The priestesses found themselves on a dusty road surrounded on two sides by mountains with the ruins of a city in front of them. Behind that was more mountains.
“What do you think Athena meant by ‘they will come’?” Serena asked.
“There are two reasonable interpretations,” Sylvie said. “The first is that Camila will bring someone else along. The second…”
“Is that Athena will send help,” Inés interrupted. “The question then becomes who.”
“She said that she couldn’t directly interfere,” Sylvie said. “Presumably that includes sending her own priestesses.”
“So, who else would she send?” Serena asked.
Inés shrugged. “I haven’t a clue. She can’t just order anyone over without it becoming direct interference. So, I’d say she’ll have to find someone that she can do the same thing she did to get us to fight Scotius.”
“Someone passing by who just happens to have ties with her that she can use to send them under the pretence of warning them away?” Sylvie asked. “Doesn’t seem likely.”
“She might do something similar,” Inés stated. “You don’t have to assume that I’m talking about the same thing right down to the exact detail.”
“I know,” Sylvie said. “Still, we can only trust in her and wait. But first, Drahaven.”
They left Blitz, Dusk and Demure behind and entered the ruins. The buildings were constructed of some metallic material they didn’t recognise. Partially melted fragments and glass littered the streets. Blood stains and scorch marks were scattered throughout.
“Serena, what do you notice?” Inés asked, as they walked the streets.
Serena looked around. “Well, the buildings are mostly intact. I’d say they were purely collateral damage. So, the draconians were the big targets. But it’s strange. The story is that Apollo killed them, right? So, why is there collateral damage at all?”
“We’ll shelve that question for the moment,” Sylvie said. “Keep going.”
Serena looked from side to side. “There aren’t any bodies around and there are no signs of carrion eaters. So, someone must have taken care of them. It also looks like there was powerful fire magic used, judging by the scorch marks.”
“Not just fire magic,” Sylvie said. “Look, those marks that are a bit different. That’s a scorch mark from lightning magic. About a third of these are from powerful lightning spells.”
“Which does beg the question of what really happened,” Inés said. “Apollo might use fire magic. Although, I think the arrows are more likely, but I’ve never heard of him using lightning magic.”
They continued speculating on the matter until they reached the city centre. A large pit had been dug and some ash fragments were still visible. Someone had collected the bodies and made a funeral pyre. A beautiful ivory statue of Athena was directly in the middle of the city. She was wearing an elaborate tunic. Reptilian wings and a tail were coming out of her back and an owl was perched on her shoulder. She was posed to look contemplative with her gaze lifted skyward. She had a sheathed blade strapped to her waist but her hands were nowhere near it.
“Strange,” Serena said, looking at the statue. “Most Athena statues I’ve seen show her ready for battle with full armour and her sword in hand.”
“The draconians were known for being peaceful,” Sylvie said. “They worshipped Athena as the Goddess of wisdom. They acknowledged her status as the Goddess of war, but weren’t really interested in that aspect of her.”
“So, think we should offer the prayers at the statue?” Inés asked.
“It seems a fitting place,” Sylvie said. “Centre of their city, near their funeral pyre.”
She and Inés got some incense burning around the statue.
Inés turned to Serena. “Offering prayers is easy. Silently, sincerely, ask for Athena’s blessing. In this case, in honour of the memory of the draconians.”
“Do actually offer up a prayer,” Sylvie said. “It’s not right to just stand silently.” She glanced at Inés.
“Oh, one time I did that,” Inés said. “And it was only because we were asked to pray for some wealthy arsehole who wanted more money. I can’t sincerely ask Athena to give more to someone who already has more than enough. How did you even manage?”
“Truthfully,” Sylvie said. “I prayed that she give him the wisdom to appreciate what he had.”
Inés snapped her fingers. “Why didn’t I think of that?” The trio stepped forward to the statue. Inés gently held Serena’s hand and they bowed their heads. Each said a silent prayer.
Sylvie asked that the souls of the fallen draconians find peace and that the truth, whatever it may be, come to light.
Serena asked for their legacy to live on and enrich many lives and for those lost to be reborn into happier circumstances.
Inés asked that Michael succeed in punishing the filth who extinguished his people, whoever they were and that them being brought to justice grant the draconians consolation.
The three finished their prayers and respectfully headed out of the city.
“So, we fly over the mountains and to the coast,” Serena said. “Then what?”
“We wait,” Inés answered. “Unless you two want to head back. I can deal with Camila myself.”
“Don’t be such a martyr,” Sylvie said. “We’re a team. We took this journey together. We’ll return to the temple together.”
“You’ve worked so hard to protect me, now it’s my turn to protect you!” Serena declared.