Locked in fierce combat with the armoured creature who had sought to slay the Goddess Viridi, Ivorie could barely spare a glance upwards as thick, dark clouds were drawn across the Underworld's blazing orange sky. Gaol battered her shield with a gauntlet sheathed in sizzling energy, turning away as she thrust her sword towards a joint of armour. At her back, the surviving angels fought with the fiery twin-headed dog, Twinbellows.
They had been separated during their transit through the portal; she had seen the undulating walls of the strange tunnel affected by an invisible power and the stability of the bridge between worlds compromised. Phosphora had vanished from view and the Flage and Blader trailing her wake were crushed as the portal contorted around her and the angels, eventually spitting them out into a world they did not know.
The bloodthirsty baying of a terrible beast had reached their ears before the fullness of their faculties returned to them and Twinbellows had leapt upon the dazed angels, crushing two underfoot while another writhed within a torrent of fire that poured from its mouth. Gaol too had caught them unawares when it had joined the fight, laying claim to an angel's life before Ivorie sprang forward to engage it. The courtyard was hot and stank with the sulphuric breath of the vicious twin-headed dog as it blasted flames into the air to destroy the pestilent angels that soared overhead, firing down golden arrows into its body.
Ivorie gritted her teeth as she rained down blows upon the raised forearm of Gaol, the force of each impact surging up her arm through the hilt of the broadsword. The creature seemed to stagger underneath a particularly ferocious blow, one accompanied by the passionate shout of the angel.
Ivorie raised her shield and pressed forwards as Gaol retreated several steps, a green aura swirling at the palm of its left hand as it thrust its arm forward. Ivorie rocked backwards under the force of the projectile loosed towards her, but managed to hold her ground. Her shoulders ached fiercely as she hefted her shield and blade and charged Gaol down.
She heard a roar at her back as Gaol gave ground before her onslaught, followed by the ground beneath her feet trembling as the ferocious Twinbellows finally succumbed to the efforts of the exhausted angels, its fiery fur peppered with the golden shafts of arrows.
A few moments later, Ivorie saw an arrow glance off the side of Gaol's helm, enough force behind it to unbalance the creature for a split second. She pressed her attack and drove Gaol to its knee under the barrage of her sword, its thick forearms raised to preserve its life. The raw shout bubbled up from the depths of Ivorie's stomach as she punched her shield forward and smashed Goal off its feet, knocking it flat to the ground.
Even as she stepped backwards, she briefly saw before her mind's eye the image of her standing over Gaol, her foot pressed to its chest as she ran her sword through its throat. She shook her head clear of it, however; she recognised the creature and she remembered the dark expression upon Phosphora's face when it had launched its black arrow into the Goddess Viridi's stomach. She remembered the fury with which she had fought as she chased after the God of Death who hid Gaol within its shadow. She would not take the rightful vengeance of another into her own hands.
The angels gathered around her as the sky above grew darker still; she commanded a number of them to bind and restrain Gaol. Bows were dismantled and the tight, stiff strings fashioned into suitable bonds about Gaol's wrists with a bit of arm work.
"We need to regroup with Phosphora and find the Goddess", an angel at her shoulder said.
"Didn't you see what happened to her forces?" another said, shaking her head. "She likely met the same fate".
Ivorie frowned as she heard a distinctive rumble from within the fortress that stood before them. "I don't think so", she said after a moment, watching the angels pull Gaol onto unsteady feet. It seemed to look about itself groggily, and Ivorie directed two angels to stand a distance behind it, ready to attack if and when necessary.
"At any rate", she began, "we need to –"
Some great force shook the ground beneath them with far more strength than Twinbellows' eventual fall had done. Ivorie rocked and threw out her arms to steady herself; she knew not whether it was a trick of the eye or otherwise, but the fortress seemed to waver before her sight. She swallowed before she spoke.
"I don't know what's happening, but we need to hurry and find Lady Palutena".
Phosphora took hold of Pit's arm and leapt backwards pulling him along with her as Medusa's foot slammed down to the ground.
"I guess we have no choice", she said as they scrambled to their feet. "Come on!"
"Wait! Phosphora, I can't fly, remember?"
High above, Medusa's eye flashed and something sliced into the ground at their heels. Phosphora looked across at him as the outline of her form glowed with power.
