“But I can save you,” he said, looking up at his crazed wife and pulling against the chains around his wrists. “I will transfer my powers.”
I was still slumped on the ground, my body steaming and my skin blistering. I looked at Artemis and Aspen, hoping they had broken free. Artemis was furiously trying to get enough water to blur the line, and Aspen was pleading with Sybil, her eyes wide.
The harpy searched through the keys strewn across the cavern floor. She picked up a shiny gold one, a long skeleton key with ornate arrows encircling each other. She caressed it lovingly and spoke to it.
“Do you hear that? You’re going to get used! He said he’d do it.” She looked at Skiron and said, “The key says you have to say this phrase and then turn it like locking a lock. ‘I willingly offer up my powers to be transferred to Sybil, to be wielded forevermore.’ Do you understand?” she asked sweetly.
“I understand, Alcholoë. Now give me the key,” he huffed. She hugged the key close, marched into the square, and unchained his hands. His arms lowered, and he rubbed his bony wrists.
“Uncle Skiron, no! You can’t give Sybil your powers!” I shouted hoarsely through my burned throat, coughing. “She will die. You will die. The world needs you… I need you.” I tried to rise to my feet.
“Die? But isn’t he immortal?” Sybil asked, her voice raised. The icicle had smeared the outline. I noticed the keys moving on their own across the cave floor. No, wait, they were being carried towards Artemis.
We shared a look, and she nodded slightly, her eyes saying she was going to be okay.
“I can take the power if you don’t want it, Sybil, but it is your destiny. You will be the new wind goddess. Together, we will rule the skies, and others will fear us. You will take Skiron’s place as my tether, and no one will ever deprive me again!”
“But, Mother, if Skiron dies, then what was the point of him being my father? I just wanted to find my family! That’s what all of this was about!” Sybil shouted.
“You shut up!” she yelled back. “Ungrateful child. You’re about to be given the life of a goddess, and then you can set your mother free! Release my bonds with the Anemoi, and then you can have anyone you want as your family!”
“Release you? Mother, you deserve to be tethered! You’ve lied to me this whole time! I’m not your daughter. I’m not even the descendant of some ancient mythological creature, am I?”
“You are destined to be the next wind goddess. Who cares who you were? You were nothing before me, and without me, you will still be nothing but a mortal with a skin condition that your family sacrificed. They used you to banish the key around your neck! I’m trying to give you everything I could never have.”
“You are trying to give yourself everything, not me! You don’t care about me at all!” The tear ran down her face, and she pulled out a black key on a necklace. Artemis’s eyes lit up, and she whispered something to Aspen.
“Shut up, brat!” she screeched and sent a burst of air that knocked her back. “Skiron, transfer the powers. She’ll understand then. Prove that she is capable of great things.” She handed Skiron the golden key.
I tried to rise but crumpled. The blisters burst where the flames had touched, the air stinging the open wounds. My charred, dry skin was taut, pulling against itself, flaking off. I pushed through the physical pain. It was something I had lived through for years, tormented by the monster I had been. I tried again. The tears were tiny ice pellets, cutting my skin as I rose.
“I, Skiron, Corus, Argestes, Anemoi, God of the North West Wind, willingly offer up my powers to be transferred.” He paused and winked. I got to my feet and stumbled forward, rushing to stop him.
“To Khione, the Goddess of Ice and Snow, to be wielded until she returns them to me.” And then he turned the key.
Everything around me went dark, and I could faintly hear the loud wail of the offended harpy. The winds surrounded us, and Skiron and I were circling in a tornado of violent wind and snow, blocking out everything else around us.
I was looking into an old man’s face, weathered and decayed. His wings shrunk away, and his storm-grey hair turned snow-white.
“Khione, you’ve got this, my fierce princess,” he said with a small smile and tears in his eyes.
“I can barely control my own powers! How am I going to control yours, too?” I cried, hot tears flying off my face into the wind.
“You are a strong woman. I am proud of you, and you are worthy of your powers. You can control them. I know you can. Your father misses you dearly.” His features faded into the wind.
“Don’t leave me too!” I cried, reaching for him, but my hand passed through his form.
“I am going to retreat somewhere safe with the last bit of my powers as they finish transferring to you. You are the one I trust to carry these for me. Find me in the—”
His face twisted, and I felt his powers enter my blood.
“You are worthy, princess. I love you,” he whispered.
I shouted as he vanished, and the tornado whipped through me, his powers settling, coursing through my veins now. His healing ability, much faster than mine, tore through the blisters and burns, returning my pale skin to new. I felt a jolt of pain through my shoulder blades as wings made of ice emerged, frost patterns adorning them, a replica of the Wind God’s own wings.
