Vesh is going to have my head.
That’s not an uncommon thought for me, but this time it’s a foregone conclusion. Though it hits me in the throbbing murk of half-consciousness that I at least still have a head. It’s the part that hurts as if I just locked horns with a freight train and lost. The last thing I remember is the blast of blinding light as all four Titans came at me, then the deafening shatter of the gates of Tartarus as they rammed me through.
I groan at the stabbing pain that shoots through my forehead from two distinct points on my skull. My horns…
Without opening my eyes, I reach up to touch them, only to find empty air where both coiling protrusions should be. My fingers land on circular lumps of knobby bone, slick with blood and shredded skin. Another groan emerges unbidden, followed by a whimper. They’re already regrowing, which accounts for as much of the pain as the ragged wounds left behind. But it took me a century to get them to the majesty they’d achieved before I rammed them into the gut of a Titan.
“Hush. I’ve got you.”
My eyes fly open and I turn my head, regretting the sudden movement as white-hot pain shoots down my spine. But in the split second I opened my eyes, I had a rather surprising view of a pretty mortal dressed in black. I also caught some of the room, which appeared to be a cottage.
“Where am I, exactly?” I say, covering my eyes to steady the sensation overwhelming me.
“Um… Earth? Or do you want more specifics?”
“WHERE,” I snap.
“Oh! It’s called B-bear Island.”
“Northwest of Seattle Washington. The St. George School of Art?”
That rings a bell. Wasn’t this the place Vesh chased that thieving gambler to a few years back? He called on both me and Typhon to help with that fight, which we still lost, thanks to the intervention of a new goddess whose powers were nothing like I’d seen before.
“Why here?” I mutter.
“I think that might be my fault,” she says.
I uncover one eye and crack it open to peer at her. She is luminous, with pale ivory skin and jet black hair that falls around her face in wisps. She’s lined her hazel eyes in black, and painted her lips the same. My taint tingles like when I made the poor choice to rub one out too near the Titans’ prison cell.
“Do tell,” I say, uncovering my other eye despite the pain. It’s worth it: the bountiful swell of her breasts in a clingy black shirt. Ink teases over the swell of one breast, up the right side of her neck, directly over a pulsing vein—a black tentacle indelibly etched into her skin. I can’t help but frown, the design too reminiscent of the power wielded by a certain prison warden who is going to tear me a new asshole if he finds me.
When he finds you. You know it’s inevitable.
She tilts her head and laughs, and I drag my eyes up to meet hers. “You aren’t what I expected.”
“So you expected me. That seems unlikely. Until recently, I was trapped guarding a prison. Which begs the question… did you happen to see four very large, very scary gods wherever it was you found me?”
Her eyes widen, and she shakes her head. “Um, no. Just you. I only intended to summon you. I figure that’s why you washed up on the beach where you did.”
“Show me.” I struggle to rise, and the pain of my newly forming horns hits hard. The world swims, then goes dark. I regain consciousness with my nursemaid hovering over me, deep concern marring her pretty face.
“Don’t move. I have pictures of the spot. I have this compulsion to snap shots of anything I might want to paint.”
“How long since you found me?” I ask, blinking down at the small rectangular object she holds, suppressing my astonishment at a perfectly realistic image of an unconscious satyr lying on wet sand surrounded by dark glass shards.
“Only a few hours. I did my, um, ritual at midnight. When I came out at dawn, there you were. Finding you must’ve jump-started my power because I’d never have been strong enough to carry you into the cabin otherwise.”
She casts an appraising look down my body. Her rosy flush makes me lift an eyebrow. “You did a midnight ritual, huh?” I can’t help but smile. “To summon me. Do you even know who I am?”
“A fertility god? Sorry, I don’t know your name.”
I snort. “It figures. I’ve been out of circulation for Gaia knows how long. In most mortal circles, I’m known as Pan. Aegipan to my closest enemies.” Her mouth drops open, revealing a silver stud in the center of her tongue. She has another piece of jewelry: an ornate silver bracelet set with black stones that absorb the light. This woman gets more intriguing by the second. But I have to prompt her to reciprocate. “And you are?”
“Nemea,” she blurts. “Pan, as in the Greek fertility god, who plays a reed flute and fucks wood nymphs?”
“So you have heard of me. That’s a relief. It’s nice to meet you Nemea. You wouldn’t be a wood nymph, would you?”