“This battle is over, kardia mou. New round, new rules.”
I frown. “What does that mean?”
“It means it’s time to figure out your magic and face your mother. And you’ll do it, because you won’t let anyone harm our baby.”
A great, burning fist seems to seize hold of my heart and squeeze. Little Eleni could have already perished in so many ways. Thinking back, I know Titos saved us both.
Lifting my head, I take a deep, steadying breath. My eyes light on Galen’s two sons and then on Bellanca, Lystra, and Ianthe. The latter three aren’t our enemies. Ianthe chose me the second she saw me, and by protecting me at the cost of her own life, Appoline gifted her sisters’ loyalty to me. To Eleni.
Galen’s boys are a different matter, but I’ll permanently hobble them in the least violent way I can. Jocasta still has them hobbled in her own surprisingly effective way.
Ear twisting. Who knew? I’ll have to remember that.
I move toward them with Griffin by my side. “I’m about to extract the longest, most comprehensive binding vow these little Magoi boys will ever say in their lives—which will be short, if they don’t agree to it.”
Overhearing me, the boys’ eyes widen in horror. As one, they glance toward Cerberus, and their round, freckled faces pale.
I smile a little evilly. It’s hard to resist. “And before you even think about breaking a binding vow, let me tell you that it’s horrifically painful. Your skin will burn, your eyes will melt, your blood will turn to liquid fire, and that’s before the Furies even show up to tear you limb from limb.”
The boys recoil in terror, and I feel a pinch of guilt. I might need to work on how I communicate with children. Good thing I have time. About seven months, I’d say. Plus, babies don’t talk or really do anything for ages, right?
“And then we’ll go home,” I add to Griffin. Because, Gods, I want to lie down and not get up for a week.
“Sinta?” Griffin asks. “Or Fisa?”
I stop walking and raise my fingers to the familiar, hard lines of his face, taking comfort in them. Rest or battle? Peace or Mother? “Sinta first. To show your family we’re okay.”
“We can’t leave just yet,” he says, glancing around. “We have to settle things here first.”
I nod. “We will. And we’ll also come back. This is a good location for us. Central. Closer to Fisa.”
Griffin lifts my hand and kisses my palm. Then he lays it flat against his chest, a ridiculous grin spreading across his face. “I go where the Origin goes. Because she’s my wife.”
I snort. “You’ve been wanting to say that for a long time, haven’t you?”
He winks. “All my life, agapi mou. All my life.”
Hand in hand with Griffin, I survey our second castle. Right here, it’s mostly rubble, but I think the damage is localized. “Our kingdom just doubled in size without a war. Maybe we can get Lycheron to guard the border with Fisa if we throw a bevy of Nymphs at him.”
Griffin chuckles. “We can try.”
I smile, too, but then a chill steals over me despite today’s almost inconceivable success and my husband’s strong, warm hand around mine. Griffin may not have had the benefit of a prophecy, but the Fates wove his future just as painstakingly as my own when they threaded our lives together. Having a destiny is both a blessing and a burden when the outcome remains uncertain, and Griffin’s unyielding vision for us is getting under my skin, invading my soul, and learning the path to my heart.
No more hiding. No more head in the sand. No going back.
My free hand curves around my belly, protecting the tiny, delicate gift inside of me. I look up at the man I love, marveling at what we’ve created together and knowing that with Fisa in our sights, and the most inhuman person I know between us and reuniting the realms, life is precious—and more fragile than ever before.