I touched it with the tip of my finger and knew it wasn’t right. Mekon had a soft, silky feel about it. This was grittier. I took just a taste and knew what it was. “Colchicum,” I whispered. Someone had added a powdered form of autumn crocus to my blend. It wouldn’t kill me, but it could cause me to spin out of control in the right doses.
The magic contained within Emma was ancient and familiar, yet it held a foreignness that made it clear it was not wholly of this world. I latched onto the bit that belonged to the witch queen, the hot gold ichor that had become contaminated power, filled with rage, hatred, and despair at a life stolen. It was the catalyst that had created this monster. The final act of vengeance cast by extraordinary primal magic. But vengeance belonged to me. I was the source and balance of it. I pulled at it, plucking at the abscessed kernel of goodness walled off from the corrupted soul of the little girl.
I slipped by him and entered first, going preternaturally still as I stepped into the entryway. Where golden light usually filled the castle, today there was a putrid green cast to the air. Dust motes swirled past, seeming to glow in the murky light.
I fight off every instinct in my body telling me not to press the button to the 20th floor. Every piece of me is screaming not to do this. I went into my informal interview with Hebe all confidence and intimidation. If anything, this is the complete opposite.
I nodded. “Yes. The truth is the mortals are always the ones that pay the highest prices when gods war. They suffer the most loss, the most injustices. There were many reasons why the gods disappeared from the world. Many reasons why the mortals stopped worshipping.”
Adrestia jumped, whipping around and throwing a wild haymaker. I leaned back to avoid the lightning-fast punch, my hand coming up to catch the deceptively delicate fist as it came at my face. I studied Adrestia as images of her past deeds, good and bad, flashed through my mind at the skin-to-skin contact. It was all overshadowed by her panic and the jumbled memories that had sent her fleeing.
I heard the echo of childish laughter on the wind. Tensing, I scanned my surroundings, but relaxed when I realized it was just the remnants of a memory triggered by the sight of my blood. I was unique among the gods until that day long passed. It was a memory that filled me with warmth and ultimately revealed the answers to an eons-old mystery.
“I was put to task to come up with a way to deal with our brother by Mr. Hades. I have spent months weighing my options as I listen to his victims’ never-ending cries for justice inside my aching, throbbing head. He is beyond Dikê’s touch and yours. So I came up with the final solution,” I confess.
Revenge and vengeance fed from themselves, one act creating the need for more. In the hands of mortals and gods alike, it was a neverending cycle of destruction and despair. It was only by my touch that balance and justice were achieved through revenge. And only because I wrought it so, only because I thought and knew the price, only because I controlled my power.
Now it is just the three of us, and I make my way to the kitchen. She has taken care of me my entire life, and now it is my turn to take care of her. I believe it is time to break some bread and a nice meal is in order.
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.
I stood petrified, afraid to move. A part of me had gone quiet and still, frozen and in shock at the breadth of this violation. In needing to create distance from the horror of the nightmares, I had become prey. I had become a victim. I wanted to scream my denial but was not sure I would be able to stop if I started.
I would not hurt Thanatos, and yet I did. I could not close my eyes, but I could look away. And as cowardly as it felt, I did. I could not see the act I was committing. I could not watch, and shame filled me as I left Thano in the one way that I could stay with him.