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Authors: Scarlett St. Clair

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BOOK: A Touch of Chaos
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Dionysus met Hades's gaze as he spoke the last words, and Persephone felt Hades's anger rising, a wave of energy that heated her own skin.

“His name is Perseus,” said Ariadne. “He is a skilled warrior and an excellent tracker.”

“Perseus,” Hades repeated. “A son of Zeus?”

Ariadne nodded. “Of all the demigods, I would say he is the closest to Theseus.”

There was silence, and then Dionysus spoke. “I thought you might rejoice, Hades. You were right. Theseus did come.”

“I take no pleasure in your pain, Dionysus,” Hades said. “And if that is what you think, then you misunderstood my words.”

The silence that followed was strained, though something in Dionysus's demeanor shifted. For a moment, Persephone thought he might apologize for his comment, but Hades was quick to dismiss them.

“We were just about to summon our allies to hear council on how we should proceed with Theseus,” he said. “At least now I do not have to go looking for you. Go. Bathe and be ready in an hour.” Hades looked down at Persephone. “Brief Aphrodite, Harmonia, and Sybil. I will return with Ilias, Hephaestus, and Apollo.”

“What about Her—”

Hades pressed a finger to her lips.

“Do not speak his name,” said Hades, dropping his hand.

Persephone drew her brows together. “Is…there something else I should know about?”

“Unless you want to hear another monologue about the faults of our hospitality and how loud you moan when I fuck you, then I suggest waiting until the last possible second to summon the God of Glitter.”

Persephone arched her brow. “As I recall, his monologue included an impression of
, not me.”

“That was before our most recent interlude,” he said.

She narrowed her eyes. “You know he doesn't have any magic, right?”

“He doesn't need magic to be summoned. At this point, it is a sixth sense. He's just selective when he decides to use it.” Hades tilted her head back a little farther. “I will see you in an hour.”

She smiled as he kissed her, ignoring the dread that seeped into her stomach when he vanished, unable to keep from worrying that he might not return. The thought frustrated her, but she knew it would be a long time before that fear ever went away, given the horror of the labyrinth.

Persephone left the foyer in search of Aphrodite, Harmonia, and Sybil. When she did not find them in the queen's suite, she wandered outside. As she stepped into the light, there were no signs of the decay that had plagued her realm during Hades's absence. The air smelled like spring, earthy and floral, and everything seemed brighter and fuller. While it should feel normal, Persephone thought it seemed almost overdone, almost as if Hades thought he could make everyone forget what had happened during his absence.

She wondered if she had made a mistake when she'd allowed the Underworld to wither. In that moment, it had seemed like the right thing to do. She did not know if she would have been capable of summoning anything beautiful and lively with how she had felt, and what would she have done had he not returned? She thought of how Hades had described the start of his reign in the
Underworld, how he'd lived a colorless and desolate life. Would she have subjected her people to that existence again?

The thought scared her.

She did not wish to be that kind of queen.


She looked up at the sound of her name and saw Sybil, who had risen to her feet at the sight of her. Persephone had been so lost in thought, she had nearly walked past her, Aphrodite, and Harmonia. They sat on a marble bench among the palace gardens, looking ethereal beneath the glow of the sun.

She smiled, feeling a genuine burst of happiness warm her chest, her anxiety momentarily forgotten as she crossed the green to them, embracing Sybil, then Aphrodite, then Harmonia. She held on to her longest before pulling away, holding the goddess's clear-eyed gaze.

“I am so glad you are well,” Persephone said.

“I am well because of you,” said Harmonia. “Thank you, Persephone.”

“I do not deserve your thanks,” said Persephone. “You would have never found yourself in such a position if it wasn't for me.”

“Do not shoulder the guilt of what happened to us,” said Harmonia. “You could not have known Theseus would be so evil.”

It was true that Persephone had not understood the extent of his malice until it was too late. Perhaps that would not have been the case had Hades been honest about his own dealings with the demigod.

All of a sudden, she felt an incredible rush of anger. It was like lightning in her veins, burning her
body. As quickly as it shot through her, it was gone, leaving her cold and shaken. It was the first time she understood how she really felt about the entire thing, and it scared her.

