When Nyx wondered aloud what could have happened to little L’ota, who disappeared the same night Erebus and Kalona entered the Otherworld, Kalona had only silence as reply.
Kalona’s silence began to lengthen and spread, until there was little he and Nyx were able to speak about, and the only thing that was not awkward between them was the flame that burned when their bodies joined.
But Nyx needed more than wordless passion to be happy, and she found herself more and more often turning to Erebus for companionship. The golden immortal was not her lover, but he served the role of Consort more fully than did Kalona. Erebus spoke with her easily; there was nothing hidden between them. Erebus truly listened to her, without pride or jealousy, and Erebus had the ability to make her laugh.
The more Nyx turned to Erebus, the more withdrawn Kalona became, until he stopped seeking even the solace of joining his body with the Goddess. In the malignant silence that grew between them, Kalona was filled with a jealousy that had never truly been reconciled, and the anger created by that jealousy.
It was then that Darkness began its attack on the Otherworld.
The first time it happened, Nyx had been sunning herself on Erebus’s balcony, taking in the morning light. She remembered that Erebus had made a feather toy for the wildcat that followed Nyx throughout the Otherworld, and that she had been laughing like a girl at the cat’s obsession with the feather when something dark and terrible had slithered over the edge of the balcony and wrapped itself around the cat’s hind leg, causing it to yowl in pain.
Nyx had screamed in fear, and Kalona had suddenly appeared like an avenging God, wings spread, eyes glowing amber. He had skewered the slithering creature with his obsidian spear. Nyx had scooped up the cat and run into Kalona’s arms. He had held her, stoking her hair and whispering reassurances to her, until she had stopped trembling.
“What was that?” Nyx had asked him.
“Darkness,” Kalona had said in a voice filled with anger.
“How did it gain entrance here?” Erebus had asked as he gently bandaged the cat’s bleeding leg.
“You tell me, brother. It was you who was alone with the Goddess when it struck.”
Erebus had had no answer for his brother, and neither had Nyx. But what had begun that day continued to spread until almost every day Kalona battled some kind of Darkness.
In the beginning the attacks brought Kalona and Nyx together once more. They became lovers again for a brief, beautiful time. The Goddess sought his company, and they found a way to speak to each other. Kalona even happily agreed to visit the mortal realm with Nyx while she made an appearance to her favored children, the vampyres, as they christened the first House of Night after their Goddess of Night.
But that visit ended in jealousy and anger when Nyx remarked joyfully, “Look, Kalona, there are so many cats here! They are such loving familiars of my children.”
“Yes, I am sure Erebus will be thrilled at the joy his gift still brings you,” Kalona had quipped, and then fallen silent.
Nyx could say nothing—not about the gift he had given her that night, and how that gift pleased her more than any mortal creature could. No, Nyx could say nothing. Her own vow silenced her. She could only watch as jealousy and anger warred within Kalona.
As they returned to the Otherworld, a great horned creature of many heads and with teeth like daggers, had attacked them. Kalona destroyed it, escorted Nyx to her chambers and then, without speaking, he left her there, alone, while he searched for more enemies to slay.
That night Nyx wept bitterly as Mother Earth’s warning echoed from her memory:… watch Kalona. If he begins to change, it will be because his anger has grown greater than his love. If he allows anger to consume him, it will also consume you and your realm.
Nyx realized it was happening. Kalona’s anger was consuming their love and the Otherworld, as well. Though it would create a wound within her that would ache for eternity, Nyx knew Kalona must be stopped.
* * *
“You summoned me?”
Nyx had dressed carefully, choosing the gown she had worn that day so, so long ago when their love had been new and Kalona had created the waterfall for her, and they had first shared their bodies with each other. At the sound of his voice, Nyx turned to face him, filling her smile with all of the love she would eternally feel for him, and wishing desperately that he would answer her smile in kind, take her into his arms, and put his anger aside.
“You should not be out here alone, especially so close to the edge of our realm,” Kalona said, striding around the Wishing Tree to stand on the patch of red earth that was the Otherworld’s entrance. When he finally looked at her, his amber eyes were hard.
“Has my warrior completely defeated my lover?” Nyx asked him.
He blinked in surprise. “I do not know what you mean.” He approached her, obviously meaning to guide her back to the palace.
Nyx shook off his hand and walked purposefully to the hard-packed dirt at the edge of her realm. Kalona simply crossed his arms over his chest and watched her.
“Do you understand that I love you?” she asked him.
Again, surprise flickered through his amber gaze. He nodded, not speaking.
“No. Let there be no more silence between us. Answer me, son of the moon. Do you understand that I love you?”
“Yes,” he said. Then he added in an emotionless voice, “You love all of your subjects.”
“And you truly think there is no difference between what I feel for you and what I feel for others?”
“Which others are we speaking of? Your vampyres or your Consort?”
“I see my answers in your questions. You do not understand that I love you, and that my warrior has defeated my lover.” Nyx bowed her head, steeling herself.
“I do not understand you at all anymore,” Kalona said.
Nyx lifted her head and met his eyes. “Kalona, my warrior and lover, I have not changed. You have.”
“No! I am as I always have been!” He almost spat the words at her. “I have never wanted to share you with Erebus.”
“He is not my lover!”
“So you have said, over and over again. Yet you always, always turn to him over me.”
“Kalona, your mind is so filled with jealousy and anger that you can no longer think clearly.”
“Have you ever considered that perhaps I have only begun to think clearly?”
“Oh, Kalona, no. Can you not see yourself? Where has your joy gone?”
“You killed it when you chose him over me!”
“I have never done that,” Nyx said. “Tell me what I can do to help rid you of the anger that is destroying you and to find your joy in our love again.”
“Get rid of Erebus.”
Though she had been expecting Kalona to eventually ask that very thing of her, still Nyx felt the shock to the core of her being. “Your brother was created to be my friend and playmate, as you were created to be my warrior and lover.”
“I cannot bear this any longer. I will not share you!” Kalona went to Nyx and dropped to his knees, his emotion overflowing as tears washed his face. “As your warrior and lover, I beseech you. Choose me. Banish Erebus so that you and I can spend eternity together without this Darkness between us. If you do not, I vow that I will leave this realm and the despair it has caused me.”
Nyx stared down at him with equal measure of sadness and resignation. “Kalona, I will not banish Erebus. Not now. Not ever.”
Kalona’s tears dried and his expression went to stone. “If you think I merely threaten, you are wrong.”
“I believe your vow. I know you have made your choice,” Nyx said. “Know that wherever you are, whatever you do, I eternally will love you, but I have made my choice as well. I will not banish Erebus. By your own vow, Kalona, you must go.”
“Don’t do this! You are mine!”
“I do nothing, Kalona. You have a choice in this. I have given even my warriors free will, though I don’t require them to use it wisely.” Tears coursed down Nyx’s cheeks, soaking the gown she’d picked with such loving care.
“I cannot help myself. I was created to feel this. It is not free will. It is preordination,” he said, his voice spiteful.
“Yet as your Goddess I tell you what you are is not preordained. Your will has fashioned you.” Though her shoulders shook with the force of her heartbreak, Nyx was filled with the unflinching power of a Goddess.
“I cannot help how I feel! I cannot help what I am!”
Nyx’s words were choked, but the command in them was not diminished. “You, my warrior, are mistaken; therefore, you must pay the consequences of your mistake.”
Flooded by regret and tears and despair, Nyx gathered her Divine Energy and hurled the consequences of his own choice at him, knocking him backward with such force that he was lifted from the ground and flung down, down, into the black of the ether that separated the realms.
Slowly, sadly, Nyx made her way back to her palace and all the way to her bedchamber before she collapsed onto the floor, sobbing as if her soul were broken.
* * *
The cat brought Erebus to her. He lifted Nyx in his arms as if she weighed no more than a child. He carried her to her bed, where he washed her face with a cool cloth and coaxed her into drinking some wine. Only after she had stopped weeping did he ask, “He is gone?”
Nyx nodded, eyes dark with grief. “He left me.”
Erebus took her hands in his. “I will help you get him back.”
“Thank you, my friend,” she said tremulously. “But I will not allow him to return until he has earned forgiveness for the wrongs that he has done and the wrongs that he will do.”
“Agreed,” Erebus said. “Some day in the future I will help him earn your forgiveness.”
“He will not let you help him.”
“Then he will not know that I do.”
Nyx turned her head and stared out the window of her balcony at the lush beauty that was the Otherworld and wiped at the single tear that had newly escaped her eye.
Far below, Kalona’s hand perfectly mirrored the Goddess’s, but his cheek was not wet with tears. Instead, catching a glimpse of himself in the still waters of the lazy creek, he saw that the moonlight color of his wings had changed to the black of the Darkness he had allowed entrance into Nyx’s Otherworld.
Filled with insatiable rage, Kalona roared his anger to the night’s sky and lost himself completely.