I whimpered as the winds flowed around me, trying to control me, to tear through everything I was. I opened my arms and my wings, then pulled them toward me, wrapping myself up in the winds, willing them to follow my command. They obeyed reluctantly and came to a swirling snowy vortex in the palm of my hand.
I was off the ground, flying above the harpy, who was whining, searching for the key, for Skiron, avoiding the blows from Artemis.
“That wasn’t the deal, Skiron! I will kill you for this!” She kicked the keys scattered across the floor.
“Uncle Skiron is gone,” I said to her, and four sets of eyes turned toward me. Aspen gasped out loud, and Artemis’s eyes widened in surprise. I was relieved to see they had escaped the trap, and she was attacking the harpy.
I landed and stood in front of Alcholoë, readying to attack her for what she had done.
“Give those powers to Sybil!” she shouted, picking up the inferno key again and aiming it at me. I flinched but did not back down. Should she turn it this time, it would be unpleasant, but I would heal. I calmed my emotions and faced her.
“I can’t. Even if I had the key, Uncle Skiron’s words were very specific. I have to return them to him.”
The harpy roared and turned the key, and I felt a warmth inside. I flicked my wrist, and a large burst of air knocked her to the side of the room. The warmth faded. Too much power. Must control it. I concentrated on bringing it inside of me as Artemis stepped in.
“Take the girls and leave,” she whispered, worry filling her voice for the two mortals. I nodded in understanding, grabbing Aspen and Sybil and pulling them into the wind tunnel. We were pushed out of the tunnel, and I swept the girls over to the side as we exited the cave.
“Miss Khione, are you okay?” Aspen asked, looking me over. The blood had soaked through her shirt, where Alcholoë had got her with the talons. I pulled some of the fabric off of my sweater and chilled it, tying it around her shoulder as a compress.
“Are you okay, Aspen?” I turned and looked at the other mortal girl. Her face was clouded over as she faced her new reality. “And you, Sybil? Are you hurt anywhere?”
She turned her dark eyes to me and shook her head, some scales on her skin flaking off. Aspen leaned over and gave her a tight squeeze. “You’re not nobody, Sybil. You’re still my best friend, forever.”
We sat there for a bit, just catching our breaths. Aspen spoke quiet affirmations for us all.
My uncle is gone. He may not be dead, but he could be. He said I would return his powers to him when he had recovered some, but where could he go powerless? My cheeks felt wet, and I lifted my hand to them, feeling the hot tears. They weren’t freezing on my skin. His powers differed from mine. I wasn’t as cold as before.
Artemis came flying out of the cave, and I ran to meet her, leading her over to us.
“She is defeated, and I have collected all the keys. It seems there is one missing, though,” she said pointedly.
“He has it. When I find him and give the powers back, then we will give you the key.” She nodded.
“Can you encase each of these keys in ice?” she asked, holding up a small bag, her nose wrinkled. Up close, I could see the tendrils of black escaping it and nodded.
She placed them on the ground, stepping back and looking toward Sybil and Aspen.
“Hold still and stay quiet,” she said to Aspen as she healed her shoulder wound. I dumped the keys on the ground and encased each one in unmelting ice before putting them back into the bag. Sybil examined Aspen’s healed wound and looked up at the huntress, quietly asking, “Can you fix my skin?”
“I cannot cure you fully, as the scales are a part of you, but I can make your skin smooth.” Artemis offered. Sybil nodded and smiled. The scales faded and left only a white outline, like the impression of a tattoo, and I noticed Artemis seemed to have exerted a lot of power. She laid a caressing hand on the girl’s cheek. “You need to rest before I do more, but you do need more.”
Dread and relief danced across her face, but Aspen grabbed her arm and attention. “Sybil, that looks so cool!”
“Kia, I would like to help you if I can.” The huntress faced me, and I could see the conflict in her eyes. “You can call on me anytime for any reason. But I know it will take time for all that has happened to you and between us to heal.” She offered me a couple of cards. “When you need help, use these. Oorvi is one of my best fighters, and she has a lot of experience helping women learn to control their emotions. That might be needed while you are learning a new set of powers.” I raised my eyebrow at her. Millennia of trying, and she thinks she could do better.
She focused on my hair then and commented, “The white streaks really suit you, Frosty.”
White? I reached for my hair, and sure enough, mixed in among my dark locks were streaks of white.
“Dammit,” I swore under my breath, but Aspen heard.
“What does the white hair mean?” she asked.
“It means that I am cursed. Again.” I sighed and focused on the two young women.
“Let’s get you guys home,” I said, and took each of their hands before porting to Skiron’s compound.
So having another god’s powers results in a cursed situation. How would I pay for it this time?
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