesir’s voice.

“For a moment there you might’ve actually had me going.” She steps out into Fea’s view, her left eye surrounded by the same blue flame.

“However,” whispers the Aesir. “Now that I’ve gotten a good look, I can see right through you.”

“Oh yeah,” Fea shouts back, balling her hands into fists. “That was a pretty lucky hit! Crazier shit has happened in a three on one fight before!”

Fea hikes a thumb underneath her nose. Even if she’s impressed, she can’t let her confidence waver, not again.

“At this point, you’re quickly exhausting any potential options you might’ve had earlier.” The Aesir tilts her head to the side as she speaks, as though sizing Fea up with that fiery eye of hers but not really caring what she finds in the end. “You’ve instructed Ana to run to one of your domains, haven’t you? There are a lot of branching possibilities, but given how you’ve handled yourself so far, I’m going to assume you chose the simplest path.” She points her hammer at Fea as she makes her guess. “She’s gone to your northern domain, hasn’t she. The closets one she could reach on foot. ”

Fea remains calm, exhales, and tries to keep the smirk on her face. She’s about to speak when the Aesir continues.

“So then. Are you going to comply? Give me Ana, leave her alone. And don’t come back.”

“Yer reverse psychology is terrible. That’s only makin’ me want her more. She’s got my face and obviously, there’s somethin’ special about her if you’re workin’ this hard to get her back.”

The Aesir runs a hand along one of her dangling blue braids. She has a detached beauty, cold and untouchable like she knows she’s beautiful and couldn’t care less. Her words are just as icy and creep from her mouth like bugs drawn to light at dusk.

“Oh, Midgard,” she laments. “This realm sure does collect idiots at an alarming rate. Only a fool would view people solely by their potential value and worth. That will lead you straight down the most probable path to complete and utter loneliness. Ana isn’t someone special because of what she can do, but because of who she is. She is someone precious tome. I must get her back at any cost.”

Fea can’t help but snicker at the way these girls wear their hearts on their sleeves. They may all be older, but Fea’s sure none of them could’ve lasted a day in her shoes. The world’s much too harsh to grow so attached to a single person.

“Wanna know what separates a fool from an idiot?”

The Aesir arches an eyebrow and Fea appears behind her in an instant, no doubt alarming the other girl with her speed.

“The dumber of the two actually think there’s a difference!”

Fea drives an elbow towards the Aesir’s neck. Sending an upturned palm back, the Aesir catches the attack. Both girls pivot and spin towards one another. Their knees meet clash and even in that quick exchange Fea can feel her bones splintering from the force of the impact. She had assumed their strength would be even given their similar builds, but this girl is stronger. Much stronger. Divinity swells up in Fea’s fingers as she balls her hand into a tight fist. Fea throws a punch but she holds up her hammer, blocking it. A shockwave of electricity explodes between the girls, leveling several rows of trees and shattering the ground beneath them.

Using the debris to her advantage, Fea leaps back and kicks any nearby boulders at the Aesir. Each rock meets the same fate at the end of her blunt weapon.

Whatever, Fea just needed to keep her busy while she transformed anyway. A thick coat of bleach feathers grows over Fea’s arms and legs. As her arms become wings, Fea takes to the sky.

Any other day Fea wouldn’t run away from a fight this early, but the Olympian disappeared a while ago and could’ve caught up with Ana by now. A thought rushes through Fea’s mind- why not just let Ana go with them? They are her friends, so she’d be happiest with them. Another thought soon dashes the previous one away, though.

Not everyone can be happy.

Just as Fea flies pass any remaining trees in her way, she hears the Aesir’s voice.

“Kebechet, now!”

A gust of wind rockets by Fea, spinning her around in the process. Fea looks down and sees that the mummy’s positioning has finally changed. She’s standing atop a nearby tree now, the sarcophagus still at her side. Fea wonders how the mummy got into position without her noticing. Perhaps she’s been waiting since her earlier tussle with the hammer girl, the green of her hair having camouflaged her until now. Whatever the case, she’s in the perfect position to knock Fea out of the sky.

“Okay, Throoth.”

