Fate doesn't work that way

It started with three drunk gods, and one drowning mortal. It snowballed into a quest for destiny with bound gods, sky prisons, mazes of death, and far too many disasters.

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18. Petranea

    They were surrounded. That was the good part. The bad part was that everything surrounding them had been turned to stone.

    “Oh no…” Jinea whispered. “This isn’t good.”

    “What isn’t good?” Lir tried not to shudder at the stone faces that surrounded her. “Why are there so many statues here?”

    “Think myths,” Jinea replied. “A monster that turns its victims to stone.”

    Lir spun to look at her. “M-”

    “The greeks and romans called her Medusa,” Jinea replied softly. “We call her Petranea, the stone spider.”

    “A spider?” Lir tried to suppress a shudder. She hated spiders. The creepy little things were everywhere in the streets, and she couldn’t stand them. She wasn’t too happy to learn that she might be fighting a spider. “I thought she was this weird snaky lady or something!”

    “You see, most people don’t see her and live,” Jinea explained. “She cocoons her victims in stone, like a spider. They’re still alive in there, dying slowly. It’s a pretty awful way to die… then when they’re all dead, she takes away the stone and eats them.”

    “You’re really not helping my confidence…” Lir muttered.

    “You want me to butter it up and make it sound better than it is?” Jinea raised her eyebrows. “Or do you want it told straight to you?”

    Lir paused, then smiled slightly. “Tell it straight.”

    “Exactly. See? I do have an understanding here. If you don’t want to be a little bit frightened, then you should tell me. But we’re facing a monster out of legend here, and we have to be careful.”

    “So strengths? Weaknesses?”

    “She’ll have a hard time finding you amongst all these statues. She’s probably sleeping. Tith most likely intended for you to appear here and find yourself staring right into her eyes, but fortunately that didn’t happen. If she’s asleep, we might have a chance to find her and kill her before she wakes up and comes after us. But just in case, we should probably be quiet.”

    Lir lowered her voice. “Can she really turn people to stone just by looking at them?”

    “No. She cocoons them, like I said. But her eyes do paralyze, and her fangs are venomous, so be careful.”

    “So what does she look like? And if she can paralyze people, then how do I avoid looking at her eyes?”

    “Be fast,” Jinea replied. “Strike at her legs. When she falls, listen for the hissing, and stab at it. If you don’t kill her, it’ll at least seriously injure her, and you can cut off her head. Just don’t get bitten. And don’t let her case you in stone.”

    “Isn’t that kind of obvious?”

    “I’m serious!” Jinea insisted. “All it takes is one foot. Ever tried to move with a foot made of stone?”

    “Nope. Have you?”

    Jinea sighed. “I’ve had to move with everything but my head made of stone before. And trust me, that’s not fun.”

    What?!” Lir asked in disbelief. “Why?!”

    “My best friend pranked me, but that’s not important right now.”

    Lir shook her head in disbelief. “So… what do we do?”

    Jinea paused, and then let out a soft breath. “Shh. She’s coming.”

    Lir’s breath caught in her throat. She wasn’t ready for this. She wasn’t some mythical hero who could face off anything! She was just a kid. A kid with a little knife. Sure, she had help, but this was a monster that could paralyze her with a single look. She thought she stood a chance?!

    Don’t panic,” Jinea’s voice was gentle in her ear. “You’re not alone.”

    Lir forced herself to breathe. This wasn’t the same as her life back in the world she knew. Jinea was an ally who wouldn’t betray her. And Kanat, her demon, would be there soon. Being around him always relaxed her. There was something oddly endearing about his sarcastic comments, his temper, the way he acted. All of it took a bit of the edge off this foreign world. She found herself hoping he would show up soon. She’d need his help.

    She’s coming,” Jinea said again. “Knife out. Stand really really still. You might get the chance for a cheap shot at her when she first appears. Keep a cool head, and you’ve got this.

    Lir forced herself to breathe. Just stab it. Don’t get seen. Don’t look in its eyes. How hard could it be?

    Impossible.

    She found her heart racing. She glanced over at Jinea, hoping for some reassurance. Jinea said nothing, placing a hand against the side of her head. She felt an odd tickling sensation in her head, which vanished after a couple seconds. She went to ask Jinea what that was, when the goddess’s voice spoke in her head.

    Now we can talk through thinking. This way, I can guide you without attracting Petranea. Don’t try to talk to me. Just think your responses, and that’ll be good enough.

    Okay… Lir took a deep breath, gripping her knife tighter, It was slick with sweat. What if she dropped it? That would be an embarrassing way to die. The thought of being entombed in stone, left to die slowly and horribly, terrified her. She had to kill this monster, but could she?

    It’s okay. I’ve got your back.

    Yeah, that’s really comforting, Lir found herself thinking. That was the problem with thoughts- they were harder to control than words. Seeing as you’re a goddess, and that thing can’t kill you!

    There was a minute of silence, and then a response came. It was surprisingly simple, and even for the anger in her mind.

    There are things worse than death. Try being alive for eternity, preserved as a statue. You mortals have a way out of suffering. Death is an escape to you. Gods are different. Eternal. If Petranea beat me, then I would be preserved in stone for eternity. Trapped, alive, but unable to move. Your mortality is a blessing. A release. I wouldn’t be so lucky.

    I’m sorry, Lir thought sheepishly. I’m… scared. I’ve never had to fight a mythical spider before.

    You’ve got this, Jinea reassured her. Focus, and get ready to strike.

    Lir nodded, gripping her knife tighter. Her heart was racing. And that was when she heard the singing.

    Singing? Confusion filled her. Where was that voice coming from? It sounded… beautiful. It reminded her of lullabies sung by a gentle voice. She could hear it now. The same lullaby, the same song if loneliness and hope.

    No! Jinea’s voice echoed in her head. Don’t listen to the song. Don’t think… Her voice was changing. It was older now. It didn’t sound like her anymore. Who was speaking to her? Don’t remember. Don’t… remember. Remember. A voice was calling her. Come, little one. Sit on my lap, and I’ll sing to you. Her mother! It had been so long since she’d heard her voice. But she was in the realm of gods and monsters. A realm where anything is possible. Maybe she could hear her mother. Where was Jinea’s voice? Who was screaming? But no, that wasn’t right, because her mother was here, and that was what mattered.

    Remember.

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