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A Game of Fate
Author: Scarlett St. Clair

 

CHAPTER I – A GAME OF BALANCE

 


Hades manifested near the Coast of the Gods.

In the sunlight, the shoreline boasted turquoise water and pristine, white beaches, all set before the backdrop of cliffs, grottoes, and a monastery made of white and green marble that could be accessed after ascending three hundred steps. Mortals flocked here to swim, sail, and snorkel. It was an oasis, up until the sun made its fiery descent in the sky.

After twilight, evil moved in the darkened night, beneath a sky of stars and an ocean of moonlight. It came on ships and moved across New Greece, and Hades was here to neutralize it.

He turned, the gravel crunching beneath his feet, and walked in the direction of The Corinth Company, a fishery that took up an extensive amount of real estate on the coast. The plaster façade of the warehouse blended flawlessly with the ancient architecture adorning the shoreline, appearing worn, bleached, and charming. A simple, black lamp highlighted a sign bearing the company’s name, written in a font that boasted prestige and power—admirable characteristics when they belonged to the best of society.

Dangerous when they belonged to the worst.

A mortal moved in the shadow. He had been there since Hades arrived and no doubt thought he was well hidden, which perhaps he was to other mortals, but Hades was a god and he owned the shadows.

As he passed, the man moved and Hades twisted, his hand biting down on the mortal’s. A gun was clutched in his fingers. Hades looked at the weapon and then at the man, a wicked smile crossing his lips.

In the next second, sharp spires extended from the tips of Hades’ fingers, sinking into the man’s flesh. His weapon clattered to the ground and he dropped to his knees with a guttural cry.

“Please spare me, my lord,” the man begged. “I did not know.”

Hades always found the seconds before a mortal’s death intriguing. Especially when he encountered one like this—one who had killed without thought and yet feared his own demise.

Hades tightened his hold, and as the man trembled, the god laughed.

“Your death is not imminent,” Hades said, and the mortal looked up. “But I will have words with your employer.”

“My employer?”

Hades almost groaned. So the mortal would play dumb.

“Sisyphus de Ephyra.”

“H-he’s not here.”

Lie.

The knowledge coated his tongue like ash, drying his throat.

Hades lifted the man by his arm, spikes still embedded in his skin, until their gazes were level. It was from this angle that Hades noticed a tattoo on the man’s wrist. It was a triangle, now spliced by the spears extending from his fingers.

“I do not need your aid to enter that warehouse,” Hades said. “What I need from you is an example.”

“A-An example?”

Hades decided to use actions to explain, carving two deep fissures in the man’s face. As blood coated his skin, neck, and clothes, the god dragged him to the entrance of the warehouse, kicked open the doors, and strolled inside.

What had looked like a building from the shore now appeared to be a wall, because instead of walking into an enclosed space, Hades found himself in a yard open to the inky sky above. The earth was bare, and there were large above-ground pools holding fish. The air smelled like ocean and rot and salt. Hades hated the stench.

Workers dressed in black jumpsuits turned to watch as the god pushed the bleeding mortal forward. The man floundered but caught himself before he hit the ground. Opposite Hades, another man approached, flanked by two large bodyguards. He was dressed in a white suit, and his fingers were fat and suffocated with gold rings. His hair was short and black, his beard manicured and threaded with silver.

“Sis, I-I-It wasn’t my fault,” the man said as he stumbled forward. “I—”

Sisyphus withdrew a gun and shot the man. He fell, hitting the ground with a loud thud. Hades looked at the still body and then at Sisyphus.

“He was not wrong,” Hades said.

“I did not kill him because he let you enter my property. I killed him because he has disrespected a god.”

A display like that usually came from a loyal subject. Of those, Hades had few, and he knew Sisyphus was not one.

“Is this your version of a sacrifice?”

“Depends,” the man replied, cracking his neck and handing his gun to the bodyguard on the right. “Do you accept?”

“No.”

“Then it was business.”

Sisyphus straightened the lapels of his jacket and adjusted his cufflinks, and Hades noted the same triangle tattoo on his wrist.

“Shall we?” The mortal gestured for Hades to walk in front, toward an office on the opposite side of the yard. “Divine first.”

“I insist,” Hades declined.

Despite his power, he was never eager to have his back turned.

Sisyphus' eyes narrowed slightly. The mortal probably saw Hades’ refusal to lead as a form of disrespect, mostly because it showed that Hades did not trust him. Ironic, considering Sisyphus had broken one of the most ancient rules of hospitality—the law of Xenia—by killing his competition after inviting them into his territory.

It was just one of Sisyphus’ transgressions Hades was here to address.

“Very well, my lord,” The mortal offered a cold smile before starting toward his office, the two bodyguards in tow. Their presence was amusing, as if the two mortal men could protect Sisyphus from him.

Hades found himself considering how he would take them out. He had a number of options—he could call forth the shadows and let them consume the two, or he could subdue them by himself. He supposed the only real consideration was whether he wanted blood on his suit.

The two bodyguards took their places on either side of the door as Sisyphus entered his office. Hades did not look at them as he passed.

Sisyphus’ office was small. His desk was solid wood, stained dark, and stacked with paperwork. An old-fashioned telephone sat to one side, and a crystal decanter and two glasses on the other. Behind him, a set of windows overlooked the yard, obstructed by blinds.

It was behind the desk where Sisyphus chose to stand, a strategic move, Hades imagined. It put something physical between them. It was also probably where he kept a store of weapons. Not that they would do any good against him, but Hades had existed for centuries and knew desperate mortals would try anything.

“Bourbon?” Sisyphus asked as he uncorked the decanter.

“No.”

The mortal stared at Hades for a moment before pouring himself a glass. He took a sip and asked, “To what do I owe the pleasure?”

Hades looked toward the door. From here, he could see the pools, and he nodded toward them now.

“I know you are hiding drugs in your pools,” Hades said. “I also know that you use this company as a front to move them across New Greece and that you kill anyone who gets in the way.”

Sisyphus stared at Hades for a moment, and then took a slow sip from his glass before asking, “Have you come to take my life?”

“No.”

It was not a lie. Hades did not reap souls—Thanatos did, but the God of the Underworld could see Sisyphus was due for a visit and soon. The vision had come, unbidden, like a memory from long ago. Sisyphus, dressed smartly, would collapse as he left a high-ending dining room.

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