I take in the beauty of Urania’s gallery through the jewels of the mask, my eyes swirling with dark power. If our identities are to remain secret at this masquerade ball, hopefully, the mask is sufficient, because the gown I am wearing leaves little to the imagination. It is black, with off the shoulder swag sleeves and a sweetheart neckline. A pointed waistline with hand-beading flows into a tulle skirt with open sides, exposing the sheer black lace leggings from hip to ankle. The corset back and chapel length train complete the sensual elegance. The mask covering most of my face is a filigree of metal, studded with crystals. Their sparkle nearly but not quite, outshines the intense hue of my irises. Long shiny, silky, dark curls drape over my shoulders. The style framing my face and softening my features.

The millions of tiny lights that stud the ceiling like stars glitter off of all those gathered beneath. Everything within this place is a work of art. I lean up against a column that is no exception. The shiny surface is broken into tiles of multiple dimensions. The various hues of blue, lavender, purple, and silver all swirl together, echoing the complexion of the universe. The cool colors feel good against my skin, and the towering strength of the column provides a secure presence at my back as I survey the room.

So much has happened over the last few months, so many changes and necessary adaptations.  From Zeus calling the Olympians back, to Ky’Elli and the doorways, Nyx’s party and the reappearance of the Titans. I will never forget the moment they entered and that devastating slap of power, both foreign and familiar, washed over me. The fear in Nyx’s eyes will haunt me. There is too much uncertainty, too much, dare I say…Chaos. I want something, someone to lean on. Maybe tonight, when the New Year is beginning, this will be a beginning for me as well.

My gaze roves the area, looking and searching. I will find something here tonight. I will do something different tonight. Tonight I have a date and I will remain open to the possibility of a connection. I feel the presence of Ky’Elli’s mind on my own as she gently checks in. The touching of the bond that she does often throughout the day, most especially when I am away from her. I respond with a pulse back, just to let her know that I am still here. As they have so often over the last few weeks, her words from the night I put up the tree fill my thoughts. Smaller loves. My mind still working the idea over, I push away from the safety of the column and begin to weave my way through the crowd.

My power attempts to snap out at those closest to me, responding to my agitation, seeking prey, but I am on the hunt for something different; a need that I have allowed to go unanswered for too long. I know that I can not have a relationship like those of my brethren. I am not meant for that. No one would want to be with me long term when my power would eventually be used against them, with or without my consent. I cannot help what I am and what I do.  It is built into the very essence of my creation. The only people I have found that are immune to my passive powers are Thanatos and Nyx. And neither of them can help with this need.

It is not wrong to want that big love, that forever love.  It is not wrong to dream of it and to seek it, but I do wonder if It is a realistic goal for me. I have been alive since nearly the beginning and I have not come close to finding a connection that consumes me. Maybe it is not in my nature to love like that, but I think Ky’Elli might have been right, and maybe I can find a smaller love. One that will ease this ache in me. Even if for just a while. And maybe, that could become something more. Determination cloaks me as I make up my mind and in response, my body offers up a sultry welcome.  It is in my walk, in my scent, the invitation in my eyes that I cast out into the room. I am once more the huntress and tonight I seek very specific prey. The best way to make sure you obtain your target is to get it to come to you. So come and answer my call, there will be no escape.

The room is filled with laughter and the low rumble of many beings speaking. My family and not my family, talk in small groups, all on the surface enjoying the revelry of the night and the season. My gaze passes over and then snags on a dark figure, her eyes focused intently on me. The scarlet crimson of my lips curve in a small smile, my gaze locking with hers and my head tipping to the side. Melinoë. She won a date with me in that silly auction. I offered myself up for a night out, although I am not sure why I had thought that would be a good idea. But it was for a good cause, and it gave me this opportunity.

