Fate fell next to her, and Zerina relinquished Destiny’s hand to her mother.
“Don’t leave me, sister,” Fate pleaded as Asclepius knelt, laying his hand on Destiny’s gaping wound. Then the god of healing removed his hand, shaking his head before rising and leaving them to say their good-byes.
Destiny winced, a drop of blood trickling out of the side of her mouth. “Rocque?”
Fate brushed her tears away, trying to smile at her sister to ease her fears for the man she loved. “He’s gone berserk. He’s killing everyone. What he isn’t, his wolves and other creatures are. Two of his trees are using Atlas as a ping-pong ball.”
Destiny gave a small cough as more blood trickled down into the dirt. “I thought it was Rocque’s death I saw. It was mine.”
“Shush … You’re not going to leave me. I won’t let you …” Fate broke off, sobbing as she placed Destiny’s hand on her chest. “Please, Destiny … don’t leave me.”
Destiny lifted her eyes to stare up at Odin, who was guarding Fate’s back. “Odin will protect you … I …”
“Rocque!” Fate yelled over her shoulder.
Zerina cried, watching Rocque’s blinding rage turn to torment as he crouched down next to Destiny.
“How did I ever resist you for so long?”
“It’s supposed to be me. I believed it would me …” Tormented eyes blinked back tears.
“That’s why we’re not supposed to know our own destiny. Our daughters … I’m sorry … Zerina, my daughters’ souls will return to Mother. When Rocque finds another wife … will you …?”
“I will. I vow on my soul they will be held only by Rocque.”
“Thank … you.” Destiny turned her eyes away from her to Mother.
“I betrayed you … Please forgive me.”
“I forgave you long ago, my daughter.”
“There … is always a … price. For … give …” Destiny trailed off as her eyes dimmed.
With Destiny’s dying breath, Mother leaned her head down, kissing Destiny’s lips.
Zerina fell on her bottom as Mother raised her head. Lifting her hand, she closed Destiny’s eyes. As she did, a golden light wafted out of her, swirling upward. As Zerina watched, the golden light exploded, showering down onto those who fought.
“No!” Chronos yelled when his army started attacking each other, giving Poseidon and Zeus the opportunity to grab Chronos as Hades barreled into Merlin, lifting him over his shoulder. With a wave of his hand, they disappeared into the doorway, with Chronos still ordering Morgana to help.
The woman’s lips started moving as if she were going to chant a spell, but the first word wasn’t out of her mouth before Jinx took Thor’s mallet out of his hand and smashed it down of Morgana’s head. The old witch crumpled to the ground, where Cerberus lifted her into his mouth and carried her through the doorway that Hades had left open.
Zerina and Fate stood as Mother’s army started pushing Chronos’ army back to the doorway. Those who tried to escape were quickly rounded up by Thor and Thanatos.
Broni helped Mother to her feet, while Rocque lifted Destiny into his arms. Quietly, he moved away. Vlad signaled his vampires to move respectfully aside, giving him and his warriors enough room to pass.
“All of this is because Chronos saw me in a vision that never happened?” Devastated, Zerina stared at the wasteland the battle had wrought. Bodies littered the ground—humans, immortals, gods, and goddesses.
Zerina watched Rhys hold Broni as she sobbed over Adam and Abby’s bodies. Fate and Odin were following Rocque. Zeus was lifting Dionysus and Aphrodite’s bodies onto the chariot that Chronos had stood confidently on. So determined he would win, he had no conscience about the consequences.
“Chronos was always an old fool over his visions.” Mother took a faltering step forward, and Zerina reached out to steady her.
“What will Zeus do with their bodies?”
“Zeus will beg Hades to let their bodies be reunited with their souls.”
“No. Zeus will pick one of their shrines and bury them there. Hades will make sure that no one will be able to return them home.”
“What will the humans do now?”
“They will rebuild. It’s human nature. All my creatures, either human, immortal, or animal have the same instincts.”
“Yes, they will survive. Rocque will help. He may not want to, but he will, because he knows that’s what Destiny would want.”
Zerina didn’t see how they could.
