Beauty Divine, Pain Be Thine FINAL
Final few chapters of Aphrodite's journey.
"Athena? Why aren't you here in the flesh? And what's wrong?" Aphrodite asked.
"There are wards on this place. No immortal can enter without explicit permission from Kyboclus. That way, jealous gods cannot smite the offspring of other gods while they are under his protection. Please, we have no time. There are spies here, under Hera's employ."
"We know she hired Tristan and Dom, but they haven't--"
"No, someone else. Someone who has just found you out and reported to her. I overheard her giving them a kill order. You must flee. But just as I cannot transport inside, you cannot transport yourself out. I await you outside of the entrance. Please hurry, before they come for you."
"I will see her out safely, Lady Athena," Chloe spoke up. She gave a dutiful bow to the apparition and turned to the others. "Don't take anything but your personal weapons. Let's go. Stay together."
Aphrodite grabbed a dagger small enough for throwing, but big enough for close combat. Luckily, they had all been instructed to keep a small stash of weapons in each room in case of emergencies. She tossed the other to Dom, a shortsword to Shea, and a crossbow to Tristan. Tristan loaded it quickly, and then they rushed into the hallway. Chloe took the lead, and Aphrodite allowed the others to go ahead of her. They stayed close together, running through the sparring area, past Ky's office, and out to the main exit tunnel.
Aphrodite was surprised that they had had no trouble getting to the tunnel, and felt a sense of momentary relief. It must have taken whomever it was who had been given the order some time to prepare, giving them enough time to slip away. They were safe, she thought, letting her relief bubble into a small laugh.
Her laughter was cut off by a sudden clenching in her stomach, though. She was filled with a sense of murderous hate. Gasping, she started to turn, screaming as an arrow missed her heart, landing instead in her already injured shoulder. It was an arrow made by her husband, made specifically to be able to harm an immortal. Her companions came to a dead halt, turning around at her scream.
Tristan lifted his crossbow and fired at the figure approaching them.
Amara winced and hissed as the bolt grazed the side of her head, taking off a piece of her ear and ripping a gash in her scalp just beside it. Suddenly, with a sickening guilt, Aphrodite realized the feeling in the pit of her stomach had not come from looking at Keegan. That had just been coincedence. She realized also, that every time she had felt it, Chloe had been beside her, and the girl now holding a bow aimed at Aphrodite would be sidling up to give her girlfriend a quick kiss or snuggle up to her.
"No," gasped Chloe, knocking aside Tristan's crossbow just after the shot was fired. "Please. Amara, no. Baby.. everything Hera has been telling everyone, it isn't true. Please listen to me. Put it down."
Aphrodite had gone for the small dagger at her side, but Chloe had grabbed her hand and gazed at her imploringly. As Chloe began to lower the bow, Aphrodite let her hand relax. Dom remained tensed.
"Hera has always hated the spawn of her miserable husband. But that doesn't mean she's never taken a mortal man to her bed. I am sorry, my love. I am bound to honor my mother," She said, raising her bow back into position and firing with blinding speed.
She heard a gasp and thump before the shock wore off enough to register that she had not been hit by the arrow. She looked down and cried out as Chloe let out her last breath and the life left her eyes. She had stepped in front of Aphrodite, and been struck right in the heart. Her death came quickly as Aphrodite cried her name and bent down. Meanwhile, Tristan had swiftly reloaded his crossbow.
As he lifted it to aim, Amara fired another arrow, hitting him in the ribs. The air was knocked from his lungs, and the crossbow dropped to the ground. Shea shrieked. Her shortsword was useless in this situation.
Dom was readying his dagger to throw as Amara nocked another arrow. But before either could make their move, the head of a spear burst forth from Amara's chest. She looked down with wide eyes, as if confused, before dropping to the ground, revealing Keegan. Laying on her side, she let out a few shuddering breaths before her body went slack and her breathing stopped altogether.
Aphrodite, who had not yet seen what happened to Tristan, cradled Chloe in her arms, sobbing. "Oh, Chloe. No... no.. I'm so sorry," She wailed, caressing the face and hair of the girl who had given her life to save the goddess, praying for a response. But her eyes were open and lifeless, and her friend was gone. Looking back, she realized how badly Tristan had been hit, and was overwhelmed with a wild panic. Keegan knelt and lifted Chloe from her arms just then, allowing her to crawl over to her other friend. He was groaning and gasping. She heard gurgling sounds in his chest and was horrified, knowing that this meant his lung had been pierced.
"I'll take her to Ky and tell him what happened. Take him and get away from here. More of her followers are coming," Keegan said quietly, beginning to back away.
Grabbing one of his arms, Aphrodite began to lift Tristan. "Thank you, Keegan," She responded, as he turned and ran. Dom joined her efforts, lifting Tristan by his other arm, hauling him into a standing position. Together, Aphrodite and Dom hoisted him so that his feet were barely touching the ground and starting moving as fast as they could. "Come on, Tristan. Stay with us," Aphrodite begged as the gurgling noise slowly started getting louder. In a matter of moments, he would start choking and drown in his own blood. Fresh tears began streaming down her face as she ran, pain in her arm and fear nearly blinding her. Shea ran ahead and slammed her hand onto the exit, creating an opening in the rock. She was so upset she had let her disguise slip, and the nautical stars in her sea blue eyes turned the dark gray of a storm. She was crying so hard she was hiccupping. Exiting the tunnel, the laid Tristan on the sand. The arrow protruding from his chest was the only thing slowing the flooding in his lungs.
"Athena!" Aphrodite screamed. Her sister appeared at her side. Among her many gifts, Athena was the most gifted healer the gods had. "Help him," she begged. "Please."
Athena nodded. Kneeling down, she took Tristan's face in her hands. "This will hurt very much. But you must not give in to the pain or you will be lost to us." Tristan moaned and nodded, blood starting to mix with his saliva. His face was turning purple. Athena bent over the arrow and forced it through, breaking off the head as it came out of his back and pulling the rest of the shaft out of his chest. In place of a scream, a river of blood began flowing from his mouth. Shea squeaked and covered her mouth. Aphrodite turned and held her friend's head, doing her best to comfort her. Dom was clinging to his brother's hand. Athena then placed her hands over Tristan's wound. A hot glow spread from her palms. He choked up more and more blood as her power burned through him, healing his injury and forcing the dark red fluid out of his lungs until it was gone and the screaming began. Athena removed her hands and the glowing subsided. Tristan's body slumped as he passed out.
It was only then that Aphrodite realized that although she had stopped crying, her vision was getting darker and more blurry.