"Tch. Forgot about that. Here", she said, throwing at her arm.
Pit took her hand without thinking and a moment later suddenly felt wings unfurling at his back as he ran alongside her. Power surged through his body and he threw a wild look over his shoulder in surprise, seeing his small, incapable wings lengthened by an electric blue aura.
"How did you –?!"
"Long story", Phosphora shouted back at him as several focused beams of light raked the ground. "No time. Come on!"
Pit leapt into the air after Phosphora as the ground exploded beneath their feet; despite everything, a part of him found the time to relish the feel of the wind rushing by his face as he rose high into the air. He lifted an eyebrow, however, when Phosphora, after somehow being able to grant him the Power of Flight, did not alter his course but allowed him to fly redundantly straight ahead as she curved towards Medusa.
"Pit", her voice echoed in his mind, "your flight is only going to last for roughly a minute. Maybe for two. I'm sorry".
"Lady Palutena's lasted for at least five", Pit whined despite himself.
"I just gave you the ability to direct your own flight!" she returned, her voice projected into his mind. "Lady Palutena doesn't do that; it expends energy must faster".
Pit's eyes widened at this, and then stretched further still when he flapped his wings and banked towards the Medusa.
"I'm ready, Phosphora", Pit declared as he narrowed his eyes and tightened his grip around his bow.
"Then let's do this. For Lady Palutena".
Pit swallowed and nodded, willing himself forward. Ahead of him, Phosphora's form suddenly exploded with brilliant light as she drew on the well of power instilled within her. Pit watched as she lanced directly into the Goddess – except for the fact that she vanished just before Phosphora struck.
Her colossal shape, as tall as the highest peak of the fortress behind them, reappeared some distance away in the space of a heartbeat. It astonished Pit to see that she still retained such ability, despite her form.
"Aim for the eye?" Phosphora queried him a moment later.
Lightning tore through the air before he even had the chance to respond. Medusa's snakes curved downwards and obstructed the bolt of lightning with their bodies, a pair of them shrieking as they were blasted into oblivion as a result. Pit darted forwards and placed his shot, the streak of gold lancing through the air. One of the snakes opened its jaws wide and swallowed the arrow whole, hissing at him as he shot passed.
The curtain of snakes parted to allow Medusa's glowing eye to fire a potent beam of light across the sky, tracking Phosphora's path of flight. She ducked low beneath it, soaring around to the Goddess' back and casting forth a storm of electricity upon her shoulders. Medusa gave a guttural shriek of pain and her upper body twisted as she swept a clawed hand through the air.
Phosphora narrowly avoided being swatted from the sky like a mere insect, slipping between a gap in the Goddess' fingers and heading straight for her eye. Medusa vanished yet again, though Pit fired a powerful shot from his bow as she reappeared, cursing in frustration as another snake consumed the arrow.
"Come on, Pit. You don't have much time, and I need your help!"
"I know!" he shouted back at her from the depths of his mind.
Medusa lifted her right hand, facing her palm outwards. Pit recoiled at the toothy maw embedded in her flesh. It opened and belched darkness into the air, forcing Phosphora to swiftly alter her trajectory. Pit dashed forwards again, his next two shots bolstered by the momentum behind his wings. A snake swallowed the first harmlessly, but the head of the second exploded in a shower of gore. Phosphora curved through the air and cast a lance of electricity straight through the gap Pit made in the serpentine curtain.
Medusa roared in pain and staggered backwards, lifting a hand to her hideous face to hide her eye. Phosphora blasted her with lightning, calling to the heavens and splitting the clouds with a jagged white tongue. The single orange snake uncoiled its length and opened its jaws, spitting a cloud of darkness over Medusa's head. The bolt of lightning smashed into and was swallowed whole by the cloud, and by the time Pit had readied another arrow, Medusa had relocated herself.
She reappeared with a barrage of fire from her eye, purple beams of energy violently tearing across the sky. Pit yelped as he was almost vaporised on the spot; his body cried out in protest as he pulled it through a series of quick, tight turns and loops. At the corner of his vision he saw the Goddess slash through the air, dark fire peeling from her fingertips. Phosphora slammed straight into the black wall.