When given the order, the mummy, Kebe-whatever, taps the sarcophagus, causing it to shoot open. Bandages that seem to extend on forever shoot from the open sarcophagus. They rocket toward Fea, and, and she’s unable to avoid them in time. She ends up entangled in the wrappings, looking back to see Kebechet give one forceful tug on the bindings.

“Shit!” Fea curses as Kebechet yanks her from the sky.

Fea thrashes against her the wrappings, but they’re so tight around her she can’t flap her wings at all. She lets out a small cry as she slams down into the trees below. A sturdy branch breaks her fall, though it leaves her aching. Fea writhes about, trying to free herself because it won’t be long before they’re on her again.

Fea’s feathers start to ruffle of their own accord, which isn’t exactly helping - that’s it! She takes a moment to concentrate, altering her feathers so they’re as sharp as knives. Now she’s able to shred herself free with a simple spin. In a flash Fea returns to her regular form, a few wraps still draping her while she picks herself up. Without wasting any time, Fea scrambles up a tree hops from branch to branch. Not wanting to confront the Aesir directly, Fea tries using the leaves as camouflage the best she can. Fea hears trees collapsing behind her now, alerting her that they’re still on her tail. Focusing on a point far ahead, Fea speeds up. She’s flown through these trees hundreds of times, so she knows all the shortcuts and the best ways to lose someone in this forest. The girls are outmatched, and she’ll be fine. She has to be.

“It’s like that bitch knows what I’m going to do before I do. Am I really that predictable? Who the hell is she,” Fea asks herself.

By now Fea’s traversed miles in just under a minute. As she lands on the next tree branch she notices something that makes her ichor run cold. There’s a spear stabbed into the tree she’s standing on. She glances around and notices spears pierced into every branch and tree in the surrounding area. From deep within the forest, she hears the same haughty laugh from earlier. Each spear glows before detonating into small, powerful blasts, one after another in a steadily growing chain reaction. On reflex alone, Fea throws up her arms and surrounds herself in a small cocoon of solid feathers but knows she won’t escape unscathed. The massive force of the golden explosions sends Fea blasting through the trees. Along the way, Fea collides with branches before they burn to ash in the flames of the attack. One after another the spears explode, until there isn’t much left to the forest but a smoldering crater, and a heavily damaged Fea lying in the center of it.

“Dammit...”

Fea coughs and tries to pick herself up but to no avail. Her body just wasn’t ready to move yet. The sound of footsteps snaps Fea’s attention over her shoulder. The Olympian approaches her at a relaxed pace. She stops at Fea’s side and peers down at her, looking like she’s hardly out of breath. Fea’s wounds start to heal once more, so the moment she feels up to the challenge of moving, she tries kicking out the Olympian’s legs. As her leg comes in contact with the Olympian, however, her image fades, turning out to be just another spear. Hitting that spear causes several more to rain down from above, stabbing around Fea’s body and into her clothing, locking her in place. The last spear just misses her head, slicing her right cheek. One drop of ichor squeezes out before the cut heals.

The Olympian reappears lands atop the spear closest to Fea’s head and speaks in a soft tone as if Fea is a small child.

“Your tenacity is quite fearsome.” She steps down from the spear and crouches near Fea, leaning in toward her. There’s an amused smile on her face, as though she finds Fea funny.

“But it’s dangerous when mixed with such reckless pride. From now on, consider the possibility that you can be outmatched.”

“I was outnumbered!” Fea spits. “Enough with the damn possibilities already! It’s gettin’ really annoyin’!”

“Lesson number two: a loss is a loss, regardless of the circumstances.” She waves a finger as though she’s reprimanding Fea like a naughty student who refuses to listen. Who the hell does this bitch think she is, talking down to her like this?

“Someone out to take your life isn’t going to be listening for excuses when their knife is at your throat.”

The Olympian tilts her head, her hair swishing back and forth behind her. There’s nothing but mercy in her deep gray eyes. Fea scoffs. So the girl was smart enough to trap her but hadn’t made any demands, nor even a motion to finish the job. These girls don’t know the first thing about survival. They aren’t like Fea, then, they haven’t seen what she’s seen. They don’t know what she’s been through, what anyone like her has been through.

