The Lion & The Lamb
“Do you have any idea who you’re messing with?”
Ana hears the woman’s voice from every direction, but all she sees is black. All around her is broken glass that reflects someone else’s memories, yet she remembers every one of them. There’s a warming glow beside her, but she can’t look at it. It’s as if her head is fastened in place, eyes forced forward. As always, Ana must do as her dream commands.
“I won’t be beaten. Whatever you think you’ll find inside of me is long dead.”
The room gets so hot Ana fears she might get burned. Something tugs along her sternum. A bubbling blooming sensation she likens to being ripped apart from the inside out.
“Not now! Please! I’m nearly perfect!”
Ana’s eyes bolt open and she jolts up, calling out, “Throoth!” as she does so.
Her gaze adjusts to the dim room around her, allowing her to see that she’s amidst a caveat of stained cushions, broken beds and collapsed furniture. This isn’t her bed, she isn’t surrounded by her plushies and worst of all, her friends aren’t around.
That’s strange. Ana had a nightmare, but it was different from the armageddon she’s become so used to. There was no final struggle between the chaos conjuring queen and the benevolent force Ana could never see. Instead, she heard the queen’s voice and it was unlike ever before. Gone was her usual pride. Savagery no longer laced her words and was instead replaced by fear and uncertainty. Even though this dream lacked the same overt violent imagery Ana still feared for her life, but this time from the Queen’s perspective.
Could the changes in her dream be due to the interactions with her lookalike? There’s something nibbling at the back of Ana’s mind, but she just can’t put her finger on it. At best Ana believes the woman from her dreams is Morrigan. Which seems pretty obvious in retrospect. But that’s as far Ana’s train of thought goes as it’s halted by the loud creak of an opening door.
“So you’re finally up.” It’s only natural Ana looks towards the sound of the other Morrigan’s voice. She’s standing in the doorway, leaning on its frame and holding the mortal baby against her shoulder. “Come on. I’ll showy’around.”
Morrigan turns, with no apparent concern for the baby in her arms. As she pivots, Ana fears she might drop the child. The whipping motion of her spin could have made the baby cry or sick or anything really, but instead it just giggles. At first, Ana’s confused, but considering how rough and tumble Morrigan seems, it’s no surprise that her baby is the same way.
“Well?” Morrigan peeks back into the room. “Ya comin’ or what?”
Not wanting to anger her, Ana jumps up from the ramshackle bed and follows after Morrigan. She keeps up with her pace but makes sure to stay more than a few feet behind her.
“A-are we having breakfast?” Ana asks.
She hasn’t eaten anything since before the day Throoth returned. She figures some food might help take her mind off of the recent events. They blare in her mind at a constant rate. Not a second’s gone by where she hasn’t been bombarded by the images of Jesus bleeding out or the memory of Throoth’s murderous glare. Conditions she never thought she’d see her friends is the only way she can remember them now.
“Breakfast?” Ana hears Morrigan’s raspy little chuckle. “The hell ya think this is? We’re gods! We don’t gotta eat every day! Once a year is enough if yer smart with how ya use yer power. And even then, with enough divinity, you can go for way longer than that!” Morrigan glances back. “I was wonderin’ why you passed out after seein’ the baby. I figured y’hadn’t done a single day of fightin’ in your life, so transforming back there must’ve taken it all outta ya.”
It’s true, Ana doesn’t use her divinity too often. Maybe to enhance her strength or to transform for a bit, but nothing more. Yesterday Ana shapeshifted twice, something her body apparently isn’t too used to doing. Far as she can tell her divinity pales in comparison to her confident ditto.
Being around Morrigan like this makes Ana feel an inadequacy she hadn’t ever known. Despite all their great feats and accomplishments, not a single one of her friends ever her made feel so small.
Ana watches Morrigan slap the baby’s back while balancing it on her shoulder. It doesn’t seem like the safest way to hold the infant, but Morrigan manages, even as she steps onto an open windowsill.
“Here we go!” She calls before leaping from one open window to another, right over a wide alleyway. Once across she glances back at Ana with an expectant look in her eyes.
Well, they’re godlings so a fall from this height shouldn’t do any permanent damage. Then again, Ana’s still sore after being grazed by Throoth’s Mjolnir the other day. As much as she’d like to count herself among her peers, Ana hasn’t even gotten the hang of regeneration. Whenever she tries to focus divinity into her arm, she just ends up feeling a tad more muscular there and nothing more. Guess she can chalk this one up to her over-reliance on Jesus. Whenever she got even the smallest bruise he was there to heal her. From now on any injury that lasts would just remind Ana how much she took him for granted.
With a quiet sigh, Ana inches onto the ledge. She peers down, shivers, then takes a deep breath before jumping. As Ana falls forward she tries to fixate her gaze on Morrigan’s, as though her line of sight would work as a tether. When it becomes obvious Ana isn’t going to make it, she screams. There’s a hard tug at her arm, and she notices she isn’t falling anymore. She glances up to see that Morrigan’s caught her. Morrigan grunts as she hoists Ana up and into the window. All without even putting down the baby.
“You suck,” is all Morrigan says before continuing down the hall. The baby laughs, as though it understood Fea.
Being treated this way is new Ana. Back at the apartment Jesus, Throoth, and everyone took such good care of her. It’s like Morrigan expects so much out of her, and when Ana can’t oblige, she insults her.
