Desert Gods

A knife edge life. Battles with instincts, scruples and inevitable descents.

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Mesteno
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Re: Desert Gods

Post by Mesteno » Sun Nov 24, 2019 10:32 pm

[Continued…]

The Rock Thing, stone faced himself, took its sweet time processing Aiden’s words and the glowing disc before it shifted (gratingly) grudgingly out of the way.

Stamping the ground again with the javelin, Aiden made the disc disappear and started into motion, marching for the gates which were swinging wide to accept them. Mesteno swallowed a sigh of relief and fell into step with him once more, timing his stride to a perfect unison, cloak lapping at the backs of his ankles and the strap-skirt of the ridiculous cuirass lashing around his thighs.

A third of the guard was following along, but they had left the rock monster behind. Apparently, the Shark headed thing was second in command (or on Rock Thing's shit list) because it took over leading them onward, gnashing occasionally at the air as it walked.

From the outside, the Lady of Spring's lands looked like the top of a mountain in Hell. Once they stepped beyond the gates, though, everything changed, including their escort. Green grass and freshly blooming trees and flowers and shrubs filled every inch of landscape. And it was landscape that went on far longer than the top of a mountain could rightly encompass. Wildly coloured butterflies flitted across the shrubs and bees were busily buzzing from flower to flower. The sky was still a muddy sort of crimson, but it was lighter here than it had been before and felt far less oppressive, especially when they were surrounded by such life. Spring eternal existed here where Persephone idled away her time, the grounds either a constant reminder of her duty or just an effect of her presence.

As for the guards, then now resembled much more normal looking men. Each was a fine specimen, though they did continue to make the sounds of their natural form. Boot heels dragged like claws or paws instead of sounding like footfalls, and the growling and guttural sound of their language remained unaffected by the illusion.

Aiden didn't blink at the transformation, but kept on along the walkway that was now leading them toward a rather lavish stone house several stores high. Not quite a palace, but not too far from it, it was surrounded by an expansive lawn on one side and a hedge maze on the other. Fountains gurgled in between with stunning models of the Goddess herself pouring water into their basins.

Where he could, Mesteno took count, trying to gauge the odds should things turn unpleasant. He couldn't assume these guardians wouldn't escort them further than they'd expected and join the hellhound if things went wrong. Subtle, darting looks, which weren't entirely successful given that the majority were behind them and not alongside. He did see the fountains though... yet another example of Kore’s self-absorption. He struggled not to roll his eyes.

Most of the guards fell away as they climbed the steps and headed into Kore's' home. The house was built around a central courtyard, lush with the most precious and prime specimens that the Goddess preferred and riddled with meandering paths. The gardens, like the house, were cunningly (magically) tiered, going all the way up to the topmost level.

The shark led them to a wide set of stairs leading to the pinnacle, one massive, windowless room with wooden walls, the ceiling exposed to a sky that did not exist outside the house. Achingly blue with huge, puffy clouds that drifted lazily along. Kore lounged on the divan they'd seen her in before, with the Hellhound still at her feet, still lazily reading from her book. It didn't seem anybody had told her they were arriving. But that's just how she wanted it to seem.

Their escort did not enter with them, but lingered there near the stairs. Aiden didn't pause, heading straight toward the divan and the Goddess. He stopped a good ten feet away and bowled low, grounding the point of his javelin as he'd done when they met Hecate. Somehow, his helmet stayed on his head. "Glorious Proserpina," he began, though she hadn't even looked up, "the Mighty Dis Pater bid me to convey his warmest greetings and begs your attendance upon him in preparation for your upcoming bonding ceremony."

As Aiden bowed to offer the formal, obsequious greeting, Mesteno sank smoothly (on a non-crunching knee) to the ground to kneel, the plume of his helmet arcing proudly overhead and going some way to assisting with the business of obscuring his identity. There wasn't much of a view down there, but it was an ideal opportunity to get a furtive look at the hellhound resting beside the divan the Goddess lounged upon.

The beast had cracked open its flaming red eyes to regard the pair, its massive head still resting on its paws. Thankfully, smoke did not drift up from its nostrils and after only a few moments, it closed its eyes and appeared to resume its interrupted nap. So far, so good. Kore, however, was not nearly so accommodating.

