ON HER WEDDING DAY, THE LADY DESTINY SAT resplendent in her red gown and towering tantour, its flowing veil obscuring the glint emanating from the slit of her eyes and the fire within.
It was just as well, she thought, that no one—especially not the groom, still scheduled to arrive—could catch a glimpse of those eyes. If her mother and her sisters, who knew her best, had caught a flash of the need in her veiled look, they would have put it down to her need for orderliness. Destiny needed for everything to be just so at all times, perhaps even more so on this, her wedding day.
Yes, the tantour that perched regally on her head and towered higher than the horns of the mightiest beasts in the land had served her well. It would continue to do so when she walked out with the groom after the ceremony. This last requirement had been revealed to her only minutes before, as she took her seat upon the silver throne. The throne had been specially designed to match the silver of the tantour—her untrue unicorn horn.
Her groom, Fate, would soon arrive, followed all the way from Demire by his own serpentine procession. His appearance would mark the end of week-long festivities and the beginning of her new life far from the only home she had ever known.
Chadi B. Ghaith
Surely Fate and his entourage must be close by now, she thought, no matter how circuitous their route. Her friends had already presented her with the lengthy silver chain of cloves that started the wedding ceremony.
She had responded by attaching flowers, each of which held a silver coin. She would carry these living gifts on the journey to her new home and later attach them to the latticed gilded entrance grille of the sprawling castle in which Fate dwelled.
Everything appeared as it should be; indeed, it was the envy of every young bride. So why then was something niggling Destiny’s mind? Why did a voice tell her that this was not what she wanted? And if indeed it was not, what did that say about her true intentions for her marriage?
She had all the power in the world—could turn sand into gold if she so desired—but she had refrained from using it. What was the point of using magic? It was like playing a video game in which one was granted unlimited lives regardless of performance. Instead, Destiny had agreed to play the game of reality with all its inherent rules and unpleasantness.
So, although she had the ability to think herself into any place she liked, she preferred to travel there with sunshine, good food, the company of beloved souls, and unexpected adventures along the way. For it was in the journey, not the destination, that she took the most pleasure.
A person cannot wield unlimited magic, she thought. If one became all-powerful, one could create his own reality at will, which would make the person his own creator. But no one could stand being both the Creator and the Created in the same world, for that would engender unbearable solitude.
Just then, the women started to ululate, pulling Destiny from her musings. The truth was, even without their celebratory wailing, she would have known that her groom was nearby; she could sense him.
It’s all been preordained, she thought as she steeled herself.
A moment later, she heard his footsteps, confident and without a hint of hesitancy, approaching her silver throne. They were the steps of a warrior, of one who, unlike her, fully embodied his power. She prayed that he could protect her from the darkness that had plagued her throughout her life.
She had startled awake that morning from yet another ghoulish visitation in a dream. This one had used her groom as the villain. Destiny now drew in a deep breath and let it out, forcing herself to relax and push the dream away. This wasn’t the first of such nightmares, though she hoped it would be her last. Dhumanos, Archon of all Archons, had haunted her dreams often as far back as she could remember.
Even as a preteen, she would wheedle and beg to avoid sleeping, avoid dreaming. “Mother, can I not stay up with you and Father a little longer?” Young Destiny’s voice held the threat of tears.
But her mother would escort her to bed, tuck her in beside her sister, who was already asleep, and say, “Goodnight, Destiny.”
As the door closed each night, dimming the light from the hall to a narrow beam, Destiny’s heart would flutter a staccato beat. She would clutch the blankets, drawing them up to her ears and nose, and shiver. Eventually the hour grew late, her wide eyes grew heavy, and her sister’s regular, slow breathing lulled her into slumber as well.
Her mother’s smiling face greeted her dream self, leading her on a path through the garden to the small pond where fish glided beneath the ripples. “See the fish?” her mother said. “Look at the gold one! Do you want to touch it, Destiny?”
A much younger Destiny leaned across the edge of the pond toward the fish. She touched the cool water.
“Do you want to hold the fish?”
The creature swam nearer; Destiny scooped the fish from below with one hand, a trick her father had taught her. She laughed as the fish flopped, mouth gaping, slippery in her pudgy child hands.
“Kill it,” Mother said.
Destiny frowned and looked to see whether Mother was serious.
“Squeeze it until it dies in your hands. It has not the rights of life that you and I have. It is just a fish. Don’t be stupid, girl.”
