That grabbed his attention like a hook. And like a proper catch, he was pulled into my orbit. He blinked. “Dammit, devil woman. No.” He shook himself out of it, giving one of my breasts a squeeze and kissing my forehead before rushing toward the door.
His magic brought it to life, giving it an internal red glow that grew stronger, forcing it to shudder out a single beat. Then he dropped it into my gaping chest. It immediately attached, as if grateful to be reunited with its goddess.
He would die a mortal death, and I would let him, drachma on his eyes so he would rest in peace. But the day finally came, and I’d held him in my arms as he took his final breaths. I knew we’d made the right decision, but it took everything in me to allow it to be.
My face flashed between the three aspects the mortals used for me. A beautiful young maiden, the face I wore now, and the sharp weathered angles of a crone. My body stayed the same, dressed in light robes that swayed with the building wind, gore streaking the tops of my breasts and exposed stomach. I wore a crown of human bone, chanting as I lifted a snake into the sky.
I was filled with more emotion than I felt comfortable showing, letting the sea churn for me instead. The waves hit the mountainside so hard it kicked spray through the broken windows. “Is there even a Nikolas?” I asked quietly.
I couldn’t let him stay here. While the realm he created was beautiful, it was lonely and cold. I knew what happened to the souls in Propalyia. Eventually, they all flung themselves over the gates, only to be impaled, and returned to their homes. They hated me for it, which was why I kept my distance, why they moaned throughout the forests. Every human desires peace, and there was no peace in Propalyia.
I’d loved it, lost for a time in a world of intangible fantasy and never too deep emotions, until inevitably, I’d craved more. I’d let my guard down, enjoying him way too much, and despite my best efforts, I realized I was falling in love. So naturally, I ruined everything.
I was suddenly frozen in place, unable to speak. I knew I must look crazy to him. A dark, unbreakable dam holding squalls of emotion behind sharp blue eyes and pursed lips. I wondered if he could see the goddess behind the youthful face, feel the ancient power pulsating through me, begging for release.
Fortunately, the two natural paths that formed a cross in the forest were already pulling us, the energy palpable, pushing my heartbeat into my throat. I loved Earth, but there was something about the icy grip of the Underworld that called to me, serenading me with its cacophony of wailing souls and the promise of quiet corridors I could get lost in.