I woke up the next morning with only one clear goal in my clouded mind.
I moved quickly, emerging into the morning air, surprisingly alert.
Omen was in the stables, and I quickly saddled him and led him out to where the troops were gathering.
Lucifer, upon seeing me, looked remotely surprised.
“Commander? Will you be fighting today?”
I nodded, stretching and feeling the familiar combat suit stretch with me.
“Good. I’ve looked forward to you fighting by my side again.”
“Actually,” I started, scratching my shoulder, “I’d like to ride with the Council.”
He looked somewhat surprised but nodded.
“As you wish.”
I weaved through the soldiers, Omen in tow.
The Council was just as surprised as Lucifer that I was joining them.
Manara watched with remote surprise as I smiled at Cupid, biting my lip as he winked at me.
“You seem awfully interested in watching that guy.” She said pointedly, filing her nails.
“What?” I asked absentmindedly, “Yeah, I guess.”
“He seems to be watching you too.”
“Yeah.” I grinned, still watching the raven-haired god as he saddled his white horse.
“Hello? Earth to Z?” Manara called, waving her hand in front of my face.
I turned to her slowly, somewhat irritated.
“What is it?”
“Z,” she started in a low voice, “In the time I’ve known you, you haven’t even acknowledged his existence once. And now, overnight, you’re making goo goo eyes at him?”
I shrugged, too preoccupied to think straight.
“Is that a problem?”
Manara sighed exasperatedly.
“Look, I don’t know what’s…going on with you…but be careful. The gods are dangerous. Not to mention crazy.”
“Come on, Manni,” I wheedled, “Just…look at him.”
She rolled her eyes, but eventually turned to humour me.
“He’s nice to look at, I’ll admit that.” She replied, trying unsuccessfully to hide her appreciative stare.
That was an understatement. It wasn’t just the jet-black hair, or the piercing blue eyes, or the high cheekbones – he looked good in that armor.
And I mean goooooood.
“Nice? Just nice?”
“Okay, more than nice.” She admitted, “But that doesn’t make him any less of a scheming, plotting god.”
“I don’t see what you expect me to do with these vague warnings. At this point, they’re just a tired plot device.”
Manara looked at me like I was crazy, but then there was the sound of the war drums and we climbed onto our horses, and she stopped pushing the issue.
I could see the excitement on her face as we rode into battle, turning to me with a huge grin every few minutes.
I couldn’t blame her. It felt good being back. The wind in my purple hair, Omen’s steady gallop, the drums resounding in the early morning air like the sound of my adrenaline-fuelled heart.
The rolling countryside was quickly replaced by the mess of war.
I was high on the excitement of battle. I was laughing, taunting and impaling with the same breath. The world was a slow blur of brilliant colour – the black of our armour, the grey of the enemy’s, the crimson of blood liberally being split.
Manara was plowing through beside me, with a huge mace swinging from her hands.
We watched each other’s backs as we rode, slashing and jabbing without hesitation. Eventually she was caught in a one-on-one fight and I rode on, Athena joining me on her grey mare.
Both she and her horse had elaborate helmets on, giving the impression of a gladiator riding beside me. With a shield in one hand and a huge sword in the other she blazed like lightning through the enemy, her gleaming black braid whipping behind her.
Eventually she and I were also separated and Cupid took her place, helmet-less like Lucifer, a bow strapped to his back and a sword in hand.
He was an accomplished fighter, and I could tell even from my peripheral vision that he knew what he was doing, raining death with each swift blow.
In the blink of an eye his horse had been cut down and he was on foot in the meelee, slashing and jabbing as Purgatory surged towards him.
He was outnumbered.
I slid off of Omen's back, slapping her hindquarters to send her away from the fight, and reached my left hand to my side to draw a second black sword.
I felt instinct quickly taking hold of my senses, and rushed to test my newest blade.