Even so, Ana can’t deny that there’s something leashing her to this girl. Perhaps it’s just their physical similarities and shared alias, but maybe there’s something else too. Something bonding them that Ana can’t see, but somehow feels. Though given all that’s happened in recent memory, Ana could just be looking to fill a void.
Glancing out the nearest window, Ana sighs. Had it been the news that Jesus and Throoth would be married that drove her into Morrigan’s grasp? Ana shakes her head, trying to rid herself of the notion. That isn’t the case, not at all, she wants to be back home with her friends, she wants Jesus to be okay. A peek towards the baby cements a feeling within Ana. She can’t leave yet, not without figuring out the origins of that mortal. Jesus always told her that mortals were considered extinct, but he worked every day to see if he could find even a sliver of human life. If he found more humans he could set the world back on a proper path, whatever that meant.
Just because he’s dead doesn’t mean his dream has to be.
“Morrigan...” Ana speaks up to Morrigan for the first time today. Morrigan doesn’t stop, doesn’t even pay her a pitty look.
“Ya don’t have’ta call me that.” As expected, a cold response. Though Morrigan does stop for a moment. With her hand still pressed against the baby’s back, her gaze flits over Ana. “Call me Fea instead.”
The ends of Ana’s lips quiver, threatening to form a tiny smile. For some reason, the name Fea sounds so much prettier to her than Morrigan, though admittedly, Morrigan fits Fea a lot more than it does Ana.
“O-okay, Fea,” Ana says while taking a few hurried steps forward to close the gap forming between them. “Does the baby have a name?”
It’s too early to tell if she and Fea could ever be friends. But Ana does think that bringing up the baby might be a good start. Even with as roughly as Fea handles her, the baby might turn out to be the one thing she does care about. Considering she doesn’t eat or sleep very often, all the food she’d stolen must’ve been for the baby’s sake. This makes Ana feel a lot better about the whole thing. For a moment she considers the possibility that Fea might not be a bad guy after all. Like Throoth, she’s probably just misunderstood.
“I dunno, does it need one.” Fea shrugs. “Well, it shits a lot so how’s about Dump Truck?”
That dull response does put a dent in Ana’s theory. Okay, so maybe Fea isn’t as close to the baby as Ana thought. But that doesn’t change the fact that her actions were still done to keep the baby alive. Actions speak louder than words whether Fea likes it or not.
“Jesus used to say that without the mortals the gods were hopeless,” Ana murmurs and wonders if Fea even heard her.
“That’s bleak.” So Fea did hear her. “With an outlook like that, I’m not surprised he’s dead.”
Okay, Ana didn’t need to hear that. Those harsh words threaten to send her back into her shell, but instead, she presses on with her idea.
“I was wondering if we could call her Hope. I think that might be a pretty fitting name, right?”
“Not as good as Dump Truck, but whatever.” Fea shoots back. “‘Her’? So it’s is a girl? Sweet, means one day she’ll be able to make more.”
Rather than questioning how Fea didn’t know the gender of her own baby, Ana wonders aloud, “Make...more?”
In a swift motion, Fea turns and faces Ana, startling the girl. Fea grins, then falls back, right out of an open window. Ana rushes forward to see where she’ll land. Confused at first, it takes all of two seconds before Ana’s notices Fea on the fire escape. Ana follows after Fea as she races up the stairs.
Fea looks over her shoulder and calls out to Ana. “For now this brat is the only mortal. So technically everything on Midgard is her’s. And when she’s grown it’ll all be mine.”
Crass words work like an adhesive that cement Ana in place. “So you’re just using Hope?”
Fea’s nearly on the roof now, and Ana can see, even with a flight of stairs between them, that Fea’s stopped too. She looks over the railing, and Ana fears she might drop Hope. Luckily, Fea does have one hand tucked under Hope’s rear, preventing the baby from sliding out of her grip.
“I’m a deity, she’s a mortal. Not many other relationships we can have aside from parasitic. When she’s old enough to worship me I’ll use her to get stronger. With that strength, I’ll rule this realm. It’s simple, ain’t it?”
As much as Ana wishes it wasn’t the case, the conversation does get to her. Her fingers react in kind by curling tight around the railing and she has to flex her stomach just to get words out of her mouth. “So you’re the bad guy then?”
“Don’t be an idiot. Good and bad don’t exist out here.” Fea groans. “I look out for myself and I look out for Hope. If that’s good, whatever. If that’s bad, whatever.”
“But Jesus told me it’s better to be a good girl, though.” As though mentioning Jesus is enough to propel her feet forward, Ana walks up the stairs. “Being good and kind and smiling is how we make the world a better place.”
“Well...“Ana reaches Fea in time to hear her directly. “That guy’s dead and I’m alive. Don’t think in such absolutes. You’ll live longer.”
Ana nods as though she understands, but it’s a lie. She’ll tell Fea whatever she wants just to keep her from saying any more hurtful things. But these hurtful words feel...genuine. It’s still nothing like with Jesus, but it’s still similar. In her hard-edged words are a truth that Ana needs to accept; Jesus is dead. A tremble runs up Ana's spine at the thought. Tears have to be fought back. There’s this new dread in her stomach; she feels Fea might punish her for showing any signs of weakness. How could something be so learned in her after less than a day of contact with someone? It’s like something long forgotten is bubbling to the surface when she’s with Fea.
“Now come on. I think ya might like this,” Fea says as she takes to the final steps that would put her on the roof of the apartment.
