Sin leaned against the bar, studying the map in silence while Kat and Damien made notes on a pad across from him. There had to be some way to settle this without everyone dying.

But damned if he could think of it.

No matter how he looked at the situation, it was going to be a bloodbath. He could feel it. Every scenario, every plan he devised ended up with them being eaten.

There had to be something he was missing...

Sin cocked his head as a new thought entered his mind. Scowling at the map, he moved closer to it as he realized what he'd over looked.

"Where's the lock?"

Kat glanced up from her pad. "What lock?"

"The one I have to reset to keep the Dimme in their cage. Zakar was the one who reset it last time. It should be somewhere near them on a chain, but I don't see it."

She got up to study the diagram with him. "What would it look like?"


She gave him an unamused stare. "I don't see it."

"That is a really bad thing," he said. "If there's no lock, there's no stopping them."

Her eyes widened.

The hair on the back of Sin's neck stood up as he felt a new presence behind him. He spun around, ready to battle, only to find the Dream-Hunter Xypher there, looking a lot worse for wear. "What happened to you?"

Xypher snorted. "Was mistaken for a punching bag again." He wiped the blood from his lips as he joined them by the diagram. "Your brother just resigned himself to death to get me out of danger."

Sin's stomach sank. "What?"

He nodded. "We have to get him out of there immediately. Kessar is planning on using him as a sacrifice to the Dimme-if Kessar doesn't kill him over the fact he freed me."

As bad as Sin felt about that, a tiny part of himself was relieved to know that his brother wasn't completely converted. He was still trying to do the right thing.

"Zakar also wanted me to tell you that the Rod is in the house. I really hope that makes sense to you because I have no idea what he means by it."

Sin frowned as he shook his head. He had no idea either.

At least not at first. "Wait a sec... The Rod." He spun around and headed for his bedroom. He could feel Kat behind him, but he ignored her as he went into his closet and opened the safe.

He pulled several old scrolls out of their clay containers, then headed to his bed to spread them out.

Kat grimaced. "What are you doing?"

"Can you read Sumerian?"

"It's been awhile, but I used to."

He handed her a scroll. "We're looking for anything to do with the Rod of Time."

She snorted. "Rod of Time, Forsaken Moon, Tablet of Destiny... you Sumerians really liked your hokey terms, huh?"

He gave her a droll stare. "They didn't exactly ask my opinion before they named them."

"Good, cause my estimation of your intellect would be seriously scarred if they had." She leaned playfully into him and nudged him sideways.

Hiding his amusement, he jerked his chin toward his desk. "Get your butt over there and start reading before I beat you with my Rod of Time."

She tossed him a playful look. "I can think of much better things to do with your rod than beat me, baby."

Sin made a painful noise. "Aww, gawd, we've degenerated into really bad punage. I yield. Save me before my IQ points are damaged."

"Fine, you fun-vampire. I'll take my scroll over here and play by myself."

"Fun-vampire? What is that?"

"That would be you sucking all the fun out of life."

Sin shook his head. "You have the most interesting terms for things."

"Yes, but notice mine are creative unlike the so stellarly named Rod of Time."

Ignoring her, he spread the first scroll out and started reading.

Xypher came in and joined the search. Time seemed to drag as they read line after line with no clues. Sin had forgotten just how long-winded and boring his people could be.

Damn, imagine what a good editor could have done with the story of Gilgamesh...

He was about ready to give up when Xypher stepped back from his side of the bed. "Found it." He held up the scroll to show them an image of the Rod. It looked like a dagger with a crooked blade.

Sin took the scroll and studied it. He only vaguely remembered seeing this centuries before. "Now the question is, what house did he put it in?"

Xypher shrugged. "He said you would know."

And in that instant he did. It was genius really and it was the only place Zakar could have meant. "Ishtar's tomb."

Kat's face paled. "What?"

Sin set the scroll aside, feeling ill at the thought of having to go there again. "It's the only safe place. No gallu would think to go there and it's hidden-not even the nosiest of archeologists would be able to find it. Zakar must have stashed the Rod there after he locked the Dimme down last time. It's the only place that makes sense." He took a step back, intending to leave.

"Wait," Kat said, taking his hand. "I'm going with you."

He shook his head. "Kat..."

The stern, determined look she gave him both touched and warmed him. "You don't need to be alone there."

He would have argued had she not been completely right. It was the last place he wanted to be without her and he knew it. "Thank you." He laced his fingers with hers.

She inclined her head to him before he flashed them out into the remotest area of the Sahara, into a hidden cave that was concealed by ever-changing sands and guarded by a spell that would never allow mortal eyes to see what it contained.

It was here that Sin had laid his daughter to rest and here Ishtar slept in a peaceful repose he had never been able to find for himself. At least not until Kat had come crashing into his life.

