The gates to the Underworld are sparse, and normally one either needed permission or be born in that realm to access it. Today I was glad for that, and I stumbled down the steps to Night’s Hall. I could see the dark pillars from on high, the flames that rested on either side of the entrance flickering, beckoning me to the darkness. I accepted the invitation all too readily, leaving a dried trail of gold behind me as I made my way home.
The Hall doors opened themselves for their Mistress, and I barely made it inside before collapsing against a column. I was a mess of fluids, emotions, pain – I tried to glance at the damage done to my wing, but even moving my neck wreaked havoc. There was nothing I wanted more than to curl up and embrace the blackness of sleep, but I couldn’t on a marble floor. Not yet.
Dragging myself upright once more, I pulled a spear from the statue that stood guard near the doors, and using it as a cane, I made my way to my ceremonial chambers. It was similar to my apartments in Tartarus, but with more black and gold, more pomp and circumstance. Where my apartments were somewhat homey and comfortable, everything here screamed riches and decadence. I had abandoned it some time ago, deeming it too stuffy for my tastes. Now, it was perfect.
Dinlas arrived several minutes later. He was holding something in his hand that I didn’t recognize. He glanced at me and the look on his face clearly reflected my miserable appearance.
“Nyx, oh Nyx,” he said as he looked at me leaning heavily on my improvised cane.
I glanced at him, then turned away, the slight movement sending shooting pains through me.
Dinlas moved toward me, still cradling a fairly large object under his arm. When I looked closer, I felt horror and weakness well up in me when I recognized it.
My wing. He was carrying my wing. Like a sack of groceries, he had it under his arm. I slid down and half sat, half fell onto a small sofa nearby. Dinlas set my wing on the bed, then turned to me.
“Nyx, let me help you get to the bed,” he said as he reached out both arms.
I was too weak to fight. I wanted to push his hands away. I wanted to scream at him what a monster I was and there was obviously something wrong with him for loving me, that he must be as sick as I was. I needed to tell him that I was poison and he needed to leave, all of them leave and never come back. I wanted to do all those things, and instead, I fell forward and started sobbing. He caught me, and pulled me up and over to the bed. I stumbled with him as he laid me down on it and immediately began examining my wound. After a minute, he spoke.
“Nyx, I can fix this, but it’s going to hurt. Are you with me? I need to know where your head is.”
“I-I can’t, I can’t let you, please,” I sobbed, face pressed into the bed. Pain coursed through me as I shook. Why couldn’t he understand that I was already broken? This was just proof of it now. I was dead weight, hideous dead weight.
“Nyx,” he whispered. When I didn’t respond, he said it louder and more forceful. “Nyx, I need your help. I can heal this, but I am very unfamiliar with wings. I need your help, and it has to be sooner rather than later, if I am to re-attach it properly.”
I couldn’t look at him. “No, it’s not right. I don’t deserve it, you, none of it! Why do you want to help me? I’m a burden. A walking mistake. Chaos never should have brought me to life. Can’t you see that?!”
Dinlas leaned over and hissed in my ear. The coarseness and sudden edge in his voice caught me off guard.
“You do not get to lecture me about being unworthy of love. If that is the case, then neither I nor any other Olympian deserves it either. We all have our misdeeds. The point is that we are trying to do better now.” At this point, he shoved his hand down into my face. It was so sudden and startling I thought he was about to slap me, but then I realized he was showing me the bracelet I got him. The bracelet that gave him wings.
“You do not get to give me this, then give up on your own wings. You do not get to promise me that one day we will soar far and wide, then renege on that dream. You promised me this would happen, and I am here to see that it does. I will not give up on you, so don’t you dare give up on us.”
I stared at the little wolf head bead on the bracelet, silent for a moment, before grabbing his wrist and pulling him to me.
“Dinlas…please help me.” I pressed his hand to my eyes, and he felt cold against my overheated skin. “Please…”
He smiled at me. It was a crooked, worried smile, if such a thing existed.
“That’s my girl,” he said. “I need you to tell me what feels right when I re-attach it. I am unfamiliar with the bone structure. I need you to guide me when I work. We have to move quickly, but we have to do it right as well. It will be painful, can you do it for me, though?”
I was already holding my breath as he spoke, and the stub twinged as if it could hear him. I nodded once, curtly, still clinging to him as if my life depended on it.
He took the wing and moved behind me to work on my back. The moment he touched the stub I felt fire course through my body. I bit my lip to try and hide the pain, but he could see me shaking from it.
“You got this, amorcito,” he whispered as he maneuvered the wing. Once in place, he moved his hands gently, and I could hear him whispering spells of binding and healing. After several minutes of sheer agony, he spoke.
“Gently, love. Gently flex it and see if it moves. It will still be painful, so nothing too strenuous.”
I choked as I flexed my wings, a short cracking sound reverberating through the room, before it moved in sync with the right wing.
“Oh, Chaos preserve me, it hurts so much, amata…”
“I know, I know it does,” he whispered back. “Let me look at it some more. I think I can make it better.” He began working my back with his fingertips and I heard him whispering another spell. The words were unfamiliar to me, but the pain subsided to some degree.