After a soft, contemplative sigh, Ana follows. There’s nothing on the roof and so Ana wonders what it is Fea wants to show her. Before getting the chance to ask, Fea yells something out at the top of her lungs.
“Dinner’s done, boy! Come and get it! We’re havin’ spaghetti!”
A chorus of squelches rips Ana’s attention from Fea. She looks in the direction of the odd noises and sees something flying in the distance. By the time Ana squints for a better look that ‘something’ is overhead. Ana only has enough time to throw her arms up and squeak as a gust of wind almost takes her off her feet. After hearing what sounds like wet noodles thrashing about Ana lowers her arms.
No matter where Ana looks, long pale noodles fill her line of sight. They lash around, causing tremors whenever they connect with the building. Ana would’ve lost her footing had she not watched every smack of the long limbs, and timed jumps whenever they came crashing down. Her gaze rushes up along those noodles, towards the source, where she finds what looks like a beast made of oversized spaghetti. Two large pulsating ‘meatballs’ act as a conduit that all the noodles connect to. There are two large stalks extending out from the spheric meat that end with large white eyeballs. The eyes come forward and curl around the girl, with one focusing on Fea and the other wiggling towards Ana. Not exactly keen on being touched by the wet looking tube, Ana puts several steps between her and the tentacle. Ana faces ahead to gauge Fea’s reaction. From one look it becomes clear that Fea summoned this beast.
Fea cuddles one of the noodly appendages. “Someone’s awfully friendly today,” she says between chuckles, “You just want some treats,dont’chafatty?” The large creature descends just enough to lower its jowl towards Fea. The perfectplacementfor her to scratch at what Ana imagines is its chin.
Just then Ana feels a puff against her neck, ruining her hair and pushing up her feathered skirt. Ana hears neighing and the sound of hooves stomping just behind her.
“Horsey?” Ana turns around to find nothing.
Perplexed, Ana raises an eyebrow and looks around. She scrunches her nose and winces as she feels something wet brush against her cheek; she didn’t see it, but it’s definitely a tongue.
“Yer up here too IPU? Good girl! I didn’t even haf’ta call ya.” Fea laughs while scratching behind one of the giant meatballs. “Looks like she likes you.”
“IPU?” Is all Ana manages before several more invisible licks take to her face.
“Invisible Pink Unicorn,” Fea explains. “She’s definitely a unicorn, and obviously invisible. You’ll just have to trust me when I say she’s pink.”
Fea waltzes over and holds Hope up, then once she’s past Ana, she drops her. Ana motions to catch Hope, afraid she’ll fall to the ground, but instead, the baby just floats there. Hope giggles and bounces up and down on what Ana has to believe is an invisible equine.
“You should try saying hi to The Flying Spaghetti Monster as well. He gets jealous really easily.” As Fea says this a noodle drapes over Ana’s shoulder, causing her to shiver. Why does it have to be so damp?
Between noodly hugs and invisible nuzzles, Ana decides to probe Fea. “So are these your pets? They look like they really get along with you and Hope.”
One of FSM’s noodles extends out and over them. The large tendril swings in front of Hope, causing, even more, laughter to erupt from the infant.
“Pets? I guess you can call em that,” Fea says, crossing her arms. She looks at Ana, and while her expression still falls under the ‘happy’ category, it looks a whole lot more devious than before.
“They’re some of my first underlings. As ya can see swearing fealty to me isn’t all bad. You should give it a try.” As Fea speaks she offers Ana her hand. Ana’s gaze dips down, and she watches as Fea turns her hand. It’s held out in such a way that Ana knows Fea wants her to kiss it, as though she’s royalty.
The moment is short lived and ends when Fea glances away.
“Shit, again, really?” Fea scoffs then runs to the side of the building, leaps and transforms into a crow.
Curiosity leads Ana to follow. She’s nearing the side of the building when she comes to a stop. Ana pays one quick glance back to Hope. She’s still playing with Fea’s...underlings. So long as the baby’s okay then there’s nothing to worry about so Ana jumps. She doesn’t change nearly as fast as Fea, she can’t but does manage to do so before hitting the ground. Fea hadn’t flown far, and Ana can see her return to normal, several buildings away.
Returning to her regular form, Ana rolls onto her feet behind Fea.
“Did I tell ya to follow me,” Fea asks, an angry look tossed over her shoulder at Ana.
Ana can’t say why she followed Fea, only that she did. Fea shakes her head and looks forward. In hopes of seeing what caught the girl’s attention, Ana looks ahead. Much like the grounds of the city and the halls of the apartment, the rooftop is covered with black feathers. By now Ana figures the feathers alert Fea of everything going on within her domain. Maybe if Ana thought to do this to her room, Jesus would still be here.
Aside from the feathers, there’s nothing strange about the rooftop. Maybe Fea’s here ahead of time? Or simply thought she saw something that wasn’t there. The thoughts don’t go much deeper than that before Ana hears a new voice.
“Sir, do you really think it’s a good idea to take this stuff?” It’s a young sounding feminine voice.
Noticing the aggravated look on Fea’s face, Ana attempts a calming touch. Right when she would make contact Fea shrugs her shoulders, forcing Ana’s hand away.
Next comes a strained-sounding male voice. “What a preposterous question! I’m a king, aren’t I!? Who needs permission when you’re royalty? Besides. We haven’t much of a choice anyway.”
“I guess that makes sense. But doesn’t it seem kind of -I dunno- mean? Won’t they miss this stuff?” There’s the girl’s voice again, and from the sound of it, she’s arguing as Ana would. Just when she’s feeling caught up in the conversation she hears Fea snort.
