Athena watched as Ryan and Anansi lead off the Helheists, bracing herself to face off the Lindworm that had been Tyr. It moved across the landscape in a disturbing hybrid of a slither and a crawl, making a beeline towards Athena. Do you remember me, Tyr? Is that why you’re focused on me? Or is it just some perverse joke by Moloch?
Crystal put a hand on her shoulder. “You alright there?” On Athena’s other side, Dianmu was reading her glaive.
“No, Crystal, I’m not even close” Athena said, shaking her head for emphasis as she did. “But I will be once we deal with this abomination.”
Crystal took a moment to study Athena’s face. “Too right, love. We’ll follow your lead.”
“Lead quickly,” Dianmu added with a frown.
Athena knew time was of the essence, and brushed off momentary annoyance at Dianmu’s reminder of that inescapable fact. She took the last few moments before they were in range to study it.
The Lindworm had grown since they’d last fought. At least fifty feet from head to tail tip, and and forearms that were now as long as Athena was tall. As it got close, it started to rear up-
Athena didn’t wait for the acid to come streaming out, erecting a wall of water to absorb the attack as it came in, extending it in a cresent shape to cover herself, Dianmu, and Crystal. The water quickly turned green, and the other two goddesses began to add water from the air to it. “On my mark, Crystal, freeze it. Dianmu, prepare to shock it.”
She waited until the instant the stream stopped, then shouted for Crystal to freeze it. As Crystal did, Athena sent the strongest gust of wind she could muster as Dianmu began to create an electrical imbalance between the chunk of acidic ice and the ceiling above them.
The barrier screamed through the air on the wind before it shattered against the Lindworm’s face at the same instant lightning struck it, letting out a defeaning rumble made of the combined splintering ice and the crack of thunder. The flash of light temporarily blinded the goddesses.
When their vision cleared, the lindworm that had been Tyr was collecting itself off the ground, letting out a low hiss of anger as it did. To Athena’s dismay, it looked uninjured, more preturbed than anything else.
She drew her sword and lead the charge, wondering if they could defeat them.
Moloch heard the crack and saw the flash from his vantage point near the Olympian’s fortress. He chuckled to himself as he did. “I know you can’t see them, Isabel. I wish you could watch this.”
Isabel sniffed, not wanting to answer the god but not wanting to draw his ire either. Just say something neutral, Isabel. Don’t piss him off. “You know, if you twirl your mustache any harder, you’re going to pull it off.” Shit.
It seemed that Moloch was not going to be so easily baited, not right now. He instead, just sighed and reach out. “Joke all you want. I’m going to enjoy watching Athena torn apart by a man she cared about.” He extended his fist, smiling as he did.
“What did you do?” Isabel asked, hoping that knowing would give her some information she could use…somehow.
“I just unleashed what Tyr is really capable of. I’ve been busy while you all were running around.” Isabel could see the sick pleasure in his eyes and shuddered.
“You’re inhuman,” she said, unable to look at him. Instead she glanced over at Uriel as Moloch responded.
“Human is one thing I’ve never claimed to be,” Moloch muttered as Isabel met the angel’s eyes.
Uriel’s face was almost completely impassive, but she gave Isabel a tiny, almost imperceptible, shake of her head.
Moloch was not the only one to hear the sound. Within the Elysian Rest, Ares rush to Artemis, who was still standing on the battlement, surveying Moloch’s forces. “What was that?” He asked, his heart pounding. “Did Moloch breach our defenses?”
Artemis shook her head, her lips pursed. “Someone has joined the battle.”
Ares gaped at her, unable to believe it. “We have aid!” he exclaimed, practically jumping in excitement. “We should ride out to crush Moloch between us. Who is it? The Aesir? The Deva? Perhaps the -” He finally noticed the sour cast of Artemis’ face, and stopped to frown at her. “What troubles you?”
“No pantheon has come. It is five, one who I do not know. Of the other four, Ishtar and Athena are with them.” Artemis sighed. “You know how Hera is going to react.”
Ares bit back a curse. “It’s been over a millenia, surely she can let go of those grudges by now?”
Artemis finally pulled her eyes from the battlefield to give him a raised eyebrow. “Ares. Have you ever, in all this time, known Hera to let go of her anger?”
“She must!” He was shouting, already angry at Hera, even though it was Artemis in front of him and she had no more ability to control the Queen of the Olympians than he did. “Or her pride will choke us all!”
All the archer goddess would give him was a shrug. “Then I suggest you talk to her,” she said, turning back to focus on the battle.
Ares stormed off, already preparing his arguments as his temper boiled.
Before Athena’s charge could reach the lindworm, Moloch’s gesture did. She came to a stop as the creature reared up, facing the roof above them, screeching in apparent agony as it did. She glanced at Crystal and Dianmu. “Did either of you do this?”
They shook their head, and Dianmu pointed to draw their attention back to the Lindworm. “Look!”
The lindworm’s claws were plunging into its own chest, and it began to to tear outwards. At first Athena thought that it was going to rip its own ribcage open, but that wasn’t what it had in mind. It was tearing off the outer layer of its skin, shedding the scales in rapid gestures.
As it sloughed off the waste skin, it changed. The part of its body where the claws met was broader, stronger, looking more like an actual torso, with six spindly limbs replacing the two claws it had before, and a second head reared itself from its neck. Spines were jutting out of its back and face, giving it a far more menacing appearance, and red showed between its scales as if it had grown so rapidly it was tearing itself apart.
None of that was what drew Athena’s eyes. Her eyes were drawn to the beast’s torso, where a single eye blinked at her from between its pectorals.
An eye that she was certain belonged to Tyr.
The monstrosity, this dire Lindworm, reared up to fire from both its heads as the goddesses scrambled to get defenses in order.