Death had been chasing Khaos through creation for what he was sure was several days and he still hadn’t found her. She’d been leaving soul trails behind, their echoes shimmering like spider webs in the air around him. He didn’t think anyone living could do that. He’d always been able to track the souls of those who’d been departed by tracing their after images, it helped him do his job, but this was new. Everything just lately was proving to be new, or different, or both. But for her to be leaving a trail meant that she was expecting him to follow her and that she was in trouble.
He was having a hard time feeling any sympathy for his Grandmother. She’d brought this on herself. Whether she’d foreseen the epic mess she was going to cause, was up for debate. She couldn’t have seriously expected to just walk away from kicking the Olympian hornets nest? Maybe she was just insane. She’d spent so long by herself, maybe she just wasn’t thinking straight. Not that any of it was really Death’s concern, his focus was on Sarah, who’d taken her and how he could get her back. He didn’t care about Khaos’s problems. She owed him and she was going to help whether she wanted to or not.
After circling through several continents and ending up back where he started, in the Amazon rain forest, Death was so far beyond frustrated that he was ready to wring Khaos’s neck himself. Several soul trails crossed themselves in the air in front of him. Catching what little sunlight was making its way through the damp canopy above, they shimmered and twisted. Death leaned back on the nearest tree and melted into the silence around him. He knew that there should be sounds of animals and insects making their way through their daily life, but whenever he visited this part of the world he was always amazed at how silent it was. Maybe it was only silent for him. He doubted that any living creature would be unaware of who he was and the possible reason for him being here. But not today. Today he needed Khaos and he just wished she would stop shifting about so he could find her.
He suddenly determined that she must’ve heard his thoughts when the soul trail he was following wound around a tree and then evaporated. Death could sense her nearby but instinctively understood that she was reluctant to show herself. A sharp stab of vindication seared his chest. Good. He hoped she felt some guilt for the unfolding drama that was her creation.
Death decided to give up the chase. As badly as he needed her help, the lengths she was going to, to allow him to follow her, meant that she needed him just as badly. He leaned against a tree and closed his eyes. She was definitely there, he could feel the energy from her soul, but she was hurt. He could tell.
After what seemed like an eternity, Khaos appeared a few feet before him, crouched on a rock, cradling her left arm. Her face was a collage of cuts and bruises, her hair was knotted and large patches had been ripped away to reveal white scalp underneath. Her breathing was laboured, her chest hitching as she tried to take each breath.
A bloom of concern eclipsed the vindication Death had felt before her appearance, as he hurried to her side. Kneeling in front of his matriarch, his mind raced to find a course of action for him to take. What could he do? How could he help her? He didn’t possess any life giving power, that hadn’t been the intention when he’d been created.
She lifted her head, pushing her injuries into full view. Death winced. The extent of her physical punishment was painful to look at. Her right eye swayed up to his face, her left, a mass of swollen purple flesh. A smile tried to lift her blood coated lips as she regarded him.
‘I knew you’d find me.’ She sighed, a heavy wheezing sound emitting from her chest. ‘I’m sorry,’ she rasped, ‘I tried to get her back for you and I failed.’
Death reached up and tried to smooth some of the tangles in the front of her hair.
‘What happened?’ He asked, trying hard to conceal the worry beating inside his chest.
‘Hades.’ She rasped. ‘He has an army of creatures at his side. He’s taken over Tartarus, he has Sarah there.’
Death stood up to his full height, anger surging from his core and spreading to his extremities. Now he knew where she was and who had her the need for action made his muscles twitch.
‘What kind of creatures?’ Death growled, adrenaline dialling his anger up to fury.
Khaos coughed and spat a small wad of blood onto the ground at her feet.
‘They’re like nothing I’ve ever seen,’ she croaked, ‘they have the jaws of beasts and the bodies of men. They reminded me of the Minotaur from back home, but they were stronger, more vicious.’
Death’s anger began to sour as Khaos’ description sparked realisation within him. He had no power he could fight with. The only power he had extended to the scythe he used to cut souls from their earthly bodies, but he never used it. He never needed to. Besides, it was pure energy, it had no affect on the living. He suddenly felt defeated. What could he do? He really was powerless.
As if sensing his deflation, Khaos reached her right hand toward him, as if she was trying to draw him in. He crouched once more and shuffled close to her, trying not to touch or knock her in case it caused her unnecessary pain. She hitched another breath and tried to moisten her lips before she spoke. Death could tell how much effort it was taking and how it was only adding to her fragile state but he still needed her help, he just hoped she was still capable of giving it.
‘I didn’t have the right power, I’m not familiar with the underworld, but you are.’ She whispered, reaching out her hand to pull him in close. ‘I have something you can use. I’ve been saving it for you. It was a gift from your sister.’
A small wave of shock reached into Death’s core and shook it. He hadn’t thought about Hemera in eons and now her sweet face swam across his mind. She’d been lost to the titans so long ago, it felt as though she’d never existed; she was just a dream among the dreams of his family. He only had Khaos left. Sorrow threatened to engulf him as the weight of everything he’d lost before, without really knowing, came crashing down around him. They hadn’t given him a life before and now he could almost understand why.
