I opened my eyes and immediately wished I hadn’t. The light caused them pain and forced me to close them again. I went to rub my hand over my face and found myself chained to the bed with thick manacles. There didn’t appear to be any runes etched on them, so I tried to use my magic and . nothing. No hint of magic. “Great, another place with runes in the walls,” I said. My throat hurt, and I needed a drink. “If anyone is there, I’m awake.” The doors opened, and Hades walked in. He had several weeks’ worth of beard growth and looked tired. “Nate, you’re finally up.” He unlocked the manacles and placed a hand on my shoulder.
“Where am I?” I asked. “My secret facility in Greenland. You’ve been in a coma for four months.” I couldn’t quite process that as an answer. “What? Four months? But I was . Mordred . he shot me. Is he okay?” “We’ll bring you up to speed with everyone in a minute. I just need to make sure you’re okay. Can you sit up?” I did as he asked. “We’re going to run some medical tests,” he told me. “Hades, I’m fine.
I ache and want a drink, but otherwise I’m good. My nightmare, Erebus . he saved me.” Hades nodded. “Let me go get you a drink, and we’ll talk. Stay here.” “Hello, Nate,” Erebus said from beside me. Erebus, living embodiment of my magic, was, like everything to do with my life, much more complicated than he first appeared. All sorcerers could commune with the magic inside of them, and to most, these embodiments were considered nightmares—creatures who wanted nothing more than to have sorcerers lose themselves in their magic so that the nightmare could take control. In reality, they were there to help us, to guide us until we were ready to take full control of our power.
The world had been lied to about their intent, and a lot of people had died because of it. “I thought you were going to vanish after I died,” I said. “Apparently not,” Erebus said. He looked identical to me, even though he was actually part of the primordial deity who was considered the personification of darkness. It had always been a lot to take in. “The mark on your head unlocked a lot of things, but they’re all a jumble at the moment. It’ll take some time to sift through it.” “Including who my father was?” “That’s in there, but it’s not information I have. Your mind needs time to heal, as does your body. It’s been under incredible stress.
Your lack of magic will not help things along.” “My magic is gone, full stop, isn’t it? I remember Mordred saying something about it.” “Yes, for the next year or thereabouts, you will have no magic. You are essentially just human.” “Anything else?” Erebus shook his head. “Hopefully when the year is up, you will regain your power. But when you do, it would be wise to be somewhere barren.” “Why?” I looked up as Mordred entered the room. “He’ll explain,” Erebus said and vanished. “Glad you’re up and about,” Mordred told me.
“I feel like I’ve been hit by a truck,” I said. “Yeah, it’s not a fun experience. You’ve lost your magic, then.” “I figured that bit out. Erebus said it’ll be a year before I can access it again. He also said any info unlocked by the mark will take a while to work through.” “It was the same for me. Took about fifteen months to fully understand everything in my head.” “Did you have messages from your parents in your head too?” I asked. Mordred shook his head.
“No, I had no need. I know who they are, and I’ve always known who my mother was. Did Erebus say anything about what to do when your power returns?” “Be somewhere uninhabited.” “Make sure you do that. I didn’t realize until it was too late and destroyed a warehouse. When your magic returns, you’ll have full use for about a day; then it dies down. You’ll need to relearn some stuff. It’s not a quick process.” “Untapped, incredible power, but at the cost of a year or more with nothing. Always give with one hand, take with the other with magic, isn’t it?” Mordred laughed.
“You need to come with me. There are some things you need to know.” “I’m in a pair of shorts. Can I have a shower and get changed first?” “Oh, sure. Shower’s over there. I think Hades said something about clean clothes for you in the drawer.” I looked over at the door, which presumably led to the shower, and the light-blue chest of drawers. “I’ll be twenty minutes.” “Take an hour. Have a long shower.
You’re going to need it. A lot has happened.” Mordred left me alone, and I went for a shower, making the powerful, high-pressure water as hot as I could bear. “You feel up to a little company?” Selene asked from the doorway. I opened the glass door to the shower. “I’m achy, but I’m sure I’ll manage.” She dropped her robe to the floor, revealing that she was naked underneath, and stepped into the shower. An hour later I was clean, dressed, and in need of something to eat. Selene had helped me with my T-shirt, as my body was still incredibly sore and stiff, but the shower and company had done wonders to lift my mood. “Hades wants to see you,” Selene said, kissing me on the lips.
“I missed you. Probably not as much as Tommy, but it was a close thing.” I laughed. “I Han Soloed him. I wasn’t sure he’d forgive me.” “I think it might be the proudest moment of his life that didn’t involve Kasey being born.” I laughed again, and it caused me to wince. “Ribs hurt.” “You want me to kiss them better?” “I’m not a machine.” Selene smiled.
