The Goddess HuntBy: Aimee Carter
A Goddess Test Novella
The cave wound upward through the earth, and Pollux grasped Castor’s hand as he led him across the uneven ground. Cerberus’s snarls echoed through the tunnel, and though Pollux would’ve rather let the hellhound feast on his own innards than admit it, fear coursed through him like adrenaline. Hades’s massive three-headed guardian of the Underworld couldn’t hurt the dead, but Pollux wasn’t afraid of a dog. He was afraid of the god who trailed him.
So maybe breaking his brother out of the Underworld wasn’t exactly the smartest idea Pollux had ever had, but the council hadn’t given him much of a choice.
“Come on,” he said, pulling his brother’s arm. “It isn’t far now.”
“You said that three miles ago.” Castor stumbled, but Pollux was there in an instant, pulling him back to his feet.
“And now we’re three miles closer than we were before. Stop complaining and start running.”
They staggered through the cave together, and behind them, Cerberus’s growls grew louder. Neither brother said a word as they climbed, drawing closer to safety with each step. One foot in front of the other, again and again and again. That was all they could do.
Cerberus was gaining on them. His breath blew warm on the back of Pollux’s neck, and it reeked of bone and blood and death. Pollux urged his brother forward, half dragging him now. At last the darkness gave way to a faint glow, and his heart pounded. So close. So damn close. Just a little farther and—
Castor cried out.
Whirling around, Pollux’s insides turn to ice. Cerberus loomed behind them now, close enough to reach out and touch; and Castor’s leg was caught between his teeth. Didn’t matter that Castor couldn’t be injured, not when he was already technically dead. If they lingered too long, capture would mean proper death this time. And permanent separation.
Pollux didn’t think. Mustering all of the strength he had, he drew his arm back and punched the dog in the mouth. One more reason for Hades to hunt them down and skin them alive, but it did the trick. Cerberus whined and dropped Castor, and the dog pawed at his injured jaw while the other two heads growled.
“All right?” said Pollux, helping his brother up.
“I’m fine,” gasped Castor. “Did you just—”
“Yell at me later. Let’s go.”
The light grew stronger as the stench of Cerberus’s breath grew fainter. Finally, finally they reached the entrance to the cave, and Pollux whooped. They’d done it. They’d actually done it, and at last they were safe. Or at least what passed for it.
Together he and his brother burst into the daylight, and he squinted, blinded by the sun. The leaves rustled in the summer breeze, and Pollux’s heart soared. It didn’t matter that he’d gone against the council of Olympians. It didn’t matter that by doing so, he’d severed all ties to his father. It didn’t matter that they would be hunted for as long as they remained on the run.
What mattered was that he and Castor were together, and nothing, not even the gods, not even the cruelest destiny the Fates could imagine, would break them apart again. Not as long as Pollux had a breath in his body.
Glancing over his shoulder, he spotted Hades’ silhouette among the cavern rocks. The surface wasn’t his realm. He couldn’t pursue them out here. But one toe back inside that cave, and they would be his.
The wind grew still. Without warning, a bolt of lightning sizzled through the air, striking a tree only feet from where they stood. Castor jumped backward toward the mouth of the cave, toward Hades and eternal separation, but Pollux pulled his brother back into the open. He would have rather endured a thousand lightning strikes than willingly return his brother to their captor.
A great thunderclap echoed through the endless sky, rattling Pollux’s teeth, and they exchanged a look. Zeus never missed. He too knew the consequences of stepping back into that cave, and there was no doubt in Pollux’s mind that the King of the Gods would stop at nothing to defend his pride.
Taking heed of his father’s warning, Pollux grasped Castor’s hand and ran.
Six months. One hundred and eighty-four days. That was how long I had to stay away from Eden, where Henry, my brand-new husband, waited for me to return in September. Looking forward, it seemed like forever, and the idea of being away from him for so long made me ache.