Theron squinted against the blinding white light surrounding him.
He shouldn’t have been surprised by the vastness of such radiance but it seemed unfitting for a goddess who literally adored the night.
“Hello Theron,” she greeted him. Her smile was warm and her eyes were kind and he searched through years and years of memories wondering if he hadn’t quite remembered her as she really had been. He is fucking certain that demonic twatbush had red eyes back in the day.
Regardless, he tsked, “Fancy seeing you here.” And he meant every bit of dryness that seeped from his tone. Obviously, she would be here. This was her domain afterall, but he had shit to say.
Lots of shit.
Years of shit upon shit upon shit!
And he was going to say it, he really was, but her demeanor threw him for a loop and now he couldn’t find the seething words he had practiced countless times during his cursed immortality. Frustrated and highly annoyed, he fell back on the one tactic that came naturally to him: sarcastic cynicism.
She chortled, shaking her head just as another, more recently familiar figure appeared beside her.
This one did not need to greet him.
“Lucan?” Theron’s brows shot upwards in surprise. He knew Heaven was not an option for a mythical creature such as himself so he did not expect any love ones to come and usher him to those fucking pearly gates but--Lucan?
Theron sighed, thoroughly irritated, “I know why she is here, but why are you, Lucan?”
“I thought it was appropriate given that you did defile our daughter,” he frowned in response. The corners of his lips twitched upwards in abstruse disport and suddenly Theron was very much discombobulated.
Was Lucan angry or... not?
“I--” Theron stopped short of explaining himself, Lucan’s words replaying in his mind, “Hold up. Did you say ′our′ daughter?”
The goddess and Lina’s father smiled affectionately at one another and Theron could do nothing but gawk... and maybe feel a little nauseated. His mouth fell open in disbelief, “Shut. The. Fu-front. Door.”
(It probably wasn’t polite to curse in front of your mate’s parents).
He pointed his fingers, splitting the forefinger and the middle between the two love birds, “You got some explaining to do.”
Lina’s mother was the moon goddess?
No fucking way.
He was not entirely sure how he felt about this little tidbit of disturbing information.
With the wave of her hand, Theron’s surroundings were suddenly transformed. He was no longer standing in blinding white nothingness but stars--stars as far as the eye could see splattered like paint amongst the black sky. The milky way curved behind him, blanketing him in quiet serenity.
Between him and Lucan and their goddess, a scene played out before him.
Not before him...
But around him.
He was immersed within a past place he never knew existed. Like wearing 3D goggles, he was actually within this memory. It was slightly transparent and the starry galaxy turned into nothing but a peaceful backdrop.
“What did you do?” Lina’s voice cut through the silence like a knife to butter. She stormed through a lavish golden atrium fit only for gods. Her fists were clenched tightly by her sides.
Only... this wasn’t Lina.
It looked like Lina. Her face held the same ethereal beauty. Her body, though coated in shiney silver armor, possessed the same stature and structure he had so fondly come to worship. Her voice was just as melodic as he remembered and yet... this wasn’t that Lina.
This Lina was a warrior.
Shimmering white warpaint decorated her fierce brown eyes, feathering out at her temples like wings on a bird. Her hair was pulled back by tiny braided twists, the end result resting atop her head in a tight ponytail that cascaded down her neck and onwards past her shoulders in thick blonde waves.
To everyone else she would be intimidatingly terrifying, but to Theron... well, she was breathtakingly stunning.
And suddenly, everything made sense; Her smell, her authority and the unyielding desire that all four Ancients possessed to protect her. Lina was of the goddess--her highest warrior--essentially, a general. They were meant to serve, meant to fight and meant to protect her just as she was meant to serve, fight and protect their goddess. Just like a pack, there was a hierarchy and Lina was above them all.
The goddess turned toward a furious Lina. She shrugged casually, “I was angry.”
Flabbergasted, Lina lost her shit, “You were--you were angry?! Oh! Well, that just explains it all then!” She called over her shoulder at no one in particular, “Hear that everyone? Never anger the goddess! She might turn you into a fucking dog!”
“Those men killed my worshippers!” The goddess argued, whining like a petulant child, “I was forced to create new ones.”
“Humans die, Elena. That is the way of things,” Lina huffed. “You cannot curse every being that you feel wrongs or disrespects you. We are but myths... legends and fairytales to a world that is beginning to forget us. You must accept their fallacy for they are not as attuned to their purpose on this planet as those before them.”
The goddess turned her back, “They are not my problem anymore.”
“What do you mean,” Lina’s jaw ticked in unspoken aggravation.
