Running through the opening, it took a moment for our eyes to adjust to the low lighting. Torches in sconces along the walls flickered as we rushed by. The first thing I noticed was the metallic smell of blood.
I walked to the middle of the compound, slowly drawing the cold inward. There was something here. The deserted compound should have been a haven for the hibernating animals, but nothing was here. Even the birds had left, and the only other living thing around was the Qiqirn demon dog.
The bar was darker than the woods and filled with beards. Mostly they are long and grey with one lonely goatee. Clearly, it belongs to a hiker from the south, judging from the rolled-up skinny jeans and tech pad things scattered on the table. He does seem a bit on guard around the grizzled old men. Honestly, it is cute. I will make sure they do not play with him like cats with their prey.
“The little wind nymphs come and hide here. They are annoying and mischievous, but not harmful. They like to whistle loudly and make the leaves spin and dance. It scares the littlest creatures. I approached them, but they didn’t understand me, so I have been guiding the little creatures away from their chaotic tendencies.”
I hadn’t talked to her in two years, ever since I sent her back to her husband. The sound of her voice still made my heart race, and I was flooded with memories of times past when things had been good between us. But this was hardly the time for a trip down memory lane. “This isn’t a good time, Aphrodite,” I whispered.
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.
Polus takes a deep breath, and the air rises from the ground, swirling and shimmering around his arm, his eyes turning dead-white. The Lord of the Axis in his absolute power now stands before me. I open my wings to their full extent and gather the shadows around me. My scythe appears in my hand, blazing with light.
Mmmmm. Finally. A tranquil moment. No questions, no prodding, just calm water forgiving the weight of the world. As my body welcomed the relief, the scent of oakmoss settled my soul. A hint of neroli diffused my thoughts, and the aroma of spruce took me home. Home. It’s been almost a year since I left. A gentle breeze stirred the forest as I lay beneath the canopy. Serenity eventually occupied my body. Stillness was achieved.
I was a bit surprised. Minotaurs were rarely seen in the mortal world anymore. There were small groups in various mountainous regions, but I hadn’t heard reports of them being in Greece in several centuries. Had Alastor recruited some help in his imagined fight with me?