Medusa snarled as she reeled back on her feet from the force of the collision of their energies, the ground rumbling. Phosphora recoiled through the air from the blow, but Pit saw her body only glow more brightly a second later as she righted herself and shot forwards.
Lightning preceded her charge as she made straight for the Goddess' eye. Medusa vanished each time the skies lit up overhead, narrowly avoiding each bolt of lightning and throwing up walls of fire to impede Phosphora. Pit soared forward to aid her attack just as Medusa reappeared right in his path. Her eye glowed ominously and the snakes lashed out to grab him in their fangs.
"Pit!" the Goddess hissed venomously.
He only narrowly avoided the beam of light that tore from her eye, feeling pain surge down the side of his body as he scrambled to pull himself out of the way. Her hand swiped through the air to claim him and Pit spun wildly as the tip of a nail merely clipped him. He cried out as he slammed into the ground, smothering a shimmering wing beneath his body as he skidded to a halt.
"Pit – move!" Phosphora warned as the Goddess lifted her foot to crush him.
Pit scrambled to his feet as the shadow loomed over him, kicking himself desperately skyward out from underneath it. He yelped as Medusa chased him down, singeing his flesh with consecutive beams of light that blazed ever closer to their target. Pit shot a look over his shoulder and saw Phosphora try to take the Goddess' attention upon herself, making direct attacks upon her eye. The snakes sprang forward and forced her into retreat, snapping through the air at her heels.
Pit could feel his wings weakening, the Power of Flight bestowed upon him steadily fading. The left side of his body stung with pain from his fall and he realised that he was beginning to list in the air.
"Damn it!" he cursed as he flew with all the haste he could muster.
Medusa's fortress loomed ahead of him and all he could think of was to get to it before his wings began to burn at his back. His landing upon one of the fortress' high towers would better have been described as a poorly controlled crash.
His wings lost their aura just before he reached it and Pit cried out as he tumbled through the air and grazed the pointed parapets that crowned the tower. He rolled as he hit the ground, his back slamming hard into the stone.
Pit groaned aloud as pain knifed through his left leg, looking down to find his ankle swollen and an angry-red. He dared to put weight upon it and hissed as he immediately regretted it. Pulling himself towards the wall facing the wasteland beyond the fortress, Pit watched on helplessly as Phosphora fought fiercely with the Goddess.
Both of them split the sky with their power, Medusa fracturing the ground beneath her as she escaped Phosphora's attacks time and again. He ducked low as Medusa seemed to turn towards him, despite the distance that separated them. Purple light lanced into the fortress walls not too far away. Nevertheless, Pit threw his hands over his head and pressed himself behind the parapets.
"Pit. Pit!" Phosphora's voice cried in his mind. "Where are you?"
He lifted his head again to see her make a pass before the Goddess' face, the snakes' snapping bites through the air narrowly missing her as lightning arced towards the eye they sought to protect.
He began to answer. "I'm –"
A massive, overbearing pressure suddenly descended upon the angel, physically and mentally crushing him to the floor. Pit's eyes watered and the world blurred into a featureless haze as the pressure built in his skull and he felt his head approach the brink of splitting wide open. His mouth opened and closed silently as his body convulsed, his limbs twitching as his eyes bulged and quivered in their sockets.
He barely heard the voice scraping against the innards of his skull, the pressure building in his ears and deafening him with a silent buzz.
"Lady…Palu…tena?" Pit gasped.
"Forgive me, Pit", the voice of the Goddess he had thought extinguished from existence said to him. "I need you to guide me this time".
He struggled to push out the words. "How?"
"Look to Medusa. Just keep your eyes fixed on her".
Pit tried to nod, but the pressure nestled at the centre of his skull made his head too heavy to move. He lifted a hand to grasp the parapets, but his fingers slipped weakly from the stone as he tried to hold on to it.
"I can't", he whispered, his throat tight. "Lady Palutena…I can't stand".
"You must guide me", she told him. "I need you, Pit, now more than ever".
Pit fought harder than he had in all his days at that very moment. Struggling against the mighty pressure of the Goddess' very presence upon him – fighting quite literally for his life lest her power destroy him, Pit hauled himself up against the wall with a ragged cry.
"Yes! That's it, Pit. You can do it!"
