“VALTINA, I’M so sorry it took me so long to get back. My superior summoned us all to explain the new protocol. I’m afraid our forces continue to be overwhelmed by the evil armies. Two dozen spirits failed to report back after their assignments this week. Undoubtedly they’ve been captured by wraiths.” Ladaya spoke quickly… time was not a luxury she had, given the current circumstances. She continued, “We can no longer afford to risk sending you out on your own. From now on, you will be accompanied on all of your missions by two protectors… a warrior and an emere. I’ve assigned Demetri as your warrior… I know you’ve worked well together in the past. Fatima will be your emere. She will meet you at your destination.”
Valtina finally spoke. “Ladaya, what is an emere? I don’t think I’ve ever heard you mention one before.”
“I’m sorry, child. Of course you wouldn’t know about emeres. The emeres are the purest form of spirits. They left the mortal world when they were infants, so their souls were never tarnished. Fatima and the other emeres have powers far more potent than even my own. And they can move freely between The Afterlife and Earth. They cannot come to Middle World, but Fatima will be able to send you home after your mission, or if you’re in imminent danger. I cannot stress this enough, Valtina. You must stay vigilant and be on constant guard against danger.”
Valtina was saddened by Ladaya’s appearance. Gone was the carefree, wise woman who had guided her on her journey to The Afterlife. Now, Ladaya stood before her in torn robes, her hair undone and wild, and her kind eyes filled with despair. When Valtina had agreed to join the spirit army to fight against the evil forces, she’d imagined that she would receive her final reward after one or two missions. As the weeks went on, however, Valtina realized that she may never reach The Afterlife. Her destiny, it seemed, was to valiantly fight a losing battle.
“Ladaya, what can I expect to run into, besides the tricksters, succubi, and wraiths? I want to be prepared!”
“Valtina, I don’t know how many kinds of monsters are now working against us. Morgonda seems to have rallied every creature that’s ever been imagined. Our sources tell us that she’s breeding them, combining wraith and lampades, demons and nymphs… she’s designing her own unique army. I’ve heard she’s even recruited scorned demigods to fight against us.”
Valtina gasped. “Demigods? She’s turning everything against us, isn’t she?”
“She’s doing her best to,” Ladaya agreed, “but we must not be discouraged. And we must keep fighting. Are you ready for your next assignment?” Valtina responded by nodding. “I’m afraid this one may be your most challenging mission yet. You’ll have Demetri and Fatima, of course, but I daresay their powers won’t be much help for most of this. They’re mainly along for your protection,” said Ladaya.
“Ladaya, I know you’ve insisted on protecting me in the past, but don’t Demetri and Fatima have better things to do than shadow me while I fix people’s love lives? Surely they could be of more use somewhere else! I can protect myself!” Valtina insisted defiantly. It seemed to her that having two spirit babysitters was overkill. Valtina wanted to end the war as quickly as possible, so she could be reunited with her soul-mate in The Afterlife. If Demetri and Fatima worked their own assignments, they could defeat three evil situations in the time it would take them to defeat one together.
“Valtina, we are not arguing about this again,” Ladaya answered firmly. “You may not understand your own importance, but the rest of us do. You are the culmination of every type of love that exists. You hold within you everything Morgonda and her armies are trying to defeat. We have other loving souls fighting for us, of course, but you are the most powerful. There is nothing more important than keeping you safe, and helping you to bring love back to the souls on Earth. You are our best chance of ridding the world from evil once and for all, Valtina!”
“Now,” Ladaya continued, “your next mission. As I was saying, I’m afraid this will be your most difficult assignment yet. Rachel and Sean were supposed to meet in college and fall in love. They should have been married for six years now, but Morgonda’s forces interfered. Rachel was possessed by a fury, and has been leading a dangerous, promiscuous, loveless life ever since. True love is the only power strong enough to expel a fury, so Sean has been well guarded, to ensure that the two never meet. Demons watch him day and night… study them and observe their shift schedule. You’ll have to free Sean before you can help Rachel. This is a complicated case, Valtina, and we can’t afford for you to become distracted like last time,” Ladaya chided. Valtina blushed. During her last mission, she’d wasted nearly 14 hours daydreaming about her lives with her soul-mate. She opened her mouth to offer reassurance, but she was interrupted.