“Now just take it easy.” The Olympian reaches for one of her spears, as though she’s going to free Fea. “We just want to ask you some questions. All we want to know is what happened to our friend back at the apartment, and where our other friend is. That’s all.”

“Well, the first one is dead,” Fea says, snorting. “And yer other friend is somewhere else. There, how’s that for answerin’ yer questions?”

The girl’s perfect looking, unscratched digits touch one of the spears and the whole mess of them contort in a flash of brilliant golden hued energy. They shift and bend and constrict until they form a cage that surrounds Fea. The girl sighs as she stands up, dusts herself off, then sits atop the cage.

“You may look like Ana, but while she’s sweet as candy, you seem completely sour.” At this point all Fea can see is the girl’s legging-clad limbs swinging back and forth from between the bars.

Now that the spears aren’t sticking her to the ground, Fea can escape. Sure, the bars are much too small for her to get through, but that’s only given her current size and shape. Fea inches towards the bars, crawling on all fours, but just as she reaches out, the Olympian speaks up.

“Why is that? What’s made you the way you are?”

The question dances through the air, and it stops Fea in her tracks. A brief thought comes to mind. Eyes dull with hatred and hands balled into fists. There’s ichor, ichor everywhere. They’re mostly bleeding from the head, and she looks down at her hands, covered with the same glowing red substance. Her body is burning. Her body is burning. She’s on fire, and everything else around her is too. She has to put it out. She tries to extinguish it but it all just gets hotter. Once a memory, now a nightmare.


“Athena!”

The Aesir’s voice brings Fea back to senses and cools her skin. Fea ducks down and crawls forward as her body once again changes. Muscles move out of the way for bone as they shift into new, drastically different positions. Her mass shrinks and dark hairs sprout from all over her pale skin. Fea, now a rat, is small enough to escape her makeshift prison. She scurries forward, slipping through the bars with ease.

“Get out of the way,” shouts the Aesir. “I need to get a good look at her to know what she’ll do next.”

Fea’s tiny rat hairs stand up on end, and a quick look back treats her to the sight of all three girls noticing she’s gone missing. Tiny squeaks of laughter come from the rat as she hears the beginnings of an argument building among the girls. Using this to her advantage, Fea scurries out of sight behind boulders and debris left over from the recent explosions, trying to find her way through tiny crevices towards freedom.

“You couldn’t sense her moving around in your cage?” The Aesir shoves the Olympian. “Why would you ever take your eyes off her? Did you deserve a break? Because I sure as hell didn’t see you helping out back there.”

“Oh don’t give me that!” The Olympian pushes back. “I’m the one who captured her. You, even with your fancy flaming eye, let her get away!”

“I let her get away because I foresaw you catching her later!”

“But you didn’t foresee me letting her get away? I guess, like with anything else, your visions aren’t perfect, hm!?”

The argument, the conflict, the building strife in that moment sends pleasurable ruffles through Fea’s fur. If things are going to get this juicy, she doesn’t think she wants to leave after all.

“You should’ve kept your eyes on her!”

“You shouldn’t have taken your eyes off her either!”

“Athena. Throoth.” The mummy’s sterile voice eases through the air around them. “She’s getting away. Don’t we still need to catch her?”

Fea’s eyes widen. Her abilities hadn’t worked on the mummy. It’s tempting to stay around and feed on the thick tension between the girls. But with their attention turned on her again the anger she’s stoked in them is now a danger to her rather than a boon and that’s not a pleasant feeling at all.

Fea makes it several feet away in rat form before changing back into a girl. There’s one more quick look sent back, so she can see all three girls behind her: Throoth, Athena and...K- Kah- Kee- ...the mummy. Shit, they’re closing in again. With no hesitation, Fea transforms once more, returning to bird form and taking to the sky.

The forest sounds like it’s crumbling behind her from the force of their anger as they try to follow her. That anger was all their own now because there’s no way her powers could still work on them from this far away. They want her bad this time. Even if it’s just for “questioning,” the way they care about that other girl, Ana, makes it clear they’ll hurt Fea plenty just to get their friend back.

