Whatever Abydos had done to Amadea – twice – seemed to have no purpose other than to allow her to sense him. It took her almost no time to realize this considering that she never had any idea where he was before, but now she knew exactly where he was and literally felt him as he moved around. She was shocked to realize that he liked to watch them from just far enough away that Zephyr and Zira couldn’t sense him.
Even more shocking was that she could now also sense the presence of a few other demons lurking nearby. They made Amadea feel queasy and apprehensive, but since they weren’t bothering anyone, she decided to ignore them… for now. There was too much to do now that all of the monsters for miles around had entered her trap.
Amadea subtly tensed as she felt one of the demons come closer to her. In all the times a demon had ever attacked them in the past, they had always introduced themselves – in a manner of speaking – first, and then tried to kill them. There’s no question that a demon who didn’t warn them of an impending attack first would definitely be able to catch them unawares.
Placing her fist against her palm, Amadea prepared to withdraw her Divinity Blade, but then she felt Abydos’ power flare for a moment, and suddenly the demon about to attack them was gone. Amadea suppressed a sigh of relief and relaxed.
“Is something wrong?” Zira asked. Amadea was the only one just standing around doing nothing at the moment, and Zira couldn’t really do much of anything, so the ghost had decided to stay by the Empress’ side. It didn’t take long to figure out that Amadea was acting strangely.
“I thought I sensed something, but it turns out that I was wrong,” Amadea replied with a shrug.
As a ghost, Zira could usually sense things that most people couldn’t, so she focused on their surroundings. She thought there might be a demon or two nearby, but not close enough so be a threat. She shook her head dismissively.
Amadea continued to focus on Abydos. She felt sick that he had made her promise to have his child someday, but she felt even more sick that without his help, all of her loved ones were going to die soon. There were far too many unanswered questions.
A few days passed as they located and supported any survivors in the area, but finally, they ran out of things to do.
“I keep expecting something to happen!” Boreus exclaimed.
“Same here,” Zephyr muttered in agreement.
Amadea heaved a deep sigh. She had been distracted by Abydos’ lurking, and hadn’t slept well as a result. She kept expecting him to just appear before them and openly join their group. That he didn’t made her jittery and nervous.
She smiled at her husband. “I guess there’s nothing left to do. We should return to the Palace. If there’s something we missed, chances are it will have been reported there.”
No one could argue with her logic, so they all nodded in agreement. No one said anything, but her jitteriness had spread, infecting them all. It almost felt like leaving this place would be admitting defeat, but there was nothing left to keep them here, especially since Amadea had officially dispelled her trap.
With a feeling of heaviness, the group set off to the palace.
Amadea stared off into the distance through the window. Even though they had been back in the palace for over a week with no reports of trouble, she just couldn't relax. It really didn't help that she could feel Abydos watching her from a distance – once again, just far enough away that no one else could sense him.
“Cousin?” Lillian asked softly. “Is something wrong?”
Amadea turned her attention to Lillian. “I'm sorry. What?”
“Our advisers just finished outlining what I think might be a very beneficial plan,” Lillian explained, looking mostly like she was being patient, but a tiny hint of annoyance let everyone know that she wasn't.
Zephyr nodded. “I also think that the plan could be beneficial to the people. Basically making sure that we are prepared for almost any kind of disaster or emergency.”
Amadea took a moment to purposely smile at everyone in the room. “I'm grateful for all the work you've done on this. I agree with my husband and cousin. Feel free to enact this plan of yours.”
“Thank you, Imperial Majesty!”
“Is there anything else we need to discuss today?” Amadea asked.
The advisers all looked at each other hesitantly. It was clear to all that the Empress wasn't actually paying attention, and so anything they brought up would just have to be brought up again later. Coming to a silent agreement, they all shook their heads.
“No, Imperial Majesty.”
Amadea sighed in relief. “Good, then this meeting is dismissed.” Even as she finished uttering the last word, she seemed to forget they were in the room and turned her head so that she could stare out the window again.
Just what are you doing out there, Abydos?
He didn't answer, but she didn't really expect him to. If he was going to tell her anything else, he would have by now. Plus, she wasn't entirely certain he could hear her thoughts at all – let alone from the distance he was.
