“I have to get to Alquis!” shouted Myrtle.

“Hold fast!” Nicyes shouted back. “Our enemy is before us! Alquis is on his own until we’ve dealt with this threat. There’s no time!” The warrior held his blade before him and uttered an oath. “Hera, allow me to enter into your good grace, that I might strike down this not-inconsiderable foe in front of me. My blade is in your hands — my life in your hands. Do with me what you will, and if your will be that I fail, put in a good word with your brother Hades, will you?”

Nicyes felt the weight of the sword in his hands lessen, as though supported by another, and he knew he had the blessing of his goddess. The feeling spread upward through his arms and into his shoulders, not as though a weight were being removed, but more as though he were being lifted up. “I haven’t died yet, I think,” he said aloud to himself.

He narrowed his focus on the few cultists that remained between himself and the goat-spawned creature. The thing might well have taken Esther’s life, and he owed it for that, if nothing else. It remained a menace that badly needed removing, before it could hurl another rock. He was loathe to show his back to an enemy but he needed to get past the cultists, and he knew he had Hera’s support. He trusted her.

Nicyes darted forward, his feet barely touching the ground as though he were gliding through the air. He weaved between the cultists effortlessly, their blades unable to touch him. He could hear the startled cries of his allies, and their words of standing together echoed from his memory. But Nicyes never fought alone when he had Hera supporting him.

He stood at the feet of the great goat-creature, and swung his sword once in a mighty arc, though the blade flashed twice in that time. “I promise you,” he said, “this day shall see your end, or mine.” A surge of strength, coupled with the lightening of the weapon, allowed him to cut the creature twice more, achieving four strokes in the time it would have taken another warrior to land one blow.

The goat spawn yowled in pain, and its blood seeped from the several wounds Nicyes had inflicted. Perhaps it was not as puissant as it had once seemed. “The goddess favors me,” said Nicyes, as he braced for the creature’s counterattack. “You’ll be on your way to Tartarus soon enough. Until then, I challenge you. Show me all the strength that a dead god’s blood affords you.”

The goat creature swung a large fist, and Nicyes raised his blade to intercept it.