Rallying for war
Geras was curled up with his bony fingers under his chin, his skeletal form barely able to fit on the small circle of land under him. His lips curled in hate as he remembered the island when it had been a verdant paradise. Birds sang in the canopies. The leaves of the trees had been thick with moisture and nutrients. Geras still despised the bounty of the island that had long since faded away.
While the world flaunted its health and flourishing strength, he had been born into this emaciated form. His vision was clouded by thick cataracts and his joints were too stiff to move his limbs. Geras appeared to be the most vulnerable of his kind, but all those who knew of the daimone feared his influence. Despite not having the ability to live the way others did, he had been given the power to absorb the life force of anything in his presence. To him his abilities were another curse of his existence. He was already forced to witness the exuberance of life, his power forced him to feel it too.
He preferred to do his work quickly, relishing the panic of his victims as they aged and decayed. But with the island Geras had taken his time. Since being abandoned, all he had was the island and his burning disgust for the living. He knew he had to make the pleasure last, relishing every morsel of destruction. He had silenced the raucous birds first, ebbing their population across the generations. Next, he made the tall trees bow and wither. Then he had focussed his attention to the very soil, stripping away its fertility and reducing it to ash. Before long, the islands shore had begun to erode away of its own accord. Now he was left with this small husk, the grey silt scratching against his thin skin.
His body had not moved an inch since he had been lowered to the ground and forgotten. It would be nothing for him to erode the last of his prison and sink beneath the waves. But his hatred kept him going. He hated the world that gave him this existence, he hated the body that kept him prisoner, but most of all he hated the deities who all took their life and vigour for granted. He would be free again and tear it all away. He would make them learn the errors of their existence. The thought of that day kept him in this limbo, resisting the urge to quash the last barrier between himself and oblivion.
He knew other daimones still remained in the overworld, not that any of them would offer any comfort. Only Apate, Dolos’ twin of deceit, had managed to salvage a meagre existence for those who didn’t want to be prisoners in the dark realms of the underworld. In Geras’ case, Apate had led the king to believe that without his presence the passage of time would be disrupted. Without age, there was no progress and no change. In order to avoid any unforeseen consequences, the king had chosen to move Geras somewhere he couldn’t tarnish the golden age.
Broken from his bitter reverie, Geras sensed the life force of two figures flying over the ocean towards him. Before they were even close, their grace and youth sickened him. With nowhere to land, the pair of Pseudologoi hovered either side of him as they approached. He exuded his pressure on the figure to his left. She grabbed her head in her hands and screamed as her skin began to peel. There was a loud splash as her wings shed their feathers and she fell into the waves. Within moments the once proud figure had been reduced to an ashen stain on the water’s surface. If these creatures thought he was a good target he would show them otherwise.
“Tell me why I shouldn’t do the same to you”
Geras rasped slowly. Each word took great effort for him to speak. The remaining woman bowed, impassive to the fate of her companion.
“Great Geras, daimone of age and decay, I have been sent by your brother, Dolos. My master requires your assistance.”
Geras laughed, a dry rasp that rattled his chest. He wasn’t surprised the brother that cowered to save his own skin would be begging for help. But if it meant release from the island he was willing to endure whatever offer Dolos had for him. At the very least he would get the satisfaction of refusing him in person.
“So be it. Take me from this infernal prison”
Without a word, the woman obliged his command. As she took his thin form into her arms the remains of the island crumbled away.
“I will have to tell him not to send two. I despise excess”
He said as she carried Geras towards the mainland.
“You chew too loud!”
Momus flitted around the four mortals, waving her arms in a desperate bid for attention. They remained oblivious to her as they contentedly ate their fruit.
“Hello!! Your nose is slightly skewed to the left! You snort when you laugh! No amount of sun is going make that complexion any better!”
Momus rubbed her temples in frustration.
“Oh, the tragedy! So much to say and no-one to listen. How is one to survive?”
Momus threw herself onto her knees, pressing the back of her hand to her forehead. She made sure to keep an eye on the mortals through her fingers.
“Really, nothing? Not even a passing glance? A pricked ear?”