First thing Ana sees come over the side of the building is a mane of blonde hair. A muscular arm comes next and grips the edge of the roof. A shirtless boy pulls himself up with ease, a full looking sack hanging over his shoulder. The large boy looks older and rougher than Ana or any of her friends. His hair is a wild blonde mess squared off by two bullish horns at the sides of his head. His eyes are like that of a lion, and his skin is like bronze. Over his waistline is long sash lined with gold. He also wears gold chimes around his waist, a golden necklace and gold bracers on his wrist. It’s clear from a glance that the boy wants everyone to know how regal he is. That or completely blind them with his luster.
“Come now, don’t be dense Sirtir. It’s fine. Trust me,” He says without noticing Fea or Ana as he walks along the rooftop. “Who wouldn’t want to help a king as great as I?”
Fea’s tapping her foot and Ana can hear the irritation in the sound of her sharp claws scraping the ground. Though she’s sure Fea’s trying to make her frustration obvious, the boy still doesn’t notice.
“Oh, so you asked them first and got permission? How nice of them!” The soft voice from earlier calls out from the side of the apartment. She must be this ‘Sirtir’, the boy mentioned.
Sirtir takes a lot longer to pull herself up than he did, but that’s just because there seems to be so much more of her. Blondish white wool extends from the top of her head all the way down her back. Two spiraled horns sit nestled in the wool at the sides of her head. Her arms and legs have the same sheepiness to them; covered in wool and ending in hooves. Prominent among all the puffiness is a series of ornate jewelry. Aside from the gold, Ana wouldn’t call much of what the girl’s wearing an outfit, it’s basically a bikini top and a long loincloth. She’s large, bigger than any girl Ana knew personally, especially in her chest region. Ana thought that Athena would be the biggest girl she’d ever see, but this person takes the cake. The sheep girl scurries onto the rooftop and rolls into a sitting position. A hard look from the boy makes her hurry to her feet.
“She’s big...” Ana finds herself whispering.
Fea just huffs her response. “She’s top heavy is what she is. So it just means it’ll be easier to take her down.”
Ana steps up, putting herself at Fea’s side, and notices that Fea’s arms are crossed beneath her own chest. She’s squeezing herself, and using her folded arms to prop what ‘little of her’ there is up. Ana glances up and sees Fea’s cheeks reddening.
“All that fat is gonna get in her way. A body like that doesn’t do anyone any favors in battle. Who would wanna look like that anyway!?”
Sirtir trots up to the boy. “Sir, I was thinking. Since the people here are already nice enough to let you take their food whenever you please, maybe they would be interested in aligning themselves with Uruk! We’re pretty far from home, and I think having allies in this part of Midgard could be beneficial.”
A loud thunk cuts the sheep off as the boy drops the sack and whips around to glare at his comrade.
“You want me to ally myself with the dregs of Midgard? Look at this domain. It lacks anything in the way of Babylonian sensibilities. It’s obviously ruled over by some uncultured oaf.” The boy barks his words. “Unless the people here were to swear themselves to me, I see no benefits in partnering with them. They would only hurt my prospective dealings with any of the higher houses. Bring this idea up again when we’re traveling through Greece or Egypt. Now those are deities worth dealing with.”
His words seem to make Fea’s feathers stand on end.
“A proverb for you,” he says, picking the bag back up. “If one wants to be treated like a king he must surround himself with kings.”
Ana’s never heard that proverb before.
“Would queens be okay sir,” Sirtir asks, hanging off every word.
“What? No. Of course not.” He laughs and holds his fist over his chest. “Kings crafted the realms. Kings ruled the world. Kings will save the world. A king has many jobs. A queen has only one job. To create more kings.”
The silence following the boy’s words end when his comrade claps. A tiny bleat escapes the girl and there’s a wide grin on her face.
“So awesome! This is why I follow you! You know so much! I learn more and more and more from you every day! You’re the greatest king in the whole wide world, sir!”
“Okay,” Fea says to herself. “I’m done.”
Fea steps forward, but Ana stops her.
“Are you going to hurt them,” Ana whispers and Fea nods. “For taking your stuff.” Fea nods. “What if they’re also feeding a baby as well?” Fea shrugs and slaps Ana’s hand away.
"HEY!” Fea calls out at the top of her lung. Did the building just shake? “What the hell do ya think yer doin’, Gilgamesh?” Fea crosses her arms and once again starts drumming her foot in an annoyed pitter-patter.
So Fea knows these two. The boy, Gilgamesh, spins around. His eyes widen when he sees Fea. He stops, sets down the sack and crosses his arms, an annoyed scowl on his face.
“You? Again!? What do you want? We’re far out from your out from your usual stomping grounds.” Gilgamesh growls while narrowing his eyes.
“Could say the same thing to you.” A small smirk creases Fea’s lips as she responds, “I take it that last ass whoopin’ wasn’t enough so you came back for more, aye your highness?”
Gilgamesh scoffs. “Mighty words for someone who got the jump on me in their own domain! Do you really think you’d stand a chance otherwise?”
It’s pretty easy for Ana to paste things together from here. She knows Fea has multiple territories, and now from the looks of it, when she fights someone, even in her own domain, she lets them live. It happened with Ana’s friends and these two burglars as well.
