Chapter 13 - The Gods' Souls
Jarod was standing still on the pyramid’s top, his eyes closed as he started to concentrate on the many sounds surrounding him. He could soon feel the air and space closing in, beginning to weigh on his shoulders. The stars filled sky was beginning to turn rapidly over him, a whistling sound filling his ears.
The king’s spirit was now roaming free in the night sky, following a path he knew too well. He used his sonar to call out a name, flying at an incredible speed.
A pulse hit him at one point, stopping his course. A form began to appear, revealing to be a small bat, white in color.
The giant smiled, recognizing the northern bat known as Zephyr. He slightly bowed as a welcome gesture.
”My friend, I am glad you could answer to my call.”
”The stars are bright tonight in your country,” began the blind bat. ”I could hear you as if you were next to me.”
Jarod’s stance became straight, rapidly jumping to his principal concern.
”Zephyr, I am in need of your knowledge. My priest found, nights ago, something strange on our stone table that seems to involve our god, but also another one I suspect to be Nocturna.”
”What gives you that impression?”
”The sign engraved next to Zotz’s is unknown to my people, but I do remember you showing me a symbol representing your goddess. I need to confirm my hypothesis.”
The old bat smiled, gesturing to the stars who soon shifted position to take a new form. While Cama Zotz’s symbol was merely just an eye, Nocturna’s one was largely more elegant, twisted like a tree’s trunk and branches.
”The tree of life,” explained Zephyr. ”Nocturna is the mother of vitality and freedom, sheltering the poor souls of Zotz’s hell by sending them to her heaven.”
”Why though?” cut Jarod. ”Why would she interfere in my god’s world?”
The constellations moved again, creating the forms of two large bats in an attacking position.
”Believe it or not, Zotz and Nocturna are twins,” continued the white one.
The Vampyrum snarled: ”Impossible! He can’t have such a weakling for a sister.”
Zephyr remained calmed, not frightened one second by the imposant one.
”The land of gods is largely different than ours, Jarod. Many things happen, things we cannot comprehend. It is written in the stars that these two share a close bond … but hatred poison their love, which drives them apart to the point of wanting to kill one another.”
The lights clashed together, creating an explosion of stars all around the bats. Jarod’s eyes were glued to the sky, the gears of his mind turning at an incredible speed.
He finally turned to the blind one.
”… You know what the stone table talks about, do you?”
”Yes, and your priest discovered it too, this morning in fact,” nodded the old one. ”An incredible event will soon happen in your land, Jarod. You will have to choose a side, as will many other bats.”
”Whatever this event may be, I will choose my god’s side, no matter what.”
”You will see in time, friend, but for now I have other matters to bring to your attention. … A group of Owls came to my tower some nights before and they where asking me questions about your son.”
The king’s ears perked up, surprised.
”Why? What brought them to you?”
”He came to me when he was in my land. The Owls were already following Stella and him when they arrived to the city, so the birds instantly knew I’d have met them. They asked me what he was and where he was from, questions I answered at the best of my knowledge.”
The Vampyrum was now frowning, his fangs slightly showing.
”And why exactly did you give them all that information? Do you have any idea of what dangers you are now bringing over my colony?”
Zephyr chuckled: ”It’s easy for you to imagine yourself saying no to these Owls and just break their necks, but if you were me, you’d understand that my weak, small and old frame wouldn’t do a thing against them. They were curious and I was there to quench their thirst, that’s all.”
Jarod grumbled, understanding the other’s logic.
”Jarod,” continued the blind one, ”you have no need to worry about the fate of your people. The Vampyrums are strong and proud. They were able to stand up before the Vultures so surely mere Owls would be nothing for them. … You are an incredibly gifted bat, there is no doubt. I wouldn’t want to see your gifts wasted on fear and fury. You have the potential-”
”Potential to be a priest, I know,” harshly cut the giant. He sighed, rapidly moving his hand on his head, trying to clear his thoughts. ”… Zotz still speaks to me, even if I’m not one. I can sense Voxzaco’s jealousy, but he won’t say a thing and never will. … I want to know why my god has such interest in me.”
Zephyr showed a soft smile.
”One day you will probably find out.”
If there was one thing Stella needed to do before releasing the northern prisoners from the pyramid, it was to actually find the catacombs.
She knew she couldn’t just ask Goth for its position, he would probably try to stop her or would interfere in a way the Silverwing wouldn’t like. No, she would start from head to bottom, starting to look at the royal chamber, a place she would have no pleasure to visit.
Scared to find out anyone in that room – especially Jarod – the female took her cautions, only sticking her head inside first at the entrance, scanning the whole place with her echolocation.
