I glanced over at Nyx. This was only the second or third time she had left my twenty-ninth floor in the God Complex Headquarters since the attack on her by Kronos. I squeezed her hand in reassurance and smiled at her. Deep down, I was worried about her. The First Born of Chaos, Mistress of the Night, The Lady Nyx, she was infallible and unconquerable, yet her confidence was gone. The encounter with the crazed Titan left her shaken in a way that I doubt she had ever been before.
Nevertheless, I understood. After my brush with death last fall, I came out of it changed myself; less brash and impulsive, more thoughtful, and calculating. She knew I understood her turmoil. At least I hoped she did. I had told her enough times. Yet still, there were times I would catch her in her immortal form staring at the golden handprints on her arms or looking at the scars on her abdomen in the mirror. Hopefully, time would heal the internal wounds as well. I squeezed her hand again.
“I have studied the security cameras around the city that we had tapped. The last time the Oracle was spotted was near the docks in the industrial park down by the water. I suppose we should start there.”
She nodded, squeezing back tightly. Nyx was putting on a brave face, and I hoped this wasn’t going to add to her turmoil. She flexed her hands, nodding to herself as we headed for the elevator in the Complex.
“As good a place as any.”
I smiled at her, and in a blink, we were standing on the docks. In front of us is where the Oracle’s shop was last spotted on camera. Nothing was there now. Where the shop used to exist was nothing more than the featureless brick wall of a large warehouse. I suppose it was too much to hope that it would still be there. We were considering our options when a breeze kicked up, causing a piece of paper to blow, then stick to Nyx’s leg. I reached down to pull it off and throw it away when the heading caught my eye.
Questions? Concerns? Visit The Oracle. We have locations all over the city. We are where you need to be when you need us to be there. Come check us out.
I glanced up at Nyx and showed her the piece of paper. “What do you suppose this means?”
Nyx read it, then looked up at me. “Where do we need them to be?” She glanced around the docks, the salt air making her blink a few times. Suddenly, she squinted and nodded to something up the wharf. “What about that?”
I turned to where Nyx had gestured to see a colorful sign hanging over a flamboyant entrance. The Oracle was written in bold cursive over it.
“Weird,” I said, “That almost seemed too easy.”
Nyx shifted from one foot to another. “I’ll take it.” She squeezed my hand again and started towards the shop.
We began moving, and as we did, I glanced over; for the second time in several days, I saw leaves scurrying along the curb and blowing into the storm drain. That’s when it struck me, the storm drain. Daedalus said we would never find the Minotaur until we discovered its underground labyrinth. Stormwater runoff drains, subterranean sewers, it all tied together perfectly. The Minotaur could slip away and literally be right under the mortals’ feet as they searched for it. That was it, the answer. I didn’t need to ask a question. In that instant, I already knew my answer.
“Okay,” I answered Nyx. I didn’t tell her about my revelation. I was stunned, but we were already here, I needed to ask the Oracle something.
Nyx pushed open the door to the shop, chimes overhead sounding our arrival. Fabric was draped in loose waves from the ceiling, the smell of sandalwood and myrrh filling the air. A sleek, orange tabby cat sat beside a small pyramid of half-used candles. Driftwood made up most of the furniture, including the counter, where Nyx leaned.
“Excuse me, Sir?” she asked of the person quietly sitting at a table and staring at a set of colorful cards.”
“Sir?” I thought. The person at the table was petite, with long brown hair and an obviously feminine face.
I turned to her and whispered, “That’s a woman,” as I pointed at the Oracle. Deity or not, I didn’t want to irritate this woman before we asked her our questions.
Nyx glanced at me, with her calm demeanor, and replied, “The Oracle never appears the same to anyone. When you look at them, you see what you need to see, and I see what I need.” The whole time the woman at the table seemed unaware of us, instead now peering into the bottom of a cup with a smear of tea leaves in it. As we whispered, the orange tabby stared at us, then went back to cleaning itself with apparent indifference.
I looked between the Night and the woman at the table, who finally glanced up. They gave us an indulgent smile and waved to the chairs around them.
“You finally made it,” they said as we took our seats Nyx glanced at me, resting her hand on my knee as I did mine on hers.
“We have a couple questions for you,” I started, just as the tabby leaped on the woman’s lap. Large green eyes peered at us before it curled up to watch. Nyx’s eyes narrowed for a moment, before turning her attention back to the Oracle.
“Of course you do, that is why you’re here,” they smiled, stroking the cat. “You have traveled many paths to be in that chair, Guardian of Lamark. You as well, Chaos’s daughter,” she glanced at Nyx, whose eyes went wide.
I wasn’t going to ask how they knew us. I’ve seen too much in my life to even be curious. But I was fumbling for a new question to ask them. I looked down at that cat, and it seemed to stare right through me, so I cut my eyes to Nyx.
“Uh, go ahead, Nyx. You go first.”
She fidgeted in her seat, eyes on the tarot cards, then the tea—anywhere but up. She started and stopped several times before taking a deep breath.
“Am I able to see my mother again?”
The Oracle’s face remained impassive, but the cat tilted it’s head and watched her closely. The woman set her cards aside, then picked up several bone lots. They put them in a cup, then cast them on the table. Each lot had six sides, like a standard die, but instead of numbers, there were runes carved onto them. The cat peered at the lots, same as the Oracle, then the woman spoke.
“Within and without, with reason and none. She is there, always watching. She is waiting, always moving. You will look and find, but you will look and realize.”
Nyx leaned over the table, hanging on to every word. “Realize what? Are you saying she’s out there? She’s returned to this realm?” Her cheeks were flushed, eyes bright as she stared at the Oracle, who smiled.