“As much as I wish to give you more time for peace, I'm afraid I have come with bad news,” she said. “Hypnos arrived at the gates of the Underworld, slain by Theseus's hand.”

Aphrodite looked pale, and Harmonia pressed a hand to her mouth. She decided she would wait until the meeting to tell them about Zeus and the lightning bolt.

“We are summoning our allies to discuss how we will move forward in our war against Theseus. I would like for the three of you to be present. Hades has already left to call on Hephaestus and Apollo. We will meet in Hades's office within the hour,” Persephone said.

There was silence for a moment. Persephone's attention was drawn to Aphrodite as the goddess shook her head.

“We act as if we are not gods,” she said. “We should have killed this man years ago.”

“We may be gods,” Persephone said. “But we are ruled by a power greater than us.”

“You mean the Fates?” Aphrodite sneered. “There is no greater betrayal than their golden threads, weaving pain and suffering while they sit idly in their mirrored halls. Perhaps it is they who should—”

“Aphrodite!” Harmonia snapped, her tone full of warning. “You sound like

Like the Impious. Like Triad.

Except in some ways, Persephone agreed. The Fates
were not directed by a sense of justice. They measured, wove, and cut to control under the guise of maintaining balance. When Hades took or gave life, they demanded an exchange. When Demeter had begged for a child, they had given her a daughter but entangled her fate with one of her greatest rivals.

It had been a punishment for Demeter and a gift to Hades and Persephone, but even now, they knew not to take it for granted, always aware that at any moment, the Fates might unravel their destiny. While Hades had always sworn to find his way back to her, deep down, she knew that while the three lived, it would be impossible.

Persephone could not help wondering what they had prepared for the future of the world.

“Do you think the Fates will really allow Theseus to overthrow the Olympians?” she asked.

“If they wish to punish us,” said Aphrodite.

“Even if Theseus intends to kill them?”

“The Moirai cannot see their end,” said Sybil. “It is the price they pay for weaving the fate of the world. It is likely they do not expect to die any time soon, especially at the hand of a demigod.”

Zeus had assumed the same, and now he lay tangled within the bonds of eternal sleep, weaponless and vulnerable, but perhaps that was the end they had woven for their father. It was impossible to know, and the sisters certainly wouldn't tell.

It left Persephone wondering if, in some ways, Theseus was right. Should their battle begin with the end of the Fates?


Hades manifested in a dark room within his palace where Hermes had taken up residence. He was immediately hit with the sound of the god's guttural snoring. It was so loud, it vibrated the air around him, and he wondered if Hermes was actually breathing.

Hades summoned light in the fireplace and the sconces on the walls, but Hermes didn't even flinch.

“Hermes!” Hades's voice thundered in the small room, but the god did not startle.

He probably cannot hear me over the sound of his own snoring
, Hades thought.

He approached the bed on which Hermes lay starfished on his stomach.

“Hermes!” he said again.

Then he grasped the coverlet and pulled it off.

“Fucking Fates,” he muttered.

Hermes was naked.

Of course he was naked.

Hades summoned a splash of ice-cold water. As it hit his bare back, Hermes screamed. It was the same high-pitched tone he'd managed while on Ares's island. He rolled onto his back and somehow managed to jump to his feet. He looked as if he were ready for a fight.

Hades tossed him the blanket, and Hermes grabbed it, hugging it to his front.

“What the fuck, Hades,” he snapped. “A gentle shake would have sufficed.”

“I am not interested in being gentle with you.”

“Oh, come on,” he groaned. “Now you're just fucking with me.”

“I am not fucking with you.”

“Yes, you are,” he hissed. “Don't you know how sexual that sounds?”

“No,” Hades said.

“Liar,” Hermes said and then collapsed to the bed. “I am assuming you are not here to ravish me, so what do you want? I was sleeping so well.”

“It certainly didn't sound that way.”

“What do you mean?”

“I could hear you snoring from my chambers.”

I do not snore!

“Oh, you most certainly do. Loudly. It shook the very ground beneath my feet.”

Hermes glared. “I hate you.”

Hades chuckled.

“If I am snoring, it's your fault. This bed is like a fucking rock. Sephy's going to have back problems if she sleeps here.”

“The bed is perfectly comfortable,” Hades said. “And you are overly concerned for my wife.”

