XXXIV - Homecoming

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It is a deliriously surreal sensation, being taken as a prisoner by your very own guards. Pushed down into the dirt and sand by four men you went to school with, who you've known your entire life. Feeling rope cut into your wrists as your hands are tied behind your back by a man you played ball with and with whom you celebrated after your first kiss. Being jerked up to your feet and told to "march, now" in a menacing tone that doesn't fit the face of the man you last saw singing bawdy songs to a courtier's daughter, drunk out of his mind at a new year's ball.

It is somewhat flattering to think that four men are needed to take you down, but it rings a little false. They're all broader and taller than I am. They haven't been walking through scorching hot heat all day and standing, waiting throughout the night for this moment. They've probably had a few square meals and a proper bath. I'm just a ragged, tired, thirsty transient. Who is also their prince — but that seems beside the point, now. 

Not just a prince, but a warrior god, too, a seductive, slippery voice hisses inside me. Pushing down the visions of exploding in a fireball of rage, I submit to my arrest quietly. I seethe a little as my arms are twisted a bit too roughly. If only Eris had taught me how to use my powers, I might feel a little less humiliated.

I can fight back if I want to. I decidedly do not want to. The game is too ambiguous, the players too undefined. Eris has powers, and she's not using them. Abilities aside, we're outnumbered three to...thirty-three thousand, if my rough estimate of the crowd is correct. Bad odds.

The mob is hushed in anticipation, watching our capture with greedy, gleaming eyes. They smile ruefully and watch us under proud, haughty brows. They glower with self-satisfied seduction, proven right in their assumptions: we are dangerous, we are deadly, we are deceivers of men.

Well, one of us is. And right now she's being chained up. Kind of. 

To my right, Eris submits to capture with all the flamboyance and huffy cynicism I expect. She trades ribs with the guards and toys with them, twining her wrists and hands coquettishly against her behind. She's going peacefully, in her own way, but she's making them work for it; forcing them to fight against the horror and disgust they feel for her. Her would-be captors poisoned by the rumors and the propaganda that precedes her. It's clear in their shaking hands and timid advances that the guards are disquieted by manhandling such a woman. 

I wonder if her act of subtle evasion is a diversion, but the ribbons of brightness that dance around her speak to her true purpose — she's just having fun. Every now and then, she shoots willful, dangerous looks towards the tall, lanky, dark-haired man with hollow cheeks and heavy brows. He watches her capture with his head cocked to the side and the faintest whisper of a smile on his lips.

Hades she calls him. A violent rage swells within her every time she trips over his name as her thoughts race through the air.

Hades. God of the Dead. He looks it, too. Smug, entitled, elegant. There is a glamor about him that only comes from those who are fearless of the most fearful thing imaginable. He's slick. Disarmingly handsome. Specters of haunting images flicker behind his black, soulless eyes.  If I'm reading Eris' thoughts correctly, she's the most hurt by his part of the farce. The other two — their compliance and betrayal stings, but it is Hades that ignites her hatred and hurt.

I wonder briefly if they have some kind of history. Some long-standing immortal romance. If Hades is her godly husband and she has been on the run from him. If he's found her at last and come to drag her back home. A knife twists in my gut at the thought.

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