There is one last thing she can do, however, because fighting the three of them just isn’t an option. Fea starts swooping about the sky, flapping with more force than necessary. On occasion, she dips through the trees, causing some of her feathers to fall behind her. Each feather left behind comes to form a trail she hopes the other girls will follow.

The chase doesn’t last long before Fea lures them right where she wants them: her own domain. It’s a deserted old town that’s barely standing, with black feathers coating everything. It’s here that Fea chooses to land, hiding among the many piles of debris. She glances past an overturned streetlight to see the three girls stop just feet away from her hiding place, violent intent emanating from them.

“Does anything here look familiar Throoth? Did you see any of this in your vision?” Athena asks while peeking around the corner of some single floor building that didn’t even make an effort to stay standing.

They all look aimless as they walk around. On occasion, they reach out and touch buildings then squint into alleyways for clues. The mummy is the only one who looks at home in this kind of desolate place. The other two look uneasy.

“Kind of,” Throoth responds in a near whisper. “The last look I got of her was a mere glimpse. I just saw the direction she headed in, but there was that trail of feathers anyway. So I’m almost certain she’s here.”

Throoth sighs and reaches up to stroke one of her long braids again, finding comfort in the habit.

“We have to be careful when she’s around. She did something to my mind before, she made me want to attack her as soon as I walked into the room. I don’t know, she just- She made me see red, actual red. While I was like that I couldn’t even think about figuring out who she was or where she came from. I just wanted to attack.” Throoth exhales and brushes a hand through her bangs. “I...I could’ve hurt Ana.”

“Don’t beat yourself up,” Athena says. “Even you can’t see everything coming. Now come on, let’s keep looking for Ana.”

Athena picks up one of the feathers scattered about the ground and examines it.

“Cheeky. Perhaps it’s some sort of warning?” Athena casts a quick look over her shoulder before tossing the feather aside.

Fea can see her domain through each feather around the town. It’s her own personal surveillance system. They aren’t just on the ground outside but on and in every tumbled building as well.

“Looks like Ana’s little duplicate gave us the slip at some point. But now I’m really wondering about that spell she cast on you, Throoth.” Athena rubs chin. “I couldn’t feel that much divinity radiating from her. It doesn’t seem like she should have been able to cast spells.”

Looking to Throoth, Athena asks, You really didn’t see any of this coming?”

“In combat, I only have time to search out the most effective immediate solutions. I wasn’t able to see this far ahead. She got out of my range of vision anyway.” Throoth pushes a braid over her shoulder. “By the time I did show up to see what she could do, there was no way any of us could avoid it. It happened once. But it won’t happen again.”

Fea scans all her territory while she has the chance and tries not to smile, though it’s impossible not to bare her little fangs. Ana isn’t even here.

“Ana?!” Throoth calls out after taking several hesitant steps forward. “Ana, are you here? Can you hear me? We’re here! We’ve come to take you home! That girl won’t hurt you anymore!”

Throoth leaps up onto one of the stable buildings. Maybe she thinks the height can help her find where Ana might be hiding? How funny.

Fea snickers as she finally steps out from her hiding place. Athena and the mummy see her right away, good.

“I found Ana.” Kebechet points at Fea and looks at her comrades, then back to Fea before realizing what’s going on and lowering her hand. “Oh. You are not Ana. Sorry.”

“Oh look, it’s our little friend again,” Athena says, crossing her arms and turning to face Fea. “Is there something you want to share?”

“No, I’m just thinkin’ about how funny it would be if Ana didn’t come to my domain, or worse, if she never even made it here at all. The world is harsh out there and I think I understand a little why ye’r so protective of her.” Fea pauses when she sees Athena narrow her eyes. Got her. “The two of us are dead ringers for The Phantom Queen, albeit a fun-sized version. Y’know, people have wanted to flay me alive just because a’ my hair an’ eye color quite a few times before. The biggest difference between Ana and I is that I’d never give ’em the chance in the first place, but I can’t say the same about yer gentle little Annie..”

