Thanatos headed back to his place to get his cloak and supplies. While he was gone, I gathered up my own necessities, including a container of ambrosia, my own cloak, and a pack that would double to hold Ky’Elli if needed. While I waited, I changed my clothes and hair in anticipation of physical combat. Heavier, but supple leather pants and a more practical, short pixie cut were needed for battle.

My mind worked on the problem of finding Hypnos as I absently readied us for travel and my home for my absence. I could not think of Hypnos without remembering Thanatos as well. The two were nearly inseparable as children. Hypnos was the older of the fraternal twins and they were Nyx’s last born, the babies of a very large family. They were nearly identical in looks, but that was where any similarities ended.

Thanatos, the God of Death, had been born with devastating powers. His touch killed any mortal being and he learned quickly what disastrous consequences his actions could produce. He had been a quiet, somber, and serious lad with a sweet and gentle nature. Keeping to himself and to the shadows, he had formed a strong moral and ethical core and adhered to it religiously. All qualities that had followed him into adulthood.

Hypnos, the God of Sleep, could induce sleep, visions, and dreamscape. Dreamscaping gave him the ability to enter people’s dreams, and once there, influence them however he wanted; morphing them to nightmares, visions of wild sex, pleasant happy dreams, or driving the mortal insane. He was outgoing and made friends easily. He was constantly in motion, the center of attention, and became skilled at hiding his dark nature behind that jovial facade as he grew. Hypnos believed himself the most clever being in any room. His conviction that he was destined to rule fueled his hubris and led to his downfall once before. It was likely it would again. Unfortunately, in a battle between gods, it was the mortals that would pay the highest price.

I turned as Thanatos reappeared in the entryway, the familiar cloak draped around him, the hood casting his face in deep shadows and his hands covered by the special gloves Nyx had given him.

“Ready?” I asked quietly.

Thanatos nodded and moved further into the room, I gave him a small smile. “I am going to shift us to the forest. I do not want to cause any further damage to the God Complex.” With that, I reached out my hands, touching both him and Ky’Elli, linking the three of us, I ported to a small clearing steeped in magic.

“Thano, pick up Ky’Elli and please stand still,” I said into the darkness. The moon had yet to rise, but the stars glittered against the black velvet of the sky, and the forest was draped in a cloak of gloom. I turned and caught the fluorescence of two sets of eyes, knowing that mine did the same, none of us having any difficulty seeing in the dark. 

I moved back a few paces and lifted my face, feeling the breath of the night wash over me in welcome. My wings, my true wings, unfurled, the shadows coalescing into darker patches of night, filled with millions of tiny solar systems, stars, and nebulae. My body shimmered as my immortal form bled through. My power mantled around me and I grew to meet it, inhaling deeply, tasting the essence of the night, tapping into the energies of the planet and all the beings it nourished.

I turned towards Thanatos and Ky’elli, blinking glowing violet eyes at them, both were crunching on black peppermints, I shook my head and grinned. Delicately, I reached out and found the thread that was him and plucked it, savoring the resonance of it. It was a deep pulsing bass, like a heartbeat. I followed the echoes of the note, searching, searching…knowing that the one I sought had an almost identical signature. I just had to find it. I focused on Hypnos, bringing his image to mind, memories washing over me, remembered connections. I filtered that knowledge through that something that was extra in me, that something I had never been able to put words to. As if I held an extra sense that tied directly back to my power. Each person, each being, shown to this sense, as a scent trail showed to a bloodhound. This is what made me such an efficient tracker.

I sifted through the threads, following Thanatos’ vibration, using his connection to Hypnos along with my own. I moved further and further out, patiently searching, my body tensing as the connection suddenly snapped into place, my power thrusting through time and space to clamp onto that thread. I was heady with glee at the elemental and primal extension of my magic. The laughter that rolled over the clearing and the forest sent creatures scurrying into hiding, for that was not the sound of anything that had ever been human. My voice a raspy growl, “I have him, there is nowhere he can hide. He is mine.” 

