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Story 3

Karen Heslop

A gripping story of the bond  between a grandmother High Priestess and her granddaughter. After the death of the grandmother, the burden of protecting their home from those who would destroy it falls to the granddaughter. 

Karen Heslop writes from Kingston, Jamaica. Her stories can be found in Grievous Angel, Bards and Sages Quarterly and Apparition Lit Mag among others. She tweets @kheslopwrites.

About the story:

Home came about at a time when I was dealing with losing both my grandmothers in quick succession. Though both women followed different paths in life, family and fair play were important to them. They spent their lives ensuring these values were passed on to everyone they came in contact with. I liked the idea of being able to pay homage to them in this story and I like to think I will carry their mantle as well as I can.

-- Karen Heslop




By Karen Heslop

I am sitting at my grandmother’s bedside with her clammy, paper-thin hand in mine. Raspy protests arise from her skin with each caress of my hand. The rise and fall of her chest is arrhythmic, and guilt courses through me with each effortless breath I take. The guilt is irrational, I know. Her impending journey into the Netherrealm is not of my doing but the criminals’. Those persistent men dog us relentlessly for our land.

Grandmother and I fight them but she is the High Priestess, and bears the higher burden from invoking the spirits. After many years of defending this home, Demetra Danakos is paying the ultimate price. She ceases my stroking with her free hand, and I meet her gaze, barely restraining the tears shimmering in my eyes.

“Avaris,” her voice is almost a croak, “my time is nigh. You will be the High Priestess now.”

My stomach clenches with fear, and my heart threatens to shatter my ribcage. I wish my mother hadn’t absconded from the house, leaving the weight of family responsibility on my slender unworthy shoulders. I speak with a sureness I do not yet feel.

“It will be as you say, Gran.”

“The men will return tonight but I will be gone before they arrive. Do you remember the rituals?”

I nod curtly because my voice curdles in my throat. She unclasps the intricately crafted golden necklace from her neck, and hands it to me. Without a word, I put it around my own neck, and the tiny clasp clicks closed with a finality I can feel in my bones. The magic infused in the thin metal reaches inwards and weaves connections to my soul – my magical nexus.

My grandmother sighs and closes her eyes. Her lips are pressed so tightly together, they are a barely perceptible pink line in her ashen face. I consider the enormity of the power I now possess, and a suggestion tingles on the tip of my tongue.


She is already shaking her head, in tune with my thoughts, as always.

“No, Avaris. Unlike the gods and goddesses we serve, our lives are meant to end. Now come, give me your hands.”

I cover her outstretched palms with my own, and a chant I have not heard before slithers from her lips. Her hands become warm and supple as she bestows the death blessing upon me. I am inheriting the life forces of all who have gone before, and it is humbling and terrifying all at once. She ceases as abruptly as she began, and my body is awash with the searing fire that is the Danakos bloodline.

I inhale deeply to quiet the roiling magic, and my grandmother smiles.

“Such talent you have, Avaris. You must never underestimate it.”

She pauses and peers out the window. Her smile widens, and she speaks to me without turning away from the setting sun.

“Do you hear that, Avaris? The Ancient Ones are singing for me. Oh…it’s beautiful.”

She is quiet, and I know she is gone. The smile remains on her face bringing a touch of beauty to her pale skin. A shrill keening fills the room, and I glance at the inky black cat that is at my grandmother’s side. She buries her face in my grandmother’s lifeless palm and mewls.

Tears run down my face as my own sounds of grief sputter from my lips. My chest tightens to the point of pain but I cannot stop. There are no words in any language worthy of describing the loss I feel.

A steady knocking echoes through the house, and I realize with alarm that the sun has set. The developers’ men are here to claim what they have not earned. I wipe the tears from my eyes and breathe steadily. The knocking sounds again. I continue to breathe. It sounds a third time. This time I rise from the bedside, and beckon to my guide.

“Come, Miss B. Gran wouldn’t want us to keep our guests waiting.”