A small tear slid down Death’s face. Khaos forced herself to stretch a little further so she could wipe it away.
‘You’re becoming like them.’ She smiled.
Death closed his eyes and tried to choke back the weight of his emotion. Khaos stroked his cheek lovingly.
‘I’m sorry,’ she rasped, ‘I kept it because you didn’t need it before, you wouldn’t have understood, but I know you need it now.’
Grasping Death’s jacket she pulled him closer still, her good, forest coloured, eye boring into his crystal blue ones.
‘They’ve taken everyone from you, don’t let them take her too.’
Death nodded, feeling suddenly both loved and lonely at the same time. Khaos leaned her head closer still, closing her eyes for second before placing a warm kiss on his cheek. The heat from it lingered before it traced a heated line down through his neck, increasing in speed and intensity as it rushed past his collar bone and spread across his chest.
The pain it generated was more intense than anything Death had encountered so far and it forced him off his feet and onto the forest floor. His every nerve and fibre howled in increasing anguish as the fire within him intensified and threatened to swallow him up. He cried out in agony with his soul commanding voice, scaring every creature within the vast depths of the rain forest and momentarily draining the life energy from all of the living things around him, before releasing it back to them again.
Khaos slumped further forward on her rocky seat, feeling the waves of pain radiating from her Grandson before her. This was the true reason she’d kept the power to herself. He would never be the same after this, but that would only add to the changes that were already happening within him. She had known it would be hard to watch but it was more than she deserved. She’d failed, in all aspects. She was supposed to protect him from the Olympians, it had all gone wrong and she had been the cause of it. But she would keep her promise to him, even if it caused them both pain.
She shuffled forward until she was on the ground beside him. Gently feeling her way through the forest detritus, she manoeuvred herself enough to be able cradle Death’s head in her lap. His brow was slick with sweat, his body was a mass of twitches and ticks, his fists clenched at his sides. She stroked his coal black hair in an effort to soothe him, the last of his torment seemingly over.
The sun had begun to set by the time Death opened his eyes and laid his gaze on his Grandmother. He felt strangely warm while being acutely aware of the intense chill in the air. Khaos had taken to laying beside him, her one good eye closed, the swelling around the other beginning to recede. All of her wounds were slowly healing but she had a long way to go before she would be completely well again.
As if in tune with him, Khaos stirred and tried to sit up. Death felt suddenly protective of her, his fiery affliction momentarily forgotten. She tried to brush him away.
‘We have to get you somewhere safe.’ He pleaded, placing his arm across her shoulders.
Finally admitting the extent of her exhaustion she relented and leaned into him.
‘Okay,’ she croaked, resting her head on his shoulder.
Taking most of her weight Death supported her to stand up and without warning he shifted through realities until he appeared in the centre of thewhite room. Pythia was standing by her desk, a white blanket in her grasp. She rushed forward and encircled Khaos with it, continuing to hold both the blanket and the damaged Goddess, in an attempt to guide Khaos to the snowy white bed that was across the room.
Death caught Pythia’s glance.
‘You knew we were coming?’
Pythia frowned. ‘Please,’ she tutted, ‘the whole of creation knew you two were on the move, they were just too scared to follow you, after you nearly drained the living sap from everything within a hundred mile radius of the amazon.’
A brief wash of memory flooded Death’s brain. The heat from Khaos’ kiss had been unbearable. He had no idea he could draw in the energy from the living before now. Maybe that was the gift Hemera had given him. Pythia latched on to his thoughts and shook her head, as she finished guiding Khaos to the bed and encouraged her to climb in.
‘That’s not it.’ She stated.
Death hated it when she foresaw what he was thinking.
‘It’s an elemental power.’
Death frowned, holding his palms out to the side as if he were about to shrug. Khaos suitably comforted, Pythia turned toward him and traced a line across one of his palms. A small wave of flame followed her finger, dancing and sparking across his skin. His nerve endings tingled and the urge to flex his fingers was intense.
Pythia smiled. ‘Your sister loved you so much she gave you power over the light.’
Death stared at his hand, turning and twisting it, watching as the small licks of blue orange flame spread across his skin. Crushing his hand into a fist he could feel the nature of the fire speaking to him. It was just like the souls. He could command it and keep it close to him.
Drawing deep from the core of that feeling he pushed the fire into his clenched palm before letting it spring open. A large ball of flame appeared in his hand and hovered in the air. Death smiled, suddenly filled with love for the sister he lost so long ago.
Pythia patted him on the shoulder, drawing his attention back to the room.
‘You go,’ she waved at him, ‘I’ll take care of Grandma. Go use that gift to get back what’s yours.’
Death smiled as he drew back the fire within him and extinguished it. Hades had better be ready. He was about to deal with the real power of the underworld and now he had fire power.