It is 556 years before the common era.
Mylitta wakes in a tangle of bedclothes, and Nabonidus is there.
“I should kill you, ” she says.
He opens his eyes. He thinks about this. “I vehemently disagree.”
“I would rather not,” she says. “But you are the monster, and the bane of my kind. If I let you live, will you be Elli for me? Will there be stars in your eyes, and brightness, or will you be cruel?”
He laughs. “Boys are cruel, Mylitta.”
He moves his hand across her. She frowns in distraction and pushes it away.
“I don’t want you to be a monster,” she says.
“It’s inevitable,” he says.
“You’re so beautiful,” she says. “I want to heal you. I want to show you the Elli I see. I want you to be that person, and not the monster.”
His smile is wistful. “I can see your Elli,” he says. “He’s reflected in your eyes.”
“I want you to share a deep and ancient power with me,” she says, “and let it rise up to take you away, and have you find a cleansing in me, and a hope.”
She leans in, and against his neck, she whispers.
“Let me heal you.”
“You may try,” he says, “but you must not blame yourself if you fail.”
She leans away.
“Why not?” she says.
“Some people are cold and hard and you cannot make them change,” he says. “If you blame yourself for failure, or for trying, then you’ll end up broken. That is not the way in which I want you broken, Mylitta.”
She frowns at him. “We can merge together,” she says. “Like sharing souls. And you can borrow of my innocence, to shield you from your truths.”
“Again,” he says.
“It will be easy,” he says, “to grow sick with shame, when you understand whose soul you have shared yourself with; but you must not be ashamed. You do not deserve to be.”
He laughs. His fingers trace circles on her arm. She sighs again, and some of the tension leaves her.
“If you are a monster,” she says, “then perhaps you have a stable of Nephilim, whose souls you rend to make your gods.”
“I am Nephilim, Elli. They are my tribe.”
He closes his eyes.
He allows some time to pass. Then he opens his eyes again. “I know.”
“Will you free them, if I stay?”
“And perhaps you have angels, too, locked in cages.”
“Them, as well.”
“And fiends? And demons? And ghosts? And other gods?”
“I shall empty the temple of Sin at Harran,” he says. “And they shall all go free, for you.”
“And will you take gods from me, then,” she asks him, “to replenish them?”
“Not yet,” he says.
“You are too dear; and you will hate me, when I have done.”