Inés patrolled the area, feeling restless. Two days had passed since the exploratory attack. Two days without hearing anything from Echidna’s children. Two days waiting for a follow up strike or to be attacked themselves. Two days of Jenna trying to keep everyone calm and focused, but they were all on edge. No matter how much they tried to keep their spirits up and continue their training as normal, it couldn’t be helped. Especially with Gail’s prediction hanging over their heads.
The sound of footprints behind her caused Inés to hurriedly turn but there was no sign of anyone. Had she imagined it? She took a quick look around, just to be sure. Unfortunately, the ground in Olympus didn’t have dirt nor any other way to discern when someone had been walking over it recently. All she could do was verify that no one was in sight or hiding nearby.
That night, Inés returned from her watch without anything to show for it. Serena woke up briefly and the two curled up together. Serena had an arm over Inés’ chest and her head resting on her shoulder while Inés had an arm around Serena. Inés was just beginning to fall asleep when she heard something. She moved her head to look, not wanting to wake Serena yet.
“Hello, little sister,” Camila whispered. She’d crept very close. Inés felt her skin crawl.
“How did you get here?” Inés demanded, keeping her voice low.
“It wasn’t hard,” Camila answered. “I just took a little stroll since things have been such a bore of late and I wanted to see my baby sister.”
“You should head back to your own group,” Inés said, remembering what she’d heard of the frenzied queen.
“You don’t have to worry about me,” Camila stated. “I doubt they’ll even notice.” She crept close and leaned close to Inés. “You know, you really are a beautiful girl.”
Inés suppressed a shudder. “Well, thanks,” she said. “But I really don’t need compliments.”
“Hmmm,” Camila murmured. “Have I offended you in some way? You don’t seem excited to see me. I wonder, dear little sister, why that is?”
Inés hesitated. Wondering how fast Camila could move and whether or not she’d be able to shield Serena in time if things went bad. “I heard about why you got sent to Tartarus,” Inés answered.
Camila stepped back. “I see,” she whispered. “Well, I wouldn’t believe all of it, if I were you. They are, after all, only telling it from one side.”
“And what’s your side exactly?” Inés asked. “You brutally conquered and forced people into your harem, including your own mum, for, what, world peace?”
“Mocking doesn’t suit you, Sister Dearest,” Camila said. “The truth is, though, that your mocking isn’t far from the fact. The mortals need guidance, Inés. They need strong leaders to unite them. And I, I am strong. Possibly even stronger than any of the other half-bloods. Not only that, but we’re functionally immortal, unless we’re over-powered or choose to end ourselves. It was my plan to build and preside over a great empire where I could guide the mortals in the right direction.” Camila twirled around the room. “Think of it, sister, an eternal empire spanning the entire continent. No war. Malcontents quickly put under control. That was what I wanted, but it was torn from my grasp and I was thrown into Tartarus.”
“That doesn’t explain the whole harem thing,” Inés muttered.
“Oh, don’t be naive,” Camila said. “Every monarch had a harem back then. It was a status symbol. And I treated all of my beauties very well. they had no cause to complain.”
Inés kept her mouth shut, biting back the impulse to call Camila a megalomaniac and a nutter.
“Hey, Sis,” Camila said “After this whole war is over I’ll be free. We should start our own empire. You and I. Instead of taking new lands through conquest we’ll bring them into our protection, crushing only those lands foolish enough to move against us. Surely, no one in Olympus could hold that against us.”
“Us?” Inés asked, incredulous.
Camila nodded. “Exactly! The age of harems is gone. These days what every powerful monarch needs is someone to rule by their side. I can be the primary queen and you, you can be my bride. We can look out for one another, protect one another and make love from nightfall until dawn.”
“I’m your sister!” Inés exclaimed. “And you want to…”
“Don’t be so melodramatic,” Camila said. “It’s not like we were raised together and we only share half our blood anyway. Besides, no matter what we do neither of us will get pregnant.” she winked. “Once this is all over, I’ll come and get you. Look forward to it.”
She hurried out of the sleeping chamber. After a short time, Inés heard Serena’s voice. It was low and concerned. “What are you going to do?”
“Definitely not go along with her,” Inés answered. “She’s clearly mad.”
“Will you fight her?” Serena asked.
“Probably,” Inés said. “She’s the same type as Scotius was. Confident in her power, believing that it gives her the right to trample all over anyone else. She absolutely can not be allowed to ascend to power.”
“Then I’ll help,” Serena said. “Not just because she’s a threat but because… even though I’m just an ordinary human… and inexperienced… I want to protect you.”