Today I saw a quote from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which still stands as my favorite TV show of all time: "Every girl that could have the power will have the power. Can stand up. Will stand up." For those who have never watched the show, this is from an epic moment in the last episode of the season. To me, it says you don't have the potential to be strong, you are strong.
I've always loved the moment in stories when the woman takes back her power or finally wields what she has had inside of her all along. I'm a Wonder Woman lover, but Helen Keller is my hero, and I miss Maya Angelou's voice. The women who fought for our rights in this very real life story are inspirations. International Women's Day honors those women before us, it honors us, and it brings awareness to the disparities that still exist in equality in our country and around the world.
I've always recognized the day, but this year it means far more to me than it has in the past. If this country's political climate has shown me anything, it's that we are still fighting for our rights. That we need to still fight for our rights and for our voices to be heard. It has shown me that despite my own experiences with inequality in the work place, I have been privileged enough to not fight too hard before. I have been too unaware of the struggles going on every day.
As each day ticks by and another fight arises to maintain our rights or the rights of our fellow human beings, I find myself reminded of Story, Jess, and Kestrel from my book Fractured Dream or Blake and Shelby from the Reaper's Daughter. I write strong female characters because I believe in the inner strength that we possess. Magic is awesome, but they beat all odds not because of their special powers, but because they recognize their inherent power within. Because they persevere against all odds. Because they persist. I think often about all the books I've read where women fight against oppressors, fight to make the world brighter, fight to save the world. I think about Buffy. And I think about all the women fighting for their rights around the world. But instead of magic, they use their intellect. Instead of super strength, they use their voices. Instead of battles, they march.
Today, I am unabashedly proud to be a feminist. I believe in equal rights for women. I believe in equal rights for all human beings. Happy International Women's Day to all the amazingly strong women in real life and to those who have inspired us in fiction. As Laurel Thatcher Ulrich said, "Well behaved women never make history." And as Mother Teresa said: "I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples." Let's make it ripple.
It was Friday, pizza and movie night with my husband and son, when I got the instant message from my marketing manager ... Did you see the latest Booktrope announcement? I knew before looking, I'd had a feeling that I hadn't taken seriously. I should have.
When my publisher, Booktrope, announced they were closing late last month I was instantly awash with a mesh of emotions that sent me straight to the wine. Once I was sipping some Apothic, the movie forgotten, by me at least, I waded through the confusion, anger, disbelief, and fear among authors and team members that accompanied the announcement in Booktrope forums and teamrooms, I felt my anxiety rise. Some people showed their best colors, others their worst. I tried to show my most reasonable, supportive, and kind face in the midst of widespread panic.
I'd been wanting to try different avenues of publishing for a while. I've read that some of the most successful authors are those that are diverse among platforms and publishers, which I deemed a good way to go about this crazy publishing business. But I'd also planned on publishing with Booktrope for a long time to come, as long as they'd have me anyway, so I wasn't ready for my books to not be available come May 31. I'm in the middle of writing a sequel after all! Booktrope was my first book home, and ice cream soon followed the wine chased down by intense uncertainty. What would I do next?
I could self publish, which seemed to be the avenue the majority of my fellow authors were planning on taking ... I thought about it, agonized, called my sister to whine. But when it was all said and done, I knew I wasn't ready for that. I wanted the support from a publisher, I always had. First and foremost, I knew I had been given one blessing with the news. After having spent eight years writing Fractured Dream, I could barely wait to set my first book baby free back in 2014. Looking back, I see mistakes I made as a new author, ones I've been wanting to fix. I believe so strongly in this story, I spent years building the world, and with the second one getting closer to being done, I knew I really wanted to re-edit Fractured Dream and make it better. So that is what I'm choosing to do. Unfortunately, Fractured Dream is going to disappear for a while. When I'm ready, I'll be looking for its new home along with the second book in the trilogy, Shattered World. And it will be back, I promise!
As for The Reaper's Daughter, I'm happy to announce as of June 1, fantasy publisher Dragon Moon Press will be my second book baby's new home. I'm excited to join this new publishing family and I have a good feeling about it.
Once I'm done editing Fractured Dream, I'll be back at the bit, finishing up Shattered World and continuing to work on a Sci-Fi YA Romance I'm feeling very passionate about.
For now, both titles are available at discounted prices until May 31! The Reaper's Daughter is currently 99 cents and Fractured Dream is $2.00.
Now that the dust has settled, I'm truly thankful for Booktrope. They made me a published author and realized a dream I've had almost since I could read. I got to work with and meet some amazing people, made friends with kindred souls, became a book editor, and was given the opportunity to be immersed in a community of like-minded individuals, those who love to write, read, and breathe words.