Kat hesitated as they appeared in a deep, dark cavern. She could hear the sounds of rodents and insects scurrying out of their way. Cringing in dread, she hoped they didn't come any closer to her.

Sin held his hand above his head and a torch appeared to light their way. Kat was instantly relieved as she looked about and didn't see any icky things running toward them or even away from them-she hated bugs and rodents.

But as she looked around, she was struck by the beauty of this place. The walls surrounding them were covered with inlaid art of children playing in fountains and of deer running through a forest. An eternal fountain made of solid gold splashed in one corner. It had a bird and raven perched on one side and a small girl on the other who was looking into the pool to catch her own reflection.

"How beautiful."

Sin swallowed and she could feel the awful wave of grief inside him. "Ishtar used to love to play in fountains and with animals when she was a child." He paused by one scene of a little girl who had a butterfly sitting on her shoulder while she fed a fawn out of one hand and a jackal out of the other. He splayed his hand over the image and she saw the tears in his eyes. "I found her like that one day when she was four. She looked up at me with her deep blue eyes and said, 'Don't worry, Daddy. I won't hurt them.' "

Kat wrapped her arms around him and held him close as his grief reached out and brought tears to her own eyes. "She wasn't really your daughter?"

"It didn't matter to me. She was always my daughter in my heart."

"I know."

He cleared his throat as he laid one arm over hers. "I was never sure who her real father was. Ningal wouldn't say and she had lovers by the handful. It could have been anyone."

But he'd never held that against Ishtar. He'd loved her regardless and that made Kat love him all the more.

"I don't know why Ningal hated me as much as she did. I tried so hard to make it work, but there was never any pleasing her. It was as if she just wanted to hurt me."

Kat tensed as a bad feeling went through her and she had to bite her lip to keep from speaking. Given what he'd just confided, she wondered if Ishtar wasn't his daughter after all. How cruel to lie to him and tell him his own daughter belonged to someone else...

Surely Ningal hadn't been that mean. But as she stood there, she felt the truth in her heart. It would be the deepest blow and it was one Kat was sure Ningal had taken.

Sin stepped away from her and headed down the narrow corridor to a chamber at the end of it. As soon as he entered, the torches lit themselves all around the room. The fire made dancing shadows that formed the images of children playing and deer running.

Kat gaped at the splendor. Every part of the room was covered in gold. Emeralds and diamonds were encrusted along the wall to make the grass where the children danced and there in the center was a sarcophagus in the shape of an ancient temple. It was exquisite.

On the top of it was carved the likeness of Ishtar whose eyes were two perfect sapphires. In her features, Kat saw the likeness to Sin. She'd been right about Ningal and it amazed her that anyone could be so cruel. How could Ningal have lashed out so viciously at the one person who should have meant the most to her? It defied logic.

Sin paused before the image to place his hand on Ishtar's face. The agony of his features tore through her. The thought of opening Ishtar's tomb was ripping him apart.

Kat wanted to spare him any more pain. "You want me to look for it?"

"No," he said, his voice thick. "She never liked strangers to touch her. She was actually very shy." His expression guarded, he closed his eyes and pushed at the lid. It shook slightly before it moved. The sound of scraping stone echoed through the cavern.

Kat moved forward and then gasped as she saw Ishtar. Because she was a goddess, her body hadn't decomposed. She was as perfect as the day she'd died. Her eyes closed, she appeared to be sleeping and a part of Kat kept waiting for her to wake up and look at them. She wondered if Sin was having the same thought.

Ishtar had been laid to rest in a crimson gown, the hem was encrusted with rubies that set off her dark complexion perfectly. Her hands, covered in gloves made of gold, were crossed over her breasts and beneath them she held the Rod of Time. In the shape of a raven, it, too, was gold and encrusted with gems.

Kat looked up at Sin. "She's beautiful."

"I know." He reached in to pull the Rod out from under Ishtar's hands. As soon as he touched her skin, a single tear slid from the corner of his eyes. "I miss her so much," he breathed. He glanced up. "I don't want to see you like this, Katra. Do you understand?"

She nodded as her emotions choked her. She didn't want to bury him either. "Ditto, bud. If anything happened to you, it would definitely ruin my best day."

Sin didn't speak again as he closed the sarcophagus and gripped the Rod tightly in his hand. "We have the key."

"Now we need the lock."

"And a miracle."

Kessar stood before the lock with Neti behind him. Tall and slender and dressed in dark brown, Neti had been one of their better conversions. The former chief gatekeeper to the Sumerian Underworld, he now worked for Kessar who kept him in deep seclusion.

"You are devious, master."

It was true. He was the master and he was devious. Kessar laughed as he stroked his chin. He'd embedded the lock that would hold back the Dimme inside Zakar's chest. The only way for Sin to save the world would be to kill his own twin.

He relished the image of Sin ripping Zakar's heart out to save mankind.

