So far, the trip has been going as well as I thought it would. My husband and my uncle are both taking point, with me slightly behind. Watching them fight against the thralls was thrilling. I had forgotten what good fighters they are. It has been years since I have seen them in battle. Surprisingly, I was able to knock one out myself. Back in ancient Greece, I didn’t do much of the fighting. I performed with my sisters and spoke about the great battles that occurred. It was different.
Now, my breathing is heavy and shaky from the adrenaline pumping through my veins. I grip my sword, looking up at Eros as he gestures his head forward.
“Let’s do it,” he says.
I nod, following behind Eros. Hades walks a little ahead of us, his gun in front of him. When I first arrived in the desert, I was nervous. I didn’t know what to expect, but I feel more confident after our first fight. My pace slows, and Cerberus presses his body closer to me. I am sure my uncle must have told the three-headed dog to keep an eye on me. Patting the side of Cerberus, I use him to help guide me through the darkness. Eros slows down in front of me. He didn’t want me to come, and I know he is probably thinking of different ways to send me home at this moment.
Suddenly, Hades stops moving. I freeze as well, holding my sword in a death grip. He lunges into the shadows, grabbing one of the thralls by the neck. It flails for a few seconds before becoming lifeless in my uncle’s grip. He drops the body on the ground.
“That seemed unnecessarily dramatic, Uncle. I see why Din is by far the most dramatic deity.” Eros rolls his eyes.
“If you prefer, I could let them catch Clio unawares?” Hades sighs.
Eros stiffens, the remark obviously bothering him. “I’m getting jealous of Din’s eyesight at the moment. Which are words I never thought I’d say.”
We continue walking slowly. A shiver runs down my spine, and I look behind me. It feels like we are still being watched…
“I still don’t like this,” I mutter.
Hades nods, and Cerberus growls softly. The beast agrees with me. I place my hand back on the three-headed creature as we continue forward. I feel a little safer with him by my side. I know Hades and Eros would do anything to protect me, which scares me the most. I don’t want anyone to get hurt because of me.
We continue on, arriving in a large chamber. It is empty and has similar decorations from the previous room. The only thing different is an enormous owl on the opposite wall, along with an altar. The bad feeling only increases.
“I’m getting Jamestown vibes. If anyone says, drink the kool-aid, I’m out,” Eros says, breaking the silence.
I poke Eros’ bum with my sword. “Shhh.”
Hades walks into the room, staying close to the walls. His eyes are trained on the darkness, looking for enemies. I head the opposite way, towards the altar. The chains hanging from it make my stomach turn. What are those thralls doing down here? I look up, the uneasy feeling intensifying.
“I don’t like this. Where is everyone?” Hades asks.
“I don’t know…It is strange,” I mumble.
“Uncle, it looks like they cleared out. But why all the guards?” Eros asks, lowering his bow.
“I’m not sure, Eros,” Hades replies.
“Unless they were slowing us down so they could finish whatever was happening here…” Eros mumbles to himself.
Moving towards the altar, Hades says, “Isn’t this what you saw, Clio?”
“Yes…this is what I saw…” I nod, the memories resurfacing. My eyes take on a slight glow as I try to replay the memories again. Maybe there is a clue as to why they aren’t here…wait. My eyes widen as I realize I forgot something important from the memories. “Shit.”
Eros snaps his bow up, whirling around. “What?”
“Shadowy figures…” I mumble. “I saw those as well…”
“Yes, you did,” Hades mutters, running a hand over the altar.
A voice rings out, “Three gods! What a wonderful surprise!”
Fear grips my heart as soon as I hear the voice. It’s a trap, and they know we are gods. If so, then they are probably prepared for what we can do. I turn to look for Eros. If they hurt him…or Uncle…Gods, I will tear them down.
Eros releases an arrow into the shadows. “It will be, once I see how amazing you look as a shish-kebab.”
I move closer to Eros as laughter echoes through the chamber. Hades moves back closer to us, and I realize Cerberus is nowhere to be found. I scan the room, thinking of what to do next.
“And bold as well, even better. The more arrogant, the better it will be when we rid the world of you,” the voice echoes.
Eros follows the voice, and I try my hardest not to reach for him. Please stay safe. Please stay safe.
“Bold is better than a coward who hides!” Eros calls out.
“But we’ve been in the open for so long,” the voice replies. A person steps out from behind the enormous owl, face hidden behind a mask. The room silently fills with more masked guards, surrounding us. This isn’t good. We are outnumbered, and who knows what they have up their sleeves.
“Well then, introduce yourself! I prefer to know the name of the soon to be dead!” Eros shouts. I reach out, grabbing his arm. Does he not realize how dangerous this is?
“Lykos,” I whisper. “There are too many.”
“Eros, enough,” Hades says at the same time, his eyes trained on the person speaking. They step forward, and I can feel their eyes studying each one of us.
“The god who demands such obedience? You must be Eros, son of Aphrodite and Ares. I know not who the girl is. But I know you, Lord Hades,” the person says.
“What do you want?” I ask, curiosity getting to me.
“For the gods to be gone,” the person replies.
“Trust me. As someone who’s tried it once or twice, we are hard to get rid of,” Eros says.
“But we have something you don’t, Eros,” the person says. The entire group starts walking toward us. I look up at Hades, my heart racing uncontrollably.
“Uncle, I think we should go now,” I whisper.
“Oh? An amazing ass?” Eros continues to talk to the masked person, walking backward toward us. “Just kidding. I have that.”