Mother patted Zerina’s hand on her arm. “Don’t worry; you’ll see yourself. It won’t be long before they forget it even happened.”
Zerina turned toward the hill where Rocque was carrying Destiny. “But it happened. So many of those we loved were lost.”
“Many were lost, but many more lived. There is no victory without suffering. There is no light without darkness. There is no love without hatred. It is only when we recognize the difference can we truly appreciate the victory of what we overcame.”
Zerina’s tears coursed down her cheeks as Zandra ran out of the clubhouse and saw Abby and Adam. Broni caught the girl, comforting her when her grief became overwhelming.
Zerina could understand Destiny’s final words. “There is always a price …”
The Mother of all the gods face wasn’t racked with grief. It was filled with a mother’s love and pride. “It’s a price that Destiny paid, and so did Abby and Adam. It’s a price that everyone must pay.” Mother raised her hands toward the heavens, parting the clouds so the sun could shine across the earth. “Love is not a gaudy necklace you can wear. It must be worked for and cherished. It doesn’t come cheap, and it doesn’t come with a warranty that it will last forever. It takes courage and sacrifice because, at the end, that’s all you can truly count on. It’s what saved me today. You, Hades, the humans … it saved us all.”
The book lay where she had left it on the window seat in the upper library. Hades held the book in his hands, staring down at it sightlessly.
It had been a full moon since Mother had carried Zerina home after the battle. It had taken him that long to straighten out the mess that Morgana and Grimm had conspired together to aid Chronos.
In his dungeon, Grimm had confessed that Chronos had promised him his domain. It was the last confession he had ever made. The fire pit’s hungry flames had consumed Grimm, Morgana, Merlin, and so many others that his shoulders ached from throwing them.
Hades laid the book back down. Waving his hand, he then transported himself to his office.
Sitting down behind his desk, he picked up the new violet glass ball. It was his Mother’s favorite color, and Chronos’ least favorite.
Shaking the ball, he stared at the face that became visible when the mist parted.
Hades was giving his father a hate-filled grin when the summons came.
“I have to leave you for a while. Don’t get in trouble.”
Placing the ball back down on his desk, he waved his hand again.
Transporting, Hades stared at the mysterious garden he had taken Zerina to see. He walked to the tree where they had made love, his heavy heart beating as he came to a standstill.
It took a few minutes for her to appear, and when she did, Hades knelt, respectfully bowing his head.
“My son.” Mother held her hands out.
Hades rose, taking them in his. “Thank you for coming.”
“It is I who should be thanking you. Thank you. Without your intervention, Zeus would still be hiding in your dungeon.”
“I will always protect you and stand by your side …” Hades’ drawn features became tense as he tried to find the right words.
“I can no longer do one of your duties.” He had never denied her anything, but the burden had become too much to carry.
His mother’s face softened. “Zerina?”
“I want to love her the way she wants me to. I cannot with the burden I carry.”
“You’ve carried my mistake for far too long.” Mother placed her hand on his bearded jaw. “I entrusted earth to your care, and never once did you disappoint me. I promised you a reward, yet you never asked for it. You live in a world of darkness and never asked for the light. It’s time I keep my promise, as you have kept your word.” She moved her hand to his chest, pressing down over his heart. When she removed her hand, the Omphalos stone lay in the palm of her hand.
Hades took a deep breath, feeling the crushing weight removed.
Mother slipped the stone into the cleft of her bosom. “Now that you have returned what is mine, I will return something that is yours.”
With a wave of her hand, Zerina appeared.
Hades started trying to straighten his disheveled suit, but Zerina didn’t give him time, throwing herself into his arms.
He clasped her to him, crushing his cheek down on his silky hair. “I’m never letting you go again.”
Mother sniffed. “The girl whined the whole time she was home, wanting to come back. I told her you were busy, but she wouldn’t listen.”
Hades hugged her tighter. “Woman, it was everything I could do to let you go. I couldn’t return you home. It was one of Mother’s conditions when she gave us our inheritance. Poseidon and I wouldn’t be able to return home.”