No one in sight, the small bat timidly entered, looking everywhere as she was walking in. The sun was bright that day, giving in more light from the entrance and the hole at the ceiling. She could now distinguish engravings on the walls, depicting strange creatures and symbols. Many of them had some precious gems here and there, giving those sculptures a strange beauty.
Then she got to the stone table, to which she had to jump upon to see it fully. There were still traces of blood from the last sacrifice, and probably others, which sickened Stella a little. But what got to her eye mostly were all the icons traced in the stone.
”It’s a chance the king doesn’t see you right now,” began an old voice. ”He would have you killed right this instant for standing up on the table.”
Stella rapidly turned around, discovering the priest from the ceremony. He was still as ugly as she remembered, his big eyes going through her, as if piercing her soul. The Silverwing quickly jumped off, slowly backing up.
”I-I’m sorry, I didn’t want to cause any problem. I’ll leave right now.”
”No, please, stay. I do not wish to hurt you, little one,” reassured the Vampyrum. ”My name is Voxzaco, I am the priest of this colony. … And you are?”
The Silverwing was unsure for a moment, her mind screaming for her to fly away, but her body keeping position.
”I’m Stella…,” she answered in a soft tone, still scared.
”Ah yes, Goth’s protégé!” added the priest with a smile. ”I’ve heard about you and the prince’s journey in the north. I must say that you were very brave.”
The female was slightly surprised: ”Brave? Why, for sticking up with Goth?” She said that last part with a mocking tone.
”Ha! No, even if that surely proved to be a challenge. It was brave of you to accept a stranger’s deal, flying all the way to here. … You look strangely strong for a bat of your age and kind.”
The Silverwing didn’t know how to react to this comment, although her stance slightly became prouder, accepting the compliment.
”Could it be because I’m maybe a soul warrior?”
Voxzaco almost choked at that comment, looking at the small one with bigger eyes.
”What do you mean, child?”
”Goth told me of these bats in your land who have immense spirits. They all share the same past, having killed their mother at birth. … Do you think it’s beause I have that power in me?”
The priest chuckled: ”Oh, I see. … I’ve never heard of a Silverwing possessing that gift, but I guess I could experiment some things to find out one day. … Your case makes me curious, I can’t deny it.”
He put a hand on the stone table, calmly hovering the signs.
”But tell me, little one, what brought you here?” he asked next.
Stella suddenly looked nervous, her body fiddling as she was rubbing her band.
”… I was simply looking around. I’ve never really took time to visit the pyramid since I arrived.”
”Would you like to learn more about Zotz?” questionned the old Vampyrum with a grin. ”You probably are a Nocturna adept, but do you truly know everything about your goddess or the gods in general?”
The female was now curious, slowly approaching the other one with interest.
”I do believe to know what has to be known about Nocturna,” she answered. ”She is good to her followers, giving them comfort and protection during the night, her true realm. She does not require savage sacrifices to sustain her….”
She looked defiant at that last sentence, still remembering that horrible night when the priest had taken a poor victim’s heart out.
The cannibal was grinning once more, gesturing the Silverwing to approach the table. He showed her the signs, stopping at two forms which long, swirling lines were coming out of them. One of them was accompanied of an eye wich strangely ressembled Axel’s scar, while the other looked like a refined tree, twisted and proud.
”I have been studying this stone table for many years, all the information being passed down from many generations of priests,” he began. ”I thought I’d have seen it all, until I stumbled on these signs, telling an interesting story about our gods. … Zotz and Nocturna are twins, an entity once complete that shattered in two, giving birth to the night and day.”
Stella frowned, looking back at the old one.
”That can’t be! Nocturna can’t be associated with this blood-thirsty god of yours!”
Her ears suddenly lowered, realizing what she just said. Her gaze shifted, mumbling a ”sorry”. Voxzaco laughed softly.
”No, you are right. Zotz thirsts for blood. He will asks for more, that is his nature.” He pointed back to the symbols. ”But if we get back to these, it’s easy to realize that they also tell so much more. … For a long time our stories told of Cama Zotz’s liberation; his reign brought upon this world, our rightful creator ruling us all. Rare ways exists for such thing to happen, and one of them just revealed itself to me.”
He gestured the two forms under the swirling lines.
”Gods cannot take true forms in this world, but their spirits can. The twins discovered that they could ‘integrate’ others’ bodies; get themselves a host! It’s impossible to know for now who possess a god’s spirit, but one day or another it will be brought to light: Zotz and Nocturna swore to battle in our realm, using chosen ones, and kill the other in order to reign.”
