“The universe stops for Merrie’s next decision,” announced Parn.
The world shuddered around Merrie. She looked up from the crater. The impact had broken bones and she could taste the healing magic of her collar in the back of her throat. It would take hours to handle the ten meter fall, but she would survive.
“Merrie survived her fall without injuries.”
In the next, Merrie was fine. Untouched and unharmed. She ached from her hours of waiting but otherwise she felt fine. She looked at the curved walls around her.
Seeing the universe completely stopped made her realize how little the reapers slowed down the explosion. Everything was frozen in place, caught in mid-air.
She looked at Parn who was kneeling next to her. (You could have saved everyone.) It wasn’t a question.
The goddess nodded.
(Why didn’t you?)
“Gods should not directly affect the world. It would escalate the battle until humanity is nothing more than pawns in their battles. That is why we are… encouraged not to have a direct hand.”
“I’m allow to affect lives of those who are directly touched by me. You are one of mine. I created the True Submissives as my champions and to answer my questions.”
Merrie squirmed for a minute. “Champion, like a paladin?”
Parn looked around. “Everything I say for the next minute will not automatically come true.”
The universe rippled around both of them, the ground shimmering with something more powerful than any spell Merrie had dreamed about.
Parn smiled and rubbed her thigh. “It feels good not to watch my words. To answer your question, yes and no. Paladins are the lone warriors against their god’s enemies. You, on the other hand, must have someone. You must work with others to gain power. You tie people together by your nature, not use them to advance yourself.”
(Is… everything that happened to me because of you?)
Parn shrugged. “There is no destiny. Just… suggestions. I wasn’t expecting you to become the Omega. The rules in the universe were there, I just didn’t know it could happen. That’s part of the beauty of reality, I don’t know what is going to happen. That is why I don’t speak up much, I want to see what will happen naturally.”
A ghost of a smile crossed her lips. “To be honest, I like to see struggle. There is no greater beauty than watching someone struggle with a life or death choice against some surmountable barrier.”
“Oh, yes, love.” Parn sighed and smiled broadly. “When you risked your entire life to warn Bass and the others about the paladins, it was one of the most glorious moments of your life.”
And then she realized, Gillette was silencing her with his gauntlet. She tried to bark, but no noise came out, but she could scream. Exploring gingerly, she dug into her mind and sought out Catais’ spell that silenced her. She found it after a moment and quickly scanned over it. It was preventing her from making noises as a dog. A subtle and precise spell, like most psychics, and one that took advantage of her geas.
Merrie could make other noises, but the geas would never let her. She shuddered at the remembered pain when she screamed as a human, the feeling of her insides tearing themselves open and the blood that ran down out of every orifice. She couldn’t do that again. Even if she could, a scream would bring Bass running. As would calling his name. There wasn’t any way she could warn of the attack.
And then she found something to say.
She gathered up the command. (Call for help,) and sent it. She winced with anticipation as the order came rippling through the collar. It was going to kill her, but she would die for her mistress. Gathering up her energy, she took a deep breath and then another one. The spell was a simple one, taught by her grandfather and Haviston, but useless with her geas. It was to increase the sound of her voice and she never needed it before now. Her panting whistled between Gillette’s fingers, adding to the anticipation that she was about to die.
Steeling herself, she melted away. The light dispelled the magic, but she only needed to escape his grip. As she came back, only centimeters away but outside of his fingers, she inhaled and screamed the only thing she knew would warn the Puppy Mill.
The spell to enhance her voice tore her vocal cords, ripping them apart as she said the first words she had said in five years. They echoed painfully across the trees, reflecting and echoing in a rumble of noise.
She tensed as she waited for her body to tear itself apart, nothing happened. She only had a moment to wonder why she wasn’t dead when Gillette jerked forward.
Merrie shuddered at the memory, she had just lost Fang and paladins were poisoned to destroy Bass and the others. The geas didn’t kill her though, she remembered earlier that it would last until she touched the marker where she had lost her arms and legs; she had splinters of it in her leg but she didn’t know that at the time.
Parn’s eyes sparkled with lightning. “Yes, that moment. That was the most wonderfully glorious moment of your life. I didn’t know it was coming, it was a surprise. You surprised me, Merrie.” She stroked her thumb along Merrie’s jaw. “In that moment, as in many other times, you exceeded everything I hoped of the True Submissives.”
Parn’s thumb circled to press lightly against Merrie’s throat. The old woman smiled sweetly for a moment. “I will take away all all of your geasa. Every limitation, every limit. The Royal Geas and every other promise you have made. I will strip you bare of all obligations.”
Merrie stared at the goddess with shock.
“If you decide now, you can freely walk out of the crater and tell the world about the Royal Geas, sleeping with the prince, and even the queen’s secrets. Nothing will stop you.”
(I can’t do that.)
“No, my sweet thing,” Parn said with a smile. “You can do it, you choose not to.”
(I won’t do it!)
The Goddess of Oaths stroked Merrie’s throat. “I know, that’s why I’m going to ask you to take on the limitations of both the Royal and Justice geasa willingly.”
(Willingly? You mean put the geas on myself?)
“No, just chose to act as if they are there.”
(Wouldn’t it be easier to leave them on me? Or to put the Justice Geas on me? You can do it, right?)
“I can, I don’t want to.”
Merrie frowned. There was something growing around her, a feeling of importance, but she couldn’t wrap her mind what the goddess was asking her.
“Merrie, I want you to choose the geas. Not just to take it on, but every decision. I want to see you struggle with every word and every choice: you will struggle to keep the royal family’s secrets with your own lips, you will have to decide not to take power from submission, you will have to choose not to use your magic to save you. That is what I want. Not one choice, all choices. All struggles.”