“Of course I am. She has to deal with you.”

Hades rolled his eyes.

“I need you to summon Ilias and Apollo within the hour.”

“No,” Hermes said.

Hades lifted a brow. “No?”

“What about
I have no powers
don't you understand?”

“You have no power, but you are a divine messenger and part of this war.”

“Why can't
summon them?”

“I have other matters to attend to,” he said.

“I hope it's trimming that gods-awful beard.”

That was exactly the matter at hand. He also wanted to bathe. There were just some things glamour couldn't replace.

“Even if that is the case—and it should be the case—you can summon Ilias and Apollo and shave faster than I can leave the Underworld.”

There was a brief moment of silence, and then Hades spoke. “Fine. I suppose I can just…
send an email

Hermes gasped. “You wouldn't.”

Hades shrugged. “You have given me no choice.”

“After all I've done,” Hermes said, throwing off his blanket. He jumped from the bed and started searching the floor for something. Hades hoped it was clothes.

“If you are still referring to Ares's island—”

“I'm talking about being your best friend!” Hermes said. “But best friends don't use their archenemy, do they? No. You know what's so fucking stupid about email? There are faster ways to communicate! Phones! You could just text! But you are so old, you don't even know that!”

Hades blinked slowly. “Are you finished?”

Hermes was still red in the face and breathing hard. “No,” he snapped, crossing his arms over his chest, but he said nothing.

“I am well aware that cell phones exist. I have one, yet who have I always relied on to deliver my messages? You.”

“Don't make me feel guilty. I am powerless!”

Hades narrowed his eyes. “There is more to being a god than power, Hermes.”

“That is easy for you to say. When were you last without power?”

“In the labyrinth,” Hades replied.

Hermes's face fell, and he paled. “Hades, I'm sorry. I—” He paused and then scrubbed his face with both hands. “Fine, I'll summon Ilias and Apollo, but can you at least teleport me? I have no interest in trekking across the Underworld again.”

“Of course,” Hades said, his magic rising to meet the god's demand.

“Wait! Let me get dress—”

But before Hermes could finish speaking, he vanished.

Hades had sent him to the mortal world completely naked.

Perhaps, Hades thought, it would give the media something else to talk about in the midst of the scandal Dionysus had caused.

Hades sighed.

Suddenly, his head

Hermes was fucking exhausting.

Hades returned to his chambers where he showered and shaved. Once he was dressed, he waited in his office for his allies to arrive. He had even poured a glass of whiskey, though it sat on his desk, untouched. While he might look like himself, he had never felt more different. It was hard to say exactly how he had changed. He only knew that in the coming days, weeks, and months, he would come to understand the full impact of his imprisonment, the same way he had when he'd been freed from his father.

He dreaded how it would manifest and mostly how it would affect Persephone, who was already dealing with her own trauma from her experiences with Theseus and Demeter. Now she was going to have to deal with what had happened in the labyrinth too.

He knew she was not well.

He could see it in her face and feel it in her energy, but mostly, he knew because of the things she'd said when she'd dissolved into tears in his arms. As he held her, he was acutely aware of how he had not managed to chase away her grief, how he'd left her vulnerable, how he had failed her.

He had brought her into this world, and he had not prepared her, believing that he could protect her from every evil thing, but in the end, he had saved her from nothing.

In the end,
had saved
from everything.

As he worried over what he had done, the mistakes he had made, he looked down at the glass on his desk, noticing a ripple in the amber liquid.

He frowned and then looked up just as the door burst open.

Ilias stood there, wide-eyed and wheezing. He had been running. When he saw Hades, he froze for a moment and then let out an odd, breathy laugh.

“You're back.”

Hades hesitated. He did not know how to respond. He had not expected Ilias to seem so…relieved by his return. It made his chest feel tight.

Hades's smile was brief and sincere.

“I am,” he said with a small nod. “What news?”

“Nothing good,” said Ilias. “Theseus made a public appeal for mortals to withdraw worship. He claims a god is responsible for the abduction of his wife and child.”

Ilias spoke as if he did not believe the demigod.

“Did he release the name?” Hades asked.

“What?” Ilias asked, surprised by his question. “You don't really think…”

Hades just stared, and Ilias's eyes widened as reality set in.