Throoth leaps from atop the building and lands before Fea, her hammer clenched tight between rough looking fingers. She reaches forward and grabs Fea by the front of her scruffy shirt. With what seems like little effort, she lifts Fea off her feet.

Their eyes lock.

“Don’t say another word,” Throoth says. “If you continue then I’ll-”

“You’ll what?” Fea challenges, a deranged little smirk curling across her face. “You can see different outcomes and possibilities, right? I kinda picked up on that after a while. So that means you can see it clearly, can’t you? You can see what will happen ta someone like Ana if she gets lost out there!”

Fea cackles.

“She’ll get ripped apart!”

Throoth raises her hammer. Both Athena and Kebechet step in, arms raised, but they hesitate. They have no reason to stop her, after all, since they believe Ana may be lost out there somewhere. There isn’t anything Fea can give them in regards to their friend, so they might as well get it over with and kill her already. Then they can take all the divinity and territory Fea has worked hard for.

“How long does a flower that blooms during the apocalypse last?” Fea asks, staring at Throoth.

Throoth swings her hammer. Fea braces for impact, even though she knows that as soon as the weapon connects that it’s over, she’ll be gone, obliterated in one hit.

That mighty weapon stops just at Fea’s forehead at the last second. Fea doesn’t flinch or even blink as the weapon halts right in front of her eyes. She stares at Throoth, confident in the play she just made. Throoth trembles, her hammer just a breath away from Fea’s face. The moment stretches on in silence.

“I knew it!” Fea gloats at last when it’s clear Throoth is not going to kill her. “I freaking knew it! You can’t do it! You can’t hurt me because of my face!”

Athena and Kebechet look to Throoth, who lets go of Fea and falls to her knees.

“You can’t hit me cause I look like Ana!” Fea howls like made and her feathers ruffle in kind. “Now you idiots are standin’ in my neck of the woods, riskin’ yer lives and with no Annie to show for it!”

Throoth’s face goes pale. Grimacing, Throoth reignites the azure blaze within her left eye. But what good is that now when Fea’s already won?

Fea lunges at Athena and Kebechet. She spins and delivers a powerful kick to the mummy while thrusting her palm hard into Athena’s abdomen. Both go flying, but Kebechet’s body shatters from the blow as her torso, arms and legs all go off in different directions.

In a god’s domain, they are exactly that - a god. Fea demonstrates her own magnified power by flipping her wrist and summoning a huge gale that blasts through the immediate area. The strong winds pick up the feathers and cause them to whirl about. Fea stiffens said feathers so they’re sharp as knives. The feathers slash at the girls and slice open both skin and cloth. Both Athena and Throoth go on the defensive and use their weapons to knock away the majority of the attacks. Fea knew they’d stop focusing on her in favor of surviving, so this is more of a distraction than a full-on assault.

After fighting the three for this long Fea realizes that it’s in her best interest to escape for now. If the three of them wanted, they could pull their powers together and easily take hold of her domain.

Fea’s distraction won’t stay active for long, but that doesn’t matter because when those winds do finally die down she’ll be long gone.

--

Fea rummages through Ana’s apartment once more, grabbing what she can before the girls return. After searching for little over ten minutes she’s gathered twice the haul she did earlier. Once she finishes emptying Ana’s fridge she continues on to the next room.

“Wow, this girl really likes pink,” Fea says aloud as she observes Ana’s sugary sweet room.

Despite Ana’s apparent age, her room is orderly. In fact, it’s so tidy that Fea feels a bit of reservation about moving anything, given how meticulously placed it all seems.

Just because she can, Fea plops down onto Ana’s bed. It’s soft, kind of like Ana herself, so it’s pretty fitting. Fea falls back on the bed and her eyes meet the ceiling. In the instant her head hits the pillow she feels her feathers tremble. Like spines, Fea’s feathers harden to a point. A defensive measure at a time where Fea could afford to be defenseless. All it would take is a shift in her positioning and she’d shred all the bright colored blankets Ana left neatly folded on her bed. A slight turn of her head puts Ana’s collection of stuffed animals in her gaze. There’s an intentional order to the plushies as they are not only arranged smallest to largest but by species as well. Fea looks away from them.