“I’m glad you’re back. I was worried. We all were, except Mordred—he kept coming in here playing you his extensive list of video game soundtracks. He said it would help, presumably because he expected you to wake up and tell him to piss off.” “So if I start humming ‘Mario,’ it’s his fault? Good to know.” Selene led me out of my room and down a corridor that wouldn’t have looked out of place in a hospital. There was no one around, no one working in any of the rooms we walked past. It was like a clean ghost town. “What’s going on?” I asked as we entered the lift and Selene selected the floor for the main hangar above. “For the last four months, you have made lightning strike this facility eight hundred thirty-two times.
You created a storm that sat just above this facility. People know you’re here. People we trust, but Hades, Mordred, and Elaine had an idea to ensure that their knowledge of you wasn’t a problem.” “What idea?” Selene sighed. “Blood curse marks.” The lift doors opened as I was stunned into silence. I looked out across the hangar and saw hundreds of people all watching me as I exited the lift. There was a cheer and round of applause, and I did this weird, uncomfortable wave thing. Because what the hell else were you meant to do when hundreds of people started clapping at you for no known reason? “What the fuck?” I whispered. Tommy bounded toward me and picked me up in a bear hug.
“Bones—fragile, human-powered bones,” I whispered. He put me down and grinned. “It’s good to see you. Mordred said you were essentially human now. I’m sorry you’ve lost your magic.” “It’ll come back. But it’s a little weird knowing it’ll be a while.” I looked beyond him to Olivia and Kasey, both of whom waved. Several other young men and women stood beside them, and I knew that they were members of Tommy’s ultrasecret task force, which he’d put together before Arthur had taken over. “How bad is it?” I asked Sky, who kissed me on the cheek.
“It’s not good,” she said. “What’s going on?” I asked Elaine as she walked toward me with Mordred, Nabu, Irkalla, Hades, and Zamek. “We need to talk,” she told me and motioned for me to follow her into a nearby room. She turned to Mordred as we entered. “Get it finished.” Mordred nodded and walked off. “Get what finished?” I asked, taking a seat on the table in the middle of the room. “Selene said you were doing something with blood curse marks.” “Everyone here has agreed to take part in a ritual,” Hades said from the doorway. “What kind of ritual?” I asked.
“The kind where we all think you’re dead,” Irkalla said. “Everyone but Hades, Sky, Mordred, and Elaine, yes.” “Why not those four?” “Hades and Sky because you need a contact in case something goes wrong during your time of healing, Mordred because he was never going to agree to have anything close to a blood curse mark put on him again, and Elaine because she used to be in charge of everything. This is the kind of thing you’ll need someone keeping an eye on you for.” “And where am I going that I need to be kept an eye on?” “A small town in Oregon,” Nabu said. “It’s very quaint.” “No,” I replied. “You have no powers, and Avalon thinks you’re dead,” Sky said. “You aren’t helpful until you’re healed, and if Arthur ever finds out you’re alive, he will burn a country down to find you. We need to put you somewhere remote but with people we trust.
So you’re going to Clockwork, Oregon. Called that because its founder used to make clocks and was really happy about it.” “And do what while I’m there?” “Read, write, learn how to whittle—I don’t think it matters,” Irkalla said. “Just stay safe, and don’t bring attention to yourself.” “Why there?” “I have people there I trust,” Hades said. “A doctor by the name of Daniel Kuro. I met him in Korea a few decades ago. He’s a good man. I’ve used the town a few times to let friends of mine heal in peace. Or avoid detection.
” “Okay, tell me more about this blood curse ritual.” “Mordred, Nabu, and I worked together on this,” Zamek said. “Essentially everyone in this facility will think you’re dead. We considered just having them forget you existed, but that’s too hard. Thinking you died on a field in Wisconsin is a lot easier.” “Essentially we managed to figure out a way to create the blood curse so that everyone affected will believe you dead,” Nabu said. “They will believe they’ve grieved and have moved on. No one here will be caused any pain by your passing. That was integral to our plan. If anyone decided to dig too deep into your death or go after Atlas for revenge, it would break the curse.
” “How does the curse break normally?” I asked. “If any of them see you once the curse has been implemented, they will immediately remember that you didn’t die,” Elaine explained. “Each of them signed a document stating that they agreed to this. We couldn’t do it any other way.” I walked past them all and out into the hangar, where I found Tommy, Olivia, and Selene. “You all agreed to this?” I asked. “All of you?” “We need to keep you safe,” Selene said. “This is the best way.” “Why can’t you come with me?” I asked her. “Because my father and sister would tear the world apart looking for whoever killed me.
