Fiction: Hera (3 of 3): the ultimate battle

Read first, the 2 previous parts of the story here Part 1 and Part 2 

A fictional story created and written by Damian Galvin, to capture the mythology, magic and beauty of Romania and its people. Please like and share if you enjoy this story.

After Hera had rested, and recovered from the exertions of the 7 victorious battles, she replenished her energy with food from the chamber within The Devourer’s Graveyard, in which there was much excess. For ahead she understood, probably lay the greatest battle of her life. But she remained determined, to avenge the loss of her mate, Torak. Not from a desire for revenge, but to bring the evil to an end, and rid her fellow wolves of the curses of being hunted for crimes they had not committed, the slaughtering of farm cattle.

Hera continued down the catacombs, still unable to get used to the green fog with its smell of sulphur. As she walked further, it grew warmer and somehow more familiar. She felt her own presence here.  Finally, she found the cave entry in which the sign above the door said An-Ona. She had no idea what to expect, for neither the Witch in Targu Jiu nor the demons at the entrance would give her any hints of what to expect. And she found nothing in her extensive reading, or rather, Reina’s extensive reading, the human part of this werewolf. But this time, the chamber was much more complex, with many rooms and corridors, with many pockets around the edges. It seemed void of any presence, empty somehow. She could see no living entity here. The walls were a dulled silvery finish, reflective of the fire in the centre of the room.

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Hera searched angrily for the Devout Demon within this chamber, for this was the ultimate demon. If she could find and devour this demon, she would have avenged the loss of Torak. Hera went from one pocket to another, but the space confused her. She kept seeing her own reflection in the walls, like a mirror-maze, and repeatedly ended up where she had just come from. It was confusing. She could hear a dark, unpleasant voice about the place, whispering to Hera, filling her with doubts, negative thoughts, and from time to time, it would strike her, but she saw not where the Demon was. It was behind her are one moment, then in front, then at her side, above or below her. In the darkness, she could not see the demon.

Hera began to lose her confidence, for she knew not how to combat this Devout Demon. She heard voices that she recognised, and statements that she thought she had heard before. As she travelled deeper into this chamber, slowly she was making progress, making fewer mistakes moving forward, and the reflective walls became clearer, Hera realised that maybe the Devout Demon she was fighting was in fact, herself. For the insults she was hearing, more and more she realised were from her own words in the past. The doubts, insults, unkind words, all, they were her own. The more she acknowledged this hard truth, the brighter the chamber became and the clearer her reflection. Hera realised it was impossible to fight this Demon, for it was herself she was fighting.  

It occurred to Hera, that it would be wiser to listen to the Demon’s words than to fight them, and to try to understand why and where they originated. When she heard for example, “you are lazy, and weak, and not the leader you think you are. Torak never loved you, your pack never followed you with respect” and so on, Hera asked the Demon, who she could not see, and whose voice was identical to her own so it was like listening to herself, why she was hearing these things. The Demon replied, “I did not utter these words, you did. You set your standards so high, that these were your inner doubts speaking back to you, the inverse of your own ambitions, motives, thoughts”. Hera realised that in fact, she was now confronting herself, her very being, and if she could not overcome this, she would be consumed.  With each statement from the Demon, Hera was able to now see, this was in fact herself talking. Her limitations, fears, anger, restrictions and so on, were all created by herself. As she experienced this revelation, she noticed, the green fog and the smell of vapour had disappeared. Hera felt lighter within herself, less burdened, less angry. She made her way back into the centre of the chamber, and the route seemed simpler. Gone was the fire in the centre of the room, replaced by a shaft of daylight from a porthole in the roof of the cave, emitting light. Gone also was any sense of a Demon in the room or of evil energy. Hera left the chamber, venturing back down the path through the catacombs. When she came to the place where Shadowbone’s Cellar was, the last chamber she fought it, it too was empty. Nothing. Just an empty cavern. No sign above the door, no Demon corpse or blood on the floor, and no smell of torture and death. Just an empty chamber. Hera ventured back up the path, a little way past Thargo’s Den, or what was, Hera found the branch in the path again. This time, she decided to take the unexplored path to her left. As she ventured down the path, she could smell the distinctive scent of a wolf, strong and musty. And she remembered the screams she heard, but they were gone now also. As she moved forward, the scent grew stronger and she realised, she recognised the scent, but she didn’t want to believe what she thought it was. As Hera rounded a corner, she came to a new chamber, blocked by a ramshackle wooden gate. Hera tore at the construction with her vicious claws, with determination, but still, it took considerable time to break open enough of the cave door to enter.

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Now Hera was able to enter, which led to a narrow tunnel, only a meter in height, running downhill, left, and right. At one point, a natural spring was apparent and formed as a stream. The water was warm and pure, She cris-crossed the narrow stream, jumping from left bank to right and back again, all the while travelling downhill.  In herself, she felt lighter, freer, less bound by internal chains, and constraints that bound her heart and soul before. 

Eventually, the cave opened out to a beautiful green grove, with a lake as pure as blue sky, with fish visibly darting around, and fauna so rich that it looked untouched by human hands since time began. The tunnel stopped abruptly 3 or 4 meters above the ground, and she had to leap carefully, to get down, but there was no way to get back up, or re-enter that tunnel. She paced around the lake, looking for something, for what she knew not. An exit? Another demon?  She knew not what. Eventually, she discovered a small wooden hut, definitely very old, but well made, and the area around it, was very neat, with piles of firewood, and sacks of some kind of food, grain perhaps, and many fruits stored in hanging baskets. It was late afternoon, and extremely peaceful. With the birdsong and the sound of the running water, she had rested by the wooden house and gradually fallen asleep.

While sleeping, she dreamed that she had returned to her original human form, Reina, and she was turning over the 7 battles in her mind, the lessons she had learned, and how it made her mind very peaceful. Suddenly, she was disturbed by an approaching creature, with a heavy walk, an uneven walk, as if the creature was limping.

She opened her eyes and realised she had in fact transformed back into her human form, as Reina. She lay there, naked, covered in many cuts, dirty, her hair thick with dried blood. She felt more like a caveman by her appearance. Now, very afraid of the approaching sound, she waited to see what it was with deep interpretation.

Suddenly, though the fauna, appeared a man, bare-chested, very muscular, but walking with a homemade walking crutch. The man approached, somewhat shocked to find a visitor, not least because it was a beautiful, naked, albeit wild-looking woman. But quickly his shock turned to empathy. He could see this woman was extremely afraid, and vulnerable. He approached her, kneeling down, reaching out one hand to gently touch her shoulder. He spoke softly, ‘please, do not be afraid. I will not harm you. This is my secret retreat, my second home. How did you get here?’ but before she could speak, he silenced her, and went inside to bring her a blanket to protect her dignity. He invited her in, brought her water to wash, and made some nettle tea to warm her. Reina simply lied to this handsome man, that she did not know she reached the spot but was obviously very confused. The man said calmly ‘please relax, you are in safe hands. We will clean you up, and work everything out. Oh, sorry, very rude of me, I never introduced myself. My name is Torak’.

The end