As the Nemesis creature, I turned my attention back to Thanatos and Ky’Elli, both watched me with looks of pride and love, for though I was a monster, I was their monster. I swept forward, my power flowing with me and cloaking them, we were transported halfway around the planet.  We arrived into a weak, midday sunlight, surrounded by trees. I stepped into the shadows, pulling back to my mortal form, draping my magic over my shoulders like a cloak. Thanatos and Ky’Elli blinked at the sudden light, surveying their surroundings curiously. 

“Where are we?” Thanatos asked.

“Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, California,” I replied looking around. “He is close, Thano.” I plucked the connection again, listening as it sang beneath my touch, following the vibration I turned to face the city.  “He is in the city, but he is surrounded by mortals,” I cocked my head, as I felt along the bond, examining it with my mind’s eye. “He has mortals under his control and he knows we are here.”

Ky’Elli flared out her wings, sensing my need to continue the hunt. I turned to Thanatos and laying a hand on each of them again, shifted to a narrow alley tucked in between two tall buildings, my head lifting even before we had solidified.

“He’s up there, Thano,” I said quietly, nodding to the building on our right.

“No, dear sister, I am right here.” Thanatos, Ky’Elli, and I all spun around as Hypnos stepped out of the deep shadows. “What you are feeling up there and on two other nearby buildings are my loyal subjects.” He looked directly at Thanatos. “Surely, you didn’t think I would not know you would come, brother?” 

Thanatos shook his head. “Hypnos, why are you doing this?  Please, you must see reason. Nothing has changed. You can not make slaves of this world. You know that we will never allow it.”

“No, Thanner!  You are the one that does not seem to understand! I have made the other realm perfect. There is no war, no famine, no strife. I have created the perfect world and I will do the same here and then I will rule them both! I will be the true king and I will command them all, including you.”

I watched quietly, my body poised for action the moment I saw an opening.

“Ky’Elli, I want you to get to the top of the building. Something is not right with those people on the rooftops. Get up there and show me.”

“Yes, Kiri. I will do it, Kiri.”

“Shadows be with you, mikros, and be safe. Do not get hurt. Call for me, if you need me. I will come.”

“I know, Kiri. Hunt well,” Ky’Elli trilled in her pure tones.

I smiled at the farewell Ky’Elli had picked up and adopted from me.

Ky’Elli shrunk behind me with wings held close and her eyes narrowed to slits to hide the shimmer. I barely contained my surprise when she vanished, then reappeared on the rooftop in question. She ported. I had no idea that was possible.

“Elli! How…?”

“I learned from you, Kiri. I have to be able to go where you go. I can not protect you if I can not follow. So I watched and I learned. I have been practicing,” Ky’Elli replied with no small amount of smugness in her tone.

Thanatos and Hypnos continued to argue. In his desire to hurt his twin, Hypnos was either ignoring me or forgot I was there. I knew that Thanatos was aware that, regardless of the argument, Hypnos was lost and would not see reason. He was just buying me time.

“We will talk about this later, mikros!” I growled at my small monster, splitting my focus between what Ky’Elli was seeing and the conversation between Thanatos and Hypnos.

“Hyp, you rule nothing. You have done worse than enslave these people. You have made them your puppets. There is no point in ruling puppets. There will be no progress, no joy, no change, no growth. You are nothing more than a child playing in fantasies, only a King of toys,” Thanatos growled at his brother.

“Oh, Kiri…they will not wake, Kiri. They do not even notice me,” Ky’Elli whispered into my mind, her tone sad and afraid. Looking through her eyes I saw the people lined up at the edge of the roof. Perched like frozen statues; men, women, children. Ky’Elli’s gaze shifted and I saw more people standing on the edges of two other buildings within her line of sight.

I fought back a sense of helpless panic, slowly gathering the shadows, pulling them from the corners and crevices of the alleyway. I sent them towards Hypnos, letting them coalesce about his feet and against the walls on either side of him. They oozed and crept closer and closer. I kept them poised there, waiting and watching.

“I know you said no eating people, Kiri, but I bit one,” Ky’Elli said in a small but determined voice, sending me an image of a dark stain seeping down the pant leg of one of the men. “I wanted to see if pain would wake them. They will not wake, Kiri!  What do I do?” Ky’Elli’s tone became more frantic as she struggled to pull people from the edge, succeeding in making them fall back onto the roof, but having them fight until she was forced to release them or hurt them. The moment they were free, they retook their place.

