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Hades had just poured his second breakfast mimosa when Ink brought up the subject of his new residence.

"Progress is frustratingly slow," Ink said as he spooned honey over his fried potatoes. "I have to keep reminding myself this isn't the mortal world and I can't just call a general contractor to source out the labor. How did you do all this?" He waved his fork around the room before stabbing his breakfast.

"The gods built my home, and they did it without the benefit of centaurs. The underworld inhabitants were less hospitable before the war. But take heart. I believe I can recruit you a few minotaurs. Their physique offers benefits over centaurs, and they read hand gestures quite well."

"Minotaurs are fine with me, but can someone talk them into wearing pants." Ink's gaze flicked to Lisbon, who was in deep conversation with Lexi. Neither female appeared interested in joining their discussion.

"Would you like to take my shift at the gates today, Ink?" Hades asked. "You have a solid understanding of protocol, and I have two babes at home. There's no better time to see what you can do with a little freedom."

Ink stopped eating long enough to offer his response. "I'm all over that."

"And, I'll take a look at the construction site," Hades added. "I might know how to motivate those young gods."

With a new robe draped over his arm, Ink engaged Hades in last minute inquiries as they walked to the stable, and Hades did his best to proffer useful advice to Ink before helping him saddle-up Rupert. Ink still had not adjusted to the method of flying a horse, and he made for the gates via the bridge. Hades didn't fault Ink for being cautious. Hades had fallen off at heights that would have killed a mortal.

After their farewell, Hades assigned himself two errands, which he planned to carry out early so his afternoon could be spent with his beloveds. His first stop was the minotaur encampment to do a bit of recruiting. Of course, he didn't have to travel far to find a scout. Today, it was Cole. Apparently, Lars did take naps. Hades had no trouble communicating his needs to Cole, who impressed Hades as someone who might give Lars fair competition, and soon Hades was traveling to his second stop, which he suspected would have similarly swift results. He had a pouch full of fifteenth century gold doubloons in his pocket, a small portion of the hoard he helped Blackbeard recover. If nothing else, Hades had earned a reputation for collecting the good stuff.

When the gods had been appeased, Hades returned home in time for lunch, which he took in his chamber in the company of Lexi and their progeny. Elm was the only babe to join them as they enjoyed pumpkin soup served in a loaf. Ely had been whisked off by Lisbon when he decided lunch was the perfect time to exercise his vocal cords. Lisbon's singing appeared to have a sedative effect on the boy. Before Hades knew it, evening had fallen and Lexi was slumbering next to him. Had he drifted off himself?

"Lexi? Do you need anything?" he whispered as he blinked his eyes open.

Her eyes were already open, shiny with sleep. "Something woke me up. Are you all right?"

"Yes. I'm fine."

"I could have sworn I heard the scrying mirror chime."

"I did not hear it, which means I was probably asleep at the time." Hades glanced up at the mantle, trying to read the hourglass as Lexi slipped out from under the covers, giving him little opportunity to assist. She was grabbing her robe when he finally reached her. "Do you need an escort to the bathroom?"

"Please." As they made their way across the room, Lexi stopped. "Wait, I need to call the palace."

"At this hour? Wouldn't you like to relive yourself first?"

"No. The bathroom was just my excuse for getting up. My body is telling me to call the palace. The nymphs will be the first to know if anything is amiss." Lexi redirected Hades to the scrying mirror and she tapped the glass.

"And what will you tell them?" he inquired. "They will want to know why you have called."

"Sometimes it's best not to plan too far ahead," she offered.

Considering the inconvenient time, someone appeared at the mirror quickly, although the nymph looked like she had been disturbed from sleep, or perhaps deprived of it.

"I hope I'm not interrupting your sleep, Ebony," Lexi said as she greeted the nymph with a smile. "Have you been crying?"

"Oh, Lady Lexi. We were just speaking of you. One of our own, Celia... She is close to giving birth, but we fear her child will be stillborn. There is no fetal heartbeat. And that isn't all. A satyr from the palace of titans gave birth to a stillborn offspring. We know you have been busy with your own babies and we did not want to trouble you. But..."

Ebony wiped tears from her eyes with her gauzy sleeve and Lexi turned her gaze on Hades. He read everything on her face. "I know Celia well, Hades. I have watched her belly bloom along with mine."

"Do you think this is part of the prophecy?" the nymph continued. "The one that took our precious Rhea from us? Nothing new has been allowed to grow. The buds are dropping and the babes are dying. What if this is the end of life in Olympus? It is a tragedy beyond anything that could befall us."

Ebony began to sob openly, and Hades felt Lexi snake her fingers around his wrist. He also felt that familiar tug in his chest, the one that showed up anytime he had to make difficult decisions.

"Go to them, Lexi. If that is your desire," he said. "You have two hours before the babes will need you again. Take Sella with you."

Lexi's angst drew her eyebrows together, but Hades knew it was mostly for his benefit. Her goddess nature compelled her to think of preserving and nurturing life, even when her duties could be equally spent at home.

When Lexi turned back to speak to the mirror, she appeared resigned to her mission. "I will be there as soon as I can. Please, have one of the council members get a password to me straight away. And someone will need to meet me at the gates."

The nymph hopped in front of the mirror, looking spritely despite the circles rimming her eyes. "Oh, thank you, your grace. You are as beneficent as they say." The nymph then bowed until her body disappeared from view

When the connection ended, Lexi caught Hades in her arms and leaned into his chest. "Am I doing the right thing, Hades?"

"Does it feel right?"

"I'm not sure. It feels right as far as Celia is concerned, but I would rather stay here with our babies."

Hades brushed a kiss across her forehead. "I know. And we will still be here when you return."

Lexi smiled as she nuzzled his neck. "Once again, you remind me why I love you. You are a gentleman of the highest caliber."


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