It's life and it goes something like this:
"Look on every exit as being an entrance somewhere else.”
― Tom Stoppard
Grim paced in the solitude of her quarters, her scythe leaning against the wall an arm’s reach away should Hades or one of his minion children attempt to break into her room and finish the fight. Yet, she knew that wouldn’t happen. Somehow, she had ended up exactly where Hades wanted her. Accused. On the brink of banishment for a crime she knew she hadn’t committed.
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
The October Frights Blog Hop is almost done, so I wanted to share an excerpt from The Reaper's Daughter. Look for Part III of Grim's Fall, coming in the next two days! Also, don't miss the giveaway, which will end in two days:
THE ROLLING GREEN of her eyes was dimming fast, losing color and life to the quick click of time that beat out her days and nights, a perpetual circle that was now fading to a close. Light brown hair that had been recently styled into looping curls was limp against the black pillowcase―a metaphor for her wilted spirit, I mused, thinking offhandedly how proud my English professor would be at my thoughtful use of language.
I sighed. I didn’t want to be here.
When her eyes met mine, I knew she saw me for who I really was—what I really was. She reached out an eager hand to take mine. I didn’t want anything to do with it. But it wasn’t because her fingers were slick with blood, deep crimson dripping down her arm and fingernails from where she’d so precisely placed a razor blade to her vein and dug deep, thinking she’d be free of her pain. It was because her face reflected back to me all the times I’d felt I’d been given a shitty deal. Current situation: case in point.
“Hi,” she whispered, her once pink lips fading with every pump of her life, which was idly dripping away from her to the plush white carpet below. I could smell the newness of it, the fresh aroma of a recently laid floor. That’s going to be a bitch to get clean.
I looked around her bedroom, at the dance trophies and pictures of smiling friends, and wondered why. Why me? “Blake …” Hearing my mother's warning tone, I looked over at her where she stood in the shadows, overseeing my tutelage.
“Why can’t we just call an ambulance? It’s not too late. They could save her,” I whispered fiercely, staring at the girl’s hand stretched out to me as if I were her savior and not her end. “We should save—”
“It’s not for us to decide, you know that. We are only here to bring souls over, not save their mortal lives. Take her, she wants to go.”
“And will she still feel the same when she’s looking down at her body?” I asked, not even bothering to check my mother’s expression when she didn’t answer. Suicide wasn’t a peaceful death. It was pain―that much I knew.
I choked back the tears that wanted to rise in my eyes for this girl, for me … I turned to her once more and leaned down, brushing a strand of her hair from her graying face. “What’s your name?”
Barely blinking, her pale eyes darted to me. “Carly,” she said, choking around her words.
“Just hold my hand and I’ll help you cross,” I said softly, forcing myself to meet her gaze so that someone would witness her ending as they had her beginning.
She smiled slowly, and I saw that in life she had been pretty. When she’d believed. When she’d had hope.
“The light?” Her eyes widened, glittering green for a brief moment in their otherwise colorless depths at the prospect of going somewhere beautiful after this life had been so cold.
I nodded, although I didn’t really know where she would go. I was only in training, but I hoped it was someplace good, where her tormented soul could rest.
She had small, feminine hands, I thought, as she laced her slippery fingers around my longer warm ones. She didn’t last long, her pulse giving one last flutter before sputtering out.
The room was suffused with the silence left behind in the absence of such a simple thing. The thundering lack of a person’s heartbeat had never seemed quite so loud. As life departed Carly’s mortal coil, her soul lifted from the body, but unlike some souls I’d seen that were light and buoyant, at peace with the next step in their existence, hers was outlined in darkness, and it rippled, suspended in space like a special effect in a bad horror film. Her gaze turned from her body to me, sorrow coming to settle on the slope of her bowed shoulders and in the recesses of her eyes. Regret was a fickle creature. It always came too late.
“I hope you find what you wanted,” I whispered to her soul, waiting to feel the energy that usually infused my body during a crossover. As she blinked out, all air was ripped from my lungs and I was left clutching the bedpost for purchase, grappling for oxygen and drowning on the echo of Carly’s anguish. The room spun around me, and my rasping heaves hurt my chest as I struggled to survive the sharp, bitter sting of loss that clung to the drapes and walls and assaulted my nose with its acrid scent.
I inhaled deep breaths when air returned, staring at the pool of red on the floor, thankful the bedspread had been black. She looked like a zombie, gray and without light, her once green eyes staring into a void that held nothing for her now. Without thinking about it, I reached forward and closed her lids with the lightest touch of my fingertips. The hands of Death.
