(WP) The Old Ones’ Return

(WP) The Old Ones’ Return

               The
oceans held untold secrets, but the biggest and most well-known was that they
held The Old Ones fast, imprisoned at the bottom. And they were receding for the
first time since the war had ended. Some people took this as a sign that history
would repeat itself; others used it as an excuse to live it up like The Great
Gatsby.

               My
mother returned home from the market, bringing with her the scent of warm
sunlight and exotic spices. Her brow was wrinkled, and her mouth was pursed,
pressed into a thin line.

               I left
the table, my lessons forgotten. “Mother? What’s wrong?” I asked, as she put
her groceries on the counter to be put away.

               She
didn’t answer for a moment, putting the food into the icebox. Her shoulders
were tense, and one fist was clenched into the fine sapphire cloth of her day
dress.

               “The
oceans are receding, Cassiopeia,” She said at last, each word breaking the
silence like glass. I was thankful that my siblings were playing in the living
room, none of them privy to our conversation.

               She
might as well have told me that the world was about to end. Everyone knew that
it had been a close thing the first time; the gods who’d established our world
had exhausted their divinity locking up their parents, and thus faded to mere
legends.

But that was the thing about evil: defeating
it was only temporary, just as this fragile peace had been.

“What does that mean?” I asked,
even though I very well knew what it meant.

“It means that The Old Ones are on
the verge of shattering their ocean beneath the waves. And if that happens…”

She didn’t need to finish. I hadn’t
been alive to see the devastation wrought by them the first time, but the proof
was everywhere: buildings decimated, people my mother’s age missing limbs, and
the most brutal of all: the death of our own father, one of the countless causalities
of the war.

“Of course, it isn’t for certain,”
She added, smiling weakly. “But it never hurts to be prepared. Perhaps we could
leave?”

I smiled, biting back a bitter
laugh. She knew better to float that idea with me; it was too late anyway.

“I could ask some questions at the
temple,” I said, trying not to touch the inside of my wrist.

I’d known what I’d gotten into,
somewhat. But by the time I’d been branded in the gods’ name, in service to
them should they ever need to fight their parents’ reign again, I couldn’t tell
my mother what had happened. How could I, knowing what our father had gone to
battle for?

I wasn’t exactly a soldier, but
that didn’t mean that I couldn’t learn. And I had to do something to save my
family, to put gold and silver and jewelry in their pockets.

What was the price of my soul, in
exchange for their protection and happiness, however temporary?

**