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Through the glass of the scrying mirror, Hades listened to Lexi tell the story of Poseidon's proposal. He wanted to offer her reassurance that Poseidon was capable of making good on his promise to do the honorable thing with Odessa, but Hades' experience with his brother had been anything but. He couldn't deny that Poseidon's manner had been changing ever since the betrayal with Lexi. After all, Lexi was the kind of goddess who could instill positive change in even the most stubborn, self-centered gods. One recent example was her success at convincing the council to drop their paranoia and install a scrying mirror in the meeting room, something Hades had been unsuccessful at.

"I believe the best course of action is to support Poseidon and Odessa in their decision and counsel when necessary," Hades said. He followed this up with a wide grin at the face of his daughter, who was enjoying one-on-one time with her mother while her brother was occupied with a nymph named Cassie.

"Well spoken," Lexi said. "I would rather not add another worry to my growing stack. It's all I can do to time the next feeding between obligations and bathroom breaks. Thankfully, I have taken fewer bathroom breaks today. So, whatever was in that tea Cassie made was very helpful."

Lexi turned to acknowledge Cassie, who uttered a cheerful thank you as she made a circuit around the room with Ely.

"Work has already begun on the port," Hades told her. "I finally located the original blueprints in a forgotten drawer. With Ink acting as courier and recruiter, we have enlisted the help of every capable species in the underworld, which means Ink and Lisbon's home will have to sit idle while we focus on this project."

"Have you heard back from Zeus about the recruits on Olympus' side?"

"No, but I didn't expect a response until morning. Zeus will likely host a party this evening in his study. Cigars will be smoked, drinks will flow freely, and recruiting will be had."

"Last minute parties and plenty of friends to attend them. Who wouldn't want a life like that?" Lexi appeared thoughtful for a moment, absently dropping kisses on Elm's forehead. "I can see how Zeus has fallen victim to his own power. He almost never has to use it. Just the fact that he has it is enough. If he was waking up every day doing battle with his enemies, chances are he would have a lot more humility."

"Too right you are." Hades smiled. He had met his match with Lexi. She was going to make sure his mind never got bored.

"Now that you've had a look at the plans, do you think it will take long to rebuild the port?" she asked.

"Well, we're not starting from scratch, as you know. The bones are good, so most of the work will be cosmetic. I'd like to have it open and operational within a month."

"That soon? Wonderful. But still..." Lexi's brows drooped as her worries surfaced. "Thirty days is a long time for a body to live without a soul. I hope our intent will be enough to please Gaia. I don't want Rhea to be lost to us."

Elm took that opportunity to chime in with a coo, and Hades wanted to reach through the glass and hold them both.

"You are letting your mind dwell in places that don't serve you," he offered. "I believe I heard you use that phrase recently."

"Yes, it was something Gaia told me. I suppose I should take her advice, and yours, of course. Do you think Zeus will make good on his threat to blast the mountainside open at first dawn?"

Hades chuckled, remembering Zeus' bold proclamation during the assignment of tasks. "I think he got caught up in the moment. He'll probably wait until after breakfast."

"What was it like back then, Hades? Were you able to see Olympus from the port?" Lexi eyes flashed with curiosity, revealing her heartfelt interest. She so wanted to belong to his world, and he indulged her unabashedly.

"I was not able to see Olympus, but the journey is not long by boat, and even less by chariot."

"But, you could leave the port and swim to the beach, right?"

"Yes, which I did often, until the threat of a monster attack made it dangerous, even for a god. The beasts who currently guard Tartarus used to protect the port, their relatives anyway. Hellhounds were nearly annihilated during the war."

Lexi stared into the mirror, looking dumbstruck. "I didn't know."

"Of course, not. Mortal texts are inferior."

Ely's fussy grunts started up behind Lexi, and she turned to speak with Cassie. "Would you like to trade babies?"

"I'm quite fine, Lady Lexi," came the reply. "You don't need a fretful child interrupting you and Lord Hades."

Lexi nodded and returned to grace the mirror with her beauty. "Speaking of inferior, why didn't the gods make the current entrance to the underworld more hospitable. That tunnel is atrocious. No offense."

"None taken. I had nothing to do with it. Zeus and his cronies came up with the current design. They were still fuming about the war and misguidedly took it out on innocent mortal souls. I managed to orchestrate the path that leads from the gates to the river as a way to counter the impact of such a dismal greeting into the afterlife."

"Brilliant maneuver, my love. That sounds like something Gaia would have thought of. You deserve much more credence than you receive, and I'm determined to see that you receive it."

If it was possible, Hades' love for Lexi grew even stronger. "Get some rest, Lexi. The hard work will begin as soon as the sun rises in Olympus. I will count the hours until we are together as a family again."

"As will I, my prince." Lexi blew Hades a kiss and he did his best to receive it through the mirror.

When the glass went dark, he detoured to his desk where a stack of books waited for him. The topmost text was titled Symbols of the Gods and their Meanings. He poured himself a glass of wine from the carafe left by Blythe and sat down, dipping his quill into the inkwell and beginning to write. Now that the gods appeared to be on his side, he would take the opportunity to impress them with a port of souls that was even grander than the first.


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