Nialane Antaeus/Training Begins

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Nia's Diary

“Nia, are you awake?” My father’s voice echoed through the Altar room as he searched for me. The second reverberation awoke me from my nap. I’d curled up in my favorite corner with a book and drifted off hours before.

“I am now dad,” I murmured, stretching and smoothing my clothes. Though barely awake it seemed odd that he didn’t search for me with his mind like he usually did.

“There is something I want to show you,” he replied excitedly. I was still rubbing my eyes but I could hear his footsteps coming toward me quickly. He had never been like this before—part of me wondered if I was dreaming.

He stood in front of me, hushed, while I still rubbed my eyes. As my closed fists dropped away from my eyes, I could hear his voice change. Awestruck, he told me, “Nia, you are beautiful.” I wondered what the occasion was.

As I opened my eyes and waited for the haze to dissipate, the unfamiliarity of his face struck me right away. The mask that he wore over his eyes was gone. He didn’t glow like he normally did when he was looking at me. Instead I was struck by what had replaced the ostentatious mask he normally wore. His soft, loving eyes peered over me, brimming with tears. I couldn’t help but rub my eyes a second time just to ensure I wasn’t seeing things.

What struck me was that he was seeing me for the first time. “I can see Nia, I can see you.” I was sure he told me to remind me that I was really awake. He reached out for my hands to steady me. I’m sure I had to look like a seasick human.

My hair was a mess from my long nap. I reached up and tried to straighten it out as best as I could, but I still felt…floaty. Something had to be wrong, I had to be dreaming. “Dad, w…what happened?” It was what I had always wished for, but never thought was possible.

He explained to me how our new cousins had helped him recover his sight. As I struggled to contemplate how it could have happened I knew I wasn’t sleeping anymore. The impossible had become reality. Finishing his vague description of the ritual, he still hadn’t pulled his gaze away from me. He picked me up and hugged me tightly.

The way I must have looked to him was the first thing I thought of. No amount of smoothing or finger-combing could fix my hair, my robes were rumpled, and I looked, well, like I had just rolled out of bed. It was hardly the way I would have chosen for my father to see me the first time. If I had known he was coming and would be able to see me I would have tried to clean myself up a bit. “Are you disappointed?” As he put me down and knelt to talk to me, he gave me the look I always expected to see when he thought I was asking a silly question, but it was silly in a way that almost felt like it hurt. He curled his fingers around my chin and stared into my eyes.

“No, Nia. When I look at you I see myself and I see your mother. I couldn’t be more pleased.” I could tell from the tears running down his face that he was just as shocked as I was.

He had been so vague about how it happened, and the look on his face told me that something about it was scary. “Why didn’t you tell me you were going to do this?” I wished I had been there to support him.

“I didn’t know if it was going to work. I didn’t want you to be disappointed.” The tears continued to flow down his cheeks though he still smiled at me as he held my face in his hand.

“Daddy, whether or not you could see me doesn’t change that I love you, and I want to be there no matter what happens.” I was so used to him not being able to see my tears that I didn’t bother to fight them back.

Staring into his eyes, I stopped to survey the rest of his face. I imagined what he would have looked like when I was a baby, and for a moment, I lamented the lost time. “I know, Nia. I love you, too. I came and found you as soon as I was able to reorient myself.” He pulled me back into his arms and just held me there until I lost track of time. We didn’t cry out of sadness: my father had been made whole once more, and though he could see my form before, I was more real than ever to him.

I smiled through the tears as I remembered the many days we had spent together since I arrived. Despite his lack of vision, he still read to me, though it took more effort. I’d curl up in his arms and he’d read to me for hours on end, often until I fell asleep. That night I had read myself to sleep early, trying to learn some of the rituals required for priesthood. I was eager to impress my father no matter how difficult the tasks were—after all, I was the daughter of Nikias, descendant of the House of Antaeus, and I had big expectations to live up to. But in this long moment, I didn’t need any of that. I was just happy to be his daughter, tangled hair and all.

“Nia, my little one, it is the middle of the night. Time to sleep.” He lifted me into his arms and walked slowly. I grew drowsy with the rocking motion of his steps, and my last vision was of his soft gaze focused on my face. Still he was studying my features, trying to memorize them, smiling all the while.