The silence stretched in the wake of Aiden's speech as the Goddess continued to ignore them in favour of her book. Somewhere unseen, birds were twittering merrily to each other. The clouds above drifted slowly along through the impossible sky. It was almost as if they weren't really there, at least as far as Kore was concerned. Finally, though, she closed her book with an overloud snap and deigned to acknowledge their existence which, by the sour look on her pretty face, was sullying her domain.

"You do not know how to kneel?" She asked that of Aiden, obviously, since Mesteno was doing a bang up job of taking the knee.

To his credit, the demi-god went down to one of his own with a solid thump and minus the grunt that impact should have caused. The tip of his javelin slid further forward and the plume on his helmet nearly brushed the floor. "Forgive-" It was as far as she allowed him to go.

"Silence!" Kore snapped, the sound akin to the closing of that tome she still held. She might well have wanted to throw it at him. Instead, she used it to point toward the still bowing Mesteno, like he should have eyes to see her all bent over like he was. "You! You will speak. And pray your manners are far better." She did not sound happy. The Hellhound had opened its eyes again. "What is it Dis wants? It is far too early for the ceremony."

Aiden's jaw had tightened, and looked sidelong, as best he could, toward Mesteno for a moment. Obviously, he hadn't predicted how testy the woman would be. But she did not sound so eager to meet Dis despite how she'd insisted to the Sadist the marriage must happen.

Mesteno needn't have eyes on her to know whom she was demanding speak since there was no one else there with them beyond old shark head. The look he shot Aiden's way was as vicious a 'told you so' as ever there was - contingency plans! They should have had them, picked over every little detail for a job like this until they knew their parts by rote.

He did not rise, because she hadn't commanded him to, and knowing how picky Hades had been about the quality of grovelling, he suspected his wife of the same haughty imperiousness.

"Sublime Prosperina, I humbly ask forgiveness for my cohort. Should you wish his knees broken to aid his memory in future I shall see to it as soon as our duties are fulfilled." Aiden could just grit his teeth there and bear his grovelling in silence. "Our exalted lord had word of mortal intent to sabotage proceedings, with explicit intent being to prevent your ascension. He believes it essential to the success of your bonding that measures be put in place to forestall such events and wishes your guidance."

Whilst Aiden wasn't exactly overjoyed Kore had silenced him so swiftly, necessitating some ad-lib responses, he had full faith and confidence in the Sadist's ability to adapt. Mesteno did not disappoint. The tip remained firmly grounded. They were nowhere close to sunk yet.

Kore tapped her long, blood red nails against the tome as she weighed Mesteno's answer and offer, her eyes narrowed on him and him alone. Something had made her cock her head to one side just a little bit.

"Mortals." She spit the word like a curse, then sighed gustily as she swung her legs off the divan, kicking the Hellhound out of its place. The massive beat grumbled, a bit of smoke trailing from its jowls, but it moved as the Queen bid. "Always causing problems." Kore went on. "Don't they know they will die of starvation? Winter will rage on. They will be unable to plant their precious crops." She was ranting now, and up off the couch to pace as she continued to rail about mortal stupidity. "I will bring them spring forever and they balk like petulant children."

As horrible as an endless winter was, an endless spring would be no better. And that really was a prime reason to keep her from marrying Dis, if nothing else. He would set her free of the Underworld and the seasons would be just as screwed. Still, despite her railing, she didn't seem too eager to open that portal just yet.

The Goddess went silent somewhere across the room. The tome had been dropped on the floor during her tirade and the Hellhound was sitting up and watching her, rather than them. Above, the puffy clouds in the sky had gathered and darkened into more stormy proportions to fit the woman's current mood. Soon, rain began to fall on them, yet it disappeared when it touched the wood floor. The squall passed quickly as she rounded on Mesteno again and came stalking his way.

"You may tell your 'exalted lord'," there was more than a little scorn in her voice with the title. Apparently, Dis was not a love match! "that I will receive him here." She folded her arms, slippered feet stopped practically under Mesteno's nose and he dress brushing the plume of his helmet. She smelled beautifully of flowers.