The Silverwing was silent, observing the signs thoughtfully. That story didn’t make any sense, but it did attract her attention and curiosity.
”How could we spot those hosts?” she asked.
”One of them firmly believes in Nocturna, the other in Zotz, simple as that. Even if those bats are different, a strong bond keeps them together, which is clearly an antithesis of the gods’ relationship.”
”And I suggest the Silverwing seeks her answer somewhere else,” added another voice, low and growling.
Stella’s ears perked up, looking behind her.
Her whole body suddenly turned pale as her eyes met Jarod, the king glaring at her. He was dangerously close to her, his presence highly menacing.
The female began to scoot away, her eyes glued on the giant. She rapidly looked at the priest, mouthing a ‘thank you’ before flying away in haste.
Voxzaco was still smiling, which accentuated Jarod’s frown.
”What was she doing here? I will not tolerate her presence anymore in this room.”
”My king, I do believe I’ve just found one of the chosen ones….”
The tall bat froze for a second, soon snarling ”Her? It cannot be…” as he looked back in the direction Stella had exited.
He moved the priest away from the table, baring his fangs. The old one backed up near a wall as the king was moving towards him.
”Look at the catacombs and you will find many northerners praying nonstop to their stupid goddess,” said Jarod in a furious tone. ”That child can’t be the true holder of Nocturna’s soul!”
”She has that spark in her eyes, your highness!” hastily replied Voxzaco. ”Zotz told me to have a good look at her and I saw the truth; she is the one. … The gods will soon start their fight and no one will be able to stop them.”
Jarod growled, abruptly moving away from the other. Slight fear was slowly crawling in the back of his mind, a question burning his lips: ”Then who has Zotz’s soul?”
The priest sighed: ”I may have an idea and I think it could be-”
Axel knew he wasn’t allowed to approach the pyramid anymore, but to say the truth, he never really liked to follow the rules. His parents had scolded him, saying that if he ever got caught he could be killed.
And that only enraged the young male.
Why did he need to die simply because he was ‘different’? Yes, he was envious of those living at the pyramid. They had a real home, a better protection. Life in the jungle was hard, always under the eye of predators.
Tlacelel’s time was way over, things needed to change. And Axel knew that change wouldn’t come without sacrifices. If he had to rip out Jarod’s heart to win, he wouldn’t hesitate to do so.
Stella finally found the prince back at the Hole when the night was already upon them.
Since their last discussion, both bats seemed more comfortable around one another, less tension floating in the air.
They were talking about various things until the Silverwing brought up the subject of her discovery:
”I went to the royal chamber today…”
Goth instantly frowned: ”You shouldn’t go there alone, muchacha. You have no business around that place.”
”I know! But I guess I was just too curious…. And I learned something I never thought possible; Zotz and Nocturna are twins. Can you imagine?!”
”Where did you get that information…?” asked the Vampyrum, unsure.
Stella took some time to answer: ”From Voxzaco.”
The male lightly chuckled and sighed, rubbing his temples.
”You really like flying into danger, right? First the banished, now the crazy, old, smelly priest. He’s not really a person to go to, girl.”
”I wasn’t seeking him, if that’s what you’re thinking!” defended the female. ”He appeared out of nowhere and began to speak to me about the gods and certain symbols on the stone table.”
Goth still had a small smile on his lips: ”I’m surprised you accepted to learn more about Zotz. Could it be you’re finally starting to accept him?”
The Silverwing grimaced: ”Never! Even after learning my goddess and your creepy god are related, it doesn’t make me love him, even a little bit.”
”Okay now I’m curious, what is it you’re saying about them being related? That’s nonsense.”
Stella began to explain the twin’s story, then mentionning the strange tale about their souls finding hosts, chosen ones, to deliver a brutal battle in this mortal world. She believed it as deep inside she knew it was important. Her whole self was still shivering, unable to deny her feelings.
The Vampyrum had listened carefully, laughing it off at the end, judging it was ridiculous. A god’s only place should be in its own kingdom, with the sole purpose of pleasing its subjects.
The female pleaded him to believe her. She knew it was something important and he had to see it for himself. Surely he would feel the same thing as her; it had to be part of the reason of why they needed to be together….
”Alright, alright,” conceded the giant. ”We’ll go have a look at those stupid symbols tomorrow, if that makes you happy….”
”I thought you’d be more enthusiast learning about gods,” added Stella, raising an eyebrow.
The prince grinned, rubbing the other’s head in a playful manner.
”That’s because next time I want to be the first one to discover it!”
He slowly started to wake up, the sun rays already entering the Hole and warming his body. The Vampyrum yawned, trying to clear his mind from its sleepy state.
