Chapter 70: The Serpent of Calamity


Carina was unaware of how long she had been falling. Her body felt like a weightless leaf yanked along by an invisible force that continued to pull her down. The panicked butterflies in her stomach collided frantically against the pounding in her chest as she waited for a sudden impact—that never came.

The nothingness surrounding the ice witch filled her with a strange sense of déjà vu and dread. She could feel her eyes blinking, but there was nothing to see. Soon enough, Carina began to wonder if she was falling or merely floating. She couldn’t even feel her limbs or body, which had become as fluid and intangible as the dark, expansive void around her.

‘Am I dead? If I don’t have a body, doesn’t that make me a spirit?’

The strange irony of such a fate tickled against her throat, and the laugh that followed startled the Duchess. The muffled sound faded so abruptly, as if swallowed up by the void that Carina wondered if she had only imagined laughing.

‘What is this place? And where is the serpent that dragged me down here?’

As if summoned by her thought, a sliver of light appeared, coiling through the nothingness above her. Carina tensed as the giant demonic white serpent slithered overhead, its vibrantly white body illuminating a rippling surface between them like a river.

‘How is it moving like that? And where is it going?’

The colorless serpent paused and turned its head. Frightening, soulless black eyes stared back at the ice witch as a scarlet serpent’s tongue flicked impatiently in her direction.

‘Does it—want me to follow?’

Carina’s initial gut reaction was to refuse, but then she questioned why the creature was giving her a choice now after dragging her here so violently. After a moment of careful consideration, the ice witch decided that it couldn’t hurt to try, given the alternative appeared to be remaining trapped alone in this void—possibly forever. She nodded at the formidable creature and then followed as the serpent continued its journey.

The fluid river-like surface below her was surprisingly sturdy, almost as if an invisible sheet of glass had been placed over the surface. ‘Or maybe it isn’t water at all but some type of fabric?’

The thought amused her and tugged a smile from Carina’s lips. The ice witch froze in place behind the glittering serpent as she felt the same tingling sensation in her cheeks flood through her numb body, which soon materialized before her eyes. Carina reached up hesitantly to touch her chest and cheek and breathed a sigh of relief as she felt the unmistakable tingle of pressure against her skin.

‘Okay, that was freaky, but—at least I’m not a ghost.’

The demonic white serpent’s body began to rise and bend as stairs, made from the same dark fluid material as the rest of the void, took shape, leading them up to where a faint light emerged, outlining several shadowy pillars in the distance.

The strange pale light grew brighter with every step, so much so that Carina had to shield her eyes, peeking through her fingers to keep track of the luminous serpent that almost melded into the chilling divine glow above.

‘Where are you taking me?’

The tip of the barely visible demonic serpent’s tail grazed the ice witch’s leg as they reached the top step where the pillars and what Carina could only describe as a giant luminous moon waited. The ice witch hesitated and glanced behind her to where the vast void of empty darkness loomed, then turned back, closed her eyes, and stepped into the tingling, blinding light.

The glaring light pressing against her closed eyelids faded when her foot hit solid ground. Carina held up a hand as she cautiously opened her eyes to stare at the cone-shaped room with an arched ceiling of glittering gray stone that framed twelve transparent windows that looked out into the void beyond them. Or at least, Carina thought they were windows until she approached the first alcove and realized that it was a door that led to what could only be described as a tiny universe. Each alcove held a different universe with various planets, some with multiple suns, swirling in a Milky Way of celestial bodies. A few of the doors were empty, while at least three held what she guessed to be floating rubble as if the universes within them had imploded.

“What—is this place?”

“My brother’s garden,” the Unmaker replied, materializing in his glowing stag form in the center of the room, startling the ice witch with his sudden appearance.

Carina glanced back at the ruins of the unnamed universe, then stepped toward the immortal hesitantly. “Why am I here?”

“You are here to make a choice,” the Unmaker replied, turning its soulless black gaze toward the ceiling where a swirling sea of celestial bodies glowed above them. “I’m afraid irrelevant questions will have to wait as time passes differently in here, and any delay could result in unexpected ramifications.”

The ice witch shivered in silence as she watched the glowing stag summon three stars from the ceiling, which fell slowly toward the center floor that rippled with the same fluid black material as the void outside.

‘Wait—is that—space?’

The stars pulled from their orbit by the Unmaker fell silently toward the waiting vacuum below that rippled like fluid as it swallowed the three celestial balls of light. The dark liquid trembled as more ripples formed where the three stars had fallen. Thin tendrils of light soon emerged like a sprouting plant, then grew and grew until three glowing trees of heavenly light, each taller than the last, filled the strange room.

Carina trembled in silent awe as she examined each tree in turn, from the smallest tree with glowing fruit-like stars that resembled tiny white cherries to the medium tree where the glowing orbs of light strangely resembled white apples to the even larger tree with massive watermelon-sized stars.

“You should know that, regardless of your choice, I have promised to support you in Viktor’s stead. Is that understood?”  The Unmaker looked at her expectantly, but the ice witch could only manage a silent nod in response. “Good. Now, I shall explain what options you have, Demigod.

“If you eat the fruit of the smallest tree, you will be reborn in another world far from Ramiel and the other gods’ reach. This world will be similar to the one your shard was hidden in. There will be no magic, no connection between mortals and gods, only a slowly evolving civilization of mortals limited by the same human emotions of greed, ambition, anger, and fear that you have already experienced.

