“You almost had me,” said Nicyes as he climbed to his feet. The goat creature was still reeling from whatever Myrtle had done to it. Nicyes’s entire body ached from the blow he’d been dealt, and he felt as though something had been knocked loose in his head. But hearing Myrtle call out to him had given him the strength to draw on the seed of Hera’s energy inside him.

He wouldn’t mention to anyone that he thought he’d seen Esther for a moment when he lost control of his senses, or that when Myrtle called out to him, he mistook her voice at first. There was no need to say anything.

Nicyes scooped up his blade used the weight of the great blade to carry him forward. Hera was with him, lifting his sword, keeping him on his feet, making clear the path for him. It was with her strength that his weapon collided with the terrible beast.

The creature faltered, and Nicyes allowed himself a moment to hope before he realized his foe was still greater. Still, he felt his courage returning. While the goat spawn before him was truly a threat to be reckoned with, Nicyes knew he lived by Hera’s will. He would slay the beast or he would cross the river Acheron.

Either seemed a fair result. The creature had recovered — it was back on its guard now. It perceived him a proper threat now, and Nicyes relished the thought of the creature considering its own fate. He would look for his opening and strike, and the gods would decide who would emerge victorious.

He smiled.