The water churned with screams and divine power behind Athena. Poseidon and his companions were tearing into their own elemental, frantic weavings of Fire and Aether and Air to try to boil it into steam before it could tear them apart.
“Now!” Athena shouted, grabbing onto the bands of the same elements and adding them to the surge that was being poured into the water elemental.
Behind the water elemental, the remaining Olympians began to do the same. Green flame from Hades and Persephone and Charon, the unnatural soulfire of the underworld gods, joining and merging with the bright bands woven by the standard gods. Arachne used her power to weave channels of air for the Olympians flames to travel through, pushing away the water to give them a clear path.
And Anansi held the Water Elemental in place on top of the sea gods by giving it dozens of copies of Athena to destroy. As Athena watched, one of her facsimiles was captured in the vortex arms of the water elemental. She held up her hands, slashing out with her sword at the water around her. Her fins struggled to maintain her balance, but the current was too strong.
The illusionary copy died screaming as the water elemental crushed it into a red paste. The blood vanished as Anansi stopped maintaining the illusion, only to create a new Athena for the water elemental to capture and kill.
It was unnerving in a way few things Athena had ever experienced. Watching herself die over and over again.
But the water elemental was a simple thing. It couldn’t comprehend that Athena should have died with each illusion it killed. It couldn’t understand that the real Athena was floating nearby, pumping it full of pure bands of Fire. It didn’t realize that it was destroying the deities that gave it life.
Or maybe it did understand that last one. Maybe the hatred Ceto had spawned into it had been too much, or maybe the unrelenting fury of an unleashed elemental simply could not be contained.
Either way, it left the sea gods one choice. They were trapped within the water elemental. Because they were true gods and not mere illusions, they were not being crushed as easily as Athena’s duplicates. They were pouring their own Fire into their creation in a frantic attempt to save themselves, trying to turn it to steam before it could destroy them.
Athena had thought that it would take the combined might of all of Olympus to destroy the elemental, break it apart into steam. She’d been right – she’d just needed to find a way to get the sea gods to join in the destruction.
Now they were, and the process, allowing their adversaries to boil them alive.
The water that made up the elemental began to grow cloudy from the immense heat pouring into it. New streams were added as the Nereid’s numbers were thinned. Dionysus joined, cackling drunkenly, his hand still shoved through the spine of the Nereid he had just killed. Bubbles began to form in the water around the elemental, and the temperature of the Adriatic Sea began to rise.
The elemental knew no pain. It knew no weakness. It was merely deific rage given an elemental body and unleashed upon the world. It didn’t understand that it was being harmed. Ceto hadn’t programmed it with a sense of self-preservation. Poseidon hadn’t seen a need to order her to do so.
“How could you!” Athena shouted, her own rage boiling over. Poseidon somehow heard her words over the boiling elemental around him. It shouldn’t have been possible. Maybe he didn’t. Maybe he just wanted to glare at the one responsible for his torment. She didn’t care. “You betrayed us! You betrayed your family! You created a monster!” she poured the emotion into her weaving, and from her force alone the steam boiling off the water elemental began to cause the vortex to break down in its torso. The Olympians saw the weakness she was exposing and added their own heat to the mix. “You betrayed everything you were sworn to protect! How could you dare?”
Poseidon’s face was turning red and blistering from the boiled water. His eyes were wide with fury and fear. He was pouring his own weaving into the water elemental, at the same time it sucked him deeper into its mass, pulling him inexorably to the point where its mass was a bubble of pure steam.
Just before he hit the steam, Poseidon managed to look at her one more time. He mouthed something. A single word, but one Athena could not make out through the torrent around him.
Then he was pulled into the mass at the center of the water elemental, and his screams echoed through the ocean.
The water elemental evaporated in a burst of steam, the bubbles boiling to the surface of the sea and blanketing the water above with a dense fog of steam. Athena hoped any humans that were in the area had vacated at the churning their battle had created. If they hadn’t…
Athena glanced upwards. No shadows of boats darkened the sea above. They were safe.
The Olympians began to close in on the sea gods. Ceto had half her face torn away from being drug along the seabed. Thalassa was bruised and battered but seemed more concerned for her husband’s fate than her own. Triton’s arm was broken in three paces, and he panted with the pain.
And …Poseidon was standing. His skin was a mass of blisters, his face and skin seared. But he still stood, still breathed. “I wish to negotiate a truce,” Poseidon said, his voice raspy.
Athena shifted back to her fully human form, remaining wary. This could still be a trap. “You don’t need to negotiate with me, lord of the seas,” she said, her voice firm. “Artemis commands Olympus.” Athena raised her hand to hail her friend. “Artemis! What do you say to Poseidon’s truce?”
In response, an arrow erupted from the back of Poseidon’s throat. Thalassa screamed as he collapsed down to one knee, clutching at the arrow with desperate hands. Artemis finished her swim towards him, landing just above his writhing form. “We’ll negotiate when you resurrect, you son of a bitch,” Artemis spat. Underwater it had an interesting effect, bubbles floating away from her lips, but the contempt was clear. “The rest of you lay down your weapons, or I might rethink the idea that no one’s nanoverses will be ended today.”
That was a bluff. Athena knew her friend well enough to know that she could never bring herself to end trillions of lives to settle even a matter of treason. Or at least…she had known her. Even gods can change a great deal given millennia. She wouldn’t.
Thankfully, the sea gods didn’t test her patience. Hastily, they tossed aside their weapons. “You’ll really allow him to resurrect?” Thalassa asked, her eyes wide with hope.
“Of course I will,” Artemis said, rolling her eyes. “We have a world to save, you ninny.”
“Then…why did you kill him?” Thalassa asked.
“Because,” Artemis said, slinging her bow back over her shoulder, “he really, really pissed me off. Come on you three. Gather your dead. You’re all under arrest.”
Athena caught the archer’s eye, and for a moment, they shared a rare smile.