The world was silent but for the faint sounds of rocks cracking and shifting in the giant ceiling above the city. The limestone roof stretched from one horizon to the next. Stalactites the size of mountains descended towards the Earth. Each threatened to crush everything below it, but in the history of this realm, none ever had.
From the ground, human-made buildings and skyscrapers, some as high as fifty storeys, rose to meet them. The city was empty of people but filled with their stuff—cars and trams, shops, cafes, and bars.
But there was something else here that wasn’t human-made. A strange green mist that glowed and floated six feet off the ground. This mist wasn’t composed of water vapour, but rather, threads and strings filled with life itself. Each strand was a different size, and twisted around others. At one end was the moment of birth. At the other end, the moment of death. And between birth and death were events—some good, others not. Within the mist were the fates and destinies of every man, woman, and child who’d ever lived and died.
Its caretakers, the goddesses of fate, the Moirai, called the mist their tapestry, and today they knew something was wrong with it.
The youngest of the three Moirai, Clotho, created a new thread from her spindle. She passed this thread to her elder sister, Lachesis, who appeared as a woman in her late forties. Lachesis threaded it into her needle and wove it up and into the mist. Each subtle movement determined the life events the person would experience before Atropos, the eldest of the three sisters, severed the thread and ended this person’s life and fate.
Even as Atropos used her scissors to end one, Clotho was already creating the next. And for the first time in several thousand years, she found Lachesis not ready when she handed her the new thread.
“Sister?” Clotho said, unsure of herself, but Lachesis’s eyes were fixed on the tapestry above them. Confused, Clotho offered the strand a second time. This time Lachesis took it and threaded it through her needle, and then Clotho noticed the imbalance in the tapestry herself.
It should have been filled with a soft glow from the threads brushing against each other. Instead, it was dark, and light flashed angrily within, like a storm cloud.
The goddesses peered deeper into their substance and spotted something that shouldn’t have been there. “The Star of Fate,” the Moirai said in unison.
The three goddesses felt a thrill of excitement. For millennia they had woven the fates of men and women into the tapestry. Guided and shaped their mortal lives. Facilitated the force of destiny for others to enjoy.
The Star was part of their destiny. Change was coming.
“They come!” Clotho, Lachesis, and Atropos said together. “The three for whom we have waited have come. Rejoice, rejoice, rejoice, for they are near.”
They smiled at each other. After thousands of years, change was coming, and they were ready for it. At least they thought they were—until they noticed the girl.
The sixteen-year-old stood at the other end of the street. Beautiful and shy, she had long dark hair that spilled over a white robe covering her caramel-coloured skin. Her brown eyes, haunted and wary, moved from one goddess to the next.
“One watches,” Lachesis said, pointing to her. When the girl realised she’d been noticed, she took a step back in fear.
Who was she? they wondered. How had she entered their realm?
Lachesis frowned. The thread within her needle, the same fate that she was weaving right now, it belonged to her—Shilpy Chopra. The girl’s name was Shilpy Chopra.
Atropos reached across with her scissors. “I have her.”
“No, please no,” Shilpy whimpered.
“Wait!” Lachesis cried. She made a grab for her sister’s long and merciless scissors but wasn’t quick enough. The word echoed through the empty streets around them. It bounced off buildings, through alleyways, and from the rock canopy above their heads.
The girl disappeared and the silver thread, not yet fully woven into the tapestry, dangled limply in the air from Lachesis’s needle. The goddess’s bony fist tightened around the newly severed thread. The crow’s feet about her eyes deepened as she stared at her older sister.
“All must die.” Atropos’s ancient, unforgiving voice said. She extended a wrinkled hand. “I have fulfilled my purpose. Hand me the next.”
“Sisters,” Lachesis said, showing them the half-woven fate, “this one is our herald.”
Atropos, stony-faced, scowled. It didn’t matter to her. The task had been completed. She had fulfilled her purpose, no matter the cost. But a moment later, her face changed. The scowl slipped away to be replaced with a frown of worry.
Both Lachesis and Clotho turned and spotted a dark shape forming in the tapestry. Something was moving inside the mist. An inky-black shadow. It spread from one thread to the next, corrupting each one. The shadow grew larger. An entire patch of the tapestry was black.
“What is that?” Clotho asked.
Atropos reached out her hand and closed her eyes, trying to sense the true nature of the thing. “It is not death. It is something else. A sickness of some kind.”
“It is no traditional plague. Something otherworldly,” Lachesis said, reaching out as well.
“Can the herald stop it?” Clotho asked.
“No, but the avatars might. If the herald can warn them, they might do what is needed.”
Lachesis deftly wove what remained of the silver thread in among the others. With each twist and turn a new event unfolded.
“The fate is not long enough,” Lachesis said with finality. Clotho and Atropos frowned.
“Is there another?” Atropos asked.
“There is not. Only she possesses the gifts necessary to hear our instructions.”
“How did she enter our realm?” Atropos asked, severing the next thread.
Lachesis pinched the thread, and the world around them vanished. The three goddesses stood above Shilpy Chopra, who was naked and kneeling on a tatami mat in some sort of sweat tent. An older woman with eager eyes and a cruel, turned-down mouth kneeled across from her. Shilpy was weeping, and the older woman reached over to comfort her.
“They call it the Ritual of Seers,” Lachesis said. She ran her hand over a brazier filled with strange vegetation. The coals within still glowed red. “It has awakened the girl’s sight. Allowed her to see us.”
The two women began arguing. Their words were not of interest to the goddesses, who were far more interested in the big picture. All three could sense what was to come. A single event would drive the fate of these two women in different directions, and scar each for life, but in different ways.
“She does not die here, then.” Clotho circled the two women.
Lachesis ran her fingers over Shilpy’s thread. “There is time. We may make use of this one yet.”
“What will become of us if she does not complete her mission?” Clotho asked.
Lachesis waved her hand. The tent vanished and they stood once more in their own realm. Except now, instead of standing in the centre of a road surrounded by a city and cars, they stood among rubble and destruction.
Buildings had fallen, leaving behind ruins of stone, steel, and glass. Trees and vehicles were buried under layer upon layer of rock. The cave ceiling was no longer visible above the mist floating above, now pitch black.
Clotho backed away from the vision, shaking her head from side to side. Even though she had summoned the image, Lachesis winced. Only Atropos witnessed the destruction without emotion.
“All things die. Even us,” she said. “It is the way of things.”
Clotho shook her head again. “Our death needn’t come so soon. The herald must meet with the avatars before her death. She must complete her mission.”
“You would change her fate?” Atropos glared at her sister. “We are goddesses of order. If we disrupt the tapestry there will be consequences.”
“We have no choice,” Clotho replied. “Otherwise, her life will end before she meets them.”
“Her fate is mapped out, but it must change. We cannot allow her to die until she finishes her task,” Lachesis said.
Atropos closed her eyes and sighed. “Very well. But soon after that.”
Clotho nodded, and then turned to Lachesis. “What must we do?”
Lachesis looked from her younger sister to her elder. She took a deep breath, and her fingers tightened around the final part of the silver thread.