A.N. (9/30/23) - Completely forgot to post it on this site.
Atlas (30) - Mother
This is a story from a long, long time ago.
Once, there was a great tragedy that covered the entire world. It was an event incurred by the wrath of a god, described as a 'great deluge' that washed everything clean and ended the people of that time.
At least that was the intended outcome. Instead, there was a married couple that managed to survive by building a chest to last through the great ordeal. That couple had been warned of the impending calamity by a man who possessed the name meaning 'forethought'. Due to believing in that man's warning, they emerged unharmed but unsure how to live in this new desolate world.
Even so, the couple persevered and eventually discovered a means to create new life.
Tossing the bones of the earth mother, the new humanity was born and took its first steps under the watchful eye of the two survivors. As years passed and their children grew to learn how to care for themselves, the couple eventually reached the end of their mortal lifespans and passed away. Even after their passing, their many sons and daughters continued to flourish in this new world by establishing the foundation that would support the new humanity.
That is the story that should have happened. Through their actions, they managed to carve their mark and engrave their names into proper human history.
However, this was a worldline that followed a history where those people did not exist.
As far as Remnant was concerned, that story was nothing but a tale from some far-off world. By that logic, figures from proper human history had no foundation of existence here. Rather than an affirmation of human history, it was a world that followed the idea that those belonging to proper history were rejected by the world itself. Unless a figure was born from the history that this world followed, there was no possibility of calling forth a being from the Ring of Deterrence.
Except there were a few exceptions.
Although history itself differed, the connections formed by figures born of proper human history and the world they carved their memory onto persisted. As long as there was a link between a figure and the land or people that still existed in this alternate history, the possibility of their names reappearing in this alternate history was not impossible.
Why did this matter? The couple who managed to survive the deluge were no ordinary humans. The name of the husband was Deucalion, son of Prometheus.
And the name of the wife was Pyrrha, daughter of the first woman—Pandora.
But rather than being the daughter of 'The Gift of All the World', it was more accurate to say she was a child created by the 'One Who Sends Up Gifts'. Pyrrha used the knowledge of creating new life that her mother had provided her to restart the new humanity. That was only possible because her mother possessed the ability to access the authority over creation due to being a divine spirit. So instead of being the daughter of the mortal Pandora…
…she was the child of the evil goddess Anesidora.
At that moment, Gill woke up.
It was a case of leaving the equipment called human alone, but changing the one in charge of controlling the body. Switching between consciousnesses, Pandora receded into the depths of her mind while she regained control of herself. Maybe it was a consequence of that, but Gill was able to recall that dream she glimpsed while trapped within the subconscious of her body's other occupant.
She was missing some context behind the dream. Even so, the name of the so-called goddess remained at the forefront of her mind. And yet, did that truly matter at that moment? After all, Gill had more important things to worry about.
Their plan had failed.
Even if it were possible to find the Winter Maiden again, they had already expended too many of their resources to get this far. Her brother had already stretched the limits of his Semblance to take control of so many people. Their role was not only to cause a distraction but to also cause as much chaos in the streets to draw the attention of the Grimm. If the situation had been allowed to continue, Atlas would have been attacked by a large horde of monsters and fallen to the Grimm. It would have been a perfect way to end the kingdom that had stripped so many of Vacuo's resources in the past.
However, the interference of the Winter Maiden meant that the actions of their thralls had been prevented too early. It was impossible to tell how much negativity was generated by the riots, but she doubted it would be enough to cause the downfall of the kingdom as she predicted. Gill did not bemoan the fact that they had failed, but she felt empty inside at the realization that most of their efforts had amounted to nothing.
Even worse, her deal with the person inhabiting her was still in effect.
From the floor, several shadows formed together into the outline of a person before revealing the figure of a young girl.
"How is my sister?"
Gill ignored the urge to turn away from the other girl. "She is resting for now. Even manifesting as long as she did took a lot out of her."
The other girl, Isabella, sighed. "Judging by the fact that you don't have the Maiden, it appears that we will have to go with our backup plan."
"You mean using the Schnee girl? I thought you said that you preferred we didn't have to use her."
"It can't be helped. Since we have no means of acquiring the Lesser Grail of Atlas, the only other option is to summon forth something that can grant both of our wishes. That girl is simply the best catalyst that will bring out the full potential of that seed."
She closed her eyes and allowed her thoughts to wander before facing Isabella again.
Gill still had no understanding of who these people were. They claimed to all be derived from the same person. Up until now, Gill had encountered only a handful of the sisters who all went by the name Pandora. And yet, each of them had personalities that varied so wildly that it was hard to think of them as one being.
Isabella was one such example. In terms of personality, Gill likened her to resembling Jax more so than herself. Especially when they both shared the same impression of looking down on others.
What an infuriating expression.
"...who is Anesidora?"
That caught the other girl off guard. "Where did you hear that name?"
"Whenever Emilia takes the reins, I sometimes catch glimpses of her mind. Since she's not exactly in peak health, it's hard to make out what those memories mean. Occasionally though, there are a few instances that shine with such clarity that they stand out even to me."
It seemed that Isabella had no intent of speaking. Gill figured that it was a sensitive subject and was content with not getting an answer.
But then she recalled something else and her curiosity was sparked once more. "Then what about the name Pyrrha? Could it be that you're related to that Mistrili champion who interfered with our plans before? Is she related to Anesidora? Is Anesidora another one of your sisters?"