Momus stared at the group for a few moments, hoping one of them would acknowledge her. She knew it was part of her punishment. When Apate had bargained for Momus and her twin, Oizys, to remain on the surface she had been elated. But it didn’t take long for Momus to realise the overworld had become a prison for beings like her. The king’s mercy had been a double-edged sword. True to her old title as the daimone of blame, she couldn’t be sustained just by dealing out her critiques. Her subjects had to accept them for Momus to draw power. Which left her starving in a world populated with prey unable to notice her.
Despite knowing her audience wouldn’t respond, Momus performed this routine every day. There had been a time where she wasn’t forgotten and she had to hold on to the faint hope that she would be remembered again. She had lost so much, she couldn’t let her power and purpose fade away too. Momus stood with a huff, her efforts done for the day.
“Good day philistines! I will go where my craft is appreciated”
She turned and swept the hem of her ankle length chiton with a flourish. The scratchy fabric on her skin put her teeth on edge. If anyone actually paid attention, Momus would have been mortified to be seen in such vulgar wool. Her tastes had always been more opulent. Momus fantasised about the smooth silks and valuable accessories that used to grace her wardrobe as she traversed the open grassland. When the titans banished her into this meagre existence not only did they take her freedom, they took away the means for her to be herself. Others had been born to represent who they were on the inside, Momus had not been granted such a boon.
Momus picked her way through the long grasses and emerged in the small clearing she and her twin called home. She adjusted her belt, that she wore just above her stomach in an effort to gather the material and accentuate the curves she wished nature had given her. Her sister, Oizys, was seated on the ground, whittling at something in her hands with a knife. She was so engrossed that Oizys didn’t notice Momus’ approach. Momus stopped to watch her twin, who squinted her eyes in concentration at the object in her lap. They shared many of the same traits, such as dark hair and azure eyes, but it was the feminine curve of her jaw and the smooth slope of her throat that always had Momus’ attention. Despite her envy, Momus had never let it cloud the love she had for her sister. She had faced judgement ever since she had started to live as herself, even from other daimones, but Oizys had always been there. Oizys wasn’t without her faults, they were obvious to Momus since it was her specialty to pick them out. Momus was familiar with her sister’s slight overbite and quick temper. Momus had also seen a boar walk with more grace but she cared about Oizys too much and left the words unsaid. It was a courtesy Momus never extended to anyone else.
Oizys scrabbled to hide what she working on behind her back as Momus joined her on the ground.
“Were you successful oh great wordsmith?”
Oizys said, imitating the exaggerated tone Momus used when addressing the mortals.
“What can I say? I’d have better luck talking to the trees.”
She said, conscious of Oizys leaning awkwardly to hide what she had in her hands.
“Is that what you’ve been up to all day?”
Momus asked, trying to peer around her sister. Oizys grinned.
“It might be if you play nice”
Momus fluttered her eyelashes innocently.
Oizys raised an eyebrow.
“You wonder why I’m not convinced?”
“Come on sister, what is it?”
“Well, I paid a visit to the tower today.”
Momus’ eyes lit up. The twins had chosen to spend their banishment in the eastern province in different ways. Where she spent her time with the mortals, Oizys had chosen a more perilous pass-time. Her sister had taken to sneaking into the residence of Hyperion, the ruler the eastern province. The titan was well known for his pride so it was no surprise that he had chosen to have a tall, bright tower built for his residence. Oizys took a small victory from invading the extravagant rooms and corridors. Oizys had said that the tower was adorned with so much gold and precious metals that the rooms shone, even at night. Momus always loved hearing the tales of her sisters’ trips away, a small taste of the life they used to have. When they lay down to sleep, Oizys would comfort Momus with stories of the ornately carved furniture, and fixtures studded with semi-precious stones. Some days if she was lucky, like today, Oizys would bring something back from her trips.
Momus asked eagerly.
“And it was a bust. With those new sentries I barely managed to get back without being seen.”
“Oh. There’s nothing to be done about it I guess.”
Momus lowered her head and tried to hide the disappointment in her tone. Oizys lifted her chin with her free hand.
“Don’t fret little sister, did I say I had come back empty handed?”