Mesteno began to wish the javelin was no longer grounded when her proud prowling came so very close to him. What he wouldn't give to snag her ankle and simply topple her onto her ass, drain her into compliance like he might do with a mortal giving him too much trouble.

"Dis Pater sees the wisdom in your vision and would see the mortal realm flourish as you will it," and he dared say no more than that, in case she thought him presumptuous, speaking on the Power's behalf as if he knew him personally. That much, he thought, might have been mentioned to a favoured guard. As for her refusal... "Your offer to host him here is a generous one, Great Lady, but he bid us inform you there is more than one reason he requests your attendance at his demesne. It involves approval of a wedding gift he intends which... cannot be easily moved."

Was she the type to be tempted by presents? Certainly one so large and impressive sounding as the one he was implying had to be a temptation.

"Should it not meet your approval he would not have you embarrassed by it on such a momentous occasion." Throw in the risk of being embarrassed at her nuptials and surely she'd want to go.

The snort Kore gave in response to Mesteno's initial answer was anything but ladylike. She might have muttered something like 'He'd better', but it was a passing comment, at best, when the Sadist dared defy her will with his paltry excuses. Really, their untimely arrival and outrageous requests were doing much to keep her off balance and distracted from Apate’s illusions. She might have hauled off and kicked him in the ribs (the rumbling of thunder in the stormy sky was an indication of her mood), but Aiden was swift to aim her displeasure back on himself by daring to speak again.

"Fearsome Lady, he would be lost without your input." Perhaps Aiden knew she was winding up for something physical. Delicate she might look, but she was still a Power and would likely unleash more than just her temper on the Sadist. He was much better suited to taking that kind of punishment.

Thankfully, it worked. Kore's slipped feet stomped away from Mesteno toward Aiden when he spoke and she ended up kicking him, instead, giving a little shriek of temper. The demi-god went sprawling off to the side, which startled the Hellhound a bit and had it growling. It was already out of sorts for the rain which had taken to falling again and now its mistress was in a fit.

Aiden's helmet went rattling across the floor but he kept hold of the javelin, keeping it grounded for the moment as Kore spewed some more verbal venom.

"What he should beg to learn is how to better train his servants! That would be present enough. I will drag you both before him and show him how it is done!" She declared in a silky, growling tone. She was waving her hands about and the air off to the left, nearest the Sadist, had begun to ripple. The present Mesteno promised wasn't enough, but it seemed their bad behaviour was. The Goddess was making the gate and it was soon splitting the air and spiralling open to reveal a more Hellish landscape and domain.

Aiden scrambled to pick himself up as she stalked toward it.

"Heel!" She commanded them both as she went.

Mesteno couldn't recall ever being so pleased to hear a threat of violence as he was just then. Hopefully his enthusiasm would simply be mistaken for an attempt at remedied behaviour, because he moved smoothly to his feet with the straps of the cuirass slapping at his knees and the rainwater dripping off his back.

Kore was almost there, nearing the portal, when the world was split by the sound of another horn.

That would be Dis’ real couriers.

Kore herself stopped, wide-eyed like a doe, and turned her head toward the front of the house, as if she might be able to see beyond the windowless walls.

With their cover blown, and the knowledge that the bitch wasn't going to give them a second chance to get her through, Mesteno moved fleeter than any man had a right to be. He barrelled into Kore with as much force as a single stride could gain him to barge her through the portal, one hand outstretched to crash into the nape of her neck and the other at the small of her back.

Risky business, this kidnapping of deities.

The shark-headed guy, who'd been slinking down the stairs, paused and whipped about. The Hellhound leaped to all four paws, hackles rising along its back in the shape of flames.

Aiden had opened his mouth to offer some advice, the javelin now off the ground and pointed toward the Hellhound, but the Sadist had saved him the breath tackled Kore through the gate. A wild grin took over the demi-god's face instead and he threw his weapon at the Hellhound as it leaped toward the portal after the pair. He went bolting after it a moment later as the guard started yelling behind him.

Mesteno managed to take the Goddess completely by surprise (he dared to touch her!) and so they both went stumbling through, out of her domain and into Dis'.