He drew strength from her words and the sincerity of her tone even as her presence threatened to crush him back to his knees. He opened his eyes and let his eyes fall upon the warring Goddess afar off.
He felt the Palutena's presence sharpen then, intensifying with each moment that he kept his eye upon Medusa. His gaze strayed as the pressure at his skull grew and he groaned as he clung to the parapet with all his strength.
"Just a little more, Pit".
"Hurry", he gasped as Medusa's form vanished yet again, Phosphora doggedly chasing after her.
He fixed his eyes upon the Goddess once more and saw light falling slowly down from the heavens at her back. Green, gold, and the pure white of a star.
Medusa remained unaware as she swept black flames through the air and forced Phosphora to fall back. And then, all of a sudden, Palutena's presence departed from him. He heard her murmur as she left him; her voice was full of sadness
"…Thank you, Pit…"
There came at that moment a flash of light that illuminated the wasteland for miles in every direction; Pit threw his hand across his eyes and winced, at the same time hearing the distinct sound of metal punching into soft flesh. When he lifted his hand away, Pit stared across the wasteland.
Medusa was frozen in the act of lifting a clawed hand to swipe Phosphora from the sky. The snakes atop her head were caught in a moment of time, and her lips were parted in shock as her eyes bulged in their sockets.
At her back, Pit saw long green hair lifted by an ethereal wind and fanning out to either side of her. An arm clothed in a golden vambrace moved around Medusa's waist, seeming to hold her tenderly. And then her body jerked forwards as the tip of a golden blade pierced through the front of her chest.
"Palu…tena", Medusa choked out as the cold blade split her in two.
Mercy and compassion is why your beloved angel is dead, Palutena. You should have slain me…
That is a mistake I will not repeat…
"I kept this promise, sister", Palutena said quietly.
Medusa's form slowly began to disintegrate, charred ashes rising to be swallowed by the clouds above. "I hate you", she whispered in death.
Pit looked on as his Goddess lifted her gaze to the sky, the great golden blade held limply in her grip at her side. Her lips moved, but he could not make out or hear what she had said. She closed her eyes then, turning away as her form broke up into a thousand sparks of light.
They made for a strange image as they stepped through the hole into the throne room; Palutena was supported by Pit, who in turn was supported by Phosphora as he dragged his left leg underneath him. It had certainly made for slow progress back into the fortress.
Phosphora had informed the limping angel and his Goddess of the fact that she had been separated from Ivorie and a number of other angels, suggesting that she would leave them at the throne room to go in search of them. She had used up the entirety of the power bestowed to her by Viridi in her battle with Medusa, as well as granting Pit the Power of Flight, and thus lost the ability to communicate telepathically.
Palutena had of course offered to do the honours. She was exhausted beyond measure and it was all she could to stand on her feet. She had been spared the need to call out to her angels however when they finally reached the throne room and found the group of angels passing through its broken doors at the same moment.
"My Lady!" Ivorie cried out, and then a moment later with disbelieving incredulity, "Pit?!"
Phosphora smiled as the red-haired angel rushed forwards and ducked her head beneath Palutena's arm. The other angels stepped into the room, smiles of joy cracking weary, worn expressions as their eyes fell upon their Goddess and the angel all had thought to be dead. It was smiles, exhalations of relief and overjoyed embraces for all. All except Phosphora.
The nymph's visage darkened and her lips curled as the face she had committed to memory came before her sight. The angels around Gaol were swept aside in a storm of rage as Phosphora closed the distance between herself and the creature in the blink of an eye.
The bulky weight of its armour meant nothing as Phosphora slammed a hand beneath is thick gorget and lifted it bodily into the air with a shout of rage. Stunned silence fell upon the room until Gaol was flung into a scorched wall, the curved spikes that decorated its pauldrons shattering with the impact. Phosphora was standing in front of it in the next instant as it slid weakly to floor. She grabbed hold of its long, crimson tipped horn at the side of its helm and roared as she slammed her foot into its chest plate.
The chestplate crumpled and buckled under the force of repeated strikes, and after the sixth kick, the horn was torn off the side its helm with a screeching wrench.
"You dared to set your hand against the Goddess Viridi", Phosphora said, reaching forward and sinking her fingers into the holes of the helm's visor. She tore it away.
