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Chapter Twenty-Eight

Mercury paced across the floorboard with anxious steps, muttering under his breath in an effort to keep his patience. He would never have guessed that Venus would have jumped off of the ledge. True, she was dead all the same, but he had failed to deliver the final blow. By killing herself she had managed to avoid the same fate as Sun, and that was enough to put him in a foul mood.

When he returned to the cottage Oliver was in a deep trance, his eyes having changed to a sea-green colour, while his fingers worked manically with his painting. He had been working throughout the night, without taking any time to sleep, and pursed his lips with concentration whenever he needed to think. He showed no awareness of being in the room, however, and Mercury didn’t want to sit and watch while he waited for Oliver to finish. He took a long walk and thought about Larunda, regretting his actions and yet knowing there had not really been another way, but when he returned the boy was still finishing the painting.

He was more composed than before and peered over Oliver’s shoulder without intending to alert him or evoke panic. He had no interest in bullying the boy, merely getting as much use out of him as possible. Oliver had worked relentlessly and was into the final stages of the piece – Saturn and Jupiter were clearly visible in the picture. It didn’t surprise Mercury that they were going to come up again, but his eyes widened as he looked closer. He recognised the landscape and surrounding areas in the painting – the mountain crop was especially familiar. Then he knew.

They were coming for him. It hadn’t happened yet, but they were bound to appear on his doorstep very shortly. There was no way he could outrun them in the astral realm, and he had no interest in trying to confront them directly. Even fighting one of them was challenging enough; with the two of them it was simply madness. Surely they couldn’t know that Venus was dead already, unless they had somehow sensed her disappearance, and there was no one else in the council who knew about his schemes. Or at least, he didn’t think so, but he had to remember not to underestimate the others. They weren’t always so easily fooled.

Everything had escalated so quickly that he hadn’t had much time to plan or think about his next move. Now he had no other choice but to physically enter the material realm and possess his pawn, Gemini, so that he could personally put a stop to Pisces and the other signs. He had the advantage of being able to travel through places that the other gods could not – even Jupiter – and so could escape their remit for as long as he remained in the material. It was hardly an ideal scenario, but he had been left with little choice. In the meantime, it would give him an opportunity to reconsider his options for the future.

After all, he did want to have a future, and was not likely to hand himself over voluntarily. He had no reason to apologise after what Jupiter had done to Larunda, but it was not just revenge that had motivated his actions. Pisces was a threat to the stability of the realm, and the lower men had never shown any true signs of evolution. The material was backward and Mercury wasn’t going to help people who couldn’t help themselves. He would have to join them for now, though, to keep away from Jupiter and his retribution.

His head was a swirl and swamped with thoughts until the sound of a paintbrush pattering against the ground snapped him back to his senses. Oliver looked up at him wide-eyed, his mouth open and his expression almost as vacant as Larunda’s had been, perhaps knowing that something was amiss. Mercury had forgotten about the boy until then but it soon dawned on him that he couldn’t just leave him here to be interrogated by his pursuers. He wouldn’t be loyal to him for long, either, having no real attachment to him in the first place, so he could prove to be a problem if they found him alive.

It saddened him, but Mercury knew that he was going to have to kill the boy. There was no other way around it and he wasn’t going to give him away to Jupiter gift-wrapped. The only option was to silence him forever, and make sure that his foresight could never be put to good use again. Mercury sighed, placing his hands on the boy’s shoulders, and tried to sound as reassuring as possible. He had truly come to like the boy, to an extent, and had found his manner almost pleasant. Still, business was business, and he wasn’t going to allow sentiment to get in the way of good sense.

“Oliver, you have done well,” Mercury said softly. He sensed the boy was nervous, though he didn’t think he had guessed what he had planned for him. “You have worked very hard – this last painting of yours is especially interesting. You know who it is that you’ve drawn, do you not?”

“I have drawn them before,” Oliver said evasively. He sounded frightened. He was only a boy, after all. “Whenever I look at them, I feel like I can’t bear to look at them in the eye for long, as if they might find me if I look too hard. I think they are very powerful.”

“You are wise to think so. They are the most dangerous of all, Oliver,” Mercury said. “Would you like to see again, child?”

Oliver stared at him and gave such a penetrating look that for a moment Mercury thought he might be able to see him after all. Then the boy dropped his head and sighed.

“I have always had different eyes to everyone else. Sometimes I wish I could see what they see, and not just their futures. Living in a world without colours is not right or just, but that’s my life all the same. I would do anything to see, truly I would.”

“Mayhap you will see for the first time, Oliver. There’s a karmic cycle for all of us, and you have done well,” Mercury said. His fingers rolled upwards and away from the boy’s shoulders and slowly slid along his neck. Oliver shivered, perhaps sensing the sudden change in his murderer’s eyes, but soon became limp as Mercury broke his neck with a quick twist of his hands. Mercury pulled in Oliver’s chakras and watched as he disappeared into the ether, his form becoming shapeless.

He wasted no time in preparing for his transition into the material. Jupiter had never once even suspected that the cottage existed in the past, but the consequences of rebelling against the realm had never been so high either, so Mercury wasn’t willing to stick around and find out the reasons.

First there was silence, followed by a myriad of images from his own past, which shone brightly in his mind while the world around him began to dissolve. Eventually he became aware of physical sensations and a sudden sensitivity to his environment, which was overwhelming in its intensity, with the colours in the room shining vibrantly. Blood thumped through his veins like a finely oiled engine. And in no time at all he was standing in a bright-lit room, leaning slightly against the wall, trying to adjust to the new world.

He hadn’t missed the throbbing in his ears, the beating of his heart, the senses that engulfed him and differed so greatly from the freedom of his spiritual form. Those who lived in the material weren’t even aware of the many subtleties in their bodies. For a time they merged with them as if they were naturally theirs, but for Mercury there was no chance of a seamless transition. Learning how to coordinate and move his arms and legs was especially difficult. He felt his mind was paralysed, with nothing except his thoughts to make up his reality, until finally he was able to take control and move his lumbering weight with an excess of will. When he looked in the mirror, he saw a blonde-haired, athletic young man looking right back at him.

Mercury resembled nothing of the boy until he smiled. There was a satisfaction in his expression that caught his ecstasy at having escaped from Jupiter and taking matters into his own hands. His eyes burned with animal intensity.

Change was coming. He had every intention of directing and using his own free will to transcend even the will of karma.

It was time to roll the dice once more.

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