I blinked slowly. “Hekatach-what?”
A slight smile curved his lips. “Hekatoncheires were basically giants.”
Now that he said it, I sort of remembered reading that somewhere when I was younger.
“The Hekatoncheires wanted revenge on Cronus as he had kept them imprisoned. They were eager to help. The Cyclopes built weapons for us,” Apollo explained. “Once the giants were involved, the war was quickly ended.”
Seth unfolded his arm. “Wait a minute. This entire time, all we needed were some giants and a Cyclops or two? That’s it?” Seth sounded like he was seconds away from exploding.
The goddess beside Apollo tilted her head. “Seth, it’s not that simple. The Cyclopes fashioned the weapons we used and the giants were more fierce and more powerful than the Titans, but we cannot simply call upon them to fight again.”
“And why not, Artemis?”
That was, I guessed, my aunt? Then again, they all were related and having sex, and I really didn’t need to think about that at the moment.
“While the Hekatoncheires were eager to help, they still needed to be swayed,” Zeus said, and I swore he might’ve paled a little. “They required a sacrifice.”
“Of course they did,” muttered Seth. “What? A few virgin priests and priestesses?”
Zeus stiffened. “Foolish young god.”
If that insulted Seth, he didn’t show it. “Where are these giants now?”
“They are in the Underworld,” Hades answered. “And before you make some inane comment about us unleashing them, you must learn what it took for us to sway them in the first place.”
Hades then smiled at Seth, and a chill rippled down my spine. It was like a sudden burst of cold air hit me, and all I could think of was that old saying. The one where people say it felt like someone had walked over their grave.
That was how I felt.
And I knew beyond a doubt that whatever they were about to tell us was going to change everything.
As usual, I didn’t like what the gods were saying or where any of this was heading.
“How did you sway them?” I demanded, wanting to find out what the hell I was going to have to do so I could just get it done. Then I could start spending the rest of forever with Josie, starting with preparing for our child.
Zeus studied me. “They requested a sacrifice from a being of absolute power. They gave me a choice. It is the same choice they will give now, and it is a sacrifice I cannot make again.”
“What?” Josie asked, nervous energy rolling off her in waves. “What did you have to do?”
Zeus didn’t take his gaze off me. “I had to kill the only thing I ever loved.”
My skin turned to ice as I stared up at him. What had he said to me the day Aiden and I had faced the hydra?
Josie frowned as she glanced at Hera. “I don’t understand.”
“I am not his true love,” Hera replied with a laugh. “Never was.”
I wasn’t entirely surprised to hear that Hera wasn’t Zeus’s true love, but I’d never heard this before.
“You wouldn’t have,” Zeus said, as if my thoughts were on my face, his voice low. “She was erased from all history, her name never spoken. If you want the Hekatoncheires, you will need to make that sacrifice.”
My skin turned to ice as what he’d said began to sink in. I looked at Josie, and she was staring up at the gods, her beautiful face pale. I saw the exact moment she understood what they were saying. Her entire body jolted, and I remembered what Zeus had asked me before.
What do you know of sacrifice?
My eyes widened as I looked up at him. No. No fucking way. He could not mean what I thought he did. He could not be suggesting that I sacrifice Josie and our unborn child. Raw energy coursed through me.
“The sacrifice would fall on you,” Zeus said, “as you are the other absolute being in the position to make the choice.”
I latched on to the last part of what he said. “You said a choice. What choice is there? Because what you’re suggesting is not going to happen.”
“You must sacrifice what you cherish most.” It was Apollo who answered. “Or you must sacrifice yourself.”
The damn floor shifted under my feet. What kind of fucking choice was that?
“No.” Josie whipped toward me and grasped my arm. “Let’s go, Seth. We’ll find another way.”
“There is no other way,” Hera spoke up. “Not to defeat the Titans, and he knows that. Once the shock fades, you will know that too.”
“Yes.” Josie whirled on Hera. “Last I checked, the Titans gave us a hell of a better option.”
Zeus raised a brow, but I spoke before he could. “Josie, babe—”
“No!” she repeated, her blue eyes glimmering. “This is stupid! We can find another way. We have to. Come on.” She pulled on my arm. “Let’s go.”
Go where? Back to the Covenant where we would wait until the deadline came to pass?
The demigods couldn’t face the Titans. Even with their abilities unlocked, it was a long shot. The Titans would destroy Chicago and they’d keep going. It would get to the point where I would have to kill Cronus, and his death would bring catastrophes we’d never seen before.
There was another option.
Yeah, I could kill Zeus. Take his head to Cronus, but I… Fuck, that wasn’t me anymore. I didn’t want to be that man. Not for Josie. Not for our child.
I wanted to be a better man.
I wanted to be better than them.
My gaze lifted to Zeus. “You were given the same choice?”
“I was,” he answered after a moment. “And it was a choice I regret to this day.”
“Like I said, be careful of how quickly fate turns on you.” Hades smirked as he crossed one leg over the other. “But you’ve found yourself in this position before, have you not? It was either you or Alex, and you did not have the fortitude to make the sacrifice that she had to.”
Those words were so damn true.
Alex had gone to fight Ares knowing she would die, and she’d done it. She hadn’t known that Apollo had given her ambrosia. She had made that choice.
One I couldn’t make back then.
Josie was talking again, and I looked at her, really looked at her. Gods, she was beautiful and kind, and so damn loyal. So much so that I’d never realized how lucky I was to have her.
Suddenly there wasn’t enough air in the Pantheon, or in my lungs. I couldn’t breathe as Zeus watched me intently. Out of all the possible scenarios, I’d never dreamed of this.
Everything had been leading up to this.
I knew in my bones that was the case. From the moment Ares made sure I was born, to this very second, it was leading to this moment. Maybe this was why it had been Alex before. What if this was why I became a god? And maybe…just maybe this was how I would truly redeem myself.
Sacrifice the one I loved to save the world, or sacrifice myself to save her so that she could raise our child in a better world.
There wasn’t even a choice.
Apollo had asked me what I would do to protect Josie and our child, and I had said I would do anything.
And I meant that.
“Why this?” I asked, voice hoarse.
“Because love is selfless, and an act of love is the ultimate sacrifice,” answered Zeus.
“Then what happens?” I asked, dragging my gaze from Josie’s wide eyes. “What happens if I sacrifice myself?”
“You make that choice, and you will bear the same fate as her,” Zeus said, referencing the woman he had once loved. “You will be erased from history and your name will not be spoken among the gods, but if you choose this, then the Hekatoncheires will rise and we will fight beside them once more, entombing the Titans.”
“Okay,” I said, lifting my chin. “I will do it.”
“What?” Josie cried out. “What did you just say?”
I couldn’t look at Josie. Not right now. Apollo closed his eyes while Hera tipped forward once more.
“Are you sure?” Hera demanded. “If you speak the words once more, it will set in motion a chain of events you cannot stop. Your death is the end. Gods do not go to Tartarus. Our end is the final end. When we die, we cease to exist.”