South of Surrender

By: Laura Kaye

Chapter One

Chrysander Notos found his brother right where their nightmarish summer began, on top of the west tower of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. While he circled through the dark sky far overhead, Chrys watched Eurus pace the narrow catwalk atop the structure. What the hell was he doing here, of all places?
Summoning the powerful energy of the South Wind, Chrys prepared for what was sure to be another brutal battle. He didn’t want to fight Eurus. Just the opposite, in fact. But fighting seemed to be all his older brother knew anymore. The accumulated scars on Chrys’s body from the past three months proved that, and now he wore his weariness like a second skin.
But someone had to save Eurus from himself and the Olympic gods’ death sentence. And Chrys was the only viable candidate. Zephyros and Owen were mated, and Boreas deserved to bask in his new status as grandfather.
Not to mention, Eurus’s problems were partly his fault. After everything, Chrys owed him the effort. Least he could do.
Eurus froze and scanned the heavens, revealing the exact moment he perceived Chrys’s presence. No sense delaying now.
In his elemental form, Chrys shot down before Eurus took flight. Shifting into corporeality at the edge of the tower’s top platform, he braced for Eurus’s attack. He could never predict whether his brother preferred to get right to the main event of kicking his ass—not something he should be able to do, not in Chrys’s own damn season, anyway—or might be up for a little verbal sparring first.
Eurus turned on his heel, black leather duster whipping around him in the heavy, humid wind. Chrys could sense his brother’s glare through the black wraparound glasses he always wore, but the blows didn’t come. Up for the sparring, then.
“Behold the do-gooder. How nice for me.”
“Why are you here, E?” Chrys asked. No way Eurus’s return to the exact spot where he’d killed their brother’s wife—or tried to; Mars had interceded and brought her back as a goddess—was coincidence. It meant something, but with Eurus it was hard to tell exactly what.
“Mmm, just basking in pleasant memories,” he said with a sneer. “What’s your excuse?”
Acidic rage churned in Chrys’s gut. Their brother Zephyros and his wife Ella were happy now, but that didn’t erase his recollection of Zeph’s brutal agony when they’d thought Ella gone for good. Chrys shoved the useless thoughts away. Eurus liked to pick at a person’s most sensitive scabs. It was one of his specialties. So Chrys caged his anger and refused to take the bait. “I’m here for the same reason I’ve been dogging you all summer. Come back to the Realm of the Gods with me. Atone. We can work this out. It doesn’t have to go down this way.”
“Grow the fuck up, Chrysander. I don’t want your help. And I sure as hell don’t need it.” He fisted his right hand, flashing the faceted firestone ring he wore in the bright lights that marked the tower’s corners.
Chrys’s eyes tracked the movement. That damn ring was half the problem. It belonged to their father, Aeolus, the most powerful storm god of them all, and somehow Eurus had gotten his hands on it. Which explained the entire summer’s worth of ass kicking. The sacred stone gave its wearer the power to control all the winds and, thus, him. Bad enough when his father made use of those powers. Catastrophic now that Eurus could.
Chrys hadn’t told anyone that Eurus had Aeolus’s ring for fear that knowledge would hammer yet another nail into his brother’s coffin—not to mention their father’s for not making that little revelation himself. Now, that shit was just waiting to hit the fan.
“What’s your end game here? Huh? You’re playing right into the Olympians’ hands, and for what? For now, they’re letting the family resolve this situation, but once they’re involved, it’ll be too late.” The humid bay breeze whipped around him. He tugged long strands of hair out of his eyes.
“As if I would tell you, boy.” Eurus crossed his arms over his broad chest and sighed. “I tire of your questions.” The smug smile that settled on his face was all the creepier for the new, slashing red scar carved into the left side of his face from temple to lips. How he’d gotten the wound—which could only have come at the hand of a stronger god—Chrys had no clue. “In truth, I tire of you.”
Chrys ignored the way his heart tripped. A lifetime of trying—and failing—to win your big brother’s approval made you a bit sensitive, though. Fucking hell. “Eurus, man, come on. I just want to help you. You’re my brother. And we can fix this.”
The firestone flared to life, a soft red that soon blazed so bright it was hard to look at.
Chrys braced, his muscles suddenly alive with tension. The air constricted around his body.
Eurus’s ring finger twitched.
It was all Chrys needed to see. In a heartbeat, he flashed into his elemental form and shot skyward.
Eurus’s energy followed.
How many more fights did Chrys have in him? Dark clouds already gathered and billowed around them. Inky tendrils of Eurus’s malevolent East Wind gusted over him, crawling through his energy as if searching for a weak spot. Even in his elemental form, Chrys shuddered as he released a burst of power to throw them off.
But it was too little, too late.
Preternatural disturbances in the air rammed him from all directions as if he were a featherweight boxer facing an invisible heavyweight opponent. Icy cold North Wind that Eurus had no business commanding lashed against him like a frozen whip, the frigidity stealing Chrys’s breath and power with every cutting impact. Exactly what his brother intended, since Chrys’s intolerance to cold wasn’t exactly a secret. Chrys dug deep into his powers and poured on everything he could muster, but hell if three long months of fighting a stronger god hadn’t depleted his reserves. He rocketed across the bay and over the Eastern Shore, hoping to draw the threatening storm over the Atlantic Ocean where it would do less damage to land and people.