The smaller the number, the better.” “They offered me and Selene a chance to avoid the curse,” Tommy said. “But I couldn’t do that to Kasey and Olivia. I couldn’t lie like that to any of the people who helped get us here. I’m not a spy anymore. Deception isn’t something I want to do.” “What about those who aren’t already here?” I asked. “They already think you’re dead,” Diana said. “It won’t be hard to keep that going.” “So it’s sorted? I’ll be dead to all of you.
What happens now?” I asked. “Right now we’re in no position to fight Avalon,” Remy said. “Arthur has started taking control of governments the world over. He’s still in the process of removing those who are against him. A lot of ex–Avalon employees are in hiding. We’re trying to help them as best we can. That’s our main focus at the moment. We can’t go after Arthur until we know who is and isn’t working with him.” “Saving lives is the best we’ve got until we can organize some sort of resistance,” Olivia said. “A rebel force, if you will,” Tommy said, making me laugh.
“How long have you wanted to use that one?” I asked him. “Years,” Tommy said, hugging me again. “I’m sorry this is a fleeting moment, but you need to go. You need to be safe, and when you’re healed, we’ll fight Arthur. We could do with finding those other four weapons like you.” “We’re fighting a war on several fronts,” Diana said. “The Norse and Japanese gods contacted Mordred, asking for help. It looks like the Norse went to the Japanese pantheon a while ago looking for allies. They agreed, but Arthur’s forces have broken into Asgard through the dwarven realm. Until we’re a united force, we’ll always be one step behind.
We need you back, Nate.” “But at full strength, not as human Nate,” Remy said. “Human Nate sucks.” “Really?” I asked. “It’s good that you’re so supportive.” “Would you prefer if I gave you a back rub and told you you were a special little boy who just needs to try real hard?” “That’s the creepiest thing you’ve ever said,” Tommy said. Remy thought for a second. “Yeah, I’m going to pretend I didn’t say that.” “We’re all going to be doing that,” Diana said. “While you’re gone, Wei told me she’ll try and help me see if I have any other powers,” Remy said, rapidly changing the subject.
“Sounds like a plan to me.” Hades placed a hand on my shoulder. “We have to go,” he said. I said my goodbyes to everyone before kissing Selene. “When I’m healed, I’ll come find you,” I said. “You’d better,” she told me. “I’m going to be particularly angry otherwise. I wish I could come with you. But the fewer who know where you are, the safer you’ll be.” I kissed her once again and then left the hangar with Sky, Mordred, Elaine, and Hades.
“Don’t you need to perform the ritual?” I asked Mordred as we all climbed into a Black Hawk helicopter. “Nabu and Zamek will complete it. Anyone in there is going to be affected, so it’s best I’m not there.” “What do you plan to do while I’m in the middle of nowhere?” “What I’ve always done, Nate. Piss off Avalon and fuck their shit up. Only this time I’ll be doing it for the good guys.” The rest of the journey was a chance for Hades and Elaine to explain exactly what Arthur had done since I’d been declared dead. Occasionally I turned to watch the ground fly by at high speed far below us, wondering how far Arthur’s corruption had spread across the country, until eventually we landed in the middle of a forest in Clockwork, Oregon. We all got out of the helicopter, and an elderly Asian man left a Ford Ranger truck and greeted Hades with a hug. “This is Dr.
Kuro,” Hades said. The doctor shook my hand. “You’re going to be our guest here.” “I guess that’s the plan, yes.” “Your house is ready. We have a beautiful town. You’ll like it. It’s mostly peaceful.” “Mostly?” I asked with a raised eyebrow. “We’re a small town, not a boring one,” Dr.
Kuro said with a smile. I turned back to Sky, Elaine, and Mordred. “I’ll be seeing you all soon,” I said. “Take care, Nate,” Sky said. “Have a nice holiday,” Mordred said. “Try not to bring attention to yourself. Be a good little human.” “Piss off,” I said to him, and he smiled and hugged me. “I wish this had gone better,” Elaine said. “But now we know our true enemy.
We know his power and influence. One day soon there will be a reckoning for him.” “Our world has changed,” I said. “Humans know of our existence. They know of Avalon; they know they’re not the top of the evolutionary ladder. If they don’t know now that some of Arthur’s allies consider humans nothing more than food, they soon will. Arthur is going to change the world, and we can’t stop that. There aren’t enough of us, and we’re fragmented and broken. But we won’t be. Not forever.
We’ll show Arthur the kinds of people he crossed, and we’ll show him just how badly we plan on beating him and those who call him an ally.” I watched them climb back into the helicopter, leaving me alone with Hades. “Thank you for this,” I said. “No thanks necessary,” he told me. “Be safe. Heal, and then we’ll deal with what comes next.” “We fight back,” I said with complete conviction. “That’s what comes next. Rebellion.”