Nia's Diary, Later That Week

When I opened my eyes again, dad was perched in his usual chair. I could tell that he had been awake a while just watching me sleep. His fingers were wrapped around the little trinket I had made him weeks before and holding it, twisting it in the dim light and studying it. Silently I watched him for a few seconds, just long enough for him to realize I was awake. He grasped the trinket and slipped it back into a pocket on the inside of his robe as he dashed to my side. Sitting on the edge of my bed, he swept my hair away from my face to look into my eyes.

“Your aunt was right. You do have my eyes,” he whispered, smiling. “Good morning little one.”

I squirmed under the blankets, stretching and trying to wake up. He held a familiar book in his hand, one that I wasn’t necessarily happy to see him holding.

“I found your little storybook. Are these stories you have been writing about your travels?” The look on his face was a combination of curiosity and astonishment, though I wasn’t sure why he would be astonished.

Gulping hard, I whispered in reply, “Yes”. An embarrassed expression overtook my face and my cheeks turned a deep violet.

Dad couldn’t help but chuckle as he replied. “Don’t be embarrassed. These are great, Nia. You’re quite an accomplished little writer. So much that I think you should become a chronicler.”

My eyebrows furrowed. “What’s that, daddy?”

He explained to me how a chronicler is someone who records the history of their people, and how he had been one of the primary chroniclers in Atlantis for a significant period of time. Pride radiated from him as he talked about having me take on this duty. It wasn’t a job I wasn’t interested in taking—after all, I love to write, especially about interesting events. When I had first come to the surface, I had even thought about writing for what they called a newspaper. But there wasn’t as much poetry in those stories as in the many tales and myths I found in freshly stitched bindings in the library in Atlantis. Here, our stories were just as much about the content as they were about the art.

When I agreed to it, I watched his smile brighten and grow wider. “But,” he told me, “Let’s just take today off. Okay?”

I loved dad’s random days off: after all, he always found something fun for us to do together and I got him all to myself. Dad would often say, “You have plenty of time ahead of you to be an adult, but for now, you are my baby girl. I don’t want to lose a second of that time.” Grinning back at him, I nodded enthusiastically.

He knelt behind me and gently brushed the knots out of my hair, laughing to himself, “I don’t understand how you manage to practically tie cord out of your hair while you sleep.” Though he couldn’t see me, I pursed my lips at him. He wrapped his arms around me and pulled me back into his lap, chuckling heartily. “Nialane Antaeus, I see that look on your face!” Roaring with laughter, he kissed my forehead.

I scowled at him playfully. He couldn’t help but say what he was thinking out loud: “It’s so cute!” I sighed and reached for a pillow to thwack him with.


Nia's Diary, the Following Week

I understand now why father needs to meditate now. The burdens of others, easily felt in the empath’s mind, overwhelm the psyche unless proper time is given to decompress. Happiness, joy, elation—those wonderful emotions—they don’t leave an impression on the mind as sternly as the throbbing, ragged stripes left by pain, fear, grief. Bliss could simply tiptoe across an empath’s mind, like footprints in the sand, unless the empath was looking for them.

What she said ripped through my mind. I was used to father reading my mind, knowing things I wished he didn’t, but this girl—she appeared out of nowhere and tore into my memories like a shiny Christmas present.

“She doubts him…”

I doubt his ability to stay alive. Despite his best intentions there are beings more powerful than he that would find his soul to be a prized possession, his life a dispensable commodity. The battles he has to fight are far more dangerous than most, ones that even the most powerful beings would struggle to survive.

“…it isn’t nice.”

Who said that my deepest fear was nice? If only she knew the havoc it wreaks on me…then again, maybe she did.

“She thought she was the daughter of a peasant. What she didn’t know was that she was the daughter of a king.”

Wait! Daddy’s not a king…maybe she was talking about someone else. She kept talking, and she knew things she shouldn’t know. She couldn’t know. Emotion was swirling in my mind, sucking in all of my happiness and washing it away.

“She shouldn’t fill up like that. It will spill over.”

I was ready to. The images of myself as I fought for my father, for myself flashed before my eyes. Dad had taken the emotions associated to them but I was left to watch myself evolve into a blood thirsty beast. What I saw scared me more than what the girl said.

“She’s afraid of the monster under the bed. She doesn’t know a secret—the monster is under everyone’s bed.”

I was aware enough to realize I was losing control. My mind reached back into the recesses and thought of the training dad had given me in shielding. While I wasn’t very good at it, it was worth a try.