"You dared –"
Phosphora stopped short as long brown hair fell haphazardly around the creature's face.
"You're a human", she breathed, stepping back as the woman beneath the suit of armour weakly lifted her head and looked at her with unfocused green eyes. "You're a human!"
The woman choked and spluttered as Phosphora's gauntlet found the flesh of her throat. Hands wrapped in black metal rose and tugged in a futile effort at her arm.
"I will kill you", Phosphora said through bared teeth, electricity arcing along the length of her arm. "You, a human, dared to lift your hand against my Goddess!"
The woman's eyes bulged and she could only squeeze an unintelligible whisper from her lips as Phosphora snarled viciously and sent lightning racing up to her fingertips –
Ivorie appeared at her side and grabbed hold of her wrist. Phosphora turned her eyes to her and she balked at fiery rage in them. But she knew that she did not mean her anger for her, and she steeled herself even as electricity brushed against her fingertips.
"Phosphora, she is a human who was under the influence of Medusa's spell. She can't be blamed for her actions!"
Phosphora narrowed her eyes at the angel. "That changes nothing", she spat.
"It changes everything!" Ivorie said. "Phosphora, please. Lady Viridi still lives! To kill this human now would not be vengeance, it would be murder".
"In the eyes of Lady Viridi, it would be justice", Phosphora said coldly over the spluttering of the woman.
"Please", Ivorie said earnestly. "Phosphora, you are not the Goddess Viridi. Your thoughts are different. Spare this human, I beg you".
Phosphora turned from her and looked upon the woman dying in her grasp. Viridi despised the humans beyond description; Arlon too had expressed distaste for humankind. Phosphora had waged the Goddess' war against them without hesitation, but she did not hate them.
As a nymph, she had descended to the world of Man and fed her curiosity by observing them. She knew them in ways Viridi did not, she understood them in ways Viridi would never.
The woman collapsed to the ground as Phosphora's fingers loosened about her throat. As she fell, the thick armour about her began to fall away, clattering to the ground as the dark bonds Medusa had clasped tight around her failed. Phosphora turned away, but then something at the corner of her eye caught her attention.
As the woman coughed violently, Phosphora saw the pattern inked upon the flesh of her right shoulder, red and black. Her eyes widened.
"What on earth happened here?"
Pit and Palutena looked up at the broken form of the Temple, its eastern side littered with the rubble of walls that had once stood strong and proud.
"This is the result of the battle between Medusa and Lady Viridi", Ivorie reminded Pit.
"I know, I know", he said, shaking his head. "You've told me, but…seeing it is something else".
Phosphora watched as Palutena raised her eyes to the Temple in silence, an unreadable expression in her gaze.
"We can rebuild it", the Goddess said eventually. "I would rather look upon this small blemish than the destruction of Skyworld in its entirety".
"I suppose", Pit murmured.
They had ascended to Skyworld shortly after leaving Medusa's Underworld fortress and returning to Overworld by way of the portal. Palutena in particular had marvelled at the object and the means through which it allowed them to travel. Before they had disembarked she had taken a careful look at the Underworld Key Phosphora still had in her possession. However, to their dismay, once they stepped beyond the portal into Overworld the Key simply disintegrated in Phosphora's grasp. Once again, the Underworld was closed to them.
Reaching deep for her power, Palutena had transported them directly to Skyworld, but not before Phosphora had led the woman she had almost killed out onto the land beyond the castle, Ivorie accompanying her. They found the battlefield emptied completely of the Underworld's presence, its creatures simply vanishing at a time that could be aligned with the moment Medusa's ashes had risen to be swept to the far corners of the Underworld.
The humans gathered around them the moment they spotted their presence. Ivorie especially garnered the focus of their attention as from her presence they deduced the involvement and aid of the Goddess of Light in winning the war and thwarting the Underworld's design. Palutena's name was lifted to the skies in shouts of thanksgiving that swept across the torn lands, humankind united in victory.
Phosphora sought him amongst the throng, keeping the woman close to her side. She had taken up the crimson cloak that had graced the black armour and wrapped her naked, bruised and shivering form in it, unable to meet her eyes or speak a word to her. When she had eventually found Magnus and the man's eyes brightened like a star as they fell upon the cloaked woman, she looked away from their joyous reunion as unease warmed her face.