With a triumphant smile, Oizys pressed a small bowl into her hands. Momus gasped, she recognised the contents immediately.
“You haven’t managed to get good foundation in such a long time, how did you get it?”
She said, rubbing the powder between her fingertips.
“Turns out Theia’s personal make-up supply is home-made courtesy of the mortals. Go on, I know your dying to put it on.”
Momus eagerly pressed the powder onto her fingers and applied it to her face. When she tried smoothing it out, the excess foundation started to clump on her skin. Oizys tutted and batted Momus’ hands down, using her fingers to smooth out the excess powder.
Momus knew her twin made the trips for her. Oizys had started going to the tower not long after Momus’ facial hair had begun to grow out and her stores of make-up had been used up. When Oizys stole from the titans it was always a small amphora of rust powder or olive oil. In the wilderness the cosmetics didn’t last long but for a few hours, Momus could be herself.
“It turns out Theia’s secret is ground chalk. I should have investigated where they kept the mortals sooner. I didn’t expect anything interesting in there.”
“Next time try and find out how they make olive oil. With all this sun it would be a shame to waste the opportunity to lighten my hair a shade.”
“Don’t get too comfortable. I’m going to show you how to make your own supply. I have better things to do than add to your beauty regimen.”
“But it would be such a noble use of your time.”
Oizys tapped her sister’s cheek with the back of her hand, making Momus flinch. She smoothed out the last of the foundation and sat back to inspect her work.
“There, all done. Take a look.”
Oizys handed Momus a bowl of water. Momus set the bowl down and turned her face to the left and right as she inspected her reflection. Back when she had the resources for it, Momus had done everything she could to make sure her appearance matched who she was on the inside. The only feature that remained was her long hair. Oizys had cut hers short out of practicality, but Momus didn’t have the resolve to lose the last aspect of herself she had left.
Normally this small respite would be enough for her to forget. But as she traced the lines of her face with her fingers she knew today was different. Her fingers stopped in the short beard she hadn’t been able to shave. Momus’ knuckles turned white as she clutched onto her facial hair. She wanted to tear it away, to discard the identity nature had dealt her. Oizys took her twin’s hands and slowly prised them from her face.
“I’ll try and get a razor. I’m sure those spoilt titans won’t miss one.”
“I-its too dangerous. I’m sure I c-can find something. Something to…”
Momus started to sob at her reflection. Oizys hugged her twin close.
“I know it’s hard. But we can make it work. We’ll figure out more recipes and it won’t be long before you’re looking yourself again.”
“It only works for a short time. It’s always temporary. My body is always there reminding me of who I was.”
“I will always see you for who you are, sister. No matter what’s on the outside.”
“Ah ah ah. I’m hearing none of it. Women like us come in different shapes and sizes. No matter what that form is, so long as you feel it in here-“
Oizys placed a hand over her twin’s heart.
“-that makes you who you are. We may not be able to match everything but we will change what can be changed and you will feel like yourself. Okay?”
Momus nodded as Oizys wiped a tear from her cheek, smudging the chalk powder.
“Watch the foundation.”
Momus said, taking her twin’s hand. Oizys squeezed it in return.
“When this is over. You are going to come back as the most beautiful, powerful, and vengeful daimone the titans have ever seen.”
“Then we’re going to have to sort your little eyebrow problem. I can’t have you letting the side down”
Momus joked through the tears. Oizys pushed Momus lightly as the two of them laughed together.
“I do have another surprise that might help. I saw the mortals carving wood today and It gave me an idea.”
From behind her, Oizys pulled out a circular mask on a stick made out of wood bark. Momus smiled brightly as she took it. Despite the effort Oizys had put into it, the mask was the most awful creation Momus had ever seen. Momus traced where Oizys had tried to carve out a set of high cheekbones and full lips. The two oval slits for eyes didn’t match and the wood had a large split in one side. Momus had owned a mask when the daimones were at their height. She had used the mask so often it had become her symbol. That mask had been in the shape of woman’s face too, so others would see her for who she was. But this monstrosity would draw attention for all the wrong reasons.
“You never know, it might help get the mortals attention.”