“You’ve only but one question.”
Nyx slumped into her chair, hands folded on the table as she contemplated her scars. “I know. Thank you, Oracle…” she chewed her cheek, before turning to me. “Your turn, amata.”
I squeezed her knee gently then turned to the Oracle and their indifferent feline. My thoughts were racing. “Was I sure the Minotaur was in the storm drains? If so, I could ask another question.” I began to speak and heard myself say.
“What is Nyx’s and my future together?”
The Oracle nodded, and I felt, rather than saw, Nyx’s gaze whip to me, felt the weight of her stare. The woman scooped up their lots again, then cast them back on the table. Same as before, they and the orange tabby peered at them with equal interest. Finally, the Oracle looked up at me and replied.
“You are bonded. You are each powerful in your own right. So your pairing is a two-headed dragon, and what you feed it will ultimately determine what it becomes.” The Oracle fell silent and seemed to lose interest in us sitting there at once. The tabby went back to cleaning a front paw, and I glanced over at Nyx.
“What did you just do?” she asked, her eyes wide.
“I know where the Minotaur is. I realized right as we came in the shop.”
“So, you thought to shock me?” She rubbed her face, the smallest of smiles on her face, replaced quickly with a serious look. “Where is it? Is Eleni okay?”
“The sewers, the drains under the city, that has to be where she is. Daedalus said the Minotaur would search for a labyrinth. He also said that originally King Minos would throw the creature slaves and prisoners to eat. So it isn’t used to hunting, it is used to being fed. It only makes sense the monster would live in the sewers since it is so close to the food supply.”
“But what about Eleni?”
I frowned at the thought of what she may have become. “I don’t know. But first thing is first, and I must find her before I can rescue her.” I paused for a moment then reached back out and squeezed her hand. “What about you? What about Chaos?”
“I-I don’t know,” she started, chewing her lip again. “I need to think about what was said. Everything still feels very…fresh. Dinlas, will you…will you help me?”
“Of course, I will. Any way that I can, you know that.” We both stood up and thanked the Oracle, who simply grunted and waved their hand at us in dismissal. We exited amid the tinkling of chimes, and when the door closed behind us, the entire store faded from view. Only a vacant lot was left, complete with debris and litter. I turned to Nyx. “What now? I am anxious to start looking for Eleni. I glanced down and brushed my foot across a manhole cover set into the street.
Nyx looked out over the docks. The waves lapped against the pilings, and a sharp ocean scent filled the air. “Luna said there is a man who has met my mother. I must find him, no matter what. After what he said about her being within and without, I have to know…” She shook her head, turning away from the waves to face me, taking both my hands. “You must find Eleni, this I know. Dinlas, please…please be careful. I worry, which does no good, but here we are. I….” She pressed my hands to her mouth, eyes on my chest instead of me.
I put my finger under her chin and lifted her face. Our eyes met, and I could see her deep concern. It was so unlike her to be afraid. Concerned, yes, but never afraid. Nyx had taken care of herself for millions of years, but Kronos and the tulpa had both had their way with her. I was painfully aware of how vulnerable she still felt.
“I will, of course, be careful, amorcito. What are you doing? I am worried about you as well, especially wandering here by yourself.”
She gave me a small smile. “I will not be alone, I promise. Luna, the Moirai, Philotes, and her new friend are coming with me. It was Luna’s idea, and I would be a fool to disregard my high priestess’s suggestions right now. We will need someone to look after Daisuke.” A frown crossed her face briefly before she shook it off. “No matter. It will work out.” She pushed between my arms and buried her face into my chest, taking a deep breath. “It will be okay, amata. Right?”
I wrapped my arms around her, pulled her close to me, then kissed her. “Everything will work out, Nyx. You heard the Oracle. We are bonded: a fierce two-headed dragon. As long as we feed this relationship properly, we will be unstoppable.” I didn’t know if I believed what I said, but I hoped she did. Finding a man rumored to have been with Chaos, at some point in time and space, was beyond attempting to find a needle in a haystack. Nevertheless, here we were.
She looked up at me, hair tangled around her face, and nodded once, pulling away slowly. “Unstoppable. Yes, that we will be.” She rubbed her face vigorously before flashing a smile. “Let’s get to work then. And if one of us needs something, anything, we just ask. Is-is that okay? While we’re away?”
“Of course, as always. I hope to wrap up this hunt shortly. When I do, I will be able to assist you in any way needed.”
Nyx kissed me softly, squeezing my hands once more, before teleporting away. She was feeling so vulnerable. I knew she would have stayed in my embrace forever if she didn’t leave then, while her mind was set on finding her mother.
I was left standing alone at the edge of the water. It was time to see if my hunch was right about the Minotaur. I teleported away from the docks and arrived at the same creek I had searched for the Minotaur several days before. Most of the tracks were gone, but now I had a new trail. I peered through bushes and along the embankment until I found it. There, covered by dense foliage, was a large drain pipe that emptied into the creek. It was about five feet across and carried rainwater runoff from the storm drains all over the city. I examined the entrance closely, then stepped inside. Hunched over and peering intently, I found what I was looking for at once. A tuft of distinctive blue-black fur clung to the top of the pipe. The same fur I saw when Eleni changed into the monster at the museum. Well over seven feet tall, the creature must’ve been practically on its hands and knees as it scrambled through here. I had seen enough. I needed to get back to my offices, gear up, get my girls, and go track this thing down.
After that, well, I was really at a loss for how I would rescue poor Eleni.