In spite of her earlier bravado, Fea doesn’t seem to kill her opponents. So that means that there might be some good in her after all. Maybe she just has a hard time admitting it? Once again, Ana feels a smile growing on her face. It’s looking like Fea’s just like Ana was when Jesus first found her; a really good person who just needs some guidance. That’s it, that had to be the reason Ana stayed around! There’s good inside of Fea and Ana wants to be the one to bring it out.
In an obvious show of confusion, Sirtir looks from Gilgamesh to Fea, then back again.
“Nooo!” Sirtir in fright. “Sir, it’s the Phantom Queen! We need to run away! You remember what happened last time, don’t you? Please, Sir, I don’t want you to get hurt again!” She whines, grabbing one of Gilgamesh’s arms and pulling it into her chest. From the looks of it, she almost yanks him off his feet.
Gilgamesh’s face flushes. The blushing boy thrashes around in the girl’s grip in a fruitless attempt to free himself.
“U-unhand me this instant woman! Last time was a fluke! A fluke! Have some faith in your king!”
“Aw, she’s so worried about him.” Ana pouts and tries reaching for Fea again. Like each time before, Fea manages to get around Ana’s attempt. How can she sense her coming? Oh right, Ana looks down at the feathers covering the rooftop. “Just let them go. You’ve defeated them before, right? They’re obviously harmless.”
Fea flickers out of sight, then Ana hears Gilgamesh grunt. Ana looks over to find Fea standing before him, with one arm, extended out, and Gilgamesh reeling back. He almost goes flying off the roof but after a tiny step forward, Fea manages to grab his leg. She whips her arm upwards, tossing him back onto the rooftop, but away from the sack he’d attempted to steal. Without a second wasted he springs up, rubs a hand over his stomach and snarls at Fea.
“Seriously!? This place is your domain too!?” Gilgamesh snorts before falling onto his rear. Fea’s new placement is at his side with her leg out behind him. She stands up, adjusting the sack over her shoulder.
“Gee, a landscape covered in feathers. Guess nobody lives here,” Fea says, her words lathered in sarcasm. “You should probably grab s’more divinity before tryin’ this again. It’ll make you less of a bother and more of an annoyance. Maybe then I’ll actually have fun kickin’ yer ass.”
Gilgamesh looks like he’s trying to stand up again, but as soon as he gets to his feet he falls back down. Several bruises appear all over his body, and ichor erupts from his nose. Sirtirrushes over and drops down at his side.
“Sir? Are you okay,” Sirtir asks while pulling some wool from her arm and pressing it against Gilgamesh’s nose. He winces and tries to back away, but the hand she has nestled against the back of his head keeps him in place.
Ana stands there in disbelief, her eyes are wide and she’s quivering. It’s obvious she’s no warrior, but she didn’t think she was so inexperienced as to not be able to see physical attacks before her. Ana counted one punch and a leg sweep from Fea, yet Gilgamesh’s body shows damage from several dozen attacks. How could Fea have managed all that in a moment’s time? Though somehow, the sight of it does calm Ana, because earlier Fea said that she couldn’t defeat Ana’s friends. If this is how good Fea is, then that says so much about Throoth, Athena, and Kebechet.
While forcing himself up, Gilgamesh shouts, “I’m fine!” Ichor still rushing from his nose, over his lips, and down his chin. He tries lapping up the blood. It’s futile and he just ends up spitting it out.
Sirtir is at his side again, trying to tug him away. “Sir, please, let’s just go home, everyone is waiting for us and-”
Narrowing his eyes, Gilgamesh snaps at Sirtir. “Are you thick woman!?”
Sirtir places a hand on her soft looking midsection. “Well...”
“I didn’t mean like that! I meant your skull! Don’t you understand that we can’t go back empty-handed, not with everyone depending on me.” Gilgamesh yanks his arm out of Sirtir’s grip.
“Sir, haven’t you done enough already? You left most of your divinity to fortify the city. If you try to fight her here you’ll-”
“Silence!” Gilgamesh shouts.
He looks to her with a frightening expression; one twisted and warped by the damage Fea’s done and the ever-flowing red from his nose. Gilgamesh thrusts his palm at her.
“Instead of sitting on the sidelines trying to convince me to throw in the towel, how’s about you make yourself useful as any goodSharurwould.” Gilgamesh refocuses his savage scowl on an unimpressed looking Fea. “Help me smash her!”
Gilgamesh choice of words strikes Ana as odd. It’s clear he wants Sirtir to join the battle and assist insmashingFea, but what’s a Sharur? Clearly, it’s Sirtir’s title, but what duties does such a thing entail? Ana watches intently, curious on if any clues might shine through in Sirtir’s response. When Sirtir stands she looks to Gilgamesh and there’s something almost apologetic about the way she nods. Yet her soft look becomes passive when she turns her sights on Fea. Amber eyes narrow and hooves smack the ground before Sirtir jumps into the air. She makes it much higher up than Ana thought a girl of her size could. Her body glows as she twists through the sky. Soon all hints of a solid fluffy form are lost within a display of flashing lights and rushing winds. Once a buxom woolen woman now a ball of light. The glowing sphere rockets into Gilgamesh’s grip where it changes shape again. Gilgamesh doesn’t even wait for Sirtir’s transformation to end as he’s already taking off towards Fea.
With every loud smack of his sandal-clad feet against the ground Fea nods. She rocks back and forth on the balls of her feet and there’s a rhythm to the way she’s rolling her shoulders.