“Is that better?” he asked after several more minutes.
I very slowly shifted my wings again, afraid of more pain to come, but it was dull and distant. I moved one shoulder, then the other, and nodded carefully, pale as a sheet.
“Y-Yes, it’s much better, th-thank you…”
Dinlas nodded. He was watching me now, obviously concerned about what happened. Still, he didn’t question or interrogate me.
“Are you comfortable here? Do you want me to teleport us to your apartment?”
“N-no, it’s – it’s gone, Dinlas… it’s gone.” I pulled him back to me, tears flowing again. “It’s all gone, and – thank you for following me…”
Dinlas laid down next to me, close but not touching. “Then we will stay right here. Later, we can talk to the family about what happened. For now, though, it’s just us.”
“No! Please, I…I don’t – I can’t tell them. I will tell you, but not them, please… “ I glanced at him, feeling horrid. I couldn’t shake the words from the tulpa, his insistence that I was disposable to any and all…
“Will you come closer? Am I scary?” I blinked. That sounded wrong. “I mean, not scary, but…”
Dinlas cut me off as he scooted closer to me, obviously self-conscious of not putting his arm anywhere wounded. There were precious few places, but he did get it draped around my waist.
“I – I have to confess, Nyx, I am at a loss as to what happened that has affected you like this, but I can assure you that you are not scary. I am only concerned because I don’t want to touch you anywhere you are still hurt.” He paused, looked straight at me, and spoke.
“Nyx, you know I love you, right? Nothing is going to change that. Even if you drive me away, banish me from your life, I will still love you. You are powerful, but you aren’t powerful enough to change my feelings. I don’t know what happened here, but we will get through it together.”
I shook my head as he spoke, rolling over and burying my face in his chest. “No, don’t. Don’t say that. The tulpa, it said…” I bit back my words, squeezing my eyes tightly, and clinging to his shirt. “I don’t care if I’m hurt, please don’t go, Dinlas. Please…I will tell you everything, just…”
Dinlas nodded and the words spilled out of me. My speech was jumbled and scattered, yet he remained calm as he listened.
“I’m not going anywhere,” he replied when I finally bit my lip and paused. “I am, however, going to work several more of these spots. I am concerned your wrist is broken and there are several other wounds I can see. May I please help you with those while we lie here?” He spoke to me soft and soothing. He was afraid to say something that might set me off again.
I nodded, removing my hands from his chest slowly, and rolling to my back, wings gone now. I tried to wipe my face of tears, realizing what a mess I probably looked like, and closed my eyes to stave off the tulpa’s words again. I gave him my hand, resting it on his knee as he sat up beside me to look me over again.
“I love you,” I murmured, my lip trembling as I said it. “Please don’t ever forget that. Or me.”
My sudden proclamation must have caught him off guard. He cleared his throat and pinched the bridge of his nose before replying.
“I love you too, Nyx. Nothing is going to change that. You are everything to me and to think I could ever forget you is simply out of the question.” He continued to close the open wounds on my body, alternating between murmuring spells and consoling me.
I told Dinlas what transpired since entering my computer in London: the taunts, the tulpa possessing me, Eventide’s destruction, entering the Complex to destroy Hestia’s floor and stealing the files from his database, to waking up in Olympus and the fight. I repeated the tulpa’s words to me, verbatim. They were branded in my skull, and I could hear its voice as if it were beside me, even now. When I finished, Dinlas didn’t respond, but rather continued to quietly tend to my wounds. Finally, I couldn’t take any more silence.
I craned to look at him and asked, “Well? Are you going to say something? Are you angry?”
Dinlas nodded and replied, “I am angry, very angry.” I could feel my face fall and my stomach sink as he continued. “I know not what this creature is, but I will kill it if I ever catch it. It is obviously a foul being that operates in the shadows and spews filthy lies. But angry at you? Of course not. None of this is your fault. In fact, now I worry it may be my fault. That it may have been bred when we linked the computer systems together and they began acting strangely. I hope I didn’t unleash this thing on you and cause this hurt.” Here he paused, then went back to my wounds.
I shook my head slightly. “No, no, it said it had been around for a long time when I first spoke to it. Please, do not put undue pressure on yourself, amata, please…”
Dinlas nodded and smiled at me. It wasn’t his full boyish grin, but it was a better smile than earlier when he still held my wing in his hand. Finished with my injuries, he lay down next to me, pressed tightly to my side.
“We will figure this out. We will figure this out together, as a team. And when we catch this creature we will kill it. No one does this to you and is safe. There is no pit in Tartarus deep enough for it to hide. Nor any rock large enough to hide under that I won’t find it. When I do, I will kill it. Or better, I will give you the satisfaction. Then you will be free of it.”
I watched him as he spoke, his face never changing but his eyes alight. I had no doubt that he would find the tulpa, and I was grateful. I was grateful that I didn’t have to do this alone, that he was here. That I had my partner, my equal.
“As a team. Yes, we’ll find it. I am confident in you, amata. Thank you, as I have said too many times tonight,” I said, giving a shaky laugh.