“What do you want,” my uncle repeats what I already ask.
The “leader” clasps their hands behind their back. “A free world. A world with no immortals, no magic, nothing but human will and life. You immortals are a blight upon us, a plague that keeps coming back.”
“There’s ointment for that,” Eros remarks.
I jab him. “Do you want them to hurt us?”
“I hate grandstanding,” he whispers to me. I look at his hand, which is bleeding from holding onto the string for too long.
“Then allow me to move it along.” The leader waves their hand, and the group rushes us.
We don’t have enough time to respond to the attack. Each of us is grabbed by at least three or four of them, and they drag us apart. I drop my sword and struggle in their grip.
“AREN!” Eros yells, struggling with his captors.
“Is that enough action for you?” The voice asks as we are dragged to each side of the room. “Perhaps you would like to be first.”
“CLIO!” Eros screams again. I watch as he slams his hands into the chests of two thralls. It looks like he has a chance to escape, but more thralls pile on top of him. They toss his bow away, pinning his wings onto the ground.
“I’ll take that as a yes. Actually…” the voice says. The leader turns to look at me, and if I could see their face, I would probably see a cold smile. They nod their head to the altar, and I’m being dragged toward it. My eyes widen, and I struggle in the guards’ grip. I kick them in the chins, but it has no effect. Looking up at Eros, I give him an apologetic smile. I should have convinced the three of us to stay home.
“NO!” Eros yells. I can hear an audible snap, and I wince. Something broke, possibly a wing, and I am too scared to see the damage done to my husband. It doesn’t stop him. I hear him continue to struggle in their grasps. I love you.
“Leave her!” Hades shouts.
“No,” the leader replies, tilting their head.
The masked beings bring me to the altar, pinning me down. I don’t stop struggling, though. I am not going to give up that easily. In the corner of my eye, I see a guard bring out a ruby red necklace that is held above my body. I shudder.
“You will be given the ability to serve us. Not as a god, but as a mortal,” the leader announces.
Fuck that. The guard puts the necklace around my neck, and it begins to glow radiantly. I hear Eros yell, and then another cracking noise that fades. I feel something shift inside me. My powers. I don’t feel them anymore. The usual pulsing sensation of my abilities is gone, and I wonder…Is this it? I close my eyes, a tear rolling down my cheek. The guards let go of my body, and I feel myself lifting off the altar. Opening my eyes, I see green light glowing around me as I levitate. I close my eyes once more as I lower to the ground, curling into a ball. There is fighting going on around me. I can hear it, but I can’t bring myself to look. It takes me a few seconds until I finally open my eyes, sitting up from the ground.
“Clio!” Hades calls out, dashing over to the altar. He tosses a guard over his shoulder before coming to my side. I place a hand on my head and look around the room. Eros. Where is he? Is he okay? Is he…
“Uncle? Where’s Eros?” I ask, not allowing my thoughts to run wild.
“Aren?” I hear Eros say, weakly.
I turn to look and see him crawling forward. The sight has my eyes stinging with tears, and I rush to him, Hades at my side. My uncle helps Eros onto his feet. Just by looking at him, I know both wings are broken.
“A-are you okay?!” I ask. Obviously not.
Eros slowly staggers to his feet and looks at my chest where the necklace lays. “What happened?”
Hades gestures angrily at the bodies, “They managed to place their artifact on Clio. It doesn’t appear to have made her mortal, though.”
I look down at the necklace, holding it in the palm of my hands. He is right. That feeling from the altar has faded. I feel… fine. “Hm…” I think to myself.
Hades walks over to me, Eros’ arm around Hades’ shoulder. He takes the amulet into his hand, eyes blazing.
“Are you okay?” Eros asks me.
“I’m okay, Lykos,” I say, gently kissing his lips.
“We need to get you both to a healer immediately. Unfortunately, I do not have that ability. Can you stand?” Hades asks Eros.
Eros plants his feet on the ground, wincing. “My bow…Din…He’s going to know I’m hurt.”
“We will grab it before we go,” Hades says, closing his eyes for a moment. “Yes, he will. He will come by when he is able. He knows this.”
Eros reaches out to touch the amulet, quickly retracting his hand. It is like the object hurts him. “The fuck?!”
“Kindly do not touch objects we know nothing about, nephew. Clio, can you walk?” Hades asks.
I nod. “Yes.”
“Grab one of those banners, be careful with it, and help me get Eros out of here. We need to move quickly,” Hades says.
Running over, I tear a banner off the wall and stuff it into my pocket. I also run over to the far corner and grab Eros’s bow and arrows. Slinging the weapon over my body, I head back to them. I take Eros’ arm and put it around my shoulder.
Eros’ eyes narrow on the amulet. “It doesn’t hurt?”
I shake my head, helping him along.
Eros grits his teeth. “I’m fine.”
“Do not start, Eros. We’ve no time for that,” Hades scolds. “Clio, I will need you to grab my pistols as well, and you take point with Cerberus.”
Letting go of Eros, I take Hades’ pistols. Cerberus has reappeared and is alert and waiting. I walk up beside him, patting his side before we continue.
“So, Uncle. Can I use these?” I ask him, a little more excited than I should be.
“Yes. In fact, I insist,” he replies.
Staying close to Cerberus’ side, I let him lead us through the underground. Luckily, no more thralls attack, and we make it to the stairs without a fuss.
“Do you think there will be any more of them?” I ask.
“Bring ’em on,” Eros says.