“Yes, Master. Kill Than,” Nem repeated in the flat tone.
The real Nem, unlike the cannibal version of her I had faced down many decades ago, was faster, stronger, and more agile. Her power erupted and stormed out of her at Hyp’s command. Her eyes turned into black pools where purple lightning danced as her wings exploded out of her back. Black veins pulsing with purple light stood out of her fair skin and an aura of purplish-black fire raged around her. She threw back her head and cried out: half-battle cry, half rage. Hypnos’ smile had returned to his face and he sidestepped while Nem ran forward at me.
I meant to dodge my sister, I truly did, but the next thing I knew, her booted foot was making contact with my chest. I was airborne for a moment, hanging suspended as I went over the guardrail and plunged down to a catwalk below. I landed with a thud and a bang on the metal floor, from above, Nem’s battle cry had become two words.
She leapt over the guardrail, the hilt of her shadow sword to her breast and the blade pointed downward towards me. Had I been any slower in rolling away from her aim, which was full of deadly precision, she would have skewered me for sure. I rolled under the guard rail and landed on my feet on the next catwalk. The tip of the shadow sword went through the metal and was stuck there. Nem tried to pull it, screaming as she did so. I was not sure, but I believed in her altered state she may have forgotten that she could fold the blade back in to free it and summon it again to pursue me. I bolted down the metal walk to a flight of stairs.
“The Master said to kill Than!” Nem roared.
For a wonder, the sleepwalkers listened to her as they would’ve listened to Hyp. There was a sudden choir of flat monotone voices repeating, “Kill Than.” I began to summon my will, preparing to use my ability to move stuff with my mind, the mortals called it telekinesis. I leapt down an entire flight of stairs, hearing Nem’s triumphant cry as she freed her sword. I found what I was looking for on the next level.
Inside a cage that belonged at a zoo, I found Ky’Elli pacing back and forth, her cries full of indignity and rage at her capture. I stopped in front and she stopped pacing, regarding me with her blue eyes. I reached out with another part of my mind and touched the mind of Ky’Elli.
“Can you hear me, small beast?” I asked.
“I can, my lord,” she replied in a calm, cold voice.
“I need your assistance. I need you to distract and keep your Mistress at bay. She is no longer in her own mind,” I said.
“I will help you with the task, my lord, but what of our quarry?” she asked.
“You leave my brother to me,” I told her.
“As you wish. Release me, but first, behind you,” she said.
I spun on my heel to see two sleepwalkers quickly advancing, construction tools at the ready to use as weapons against me. I raised my arm and extended it palm outward, pushing my will out of my mind through my hand, and both sleepwalkers lifted and were thrown back. They hit the ground and I made sure they stayed down before I turned my attention back to the cage.
Ky’Elli lay on her stomach, readying herself to pounce, and staring intently at the cage door. I looked at the lock, focused my will, and popped it. I heard boots approaching from behind and I knew the footfalls were Nem’s.
“The Master says you must die. I must kill Than,” she said.
“If you must, Nem,” I said looking down at Ky’Elli.
There was a sensation of nodding inside my head from Ky’Elli as Nem lifted her sword to her shoulder, meaning to thrust it into my back. I waited patiently for her to begin her charge. She came at me and I opened the cage door, releasing Ky’Elli. She pounced at her Mistress, hitting Nem in the stomach with her head full force, toppling her over. Ky’Elli pinned her there and Nem began to howl in outrage.
“Flee my lord, I am unsure how long I can hold her,” Ky’Elli spoke in my mind.
I fled back up the stairs, back toward Hypnos, with Nem screaming from behind me.
“I will not fail the Master! Kill Than!” Nem screamed.
I ran, blasting the sleepwalkers who got in my way. Hypnos watched me advance, applauding and laughing with every one that I blew aside. I gathered and began to swirl the shadows around myself. I could feel what I needed them to do, the darkness trailing behind and around me. My new wings unfurled themselves at the bottom of the small staircase that would take me up to the outlook where Hyp waited.
