Few know how special the God of Death is to me, but Clio saw my face as Thanatos collapsed in a tangle of feathers and flesh. She knows.
“We caught him,” he says slowly as we rush to his side. His eyes squeeze shut as he sifts through the rubble of his memories. “Atë and I brought him before Zeus for sentencing. Ostasus provoked him. He was trying to make Zeus angry. It worked. Zeus hurled a lightning bolt at him. He was too mad to even care that Atë and I were standing right there. I don’t remember anything after that. Just waking up in the care of the centaurs. But that’s the only reason, the only way I could have forgotten. Titans…Primordials…we don’t forget.”
Than and Clio look like they’ve been fighting, noses bloodied to match my eyes: sometimes gold, sometimes black. I’m the one that feels like I’ve been sucker-punched. I kneel down beside them, running my finger over Clio’s upper lip. It comes away glimmering in the half-light of the room.
“Does this happen every time?” I ask her, and she nods.
“I’ve used a lot of power. I think I need to lie down.”
I help her to her feet. “Yes. Please. Before Eros decides to prick me with an arrow I don’t get to choose.”
Clio gives me a small smile. Whatever tension Eros and I managed to whip up earlier in the week seems to be smoothed over. I think. She helps Thanatos to his feet and bestows a kiss on top of his head once he’s settled back in his chair.
“Are you ok?” he asks as she pulls away.
“I’ll be ok with some rest. Feel better, Thanatos,” she says.
I lay a hand on Clio’s arm as she passes. “Thank you, Clio. For everything.”
“Don’t worry about me, Hekate. I never mind helping you. You know that.”
As she leaves, the thought crosses my mind that if she knew the fate I had planned for Ostasus, she might think differently. My eyes drift down to the fire-scarred book lying on the table, then to Thanatos.
“They never did establish a fine policy for the library, did they?” I can see the wicked grin on my face reflected in Than’s dark eyes.
“No, they didn’t.”
With a snap of my fingers, I set what’s left of the book on fire and wave it toward the fireplace. It floats across the room and settles in the fireplace, pages curling with dancing flames. I sink into a chair beside Thanatos.
“In for a penny, in for a pound, right?” I say, turning to him.
The firelight highlights the perfect angles of his face. “All in, Kate.”
I grab his hand. “You sure you’re ok?”
“I’m just tired,” he says in a voice that provides more than enough evidence. “All the deaths caused by Hypnos in San Francisco…subduing him with Nem…it’s left me exhausted. I’m not a young Prime anymore, last born though I may be. Zeus is sending me back to see to the reconstruction of the city. I am taking some time to recover. How about you? You ok?”
The care in his voice is warmer than the fire before us. I squeeze his fingers with one hand and rub my forehead with the other. “I’m shaken. I’m not used to being even nudged.”
He squeezes my hand and smiles. “Big, strong, bad-ass Kate. Kate who cuddles with her pets and is ticklish, but when she puts up her walls is an impenetrable fort. To see you shaken is…something.”
“Hey, just because you have a nosebleed doesn’t mean I won’t kick your ass for telling people I’m ticklish,” I warn, but there’s no teeth in my threat. Not this time.
The door opens, and Selene glides in, glowing with her own light that has nothing to do with the fire. She sees us and stops, her eyes instantly taking in our clasped hands and the rather romantic atmosphere in the room.
“Um…am I interrupting something?”
Than squeezes my hand again, long fingers lingering, letting go. “Just old friends catching up.”
It’s been a long time since I’ve seen the Titan. Not since—
The desperate way her name flies from my lips makes the moon goddess jump. “Y-yes?”
I whirl on Thanatos. “You said Primordials and Titans don’t forget! That the only reason you forgot was that bolt obliterated your memory. Selene! You’re a Titan!”
She gives me a look like I’ve told her the moon waxes and wanes. I shake my hand, wiping my answer from the air between us.
“Is this about Atë?” Selene asks, sitting down.
“Yes! I mean, no!” I reach for the book. Easier to show than tell. “Fuck, I burned the book. Damn it.”
“Yes or no?” Selene looks at the fireplace. “What book?”
“Forget I said book. No book.” I move closer to her. “Tell me…do you remember Ostasus? Titan of Glory and Reknown? Zeus made him the Titan of Betrayal after the Titanomachy, and then he erased him.”
Selene takes the news better than I did. “I see. Well, erased or not, Ostasus will always be the Titan of Glory and Reknown. Regardless.”
This is not the answer I want to hear. A growl starts low in my throat, sending a tremor through the room. In an instant, the shadows in the room pool together and climb the walls, coalescing into hound-shaped silhouettes. The pack paces the length of the walls, circling the axis of my anger.