He tightened his wings a little and suddenly knew something was wrong.
Goth suddenly opened them, only finding an empty spot; Stella was missing.
Slight panic began to fill his thoughts, turning in every ways possible to see if she was anywhere in the room. Still alone, the prince rapidly flew out of the Hole, flying at a franctic pace, hoping he would spot the young Silverwing. His instincts soon pushed him to fly in direction of the royal chamber, fearing the worst.
When he got near, two bats suddenly pushed him inside. Goth didn’t have time to fully comprehend what was happening that two others grabbed him firmly, forbidding him to move. The Vampyrum roared, claiming to be released, but a dark laugh soon came to his ears, his attention then turning to Jarod who was now approaching.
”They won’t listen to you, son, as you are nothing to them at the moment. Nothing more than a good way to let out some resentment.”
”What is this all about, father?” snarled Goth. ”Where is Stella? I know you have something to do with this.”
A cruel smile crept on the king’s face as he moved to the side, gesturing towards the stone table. The Silverwing was lying on it, held by vines. She was breathing rapidly, her eyes widened in fear. The giant slowly came next to her, false pity and compassion showing on his face.
”I told you to get rid of her, son. … Now I see I have to do everything all by myself, as usual.”
The prince was furious: ”You better not lay a single claw on her or you’ll regret it deeply!”
Jarod slammed his hands on the table, beside each sides of the female’s head. He looked at Goth with fire in his eyes, his fur rising as he felt the same rage.
”I am the king! And you will stop disobeying me! If I have to destroy everything you love to make you understand, I will not hesitate a single second.”
Goth was trying to get free, but one of his holder punched him in the stomach, making him stop. Out of breath, the prince was helplessly watching as Voxzaco had now entered the scene, approaching the king. The tall one got back to a straight stance, shaking his fury away while looking at his son with contempt.
”Rip her heart out, Voxzaco,” he next ordered to the old bat.
The priest grinned, getting to the Silverwing and putting a claw on her thorax. He slowly started to dig in, a vicious smile appearing on his face as the young one began to scream in both terror and pain.
Her cries were enough for Goth to snap back to reality, his jaw tightening.
”STOP IT! FOR THE LOVE OF ZOTZ, STOP IT!” he howled.
Jarod was suddenly before him, grasping the prince’s shoulders, digging in his skin.
”Yes, Goth, show that dark side of yours.”
A new scream alerted the son, looking at his father with light confusion.
”Wh-what are you talking about?”
”That rage hidden in your soul, that beast that is only awaiting the signal to jump out in plain daylight.”
Everything was so surreal.
Stella cried again, pleading for someone to help her. Goth’s mind was pulsing with ferocity, trying once again to get out of everyone’s grip. Jarod slightly shook him, forcing him to look in his eyes.
”Listen to me son or she’ll die in the name of Zotz. … There’s something in you. It’s divine, out of this world. You’ve got to let it escape.”
The king got back to the stone table, gesturing the priest to wait before digging further.
”I don’t know if your dear Silverwing spoke to you about what she discovered yesterday,” he continued. ”… Two bats, two souls. Together they are strong, but one of them can only survive…. Cama Zotz and Nocturna planned an epic battle in our land with the help of two chosen ones. If one of them wins, the mortal world will be theirs.”
”Yeah? And why should I care?” growled Goth.
Jarod frowned, his fangs showing: ”Ignorant fool! We believe you do possess Zotz’s soul!”
The prince’s mind went blank for some seconds.
”Yes, son, the god of hell is inside of you, even if I disapprove his choice; I’m a better adept than you.”
”I discovered the goddess’ soul inside the Silverwing only by talking and looking at her,” added Voxzaco. ”There was a certain spark in her eyes when I told her about that prophecy … the same as you right now.”
”LIES!” roared Goth. ”How can you sort out such rapid conclusions? She and I are not related to that stupid story.”
”As you wish,” sighed the king, gesturing back to the priest to continue.
The old one didn’t waste any seconds, dangerously widening the wound, blood rapidly coming out of the female’s chest. Stella was now crying, her body trembling as she only wished this nightmare would soon end. Goth screamed in fury, glaring at his father with a look that could kill.
Thinking fast, he turned to one of his captors, biting a shoulder and then knocking the other out with his freed wing. He then jumped on the king, both hands on his neck as rage told him to strangle the giant.
”I’m going to kill you,” hissed the prince.
Jarod cruelly smiled, going over his pain.
”What are you waiting for … Zotz?”