Graceless in her startlement, Kore tripped over the front of her dress, ripping it as loudly as her gasp. A few seconds later, a speared Hellhound came stumbling and drooling its way through the gate, belching flame perilously close to the pair and acidic blood splattering and hissing across the tile flooring.

Equally graceless, and rendered further inelegant thanks to portal travel, Mesteno tripped right over the tumbled Kore, and avoided landing full length on top of her only through concerted effort. Instead he tumbled forward, hit the ground hard with a shoulder and rolled, managing to cease any forward momentum via cat-like crouch. Entirely by chance, he managed to look impressively dramatic instead of clumsy.

They appeared to be in a great hall of some sort, earthen pillars holding up a cave-like ceiling giving it a distinctive Roman flare. In her pique, Kore had chosen to make the gate go right into what might be Dis' audience chamber. It was packed with hellish beings, all staring and gaping at their dramatic arrival.

Aiden arrived through the gate around second two, stepping from one domain to the next with a wild flare of light at his back as he sucked the portal dry of magic, injecting it directly into himself.

Mesteno hadn't expected was that they'd be surrounded once they reached the other side. World still spinning, he had the time it took the Hellhound to rocket through the portal to realise conflict was unavoidable, and wrenched his sword loose of its scabbard. If the locals weren't seeing through Apate's illusion by this point, they never would.

His grace in not sprawling all over the incensed Goddess (or maybe the fact he was manhandling her in the first place) earned him a couple of oohs from the startled audience. The Hellhound and Aiden's back-to-back arrival, highlighted by the flash of light stirred free a few 'ahs'. A ground shaking roar was quick to follow in the wake of those sounds, drowning out everything but Dis' distinct displeasure. A bear of a man clad in the Roman style, seated on something like a throne at the front of the chamber.

Small blessing, the Hellhound was bleeding. The stink of it struck the match of Mesteno’s instincts with beautiful efficacy, and he sent tendrils of his soul snatching out for the wound Aiden had inflicted, driving the rot through its body by way of its own circulatory system to putrefy it from the inside out.

Potentially it wasn't the wisest choice though, exposing his soul in front of not only Kore, but Dis should he happen to be there in his audience chamber. The necromantic magic would've been obvious even without the demonstration, but it exposed the inhuman nature in the process, the threat of what it would evolve into with enough patience and planned nurturing. A thing designed for glutting on precisely what they were. Mesteno had never felt it so reluctant to be wielded, actively resisting his commands, but he still had dominion, succeeded despite it, and as an added feat of skill, called down every shred of shadow in the audience chamber to wall them off from view of its denizens.

"Is this what was supposed to happen!?" A still dazed Mesteno was asking the demi-god sharply.

Kore was finally drawing herself back together. Her first priority seemed to be getting away from the flaming and now rotting Hellhound that was stumbling about far too close to her. She flung her arms out at it and it went sailing with a pitiful whine off into the shadows. A few somethings out there screamed for its abrupt arrival. Surely Mesteno would be next, but Aiden proved he could move pretty spryly for an old guy and right in front of her a half second later.

Now the Wings appeared and Mesteno had a killer view of them as they sprouted like ghosts from his back, peeled off his covered arms and swept out and down the surrounded Kore's body as he grabbed her. "Close enough!" Was his answer to Mesteno's question. He sounded absolutely gleeful. "Find us a path!" He called next, hauling the struggling Kore right off her feet. Whatever she was doing to try and free herself was proving futile so far, and there was no time to waste.

Dis was trying to wrest control of the shadows, but even though it was his domain, possession seemed to be nine-tenths of the shadow law and the Sadist had touched them first.

Mesteno felt the darkness twisting and slippery as if he held live eels in his fingers, struggling to escape and slick as oil. He wouldn't be able to maintain it forever, but what Aiden was asking of him was even more daunting of a task. Drag them both through the Shadowlands with him? He'd never taken more than one at a time before, and he hadn't a great mental image of Hecate's location fixed in his mind.

No one had mentioned he'd be playing public transport on top of posing as a guard!

"You've got to be--nngh!" Frustration had him biting off the end of the sentence as the shadow wall faltered. Bleak white flash of too sharp teeth, lip curled into a vicious, muttish snarl, and rather than tolerate Dis' interference without countering him, a section of the shadows splintered off, wound itself long and lean and deadly, a silhouette of Aiden's javelin and every bit as solid. He sent it sailing through the air right towards Kore's betrothed, entirely intended as a distraction method so that he could gather the remaining darkness.

