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Authors: Scarlett St. Clair

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BOOK: A Touch of Chaos
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CHAPTER III
PERSEPHONE

“Where is my husband?” Persephone asked.

Hermes and Apollo exchanged a concerned look, but no one spoke.

The longer their silence continued, the more frantic she felt.

“Hecate?” Persephone looked at the triple goddess whose troubled expression did nothing to ease her worry. She took a step toward her. “You can track him,” Persephone said, her hope rising, but there was a strange look on Hecate's face, a strange and terrifying look that instantly made her feel a keen sense of dread.

Hecate shook her head. “I've tried, Persephone.”

“You haven't,” Persephone said. “When?”

She refused to believe it, but she knew something was wrong. She had always been able to sense Hades's magic, but even that sensation was gone, and the emptiness made her tremble.

“Persephone,” Hermes started, stepping toward her.

“Don't touch me,” she snapped, glaring at him, glaring at all of them.

She did not want their comfort. She did not want their pity.

Those things made this real.

Her eyes blurred with tears.

She had come to expect certain truths—that dawn would break and night would fall, that life preceded death and hope followed despair. She had come to expect that Hades would always be by her side, and his absence now made the world feel wrong.

“I want my husband,” she said, and a brutal cry tore from her throat. She covered her mouth as if to contain it and then vanished, teleporting to her office at Alexandria Tower where she'd left Hades tangled in a web of her magic. The evidence of her choice remained—the buckled floor, the broken vines. She had known he would not be here. She had known that her magic was only strong enough to hold him for a short time. Still, she'd held on to a small kernel of misguided hope.

She knelt on the broken ground and touched the dark and severed vines. As she reached out her hand, she was reminded of the weight that was missing there.

A burst of Hermes's warm magic alerted her that she was no longer alone.

“Theseus took my ring,” Persephone said.

“Then we can guess what happened,” he said.

Hades could track the ring, and he would have used it to locate her, but where was it now, and could they trace it?

“I shouldn't have left him,” she said.

She should have called to him while she'd waited
with an ailing Lexa and Harmonia at the hotel, but she had been too afraid of the consequences. Even then, would it have mattered? She had no idea at what point he'd been led astray.

“You did what was necessary,” Hermes said.

“What if it wasn't?” she asked, though no matter how she reflected on it, she still felt like she'd had no other choice. There had been too many threats at play—divine justice and Sybil's well-being—except that all Persephone wondered now was if she'd assigned Hades to some other terrible fate.

“It doesn't matter,” Hermes said. “What's done is done.”

She knew he was right. Their only option was to move forward.

She rose to her feet and then turned to face the god who had become one of her closest friends.

“Find my husband, Hermes. Do whatever you must.”

He studied her for a moment, his beautiful face somehow soft and severe at the same time. “Do you know what you are asking, Sephy?”

She took a step closer, holding his golden gaze.

“I want blood, Hermes. I will fill rivers with it until he is found.”

Theseus would soon discover that he had flown too close to the sun.

Hermes grinned. “I like vengeful Sephy,” he said. “She's scary.”

Her gaze shifted to the reddish glow just beyond her door. She left her office and stepped into the waiting area where the view overlooked New Athens.

Light burned the horizon, and Persephone thought
it looked a lot like fire. She had never thought she would see the sun as a threat, but today it felt like the dawn of a new and terrible world.

The irony was that no one else would know the horror of her night.

Today, mortals would wake to see that the snow had ceased to fall, that the clouds that had burdened the sky for weeks had parted. The media would run with stories of how the wrath of the Olympians had ended and assume that the battle outside Thebes was what brought Demeter's storm to an end.

“Is it wrong to feel angry that they will not know what horror we lived through last night?”

“No,” said Hermes. “But I do not think that is what makes you angry right now.”

She turned her head to the side, but he was still a step or two behind her.

“What do you know about my anger?”

“You do not like when beliefs are fueled by falsehoods. You see it as an injustice,” he said.

He was not wrong.

It was the reason Theseus and his organization of Impious demigods and mortals angered her so much, and Helen, her once-loyal assistant, had only helped perpetuate those lies with her news articles. And what made her stories so believable was that they were anchored in just enough truth.

“Theseus would say that is power,” she said.

“It is power,” he agreed. “But there is power in many things.”

She was quiet and she pressed her fingers against the cool glass, tracing the edge of the New Athens skyline.

“They think I lied,” she said.

Right before everything had taken a turn for the worst—before Sybil had gone missing and the avalanche and ensuing battle, before Theseus had traded in his favor for her compliance—Helen had decided to reveal the secret of Persephone's divinity and accused her of deceiving New Greece.

Her timing, in many ways, had been impeccable. She had known that the world had come to admire and admonish Persephone, both for writing controversial articles about the gods but also for capturing the attention of the notoriously reclusive God of the Dead.

In some ways, she'd endeared herself to a mortal public that could see themselves in her.

Now they likely felt betrayed.

“Then tell the truth,” Hermes said.

She lifted her head, watching the God of Mischief in the reflection of the window.

“Will that be enough?”