Hypnos stood at the top of the stairs, arms open as if to embrace me, that game show host smile plastered on his face. I pulled a handful of black feathers from my wing, rage rising in me. A familiar set of footfalls came from behind me. Nem. Hypnos laughed and pointed at her and I turned to look. She was wide-eyed and half-crazed, panting as the purplish-black aura burned frantically around her. She growled and my heart broke to see her like this, but that break was quickly replaced by fury for Hypnos and what he had done to her.
“Bravo, bra fucking vo!” Hypnos shouted, laughing from behind me and clapping loudly.
I clenched my jaw shut as my chest grew hot, my temples pulsed, and a hard knot developed in my stomach. Nem stared transfixed at Hyp, a helpless look on her face. I could feel Hypnos smirk as I readied myself to throw the feathers.
“Nem-nem?” Hypnos said.
“Master!?” Nem responded.
“Don’t you want to kill Than?” Hypnos asked.
“Yes! Master! Kill Than!” she yelled, sounding like a zealot.
As Nem advanced, I pulled another bunch of feathers from my other wing, flinging the two handfuls at her. I watched them explode into plumes of black swirling smoke, the clouds solidifying into my identical image. She swung her shadow blade furiously at my clones, only to have them tear more feathers from their wings and create more. Nem screamed and began to work her way through them. With her distracted, I turned to face the smiling megalomaniac that was my brother, my fists filled with more feathers.
Hypnos’ smile faltered as I hurled my feathers at him and they did their trick. I mounted the final flight of stairs with a rage burning inside of me that I had not felt in a very long time. The clones and I surrounded Hyp in a circle, and we let him feel our fury. We began to rain blows onto my brother: punches, jabs, backhands, and kicks.
Two clones hit him in the kidneys and forced him to his knees. One gave him a quick jab to the abdomen. I hit him with a left hook, followed by a right, then an uppercut. One clone kicked him in the groin and as he laid curled up in a ball from the pain of that shot, we all moved in and began to kick and stomp the god of sleep. Hyp, despite the beating he was being dealt, managed to keep his wits. Drawing his dagger, he began to take wild defensive swings at the clones.
The clones did what they did after an injury; they puffed out of existence in clouds of black smoke. Then Hyp’s dagger found me, going straight into the side of my knee. I screamed out in pain and dropped to the floor. Hyp stood and wiped fresh black ichor from his mouth as he twisted and pulled the dagger out of my leg. I screamed again, the pain intense and I could feel the rush of ichor pouring out.
Hypnos made quick work of the remaining clones around him. I was panting, sweating, and getting dizzy as he grabbed me by my throat and dragged me to the railing. Breathing hard, he lifted me, slammed my back into the railing, and began to choke me. There was rage and madness burning in his black and gold-flecked eyes. I beat weakly at his arms as it became harder and harder to breathe.
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Nem ascend the stairs, but Ky’Elli ran between her legs, tripping her and sending her back down. Hyp watched this and shook his head slowly.
“You just can’t find good help these days Thanner,” he began, his hand tightening around my windpipe. “Well, while we have a moment, let me lay out the grand plan. Let me begin by saying that dagger strike was not a mistake, I knew it was you from the twin sense, you dumb fuck. Kronos did free me to find the pulse, which I did, and magnificently so, may I add. I was to use it on his go-ahead, in case things didn’t work out, but you see Thanner, Ate and I kind of have different plans. See, when Kronos wins, and he will win, I am sure of it, I will crawl down in that hole and I will sleep the Gods, mortals, and Titans. I will be in complete control of two worlds. I will ascend the throne of the Gods and Ate will be my queen. Together, we will reign over two worlds. Kronos will be on his knees licking my boots like a dog…”
“Sssooon….wiiiiffee…” I choked out.
