Hey, y’all. Sorry this is late, I’m a little short on time. It’s just background. More action next time.

“So you’re telling me that angels and demons really do exist.”

“Yeah.” Jason looked Arion square in the eye. “This is not a joke. The angels serve the Overlord Pana, who governs the realm of dreams and the dead. The demons serve the Underlord, who is unnamed, but the demons call him Master. He rules the Demon Realms.”

Arion put his face in his hands. “Forgive me if this is a little hard to wrap my mind around.”

“Hey, we were surprised too.” Jason grinned, patting Dierdras on the back. “Isn’t that right, Dee?”

Dee nodded. “Amarantha and I were scared to death. We almost opted out, if not for the fact that Jason was about to go on a suicide mission.”

Arion cracked a smile at this. “But you’re still mortal, right?” he asked, his smile fading. “And you say I’m not. So I don’t have a choice.”

“We’re tracking your heritage right now.” Amarantha sat on the log opposite Arion. “You are descended from both an angel and a demon, so we’re trying to figure out who.”

Arion looked back at the makeshift camp in the forest clearing where they were staying. Jason, Dee, and Amarantha had brought him here, but he had no idea where here was. The trees seemed to be twice as tall as normal trees, and doubly as green. The water was so clear that Arion could’ve sworn there was nothing there until he drank it. It seemed supernatural.

Nephthys was lying on a small hammock strung between two wooden posts, still unconscious. Arion had discovered, when the three teenagers had led them away before the police arrived, that she was surprisingly light.

“So that’s not Diantha.” He pointed to her.

“No.” Jason shook his head. “That’s Nephthys, who was under the alias of Diantha. The real Diantha was a family member of hers. Mother or sister?” He looked at Amarantha questioningly.

“Sister,” Amarantha replied. “Remember, Diantha was her exact opposite?”

“Wait, so Diantha was evil?” Arion asked. “Is she still around?”

“No,” Dee muttered. “Nephthys defeated her in the last war. Nearly killed herself too.”

Arion stood up. “This is insane.” Then he smiled. “But not in a bad way.”

Jason laughed, standing up too. “It is, isn’t it? You can’t expect anything.”

Arion walked up to where Nephthys laid on the hammock. Her face was deathly pale, almost white. The glittering necklace she wore used to change colors with her mood, but now just hung there, dull and lifeless.

“What is she?” he whispered.

Jason drew up beside him. “No one really knows. There’s a rumor going around that the first unmortal was her father, but she is quick to disclaim it. Some say too quick, but you never know. Whatever she was, she was one of the few who turned into a shifter. It happens, sometimes, to the choice beings gifted by both angels and demons: someone of great strength and confidence, even if he or she doesn’t know it, but to balance this out, this person must be humble enough to accept it. These beings are blessed with full shapeshifting, or, in incredibly rare cases, half-shifting. Only two have ever been discovered: a little girl in Kentucky who died, and Nephthys.”

“Are there worlds outside of Earth?” Arion asked curiously.

Jason gave a hollow laugh. “Too many. But we have an alliance with the forces of Terradiem, and a few from Terranoctis. In case you were wondering, Terradiem means ‘Earth Day’ in Latin, and Terranoctis means ‘Earth Night’. Terranoctis is the dark side of the planet, and Terradiem the light side.”

“So Terranoctis is where the demons are, and Terradiem the angels? And mortals are on both?”

“Close,” Jason replied. “There is a gateway on the dark side to the Demon Realms, or, as they call it, the Hellish Realms. Angels and mortals – mortals, in the sense, not the same mortals as here on Earth, but you get my meaning – are uneasy around the gateway, and vice versa; the demons prefer to stay away from the gateway to the Heavens in Terradiem. Ironically, Terradiem has a wider span than Terranoctis.”

“Oh.” Arion looked down at Nephthys again. “When will she wake?”

Jason seemed unsure at this. “We don’t know. Amarantha’s trying some herbal-wake remedies, but so far it doesn’t appear to be working. I suppose she’ll just wake up in her own time.”

Jason walked away, leaving Arion to think as he sat beside the unmoving Nephthys.