“It is so unique I’m sure I will be successful”
Momus replied, swallowing the negative words down. Because of her purpose, when Momus saw a flaw it was hard for her too keep herself from saying it. But she didn’t want to be ungrateful for all the effort that had gone into it. Oizys sniggered.
“I know it’s terrible. You don’t have to use it, I just want you to know that we will have our time again.”
Momus held mask to her face.
“Nonsense. You made it, I’m going to use it. Thank you.”
“I really appreciate that. But I had to pick way too many splinters out of my fingers just making that thing.”
She admitted. The twins continued to talk as a pair of winged figures approached from the horizon.
“…….and what does that mean we should do?”
Themis said as she led the way through the forest. Nemesis despised the vitriolic tone the titaness always used. She chewed the inside of cheek before giving an answer.
“Incinerate the tree.”
Themis turned and rolled her grey eyes with derision. Nemesis knew the answers her ‘mentor’ was looking for but it wasn’t any fun if she didn’t get under Themis’ skin a little.
“What? One way to resolve an argument is to destroy the source. If the people fighting over the fruit can’t appreciate the tree in the first place then neither of them deserve it”
“Don’t be so ignorant. Again. How do we resolve conflict over a tree with limited fruit?”
“How is this even relevant? I thought your almighty Gaea was able to provide, or are you willing to admit she has limits like the rest of us?”
Themis set her jaw. Her mother was another nerve Nemesis liked to pluck. She’d had enough of Themis’ domineering ‘lessons’ on philosophy and justice for one day. Recently, Themis was absent most days so when she was there to teach, the instruction was more rigorous.
“Always remember the only reason you’re here is so you can have the benefit of my tutelage. If you are not willing to learn then I can arrange your passage to Tartarus.”
Nemesis swallowed her words and kept silent. She knew Themis meant it, the titaness of justice had always found the daimones repulsive. Themis had only taken on Nemesis for her own pride. If it wasn’t for Apate, she would be in the dark realms with her siblings. Nemesis didn’t know what had happened to Apate after she had managed to bargain for so many freedoms but she hoped her sister was safe. Before she could be banished to the depths of the underworld, Apate had told her that if she put herself at Themis’ mercy for ‘exclusive instruction’ she wouldn’t be able to help herself. For the sake of her survival, Nemesis had forfeited her pride and begged her rival for the chance to change her ways.
Before the fall of Ouranos Nemesis had been Themis’ equal. Her power had awarded her the title, Daimone of divine retribution. She could smell out the undeserved good fortune possessed by a person and relished teaching them the lessons of privilege and humility. Her methods had always been an area of contention for Themis and the titaness delighted in the opportunity to teach her otherwise.
“Fine. I guess you could distribute the fruit to each of them on alternate days. Perhaps seeds could be planted for a second tree to grow.”
Themis turned her back on Nemesis and continued walking.
“I knew you were capable of understanding my teachings.”
Themis said. As she continued her lectures, Nemesis seethed inwardly. The whole realm reeked of undeserved gains and she would savour the day she could bring titans down for their hubris. Her dark thoughts were interrupted when Themis snapped her fingers.
“You would do well to pay attention. Stop staring into space.”
Themis scolded as she walked out into the open grassland. Nemesis raised her hand to shield her eyes from the sun as they emerged from the cover of the trees. Themis’ mood had soured in the months since the queen’s disappearance. Nemesis didn’t care for titan affairs and hadn’t paid attention, until she heard rumours that Moros was loose in the overworld. At first, she had found the tale laughable. Nemesis doubted her brother would be able to break free of the underworld alone. But when Themis commissioned her sword from the forge, which was glittering in the sun at her hip, Nemesis knew there might be some truth to the gossip. Nemesis didn’t know what was worse, living with Themis’ lectures for the rest of her life or having to admit it was one of her brothers who had earned her freedom. Nemesis almost walked into Themis when she paused, a pair of hares running across her path.
Themis muttered. When she took the next step forward an arrow whistled past. Themis quickly fumbled for her sword and raised it in front of her. Nemesis couldn’t help a smirk, if Themis got the sword to defend herself she could have had the forsight to learn how to use it properly.
