Path of the Exile IV

The sound of the bow string stretching was amplified by the stillness and quiet of the cool dessert evening. Athena lined up her shot, just as she had done hundreds of times before, only this time the target was someone who trusted her, someone who may have even loved her. Serqet suspected nothing as they journeyed away from Aaru, wandering the empty roads on the path to Duat. She was under the impression that Set was plotting to kill her on the open roads and that her companion, Athena, would be the one to keep her safe. Athena told Serqet that she needed to remain at a distance to survey the land and guard her from afar with her superb archery skills. It was an expertly crafted lie that took advantage of Serqet's trust.

Athena trembled as she tried to steady her shot. The typically unflinching assassin found herself taking shallow breaths while her conscious pleaded with her to stop.

"What are you doing?" she thought to herself. The part of her that was Aphrodite was practically begging her to turn away.

"You are nothing. I made us strong."

Was she losing her mind? It felt like there were two people living inside her head. One, the unfeeling assassin and the other, a love addicted ditz.

"Lucifer's betrayal was not our fault!" her mind screamed.

"It was your fault. You let him in. You let him manipulate us."

"We were in love!"

"You were in lust. You had a duty to your husband- to your people. They died because of you."

"We can't kill her! She trusts us! She loves us!"

"That's her mistake."

Athena took a deep breath and steadied her body. The thoughts of Aphrodite were screaming at her to stop, begging her to put the bow down, pleading for her to see reason. Conflicting voices swirled in her head, dragging this moment out for what felt like hours. One voice finally rose among the two, giving the clear and concise order that she needed to hear.

"Do it."

And with that simple command, she released the bow string. The arrow cut through the dessert air as it careened towards the target. The tip pierced Serqet's back on the upper left side, forcing her to collapse to the ground.

"NOOOO!" Aphrodite's voice screamed in her mind, as she watched Serqet writhe in pain.

She was aiming for the back of the neck, trying to make this a quick and clean kill. The shot was off target, and now Serqet was trying to crawl, clearly still alive. She would have to finish her off. Athena slowly started making her way over to Serqet, terrified at what she was about to witness. The closer she got, the more she could here hear Serqet's labored breathing. She was on all fours now, desperately trying to crawl away, unsure what was happening.

"h-help." she meekly squeaked out between the wheezing coughs. She reached towards Athena, still unaware of the betrayal that had taken place.

Athena struggled to lay eyes on her. The labored breathing meant the arrow punctured a lung. She attempted to discretely remove her dagger from the sheathe on her thigh but was trembling so intensely that the weapon fell to the ground for Serqet to plainly see.

It all came together for Serqet now. Athena did not bring her out here to save her. "please...d-don't..." she said as she tried to back away from her betrayer.

Athena scooped the dagger off the ground, still trying to steady herself for the final kill. She made her way over to Serqet who was still fruitlessly attempting to escape her fate.

Serqet finally collapsed on her stomach, unable to find the energy to keep crawling. She tried to drag herself across the ground digging her hands into the sand, pulling herself forward.

Normally, Athena would have found the site to be pathetic, but her heart was torn in two as she was forced to watch someone she cared for suffer.

It was a familiar feeling.

It was the same feeling she had when she witnessed the aftermath at Valhalla. The corpses, the fires, the destruction, and everyone she cared for, dead and buried under the rubble. Tears welled up in her eyes as she placed her hand on Serqet's back, knowing what she had to do. It was too late to back out now. Serqet would only suffer a slow death drowning from her own blood under the brutal dessert sun if she was left here.

It had to be quick.

Serqet rolled over onto her back, snapping the arrow, driving the tip further into her body. She let out an agonizing gasp as metallic, silver blood dripped from her mouth.

"w-why?" she asked in between a gasp, trying to make sense of all this.

"I'm sorry." Athena gently whispered as a tear rolled down her cheek. She plunged her dagger into Serqet, who shrieked in pain. Athena held Serqet close as the last breath of life escaped her body.

The betrayal was completed.

After centuries of building a new identity, pushing all emotion to the depths of her mind, and blocking out anyone that cared for her, something finally broke the assassin as she sat on the dessert sand with her lifeless lover, limp in her arms. She betrayed someone she loved for wealth and status. She was no better than the monstrous Archangels that massacred her people. She wept for the first time since Valhalla, unable to control herself, unable to contain the repressed rage, grief, and guilt that had slowly eaten her alive over the years.

She tried so hard to bury Aphrodite, calling her weak, re-labeling herself as Athena. It was all a lie. She was the same Aphrodite from Valhalla, and she knew that.

The only difference between then and now is she was the killer

This time, it was all her decision.

Though the dessert sand would eventually absorb this blood, her heart was forever tainted with this murder.

She would never be able to forgive herself for the monster she chose to be