“I have already assigned Cicero, Helena and Gaia to watch over three of these men. I do not have the time nor the desire to keep an eye on them. You will observe the remaining one, the one that slayed my last precious druid--Theron, I believe--and report back to me.”
Lina’s eyes blazed with instant fury, “Excuse me?”
“You heard me. I need not repeat myself.”
"You created these beasts! You and you alone! You cannot just hand them over to someone else like intricate gowns you no longer desire! They are living, breathing beings, Elena, not possessions to be redistributed so carelessly!”
“That’s why I assigned you one instead of all four,” the goddess quipped.
“I have assignments already!” Lina snapped, “I will not watch your pets! I am your sentry, not a babysitter!”
The goddess whirled around in clear vexation, “Exactly! You are my sentry! You are my servant, Catalina, and you will do everything I order you to do because I deem it necessary you do it!” With a casual wave of her hand, she dismissed her, “Now go, you have a puppy to babysit."
Theron was far from a fucking puppy but before he could protest stars, galaxies and planets swirled past him as he was quickly relocated to a different scene.
Lina sat in a large, oval chair. She was transfixed by the screen in front of her. “Oh, Theron, no,” she covered her mouth with one hand as her eyes began to water because whatever Theron had done this time was more disturbing and upsetting than anything he had done before... and that said a lot.
“You are sad, Catalina,” the goddess appeared beside her. Her eyes scanned Lina’s face with loving concern, “why?”
“I cannot do this anymore, Elena!” She jumped from her seat and swiped the screen down, effectively shutting it off. “Reassign me to one of the other Ancients. I beg you,” she cries. “I cannot watch this misery continue! Do you know how many times Theron has failed to end his life?! I have lost count!” She threw her hands up in weary sorrow, “Give me Kai, or DeLoren--at this point I’ll take Marius even as boring as he is!” She looks back to the now non existent screen, her thoughts miles away from her present location. “Theron hurts my heart,” her voice cracked and her face crumbled as tears fell down her perfect, blushed cheeks.
The goddess shook her head, “I do not trust this particular beast to anyone else but you, my friend. He is destructive and deadly. He needs constant supervision and only you can do this.” Elena’s face hardened and her words stung, “You will stay his guardian and that’s final. But you would be wise to do away with whatever feelings you have for this creature, Catalina. It will never serve you to feel for such inferior beings.”
Another whirl through time and space and a new memory engulfed Theron.
“You’re not eating, Catalina,” the goddess frowned. Lina doesn’t acknowledge her. She pushed the food around on her plate, her face was gaunt and forlorn. She had lost much weight. “I am not hungry,” she mumbled.
And another scene:
“Please,” Lina begged, “Give him a chance at redemption! It has been long enough!”
“Never,” the goddess sneered.
“How, Catalina,” Elena yelled, “How did this happen?”
Lina had her face buried in her hands. Curled up by a window that overlooks the night sky, she appears small and fragile. “I do not know,” she weeped.
The goddess’s face softened as she came to Lina’s side and crouched beside her. With one finger under her chin, she forced Lina’s face to her’s. “If your love for him cannot be controlled then I will reassign you and--”
Lina shot to her feet, “No!” Panic is laced in her voice and she is trying to catch her breath in between sobs, “You can’t!”
“I can and I will! Why does this upset you? Is this not what you once desired?”
“Once, yes...” Lina stared out the window, her eyes full to the brim with unshed tears, “but things have changed.”
The goddess roared, “The only thing that has changed are your feelings, Catalina! It is unbecoming of a deity such as yourself and I will no longer tolerate your childish crush. It has gone on long enough! It ends now!”
“Give me a chance,” she implored. “Please. Allow me the opportunity to redeem him!”
Elena studied Lina silently before finally querying, “And what will you promise me in return?”
“I will return to myself and my station as you wish.”
“And if Theron cannot find redemption? What will you do then?”
Lina gulped, the confidence in her tone waivered, “Demotion.”
“Catalina,” the goddess gasped, clutching her heart, “Demotion is extinction!” She shook her head vehemently, refusing such a blasphemous bargain, “I would never expunge you! I love you too much, you know this!” She reached for Lina, pulling her into her arms and the flood gates open. The goddess gently strokes Lina’s hair, her resolve obliterated entirely, “Your suffering breaks my heart.” In light of the lengths Lina is willing to go, a new resolve washed over Elena, “I will concede to your wishes but if he cannot overcome his selfishness, that is it. You will return as my sentry and forget this beast, are we understood?”
“Yes, Goddess,” Lina murmured.
The whiteness of the Afterlife returns and Theron is standing, dumbstruck, in front of a magnanimous Goddess and her average lover. He didn’t know what to say because he didn’t really know what the hell happened, “I don’t understand.”
