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The sad door moans as it opens into the lifeless one story home.
The frightening woman I met just a few months earlier now drags her head in defeat. I rip the note from the door and follow Tilly inside.
"Cantu—Dante." I read aloud while Tilly fumbles her way to the couch.
"Cantu is Dante!" It's as if the revelation is making itself clear to me for the first time.
"He must've known I was getting close. He knew Amaranth was going to help me power the stone."
Then Shaman and I can finally end this bitter war.
Tilly now sits still as a mannequin; her face flushed white in terror.
"I'm sorry. I didn't think he'd find me in Angele Emerald."
Frozen still? Dammit, you're worse than your daughter.
"Dante is a great plague Shaman has been fighting for a long time. When she found me she said there was a war coming and she needed the key."
And I'm pretty sure the emerald is the key to beating Dante; once and for all.
"If we can get the Angele Emerald I bought, we can go back to Adenvale—and then find Shaman—"
In an instant, I watch the stillness that satiates the air separate; clearing a path from Tilly to me.
"It will not work."
"But it's rumored Dante fears the power that comes from this stone. If my Shaman can just get the stone—"
"No!" She stands up now. Tears flush to her eyes as blood rushes to her cheeks. "It will not work because your emerald is a fake."
"But my premonition—"
"Is gravely mistaken," her voice like a hammer on my eardrums. "You have a useless rock."
She pulls out a necklace from under her blouse that has "AMARANTH" in rose gold; in one of those archaic fonts.
"Ammie's dad made me get it when we decided what to call her?"
Ammie? Oh, she is not living this down.
In the center of the third, "A" was a beautiful gem. A regal stone with spots of the most beautiful purple and yellow you'd ever seen. A different piece of jewelry catches my eye, though. I notice her twirling a wedding band nervously on her finger. A diamond-crusted leviathan sitting atop a rose gold band.
Okay, you've got my attention.
"Agustin." Her stern voice turns sweet at the mention of her beloved.
"How'd you two meet?"
"Many years before Ammie was born—" She pauses briefly as if she needs focus to keep the tears back. "Agustin was a priest in Los Angeles; the town's official name before Intellectualism took the world by storm, and the town grew further in seclusion."
"So you're like—old? No offense."
She scoffs, but I can finally see her eyes smiling again.
"None taken. I am way older than you may think. Time is a manipulatable construct. But I have lived through many human tragedies."
"So you're like my Shaman? She says there are some people who kinda look like people, but they're not people. Do you know what I mean? Like, they're PEOPLE—but not PEOPLE, people. Am I racist?" I let out a warm laugh.
"In a way yes—" she takes another brief pause and looks me over skeptically. "Yes to both questions."
"Is Agustin like you and Shaman?"
"No. Agustin is a PEOPLE people," she finds her own joke funny enough to erupt in heartened laughter. "His soul is so pure."
I feel even worse now than I did before.
"I'm so sorry." I draw my attention back to her necklace. "But the villager I bought the stone from knew things about Dante—about Shaman, abou—"
"Dante's tricks I'm presuming."
"What was blocking my Sahasrara then? It didn't start until I touched that damned stone. And how did he know I would be seeking the gem?"
She sighs deeply and walks drunkenly over to a regal midnight blue staircase that leads to a more luxurious second floor. "Dante is a clever trickster."
"Shaman said Dante is caged though. Imprisoned by the Divine herself."
"What do you know of his punishment?"
"Not much honestly."
"The only important thing to know is that Dante has been trying to break free since before he was placed in his chains."
She takes a long breath, then stands up. "I am sorry you were brought into this. Your Shaman is right about one thing; we are headed into a battle. But we may be able to end it before it begins."
"What do you mean?"
"If he took my daughter, it is because he thinks she has her half of the stone. That has to be his play."
"Why would he need the stone? I thought the stone would destroy him."
"The prophecy reads the crystal is the key."
She walks slowly over to a wardrobe on the other side of the staircase and opens it wide. "When the Divine smote Dante from the Heavens and cast him away; she sent him into a realm locked away from the rest of the Universe. The force of her banishment sent him hurling through the cosmos crashing through the Earth. He hit a large crystal reserve: amethyst, lapis lazuli, rose quartz, tiger's eye, and selenite. The force of impact was so great it caused a mass extinction and created a beautiful gem as a trinket of his great shame. The Divine used the gem to create a key to this realm. One way in and one way out."
"And he knows now that Amaranth doesn't have the key."
"So if you have the key, where is the door?"
She pulls her shoulders back, raises her head and steps back from the wardrobe. Inside the finished oak doors, a swirling red vortex. It looks like a small contained black hole. She fidgets with her necklace.
"I've had the key forever it seems. But, Agustin and I came searching for this place when Amaranth was a girl. I don't know what Dante would do if he were to escape, but I knew I couldn't let that happen. Once we found this place we built a home around it and swore our life to protect it from any of Dante's followers."
"You chose to stay?! Why not return to your earthly bodies to let Amaranth know the plan? Why not visit her in the dream realm? You abandoned her?!" Memories of my own mother and father flash in my mind. I can feel the air leaving the atmosphere around me. My face is getting warmer.
You abandoned her?!
"It was for more than just her protection! Sometimes parenting is the best of only bad options." I can hear the tears saturating her voice. But her aura—she's glowing a bright scarlet red. "But you're right. I've let him keep my family broken for too long."
Ripping the stone from her necklace, she breaks the necklace off of her neck. Her stone looks as if it's being grabbed and swallowed by the vortex of energy inside the wardrobe.
"You don't have to join if you don't want to. You've already lost so much. This was never your fight."
She looks back; one foot inside of the wardrobe.
Well, I don't have much else to lose, do I?
"I've been unsettled for too long. This needs to end tonight."
Hang on Amaranth, we're coming.