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His voice reverberated through the walls of the palace, shaking the very foundation of Olympus. Any trace of paternal affection was gone. It was the command of a king.

Ava stopped short. She had no choice, not after eons of obedience, and Walter felt a pang of guilt at speaking to her in such a way after all he had put her through. It was necessary, though. The fate of the world depended on it.

“You will not tell,” he said. “Not until Kate gives birth.”

“What’s the difference between telling him now and telling him tomorrow?” said Ava shakily, but she held her ground. From anyone else, talking back would have only angered Walter, but he was simply glad to see she had some fight left.

“He will not stop until he has Kate back,” said Walter. “But when he does, he will return to the Underworld and protect her with all his might, and he will continue not to involve himself in our war.”

Her eyes widened. “Wait—you’re using the baby as bait?”

“I will do what I must to bring Henry into the war,” said Walter. “One life is not worth losing it all.”

Ava stared at him as if she didn’t recognize him. Though Walter rarely experienced fear, it coursed uncomfortably through him, like sludge in his veins instead of immortal blood. “It’s a baby,” she said. “You can’t just— It’s a child.”

“If Henry does not participate in the war, then millions of children will die,” said Walter. She had to understand; this was not a matter of obedience and pride. “I realize how difficult it is for you, my darling—”

“You do?” The venom in her voice made him fall short. He had never heard her speak to anyone that way before, least of all him, her father. Her protector. Her king. “It’s my fault Kate’s there in the first place. That baby might die because of me.”

“I will do everything I can to ensure that does not happen,” said Walter. “Once this is over—”

“You think this is ever going to be over?” hissed Ava. “When the council finds out we’re risking Henry’s child to get him involved, who are they going to blame, Daddy? Me or you?”

“I will inform the council of my role,” said Walter.

“The only role the council’s going to see is the one I played, and I’m going to fix it before that baby dies and I really do lose everyone I love.”

Walter drew himself up to his full height. He may have looked like an old man, but next to the Titans, he was the most powerful being in the world, and he never let anyone forget it. Even his daughter. “I forbid it.”

Ava laughed, but it was not the laugh of someone who found any joy in life; instead it was full of self-loathing and hopelessness. “Too late.”

Before Walter could say a word, a heart-wrenching scream full of agony ripped from deep within the earth and rang throughout Olympus.

“He knows,” said Ava, and without another word, she slipped through the door and closed it behind her.

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