“What? Wife? Pasithea? Her? Why would I want her when I have Ate? She is a much better partner in my opinion. As for my wife, she can be the palace mutt, crawling around on all fours, naked and barking like a dog for our amusement, and as for Morph, he will accept his roles as prince and heir of the gods. Then we will take those fancy weapons we used to cut off those wings of yours, and travel to other worlds, spreading the message of sleep and how good it feels,” Hypnos growled.
I felt light-headed, my vision began to fail as black circles filled it. Hypnos sneered at me and panted as he choked me. Then I heard Ky’Elli and Nem speak up in my head.
“Are you listening?” Ky’Elli asked.
“Yes, I serve the Master,” Nem said.
“As well you should, but he is in trouble,” Ky’Elli said.
“No!” Nem whispered.
“Yes, the one you call Than stole your Master’s robe. He is choking your Master, do you not want to stop him? Do you not want to kill Than?” Ky’Elli purred.
“Kill Than for the Master…” Nem began.
If there was more of this conversation between them, it became lost in the fog of impending unconsciousness. I struggled now as Hyp leaned in to whisper into my ear. I could feel his hot breath on my cheek while his body radiated the heat of hate and madness.
“When you come to, you will be in a coffin, buried so fucking deep in Tartarus, not even Hades will fucking find…” Hypnos began.
Two terms came to mind as Hypnos’ grip loosened from my throat and air filled my lungs again in a cold, deep, gasping breath. One was, as you mortals say in Latin: Deus ex machina (god is in the machine). The second was: There is a fine line between vengeance and justice. It would seem no matter what state Nem was in, she could always be pointed and guided to her true mark.
Hyp looked down at the tip of the shadow blade protruding from his chest, with an open-mouthed look of disbelief. He gasped and looked over his shoulder at a smiling victorious Nem, who tightly held the hilt of her sword. He looked back at me and just stood there, his mouth open, panting like a fish out of the water.
“Kill Than,” Nem said.
Hyp looked back over his shoulder and said, “You stupid bitch!”
She pulled the sword out with a wet sound and Hyp did a deadfall, face-first onto the metal surface of the catwalk. The banging of his body hitting echoed in the quiet warehouse. She swayed, uneasy on her feet and I watched her closely as I crouched down to check Hyp’s pulse. He was…alive! He was alive and breathing, Nem had missed his heart. She began to faint, her eyes rolled up to the whites. I rushed over and caught her just in time, cradling her in my arms. When she opened her eyes, it was Nem looking back at me and I couldn’t help but smile down at my big sister.
“Thano! I have toes inside my boots and I am wiggling them!” Nem yelled.
“What?” I asked.
“Boop!” she said, tapping the tip of my nose with her finger.
She broke out in child-like giggles. What was this strangeness? I looked over the rail to see the others acting just as strange. Was this euphoria a side effect of coming out of the deep sleep my brother put them in? Nem bopping my nose again brought me out of my reverie. I pulled out my pocket watch, clicked it open, and tapped the glass with my thumb as Nem sang about wiggling toes.
The face lit up an unnatural shade of purple. It was attached to the magic of the Underworld. My sisters, the Fates, had set that up for me. I transmitted a message to Ares and Dinlas that Hypnos was subdued. Then my watch alerted me to a brand new message from Moxie. It was brief and urgent.
“Than, I need you at The God Complex as soon as possible – Moxie”
I wondered what that could be about as I heard Ares, Dinlas, and a group of men shouting from downstairs. Their response time was quick; they must have been tracking my watch, and flew in after the skype call. I sighed and let out a heavy breath. Nem imitated me, giggling, I couldn’t help but smile.
“Nem, Nemalem, we are going to Greece to The God Complex, okay?” I said.
“Otay, boop,” she said, bopping my noise again.
I nodded, and as Ares, followed by Dinlas and the others, climbed up to restrain Hypnos, I folded my wings around Nem and I and traveled to The God Complex to see what part I needed to play there.