Instead, it impaled an infuriated Dis’ hand, only doubt making matters worse.
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Mesteno
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Re: Desert Gods

Post by Mesteno » Thu Nov 28, 2019 4:32 pm

[Continued…]

Reaching for Aiden's arm, Mesteno grasped tight enough to bruise, fearing he'd somehow feel him slide loose as if pulled by some riptide. "Keep her tight!" he warned sharply. The mental image he had of Hecate’s realm was so poor he expected they’d wind up lost, stepping off the path.

Beneath his fingers, Aiden burned as hot as the face of the sun, yet left no mark behind. Energy came pouring though that touch, flooding into Mesteno in a deluge of pure, divine power. A power that was being fed by Kore as she used all her tricks to try and escape the demi-god. Aiden was devouring it, and it was spilling over into the necromancer, and passed unexpectedly into his ever ravenous passenger.

The shadows sucked them in. The cold gnawed into flesh straight to the bones, and the rain that'd pelted them in Kore's domain became rigid, clinging beads of ice (though they melted straight off Aiden). Blackness, and the terrible, distant beast-howls of the plane's hungry hunters pressed in about their ears while Mesteno, straining, found his pathway shimmering, unstable as if it would crumble underfoot... right until the image of a prancing black lamb shot into his mind, and his next stride pulled them out nearly on top of the little creature, somewhere in Hecate's firefly lit woodlands.

The lamb wiggling its little tail at them and Hecate herself smiled broadly, clapping. Beside her, Hades stood glowering at the lot of them.

Mesteno snatched his hand away and spat a string of obscenities at Aiden foul tongued enough to make Rhy'Din's crudest blush. He had not enjoyed the channelled energy, and moved a safe distance from him. It was only after that he realised he could hear Hecate's laughter that he spotted her gloomy company. Swallowing back anything further he might have said, he grimly sheathed the blade he hadn't had time to fit back in its scabbard. He wasn't going to give them any excuse to send him face first in the dirt again.

Aiden was laughing, free and full, despite Mesteno cursing him out. The demi-god was riding the rush of that glut of energy so there wasn't much that could bring him down at the moment. Not even Mr Dark and Dreary glaring at them.

"Unhand her." Hades' command rumbled through Hecate's realm like black thunder and Aiden seemed happy enough to comply. He unwound his arms, unfurled those ghostly wings, and Kore pushed away from him with wide-eyed disbelief, with, terror. She was gasping like a fish and in complete disarray, probably looking not so very different than the first time she'd been kidnapped. One of Aiden’s wings came Mesteno’s way, but it just hovered in the air in front of him like a protective screen he could easily see through.

"As requested, Uncle. One Lady of Spring." Aiden intoned it like they were formal, binding words. "You have this mortal to thank for her timely arrival." Aiden wasn't trying to dump all the praise on Mesteno, but it seemed he damn sure wasn't going to let Hades overlook the guy's crucial contribution to the effort.

Kore gasped anew, looking to Hades with something like dismay, then over to Hecate, who smiled almost gently (if iron could be gentle.) at her. The Goddess crumpled in the next moment in a heap of tears. But she had enough presence of mind left to shoot a watery death glare Mesteno's way... which melted into more shock. "You!" She wailed, pointing at him. "False Prophet!" She accused.

Hecate laughed anew and shook her head. "Defier." She corrected firmly.

Hades was stalking Kore's way, ignoring them all but for a passing, piercing look at the Sadist, to go pick his woman up. "Enough of this foolishness." He snapped at her.

Rather than trying to shrink away from him, Kore sort of melted into his arms to sob her woe.

Kore's accusation had been expected, but the sudden list of titles only served to remind Mesteno of what Hecate had promised him earlier; fading from the memory of the Grecian pantheon would not be easy after all his meddling, and so far he'd only seen Aiden's side. Little wonder his expression darkened.