Her barrage of questions finally broke past the other girl's defense. "Pyrrha Nikos is unrelated to us. It is merely a coincidence that she has that name. As for Anesidora… you could say she is someone we could have been."
"What exactly does that mean?"
"My sisters and I introduce ourselves as Pandora, but that is not exactly our true name. Pandora is actually the name of the pithos that we are charged with protecting. But as time passed, our identity became closely intertwined with the pithos until we took its name for ourselves. Before then, we never had a name of our own. After all, our purpose was merely to function as a key."
Once again, Gill was reminded of the incredulity of knowing that their world was a product of some otherworldly god. Being possessed by Emilia gave her the context to understand what Isabella was talking about. And yet, she still had trouble sometimes wrapping her mind around all these high-concept ideas being thrown around.
"As for Anesidora, our relationship isn't something that can be easily described with mere words. Rather than being the same person, you could qualify her as our prototype. Her role as a doll was to function as the 'Beautiful Evil', a punishment on mankind with the intent to torment them. However, that role was never realized and our father changed our duty to become a key instead."
"She was made to torment mankind?"
"Yes. Due to the actions of Prometheus, mankind was ordered by the gods to bear a stigma in exchange for being granted the secret of fire. A chthonic goddess born of mud, Anesidora was created to become the bringer of evil. Not only was she an offshoot of the Earth Mother, Gaia, but she embodied all the world's gifts as the giver of both blessings and curses."
Blessings and curses? But if that was the case…
"…doesn't that mean she can function as a wish-granter?"
"That is correct. And if you've already figured that out, then I suspect you already have an inkling as to the purpose of our backup plan."
Gill wondered why they were investing so much of their time into bringing over the Schnee girl to their side. At first, she assumed that it was all part of their plan to use the Schnee name to increase public negativity. But despite their initial plan failing, Pandora was still insisting on using the Schnee girl. With what they had planned for the poor girl, there was only one conclusion.
"You're planning on using Weiss Schnee as a sacrifice."
"Exactly. To be honest, she isn't the ideal offering for the ritual. It would have been better if we managed to capture the Tohsaka girl instead. Even so, sacrificing the heiress of the SDC and tapping into the thaumaturgical foundations of Dust will be sufficient enough to complete our objective."
During her early expectations throughout Sanus, there were many instances where Gill came across records of supposed rituals and ceremonies that involved chthonic sacrifices. A burnt offering to the gods acted as a means of communicating with them in places that were closer to the earth.
"So that's why you want us to bring her to the crater. You plan to conduct a large-scale ritual and somehow create a connection to Anesidora."
"That's the gist of it. Of course, there are a few other details that I haven't gone over with you, but that's mainly due to requiring the correct context to fully understand everything."
"Got it, more magic mumbo jumbo."
"And there's one last thing I need from you. If it was as simple as sacrificing some random girl to summon forth a Divine Spirit, then anybody could have done so. So I'll be taking that insurance of yours from you."
Now Gill understood why Isabella showed up here. Rather than worrying about her sister, she was just interested in collecting the required materials for the upcoming ritual.
"Take it." Reaching into her pocket and pulling out an object, she passed it over to the other girl. "Not like I got the chance to use it against the Maiden. I wasn't sure if it would have even helped due to my current condition."
"No, it wouldn't."
"So this is it? Until now, we've stooped to low levels in pursuit of our respective goals. But if we continue with this plan, there's no going back for either of us."
"We've already made peace with that, have we not?"
Gill crossed her arms. "Yeah, but I still want to hear you say it out loud."
Because while she only now learned the name Anesidora, she had understood what it was that they were about to summon long before they decided on this path. Until now, nobody noticed the being that they kept hidden within the crater all because of their efforts in subjugating every citizen there and obfuscating any information on their operations there.
"Very well," Isabella eventually said. "Although the framework doesn't neatly apply to this world, it is still worthy of a description. While it's too drastic of a difference to classify this as an Alter, there is another title that we can call her by. And in the end, all we can do is call forth a juvenile form that may never fully mature into a true designation."
Mud started to fill the room, gathering around the two in a swirl of darkness until they all converged at a central point. A thin black object settled on top of Isabella's palm as she uttered her response.
"Let the ritual commence, the birth of an Evil of Humanity."
Before posting this chapter, I was reaaalllllly struggling with convincing myself to go with this story direction. Not only am I kinda introducing an original character, but I'm doing so based on another already-established character in the series.
This story is going to take a lot of creative liberties with the Pandora mythology. Based on what is already established in Fate lore, it seems that Pandora wasn't painted as the source of all evils like she was in her more popular myth interpretations. Casual internet research shows that she was occasionally portrayed as a Mother Earth goddess and sometimes went by the alternate name of Anesidora. From what I've been able to tell, the main difference between the two is that one is revered more than the other and that one is considered 'all-gifted' while the other is considered 'all-giving'.
Anyway, that got me thinking about how I could twist her legend around so that she can be considered another character like Tiamat based on what I learned from watching the Babylonia anime. Not to mention that Pandora is sorta considered a counterpart to Angra Mainyu based on their names (All The World's Evils / All The World's Gifts) acting as inspiration. And after that, my thoughts began spiraling until I somehow came up with a plot that included turning Pandora into a potential Evil of Humanity (read: Not confirmed Beast yet).