It was another few days until we reached Tiverna Island, and nightmares had started to visit me. I was doing it to myself at this point, but I couldn’t let go of how a mortal had wasted the memories of my mother. Of my birth. The quarterdeck and my cabin are where I stayed while Philotes took us as quickly as possible to this island, and I wished I had Adrastos with me. He was ever my cheerful rock, and I missed his bouncy personality more so today.
Lachesis’ voice carried over the waves and roar of the yacht’s engine, and I looked up to see where she was pointing. The faintest smudge of land was growing before us – Tiverna.
“We’ll have to anchor a bit out, it’s too dangerous to get closer,” Philotes called from the quarterdeck. It mattered not to me if we parked in the middle of the ocean or beached on the sand. I would find these blasphemers and take back what belonged to me.
“Are we there?” I shouted over the engine, on my feet now. I leaned out over the railing with one foot cocked on the metal bars. It wasn’t a long way off, and the coral reefs below us didn’t pose too much of a threat. Philotes’ head peeked out from the deck to look at me.
“Yes, but -”
The warm, tropical waters broke around me as I dived into them, my daughter’s words were enough. I would swim the rest of the way while the others caught up. The shoreline met my strokes through the waters quickly enough, and I was wringing water out of my hair on the sands a few moments later. I glanced back at the yacht to see my daughters and Philomela waving at me frantically, a dinghy quickly being lowered so they may catch up. I couldn’t wait for them, so with a turn on my heel, I was storming into the unsuspecting jungle.
The humidity and cloying smell of flora under the hot sun grazed against all my senses as I pushed through vines and ferns, ears perked to listen for anything other than the wildlife that flourished here. I hoped for a party to meet me, so that I may question them on the memories and then tear the life from them. I only found birds and iguanas in my way, and I ignored them. The sounds of the waves died off until only those of the jungle were left. When the air changed I froze in place, listening hard. Only, there was nothing to hear. Nature’s sounds had died.
“C’mon then,” I hissed, slipping into my immortal form, “let’s play.”
An almighty roar erupted from my left, and I was bowled over by a massive creature, jaws snapping at my throat before I could see what it was. Wrenching my hands around the canines that threatened to pierce through me, I pushed back on them until I could leverage my feet onto its chest and kicked as hard as I could, sending the beast flying and giving me a moment to gather myself.
The Nemean Lion was staring at me, fangs bared and eyes narrowed. No…no, that wasn’t the Nemean, but it was damn close. Too small, the coat colour was different, darker. That didn’t stop it from lunging at me once more, however. I grappled its jaw as it went for my face, and threw it over my shoulder into a thick tree trunk, a groan emanating from the tree and the lion. I swung around as it got to its feet once more, when a shrill whistle pierced the air. The lion halted, swinging its head around to look behind it, before taking off into the brush.
“Oh, no you don’t,” I hissed through my teeth, sprinting after it. The trail it left was easy to follow, broken branches and trampled grass leading me further into the jungle. I lost track of direction, of time, of anything but the idea that perhaps this beast knew something I didn’t. It led me past a lake, through thickets and tunnels, until I burst out of the tree line to find seven hooded figures standing in an arc before me, a large shack looming behind them. All were holding pistols.
“Welcome, Mother Night.”
The middle figure spoke, taking a step forward and easing off their hood. A shock of neon blue hair cropped out from under the fabric, matching his eyes. Dark skin matched the dark look he gave me, never lowering his aim from my chest. He was probably a foot shorter than me, but he radiated the same energy I did – an angry high.
“We weren’t expecting you so soon, but I, for one, never look a gift horse in the mouth. I see you met our little mascot,” he said, gesturing to the lion that was padding back and forth behind them. It snarled at me, which I returned. “Best of friends now, hm?”
“I don’t care who or what was expecting me. Are you the ones dealing in memories? Bottled, given away like souvenirs?”
The unhooded man grinned at me, and I had to strain myself to not lunge at him. “A side endeavor, but yes. What of it?”
I breathed heavily, forcing my hands to stay at my sides. If they died now, I would have no answers. “You are peddling memories of immortals, some long gone, to mortals that treat them as a party favour. This needs to stop. And I will be taking whatever remains with me.”
A full-throated laugh erupted from the man, edging me closer to blind rage. “You and what army, Mother Night? Forgive me, but I don’t think you’ll be leaving with anything of ours, much less leaving. Your kind do not deserve to live.”
His voice edged into a darker thrum, eyes narrowed at me. A subtle shift in the line up put my back hairs on edge, tensing my body. In a blink, my wings unfurled, and I shot into the sky as a volley of gunfire erupted below me. They want a fight? So be it.
I snarled as I dodged the bullets that flew past me, recalling another time I had done this.
Pulling my wings tight to me, I fell into a steep dive, drawing my kopis from the surrounding slipstream just before I sank it into the chest of one of the hooded people. A roar of anger followed the screech of pain, and more gunfire careened by me, missing my arms and wings. Pulling up above their heads, I hurled a dark energy orb towards them, sending them scattering. I sent a second orb to the ground, hitting the lion and showering the area with dirt and rubble, and another round of bullets fired towards me.
“Give up, Nyx! You will die, just like the others! Long live the humans!” The blue-haired man screamed at me, firing at me with abandon. His shots were poorly aimed in his rage, so much that when I threw my third ball of dark energy, he never had time to run. His body flew through the air and disappeared into pieces in the darkness of the treeline.
I didn’t see the lion leap from a small hill, grabbing a mouthful of wing and dragging me to the ground. It roared and snapped its jaws over the joints as I tried to swing around. My kopis caught its chest, making it leap backwards in pain as I stumbled upright. It came for me again with enormous paws stretched out for my face, claws fully extended. I caught it, barely, and keeping the motion rolling, swung around and heaved it into the door of the shack. Planting my feet, I summoned another dark energy orb, larger than the last, and hurled it at the lion and the shack.
A bell went off somewhere in the depths of my mind as it collided. My heart sank to the soles of my feet when the explosion sent everything sky-high. Fog erupted from the wreckage, ebbing out towards me, and the whispers of a thousand memories slipped away into the skies.
“Fuck,” I whispered, as the brush behind me rustled and parted to reveal Luna and the Fates, panting and wild-eyed.
“We heard gunshots and…” Luna’s words fell away as she took in the scene. “What happened…?”
Atropos turned to me, her sisters behind, all somber-faced. “They’re gone, aren’t they?”
I nodded once, before turning and walking away. “There’s nothing left for us here. Let’s go.”