"I think," he murmured between his teeth to Aiden, "that the sooner we let them enjoy their reunion in peace the better, don't you?" Get me out of here before your uncle finds an excuse to try and rip the soul from me again, would've been a more honest request, but he wasn't going to allow Mr. Gloomy the satisfaction.

He backed a step or three, tugging the foolish feeling, plumed helmet from his head and trying to shrug off the lingering buzz of energy Aiden had played conduit to.

Aiden was glowing. So much energy! The effect wasn't lost on any of the Powers present and they were looking at him with various degrees of eye narrowing. Hecate seemed mostly amused. Hades had more of a glower, but that was probably just his default expression. After her earlier frightened look, Kore refused to look at him at all! Still, the Sadist wasn't alone in back stepping from the trio. Apparently, Aiden was in full agreement that it was time to go.

"Cate." Aiden actually bowed to her. Telling that he made his partings to her first. "Uncle." That as he straightened, which earned him a growl. The glowing wings finally furled in more tightly against the demi-god's back, though they didn't completely disappear. Perhaps the danger wasn't over. That proved to be true a moment later when the entire domain seemed to tremble, like a giant gong had been rung somewhere and the vibrations of it were extending through the very earth. Hecate lost every trace of amusement in less than a blink.

The sudden ground tremors almost upended Mesteno, and he snatched outward with a hand for the nearest tree, steadying himself with a wary glance sweeping across their immediate surroundings.

"Uh-oh." That was murmured under his breath as Aiden paused and looked aside to Mesteno. "We may not be able to leave just yet."

Hecate was back at her cauldron rather than making them any kind of gate, too distracted.

"Can I get us back through the shadows from here, or will it not work from the Underworld?" Mesteno asked lowly. "I really don't want to be here if Dis shows up to try and win back his betrothed."

Despite his mutter, Aiden was still grinning as he slanted a look aside to the Sadist. "It's not supposed to work unless you're one of them." He nodded toward the three Powers, who were now consulting between each other. Kore had stopped sobbing and was gesticulating wildly as she spoke. Whatever they were saying was private, though, for the conversation didn't carry. "But you just did it in Mr Disappointment's domain, so who knows."

Hecate chose that moment to spear them both a sharp look.

"But," Aiden went on, "you probably shouldn't try it right now. I think she's locked it down."

"Then didn't you think it was a little risky asking me to drag us through them before!?" Mesteno asked, not quite hissing, but there was an edge to his voice that suggested he wasn't happy with this discovery. Irritable, he tossed the borrowed helmet aside into the undergrowth, a futile gesture of impatience he might have been wiser to keep hidden.

The little black lamb that had led them around more than once peered around the trunk of the tree Mesteno had grabbed and blinked at him before it came wiggling all the way out to stand on his boots....as if holding him in place! Beyond them, Kore continued to rant while Hades listened with a severe frown. Hecate added something in a murmur, looking a little grim herself, and that caused Mr Dark and Gloomy to look Aiden and Mesteno's way. He did not seem pleased.

That gong sound came again, but this time the earth didn't move. It finally prompted the trio into some action, though, rather than talking. Hades made a commanding gesture to the Sadist and Demi-god both. "You will stand here." He ordered, pointing to the ground just behind himself and the other Gods. "And keep your mouth shut."

Kore was looking sullen, but she kept quiet, whilst Hecate was back to looking smug.

Mesteno opened his mouth to refuse the order, but Aiden piped up before he had chance to land himself in hot water. Again.

"You'll promise full protection for Mesteno first." He countered boldly. He had a hand out, not touching, either to stay him physically or as a request he remain silent.

Hades' face went a little purple!

"Can't we just call Hermes in here?” Mesteno asked, quietly. “He promised his protection too, right? And your boss?" Rather than have to expect it from two beings who wanted him dead! Of course that would involve a huge fucking party there in Hecate's domain, but the more the merrier, right?

The lamb hopped right off him and disappeared back behind the tree when Hades started changing colours. Not a stupid lamb!

Aiden was trying not to choke, either on a laugh or a growl, as Mesteno piped up and made the situation just a little worse.

"You think my nephews can protect you better?" Hades' growl was a frightening thing.

Hecate actually covered her mouth with her hand, no doubt smothering an ill times chortle.

