I laid on the metal support beam in the rafters of the warehouse, the skylight I had entered through, wide open above me. My breathing was heavy, heart racing, head pounding, and ears still ringing from the concussive force that had freed the Titans from their prison. I was so close when it happened.
Now they are pursuing me: Atlas, Kronos, Chronos, and my brother, Hypnos.
How is Hypnos here when I imprisoned him, worlds away, decades ago?
I know what they want. I know…my eyes closed and the memories flooded back.
I sat in Nox and sipped my drink, the gloves my mother had given me on my hands. I couldn’t help but smile as I watched Moxie examine the star body Mother had created for her. My phone chimed and I pulled it from my pocket, discovering a new email from Mr. Hades. I was needed for a special soul collection.
A Tartarus bound soul that needs to go into a coffin. Must be pretty bad.
A sigh and a small curse escaped my lips as I finished my drink. I had sent my clones out for retrieval so I wouldn’t miss tonight. Mr. Hades was at the party, and the email was a scheduled thing. I stepped out as the festivities continued. No one noticed as I left to perform my duty.
“Thanner!” Hypnos called from below and my eyes flew open.
“How do you know he’s even in here?” Atlas asked.
“Twin sense, you dumb shit!” Hypnos answered with an exasperated sigh.
Atlas growled as a reply.
“Fuck,” I whispered.
Hypnos whistled, looked up and pointed at me. He flashed a toothy, game show host smile at me.
“Atlas, bring my brother down here to me,” Hypnos instructed.
“With pleasure,” Atlas growled.
The metal support beam buckled and shook beneath me as the Titan punched the metal column that anchored it. The beam broke with a groan and a snap and I plummeted towards the ground.
I escorted the soul of James Holmes to his final resting place with a firm grip on the crux of his arm. Deep in Tartarus, near the Titan’s prison, we passed rows of stone coffins, both of us able to hear the souls inside wail and shriek.
“Oh look, more black robes. Must be a work uniform or a fashion statement. Say, weren’t you supposed to get me in a black robe?” James said.
The mortal was talking again; all he did was talk. He hadn’t stopped talking since I reaped him.
“I was at a prior engagement,” I answered.
“Ohhh, well excuse me for dying! I mean, look at those two assholes in robes over there. What is that…a prison?” James said, pointing.
“Over where…?” I trailed off as I caught sight of them. One was tall, almost a giant, with a wooden staff, but it was the slender man next to him that I focused on. A knot of cold air filled my stomach as I sensed him.
“Hyp?” I asked under my breath.
As if on cue, my brother looked over his shoulder at me, smirking as his black-gold-flecked eyes met my obsidian ones. I felt frozen, like a deer in the headlights of an oncoming truck. The other man did not turn, but the staff…Chronos. Hypnos winked at me.
A flash of bright blinding light appeared and an ear-shattering rumble shook the ground. A massive hot wind lifted me up off my feet and threw me backward along with chunks of debris.
I plummeted towards Atlas, and Hypnos blew in the warehouse. I began to flap my wings, correcting my downward fall. I flew straight, full speed, my arms outstretched and my hands balled into fists, straight into Atlas’ chest. It was not an easy task, hitting him was the equivalent of hitting stone, but it did the trick. I sent the Titan sailing through the nearest wall.
I landed on my feet and quickly turned to face my twin. His dagger was in his hand as he advanced on me. He lunged and I used my forearm to block each blade thrust as I retreated. Our abilities have never worked on each other. Even as children when we got into fistfights to settle things, physical confrontation alone would likely end in a draw. I telepathically picked up debris from the wall I had sent Atlas through and hurled it in Hypnos’ direction.
Hypnos dodged some and cursed with pain as he was struck by other pieces. I was suddenly slammed to the ground as Atlas returned to the fight. I struggled to get up, but he was too quick, putting me in a choke-hold and kicking my knees out from beneath me. I was forced to kneel with his muscular arm affixing me in place.
Hypnos approached, gloating and satisfied. He hit me hard with a right hook to my face, followed by a left. He continued his assault until a booming voice commanded, “Stop!”
Unease shivered through me as Kronos shouted orders from the doorway. Hypnos glared but stopped. Black ichor ran down and out of various parts of my face. Hypnos stepped to the side as Kronos approached and Chronos followed, stone faced. Atlas’ grip tightened around my neck as they stood in front of me. Kronos smiled amicably and squatted down with his hands on his knees to be on eye level with me. I struggled to focus on the King of the Titans.
“Thanatos, look at you. You’ve gotten big. Where is the scythe, Thanatos? I am sure my son told you to keep it safe, but what you have belongs to me,” Kronos said conversationally.
The mention of keeping the scythe, Mr. Hades, and this place, sent me tumbling further back into memory.
I stood in Hades’ throne room, staring in awe at my gift. The scythe sat in a black box on purple satin. I could not take my eyes from it. The room was filled with my siblings. Mother stood next to me, stroking my hair and smiling. Ms. Persephone stood alongside, holding Mr. Hades’ arm, both of them smiled.
“Go on and pick it up, dear one,” Mother said.
With trembling hands, I picked it up for the first time. The blade glowed, and I heard it sing for the times. I couldn’t stop smiling as Mr. Hades broke away from Ms. Persephone and approached me. Mother still stroked my hair; she was smiling, too.
“It’s a very special gift, Than,” Mr. Hades began. “The blade belonged to my father; his sickle reforged and repurposed for you to aid you in your duties. With it, you can travel anywhere, any time, possibly to other worlds. It only sings for its owner. Now keep it and guard it well.”
I was struck by another right, then a left hook to the face from Hypnos. Kronos repeated the question, voice still calm and even. “Where is the scythe?” he asked, smiling.
From the back of my throat, I drew a wad of ichor; not an easy task when being choked. I spat that hot wad into Kronos’ face. He drew back in surprise and alarm, wiping away the ichor. He bared his teeth and backhanded me before turning his hot gaze onto Hypnos.
“Draw it out of him!” Kronos snarled.
Hypnos nodded and stood before me. Atlas had a death grip on my throat…pun intended. I could feel my brother focus his will, while I silently begged him not to do this. He reached into my coat and found the magical hiding place, a trick Hekate had taught me. Our bond as twins allowed Hypnos to do this, it was the worst sort of betrayal. He removed my scythe and placed it in Kronos’ outstretched hand.
Kronos raised it victoriously in the air. The blade lit and sang for its former master. Hypnos looked at me with contempt.
“You should’ve just given in, Thanner,” he said.
Kronos broke the handle of my scythe over his knee with a dry, snapping noise. I watched as the blade reshaped itself to its old form. Kronos held his sickle. The blade lit, and the song changed to something darker, ominous, and more fitting for this master. He cut a rift open.
“Bring him,” Kronos ordered as he stepped through the rift.
Atlas carried me by the neck through the rift, followed by Hypnos and Chronos. On the other side, I saw the sleepwalkers and the prison, as well as the coffin I had brought up from Tartarus and trapped my brother in.
Sleepwalkers, the mortals my brother enslaved on this world, stood on either side of the road leading to the coffin, which I assume will be my prison. The irony stings. As my brother passed, the sleepwalkers fell to their knees with cries of “Master” on their lips.
We reached the coffin, the lid was open and waiting for me. Atlas unceremoniously threw me into its depths.
“May you rot,” Hypnos said as they closed the lid, sealing me in.
I could still hear Kronos above me.
“You all have your appointed tasks and places to go. I am going to Nox for a small family reunion,” Kronos said.
I need to find a way out of this place.