“Are you on his side? Because trust me, that’s not where you want to be.”
“No,” she says, “only that Zeus does what he sees fit, but it doesn’t actually change anything. Covering it up doesn’t mean it’s gone. How can I help you, though? What do you need to know?”
“I just need to know anything you know about him. Anything that would help me find him. Zeus wiped the books, ground down the stones, struck his name and deeds from the memory of anything living at the time. Clio was able to push through the spell on the book I found.” I hand Selene the Nykteria pictures. “This…is what he did to my people.”
Selene winces as she goes through the photos. “Kate, I’m so sorry. This is awful.”
“I can still see them,” Thanatos says in a far-off voice. I know he’s remembering coming to collect their souls. A current of rage thrums through my body as I realize that the victims were probably still warm when Than found them. It’s a terrible memory for him to have to carry, and being immortal, he will carry it forever.
“Ostasus had the power to manipulate emotion,” Selene says, setting the photos on the table. “With Kronus beside him, he would trail his finger through villages, cities, whole nations, stirring them into action, violence, chaos. All the time feeding off the raw emotional power of conflict as he set them against each other for his pleasure.”
I grit my teeth and my shadow hounds stop pacing, ears pricked, growling. “You mean he sat there playing emperor, granting life, inciting death, on a whim?”
Selene nods. “Just to see who was worthy of victory. Your pictures…he could reach inside you, Kate, twist your feelings, change them. Make you happy about every horrific thing in that photo.”
I stare at the ground, folding my rage in on itself. Making it small. Saving it so I don’t waste the power. Because I know I’m going to want it later.
“This…I don’t mean anything against you, Selene. After all, my mother…she was a Titan, too. Wherever she may be. But this is why we ran them into the bowels of Tartarus. We should have killed them.” My voice shatters. “Killed them all.”
“I know,” Selene sympathizes. “My brother is there now, too.”
“And Persephone is talking about rehabilitation,” I laugh bitterly, slamming my hand down on the photos. “What rehabilitation? Does that look like thousands of years has done anything for Ostasus other than fuel his madness?”
The Goddess of the Moon sits unmoved, allowing my grief and anger to reflect off her still surface until I’m spent.
“I’m sorry, Selene. I’m not usually so black-and-white.” A smile twists the corner of my mouth. “You tell Eros I admitted to that…”
“Secret keeper,” Selene says, winking. “Remember?”
I filter through the photos again, seeking the one I showed Clio. I point out the same symbol to Selene. “Kronus never left calling cards. He didn’t need to. So why?”
Selene stares at the blood-drawn symbol. “It was rumored that Ostasus was Kronus’ lover. The deaths at your Gates were gifts. Terrible symbols of terrible devotion.”
“Imprisoned for thousands of years, weakened by isolation, forgotten, no sacrifices, not even the scrap of a prayer to sustain him after an eternity of drawing power from others. He’s going to need to feed.”
I pull my own emotions back from the edge and look at the photos again, allowing the carnage to just be a new shape of reality. I feel the pieces start falling into place: one bone, one life at a time.
“Violent, horrific death is like an open vein to the kind of power a monster like that craves. And he got nine of mine. He’s stronger because he fed on mine! And all of us…we were blinded because Zeus, in his infinite wisdom, decided to just erase him from memory so we didn’t even know Ostasus existed until it was too late! No one’s going to look for a Titan they can’t remember!”
I make a fist, steadying my anger against the burn of fingernails against my palm. Then I turn to the walls, toward the terrible shadows still loping around the edges of the room.
“Go. Back to the Gates, every Nykteria entrance. You know the scent. The scent is fear and suffering. Run him down. Find him for me, but do nothing. We will make the kill together.”
The hounds leap into the shadowed corners of the room and are gone, their howls trailing like a black wind in the night. Senses extended beyond The Tower, I feel the pack scatter.
Selene’s voice breaks my concentration. “I would offer to stay and help, but Artemis and Sayeh need my help.”
“No, I understand. You’ve done more than enough. You and Clio both.”
You’ve given me the gift of revenge.
Selene gives me a hug and heads for the door. She stops on the threshold. “He will try and manipulate you, Kate. Be careful. And good luck.”
I stare into the fireplace. The book is long gone, flames going as cold as the Betrayer’s trail. If I have my way, he’ll never go back to Tartarus. Never go back into a cell—
“Hades.” I whirl towards Thanatos. “The memories, Than. He doesn’t know!”
A moment after his arms, Thanatos’s wings fold around me, cocooning me against him. I tuck my forehead against his neck. He smells like peppermint. And freshly turned earth. And grave flowers. And peace.
“He will soon,” Death promises.
And then, he takes me Below.