Goth felt like exploding, roaring at his father’s face to shut up. But soon his mind was starting to get dizzy, his eyes starting to shine with a strange white light. He could feel a new strength growing in him, making him feel bigger than he actually was. Jarod now had a satisfied look on his face, knowing what was happening.
The king was next suddenly thrown to a wall by an extreme force, his back hitting hard on the stone.
Goth was no more, his spirit shut down by a new presence. He turned to Voxzaco, his eyes now menacingly white, glowing with intensity.
”Release the Silverwing,” he ordered with a voice that wasn’t his.
The priest’s eyes were bigger than usual, promptly getting his claw out of the young female’s body now covered in blood.
”Get away from her!” then boomed the god’s voice.
Voxzaco almost fell as he was trying to fly away in a hurry, roosting at one of the royal chamber’s top corners. He had to see what would happen next.
Zotz approached Stella, observing her panting and pitiful frame. Grasping the top of her head, he moved it so her neck was visible. The god began to smell her, a growling sound rising in his throat.
”Nocturna … I know you’re here. I’ll kill you, I’ll rip all your limbs one by one, eating your heart with delight. … You’re lucky this weak bat is helping you hiding your miserable self.”
Jarod finally got up with slight pain. He was now looking at his son and could hardly recognize him. Even if his physique remained the same, except for his eyes, the prince’s stance and manneurism were different; largely more composed and proud. The king got near him, bowing even before the god noticed him.
”Oh mighty Zotz,” he began in a respectful tone. ”Why not kill your sister when she is weak and frail?”
The dark lord looked at the giant, a cruel laugh escaping him.
”Jarod Hades Vampyrum Spectrum, I knew you’d be bowing at the first sight of me. I cannot kill her as she is not fully present at the moment. It would accomplish nothing, and I personally long for a good battle.”
The tall bat instantly frowned, getting back into a straight stance.
”Why? You need to kill her right now when you still have the chance. You will be able to reign over this world, my lord!”
Zotz suddenly grabbed the other’s mane fur with one hand, lifting him without any difficulties off the ground. His eyes were glowing with stronger intensity, looking straight into the king’s soul.
”Do you really think your god can’t win this battle, Jarod? Do you really think the only ennemy I can face is a fatally wounded child?”
The king shook his head, terrified. He asked for forgiveness, struggling in front of such power. The god sighed with a grumble, releasing the giant without any care.
”That is why I didn’t choose you. You don’t trust me fully. There’s still fear in your heart.”
He next came back to the little female, ripping away the vines. Unfolding his wings, he began to take flight, next taking the Silverwing in his talons and going out through the ceiling window.
Going deep into the jungle, Zotz next landed on a branch, making sure to carefully lay Stella on it. He took one last good look at her, grinning as he knew she’d be a good rival when fully healed.
His presence began to fade away, the prince suddenly feeling weaker, leaving a hand to his head as pain began to submerge him.
When he finally got his full conscience back, he instantly felt confused as to why and how he got to this place. The last thing he remembered was choking his father, wishing for his death, and then this…
”… Goth,” called out a weak voice.
He turned to the source, jumping when he saw the female laying next to him, blood covering her body. He instantly kneeled beside her, observing her wound. It was large, but not profound enough to have touched any vital organs.
What could he do? He was no expert in healing! The Vampyrum had a worried expression on his face, holding the Silverwing’s head a little above ground.
”Forgive me, señorita, please forgive me,” began the prince with a broken voice. ”I should have been stronger and more vigilant.”
Stella showed a weak smile: ”No, … please, stop saying nonsense. I’m just a bad luck bringer, I earned that.”
”Don’t say that!” growled Goth, fear invading him. ”You are brave, you can get through this!”
The female tried to laugh, but it was cut by horrible coughs, some blood filling her mouth.
”Brave…,” she mused. ”Voxzaco told me the same thing yesterday and look where it brought me…”
The Vampyrum wanted to replied that sounds got to his ears, freezing him as he entered his hunter state immediately. He feared a predator was coming, until a small form got to his side, trying to push him away. He recognize the newcomer as Axel.
”Cabrón! Don’t you see she’s dying? Let me handle this!” snarled the young one, still backing the prince.
Goth was dumbfounded, hardly realising the young banished appeared before his eyes. He finally snapped out of his confusion, trying to scare the male away with a growl.
”Get away from her, banished!”
”I know what to do to help her,” harshly replied Axel. ”Stop the hate for two seconds and let me save her. She’s my friend, I don’t want to lose her!”
They kept looking at eachothers for some seconds, as if testing their will. The prince finally huffed, reluctantly agreeing. The small Vampyrum then hurried in his search for medicinal leaves, knowing he had to do his best.