The cat leaps from the bed and stalks out the door before me. Her anger radiates from her skin, and washes over me in waves. She is right. There is time enough for grieving. Now is the time for rage.

The knocking becomes a booming assault on the unyielding front door. As I descend the stairway, I disable the protective wards with a flick of my wrists and the door shatters. The men look at me incredulously while still holding a thick plank of wood. I close my eyes briefly, and gather the strength of my ancestors.

“May I help you gentlemen?”

A stocky fellow steps into the foyer, and tips his wide brimmed hat in my direction. His grey eyes glint over a hooked nose and crooked grin.

“Well ma’am, we have returned to collect the property you Danakos women have been withholding from my employer for the past few months.”

At least twenty men stand snickering behind him after he speaks. The cat hisses at my feet so I bend to smooth her fur and her temper. As I rise, my bloodline rises with me, and my grandmother tells me it is time.

“Come in, gentlemen.”

When the last man shuffles in, the door’s shards reassemble with a resounding crack of wood. A few of the trespassers pound on the door but the man with the crooked grin keeps his eyes on me. I close my eyes, and let the ancestral magic flow through me. The spells begin as a feather light whisper then crash from my mouth like torrential rain.

“Alima shaktar hareba kun. Palitha veran deni.”

“You don’t scare me, little girl!” the crooked man shouts.

His widened eyes and trembling lips tell me otherwise. I continue to chant. The power of the words lifts me from the stairwell, and I ascend heavenwards.

“Ashka taren dalen va! Gazen atan bata!”

This language of death sets my soul aflame, and fire leaps from my palms. Properly summoned, Miss B. reveals her true form. The trespassers are transfixed by her transformation. She is an elegant, ebony woman clothed in golden battle armour. Brilliant, emerald eyes shine above her small, feline nose. Small, golden wings emerge from her delicate back and sway enchantingly. She raps her golden war staff on the ground before unleashing a blood-curdling roar. The men rightly cower before the goddess Bastet.

I release the fire from my palms, incinerating two of the men closest to me. Bastet attacks, slicing through flesh and bone with ease born of many battles. I continue to chant, beseeching the continued favour of the Ancient Ones in finishing this battle.

“Batan muren tavar li! Vata geru havat!”

Screams echo throughout the house as my flames engulf all who have not been felled by Bastet’s mighty sword. Soon there is silence, and I stop chanting to scan the foyer. Bodies are littered on the floor, haphazardly piled upon each other, as each man had tried to flee their demise.

Rivers of blood flow towards the front door that is too heavily warded to let a single drop leave. The man with the crooked smile shivers before Bastet. The tip of her golden sword presses against his chin. His fear is as sweet as honey dripping on my tongue. My ancestors have taken men from battle before to father their young. I will likely do the same, but not with this snivelling creature before me. He is no true warrior, and he is not worthy of joining the Danakos bloodline.

I descend, and stand beside the goddess.

“Return to your master. Tell him this land is not his to take. Tell him we will soak the earth with the blood of all he sends until he leaves us be.”

The coward nods carefully but the sword still draws a trickle of blood. I flick my wrist, and the door creaks open. Thick blood pours unto the porch and down the steps, coating all it touches. He runs through his compatriots’ spilled blood, hopping and skipping over their rent bodies. He jumps unto his horse, and is many gallops away before he chances a look backwards. I raise an eyebrow, and the sharp pain in his head confirms he is not quite yet out of my reach.

I caress the door, and whisper a cleansing spell to the expectant house. Torn flesh, broken bones and spilled blood slip through the house’s surfaces while the tortured souls waft into the waiting, eternal void of the Netherrealm. I turn to my guide.

“Thank you goddess for choosing to join me in battle.”

“I will always defend our home, priestess.”

She bends and curls and becomes a cat once more. Together we ascend the stairway to attend to my grandmother. The burial ritual must begin immediately so Gran can be whole in the Netherrealm.

I wonder if the coward is with his master and I wonder if more men are already being assembled. It does not matter.

Today we mourn. Tomorrow we fight.




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