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Lexi was beginning to enjoy the quiet, especially after all the yelling Zeus had engaged in before that tree clobbered her. He really needed to get a handle on his temper. Now, there were voices having conversations inside her head, or maybe they were coming from outside her head. It was difficult to tell since she couldn't see a thing.

"I will never forgive myself for behaving so detached and unfriendly to her," said one of the voices. It sounded like Hecate, but Lexi would have to hear the rest of her confession to believe it. "I said not a word to her during our journey today. I was caught up in my own petty anger. And for what? Because two impetuous gods want to take the path less traveled. How many of us have done the same? After all these years, I am still behaving foolishly."

So, Hecate was angry about Ink and Lisbon's decision to live in the underworld. Her silent treatment had been upsetting to Lexi, but she knew Hecate would get past it. She always did.

"It won't do to carry that guilt," said another voice. Was it Rhea?

It didn't matter, really. What mattered were her babies. Lexi felt them clinging to her neck as sure as she had felt the blow of that tree limb. The fact that they were at her neck and not squirming inside her belly had Lexi focusing all her attention on them, desperate to keep the connection intact. If they were indeed in spirit form, she had to assume their fragile bodies had been damaged under the crushing weight of the tree, and each time this thought occurred to her, it made her throat tighten. Lexi needed to keep her thoughts light, and she imagined herself and her babies in perfect health. How awful would it be if the goddess of healing and resurrection let herself and her babies die?

And what of Hades? Did he know of their dire situation? Was he suffering in his palace far from the ones he loved? Would they ever be reunited? Would he recover if they were not?

"Your mind takes you to places that do not serve you, Alexandra," came a new voice. Was this Lexi speaking to herself, offering her a pep talk? Since when did she call herself Alexandra? "Would it be you who speaks with such honesty about your shortcomings?"

Lexi had to think about that. She could be plenty hard on herself; about her abilities, her impetuous decisions, her stubbornness. But she had a strong feeling this was someone else speaking, someone both inside and outside of her, someone she had only recently begun to connect with - Gaia.

"Now we are getting somewhere. It has taken you a good many seasons to embrace me, but when compared to eternity, it is not such a long time. I am here now, stronger than ever because you have acknowledged me, and now I will acknowledge you. I am exceedingly proud of you, Alexandra. What you see as impetuous, I see as your gift for speaking your mind, even when you are faced with insurmountable adversity. Here is also where your stubborn nature serves you. Who else but an exceptionally stubborn goddess could stand up to the arrogance of Zeus."

Okay. Maybe Lexi was talking to herself. Would Gaia really say such things about the father of all gods?

"Hah! Zeus is the self-proclaimed father of gods. I have observed him build his immovable kingdom, surround himself with luxuries, covet everything and everyone he sees fit to covet, including his position as leader. He has forgotten his oath to serve and rule benevolently. The eons have erased this promise from his mind. And now he is afraid of losing his throne... to a demigod, no less. His own offspring. It is just as it was with his father, Cronus, when he feared losing his throne to Zeus."

Oh, crap. It was true. Phoebe's prophecy was true.

"All of Phoebe's prophecies are true. They come from me. Some of them are translated a bit differently than I had intended, but that is how it has always been with Phoebe. She has a mind of her own like any other god, and she will recite the facts the way she interprets them. Zeus was made aware of your destiny to supersede him since your birth, and he planned to keep you ignorant of your godly gifts for as long as he was able. I am grateful to Hades for bringing you into the light, and I see your union as the strongest of all the gods, including those reaching far back in history."

Lexi did love Hades will all her heart and soul. She could not imagine loving anyone more.

"Do you not see the perfection of your alliance? The god of death and the goddess of rebirth. Together, you complete the cycle of life, just as you complete each other. If you are to serve out your purpose, Alexandra, you need to promise me you will fulfill my prophecy. The health of the gods of Olympus depend upon it, as do the mortals you hold dear. There will be more hurdles to scale, some of them very soon, but know that I will be with you in all things, guiding your decisions no matter how impetuous they may seem."

Lexi's mind had begun to spin, and she redoubled her efforts to hold onto her babies as they clung to her. She didn't want them to feel her doubts, but how could she defeat Zeus and fulfill Gaia's wishes to supersede him? All he had to do was blow up a tree and Lexi was out cold. And, what's more, how could she be a proper wife to Hades if she was in Olympus and he was relegated to the underworld?

"Tut-tut. You are letting your mind take to places that do not serve you. I will share something that I hope will allay your doubts. You will not have to conquer Zeus for him to secede the throne. He will do it when he finds his humility again, which may be sooner than anyone thinks, and this awakening will bring about the resolution you have been seeking for Hades. There are no accidents, Alexandra. You will rise from this tragedy with more strength and charity than before, and you will have the mark of Gaia as a sign of your worthiness. All will be as it should be as long as you follow that immensely compassionate heart of yours."

Before Lexi had a chance to promise Gaia she would do as she willed, Lexi was hit with an intense rush of air that filled her lungs until they felt ready to burst. Then she heard a collective intake of breaths, as if a hundred sets of lungs had felt the same rush. The tightness around her neck loosened, and as she struggled to grasp onto her babies, she was blinded by light when she blinked open her eyes. Gaia herself could not have given Lexi a more beautiful gift than the impossibly handsome face of her beloved, Hades, as he hovered over her, smiling with enough love for both of them.

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