The only thing better would have been to have taken his woman and have her hold the lock in her chest. But that would have been suicide since her death could very well unleash a Charonte army to hunt for them.

No. This was much better. It would be like Sin killing himself, only worse.

Stepping forward, Kessar cocked his head as he looked down at Zakar who was weeping from the pain of his chest having been ripped open. The chain that led to the Dimme tomb flowed out of his back.

He smirked at the man's pain. "What is that quaint human expression I learned last night? Sometimes you're the dog and sometimes you're the hydrant?" He tsked at Zakar. "Guess you're the hydrant today, eh?"

Zakar's entire body was shaking as he bravely lifted his head to pin Kessar with a lethal glare. "Fuck you."

"No, thank you. I prefer women." He ducked as Zakar tried to spit on him. "And you gods think you're so superior. You cry and spit and beg for mercy, just like everyone else. You have no more dignity than the lowest beggar." He balled his fist in Zakar's hair and pulled it hard. "I can't wait to see you die."

Zakar panted as more pain assaulted him and that thought actually made Kessar hard.

Kessar stepped back. He needed to find a female for a few minutes. "Neti. Guard him well. I'll be back to play with him shortly."

Sin had just returned to his penthouse with Kat when the Rod started glowing. Two seconds later, something that felt like an earthquake shook the entire casino.

"What the...?" Damien asked as several pictures fell to the floor and shattered. "Is that more bomb testing?"

Sin shook his head as a bad feeling went through him. "No. It's something else." He looked at Kat to see if she felt what he did.

"I don't know what that is," she said her voice tone filled with apprehension. "But I don't like it."

Kish pushed himself up on the wall. "Maybe it was the quake they're always saying is going to hit Vegas."

"Maybe..." But the Rod was still glowing and now a low-level hum had started emanating from it. "Something's not right."

All of a sudden, a light shot from the Rod, illuminating the area in front of Sin. A tall, black-haired woman appeared in a dark brown ancient gown. He had no idea who she was...

"The seal has weakened," she said in Sumerian. "The Dimme will be freed in six marks. Whoever holds this tool, you must reseal their tomb..."

"Six marks?" Damien asked. "What the hell does that mean?"

"Two hours," Kat and Sin said simultaneously.

Kat looked at Sin. "I thought we had a couple of weeks?"

"So did I," he said gruffly. "Something else must have happened to accelerate the clock."

Damien made a face of exaggerated happiness. "That's just beautiful. Zippity-doo-da! What a wonderful day."

Kat sighed heavily. "So much for planning an attack, huh?"

Sin walked through the diagram as he went to retrieve his last sword that would easily kill the gallu. "We need to gather everyone we can."

Damien scoffed. "Uh, boss, hate to be a pall, but I think everyone we can gather is currently here in this room."

Sin paused to look at Simi, Xirena, Damien, Kat, Kish, and Xypher. It was a pitiful number of defenders. But it was all the world had. "In that case, we need to seriously arm ourselves."

Damien crossed himself. "Hail Mary, full of grace-"

"What are you doing?" Kish asked. "You're not Catholic."

"Yeah but I'm feeling really religious all of a sudden and it seemed like a good idea."

Sin rolled his eyes. He looked at Simi and Xirena. "You two are our tanks." He glanced around to the others. "We'll have to guard them so that they don't get overwhelmed and brought down. If we lose them, we have no one who can help us."

Kat frowned. "Wait. I have an idea... You go ahead and arm everyone. I'll be right back."

Sin opened his mouth to argue, but before he could speak, she was gone.

Kat flashed herself to Olympus, onto her mother's balcony. Luckily, Acheron was still sitting on the terrace, looking incredibly bored.

He gave her a chilling look. "Are the Dimme out yet?"

She gaped at the unexpected question. "How did-"

"I felt the vibration. It's a sensation I've felt before the last time they almost went free. And to answer the question in your mind, you'll have to ask Artemis. I can't leave here until she dismisses me."

That sucked. "You've got to be kidding."

"Oh I never kid about Artemis. I promised her I'd sit here and do nothing so here I am doing nothing. Much like a really tall, bored guard dog. Personally, I'd rather be throwing myself onto an electric fence-be about the same, I think."

Kat growled low. "Where is she?"

"Still with her father."

She leaned her head back and cursed at the ceiling. She hated having to go up there. "All right. Sit tight and I'll go talk to her."

He laughed. "Good luck."

Kat quickly flashed herself outside the main hall of Zeus's temple where the gods gathered to party. She stayed in the shadows as she got the lay of the situation. Apollo was off to the right with Ares and Demeter while Athena sat with Aphrodite and Nike. Hades was in a corner with Persephone while Zeus laughed with Hermes.

Luckily, Artemis was alone, drinking from a two-handled goblet. Music filled the air as other gods frolicked, danced, and laughed.