“If you make this choice, you will not retain your memories. You will start over with a clean slate, unburdened by all your other past lives. The fruit will also grant you a blessing of good luck, which will aid you in pursuing any life you choose. Moreover, you have my word that I will do everything to ensure you live a long, fulfilling life before dying of old age.”

Carina exhaled sharply as she blinked in slow, stunned disbelief before turning her gaze to the next tree expectantly.

“Let’s—skip the middle one for now,” the Unmaker continued, sounding faintly unsatisfied by her lack of response. “If you eat the fruit from the largest tree, you will become an immortal of the Celestial Rank, your father’s rank. However, this will require a period of sleep, which will feel like a single night’s rest here in the garden of creation but will translate into a hundred years in Zemfira, the universe you came from, which contains Lafeara. Additionally, while you will retain your memories of Viktor, all memories of your other lives, Kirsi’s conflict with the gods, the mortals and witches you both once knew will be erased.”

The limbs of the giant tree trembled as the demonic white serpent reappeared. The creature’ snowy-scaled body, much smaller in size than before, coiled down the glowing trunk as its venomous black eyes flickered in Carina’s direction before slithering through the black void that rippled around the celestial tree roots as it wriggled toward the middle tree.

“Your final option—” the Unmaker continued as he watched the demonic serpent coil around the second tree. “—is the fruit of the central tree. If you eat it, you will inherit most of the power of a Celestial God, but you will remain in the body of a mortal with a finite lifespan limit of one year in which to become a god. In that time, you must complete the tasks prepared by the Maker and myself in order to prove yourself. Succeed, and you will be immediately reborn and join the ranks of the Celestial Gods. Those tasks include the following:

“First, you must kill another reigning God. You seem to have a target in mind, but you must understand that while you remain mortal, you are vulnerable and still physically classified as a Demigod. In contrast, Veles and Arachne are both Divine Deities, which is one rank below a Celestial God. However, Kritanta is an Ascendant God, which is one level above a Demigod.

“Regardless of who you choose, if you succeed, this will allow you to take over their Covens, which just so happens to help with the next task.

“Your Second task will be rebuilding Viktor’s Covens to their previous glory. There is no specific metric by which to measure this beyond gaining enough support to complete the final task.

“The Third and Final task will be to establish Lafeara or any Kingdom of your choice as a Witch Nation that revers you as their one true god. Once you have completed all these tasks—likely destroying the Zemfira as you know it in the process—I will return for the last time to remove your mortal husk and allow you to be reborn as a Celestial Deity.”

“I see…” Carina murmured numbly, her gaze returning to the demonic white serpent that swayed lazily from the branches of the middle tree. “And what is he?”

“That is my gift to you, the Serpent of Calamity, made from the same dark void the Maker used to create Viktor but much more volatile and destructive. As long as you remain in Zemfira, he will act as your servant and protector.”

“But not if I choose to remain a mortal, forget everything, and live a normal life—”

“A normal, boring, and incredibly peaceful life filled with luck,” the Unmaker interjected. “Which, after everything you’ve endured—is a reward in and of itself.”

“If I could forget everything, I suppose that would make the choice easier, but…” Even as Carina spoke the words, the faces of Ivy, Hana, and Beaumont swept unbidden through her thoughts. “My only other choices are basically the easy and hard ways to become a Celestial God.”


The ice witch chuckled dryly as she rubbed her temple tiredly. “A lot can happen in a hundred years.”

“Trust me when I say that the Maker and I will be paying very close attention to the delicate balance of power between the gods in your absence. Zemfira is already teetering towards the brink of destruction.”

“But forgetting everything, apart from Viktor, would remove any reason for me to become a god,” Carina whispered through gritted teeth. “Even if Zemfira still exists, I would remain weaker than the other gods without a Coven and blind to their true nature. Everyone I know will either be dead or twisted by some other god’s power.”

“Even easy choices have consequences. Such is the rule of existence.”

The ice witch groaned and crossed her arms tensely. “I don’t know what the consequences will be, but if I choose the difficult shortcut, that would allow me to proceed as planned while protecting my friends. I defeat Arachne and consolidate the water covens beneath my reign with Prince Llyr’s help, making Strugna the most obvious choice for a kingdom to rule and gather followers—”

“I’m afraid you will find that Strugna, much like Lafeara, has its own internal politics to contend with. There is still a significant portion of the Water Covens who revere Arachne, not to mention, in your mortal form, it will be difficult for you to enter her realm—much less survive a battle with her.”

“You keep trying to dissuade me.” Carina scoffed quietly as she stepped into the void toward the middle tree, where the white serpent raised its head with an almost eager hiss. “So, why do I feel like I have only one choice.”

“Because you’re mortal and not used to having that choice. Because the freedom to choose your own heaven or hell has been complicated by the ideology of the two worlds you already stand torn between,” the Unmaker replied with a hint of cynicism. “Some mortals dream of living a blissful life of peace, family, stability, and comfort. Others dream of dumping their shitty lives to obtain even the smallest chance of achieving absolute power. And then there are those individuals who will throw themselves into a flood or burning building, step in front of a tank or bullet, to give someone else a chance to keep living with no thought of what they are sacrificing in that moment.”

The colorless demonic serpent coiled its cold body around Carina’s arm as the Calamity Witch plucked one of the glowing white apple-shaped stars from the middle tree. The celestial fruit’s skin immediately turned black, speckled with red drops that dripped like blood into the abyss of darkness below.

“Then I guess—this is me—choosing hell,” Carina whispered before sinking her fangs into the bittersweet crimson star.


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