As the large boy spins the spherical ball of light finishes forming its shape. Though obviously a weapon, Ana can’t discern specifics until right when it would make contact with Fea. A large mace slams into the ground, splitting the roof. With a head resembling the horns of a ram. Light blue bows tied into the wool trim giving the weapon a cute look Ana wasn’t expecting.
It all comes at once after that, the sickening feeling of vertigo and the realization that there’s no longer any ground to stand on. What was once beneath her is now above her and the kind of contents that would fill an apartment, like furniture, spill out into the sky around her. Even though Ana should be concerned about her current airborne state she can’t shake a different feeling rolling around in her mind. Where’s Fea?
Pass scattered floorboards, shredded futons, and cascading bricks, Ana sees feathers. Black quills look as though they’re falling, floating, at the same rate as everything else. But when Ana really focuses on them even she can see they’re moving about with eerie intention. There’s an odd sensation to be had when witnessing the calm before a storm. Ana’s plumage rustles about unlike any time before, she feels like it’s a warning. Something’s coming. At last, she spots someone through the tumbling remains of the apartment. Gilgamesh springs off of any piece of debris he can to keep himself afloat.
“Show yourself,” Gilgamesh says as he falls through the air. “I didn’t even wind up that time! At best that was a magnitude of 8.0. Even if it devastated a block or two, you’d survive that easily!”
Was that possible? She looks around and sure enough more than just one building went down. An entire block had crumbled beneath a single swing. All that destruction and yet Ana herself only felt a little nauseated, but nothing more. But she wasn’t the point of impact like Fea was. Could a girl as small as Fea survive an attack that could collapse buildings?
A passing wave of feathers swoops Ana up, concerns and all. There’s a gentleness to the bed of down beneath her, and it’s almost enough to distract her from the buildings still giving out after Gilgamesh’s assault. As she looks around she notices more and more feathers pooling together, converging around her. All sound, sight and even smell are lost in black, but it only lasts seconds. Like an egg, Ana feels her spherical feather cage tap against something before peeling back, letting light spill back in. When all the feathers have broken from around her she can see them dancing freely in the same gale that must’ve carried her to safety.
From where she stands now Ana can see the brunt of Gilgamesh’s destruction. But she also sees the black feathers swirling around as though they’re alive. Quills move around each other with purpose, as they come together to lift debris and repair anything that looks even the least bit salvageable. As Ana watches she reaches for her own feathers. Sights such as feathers laying flat along cracked windows then transmuting into unbroken glass inspire and frighten her. If this is what Fea is capable of already then she can’t even imagine the kind of things she’d be able to do with Hope. Should she worry? Should this be some kind of dark omen? A warning that she should run now, flee to her home and warn Throoth and the others? Her claws scrape at the ground, much like Fea’s did earlier. Hesitation is enough to get her heels going, but nothing propels her, instead, she remains glued; charmed by the thought that such talents could be used for good.
Ana spins in the direction of Gilgamesh’s voice and there she finds him, careening towards the building. Gilgamesh’s body slams down and manages a bounce or two before sliding to a stop. He looks up and jumps to his feet in time to guard against a stream of incoming feathers. They rocket towards him and he bats some away, but can’t swing his large arms fast enough to keep up with the violent stream.
Despite being feathers, when deflected, they clank against the ground as though made of some kind of metal. When a feather does manage to whiz through Gilgamesh’s defenses it leaves a cut. Ana keeps looking back and forth between Gilgamesh, swinging at the swarm of black quills, and the few that have fallen wayside. Maybe she would’ve kept watching Gilgamesh had the deflected feathers not continued to rock with signs of life. Slowly, the feathers on the ground float towards one another. Yet again the feathers converge and take shape, but not as a protective dome like with Ana. Instead, the feathers take on the lithe form of a little girl; Fea. Once the final feathers form her plumage they all ruffle and her colors return. No longer is there a bushel standing behind Gilgamesh, but instead Fea herself.
It’s clear in both his stance and the lackluster swings that he hasn’t much energy left. His cute mace glows. Before Ana can even entertain the idea that Sirtir is going to return, Gilgamesh yells.
“Quiet! I can do this!I’m kingGilgamesh!”
It doesn’t go beyond that. Fea makes herself known by way of a roundhouse kick to the back of Gilgamesh’s head. The attack, while coming from someone less than half his height, sends Gilgamesh hurtling forwards. Unfortunately for him, it’s right into an oncoming onslaught of sharpened feathers.
Ana winces, unsure if she should watch as someone takes so much unnecessary damage. Despite knowing it’ll be gruesome Ana continues watching. Part of her believes that Gilgamesh can still survive this. She theorizes, well...hopes, Fea isn’t trying to kill him.
The Sharur in Gilgamesh’s hand glows once more as it turns back to Sirtir.
“What are you doing,” Gilgamesh pants, but gets no answer, as Sirtir holds tight in front of him.
Seems she’s intent on taking the brunt of the attack. This Ana can’t stand for. Sirtir hadn’t done anything wrong. At least Gilgamesh was the same ilk as Fea, and both of them knew what they were getting into by being so nasty to others. Sirtir, on the other hand, seems a lot like Ana and really doesn’t deserve to get hurt. But because they’re alike, Ana understands why Sirtir’s protecting Gilgamesh.
Even though she knows there’s nothing she can do, Ana still lunges forward anyway. Several feathers fly by and Ana sees Fea ribbon around Gilgamesh and Sirtir. A raised hand from Fea is all it takes and her train of feathers soften and float to the ground. There’s a careless glance tossed over Fea’s shoulders as Gilgamesh and Sirtir fall down behind her. Even though Fea took care of it, Ana keeps running towards the two.