Without caring to pick one, in particular, she grabs a stuffed animal and holds it against her chest. When Fea glances down she’s greeted by the sight of two button eyes on a green felt sock. Even though it doesn’t look it in the slightest, Fea assumes it’s supposed to be a frog. Exhaling, Fea lets her gaze return to the cracked ceiling. Her grip tightens around the plushie.

“What were they thinkin’ givin’ ya this kinda stuff?”

The spines draping along Fea’s collar soften and return to their feathery form. She lays there with the plush held tight in her arms. Just to feel what Ana might’ve felt, she closes her eyes.

When Fea sits up, she turns her head and her eyes fall on Ana’s dresser where a framed picture sits. A photo displaying Ana with her friends burns in Fea’s lingering sight. They look happy, and that pisses Fea off. Without much thought, Fea reaches forward and grips the frame with both hands.

It’s too perfect, they’re too perfect. Everyone smiles and it’s like they don’t even know how terrible the world is. There’s the tremble again, and Fea’s feathers harden. If only her plumage could do their little dance of discord and affect the happiness in this framed memory.

Despite how the picture makes her feel, Fea holds onto it even as she prepares to leave Ana’s room. With the picture frame in one hand and the frog plush in the other, Fea lurks towards the door. Her footsteps are heavy and drag on the ground. Even though she’s only been in Ana’s room for a little while she’s finding it hard to leave. Maybe it’s something deep inside of her, a yearning for this kind of life. But she’d like to doubt that. Instead, she thinks there’s credence to her words from earlier, that she and Ana share some kind of bond. It isn’t Fea that wants to stay behind, it’s Ana, but Fea’s able to feel it.

When Fea’s almost past the doorframe she stops. Taking one more look at the picture in her hand, she sighs, then tosses it onto the bed. This kind of thing won’t do Ana any good. Memories, especially happy ones, bog down the mind and make it harder to act. Unlike bad memories, which somehow make it easier to do all the bad things one needs to do to survive.

Fea returns to the living room where the two pillowcases await her. She puts the plushie into one of them then hoists both over her shoulders. Heading toward the window, Fea has to step over the dead guy’s body. Fea climbs over the windowsill but stops to look back at him. She shakes her head once, then with a sigh she steps down.

--

Fea finds Ana crouched in an alleyway a couple towns over, in another one of her domains.

“Alright, that’s enough sulking. Get up.”

It takes longer than Fea wanted, but Ana does look up. Her eyes are red and puffy. She must’ve cried the entire night and then some.

“I said stand up. I need help carrying the food.”

Fea tosses one of the large pillowcases down at Ana’s feet. The girl whimpers with every little move she makes. When she tries to pick up the bag she winces, drops it then reaches for her shoulder. Despite having divinity all her own the girl hadn’t made an attempt at healing her herself. That or she didn’t know how.

“Useless,” Fea mutters and reaches down, grabbing the bag. She tosses it back over her free shoulder and walks forward. “Follow me.”

Fea doesn’t look back, doesn’t even need to with all the feathers around. Ana movements are stiff, each step coming off the ground less and less. Her gaze doesn’t leave the ground once, and one hand rubs her shoulder while her other hand clings to her skirt.

They pass rusted cars and over corpses picked clean. This domain was war zone from years long gone with no one to record it as history. Fea knew it was grim and that’s why it was far from her favorite domain, but it’s where she had decided to camp out for the time being.

“Yer friends were pretty good,” Fea says.

Through her feathers she sees Ana peek up at her. She can see every angle of the girl’s face and they really are identical, except for the innocent glint that remains in Ana’s eyes. Though if Fea isn’t mistaken, it’s a little less bright than when they first met.

“W-what happened?” Ana asks. “Are they okay? You didn’t hurt them...did you?”

Fea snickers.

“Don’t worry, I left them alive. I obviously made it here in one piece as well. Not bad, considering there were three of them, and they were all trying to kill me at once.” Fea cackles, and if she wasn’t holding anything she’d pound on her chest right now and give a victory cry.