“Blake,” my mother warned again, a chastising edge to the velvety lilt of her voice.
I turned to look at her and sighed, feeling the darkness in the girl’s room overwhelm me, irritation surging inside me at my mother’s emotionless manner. “Don’t you care?” I asked.
She stepped forward from the shadows, her shroud of black hair sweeping around the marble pallor of her face. “Of course,” she said. But I had a hard time believing her when her features remained composed in an expression of sculpted apathy. “But it is what it is, Blake.”
“This was the worst.”
“I’ve seen much worse,” she said, her voice lacking the deep resonance of human compassion. It was flat, a monotone observer in a world colored by grief and heartbreak.
“Gee, thanks, way to make me feel better about this whole gig.”
“That wasn’t really my intent. This is who you are. You will have to deal with tragedies that far surpass this.
Tragedies far more encompassing. This was one girl. Be grateful it wasn’t thousands.”
I could barely look at her, nauseated by the way she acted as if one girl hadn’t been everything to someone. I opened my mouth to retort with something equally nasty, my body tensed to storm past her for the last time, but I was caught in mid-motion by a soft knock at the door. My head swiveled.
“Carly?” A soft voice came from the other side, concern coating the lightness of her tone.
Oh god, I absolutely could not stick around to watch Carly's parents find their daughter dead from suicide on her comforter.
Turning quickly, I pulled a fleecy black blanket, folded so carefully before, up over the girl’s chest, trying to make the scene look less gruesome before I headed to the window.
“I’m outta here,” I told my mother. To her credit, she didn’t try to stop me with more inane platitudes.
“You could just flicker out,” she said dryly. The doorknob was turning, and I shook my head. I’d tried her way of traveling through realms to no avail. If I was going to make an exit, it was going to have to be the human way.
I hurled myself through the open window onto the tree outside without thought of my physical safety, only glancing back once to see that my mom had already disappeared.
Sliding down the tree, I hit the ground with a grunt, my sneaker-clad feet stinging from the impact. I didn’t pause, pumping my legs to power myself down the sleeping streets as fast as I could to get as much distance as possible from the death scene. But I didn’t run fast enough, because her mother’s shrieks of agony followed me from two blocks away. They don’t ever think about who they leave behind.
I blocked my ears and kept running, the late winter air biting at my cheeks with the hope of spring hanging heavy in the wind, even on such a desperate night.
When I got to my own house, I paused at the stoop, sucking in a few breaths and trying to make the images in my head go away. Smoothing back my long, dark hair, so like my mother’s, I checked my hands for hints of blood. But just like any normalcy that had previously existed in my life, the blood I’d seen stain my fingers had vanished. Licking my lips, I put my key in the door and pushed it open, stepping into the foyer.
My dad looked up from the living room, where his nose was buried in a book. “Hey, B,” he said, taking off his glasses and rubbing tired eyes. “What are you doing here? I thought you were staying at the dorm tonight.” He arched his brows and glanced at the cable box clock that glowed a green 11:15 p.m.
“Yeah, I was going to, but Shelby wanted me to stop by her parents’—you know, it’s weekly game night—so I figured that since I was so close, I’d just crash here tonight. I’d better get a little reading in though, so 'night, Dad.”
He didn’t stop me or question me, which I was thankful for. I bounded up the steps to my room. Movies always made it look so easy, but living a double life was going to be the death of me. Pun intended.
After closing my bedroom door behind me, I sat down on my bed, tossed off my shoes, and quickly headed for the bathroom to shower. My skin felt dirty with the cloak of death, and I wanted to wash it away. Even though I knew it was impossible.
I was struck by my reflection as I closed the door behind me and turned to the medicine cabinet. It was like looking at a younger version of my mother. Only my eyes were a pale crystal blue. Hers were black. I was thankful for the difference.
But what we had in common even more than looks was a legacy. A long one. You might have heard of her before; she’s really quite famous, although most stories have gotten it wrong and made her out to be a dude. She goes by the name Grim, but her full name is Grim Reaper. Do you know what that makes my mother? Yep, that’s “right. She’s Death.
So what does that make me? The Reaper’s daughter.
Dead? It wasn’t possible. “Pluto,” she called, ignoring Hades, who stared at her, his craggy face having sunk into deep pockets of rage and despair. “As the former queen of Abbadon and head council member, I implore you to reveal yourself.” Normally, the reminder that she had once ruled the underworld would have sent Hades into a fit of rage, where he’d wax on about the offset of power among the deities. But not this time. Instead, he continued to stare at her from the face the two deities shared. They were counterparts, deities that shared such a common history and personification that when they’d come into existence, it was as two deities in one body. Pluto had been the good one.