Merrie stared at her as it finally struck her. She wasn’t going to have the warning the geasa gave her, the taste in the back of her mouth or the erased memories. All the limitations but without the safeguards.
“No quite. You will also be able to break them without harm. You can have the full measure of your power by choosing to do so.”
Merrie got confused again. No warnings that she was going to break it but also no consequences. No, there would be consequences but she wouldn’t have to worry about her organs liquefying out of her openings or her brain being melted. It sounded almost impossible and at the same time, pointless. Her tail dropped. (T-Then… why?)
Parn looked up at the crater. “Magical oaths are too powerful. They don’t allow disobedience. So this world uses them because they want absolute control over everything. There are nine thousand people with the Royal Geas on them right now. Nine thousand people who cannot say that the Queen is fulfilling the prophecy that heralds the destruction of the World Tree. Even if it becomes critical to save the rest of the royal family, they will not be able to disobey and sacrifice one for the greater good.”
Parn waved her hand. “You’ve gone through those same absolute limits with your other geasa. You couldn’t speak when you needed to, even though so many people wouldn’t have suffered if you did.”
(But it is needed.)
She shook her head. “Not as much as it is used. Oath magic is very powerful but you are about to go to a prison where every single person, guard and prisoner, has at least one geas on them. Fifty thousand people who cannot make a choice because someone else took that away from them.”
Parn pulled her hand away and sat down on the ground. “Being the Goddess of Oaths is hard. You’d think having someone restricted by a geas give me power and its true, but most of my power comes from those who push the limits, explore them. My greater energies come from those who barely succeed and those who barely failed.”
Parn took a deep breath. “Bass also brought me so much joy when he forced Lemetri to break her promise. That was… glorious because he demonstrated the one thing I value above all things: free will.”
Merrie lowered herself to he ground as she concentrated. Her tail rested against her bare thigh as she tried to wrap her thoughts around Parn’s words. (So… you want me to promise to obey the spirit of the geas… just so I fail?)
“Or succeed while doing so. But that choice. That crux in time, that point of decision, is what I want you to take on. I want you to decide, with every blow if you are going to gain power from it or accept the agony. Every time you have an orgasm, every time you need to speak, I want you to have that moment of doubt. Every time you do, I get a little measure of energy. Like when Madock gained power from his deals, I gain power from your decisions.”
(But… what if I can’t do it?)
“You can. You already do it, but you had help. I want you to do it without help, to take on the rest of your life with nothing more than your will and desires to guide you.”
Merrie whimpered and ducked her head. She didn’t know if she could make a life-changing decision like that. Parn was asking for more than a favor, she was asking for a promise as binding as any one that Bass made, but instead of gaining power from the promise, she would be losing it.
Parn smiled but said nothing.
Merrie twisted and looked down at her pale body. She could feel the shadows twisting inside her and the triple-beat of her heart in her chest. She was delicate and fragile, a pale veneer of skin over darkness. “What about my body?”
“You will still be made of shadows. The light will hurt and could kill you. I’m not going to take your collar away either. It will bring you back… if you decide to come back. You will have the choice now, to end your life forever or the agony of coming back.”
The memory of her body being repeatedly burned away but the sun slammed into her. She whimpered and closed her eyes tightly.
“You will also be blamed for all this destruction and death. You will be beaten, tortured, and hated. You can stop it with only a few words or a flash of magic, but I’m giving you that choice how to handle it. Will you accept the humiliation or take it for power? Will you whisper words that will harm someone else or remain silent and suffer?”
(I’ve had a hard life.)
“You will also fail to keep this promise. There will be times when you will need to speak as a woman or lash out with darkness. It will be there, waiting, but as long as you keep choosing, then you are worshiping me. It’s the point where you give up and fully embrace being mortal or the Omega that you will cease to be my champion.”
(You have the ability to rewrite reality. You can just say I accepted.)
Merrie finally understood. Her ears perked up. (You have that choice. You can control reality itself but decide to remain silent. Misyr treats you like a child even though you could destroy him with a word.)
“Three words, but yes.”
There were tears burning in Merrie’s eyes. She felt closer to the goddess for a brief moment, as if she finally understood some part of the entire universe. “Do alphas make choices?” Her throat hurt but she felt the need to talk; she was going to accept Parn’s request but needed to ask more.
“They also make their master’s decisions have more impact. More critical decisions, more choices that affect the world.”
“You give others immense power to see how they use it.”
Merrie shivered with pleasure. Then she realized she didn’t have to. With a frown, she forced herself not to gain powerful from one of the most powerful beings in the world and just let the pleasure wash over her without the tingle of gathering power.
Parn’s smile grew wider. “Very good girl.”
It was easier the second time.
Merrie took a deep breath and wiped the tears from her eyes with the back of her hand. “I’ll do it.”
“Thank you, Merrie.”
“I’m worried about failing you.”
“I… I’ll keep doing it though.”
Parn smile. She stood up and patted Merrie on the head.
Merrie watched as she started to walk away.
Then Parn stopped. “You know what I like? You didn’t ask what you get out of this. Just like Kirin, you just said yes.”
Merrie almost used telepathy. She cleared her throat and said, “Isn’t the point of your request? Everything you asked was to willingly accept not having or using my gifts.”
The Goddess of Oaths was smiling as she disappeared.
A wave of power rolled over Merrie as the universe restarted.
The full weight of her choice slammed into her. She had just willingly accepted the Justice Geas, or at least the limitations. That meant no more telepathy, no more shadows, no more magic.
Suddenly, she felt very alone and scared.
Ducking her head, she let out a soft cry. She didn’t know if she made the right choice.
It didn’t really matter, she would be making it for the rest of her life.