“It will have to be,” he said. “It is all you can give.”

It felt so silly, to worry over what people thought after everything that had happened in the last twenty-four hours, but to mortals, the world was still recognizable. They would demand answers to the accusations Helen had leveled, ignorant of Persephone's agony, of Hades's absence, of Theseus's terrorism.

She was quiet for a moment and then turned to face him fully.

“Summon Ilias,” she said. “We have work to do.”

Before they began, however, she needed to see Sybil and Harmonia.

Persephone returned to the Underworld and found her friends in the queen's suite. Harmonia was asleep in her bed while Sybil lay beside her, wide awake and watching as if she feared her girlfriend might cease to breathe if she didn't remain alert.

Persephone knew that horror.

As she entered, Sybil looked up and whispered her name, rising and rushing to her. The oracle burst into tears as she threw her arms around Persephone's neck.

“I'm so sorry, Sybil,” she said quietly, not wishing to disturb Harmonia, who lay unmoving.

Sybil pulled away just a fraction and met Persephone's gaze. Her eyes were rimmed in red, and stray tears tracked down her face.

“It wasn't your fault,” she managed on a shaky breath.

But Persephone felt responsible. It was hard not to given that Theseus had targeted her because of their friendship.

Persephone took a breath. “What happened?”

Sybil swallowed, her gaze falling to Harmonia. Outwardly, she looked mostly healed. It was clear that either Sybil or Hecate had done their best to clean the dirt and dried blood from her face, though it still matted her pale hair.

“They came in the night, silent. I don't think they expected either of us to wake as soon as they appeared, but we did. I had been dreaming of death, and Harmonia felt their magic.”

“So they were demigods?”

“Only two,” she said. “They must have let the rest of their men into the apartment once they teleported inside.”

“How many in total?” Persephone asked.

Sybil shook her head, shrugging a shoulder. “I'm not certain. Five or six.”

Five or six men just to capture Sybil. Persephone had known from Theseus that they had not anticipated Harmonia's presence in the apartment, and her resistance was why she'd been hurt so badly.

“They came to wound, Persephone,” Sybil said. “Not only me but you too.”

Persephone knew, and it made her feel sick. It was hard to imagine that while she had walked down the aisle toward the love of her life, her friends had suffered at the hands of a deranged demigod.

“Did you see Helen?” she asked.

She asked because she wanted to know just how entwined her former friend had become with Theseus. What plans was she helping him execute, and did she feel anything as she watched them suffer?

In some ways, Persephone blamed herself. She was the one who had encouraged Helen to get close to Triad after she expressed interest in writing about the organization, though it was evident now the kind of person she was. She had no real sense of loyalty to anything, save herself.

“No,” Sybil whispered.

Persephone's jaw tightened. She had only felt inclined toward vengeance a few times in her life, and this was one. With the way she felt right now—with the rage that simmered inside her—she could not say what she would do when she saw Helen again, but the reality was that Persephone had already crossed a line. She had killed her mother, even if it was not what she had intended.

Would she kill Helen if given the chance?

“She isn't healing,” Sybil said after a beat of silence.

Persephone's head whipped to the side. “What do you mean?”

“Hecate said whatever she was stabbed with is preventing her from healing. When I asked her why, she said she didn't know.”

Persephone's stomach turned.

Hecate always knew.

“What about you?” Persephone asked, her eyes falling to Sybil's hand, which had been heavily bandaged after two of her fingers were cut off by Theseus. The demigod had mutilated her without hesitation, which illustrated just how dangerous he was.

“I will heal,” Sybil said and paused. “Hecate said she could
restore
my fingers, but I told her no.”

Persephone's eyes misted and she swallowed, trying to clear the thickness from her throat.

“I'm so sorry, Sybil.”

“You have nothing to apologize for, Persephone,” Sybil said. “It's hard to know what evil exists in the world until it finds you.”

Persephone remembered when she thought she knew evil, when her mother had convinced her that Hades's darkness was what seeped into the world from below, an influence on every terror, plague, and sin.

But evil had no effect without a master, and in the last few hours, she had learned true evil. It did not look like her husband or even her mother. It was not darkness, and it was not death.

It was the pleasure Theseus received from his cruelty, and she hated how it had invaded her life and would soon invade the world.

“We'll find a way to heal Harmonia, Sybil. I promise,” she said.

Sybil smiled. “I know you will.”

And though she'd said it and she'd promised it, Persephone wished she felt the same certainty.

She left them to rest, still worried. It was likely that Harmonia had been stabbed with a blade tipped with venom from the Hydra. Hades had said it slowed healing, and too many wounds could kill a god as it had killed Tyche.

Perhaps Harmonia only needed more time to recover before healing herself.

Or maybe that was only wishful thinking.

Dread pooled in Persephone's chest as she made her way to Hades's office. There was a part of her that hoped she would find him waiting, sitting behind his desk or standing near the fire, but when she opened the door, she found her friends—Hermes and Ilias, Charon and Thanatos, and Apollo and Hecate.

BOOK: A Touch of Chaos
4.66Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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