Had? What was she thinking? Shaking her head, she met Hades’s gaze calmly. “You’re blocking him.”
Glowering at her, Hades straightened up and flipped his long hair over his shoulder, a common gesture from him that never failed to induce a low chuckle from her. But the way he’d done it just then had seemed menacing. His dark eyes glinted with stone and she couldn’t tell if it was from newfound malice or just because he generally disliked her. “When you hit me, it was him you hit. You killed him.”
“That’s ridiculous,” she seethed. “I did not strike a killing blow.” It had been hard, but not enough to kill a deity. The scythe would have to draw blood to kill …
Rising to his feet, he towered above her, fury seeping from him. And some other emotion she couldn’t name that mingled with his rage and seemed like triumph. “My brother is gone.”
It wasn’t possible that she’d killed Pluto. It wasn’t. If she had, that would mean … “And I am to take your word for it, Hades? After all of this?” She spread her hands, gesturing to the teenagers surrounding them. “Eighteen years ago I said no. I turned you down. And now you have an army of bastard hybrid children, spawned from mortal women. What makes you think I’ll believe anything you have to say when you brought your hoard to our home and demanded leadership of the council.”
“You killed my brother!” he growled, his face creased in a mask of sorrow. “And why would I not bring my children here? This is their home too.” Even under his mask of pain, his rational words, she didn’t believe him. There was something off. He was playacting at pain, like he often did when he crossed souls over. And it wasn’t a good performance. By the nature of death deities, being in touch with humanity was what essentially kept death deities in touch with human emotion, and mortal empathy and compassion was a big part of that. Hades had always seemed unaffected, a sociopath within the death deity society.
Grim paused, gazing at him for a moment, the dawning of awareness coming quickly and chasing her uncertainty away. All the moments he’d demanded she turn over the scythe to the council and the countless times he’d spoken about opening the doors between realms flashed through her mind. Pluto was not dead, she was sure of it. Her sudden conviction eased the pain in her chest, and she sighed with a momentary pang of relief. It was the scythe, she thought, following the smooth, sharp curve of the tool—the instrument that allowed her to pass the dead over into Abbadon, the underworld. He’d wanted the scythe all along.
“You know,” she said, glancing up at him once more. “All these years I thought it was really me you were after. I thought you were angry that I was not some lesser deity to be forced into a disgusting relationship with you. Not some poor Persephone. After all, I was already queen, with no need for a king …”
Hunched slightly over, Hades took a menacing step towards her, his gaze a fury of hate and desire. But the desire wasn’t for her, it was for the gleaming tool she held in her hands, capable of destruction, of life. “You killed my brother.”
Grim ignored him. The truth was, Hades had been the stronger one of the two brothers for as long as he’d existed. The two deities shared a body, but more often than not, it was Hades calling the shots. Pluto could be trapped within him. “Pluto wouldn’t interfere.”
“He—I wanted to give you a message.” Hades stopped talking abruptly, his expression twisting, and he slammed his hands to his head. “I … I … It’s so quiet in here,” Hades moaned, clutching his head in his hands.
Rolling her eyes, Grim gazed unseeingly beyond him. There had been a moment when she’d thought, for just a split second, that a different expression, much more like Pluto, had surfaced on his face. Shaking her head, she blew air out and glanced at Hades again. She was certain he was lying, she just wasn’t sure why. “What are you going for here, Hades? Do you think to see me banished?”
A smile seemed to flash across his face, but it was so fleeting she couldn’t be sure. “I only want retribution for my brother.” He moaned again, and then the council flooded the chamber, surrounding Hades’s hybrid children.
“What madness is this?” It was Osiris, his thin, angular face set severely as he turned his gaze from Grim to Hades, pausing on the Greek deity of death. “Why have you brought discord to our realm, Hades?”
“He is after the scythe,” Grim said. Osiris seemed unaffected by her comment, turning his bony features to her.
“I am certain I asked Hades the question.”
Grim nodded, disliking the suspicion that hung in the cavern air. She was the oldest of the deities and at one time she had ruled Abbadon, but hundreds of years before she had relinquished that control and formed a council, and Osiris had long been one of her most senior members. She respected him. He was a shrewd deity. Surely he would not believe Hades’s lies.