"Do not answer that." Aiden was quick to advise Mesteno before speaking up himself to the pissed off Power. "You've given no reason he should think your protection valid and still he rescued Lady Spring."

Kore made some protesting sound at the word rescued, but Hades was looking at her so her protest was kept to a minimum. The gong rang again!

Mesteno might have been instructed not to answer it, but he still managed to mutter beneath it a "Well let's face it, you're only offering it under duress." before sighing his defeat and letting Aiden handle the negotiations.

Hecate chose then to intervene. "We've no time for this. Give your promise, Lord of the Underworld." She almost made the title sound mocking!

Unhappily, sparing no one his glare, Hades assented. "He will have my protection." And then his glare hardened on Aiden. "You will not."

"Done deal. Let's go." Aiden gestured to Mesteno to accompany him as the Gods turned away and Hecate did some arm waving, speaking more quietly.

There was an uncertain moment where it looked like Mesteno might be very foolish and refuse Hades’ protection. The refusal sat there, hopping on tongue's tip, but in the end he had to settle for grunting rather than offering thanks.

"Try not to suggest those he thinks are lesser can do better when you're in his realm, ok? You should be good to go now. Oh, and I didn't know that's how you travelled through the shadows." Aiden offered reasonably. "Besides, it all worked out."

"How'm I supposed to know younger automatically means lesser?" Mesteno asked as he moved away alongside him, again avoiding those infamous backward glances. He was pretty sure nothing he saw there would be friendly. "I guess it did," he conceded on the matter of things having worked out despite the foul ups. "Though remind me to sit you down and discuss the benefits of proper planning someday. Y'got no idea how hard it is for me to bullshit my way through things like that."

The event had been draining, if only because he'd been at the mercy of a prolonged adrenaline rush, but he knew he didn't have the luxury of relaxing just yet. Not until he knew a certain Elf was safe. "Good to go?" Confused. Unsure whether he meant via the shadows or... "No Sulphur to see us out this time or are you staying here with the relatives?"

"No. I mean you're set." Mesteno, unfortunately, wasn't going anywhere just yet.

There in the Underworld, the Sadist's connection to the Elf was still present, if ultra-thin, so he would know Lexius was still alive, at least! The Elf obviously hadn't utilized yet for any communication, so there was no telling how well he was progressing with the bull situation. Perhaps Dis' determination was some kind of indicator. They were soon to find out.

Hecate was busy weaving her magic and soon a gate appeared not far from the hill.

Dis led the procession of beings that stalked through, and he was looking none too happy. Still massive, one bloodied hand coiled around a trident not so very different than the one Hades sometimes carried, his face was twisted up into a snarl of displeasure as he jabbed the weapon in their direction, straight toward Mesteno and Aiden. "There! You will hand over the thieves and free Proserpina to my care."

Some alarming looking creatures that resembled human frogs moved as if to take the pair, but were halted abruptly by something unseen as Hecate waved her hand. They sooth began to writhe and croak in distress.

"Do not forget whose domain upon which you tread, Dis."

"They should not forget upon whose domain they tread!" The Roman god was rather glorious in his fury, but he really couldn't match Hades for sheer blackened dourness.

"You have lost and will withdraw and be thankful for the corner of My Realm that I allow you." Hades retorted. The ground around them was already starting to resemble more of a cave with wild lava pools than the grassy hilltop it had once been. Only Hecate's cauldron remained unaffected. Hades was flexing his Godly muscles, proving that everything there ultimately belonged to him. "These servants," he waved dismissively to Mesteno and Aiden, "have done my bidding this day. You have no claim to them."

Dis was a little taken aback - Hades' display seemed to have given him pause. But then he pointed the trident at Mesteno. "That one is in collusion with other Mortals even now and they seek to interfere with OUR affairs. You would allow such creatures to dictate to US?" Yes, something had happened 'topside' to set the Power's mood to black.

"Least it sound like something's going right," Mesteno remarked sotto voce to Aiden. Dis must be inferring the bulls had been pilfered!
"Sure does." Aiden sounded gleeful.

"He cannot be allowed to live. He is infected and must be purged!" Apparently, the necromancer’s hungry passenger had been recognized for what it was. Or what it might become. Dis’ trident was still being thrust his way.