“The reason you are here now is because of Catalina.” Elena explained, “She did not desire to see you continue the path you had been on. Your misery was consuming her and in turn, I was losing my sentry... my friend. Something had to be done.” The goddess let out a shaky breath, “So, it was agreed upon that if you could absolve yourself... prove to me that you could love someone more than yourself and your demons, then I would grant you freedom from your curse.”
Theron eyed her warily, “So when I jumped in front of Lina...”
She gave him a sad smile, “You thought nothing of yourself. Your only concern was Lina and there is no greater show of love. I kept my promise and removed your curse.”
Theron was speechless... and immensely ashamed.
Ashamed that he had been so abhorrent of the moon goddess.
Ashamed that he had allowed hate to devour his very being to the point where compassion and love had been thoroughly pushed out.
Ashamed that it took him this long to understand love and sacrifice and begin really living just in time for him to really die.
“I’m sorry,” he choked down his pride. He was not used to being sorry for anything, better yet voicing it.
But he was sorry.
He was sorry for what he did to deserve this curse.
Sorry for how he acted in response to it.
Sorry for all the obscene names he called this goddess and all the shitty things he said about her.
But most of all, he was sorry for all the tears and heartache he caused Lina.
It was Lina who had championed for him.
It was Lina who believed in him.
It was Lina who was willing to sacrifice herself for him.
The thought of Lina brought him back to the one thing that still hadn’t been answered--one thing that needed an explanation. With a quick inhale and a straighten back to reign in his emotions, Theron motioned between Lina’s parents, “How did this happen, though?”
Elena chuckled, “Lina had to get to earth somehow, now didn’t she? I chose Lucan to father her because I knew he would propagate the skills and intelligence Catalina would need to achieve this task.” She paused for a moment, thinking, “That is why I had to die so soon after she was born. With her on earth, there was no one else who was qualified to control the moon and I had to return quickly.”
“So what happens now?” He asked, earnestly. He didn’t know his place anymore. He wasn’t certain of his role in this realm. He was not the same Theron that he had been for so long and he felt a bit lost.
“That is up to you,” replied the goddess. “You can choose to stay and I will station you within my ranks--or... you can go back.”
Theron was floored, “I can return to earth?”
Surely he heard her wrong!
Dead means dead...
She nodded as Lucan intervened, “We hope you choose the latter. We need someone to protect our grandson from what is coming.”
“Your grand--” Theron did a double take and for the umpteenth time in a span of less than a hour he was stupefied. If these two were Lina’s parents and they had a grandson that would mean--“Fuck me... I’m a dad?”
They nodded simultaneously, his staggerment amusing them immensely.
“How did this happen,” Theron asked, mostly to himself. He couldn’t believe he was a father and he wondered if he should be scared...
Scared that he wasn’t prepared for this specific role.
Scared he would mess up.
Scared he wouldn’t measure up.
Never the one to understand hypotheticals, Lucan took it upon himself to explain, “Well, when two people love each other very much they--”
“I do not need a lesson in the ways of birds and bees, thank you,” Theron growled.
He knew how it happened, obviously.
He was there.
“You and your brothers were created specifically to reproduce for me, Theron,” Elena laughed at his blubbering idiocy. “It only takes one time, as your sperm is extremely potent. I guess for you, since this was your first partner post-curse, you forgot this fine detail?”
Like he could think of anything else besides his desire to be inside Lina at the time?
So the answer to her question was a resounding “yes”... he had forgotten. The use of a condom never crossed his mind.
But they said his son needed protection so this was not a hard decision for Theron. “Send me back,” he said with finality.
“Not so fast,” the goddess raised her hand in pausation. “I need to warn you, this is not as simple as placing your soul back into your deceased body. I brought you here whole--carcass and all. Therefore, I will be sending you back in the same fashion.”
Theron frowned, “I’m not buried?” Not that he should care, he was dead either way but something about this upset him greatly.
“No, you are not, and I cannot promise that there will not be... side effects of your return.”
“Like?” He inquired, tentatively. What were the specifics of these side effects? Was it like acquiring a debilitating cough or more like losing a limb? Details mattered, afterall.
He did not wish to lose a limb.
The goddess counted on her fingers, “Alterations in appearance, memory loss, personality changes--”
“Okay, okay. I get it,” he interrupted her, not wanting to hear anymore. As long as he could keep his arms and legs then he really didn’t give a fuck, “Do it.”
Suddenly and without warning, Theron fell. Like an angel from Heaven, his body dropped back to earth.
Back to Lina...
And “Lina” was the last word he thought before everything went black and nothingness consumed him.