Moving as carefully and silently as she could, Kat worked her way over to her mother who jumped in surprise as she realized Kat was there.

"What are you doing here?" Artemis snapped.

"I need to talk to you."

Artemis glanced about nervously. "This is a bad time."

She had no idea. "I can't stress the importance of speaking to you. Now."



Artemis glowered at her before she pushed herself up from the table and walked her outside to the gardens. "What?"

"I need you to release Acheron."

She laughed, then sobered. "No," she said firmly.

"Matisera, please. The Dimme are about to break free and if I can get him out, he can help corral more Charontes and-"

"Are you insane?" she hissed. "Have you ever seen what happens when the Charonte are set loose? No, you haven't because you're still alive. They're like unleashing locusts with piranha teeth and there's no stopping them."

"But Acheron could control them."

"And he could get killed which is one thing I will never allow."

"What about me?"

"You'll be fine."

Kat was completely appalled, but she was also determined. "I need his help."

Artemis waved her hand. "Leave the humans alone and don't worry about them. We can always make more." And with that, she turned and left.

Kat stood there with her mouth hanging open. She couldn't believe that was all her mother had to say. We can always make more.

Why was she even surprised? What, honestly, had she expected? It wasn't like her mother was going to suddenly wake up and be Mother Teresa.

Disgusted, Kat flashed herself back to Sin's penthouse. He gave her an expectant look.

She held her hand up to stop him from speaking. "Don't even ask."

"Typical Artemis response?"

"I said don't ask." Her heart heavy, she walked over to the weapons he'd laid out on his bed and picked up a small crossbow which at the moment, she'd have liked to shoot into her mother's evil heart.

She'd no more lifted it, than a bright flash illuminated the room. She turned, ready to fire at the source of it.

Until she saw Deimos... and fifteen other members of the Dolophoni.

She couldn't have been more stunned to find her grandmother there.

Sin stepped back, his face suspicious. "What is this?"

"Back up," Deimos said sincerely. He pinned Kat with that dark, deadly stare of his. "I heard what you said to Artemis... and her response. We're not all so cold."

One of the females smiled. "Besides, fighting is what we do best."

Sin considered it for a second before he held his hand out to Deimos. "Welcome to the battle."

Deimos inclined his head before he shook Sin's hand. "For the record, this doesn't mean I like you."


As Sin started for Kat's map to show them the layout of the cavern, D'Alerian, M'Adoc and M'Ordant appeared.

Kat was even more stunned than she'd been with Deimos.

"You have room for three more?" M'Adoc asked Sin.

"Sure," Sin said. "We can always use more fuel for the pyre."

Kish snorted. "For the record, I don't burn well."

Xirena ruffled his hair. "Trust me, human, all of you burn well."

"That's right," Simi added. "The Simi can ignite most folks and fry them up extra crispy."

Kish sighed. "Lovely."

Ignoring their exchange, Sin ran over the plans with everyone. "The good news is, they haven't had time to round up as many humans to sacrifice. I'm hoping that whatever they did to speed up the clock, they didn't know about."

Damien grimaced. "What if they did it on purpose?"

"Let's be positive, shall we?" Kat said in the voice of a kindergarten teacher, "Let's pretend that we're all going to survive this."

Kish grinned. "I'm with Kat. I like her plan. A lot."

After glaring at him. Sin clapped his hands to get everyone's attention. "All right, kids. We're going to a party where they don't like us very much. Everyone know what they're doing?"

"Not a clue," Kish chimed in happily. "But I think certain death and dismemberment is in my forecast, followed by light rain of guts and flayed skin."

"So much for being Mr. Positive, huh?" Damien laughed.

"Let's see how you're laughing when they toss your butt out in daylight."

"I think I can handle it." Damien stepped forward, but Sin stopped him.

"You need to sit this one out."

Damien glared at him. "Bullshit."

"No," Sin said, his tone determined. "Kish is right. It's daylight and I'm not willing to take that chance."

Still, Damien wasn't sold. "We'll be underground."

"And we'll be blasting holes in the walls. If someone hits the right place, daylight and dead Damien."

A tic started in Damien's jaw, but he ultimately conceded. "Fine. But remember when they kick your butt, I tried to save it."

Sin clapped him on the back before he surveyed each member of their team. "I wish I could think of something inspirational to say to all of you. Some great speech to send you off to battle with, but as I look around-"

"All I see is people going to die," Kish wailed.

Kat laughed. "Pretty much. But if we have to check out, let's take as many of them as we can." She moved to Sin's side and took his hand in hers. "You're not alone, babe."

He squeezed her hand. "Thank all of you for being here. Mankind may not know about you, but I know they're grateful. Now let's go kick demon ass."

Prev Next
Romance | Vampires | Fantasy | Billionaire | Werewolves | Zombies