This chapter marks a major development in Erebus’ character arc where it goes on to expand significantly.
Tesla dreamt of Erebus, the demon that inhabited the Witchblade embedded in her left arm. He stood on a hillside surrounded by a vast landscape of green and gold. His hair was long, blonde, curly and each strand shone with a golden light like the sun itself. His eyes were piercing, a deep azure blue like the ocean, and when he looked at her, she felt like he could see into her soul.
The sun shone on his face and cast bright, golden rays that illuminated the darkness around them. He was naked and his skin shone like golden-brown bronze, reflecting the sunlight as if he were a mirror. His muscles were those of an athlete, thick but not overly bulky. They stood out in stark relief against his tanned hide, each strand of muscle distinct, like a piece of embedded ivory. He shone like the sun, her own personal Apollo.
She felt the sun’s rays warming her skin and the grass tickled her feet as she ran to embrace him. She felt her heart pounding in her chest, her breath coming in ragged gasps as she drew closer to him. She reached out and touched his skin, feeling the warmth radiating from it and almost expecting it to give way like liquid gold beneath her fingertips. He smiled at her, and she felt herself melt into his embrace. They stood together in this moment of perfect harmony until the sun began to set and the sky darkened all around them.
Kissing her softly on the forehead, he released her from his embrace. He stepped back but stayed close as they watched the stars come out one by one across the night sky, filling it with an ethereal light that seemed almost magical.
The demon gazed down upon her with admiration. “You’ve learned so quickly how to wield the powers of witchcraft. But I worry for you. Going to the undersea palace of Ryūjin can be dangerous, especially for you because we are connected by the Witchblade. I am not holy and would be perceived as a threat there.”
Tesla looked up at him. “My intent is pure and serves the greater good. I believe that it will suffice. Besides, the Grand Master believes I can accomplish this.”
“You heard what the old man said. You can become trapped in time. I beg you, go not there.”
Tesla looked up at him and smiled. “You know I must, but why should I fear? You can show me the way. I know you can. I promise that I will not linger long and will flee if there is any sign of danger. Deal?”
Erebus looked deep into her eyes and despite himself, his heart churned with desire. He wanted to protect her and keep her safe from harm, but he knew that she could handle herself. He nodded and stepped forward, taking her hand in his. His hand was warm, a heat that radiated through her entire body, yet she sensed a hint of something dangerous and dark.
“Very well, I’ll show you how to reach the palace.” His voice was like music, like a harp or perhaps a violin or a viola. It was soothing, soft, and gentle like a mother’s voice singing you to sleep.
They turned to face the moonlight coming from above the trees and walked toward the horizon, surrounded by the beauty and mystery of the land around them. They walked through the forest, following a dirt path sprinkled with yellow dandelions. The trees were so tall that they blocked out the light, creating a canopy above their heads. Leaves in the forest shifted and rustled in the wind.
A few minutes the tree line broke suddenly, and they emerged into a field of dwarfed brush that danced in the breeze wafting off the water. The cliff was tall and straight, not like vertical rock but more like the plateaus that formed along flatter parts of the world. Cool air blew off the ocean and filled her lungs with its promise of quiet tranquility.
Soon, they found themselves in front of an old stone torii gate. The gateway was covered in ancient kotodama that were carved into the rock, symbols of power and protection that seemed almost alive with energy.
Erebus stepped forward and laid his hand against the stone. He muttered words under his breath and suddenly the stones began to hum with energy. A portal opened before them, revealing a path down into the deep abyss of the ocean floor below – the secret path to Ryūjin’s palace. Tesla stepped forward tentatively, peering into the unknown depths beneath her feet.
Erebus looked at her sternly. “You must go alone from here Tesla. I cannot follow you any further. Use your magick wisely and remember that you are strong enough for this journey – believe in yourself and know that I’ll always be with you.”
She stood resolute, a chill overcoming her as she took in the foreboding atmosphere of the Shadowlands. The green glow of the afterlight illuminated everything and it poured forth from within, casting an eerie pallor over her face. With a trembling nod, she stepped back from the void, yet felt herself being sucked into an endless abyss of darkness as the dream came to an abrupt end.
Tesla opened her eyes just as the first rays of sunlight filtered through the trees. She slowly stood up, stretching her arms above her head as she took in the morning sun. Kage had already begun packing their gear and Tesla gave him a smile before going over to help.
“The weather looks good today, Tesla. I hope it will aid in the search to find Ryūgū-jō.”
Tesla grinned. “I already know its location, Kage. It came to me in a dream last night.”
Kage looked at her with a surprised expression. “A dream? What did you see?”
“I saw Erebus, the demon that resides within my Witchblade. He showed me the way to the undersea palace of Ryūjin. I know where to go and what to do.”
Kage nodded, his excitement growing. “Then let’s not waste any more time. The sooner we find Ryūgū-jō, the better.”