By the time she reaches the pair, Sirtir is once again tending to Gilgamesh’s wounds. There’s a sulk on his battered face and a pout on her’s. The pair fought hard and against the Phantom Queen of all people. Given what Sirtir said earlier it was all for the benefit of ‘their people’. If what she’s been saying is true, Gilgamesh is a king whose willing to fight for his kingdom, no matter the odds.
Ana’s eyes shift focus from the two to Fea, gauging the other girl’s reaction.
Sirtir looks right at Ana. “The Phantom Queen has a sister?”
Wordlessly, Ana crouches down, joining them. She peeks up at Sirtir, offering a soft smile and an open hand. Sirtir understands and takes a clump of her wool and hands it to Ana. Ana tends to the other injuries on Gilgamesh’s body.
“You’re a great king,” Ana says out of the blue while running her hand across one of the bruises on Gilgamesh’s shoulder. “You fight so hard, and travel so far for your people...“Ana looks to the bloodstained ground beneath her. “Even if they don’t say it much I’m sure they appreciate all your hard work. But just in case you were needing to hear it...”
Ana looks up at Gilgamesh, noticing that his lion eyes had fallen on her.
“Thank you, king Gilgamesh. Thank you for never giving up.”
Only now Ana can remember how many times Jesus and Throoth left her. Back then she was sad because she figured they were only doing it to get away from her because she relied on them so much. Even when they tried to explain their exploits Ana would just think they were excuses. Why couldn’t she believe they were out searching for resources the way Gilgamesh and even Fea are? Why couldn’t she believe that they had her best interest at heart? Why could she only think about herself? Instead of being grateful she let jealousy cloud her mind. She should’ve thanked them. She should’ve thanked them every single day.
Cold wetness creeps from the corner of Ana’s eyes. When she reaches up to her cheek she feels a soft, cottony mass brush against her face. Sirtir dabs her tears with a bit of wool; a soft, reassuring smile on her face.
“I’m sorry, sir,” Sirtir says, her smile still gracing Ana’s gaze. “I don’t say thank you enough. I don’t think I know any king who would fight against The Phantom Queen herself and survive this many times to talk about it, let alone try again! You’re so amazing I can’t handle it! I’m really lucky to be your friend.”
“You’re right. I am amazing.” Ana peeks at Gilgamesh and sees that there’s some red other than blood on his face. “But a king is only as great as his people. Thank you for supporting me Sirtir.”
Sirtir lunges at Gilgamesh, she wraps her arms around his neck and tackles the boy to the ground. “C’mere King sir!”
“AH! Dammit, Sirtir! You’re crushing me! Nngh! Watch it! My ribs are broken!”
Ana looks over, curious as to what Fea’s been doing this entire time. She’s sitting on the side of the building, facing everyone, but looking directly at any of them. Ana approaches Fea. Before she can get a word in, Fea’s on her feet and walking back over to Gilgamesh and Sirtir. That felt kind of pointless on her part, but she follows anyway.
“Ya know, the offer still stands right,” Fea says without looking at Gilgamesh. “All ya gotta do is bow down to me. I’ll give ya some divinity or orison or whatever it is ya need, and ya can take it back to yer people.” She shakes her head, groans, and scratches at her own wild rufous hair. “What I’m sayin’ is, ya don’t have to go home empty-handed, Gilgamesh. Not this time.”
Fea holds out her hand. “C’mon.”
Gilgamesh sits in silence, staring hard up at Fea’s hand. It’s like Ana can see the gears turning in his head. When Gilgamesh stands he dusts himself and turns away.
“What kind of King would I be if I just bent the knee every time someone bested me in combat?”
“A smart one,” Fea retorts, a cheeky grin crossing her face.
“Maybe so. I claimed to be the greatest king, not the smartest.” Gilgamesh glances at Ana. “But I think you get it. I’ll figure something out, I always do.”
“Fine. I don’t really care. Just thought ya were gonna think about yer people for once. But ya got too much pride in you,” Fea snorts while turning her back to Gilgamesh.
“You’re one to talk, little ’lady,” Gilgamesh says, gripping at his shoulder and rolling his arm. “From one ruler to another, sorry for wandering into your territory uninvited.” He fidgets in place. “That’s my bad.”
Fea walks away from Gilgamesh. Ana looks out into the distance in time to see FSM flying over.
“Don’t mention it. Just keep hopin’ I never find yer’s.” Fea stops and takes another peek behind her, then to Ana who stands at her side. Ana steps back after being stared at for some time. She wonders what’s going through Fea’s head.
“You’ll rue the day you fight me on equal footing.” Gilgamesh manages to say before being silenced by another hit to his face. This time it doesn’t come by Fea’s fist, but rather by the very bag he tried stealing earlier.
“Ya got lucky,” Fea says. “That’s what you’ll tell em. None of this ‘I got a good hit in’ or ‘She showed mercy’. If I hear any of that, I really may kill you next time.”
Fea glances to Sirtir. “Hey, Jiggles.” She motions her over. “Make sure yer king sticks to the script. I’m gonna come for him if he doesn’t. Capiche?”
Jumping to her feet, Sirtir bleats. Moving around in such a hurry does cause her body to jiggle in several places, giving credence to the nickname Fea had given her.
“Yes ma’am! I’ll make sure Sir sticks to your story no matter what!” Sirtir giggles and shakes her head. “I’ve been doing my best to keep him out of trouble, I just have to try a bit harder is all.”