"I can't thank you enough, Phosphora", Magnus said, a broad grin across his face as he held the woman to his side.
"Don't thank me", she said. "I…"
"There's no shame in accepting the thanks you deserve", he told her.
She smiled humourlessly. "Perhaps. Farewell, Magnus".
"Well, we shouldn't delay any longer if Viridi needs my help", Palutena said, interrupting Phosphora's reminiscence. She nodded and led the way into the Temple.
When she and the Goddess had stepped into the room and found the burgundy flower head sitting closed at its centre, Phosphora had wondered how they were going to alert Viridi that help was at hand. The Goddess had put herself into a state where she could not communicate verbally or telepathically, so far as Phosphora was aware. However, Palutena approached the flower while Phosphora stood nearby uncertainly, resting the palm of her hand upon its surface. The flower grew transparent for the briefest moment as its form pulsed with white light and Phosphora glimpsed the form of her Goddess within it, small and peaceful.
The petals unfolded after a brief pause, whatever means Palutena had used causing the Goddess within to awake from her self-induced stasis. Viridi exhaled as the petals fell quietly to the carpet of grass that covered the entire room, her eyes opening.
"Palutena", she said in the tone of a statement. "Well then, I assume that Medusa and her Underworld minions are defeated and all is right with the world once more".
"It would seem so", Palutena replied in an even tone. "Shall I?"
The Goddess knelt upon the grass and touched her hand lightly to Viridi's darkened flesh at her stomach. Closing her eyes, light pulsed gently at Palutena's fingertips and Phosphora watched as the darkness within the arrow wound was drawn from it, pulled from Viridi's body and banished into nothingness by the Goddess of Light.
When the poison was drawn fully from her, the arrow wound began to close up, Viridi's flesh sealing itself and bearing no mark that would suggest she had been injured.
Viridi stood to her feet and stepped out of the flower. "My thanks, Palutena".
Palutena merely nodded as she rose to her own feet. "I thank you for defending Skyworld in my stead, as well as humankind".
"As was agreed", Viridi said as she made a gesture and the flower and the lush bed of grass sunk into the stone floor, ceasing to be. "You have had your boon of me, Palutena".
Palutena gave a small, tentative smile. "Healing your wound does not grant me another?"
Viridi's expression and tone remained polite. "Careful, now".
"I merely jest, Viridi", the Goddess said. "I do hope we can remain on reasonable terms, after today".
"My feelings have not changed", Viridi said. "I will make you no promises I cannot keep".
Palutena sighed. "I will do as I can to guide the steps of humankind, but please, Viridi. I do not wish to go to war with you".
"Then guide them", Viridi said plainly. "Come, Phosphora".
Having remained tense throughout the exchange, Phosphora was glad to incline her head respectfully to the Goddess of Light and follow in Viridi's wake as she left the room. Ivorie and a number of angels that formed Palutena's royal guard stood outside the room awaiting their Goddess. Phosphora nodded her head to them as she passed by, returning Ivorie's warm smile.
Pit waited alone in the Temple's entrance hall. He grinned broadly at her as they turned the corner.
As they approached Pit, the brief and tense exchange between Viridi and Palutena reminded Phosphora of something that she had been most afraid of since she had befriended the angel. She had never voiced it to him, and sometimes she wondered if he thought of it too. She feared that one day, his Goddess and hers would go to war. Their war would force her and Pit to meet upon the battlefield.
"Lady Viridi, may I?" Phosphora asked, chasing the dark thoughts from her mind.
The Goddess rolled her eyes. "Fine. But I'm not waiting for you. I've been away from the Forest for too long. Poor Cragalanche is probably wondering if we've abandoned him".
Phosphora smirked and bid Viridi farewell. When she walked over to Pit, the angel wide grin seemed to falter at the look in her eyes.
He lifted his hand and gave a tentative wave as she drew close. "Uh, hey Phosphora".
She pulled him into her arms and crushed him to her chest, laughing at the gasp of surprise she squeezed from his lips.
"Damn it, Pit", she said softly as her eyes grew moist, "I missed you".
She wished that she were not still in her armour as his arms slid around her, but the warmth of his skin pressed against her cheek was enough of a reassurance. He was alive and well, and with her once more.
