Whirling toward the door, she paused, tilting her head as the soft rap of a fist on wood came purposeful and in secret. Breathing out a sigh of relief, she opened the door as quickly and quietly as possible and yanked her sister into the room, shutting the door behind her.
“Did you hide it?” she breathed, noticing the pallor that tinted her natural bronzed coloring.
“Si, Hermana,” she said softly. “It is hidden well, with an old friend … I should not say where, as long as you truly believe it is necessary … Surely, the council does not believe you would kill Pluto? He has always been a friend.”
“Yes, that may be true, but the council also understands there is no love lost between Hades and I, and if I was aiming for Hades, then it is possible they will believe him … I do not believe that matters at the moment, though. I have a sense of darkness, a dread within me. I … I believe Hades has somehow gained control over the council without either your or I ever knowing.”
Seba shook her head, her brow wrinkled in concern, a red flower that had been woven into her dark curls floated to the ground and stained the floor like a bright splash of blood. Seba bent to retrieve it, offering the token to Grim, who took it and tucked it into the folds of her cloak. “His children should not be any trouble, Hermana. They cannot be a challenge to us,” she said confidently.
“They are legion,” Grim said softly. “A problem we could not have foreseen.” She turned away, following the sharp curve of the scythe as it rested gleaming against the wall. She had no doubt it was the instrument of death that Hades was looking for. There was untapped potential within it, and if he were to ever get his hands on both scythes, well … but as it stood right now, he’d have to kill her to get the scythe. He could not take it from her as it was bound to her, and the only way for him to even touch it would be if she gave it willingly, and that would never happen. She glanced back at her sister, who was watching her quietly, a glow of fear flickering in the softness of her eyes.
Seba had always embraced the human spark of compassion more closely than Grim, and for that reason she radiated with warmth and a kindness that could be manipulated. That was why Grim couldn’t risk her sister’s scythe. Seba could possibly be swayed to give it up. Grim couldn’t.
“All I know is Kali wouldn’t look me in the eye. Kali,” she said, placing emphasis on the deity’s name.
Seba held up a hand to stop her sister from going on any more. “I must go, Hermana. Perhaps I can convince them how wrong they are, otherwise we are both lost.”
Grim held her sister’s eyes for a moment, a surge of sadness nearly drowning her as it crushed her chest and robbed her of breath. Grim had never been overly emotional, even at the height of soul crossing, although she’d had her share of moments. But now … she lurched forward and wrapped her arms around her sister, burying her face in Seba’s flowery scented hair. She released a breath as her sister’s soft, warm embrace enfolded her for a moment. When she pulled back, Seba’s eyes were glistening.
“I must go,” she whispered. “We will make this right.”
Grim nodded, watching her shut the door behind her. “I should never have given up my reign,” she murmured softly, annoyed she’d ever thought diplomacy was the way to rule the underworld. Sunrise would be soon, she needed to … what could she do? Gritting her teeth at her momentary powerlessness, she jerked her head to the door when a quiet, yet determined knock made her jaw clench.
She opened the door slowly and stepped back, nodding to the deity who passed her, the necklace of skulls that hung around her neck jingling together. “Kali …,” Grim murmured, holding her equally dark gaze. “I am surprised you are here. It was quite apparent in the caverns that you had chosen your side.” She said it without a hint of malice, but disappointment dripped from her words and, without her meaning for it to, betrayal.
Kali’s face rippled in dismay, then smoothed out once more. “It will not matter once Hades has had his way, so I will tell you.”
“Please … what sins, what power does that masochist have over the entire council?” She heard the plea in her voice, and she pushed the darkness that was beginning to creep inside her away.
Stiffly, Kali nodded and greeted her gaze full on. “Believe me when I tell you I have always been your friend, Grim. I have no affection for Hades. I find him cruel, greedy, power-hungry, and unstable. But my people, my souls, are my first priority, so when that is jeopardized then I must protect them first.”
Although baffled by the direction of the conversation, Grim nodded. “I do understand, but what could—“
“Our soul gates.”
Silence permeated every mote and speck within the room, floating in a standstill of shock. “What did you say,” she hissed.
“You heard me right. Somehow, Hades has located our soul gates. Almost all of them, I believe. He asked me to take a walk with him one day and that’s where he led me, to my soul gate, which is now guarded day and night by several of his sons and daughters. He has begun keeping count of which souls cross and who they belong to. All of our gates are guarded this way. He has so many children we are outnumbered.”