Hades raked a hand through his long hair, tears streaming down his face. She would have laughed if the situation didn’t seem suddenly dire. A sense of loss washed over her, and she glanced to the council, catching Sebastiana’s gaze, her sister’s warm brown eyes glowing with concern. Her sister clutched her own scythe, the only other one in existence. Before the council turned their focus from Hades to her, she caught Seba’s gaze hard, willing her to understand. The two had always had a strong bond, so she felt a flush of relief when Seba glanced at her scythe and then back at Grim, nodding. Ducking her head, Seba slipped off silently into the cavern halls, the rest of the council members so intent on Hades they’d failed to notice anyone escape.
When Grim glanced at the council once again, they were sliding their gazes to her. “Hades has made the grievous claim that you have killed Pluto. As you well know, it is against deity law to take the life of another death deity,” Osiris said.
“He lies,” Grim said, trying to catch Kali’s eye, who had been staring at her beseechingly only moments before, but the Hindu goddess slid her gaze away quickly. A rumble of unease shivered through Grim, an emotion she was mostly unfamiliar with. Kali was a strong deity, and she had always backed Grim when it came to opposing Hades’s machinations. Something was very wrong within the council’s ranks, she thought, watching as Osiris held her eyes for only a moment before quickly glancing away. They’re afraid. But of what?
“He appears to be grieving true,” Mors said softly, her pale face drawn in grief. She’d been close to Pluto, but did she think him truly dead? The hybrids shuffled, and Grim felt the intensity of their gazes on her, ready to wage war on her at Hades’s word. Was the council afraid of these children? Surely not, she scoffed inwardly. There were many, but not enough to take the council, she was—the ground shook beneath her feet, and her attention flew to Hades, who was staring at her with a small smile tucked within the harsh planes of his face, his eyes glittering with victory. But what that victory was, Grim wasn’t yet sure.
“What was that?” she asked quietly, glancing at the council and noticing for the first time that several members were missing. “Where is Seker? Persephone?”
“Unavailable,” Hades murmured, never taking his eyes off her, all the grief he’d previously worn gone like a mask, but only she was seeing his true face. “And that sound was the rest of my children, coming to grieve their uncle and offer support to me in this darkest of hours …”
“You have more children?” Grim asked, feeling pity for the mortal women who’d bedded down with him. She shuddered. “How many women did you copulate with? The entire planet?”
Hades grinned slowly. “I’ve been making children for a while now. You’ll find that they are more than willing to—“
“Enough!” Grim’s voice boomed from the cavern walls, resonating against the stalagmites dripping with water and bringing the world to silence. “Surely, you must know he has planned all of this,” she said to Osiris. But resignation had settled on the ancient Egyptian god’s face.
“To kill a fellow death deity means banishment. We will meet at sunrise to give judgment on the murder of Pluto at the hands of Grim.”
“I did not strike a killing blow,” she said icily, trying her best to bring rationality back to the council.
“Is it true the scythe is the only means known to us to kill a deity?” Osiris asked.
“Yes, only the scythes have the power to deal a death blow. But I did not.”
“Have you killed a death deity before?
“No,” Grim said stiffly, the movement of more hybrid deity children filtering into the cavern filling her with a sense of dread. In the history of the council, no deity had ever killed another because only she and Seba held the power. What would banishment even mean? For the souls? For her?
“Then how do you know that you did not deal a killing blow?” Osiris asked, arching his prominent brow.
Silence hung heavy, like in the wake of death among loved ones. It was a sound she was very familiar with. They were already grieving her departure. “I suppose I do not know for sure,” Grim finally said, meeting Osiris’s gaze with her own.
“We meet at sunrise,” he said, turning. The remaining council members followed him, exchanging uneasy glances as they filed past the thousands of death deity hybrid children Hades had spawned, which were now taking over the underworld. Her home.
“Don’t forget to bring the scythe,” Hades said.
Smiling slowly, Grim nodded. “Oh don’t worry. If all else fails, I’ll level you with it. To Tartarus with the consequences.”
The smirk that had lit Hades’s face vanished, and she smiled to herself, turning and exiting the cavern. Hopefully, Seba had been successful hiding her scythe far from Hades and his legions of children. Regardless of what happened next, the underworld would never be the same.
* * *
Stay tuned for the conclusion to this short, which will be featured later this week!
K.M. Randall writes fantasy and paranormal for both a general and young adult audience. Her debut novel, an epic fantasy called Fractured Dream, launched in June 2014, and her second book, The Reaper's Daughter, launched May 2015. Randall also published Fairytale Lost, a prequel to Fractured Dream, as an exclusive on Wattpad. She blogs about dreams, female heroines, and activism and its relevancy to the literary and fictional world. And when in the season, sometimes she just likes to talk about Halloween. She is currently hard at work on the second book in the Dreamer Saga series, Shattered World.