“Amadea?” Zephyr murmured when he was more or less alone with her. Now that the advisers had left, it was only their traveling group, plus Lillian.
“Hmm?” She murmured without looking in his direction.
“Amadea,” Zephyr repeated, tapping on the table in front of her to get her attention. “What's wrong?”
“There's more to come,” Amadea informed him, turning to look him in the eye. “Both the Gods and Abydos told me that there was something big coming my way, and yet I have no idea what it is. If I just knew something... anything! If I could see the enemy in front of me, I could fight it! But this...” She sighed in depression. “This is driving me crazy!”
Zephyr wished he knew how to help his wife, but nothing he had tried during the last week seemed to make her feel better. He looked away from her with a feeling of guilt. It literally hurt his heart to know that he was powerless to help her.
“Well...” Boreus broke the sudden silence. “How do you know that the big thing they were all talking about wasn't the lesser doorways?”
“I told you, the Gods told me...” Amadea muttered softly, looking out the window again.
Boreus shrugged. “I know that. They told you during your prophecy, but what I'm asking is how do you know that they weren't talking about what we've already done?”
Amadea sighed, feeling both frustrated and aggravated by his question. She wasn't really paying attention to him because she was so focused on Abydos. Therefore, she answered him far more honestly than she would have otherwise.
“Because when Abydos told me more about the prophecy, the Gods got mad at me for making a deal with him. They told me that my fate is still in front of me...”
“What?!” Zira and Zephyr roared incredulously. “You made a deal with Abydos?!?!”
“Uh-oh!” Amadea muttered guiltily as she turned to look at her husband but stopped before actually looking at him. Instead, she turned to Zira. The ghost was so obviously mad at Amadea that looking at her didn't help Amadea feel any better.
“When was this?” Zephyr demanded angrily. “And what was the deal?”
Amadea took a few deep breaths in an attempt to keep calm as she tried to decide how to answer this. “Well...”
She abruptly stood up. “You know what? I just realized that I need to try to talk to the Gods again. I need them to tell me what is going to happen so that we can come up with a plan. If any of you need me, I'm going to be in the temple praying at the shrine.”
She moved quickly to escape the room, but Zephyr was ever so slightly faster. He reached out and grabbed her arm.
“Amadea...” he murmured, incredibly hurt that she avoided his questions.
She still avoided his gaze, instead staring at the floor.
“Please tell me,” he half begged in a soft voice.
Amadea sighed and decided to tell him the bare minimum. She looked him in the eyes so that he would know that what she did tell him was the truth.
“After I sealed the last doorway and sent Zira to report back to you, Abydos came to me and told me that the prophecy predicted more than just my possible death. He offered to help me as best he can, and all he wanted in return was... another kiss...” She blushed and looked away. “After that, the Gods got mad at me because they believe – the same as you do – that he has done something nefarious with his kisses.”
“And you don't?” Zephyr demanded incredulously. He was also angry that she had kissed the demon – a being he didn't trust in the slightest – again.
Amadea placed a hand on his face and stroked his cheek lovingly. She kissed him to reassure him that she loved him more than anyone and always would. Then she gave him a sad yet brave smile.
“I trust Abydos,” she said.
“So did I!” Zira cried out emphatically. “Sort of. In any case, he abandoned me at the crucial moment, and he'll abandon you too!”
“Exactly,” Zephyr stated in agreement.
Amadea bit her lip in thought. Then she shook her head. “I really don't think the same situation will apply. Abydos will fulfill his vow to help me. I'm sure of it.”
Zephyr growled in frustration, tempted to pull his hair out.
“Now – as I said – I'm going to go pray,” Amadea reiterated, pulling free from his grasp so that she could leave. Just outside the conference room, she leaned against the wall and sighed.
That was close! Until it was certain that she and everyone else would live through the upcoming ordeal, she had no good reason to tell Zephyr the rest of it. Most of all, she really didn't want them all to know that the Gods would rather have them die than have her do what she agreed to.
With a deep breath to steady her nerves, she picked herself off the wall and finished walking toward the temple.
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