I had called Dinlas from Cassandra’s house, and he came over with his two she-wolves. He grimly looked at Cassandra’s body before looking at me. “What do you need me to do?”
“Markos? You’re kidding.”
I showed him the note on the door. “I have a feeling he is the one you tracked into the forest the last time. I’m sure he will go to the same place again. See what your girls can find. Keep me posted.”
“At the moment, no.”
He called the wolves over, and they began sniffing the ground. One of them, I think it was Hate, howled and ran out the door, Jealousy close behind her.
“Be careful, Dinlas.”
He nodded and ran after them.
Now, I was standing in my weapons room, testing the weight and balance of my swords. “You can’t do this, Ares.”
“I don’t remember asking your opinion about this,” I replied. “Go home, Arty. This isn’t your fight.”
“I figured you’d say that, so we came anyway.”
Turning around, I saw Nike and Artemis standing in the doorway. “Why are you two here?”
“Did you really think we were going to let you go by yourself?” Artemis asked. I noticed she had a quiver full of arrows on her back, and her bow was in her hand.
Nike had her sword strapped to her side, and she walked over and gave me a hug. “I am so sorry about Cassandra,” she said, tears in her young eyes. “She was a very sweet woman. I liked her a lot.”
“So did I, little one, so did I.”
“What’s your plan?” Artemis said. “We can use Sayeh and Dinlas’ she-wolves.”
“Dinlas is already tracking with his wolves. I called him while I was at her house. I have a feeling that Dinlas’ wolves are going to lead us back to the forest. Could you and Nike use Sayeh to scout the area from the sky? Make sure you aren’t seen. I don’t want to give them any kind of warning that we’re on our way.”
“That won’t be a problem,” she replied. “But what are you going to do?”
“Prepare for battle.”
“This isn’t like old times, Ares,” Artemis said. “The rules have changed. The weapons are different, more destructive.”
“Worried that I’m going to die, Sis?”
“This isn’t a joke, Ares! You have to consider that innocent people could get killed.”
“That’s never bothered me before.”
“Nike, would you excuse us for a moment?” Artemis said.
Nike looked back and forth between us before giving me a hug. “I love you, my brother. Don’t let your anger rule your decisions.”
“Funny thing to say to the God of War, Nike.”
“Yes, I know, but you’ve never been in a situation like this. Your heart is hurting over the loss of Cassandra. Don’t let your feelings decide your actions.”
“Nike,” Artemis said.
Nike looked at me, then turned and left the room. I focused my attention on the swords on the wall. “She’s right, you know,” Artemis said, stepping closer. “I know you loved this mortal, Ares. She was good for you. Do you think she would want you to do this in her name? We need to take a step back and make a battle plan.”
“Do you really think you need to lecture me on how to fight a battle?”
“Somebody needs to,” she snapped. Your head isn’t in the right place. You need to take a step back and look at this strategically. Markos probably won’t be alone. This is probably a contingency they planned for. He wants you to come to him, on his terms. That’s not how we operate. We’ll take this fight to him on our terms.”
I let her words soak in, and I had to admit, she was right. “Come with me,” I said.
I led them back down the hall to the lobby. “Reginald, I need that white board and markers from the conference room right now. Bring it to my office.”
“Hello, I’m not maintenance. Isn’t that your job?”
Three steps, and I was lifting him out of his chair. “I do not have time for your smartass mouth this morning. I will gut you like a wild hog, and leave your innards outside for the vultures to eat.”
“Ares,” Artemis said, putting her hand on my arm. “Let him go. He’s not the enemy, although he does need to be taken down a peg or two. Put him down.”
I released him, and he stumbled backwards, landing sideways against his chair.
“Reginald,” Artemis continued, helping him to his feet, “Please forgive Ares. He has suffered a tremendous loss, and he is very upset. We would appreciate your help. We need the white board my brother mentioned.”
He looked at Ares. “I am sorry,” he said contritely. “I had no idea. Cassandra?” I nodded. “A beautiful soul. I will do whatever I can to help. I’ll get the white boards, then alert the crew.”
“No, we don’t need them,” I said. “I won’t have them put their lives on the line. There is no need for the loss of more innocent people. This is something that needs to be handled by the Gods.”
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