I approach Melinoë, weaving my way through the crowd, my head lowered and my gaze intent upon my goal. But first I brush up against a mortal that has been tugging and pulling on my power all night. At the skin to skin contact, the darkness snaps out at him, biting deep and hard. A shiver of pleasure whispers through me, and inspired by the art all around me I wrap this man in poetic justice.

How you call to me, Broker man.

A broker, a thief, a liar, a cheat.
A breaker of vows, of hearts, of wives.
Thinking your fall an impossible feat.
A breaker of hope, of dreams, of lives.
Now I will break you, Broker man.

You will face my wrath and feel my heat.
Broken body, but still alive. 
Your worst break makes my joy complete. 
A broken body, the fate I planned.
And now you die broke, Mr. Broken man.

Later tonight on his way to a hotel, with the lover that drapes herself over his arm, his car will slide off the road and into the trees. The accident will leave his body broken, and pain his constant and only companion. The wife he abused for years will see her opportunity and divorce him, clearing out their bank accounts and cutting him off from her trust fund. While he is recovering, the brokerage firm he worked for will discover his embezzlement and the court will freeze all of his accounts. He will die, but not for many years. He will suffer within this broken reality he created. I brush by him and don’t give the broken man another thought. 

Melinoë’s eyes, so beautiful and unique, flare with heat as I move closer. I let my gaze wander over her form, enjoying the dark beauty, enjoying the feel of her. My gown swishes around my ankles, dusting the shiny marble of the floor as I circle her, careful not to touch. My power tastes the air around her as I inhale deeply.  Plenty of hubris here and plenty of darkness. I hold tight to the leash as I get a read on her, my stomach tightening as I wonder how she would react if she knew she had already felt the touch of my power.

“Hello, Melinoë. It is good to see you again. How are you tonight?”

“Nem, gorgeous as always. I was wondering if you were going to find me tonight. I am well and very excited about our date.”

I brush lightly against her and my power nips, her eyes flare as her own magic reacts. It will not help, not in the long term, but for the moment she is able to hold it at bay.  My magic is such that it will simply surround any defensive bubble and wait, sooner or later the pressure of it will create cracks or it will find a way in as attention drifts. And then it claims what belongs to it. This thing that I was born with; it is insatiable. It has driven me from the beginning of time.

Melinoë and I wander through the beauty of the gallery, talking and laughing quietly, slowly getting to know each other. Both of us a bit wary, but the pull is there, the loneliness subsiding just a bit as we explore together, contemplating and discussing the exquisite works of art and architecture.

I pause to examine a reflecting pool. The complex and intriguing sculpture hanging from above mirrored in the inky glass-like black of the water below. New shapes and meanings expressed in the reflection. It is a marvel of imagination and technique.    

“What do you think of this piece, Melinoë?”

She comes to stand beside me. The light and dark of her gaze echoed in the artwork before us. The dark and light separate but connected. “I see darkness here, I see light turned into darkness.” A smile pulls up the corners of her lips, “How about you? What do you see here?”

I study the sculpture, “I see true beauty reflected in darkness. If the dark pool was not there, you would see nothing more than an interesting light fixture.  It is only because of the darkness below that the intricacy, the individuality, and the wholeness of the piece is revealed.” I slip the shoes from my feet and lifting my gown, I step into the shallow pool. Stepping my way carefully to the middle, I stand directly beneath the sculpture and look up. “Even now, I cannot see what I saw in the reflection. It needs the darkness, that is where the balance lies. That is what I love most about this piece. The beauty of the light is only revealed in the darkness that lies below.”

Melinoë takes my hand as I make my way back to the edge of the pool, helping to steady me as I step down. Her expression bemused as I put my shoes back on. We pause again to look, both of us feeling this piece keenly.

We take our time finding our way back to the main ballroom.  The gallery truly a wondrous maze with hidden delights around each turn and corner. We enter the main room just in time for the countdown to the New Year, our eyes meeting as everyone celebrates the strike of midnight. We lean in close, our lips brushing in the softest of kisses. Hope bright between us.

Nemesis (Aisling MacKay)
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