“He did not,” the satyr confirmed. “Hades, you didn't—”

“No,” he said. “Dionysus.”

Ilias curled his fingers into fists. Hades understood the frustration. Dionysus's actions did not just affect him and his territory. They affected all gods.

“Still, he must have a death wish to invoke the wrath of the gods.”

“On the contrary,” Hades said, looking out the windows. From where he stood, all that was visible was a swath of green trees shrouded in mist. “Theseus is feeling pretty invincible at the moment. He has managed to lull Zeus into eternal sleep and steal his lightning bolt.”

“Why didn't you tell me Zeus was asleep?” Hermes demanded.

Hades turned to see that the god had arrived with Apollo.

“I guess he has to die before we get our powers back,” said Apollo as Aphrodite, Harmonia, and Sybil entered the room. “Fuck!”

“At this rate, you may get your wish,” said Hades. “We know Theseus intends to sacrifice Zeus to Cronos.”

“Unless we rescue him,” said Harmonia.

“Now let's not get too crazy,” said Hermes, glancing around the room. “I mean, does anyone actually want to see Zeus

“I did not say to wake him from slumber,” said Harmonia. “But is it right to leave him with our enemy?”

“I think what Harmonia means is that we should capture and imprison Zeus ourselves,” said Aphrodite, her eyes darting to the corner of the room where Hephaestus had manifested, his smoldering eyes holding hers. “Then at least he cannot be used by Theseus.”

Hades had not considered rescuing Zeus. He had come to accept that his youngest brother would die at the hands of their father, and he had no wish to stop it even if it meant Cronos aligning with Theseus.

It was still possible that one of the two remaining Hecatoncheires would free Zeus as their brother Briareus had done before—unless, of course, Hera also had them murdered.

After this meeting, Hades would have to send Ilias to warn the hundred-handed ones.

“It is nice to know the meeting has started without us,”
said Dionysus, entering with Ariadne. They had clearly come straight from the baths. The ends of Dionysus's hair dripped water on the floor while Ariadne's was plastered to her head.

“Maybe you would've been on time if you hadn't been fucking,” said Hermes.

“I believe Dionysus and Ariadne are right on time,” said Persephone as she entered the room.

Hades straightened, his eyes locked with hers as she approached. “Forgive me,” he said. Taking her hand, he brushed his lips across her knuckles. “Our conversation got out of hand.”

She smiled at him. “You are forgiven,” she said and turned her attention to the group. “Did I hear right? Are we discussing rescuing Zeus?”

“Rescuing Zeus does not neutralize the threat of Cronos,” said Hades. “Theseus has other bargaining chips, among them the lightning bolt and my helm.”

There was a heavy pause as the news settled on those who had not yet heard that two of the greatest Olympian weapons were now in the hands of their enemy.

Hades continued. “For now, I suggest we focus on Theseus. He has the most power, and he has weapons that can kill us. He must be stopped first.”

“I'm just going to throw this out there,” said Apollo. “But what if…we assassinate him?”

“If it were so easy, we would have already done so,” Hades snapped. “Theseus has endeared himself to the public, and as of today, they see him as a victim. If he goes down at the height of his popularity, Triad and the Impious will ensure the gods are blamed.”

“If Theseus has the world believing his wife and
child were abducted by a god, then can't his wife simply tell the world otherwise?” asked Ilias.

“No,” Ariadne said sharply. “Unless Theseus is subdued or dead, you cannot ask that of her. It is too dangerous.”

“Do you not trust us to protect her?” Aphrodite asked.

“Forgive me, but you all pointed out how Theseus is just as much of a threat to you as he is to everyone,” Ariadne said. “So no.”

“Yet you have no trouble leeching off our kindness and accepting our protection.”

“Aphrodite,” Dionysus warned as Hephaestus loomed behind the Goddess of Love.

“I don't recall you having anything to do with this,” Ariadne returned.

“Stop,” Persephone commanded. Her voice was like a whip and struck them all silent. “If Theseus does not kill us first, then infighting will. Kindness and protection should not have to be repaid. If Phaedra wishes to make a statement, she can, but it should be her decision and no one else's.”

BOOK: A Touch of Chaos
4.53Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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