“To what end?” Grim breathed, the walls of the room seeming to close in on her as fury welled up within her. A deity’s soul gate was where their specific souls crossed through into Abbadon. Each deity reigned over the souls of their culture, and only passed over those with cultural, religious, or geographic ties. Grim could not reap Seba’s souls and her sister could not take hers. For this reason, the gates were sacred and secret, and it was forbidden to seek out another’s gate. How Hades had found them when they were hidden deep within folds of underworld and reality, she did not know.
“Control. To control you, Grim. If we do not abide by his requests he shuts the gates down, blocks them somehow. The souls cannot pass then, and then they wander.”
“How do you know?”
“I did not give in so easily, at first, Grim. I would hope you would know me better than that,” she said, her tongue lolling out as she grinned ferally, the darkness lighting up her inky eyes, letting Grim see that Kali the warrior still existed. “But then he blocked my souls for a day … it was excruciating. I am here to be a shepherd to my souls, and if I cannot be the protector and guide they need I am not leading my people.”
“He has gone too far,” Grim seethed, a rage burning though her so hot the acrid scent of feathers burning forced her to quell the rage.
“There’s more …” Kali said quietly, the lovely lines of her face set seriously, regret and sadness heavy on the bow of her shoulders. “Hades has taken Seba. He apprehended her on her way to reason with the council and is furious that she has hidden her scythe. He means to use your love for him against her … You may be our marble goddess, but your love for you sister is apparent to all, and he means to use that weakness against you.”
The full range of human emotion seemed to be possessing Grim, because her stomach twisted at Kali’s words. “I will smite him, everyone,” she hissed.
Instantly, she knew it wasn’t rational, she knew that--
“If the death deities cease to exist, or are unable to pass souls through their soul gates, well, I don’t need to tell you that it would be cataclysmic. For the deities. The souls. For the world,” Kali said softly. “I am sorry, but the deities and the council have no choice but to stand with Hades.”
The enormity of the planning that Hades’s had put into his takeover—possibly centuries—halted Grim. She had underestimated him, thought him a buffoon to look down her nose at, and now it could cost her far more than she’d ever thought possible.
Stepping quickly to her scythe, she snatched it from the wall and turned back to Kali. “How is it possible his offspring could overpower us? They are children, half-human, and surely do not have the power we do. We are ancient, while they're still naive enough to believe Hades is a good role model.”
“He has allies, Grim. It is not just his hybrids. He has deities who support him, like Styx, who has aligned herself with him, giving him access to the caverns that is detrimental to us. And those that do not have been sent to their rooms under lock and key.”
“Seker and Persephone,” Grim whispered.
Kali nodded. “And more.”
In her thousands years of existence, she had never felt more helpless or alone. Despair threatened her, flickering against her consciousness, but she batted it away. “Certainly eliminating his offspring would not impact any balance. They are merely extras in the death dance,” Grim murmured.
Kali’s dark eyes widened. “You would never break the sacred rule.”
Nodding, she remained silent. Kali was right, of course. She could not, would not, take a life. The irony of being Death. But she also could not allow him to cut off the gateways to the souls. “It is time, is it not?”
Kali nodded, both deities sensing the night lifting. “I am sorry, Grim. Truly. I do not know what we can do. I fear for the souls, for our home.”
Grim reached out her hand, and Kali took it, her wide lips curving in a bleak smile, the tight lines around her eyes eased away with Grim’s gesture. “For now, I will do what is necessary to protect you, my sister, and the balance. I must find out what Hades’s ultimate end is before I can act. But I give you my word and oath as the Grim Reaper,” she said, squeezing Kali’s hand tightly, “Hades will not destroy us. I will restore Abbadon. Until then, keep your souls safe.”
Grim slipped the flower Seba had given her earlier and tucked it behind her ear, then she dropped her cloak to the floor. A whoosh and a breeze sailed through the air as great, inky black wings unfurled, darkening the hallway as they stepped into it. “I wouldn’t want to attend my banishment without these.”
I hope you all enjoyed Grim's Fall. For now it stands as a short story on its own, but I may eventually serialize more of her adventures after the banishment. Thanks so much for reading! And for those of you who entered the giveaway, I'll be announcing the winners tomorrow night! Also, any new subscribers will receive their copy of Fairytale Lost tomorrow as well as the latest edition of my newsletter for details on my Fairytale twisting contest. Thanks for jumping to our October Frights Blog Hop, it's been a blast.<3