A ripple of electricity shuddered past him, as if conducted by the humidity. Damn it all to Hades. The defeated thought had barely formed before Eurus’s attack hit home. Lightning belted around him in tight, suffocating, scorching loops.
Chrys cried out, an agonized roar that unleashed a series of deafening crashes of thunder.
Knowing he was out of time, he struggled to twist free and flung bolts of his own, zinging electricity across the sky in flashes of red and purple and orange so unnatural he knew they’d capture the attention of humanity, but he had no choice. Soon, he would be completely at his brother’s mercy. Not that Eurus had any. And damn if that gem of an admission didn’t highlight the possibility that Eurus was a total lost cause. But how was he supposed to just give up on the brother he’d spent the better part of his life trying to save?
He didn’t have time to ponder an answer.
Eurus’s electricity attached to Chrys’s energy signature, slowly but surely stealing his self-control and siphoning off his life force, like a vampire supping at leisure from his victim’s throat. An immortal could only be injured by another of stronger power—and that fucking ring was giving Eurus, normally the least powerful of the four Anemoi, everything he needed.
A monster of a storm opened up all around them, tropical force winds howling, rains pounding down in diagonal gashes, thunder and lightning shaking the very world. The storm, the battle, the manner of Eurus’s attack—this was the worst yet between them.
But Chrys refused to go down alone. If this was it, if this was how Eurus wanted it, they were going out together. Eurus was whole galaxies away from perfect, but hell if Chrys was going to let anyone else take out the brother he’d helped fuck up.
With his last burst of energy and control, Chrys yanked hard against his electric restraints and released, slingshotting himself across the sky toward his tormenter, toward his demise.
He’d lived too long for his whole life to flash before his eyes, so a few key moments sank their hooks into his wavering consciousness—all from his young godhood, and all instances of Aeolus denying Eurus affection, touch, and attention, while he lavished the same on Chrysander. Or, at least, his version of affection.
Chrys would’ve sworn that sometimes, too many times, Aeolus’s touch had been about proving he could control one or all of them. While other times, he just knew the attention was intended to hurt Eurus. The image of young Eurus’s humiliated, yearning, accusing gazes were burned into Chrys’s subconscious, and he saw those now, too. Each instance of his father using Chrys—the only Anemoi birthed by a different mother—as a pawn in punishing Eurus for his mother’s childbed death, left Chrys feeling more and more separate from the rest of them. After a time, he came to associate guilt, resentment, and lack of control with his father’s affection so strongly that he shied away from it, finding it uncomfortable to be touched and hard to believe he was actually lovable. Not when his existence so harmed another.
What-the-fuck-ever. Ancient history. Blah, blah, blah.
Clearly, none of that mattered now.
The lash of lightning unwound from his rocketing body. But if Eurus had realized what was about to happen, he’d reacted too late. Chrys slammed into his brother so hard thunder and lightning exploded around them, the force of the impact sending a devastating microburst of air and rain pounding to earth. Shit!
They plummeted in a tangle of elemental energy through the turbulent night sky, Eurus roaring ancient curses at him before finally regaining control.
Damnit, E, stop!
I was saving you for last, Eurus snarled, using the power of the firestone ring to force Chrys out of the elements and into corporeality.
A preternatural wind held him aloft, his head wrenched backward as Eurus pulled at his long hair so hard his scalp burned.
“No,” Chrys mumbled, almost unable to vocalize the word.
Eurus manifested into his human form, a sword of fiery lightning in his hand. He plunged it toward Chrys’s heart.
Chrys raised his left arm to block the blow, and the white-hot blade sliced into his forearm and scorched deep into his right shoulder. The unexpected angle of the indirect hit threw Eurus off balance, and he released Chrys’s hair.
The air dropped out from under him.
His backward motion un-impaled his shoulder from the rod of lightning. And then he was in a free fall. Struggling to hold onto even the smallest vestige of lucidity, Chrys concentrated with all his might to summon the South Wind, to return himself to the cradling safety of his elemental form.
Flash. He went elemental. Relief surged through h—
Flash. Without trying to, he materialized back into his human form.
He willed the wind to heed his call. Any moment, Eurus would be on him again. If he could just— Flash. Neither wind nor body this time, but his sacred animal form. The winged horse. Ancient icon of the power of the Anemoi.
Almighty Zeus. He couldn’t will it. He couldn’t control it. As he plummeted downward through the black deluge, he shifted randomly, repeatedly, tearing his body apart and reassembling it over and over until he lost track of what he was. Who he was.
And then he lost his hold on consciousness itself.

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