The Devil's Gift

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XXXVI

The return journey was long and uneventful. We stopped often for Sophia to rest; her current state was deteriorating rapidly, she was surely due very soon. I hoped strongly that we would make it out of Agartha quickly, and safely. Oceana and I kept a watchful eye on the chest during the nights where the Angels would sleep. We could both feel the pull of the object inside and yearned to know what secrets it held. Finally, after days of trekking back through the familiar forest and mountains, lakes and rivers, the giant mountain, which was home to the beast that guarded the entrance, loomed into view. I aided Sophia greatly in the ascent into the cave of the mountain and the sun disappeared as we strode into the shrouded cave. We crept along silently, daring not to wake the monster that stirred beneath our feet. I, quickly scanned the wall line and saw the closed eyelid blending perfectly into the cave walls. The steady river reflected the luminous rocks on the ceiling that gave a misty haze to the cave.

We clambered quietly onto the ancient lift and Oceana began to slowly pull us up. We gently stepped off and back onto solid ground. It was then that we made our way back up to the surface. As we approached the dead-end, the embossed runes, set in the stone frame around a chunk of wall, began to glow a bright blue. At once, the wall began to melt away and I, rather gratefully, laid eyes once more upon a familiar Rome. We strode out quickly, not wanting to linger in an entrance that may or may not close upon us. As I looked back, I saw a blank stretch of stone wall, nothing more. The darkness shrouded the city and the cold winter air of December thirteenth blew hard around us. Sophia groaned as a loud splash sounded behind me. The time had come, the baby was now coming. Before I could react or do anything more than look stunned, an eerie fog rolled in around us, consuming us in its cold form. At once, a strong red glow lit up a section of the fog in front of us and I instantly dropped to one knee beside Sophia, the chest in one arm, the other, around Sophia’s shoulders. Armaita and Oceana, too, fell to one knee as Lucia approached from amidst the glow.

The Devil appeared in a dark red dress that billowed around her. Her skin shimmered as I looked upon her flawless face, a mask of perfection and beauty. She strode towards us, she seemed to skim across the ground.

‘Stand.’ She said, her voice soft and yet, it echoed mysteriously around us as if she was stood in ten different places at once. We obeyed instantly, but Sophia remained on the floor, laying on the icy ground.

Lucia paid no attention to the chest that I clutched tightly, but merely strode instantly over to Sophia and bent down over her. Lucia began to soothe her and Sophia motioned me over. I quickly knelt by her side as Lucia encouraged her, holding her hand. She began to push, her face screwing up in pain, then she would breathe deeply and push once more. The minutes ticked on as the contractions became stronger and more frequent. She grasped my hand as she gave a final push. A loud cry told us the baby was alive and healthy. Lucia tore off a large section of her cloak, and wrapped the baby carefully in it. Sophia’s face lit up as Lucia handed the baby to her. I felt a rush of sadness, yet happiness fill me as I looked upon a sight I never once thought I’d see again. My child. I placed the chest on the ground at Lucia’s feet and took my place by the baby’s side. I felt, finally, true happiness. Oceana and Armaita both looked tearful and they too, sat beside us on the cold grass, looking over our baby girl. I looked to Oceana. She wiped a tear from her eye as she congratulated us both.

Lucia picked up the chest and seemed to be reading the undecipherable inscription engraved on it. She opened the lid, it gave no resistance and instantly opened to her touch. I saw it glistening in the corner of my eye. There, sat in the middle of the box, surrounded by deep red velvet, was a golden ring, set with a large diamond at the top that glistened beautifully. I saw Lucia’s expression shift instantly. She stared longingly at the ring and my heart sank as realisation hit me. This was God’s plan. I knew there was something wrong the moment I picked up the chest, the pull it had was something different than I’d felt before. It was the love God had for Lucia, poured into the ring which she lifted slowly from the box. Sudden realisation hit me once more, the question that puzzled me before, now was so clear in my mind. How could something so small destroy all evil? I had the answer, now. If Lucia were to put on the ring, I feared the strength of God’s love would be enough to pull her back to the light, subsequently destroying evil at its heart. I watched in fear as she lined up the ring to her finger. This was it, it was all over, I knew it was coming, now.

Lucia blinked rapidly as if pulled from a trance. She looked directly at us. I was only one who’d realised what was happening. She slowly put the ring back in the box.

‘I do not forgive and I do not forget.’ She whispered, closing the lid softly.

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