I soothed Ky’Elli, instructing her to keep trying, watching as Hypnos’ face suffused with rage, his hands balled into fists, he hissed between clenched teeth, “I will show you what I am King of, Thanner. I will show you true power over life and death.” His eyes went ebony flecked with gold and I knew a moment before it happened what he was going to do. I slapped the shadows about him, binding him in the darkness, in formless smoke that wrapped around him like ropes. Seconds later, I heard the wet sound of bodies hitting the street, the screech of brakes, the crunch of glass and metal as some hit cars, and the screams of terror from the people witnessing this horror.

Ky’Elli shrieked along our bond, panic infusing her mental voice, at the same time that Thanatos cried out in pain and folded into himself.  I caught him as he fell, gripping his head, his screams of agony tearing at me. My own head rang with Ky’Elli’s pleas for help. I glared at Hypnos, watching as he battled fruitlessly against the shadows. Holding his gaze relentlessly I poured more power into the binding, ensuring there was no escape for him.

I reconnected with Ky’Elli, my stomach clenching when I realized the reason for her panic. She struggled to hold onto a little girl that was fighting to hurl herself off the building. Ky’Elli had the child’s yellow sweater clamped in her teeth, and her feet braced against the ledge, her wings outstretched and her claws digging deep into the stone of the building, refusing to let go.Thanatos suffered through the influx of souls as they hammered at him with the violence and horror of their deaths, living the last moments with them. Their rage and pain at lives cut too short, their sorrow of all that was lost, the sickening grief at having had their minds and bodies violated, flooded into him. Hypnos may have owned and controlled their minds, but their souls were wholly aware, panicked and desperate to stop the inevitable. Every one of those emotions from every one of those souls slammed into Thanatos all at once, forcing him to absorb them too quickly.

My gaze bored into Hypnos and my voice went demonic as my power reached for him in truth. “You will pay for this. You have felt my touch before, brother, and did not learn, you will feel it again. This time, there will be no escape. I will ensure it.” For the first time, I saw fear and doubt fill his gaze and his panicked struggles increased.

Ky’Elli shrieked again on both the mental and physical planes, the sound lamenting and filled with pain, it was enough to send everyone to their knees as sorrow punched into through to the soul. My head whipped up in response, knowing that Ky’Elli had failed in her attempts to save the little one that she had fought so valiantly for. I reached for her along our bond, wrapping her in my presence, feeling her collapse and cry with anguish. Thanatos stiffened against me as the final soul slammed into him, all the more horrific, for this one had experienced hope, only to have it shattered as she fell. He collapsed into unconsciousness.

My magic exploded from me and my eyes went black, lighting with stars of violet. Tendrils of shadow whipped off of me and wrapped about Thanatos, shielding him. The cold of his aura chilling as his guard dropped and the death he carried within was allowed off the chain. I watched black tears streak his face and his veins pulse a deep violet against the icy white of his skin. Having to pull back a portion of the power that I had used to restrain Hypnos, I poured it into creating a bubble around Thanatos, containing that field of death, feeling it lick at the barrier much as my own does when it searches and reaches. It curled quiet and seeping, no anger, no fury, just looking to stretch, and if I allowed, it would kill every living thing on this street and then drift through the city. There would be nothing left alive in San Francisco. 

I felt Hypnos struggle and buck against the shadows, he was so much stronger than he should have been. A vicious snap and when I looked back, Hypnos had disappeared. I growled, the sound low and guttural, my power whipping around me in a maelstrom of frustrated fury at such deserving prey having escaped its justice. My power had bit deep, one way or another he would know its effects, I would not stop.

I adjusted Thano’s dead weight against me and denying my instinctive need to chase Hypnos down and finish this for good, I shifted us to the rooftop. Finding Ky’Elli slumped against the ledge, her entire form curled in tight on itself, the pain radiating off of her enough to make me homicidal. Tamping down my rage, I laid Thanatos on the rooftop and tenderly cradled Ky’Elli, my heart clenching at the soft yellow fabric still gripped in her teeth. I placed her on Thanatos’ chest and with a hand on each of them, and my wings hovering over them protectively, I ported them to my cottage on the northern California coast.

Nemesis (Aisling MacKay)
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