Ophidians – loyal children of their father. Such did Vortirus create them, disappointed in the rebellious dragons. Only the joy of servitude was prepared for them and they continued to serve their father, even when the young gods banished him to other worlds. Dissenting views amongst the snake-ones were not considered to be a crime. They simply did not occur. Perhaps the ancient dragon suppressed their will so much, or perhaps one needed more than one head to realize the futility of such a path.
The elders of the ophidians change, as they ascend to mnemosis. All of their abilities sharpen, becoming akin to a razor, their bodies take on a new form, and their souls overflow with magical energy. This way, they can serve their father much better. Or…
A long time ago, when the Ophidian Empire was still young, there lived an elder by the name of Kiri-sh-Tey, whose name meant «seeker of the path». He was continuously immersed in an inner dialogue with himself. He asked questions, contemplated, sought answers. As he ascended to mnemosis, he acquired an eternal partner in his dialogue – himself, a second head. His brothers expected revelations, new points of view, that he would grasp the essence of all things deeper than ever before. But instead, he left in voluntary exile, leaving behind servitude to his father. No one stopped him. No one could understand what he had on his mind. His trail was lost somewhere along the way East. He did not return when the Empire fell. He was nowhere near, when the last attempt to summon Vortirus to this world had failed.
The consciousness of mnemosis was touched by familiar darkness. Ancient darkness. Absolute evil. The enemy to all living, which her people tried to enslave, had returned.
The two-headed serpent opened its eyes. The nun, who was sweeping the shrine, screamed and ran off. One of the last remaining mnemosis spent hundreds years in meditation. Lesser creatures, who worshipped him as a god, forgot that he was in fact a living being, rather than a gracefully carved statue.
It was hard to shake off the torpor after so many years. The body was waking up slower than the mind. The ancient snake had merely lifted its desiccated hand, when a monk ran into the shrine in hastily dressed ceremonial clothing.
– Kame-Onna-sama! – the mortal fell on his knees. – Do not be angered! Did we disturb your spirit?
Kame-Onna? The name was no worse than others. Was it female? Male? Merely an epithet? After living for thousands of years, little meaning is left in a name. Mnemosis did not care for what it was being called or regarded as. The two-headed serpent smiled and turned both heads to the monk.
The monk froze, trying to understand to which of his words exactly was the repudiation referring to. The status of a kami released mnemosis from the necessity of excessive explanations. Let him interpret it as he wishes.
–Offerings. – Kame-Onna was recollecting the ways of these lands. If it were a god –Offerings were meant for it. Quite convenient. The monk hurried about and in a few minutes, the kami was surrounded with flowers, vessels with sake and ritual food.
– Leave me.
The monk retreated to the exit, bowing with every step he made. When he was finally outside, the two-headed serpent took to dining. The rice and spices were set aside. Dead food didn’t quite go down the throat. Roasted poultry was better, not quite alive either, but closer than boiled grains. In the corner of its eye, mnemosis noticed a rat crawling towards the rice. A swing of the revitalized arm, and the little animal was already squealing in the first grasp of the kami’s hand. Mnemosis swallowed the rat whole, devouring not only its body, but also the small soul of the animal.
Taste, smell… almost forgotten sensations. As was the sensation of the presence of an ancient enemy, forcing mnemosis to awaken. Having regained its strength, Kame-Onna headed towards the exit. All of the monastery attendants met kami at the gates. Some looked with awe, others with fear.
As he approached the head monk, mnemosis stopped. For the coming battle, it needed weapons, and his ritual scythe was quite fitting. Obeying the mere look of his kami, the mortal silently offered the weapon. Kame-Onna weighed it in its hands. Although it was a ritual object, the balance and sharpness made it apparent that this was the work of no mere blacksmith, but a master bladesmith.
– Thank you, mortal. I shall need it. Farewell.
The two-headed serpent smiled at the mortals. One of the monks who was still at a loss, was about to say something, but Kame-Onna stopped him with a sign. Gods do not explain their actions, and compared to the mortals, mnemosis truly was akin to a god.
Its ancient enemy, however, who returned to this world after centuries, was a true god.