Mesteno reached for the grip of his borrowed sword, loosening it up in the scabbard in readiness. It seemed wisest to keep his mouth shut as usual, and let them roar at one another - Godly melodramatics were nothing he could compete with after all! - so he did his best to channel Lexius' serenity, even when it appeared Dis, bloody handed, was making accusations that made him downright uncomfortable.

Untrusting, he slipped a look across at their three protectors as if he suspected to see indecision writ upon their faces beneath the focused fury. Maybe they'd take what the minor death God's words implied to heart if they hadn't before.

Kore still refused to look their way. She was also refusing to look at Dis. At some point she'd fixed her torn dress and dishevelled appearance and was examining her nails as if they were the most interesting things around. Hecate was frowning subtly, but fleetingly, at the change to her realm Hades was making. Not best pleased, but she didn't protest aloud just yet.

"This is far from over." Dis finally fumed. "And you are being as short sighted, as ever. You will fall beneath our heel and then your pets will be mine!" He gave Mesteno and Aiden one last glare before sweeping up his ugly frogman and turning to stalk back through the gate.

For all that Aiden seemed unperturbed by Dis' currently impotent fury, Mesteno took it less lightly despite the protection. It was another Power he'd managed to piss off after all, and the growing list of those bearing animosity towards him did not bode well for a long and happy future. He said nothing though, expression schooled to that still-water calm even if inside he was itching to protest, to snarl something about being nobody’s pet, and to make some terrible threat that would have him mentioned at more Company meetings.

Hades immediately rounded on Mesteno and Aiden, grinding his jaw. "Get out." He said it to Mesteno, and didn't wait for the Sadist to comply. Thrusting out a hand, he shoved at the air and it was enough to propel Mesteno back toward one of the rocky pillars, heels dragging, cutting tracks in ground that was rapidly becoming rocky instead of forest leaf litter,

Thankfully, Hecate was swift to make a gate there before he cracked his spine on the stone. Thus was the Sadist ripped out of the Underworld and sent back to RhyDin, unceremoniously dumped in an alleyway in some part of the city.

This time there was no smooth roll of a landing. He hit the ground with a solid thump, the ridiculous strappy-cuirass skirt splayed apart like crumpled petals... and he had no idea where the Hell he was.

Grimacing, he sat up, dragging his legs inward and trying not to keel to one side as the predictable dizziness struck. Small mercies, there was nothing predatory in that alley ready to make a meal of him, and he hadn't landed in anything suspect. It took him a moment to realise Aiden wasn't with him, evidently more welcome than he, and he scowled when he realised the walk home was going to require he do so in the borrowed soldiers’ gear.

Back on his feet, he moved quietly towards the mouth of the alley and peered out into the street beyond, testing the mental tie to Lexius. Just a gentle brush, lest he distract him from something dangerous.

Whatever the Elf had been up to, it'd spilled out beyond the walls of the Roman sector and into the streets. That tended to happen when one let loose herds of Auroch on the unsuspecting populace. Lexius was trying to gather them all up again, but he'd missed one or two....which was why there was a giant black bull munching on someone's front lawn over there across the street when Mesteno peeked out of the alley.

The Elf was keeping close track of the tie, so he knew the moment Mesteno was back in RhyDin. He was already opening the link when the Sadist tested it. All went well?

Mesteno was staring dumbfounded at the huge animal he’d spotted. The owners of the lawn, faces pressed up against their front window, were gesticulating wildly and - while one filmed it on their phone - the other was on a call to a beleaguered Watch who were doubtless having to field all the worried enquiries.

Mission accomplished, albeit with some unexpected hitches. Back in one piece though, he told Lexius, deciding it was safe to leave the alley behind given that the neighbourhood didn't seem a troublesome one. He looked for signposts to head him towards the marketplace. At least from there he'd be able to make the step home via the shadows without ending up frozen. Did you have any complications? Tentatively asked. The bull would imply there most definitely had been some, but he didn't want to add pressure when the Elf was probably still busy trying to handle his side of things. Anything you might need a hand with?

There were some difficulties. I have misplaced a handful of auroch. The elf admitted with a twist of wryness. If you see any, do let me know.

[End]
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