Nas was the only one to notice my nervousness. Nothing could have stopped my trembling. Zoe's life was in my hands; if I couldn't do this healing ritual, she would die.
"I don't understand," Zoe said quietly, staring up at our goddess.
She pushed back Her hood, revealing Her black eyes and lips. All those in the room started whispering to each other, about why the goddess was here when She hadn't been seen in decades.
"I'm sorry, Zoe, but there's no time to explain. I need you to trust me because if you don't, you will die." Mother spun around and commanded everyone to get out, Her voice reverberating through the stone. As Nas got up to follow Ava and Violet out, Mother grabbed her wrist and said, "We will need you here."
Nas nodded and held onto my arm, understanding what was happening.
"Yes," Zoe murmured shakily, becoming more and more scared by the second.
"Then take my hand."
Zoe did as she was told and let Mother pull her up and lead her towards the centre of the room. Zoe sat down on the carved circle, on the middle one. Mother looked across at me.
"Are you ready?" She asked me.
"I can't do this. I can't do it, you know I can't," I murmured. She took my face in Her hands and leant Her forehead against mine.
"Yes you can. My darling, my Child, my love, you can. I chose you because I knew you could. You can do this."
I nodded slowly, starting to believe Her. I knelt down in front of Zoe. Taking her hands and holding them in mine, I started to cry.
"I love you," I whispered to her, kissing her once.
I stood up, nodding to Mother. She closed Her eyes. I did the same. She started the Chant, leaving me to do my parts. Finally, when we came to the end, I opened my eyes slowly. Zoe was lying on her back, not moving. I thought she was dead, but her hand twitched. Then her eyes began to open - and they were black. I was overwhelmed with joy. I started to cry again, this time with happiness. Nas hugged me, crying herself.
I sat at Zoe's side, helping her sit up. She looked around, smiling. She threw her arms around my neck, grinning. Mother reached out and touched Zoe's arm gently, making her release me from her vice-like grip.
"You might want to take it easy for a little while, Zoe. It'll be a few hours before things settle down. You'll be fine by tonight, which I'm sure is good news for some."
Zoe blushed, understanding what She meant.
"Thank you," Zoe said calmly.
"Nonsense; I hardly did anything." Mother smiled at Zoe and Her gaze moved to me. "Ace, can I have a word please? It won't take long."
I stood up and followed Her to the other side of the massive hall.
"You need to choose, Ace. Between them. They may be getting on now but it won't be long until Zoe starts to suspect something and stops believing your lies. Your relationship with Nas was a strong one, it still is - that's why I gave you the Imprint, to bring you closer, to give you the opportunity to start a family together. That is the best gift I can give anyone. If you don't choose soon, you will lose both of them forever, one way or another."