Spoiler Alert - Olivia Dade


BETWEEN TAKES, MARCUS DID HIS BEST NOT TO ACKNOWLEDGE the obvious: this was a stupid-ass way to die.

Still, at the director’s call of action, he let out a guttural howl and rode amid the chaos of warfare once more, adrenaline metallic on his tongue as he galloped through choking smoke-machine clouds. Bellowing stunt performers on horseback whizzed past while his own horse jolted rhythmically between his thighs. Mud—or some foul combination of mud and horseshit, from the smell of it—splattered against his cheek. The special rig raced ahead of him, the camera on the SUV’s rushing arm capturing all his determination and desperation.

He didn’t love this season’s script, true. But he loved this. The physicality of it all. The way their show’s big budget bought those enormous smoke machines, wired the spider camera tracking overhead, hired those stunt actors, and paid for his training on horseback. That money reserved acres and acres of Spanish coastline for the sole purpose of the series’s final, climactic battle, and it allowed them to rehearse and film for weeks and weeks and endless, miserable weeks to get just the right shots.

And it was miserable. Often. But because their behind-the-scenes crew of almost a thousand consummate professionals had set the scene so thoroughly, so convincingly, he didn’t have to pretend quite so hard, didn’t have to fight to lose himself in the moment. The hazy, chaotic landscape around him helped him drop into character, even as the literal and metaphorical choreography of a successful show and this particular scene came to his hand like a well-trained hound.

There was no cut when Dido—Carah, his talented colleague of more than seven years now, ever since pre-production for the series began—appeared through the fog at exactly the place they’d rehearsed, sword aimed directly at him. The showrunners had specified long, continuous takes whenever possible for this battle sequence.

“I have come for my revenge, Aeneas the Betrayer!” Dido shouted, her voice raw and cracked with rage. Real-life exhaustion too, he imagined.

At a safe distance, he brought the horse to a standstill and swung down. Strode up to her, knocked aside her sword in one swift motion, and gripped her shoulders.

“I have come for you, my beloved.” He cupped her face with one dirty hand. “As soon as I heard you lived once more. Not even the return of the dead from Tartarus could stop me. I care nothing for anyone or anything else. Let the world burn. I want you, you alone, and I would defy the gods to have you.”

If those lines in the script contradicted seasons’ worth of character development, not to mention the books that had inspired the series, he wouldn’t dwell on that. Not now.

For a moment, Carah softened against his touch. Leaned into his palm.

By this point in the long filming day, she stank. So did he. So did everyone else. So did the entire horseshit-strewn field. Mud had burrowed into places he didn’t care to consider. Portraying misery and perseverance against all odds wasn’t much of a stretch.

Dido shoved him away.

“You are a demigod,” she reminded him with a sneer. “Married to another, and an adulterer besides. You lay with my sister, and she fell on her sword in disgrace at such a betrayal upon word of my return from Hades. I can only hope she too rises today and takes her own revenge.”

Shame, so easy for him to muster, bowed his head. “I thought you lost forever. Lavinia may be my wife in name, but she has no hold on my heart. And Anna—” His brow furrowed, a plea for understanding despite his seeming betrayals. “She was a tarnished mirror of you. Nothing more.”

The thought appeared unbidden. Unapologetic Lavinia Stan is going to fucking detonate when she sees this scene.

“You’ve betrayed mortals, and now you betray the gods as well. Pius Aeneas indeed.” With a swift, crouching swipe, Dido reclaimed her sword. “I’ll have my own revenge first. All others will have to settle for your torment in the afterlife.”

Her grip was sure and steady on the weapon, and she brandished it easily. Despite a heavy bronze handle, the sword’s blade was blunt, lightweight aluminum for the safety of everyone involved, exactly like his. Still, the impact of metal against metal rang out as they began the dance they’d been learning for weeks now.

His movements flowed without much thought, the product of endless planning and repetition. The fight coordinator and choreographer had carefully planned each motion to emphasize the one-sidedness of the battle: