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16+ Language Violence

The Daughter of War - Chapter 32: The Tower

by Ley


Warning: This work has been rated 16+ for language and violence.

Chapter 32: The Tower

Josephine didn’t miss the eerie vibes that the Underworld shed onto her. Not only was it unnerving, but being back in the Underworld caused Josephine to remember her moment with Jase—the kiss they shared in the stairway back up. They didn’t speak about it, not once, as they entered Hades’ home.

Spirits danced and souls laughed and whispered as the two deities walked over the Styx. Josephine felt bad for them—they were once human, they once had families and wives and husbands. But somewhere, in the back of her mind, she knew that Hades wasn’t the type of God to torture innocent souls. Persephone would never be interesting in someone of that nature, at least if she had a say in it. All of the souls in the Underworld awaited judgement; some would be tortured for the rest of eternity and others would live peacefully in the Asphodel Meadows with no recollection of their previous lives.

Glowing crystals of ethereal hues lined the cavernous walls, casting a soft, otherworldly glow that illuminated the path forward. Wisps of spectral mist drifted lazily through the air, weaving intricate patterns that danced with the flickering light. It was beautiful, but something was different than the last time she came. Jase stepped into Hades Palace first, only to stop in his tracks when he reached the middle of the lobby. It was bare. Not one person was in sight—there was no sign of the friendly front-desk lady or the nymph that stayed connected at Hades side. Something was off.

The only sounds came from the out-of-date speaker that stayed positioned in the upper right-hand corner of the hollow room, sheathed by red roses—most likely grown by Persephone herself. A smooth song played, shadowed by violin and hints of deep jazz. Some part of Josephine assumed it was funeral music—which made her extremely uneasy.

Before Josephine could speak, Jase held his arm out, “Keep quiet,” he whispered. Even with his voice lowered to that level, his vocal notes echoed throughout the lobby in rounds of three. So much for keeping this on the down low. Whoever was here, if there even was somebody here, definitely heard him speak. Josephine gulped. Where was everyone?

Jase clicked his tongue and turned around, “Let’s go visit my mother.”

Josephine nodded. She didn’t have any other recommendations, and Jase knew the Underworld like the back of his hand. Not to mention Hecate would most likely know what the hell was going on. She cringed at the thought of her last encounter with the goddess of witchcraft—how she degraded Hecate’s magic and doubted the goddess. Surely, Hecate wouldn’t be too happy to see Josephine again. But, if it meant getting any idea of Persephone’s whereabouts, she’d be willing to sacrifice her sanity for a few minutes.

It took thirty minutes to walk to Hecate’s Cottage. For some reason, this time around it seemed like a much slower walk. Granted, they were creeping around like some escapees from Tartarus. If one of Hades’ souls spotted them and recognized them, they’d report straight back to their king.

Josephine stepped up the wooden stairs onto Hecate’s porch, Jase in front of her. He didn’t knock this time and instead pushed the door open with his foot. His mother seemed to be in the middle of meditation, her legs crossed in the center of the room with purple candles scattered around her form-fitting body. The goddess’s dreadlocks moved slightly as her neck turned to take in their scent. She didn’t open her eyes, “Hello, son.”

“Hello, mother.”

Hecate sighed, “And… hello, Josephine.”

Josephine only nodded her head. Even though the goddess had her back turned to the duo, Josephine was sure that Hecate could sense her every move. And indeed, she did, because she stood shortly after and walked gracefully towards the kitchen—her long black robe dragging behind her. They didn’t speak for a few more minutes as Hecate stirred her tea.

Finally, Jase spoke.

“We need your help, Mother.”

Hecate hummed, “Hmm? Is this about a… hm, I don’t know, Goddess of Spring?” Hecate moved to sit on the loveseat, crossing her legs with grace. Josephine stayed tucked away in the corner of the room.

“Do you know where she is?” Jase questioned, keeping his position in the foyer.

“Not quite,” Hecate glanced at her altar, which was dressed in more candles, tarot cards, and crystals, “Only the cards know.”

Jase hesitated, “What do you mean?”

“I am not a prophet, my child,” Hecate smiled softly, “but the cards are.”

“So, you don’t know whether or not she’s here in the Underworld?”

Hecate’s eyes suddenly locked with Josephine’s, and she ignored her son’s question, “My dear. Why don’t you take a seat at my altar?”

Josephine froze.

What?

Sitting at the goddess of witchcraft’s altar seemed like a death mission. She glanced at Jase, “Is it necessary?”

“You’d like to know where your friend is, correct?” Hecate placed her tea down on the wooden coffee table and gestured with her boney hands towards the altar, “Please, I insist. Don’t worry, they will not harm you.”

Well, that’s hard to believe considering the last prophecy you gave me. That hurt pretty damn bad.

Josephine hesitated, but walked slowly over to the goddesses workstation. She had to refrain from grabbing the crystals and feeling them. She wanted nothing more than to feel along the coarse ridges of the amethyst, or look through the clear diamond-like quartz. None of those were good ideas, though, so she kept her shaky hands to herself. The tapestry behind Hecate’s altar caught Josephine’s eye. It formed a living mosaic, weaving a story of ancient remedies and potent spells. The silvery leaves of mugwort shimmered like starlight caught in a midnight breeze, while the mandrake roots twisted and turned, hinting at secrets buried deep within the earth. Yarrow flowers bloomed in defiance of darkness, their golden centers pulsing with protective energy.

Josephine took a deep breath before Hecate moved to sit beside her, Jase watching quietly from a distance. This couldn’t be the first time he watched his mother showcase her magic.

Hecate pulled a deck of tarot cards from the oak-woven basket, and shuffled them. Josephine had never had a reading, and to get one from the goddess of witchcraft herself was something that most deities and humans envied. But, for Josephine, it felt like she was being held underwater. Drowning, infinitely drowning in a pool of Hecate’s magic. Josephine could feel the magic linger on her skin and dance along her cheeks as Hecate spread the cards out in front of her, “Pick three cards.”

Josephine didn’t hesitate. She went for the middle card, for good luck, and then grabbed two from each opposite side. She pulled them out with her fingers and sat back in her chair slightly. Hecate hummed an earthy tune once again, picking the cards up and discarding the rest to the side. She whispered some sort of chant and pressed each one face down in front of Josephine.

“We flip the cards one at a time. Do not speak until I explain the card to you.”

Josephine nodded.

“First one,” Hecate flipped over the card. The Tower? It was an image of a long building, with lightning erupting from the very top. Josephine furrowed her brow and Hecate continued, “This is… a negative card. It is a card of upheaval, of sudden and profound change. Imagine a towering structure, built upon fragile foundations of illusion and falsehoods. When the lightning strikes, when truth and clarity pierce the veil of deception, the tower crumbles.”

“What does that mean?”

“It means… change is happening, child. And sometimes, this card can be positive… but in your case, I’m not so sure.”

Goosebumps ran along Josephine’s spine, “Next one,” was the only thing she managed to get out. Could this be change regarding a death, like Persephone, or change that all of Olympus is destined to fall?

Hecate flipped over the next card. A blank.

“That’s strange. I don’t have any blanks in my deck,” Hecate’s eyebrow rose, “You are special; indeed, it seems. We shall move onto the third card, now.”

Josephine felt somewhat disappointed that she didn’t get a second card. But from the way the first sounded, she didn’t bother with nagging or asking questions. Hecate flipped the card over. Eight of Swords, whatever that meant. What was shown was an image of two swords clashing; and behind it, a woman cradling herself. More tiny swords could be seen behind her.

“Ah, Eight of Swords,” Hecate tapped the card with her long, unhuman-like index nail, “it speaks of a prison of the mind, a web of illusions that bind you. Look closely at the imagery: the blindfolded woman surrounded by swords. She believes herself trapped, yet her feet are unbound, and the swords do not pierce her. The Eight of Swords is a reminder that often, the chains that bind us are of our own making. It is the fear, the doubts, the limiting beliefs that imprison us. But like the woman in the card, you have the power to remove the blindfold, to see beyond the illusions."

“What do you mean?”

Hecate smiled faintly, and placed a hand on Josephine’s. Her skin was warm and soft like her mother’s, “Shift your perspective, dare to question your assumptions and beliefs. The swords may surround you, but they are not real. They are the shadows of your fears.”

“Tartarus…” Jase mumbled under his breath, and Josephine stood suddenly. Enough.

Jase walked towards the door and Josephine followed, but before she take one step out the door, Hecate’s voice echoed through the cottage like a song, “Remember, child of bloodshed, the Tower may fall, but from its ashes rises the phoenix of your destiny."

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Fri Mar 29, 2024 5:07 pm
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RavenAkuma wrote a review...



Hello Again, My Friend!

It's me, Raven, and I'd like to review the next chapter in this great story using my Familiar method! Let's dive in, shall we? Heh heh heh...

What The Black Eyes See...

Oh wow, this chapter was INCREDIBLE! The underworld is as amazing as I remember, with its luxurious descriptions, and Hecate's reading was so fascinating, it really sucked me into the story! Let's get into the details though.

Where The Dagger Points...

No corrections or recommendations to make here! Great writing job!

Why The Grin Widened...

Descriptions for the underworld were absolutely great, you really nailed the atmosphere. How something felt different, but details on what, how, or why were vague or absent, so there's a little mystery going there.

Moving into Hecate's area, I loved the sort of bluntness that Hecate initially had while addressing Josephine, it kind of reminded me of how a parent would react to an in-law they didn't like, haha.

And of course, what I'm eager to get to, the reading! Oh, I loved it!

Josephine could feel the magic linger on her skin and dance along her cheeks as Hecate spread the cards out in front of her


This note, among others in that great buildup, really amped up the atmosphere and gave it an ethereal, magical feeling that resonated with me. It spoke to Hecate's powers as the goddess of magic, and immediately had me invested in what cards Josephine would pick, and what they would mean. Your staging was spot-on, big props for that!

"This is… a negative card. It is a card of upheaval, of sudden and profound change. Imagine a towering structure, built upon fragile foundations of illusion and falsehoods. When the lightning strikes, when truth and clarity pierce the veil of deception, the tower crumbles.”


This says a lot. It feels like this is something that has been actively happening in this story, honestly. Gods are turning rogue, including some Josephine should've been able to have a baseline of trust and respect for, and you can feel it's connected to something deeper going on in Olympus -and as a result, many lies and deceptions are being exposed. And when she thought of Persephone being a part of it, ah! So tense, so much anticipation!

The blank card really caught my attention; it's so eerie, especially when Hecate revealed that she didn't have any blanks. With only that cryptic note of "you are special" about it, you can't help wondering what it really means -if it means anything.

The final card was my favorite moment:

She believes herself trapped, yet her feet are unbound, and the swords do not pierce her. The Eight of Swords is a reminder that often, the chains that bind us are of our own making.


Yes, yes, yes! This fits Josephine so well! So many times, she's doubted herself and her capabilities in one way or another. Considering how most of the time these cards represent past, present, and future (which makes sense with the first card being something that has and is continuing to happen), if this is her future, it makes me hope that she can finally and fully overcome that obstacle before all hell breaks loose.

But then why is her present blank? Ah, so much to think about here...

Our Mad Thoughts...

Overall, awesome chapter, nicely done! :)

Image





It had a perfectly round door like a porthole, painted green, with a shiny yellow brass knob in the exact middle. The door opened on to a tube-shaped hall like a tunnel: a very comfortable tunnel without smoke, with panelled walls, and floors tiled and carpeted, provided with polished chairs, and lots and lots of pegs for hats and coats—the hobbit was fond of visitors. The tunnel wound on and on, going fairly but not quite straight into the side of the hill —The Hill, as all the people for many miles round called it—and many little round doors opened out of it, first on one side and then on another.
— JRR Tolkien