Sirtir smiles at Ana. “It’s good to know that you’ve finally got an advisor too. I can only wonder what would’ve happened if you and Sir met without either of us around.”
Ana feels a bit of heat come to her cheeks after receiving such a title from Sirtir. While it’s her intention to guide Fea away from being so mean, she doubts her words to Gilgamesh had any effect on this moment.
“Advisor,” Fea says and looks as though she’s contemplating the thought before shaking her head and stepping onto the side of the roof. “Nah, never really needed one. I’ve got my loyal subjects and I don’t need anyone tellin’ me how to rule em.” With that said she steps off the roof. The Flying Spaghetti Monster is at the side of the building and catches Fea just as she falls. It sets Fea down beside Hope right behind one of its eyestalks.
“Get yer ass up here Annie!”
Ana hadn’t formally introduced herself to Fea, and yet she knows her name is Ana. Probably because of Throoth and the others, but why does she have to call her by that nickname? Ana isn’t complaining, partly due to fear of how Fea might react, but also because it’s nice to hear it again.
“I had a whole day planned before these jackasses showed up!” When Fea finishes Ana nods and rushes to the edge of the rooftop. Unlike Fea, she doesn’t jump and instead holds her arms out. Wrapping a noodle around her waist, FSM picks Ana up. Still not used to the feeling, Ana shivers.
The baby, Hope, crawls out of the noodles, and tugs at Fea’s tailfeathers.
Ignoring the baby, Fea glares down at Gilgamesh and Sirtir. “You two better be long gone by the time I get back and don’t you dare think about taking anything else! IPU is wandering around, and it’d be a shame if one of you got gored by an invisible pink unicorn!”
Sirtir spins around in an excited flourish. Her massive chest almost clocks Gilgamesh in the head as she twirls.
“Watch it,” Gilgamesh says after ducking. He stands and tosses the bag over his shoulder.
The boy gives Fea one more look and a nod before running in the opposite direction. Once he reaches the rim of the rooftop he jumps. From rooftop to streetlight, Gilgamesh blazes through anything in his path by way of confident flips. From where Ana can see he’s showing no signs of slowing down.
A loud bleat puts Ana’s focus on Sirtir, whose dancing around in place. “Sir! W-wait for me! You know I have to take the stairs!” She turns and looks up at FSM to wave. Once Ana waves back Sirtir rushes for the fire escape.
“They seem nice,” Ana whispers, looking to Fea for a reaction.
Fea just shrugs. “They’re assholes.” Following her blunt words, Fea puts hands on FSM’s eye stalks. “Okay boy, we gotta make up for lost time! How’s about it? Ya ready?”
Grinning, Fea loudly shouts, “Bon Appétit!” And the massive creature flies forward.
Ana loses her balance, but several noodles move around to catch and lock her in place. Ana can’t see anything on account of her hair whipping about in every direction. All the while she can hear both Fea and the baby laughing at her.
The sunset is beautiful from this high in the sky. Ana reaches out to touch clouds as they run by. The softness and look of it all remind Ana of her new friend, Sirtir. It actually feels really good to be able to smile after all the stuff that’s happened. They’ve been flying for a little over an hour and Hope’s fallen asleep. There hadn’t been a word between her or Fea, so she takes the risk and makes the first move.
“That was really nice back there. What you did for Gilgamesh, I mean.” Ana slides down one noodle so that she’s able to sit next to Fea. She watches as the similar looking girl stares out at the long stretch of sky before them. “Is he a friend of yours? It sounds like you’ve talked to him a lot in the past and-” Fea cuts off Ana with a snicker. That snicker warps into loud cackle “F-fea?”
“Ya really are an idiot aren’t ya!?” Fea looks at Ana and Ana feels her cold. It’s the look in her eyes that does it. In all those stories about the Phantom Queen, Ana always imagines what her eyes might look like while taking pleasure in hurting others. The look Fea gives her is exactly as Ana feared it’d be like; A haunting gaze brimming with malevolent intent.
“Don’t mistake my actions. He ain’t my friend. Stop thinkin’ in absolutes!”
Swallowing, Ana whispers, “W-what do you mean?” She’s unsure if she even wants to hear the answer.
Fea’s gaze falls forward and she chuckles again. “Ya remember when you were eating up their sob story? Yeah, when ya weren’t lookin’ I slipped a few of my feathers into their bag. They probably won’t notice until it’s already too late.” Ana’s eyes widen, what does Fea mean by ‘too late’? Ana can’t ask because the same thing that shackled her voice when Jesus said his last words to her, got to her again. So her silence invites Fea to finish.
“I’m gonna conquer Gilgamesh’s domain remotely. Little by little my divinity will take root in his territory and once I’m ready I’ll show up there and force him to swear his fealty to me.” Fea looks over and tilts her head while focusing her dark gaze on Ana; trapping her in those evil eyes. “Couldn’t have done it without you, though. So I owe you some thanks for distracting them till the point they’d let their guards down. You did that.” She bares her fangs. ”Adviser."
There’s a tug in Ana’s stomach. Her entire body goes cold and she can’t help but throw herself in a direction opposite Fea. She turns around and lays against FSM. Tears come to Ana’s eyes and rush down her cheeks. This time, for the first time, there’s nobody there to comfort her. She sobs into her hands as the sound of Fea’s evil laughter becomes white noise and mixes with the crackling winds. She’s done a bad thing.