Destiny shook her head, the fish wiggling free to fall with a plop into the pond. As she stared at her mother, the woman’s features melted into those of a woman Destiny didn’t know. The strange woman sneered at Destiny, her face melting again and growing dark with hair, the teeth elongating and yellowing. The eyes glowed red, and the person grew larger than her father.
Destiny screamed, paralyzed.
Her sister kicked her under the covers, startling her from the nightmare. Destiny’s heart raced, her body drenched in sweat.
“Wake up,” her sister grumbled, turning over to face the other way.
Chadi B. Ghaith
Of course, it had taken some time before she realized that the star of her recurrent nightmares was Dhumanos, for the leader of the Archons never appeared in his true form but in that of someone she knew and loved. Thus, each dream would begin most benignly with the smiling face of her mother, a sister, or a close friend. Then suddenly, this trusted person would begin spouting an evil thought or encouraging Destiny toward an evil deed. Simply recognizing where the person acted out of character and the script went wrong brought the monsters and the terror into the picture but did not keep the dreams from recurring.
Dhumanos did not stop there but sought to capture Destiny’s mind during her waking hours as well. As a young woman, she would imagine scenarios in which she became the hero, fixing and arranging people’s lives for them as Dhumanos whispered ideas into her ear.
“You are special, my dear, a supremely talented girl. See that couple
over there by the oak tree?” he had asked once. “The two arguing. Look
beyond them to the girl standing nearby. See the way she swoons over
the man. Now see that man down the road watching them? He has given
many beautiful baubles to this woman to curry her favor; he wants to be
with her more than her husband does. You could ensure that all four of
them are happy. You alone can influence these two to cease their foolish
attachment to such a toxic relationship and find fulfillment in others. One
word from you can set in motion their rearrangement as elementally as
atoms recombining to become a new molecule.”
The idea that she could matchmake two new romances appealed to her; she walked closer to them and was about to say something to the couple when she stopped herself. What right had she to disassemble a marriage simply because the couple was having an argument at this moment?
Destiny swallowed and pretended to look at the tree as the woman took
her husband’s hand and walked with him down the street. They did not
appear to be angry anymore, laughing and smiling at one another. The girl
standing nearby turned her attention to an old woman she was waiting
for, who had just arrived. The man who wanted the woman, according to
Dhumanos, left in the opposite direction, clearly not heartbroken.
Destiny became so unsure of when the impulse to put her visions
in motion was from her natural talent or Dhumanos’s suggestion that
she suppressed it altogether. Doing so resulted in a crisis of the soul, a
Mimadamos: The Eden of Choice
constant battle between the divinity of her true nature and the frailties of
her human self. Even now, on her wedding day, his presence and those of his handymen, the Archons, showed in her glazed, fiery eyes. Please, Lord, let not their evil infiltrate my nuptial ceremony as it has my slumber. She pinched her hands together so tightly, her nails marked the skin. But no, she told her-
self, releasing the pressure and fussing with her veil. As Fate’s bride, I will be beyond Dhumanos’s reach.
Dhumanos replied to her thoughts by laughing. “Keep telling yourself that you are stepping into a life shaped by only your decisions and those of the man you marry, my dear. We both know better.” His goal was to generate and perpetuate the fear that she would somehow engage in the wrongdoing depicted in her dreams. Only finite earthly events could prove God wrong in Infinity—and what better tool than Destiny, who had already shown herself vulnerable in sleep? The fact that she was about to wed Fate only made her a more attractive prize.
Long before the wedding that would change his life and numerous
others’, Fate had left his birth home at the tender age of fifteen to make his
own life in a rocky, mountainous area. He had searched far and wide for a
place to live, finally finding the perfect place to build his home under the
shade of trees, among caves, and under high rocks beside which sparkling
streams flowed. There, he and his able followers set up a permanent base
camp and collected the necessary materials to begin construction.
The structure, simple at first, grew into a labyrinth of rooms and
courtyards to accommodate the many functions Fate conceived as he went
along, for his path was even then strewn with disorder and disarray.
When the construction was finally finished many years later, the home
had turned into a castle. Fate’s followers spent all their time within its
walls, and, as directed by their leader, they ensured that no man or woman
would reach the interior unless escorted by one of them. Indeed, the halls
were bound with spells to prevent intruders from making progress.
Now, for the first time since settling there, Fate left the mountainous
area and traveled to the distant village of Mimadamos, a couple of days’
walk using his magic bridge across the Valley of Doubt. There he and
Destiny would take their vows, and after the festivities, Destiny would
return with him to Demire to begin their new life.
At least, that was the plan.