Graham could feel that something was incredibly wrong, the feeling in the pit of his stomach that some part of his plan had failed, but he continued to march, unwilling to give into the feeling, the worry. Boulder City lay no more than a day or two before them, and his army had grown and now totaled nearly two thousand soldiers, with word that another thousand were not far away, toting another cannon, plus whatever his sister hadsent. They had long left the snow and ice filled fields behind, the white giving way to the blonde desert sands and the stoic green cacti.
Graham watched through the eyes of a scout as a small group of bicyclists rode nearby. Graham ordered his scouts to follow the cyclists as he was sure he recognized them. He shifted his attention back to the army before him, his chariot rolling on. He sent out the call to his soldiers and soon they had picked up the pace. He did not think he could beat Peter to Boulder City, but he definitely wanted to be hot on his heels.
Graham pushed his army, and lost four men because of it. A large hole in the road swallowed all four of them as they missed it in the dark. After the deaths were confirmed, he called for a halt and broke for camp. He contacted Nyx as the fires were lit throughout his camp. “Where are your soldiers?” He
“You should have them tomorrow.”
“See that I do.”
Graham sat before the fire that had been made for him, trying to place the the feeling of wrongness that had not left him since noon. He had forced the feeling to the back of his mind while they marched, but it had gnawed at him, and now that he was alone, still, it came back to the surface. He cycled through his scouts, the only thing of import being that Peter, Amy and his crew had finally broke for camp. The soldiers he was counting on were still making good time. He sent a call out and fifty men and women stood before him shortly. “Find Peter and his crew, see that they do not make it into Boulder City.” He dismissed them and watched as they shambled off into the darkness. Unfortunately the feeling in the pit of his stomach was not eased.
Against his better judgement, he shifted to the man he had left behind at the table in White Sands. The room was empty save for the steel table before him. The man that had been his sisters representative was gone, as was Ananke’s. The door stood partially ajar and he cautiously walked through it, down the empty corridor that led to the outside. The guard that had been at the bottom of the aluminum steps was no longer there. He peered around the corner and did not see a single body milling about the camp. Graham called for the soldiers that he had left behind, but did not feel their response. He waited for ten minutes before walking to the field that had been their camp. The tents were still there, but the fires were out, the embers cold. He lifted the flap on the first tent, hoping to find a body, but all he found was the soldiers weapons, a gun and an axe, resting where they had been set before the soldier had disappeared. Suddenly he knew what the feeling in the pit of his stomach was.
Trying to remain calm, he strode toward the prison, intent on confirming with Erebus that he was behind this treachery. The guard outside of the building was missing, but this did not surprise him. He walked down the lifeless, grey hall, the only illumination being the nearly full moon outside. The key still hung where he had last left it, and with a heavy hand he pulled it down, inserting it into the lock. The click as it turned echoed through the emptiness. He pulled open the door and stepped in, screaming in rage at the empty manacles.
“What treachery is this?” He shouted, the words bouncing around in the cold stone cell. He inspected the chains, still in one piece, the clasps still closed. The fires returned to his eyes as the muscles in his back bulged and he tore the chains from the wall and threw them across the room. He did the same with the chains that had held Erebus’ legs in place and then crossed to the chair he had sat in for so many nights before and picked it up to hurl across the room. As he did so, he heard something scrape across the metal and fall to the ground. Tossing aside the seat, Graham bent down and picked up the object, holding it up in to the moonlight. Before he saw it, he knew what the object, worn by years of passing from hand to hand, was. He turned the obol over and over in his own hand, staring at the nearly smooth piece of metal. He walked out of the cell, out of the building, uttering a string of ancient curses. He shifted back to his own body, bringing the coin with him, clutched in his hand. and found the nearest soldier, killing the woman with a shot from her own gun and standing by, waiting for his nephew to appear.
“Good to see you again uncle,” The Pennyman said as he went about his business.
“Do you think you are clever? Do you think killing off a handful of my soldiers will turn the tide of this war?” Graham said, furiously.
Smiling, the Pennyman finally looked directly at his uncle. “You know I am forbidden from taking lives.”
This did not calm him down at all, but Graham knew that the man spoke the truth. “I have no need for this,” he said, producing the obol and holding it out for the Pennyman to take.
“You will,” The Pennyman said as he rose and was gone three steps later, leaving Graham with the obol still resting in his outstretched hand.