Taking a deep breath, I surrounded the thoughts and images with an effervescent beautiful bubble. Inside it the thoughts could do whatever they wanted but they could no longer harm me. I pushed the bubble out of sight to be dealt with another time.

At first I wondered why dad hadn’t stepped in before, before I had gotten out of hand. Then I realized why—because I was capable of doing as he had taught me. This time, I didn’t need saving. This time I could take control on my own.

“Are you okay Nia?” His caution was laced with concern. He wanted to make sure I had done it.

I nodded and whispered, “I think I got it this time.” The gleaming smile he returned glossed over the approving and proud “Good job!” he replied with.

“The monster is always there,” the fallen star reminded me. But in the moment I didn’t care, wrapped around my dad’s arm with my head leaning on his shoulder. He grasped me tightly, knowing fully that I had grown tired.

And she was gone as quickly as she had appeared. We greeted Bahamutas Vox’s smiling face as he bounded toward us as we stood at the lake. Just as he had the night before, he asked him, just like he had asked Aba’dos, to assist with my training. I smiled broadly at the prospect of a new trainer. “Abby wants to eat me…” I told daddy cautiously.

“He eats little children that stay up past their bedtime,” he warned me. Apparently he had caught the yawn I tried to disguise.

“It’s not past bedtime yet,” I replied quietly.

He chuckled and led me off to bed, ending my day with the same lullaby and kiss.


Nia's Diary, the Following Week

It was early in the morning and I had awoken early, before dad, to prepare our normal picnic. Every Wednesday after training dad and I would go to Perez Park and sit with a picnic lunch, talking about the events of the previous days. To anyone else our ritual wouldn’t make sense, since I spent so much time with him anyways, but we had become accustomed to communicating telepathically and his duties often kept him from speaking. The language everyone saw us speak to one another was a series of pats on the head, hugs, smiles, and kisses, but there wasn’t anything we didn’t say to each other. He knew my every thought, every feeling as it all streamed through his mind like a coursing river. I knew it because he responded to each and every one of them with a feeling to balance me, keeping me centered and focused in my training.

There was much daddy had taught me since I told him I wanted to be a priestess. He saw the fire in my eyes, the passion in my heart, and the determination in my mind to stay the course and hopefully, one day become a priestess of his own caliber; one he would be proud to call his daughter. While prayers and rituals had come to occupy much of our time, we never seemed to become teacher and student, just a father lovingly teaching his daughter his craft, the essence of what he believed in.

Our time in the park was all about the time we couldn’t speak, and speaking those words though we already knew what the other would say. Stories of our days took on vibrancy as we retold them with laughter or suspense. We reminisced through the moments of our days—even the mundane ones—enjoying the sounds of each other’s voices and the time we could spend together.

That morning I smiled broadly as I went to gather our usual picnic, excited as I always was to spend that time with him. For a moment I paused to think about all of the research I had done over the last couple weeks, trying to find a way to ensure he would be safe in the Arctic with our cousins, and hopefully so that I could go with him. My worries about finding a way to go with dad to the Arctic were overtaken the moment I heard the chime at the gates.

Something felt…dire. I sprinted to the gates, becoming increasingly distraught as the scarlet pools caught my eye. Someone was hurt, and badly. I knew quickly by the golden dress and purple skin that it was Katara. For a brief moment I felt fortunate to be as tall and strong as I was. Carefully I hoisted her broken body and carried her into the Temple, listening carefully for her heart to continue to beat. As I reached the garden, I knew dad could sense what I was feeling. I called out to him telepathically, beseeching him to come as quickly as he could, watching Katara’s blood stain my own golden robes. Stepping back as he drew near, he didn’t even stop running to gather his power around him. Looking down at her slashed body, he asked her quietly, “What happened to you my friend?”. The telepathic bounce back we both felt was revealing of her condition: her mind was entirely closed off, by what we were not sure.

Dad sighed painfully as he healed her wounds. The marks on her body faded, though blood continued to pool around her eyes and form bruises. What had harmed her mind was unclear but it had certainly been powerful. Her breathing returned to normal, her heartbeat steadied once more, and her eyes fluttered open, surrounded by the dark banding of bruises. Tears streamed from her eyes as she tried to take in the surroundings. I recognized the look on her face right away—it hadn’t been that long since I had the same unfamiliar and scared look on my face as I took in a foreign land. What scared me most though was that the Temple was not unfamiliar to her; the Temple was home.

“Xourit ie Nikias…must protect Nikias…” she muttered as she struggled to speak the words. He ran his finger along a line where a wound once had been.

“What happened to you?” he asked her, knowing that she was now conscious. “Who attacked you?”

It was the question burning in both of our minds. Had it been the same foe that had struck down Lykaios? Father was feeling uneasy at the thought of it. I was terrified.

“Where am I?” she asked meekly. She wasn’t entirely comfortable with dad, but knew he meant her no harm.

“You are in the Temple, Katara…” he spoke worriedly.

His worried was clearly outpaced by the tone of her response. “Where is the Temple? Who is it dedicated to?” She paused to gather a deep breath into her lungs, then added, “My name is Ka-ta-ra?”

Consciously dad suppressed his own feelings, changing the tone of his voice to one that was soothing, like the sounds of waves lapping on the sand. “The Temple of the Chosen of Atlantis. You were dedicated to Isis here.”

Once again Katara’s breathing became uneven, speeding as I could tell she was panicking. I closed my eyes and tried to send her soothing thoughts, but the shield was keeping me from doing her any good. It was clear she could not remember anything about what had happened to her; she seemed to have forgotten everything entirely.

“Peace my friend. You are safe, I am safe.” He reached to her shoulder to steady her, and offer her a measure of comfort.

She squinted, trying to focus on father’s face. Dad realized right away why her wounds had healed on every other inch of her body, but not on her head. The shield was not only protecting her mind, it was keeping him out too. Father and I wondered in tandem whether or not the shield had been placed out of benevolence or malice. What was behind it was certainly the key to what had happened to her.

“You are…Nikias…” She spoke his name vacantly, as though it was both unfamiliar and known at the same time.

Dad took a deep breath, wanting to explain to her what was happening to her now, in the hopes that it might make her feel more secure. “I am. Katara, your mind is shielded, even from yourself.”

Her eyes focused on an unknown space as she touched her hand gingerly to her forehead. “He had an aura…like yours.” Quickly she became frustrated. “Why can’t I remember his face?” We could hear her struggle through the few memories she had, of the hazy moments near death in the man’s arms as he left her at the gates. Of the prayers I had spoken over her to heal enough of her wounds to keep her alive until dad arrived.

I was confused by what she had said, but father understood it right away. “Like me…” he spoke quietly.

“The little girl…she had your eyes.” Katara spoke clearly to him though she wasn’t looking at him.

“My daughter, Nia.” He explained to her. “She found you.”

Katara became more at peace as she connected his information to her memories. She reached around her, trying to steady herself.

“Can you stand?” Dad asked her gently, trying not to rush her, knowing her head was badly injured and he couldn’t do anything about it.

She planted her hands firmly to her sides and stood slowly. “Oh my head…I can’t see…very well…” she winced.

He sensed her body weakening as she stood. If he couldn’t heal her mind, then he had to heal her body as much as possible until they figured out a way. Raising his power around us once more as he held his hand out, he steadied her with the other hand. “You are weakened by the fight. Your strength will come back in time.” He tried to reassure her though he also knew it wasn’t just the battle causing her pain.

“How did I get like this? I don’t remember…I just remember, I had to protect you.” I recognized the signs of her condition from a human medical book I had read a few years back. She had a concussion, and a bad one at that. The bruising around her eyes was telltale of that. I relayed the information telepathically to father and told him that she must rest, that she would become worse if she continued to exert herself.

Dad spoke gently to her, to ensure that he didn’t alarm her. “Let me take you to the ritual room to see if I can help find what can be done to help you. Follow me if you can.”

Her first step was uneasy, the second almost nonexistent. She looked to him fearfully, afraid to take another step. He girded her weight with his arm, nearly carrying her through the garden and to the ritual room. “I will see what can be done.” His tone was determined and reassuring.

Releasing his hold on her when they reached the altar, she braced herself against the smooth stone. A deep sleep overtook her as she laid down on the surface, her strength giving out. Father and I looked to one another, wondering if there would be anything we could do at all.

“The medical book, Nia. We’ll need it,” he spoke telepathically. I nodded as I sprinted for the library. Dad sighed deeply once more as he gathered his power. It would be a long day of continuous healing to keep her alive, we both knew.

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