Small Worlds part 228

Anansi tore his eyes away from the sight of the blood gushing into the ocean back to his task at hand. You certainly have a way of making the dramatic entrances, Athena, he thought wryly. Holding out his hands, Anansi began to weave illusions.

Nereid’s sprung into existence among the real ones that were serving Poseidon. The momentary respite the Scylla’s death had forced onto the battlefield was fading, and he was forced to rely on the actual battle to provide him distractions to insert his false soldiers.

They were works of art. It was easier to create illusions in water, where gravity wasn’t a factor in the same way it was on land. Each one was a completely unique nereid, skin in blues and greens and with teeth like piranha. They could have fooled anyone who wasn’t a god utilizing divine sight, or a death spirit.

Anansi just wished he knew why he was bothering. Athena claimed to have a plan, but everyone on the Olympians side could see through illusions without problem, and Anansi could not imagine a benefit to making their enemies, who were already winning, believe they were winning more than they already were.

The Arae and Eyrnies began to clump together under Persephone’s silent commands, gathering into units of ten to twenty, forming strong points to meet the Nereid’s charges. Anansi watched as one group of Nereid’s pointed to a cluster of death spirits and spurred his hippocampus forward. A dozen nereids followed the one leading the charge. Harpoons streaked through the water as they hooted and hollered. The lead Eyrines caught a harpoon in her hands and tossed it aside, but a second one caught her in the thigh. Bubbles rose from her scream. A third passed right through her, leaving no mark.

At that moment, Anansi saw Athena’s plan. There weren’t thirteen Nereids attacking a cluster of ten Eyrnies. There were five Nereids attacking, and they had no idea they were horribly outnumbered.

But death spirits could see through illusions.

The moment they were in melee, the Eyrnies descended upon the real Nereids, blades flashing in the water. Nereid blood, a deep green color, spilled out of a dozen injuries. Anansi commanded his illusions to flee the battle, calling for aid. More Nereids responded, another troop of thirteen. They were hesitant to engage with the suddenly successful Eyrnies, floating outside of range, firing harpoons into the cluster of spirits. Anansi made sure his illusions missed to avoid giving away the game before it was too early. One of his illusionary nereid’s turned to the commander. “We nearly double their numbers. We can crush them!”

Emboldened by the goading, the commander nodded and signaled a charge.

Seven real nereids charged, backed by several illusions. They managed to slay one of the Eyrnies, but it wasn’t enough to turn the tide of battle.

Confusion began to spread through Poseidon’s ranks as the scene began to play out across the Adriatic. “They’re illusions, you fools!” someone bellowed.

Anansi fixed his gaze on the speaker. He’d never met the well-muscled man before, but that long, dark hair and elfin ears, combined with the ease he had when moving through the sea, meant it could only be Triton.

“Your numbers are being inflated!” Triton said, trying to clarify. But how do you explain to your troops they can’t trust their own compatriots without causing a rout? Anansi was glad it wasn’t up to him to answer the question, because he had as little thoughts on the matter as Triton seemed to have.

Arrows streaked out of the sea, punching through Triton’s back. His next words to his troops were cut off by the sudden hole in his lung. Triton whirled to face his attacker – exposing his back to the Olympians.

Apollo was there in a flash. He was the only archer who could match Artemis for speed, and his arrows flew with preternatural accuracy. “Well met, trickster,” Apollo said in a conversational tone as one of his arrows punctured Triton’s thigh. The rest were bounced off a barrier of water Triton raised around himself. “Where’d you get that idea? I was about ready to shoot you for conspiring with our foes.”

“Athena sends her regards,” Anansi said by way of answer, scanning for the next batch of illusions that needed his direct control. It seemed Triton’s words had backfired. The nereids were acting like illusions were reinforcing the Olympians, not themselves. Anansi had a few of his illusions repeat that lie, spreading further confusion in their ranks.

Apollo laughed, a beautiful and warm sound. “Well, imagine my surprise to be glad she returned. Tell her I owe her a glass of Ambrosia after this is done.”

“You can tell her yourself,” Anansi said, spotting Athena and Arachne approaching. The blood of the Scylla formed a crimson backdrop for their approach, and nereids gave them a wide berth. This is too easy, Anansi thought, feeling an itch of dissatisfaction. Something was wrong. Poseidon should be responding, countering them. There was something they were missing, some-

Anansi felt it. A tug in the water, pulling on Anansi’s feet. He turned his gaze towards the source.

The other sea gods – Poseidon, tall and proud, his white beard whipping in the current; Thalassa, her hair streaming behind her as if caught in an invisible wind; Ceto, younger than Thalassa and no less beautiful, with a hungry look to her eyes that reminded Anansi uncomfortably of Moloch; her twin sister Eurybra who looked more sane but no less furious; and Nerites, who had adopted a green skinned form that fit in perfectly with the Nereids he had been commanding – stood in the middle of a rapidly growing whirlpool. They were all channeling divine energy into it, heaping power into the construct. Silt was pulled up from the ocean form to turn the whirlpool into a cloud, a full aquatic tornado.

Then Ceto cried out. A surge of divine power flew from her and into the whirlpool, and although Anansi could not see the twist to understand what she had done at first, it was apparent when the whirlpool stretched and began to advance on the Olympian forces.

They’d created a water elemental, one built with the power of five sea gods, and Ceto had infused it with divine hatred.

Anansi glanced back to Athena and saw in her widened eyes and clenched fist that she had no plan to defeat this monster.

The elemental charged, howling with unnatural fury.

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