“They’re all smart, well, except for the mummy, Keeb- Kub- Kebe- something? But I don’t think mummies have brains, so that’s kind of a given...But yeah, the curvy one and the Aesir. What was it, uh, Athens, and uh...Froof? They were pretty good. Just not good enough to keep up with me. Was everyone in that apartment as sheltered as you?”

Ana doesn’t reply, just goes back to sulking and staring at the ground as they proceed. Doesn’t matter, they’re approaching their destination anyway.

“Ya kept running, huh? Ya didn’t go to the place I told ya, but that isn’t what bothers me.”

Fea stops at the steps of a dilapidated cathedral. Her grip tightens around the bags in her arms.

“Ya didn’t even try to go back to yer friends. Even now, yer here followin’ me without any resistance. Have ya already sworn allegiance to me?”

Fea doesn’t wait around for an answer, though she seems to have caught Ana’s attention, noticing her twin looking up from the ground. Fea drops one of the pillowcases of food in front of Ana.

“Stay here. I’ll be back,” Fea says as she heads into the cathedral.

Dealing with Throoth took the entire night, so the first signs of the morning are already shining through the roofless sanctuary. Fea maneuvers around the familiar pews, all flipped over and turned every which way. She can already hear the faint mewling.

“Yeah yeah, I’m comin’,” Fea says.

Feah reaches into the pillowcase and pulls out a red spherical food. She thinks it’s an apple. She tastes it. Definitely an apple. She makes her way up to the podium at the center of the church. There she finds the whining clump of blankets nestled in a bed of black feathers.

She peels back the blankets while chewing up the apple.

“Carmmown.Fwoodahmostmone,” she says while chomping away.

Fea closes her eyes, opens her mouth and extends her tongue forward.

“Aaah,” she says, and like a mama bird, lets the wet, chewed up food slide down her tongue and out of her mouth.

“What are you doing?”

Ana’s voice startles Fea, causing her to look over and see her twin approaching. Fea’s tong as still out of her mouth, and the chewed up apple hangs by a saliva strand. HO did Ana sneak over without Fea noticing?

Ana walks up and stares down at the crying infant.

“Were you trying to feed that baby chewed up apple,” Ana asks.

Then, as the realization of what she’d just saw sets in, Ana screams. Fea spits out the apple and waves her hands in front of Ana. Ana just keeps on yelling while pointing at the baby.

“You have a BABY!?” Ana exclaims, her sad expression traded for a look of utter shock.

“Well, uh, I mean, clearly it’s...”

“A baby,” Ana says as she looks at the little creature in its feathered creche. She attempts to reach for it but Fea steps over and slaps her hands away.

“A baby? Like justa baby? Like,nothing special kinda baby,” Fea asks to which she only receives a long hard look in response from Ana.

What Fea plans to do next is stupid.

Fea shouldn’t be entertaining the idea of keeping Ana around let alone introducing her to the baby. The girl is a liability. So yes, what Fea plans on doing is stupid. Just like waiting around at that apartment was stupid. Just like telling Ana to run to her domain was stupid. Just like staying behind and fighting was stupid. Everything she’s done today is pretty much illogical and she’s certain she’s hit her year’s quota for bad ideas. And yet Fea decides to share with Ana. Some girl she doesn’t know, who just happens to have the same name and face as her. So stupid.

“Ya really can’t tell? Just what were they teachin’ ya in that apartment,” Fea asks. She reaches into the nest and pulls out the brown-skinned baby. She takes the baby beneath its arms and holds the crying thing up to show it to Ana. “Here. Get in real close and you’ll notice.”

“Notice what,” Ana says. She leans in and squints at the infant. “It’s a baby, that you wrapped in blankets...and it...it...w-why does it smell like that?”

Ana lurches back, covering her nose.

Fea nods her head and repeats “It smells” with emphasis like she’s just proved a point.

The baby cries and writhes around in Fea’s strong grip.

Ana tries to reach for the baby again but recoils soon after.

“It...smells?”

Fea nods again, still wearing that same resolute look on her face.

“It smells!” Ana’s eyes widen. Aha! So she gets it.

There are some things gods don’t need to do, and this baby had just done one of them.

“It’s a mortal baby!”

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