Hades tapped his fingers together as he gazed unblinkingly at the dark space directly before him. He was waiting.
Through the waters of the bowl at his side he had watched his grand design unfold. It had been an entertaining pursuit, and while certain events had arisen outside of the boundaries of his plan, all the pieces had eventually come together as expected. He was pleased, and now, he waited. He was a patient God, and he had learnt long ago that patience was indeed always rewarded.
He had no true sense of time here in the pocket of reality he had made for himself, but eventually, a split began to form in its wall, its delicate skin pulled apart by an invisible hand and light filtering into the darkness in which he had patiently dwelt.
Evidently, the Balance was restored.
Hades rose from his seat and stepped beyond the darkness of the bubble into the familiar surroundings of his realm. The light of a thousand streams stitched across the sky above drew his hungry eye and the scent of fear reached his nostrils, the incessant whisper of the terrified souls a symphony to his ears. There was one in particular who drew his attention; its song was one of an interesting concoction of anger, hatred and confusion. He summoned it unto himself.
The bright star of the soul hung in the air before him, an ironic image considering who it belonged to. Her voice was but a murmur, and her constant seething curved his mouth into a grin.
"Medusa, my dear, how do you fare?"
"Who speaks?" her voice snapped from the depths of the light. "Where am I?"
"You dwell once more in the Underworld", Hades said. "Though now its true master is returned to it."
"I am its Queen –"
"You were nothing more than a tenant, my dear. I am its rightful Lord", Hades smirked. "Allow me to introduce myself".
Medusa's voice hissed at him when he spoke his name.
"Now, now, my dear; there is no need for you to fret any longer", Hades cooed. "Your work here is finished. You provided me with delightful entertainment".
"What foolishness do you speak?" she demanded. "I am not your jester".
"No", Hades agreed, "but neither are you the Goddess of Darkness in truth".
Hades' smirk widened as a long silence stretched between them, and then Medusa's voice spoke once more. "What?"
"My dear, you are but a delicate concoction of a myriad of souls, bitter memories and the most intense thirst for revenge I have known in aeons. However, I could not have the true Medusa stalking about now, could I? You would have most certainly destroyed Overworld completely. It's not time for that quite yet, and to raise you in truth would have emptied my precious City!"
"Insolent fool!" Medusa's voice screeched. "I will destroy you, Hades. I will –!"
But the Underworld's Lord had tired of her; her meaningless promise was but precious time he could not afford to waste. He took the bright star into his grip as the voice of the Goddess screamed at him and crushed it effortlessly to Light-dust. Nonchalantly, he drew souls unto himself, the merest thought causing the realm to rush to obey the will of its true master.
A soul stream diverted from on high, curving a path towards him. He dipped a hand into its sparkling depths, drawing forth a smattering of souls and lifting his hand into the air, sprinkled them into the nebula of light before him. It was a few moments before the concoction set to work; a purple gem shimmered between Hades' fingers as a familiar being came to be once more.
"Thanatos, I do believe this belongs to you", Hades said smoothly.
The God of Death took the proffered Underworld Key with a respectful inclination of the head. "My sincerest gratitude, Lord Hades. I confess that I feared greatly when you split the Key…"
"Ah, you did not trust me, Thanatos?" Hades said. "You wound me".
"No, no. Not so, my Lord!" Thanatos said quickly. "It is just that I have grown rather fond of my privilege over the years".
"Of course you have", the God of the Underworld said, folding his arms behind his back. "However, one cannot establish a plan without taking into account the manner of timing. It would not have pleased me to have the Goddess of Nature destroy you before the allotted time and take your Key".
Thanatos looked away uneasily. "Well…'twas not the Goddess…"
"Oh, I know", Hades said with a smile. "You were never made to fight, Thanatos. She most certainly is. Take no shame in your defeat, brutal though it may have been".
He took a leisurely look around himself at his realm before humming contentedly and walking forwards into the City of Souls.
A/N: Lo and behold, the end! Well, I hope you've enjoyed the journey, I certainly had fun writing it. I know it's far from perfect, but I hope I've done justice to all the characters. Anyhoo, to quote our dear Hades, I bid you all adieu :)