“Calm down Aunty. It’s only me”
Themis let out a small breath of relief as a young man stood from where he was crouching in the grass. Themis raised her chin, regaining her composure, and sheathed her sword.
“Lelantus. You should learn to be less reckless, like your father.”
“And stay cooped up all day? Not a chance.”
He said, moving a long bow across his thin shoulders. He walked past the women and picked up the hare, which now had an arrow embedded in its side. Themis looked him up and down as he finished off the small animal. Nemesis watched Themis’ gaze pause at the animal skins he wore. Themis had complained about how Coeus and Phoebe should keep a tighter reign on their children. Her idea of proper living did not involve living off the hunt and wearing animal skins like barbarians.
“It wouldn’t hurt to have a better sense of duty. You are the mortal custodian for the area. Astraea sets such a good example in the southern province.”
Nemesis fought the urge to roll her eyes. Themis was rarely direct, preferring to use subtle hints and jabs to get people to do what she deemed was ‘proper’. Nemesis had listened while she ranted about the younger generation and Lelantus had been no exception. Unlike his parents, Lelantus and his sister, Leto, had an affinity for nature. He was so notorious for his ability to blend in with the undergrowth his cousins nicknamed him ‘the unseen’.
“Good for Astraea. Mother and father seem happy with my work. Besides, the mortals aren’t renowned for being too lively.”
“I’m surprised. Your parents are such beings of the mind. I’m sure they would be proud for you to follow in their footsteps, like Asteria.”
“It’s always a delight when you visit Aunty. What brings you to the northern province exactly?”
Lelantus said, pointedly changing the subject, as he prised the arrow from the hare. He had a defiance and confidence that was uncharacteristic for a boy his age. With his lithe frame and a few whiskers on his top lip, he looked no older than sixteen.
“I was going to visit your mother. We have some business to discuss.”
“She’s with Periboia, she gave birth to our daughter last night.”
Nemesis could see Themis’ face tense into a judgemental smile. She had a dim view of titan-nymph relationships, preferring the ocean deities keep to their own kind. Such prejudice was comical to Nemesis, considering the nymphs were the daughters of Themis’ sister. Even years later, the titan establishment didn’t forgive the ocean deities refusing to involve themselves in the defeat of Ouranos.
“Congratulations are in order then. I do hope the… mother is doing well. Now the child is here you will want to make the proper preparations”
Themis hinted. Lelantus and his partner had been the source of scandal, not just for their origins and young age, particularly for their refusal to make their union legitimate. It was customary in the provinces to have Eros bless all unions to ensure the prosperity and longevity of a relationship.
“I don’t understand what you mean Aunty?”
Lelantus said, feigning ignorance. Themis let out a small huff of frustration.
“Well its bad enough your family legacy is carried in the progeny of nymphs but to deny the child the tradition she deserves will affect her place in world as she grows.”
“Mother loves her as equally as any of her other grandchildren. If you will excuse me they will be needing dinner.”
Lelantus lifted the bleeding hare to make his point.
“Come now, nephew. Don’t be petulant. As a father you have a responsibility.”
Lelantus ignored Themis and walked away. Within moments he had melted back into the undergrowth.
“Such a shame. I wouldn’t have any child of mine act so recklessly. Phoebe should count herself lucky Asteria had the proper sense to marry appropriately. At least Hecate is a grandchild she can be proud of. I mean a nymph for a daughter-in-law, she really shouldn’t let her family descend into such shambles.”
Nemesis found Themis’ prejudice unbearable, another privelege of the spoilt world the titans had created. She would usually just hum her assent and hope the rant came to a swift conclusion. But she had heard the rhetoric too many times to be able to restrain herself.
“You actually have to have children first to be concerned about their future spouses.”
The words were out of Nemesis’ mouth before she could stop them. Themis turned to face Nemesis, her gaze cold as ice.
For years Nemesis had bitten her tongue, but today was enough. In this moment she didn’t care about the consequences.
“The nymphs are your family just as much as the titans.”
“They shouldn’t be allowed to lead the dynasties astray. Order is the key to our survival. You would know that if you paid proper attention in your lessons.”
Nemesis gritted her teeth. She’d had her fill of Themis’ ‘lessons’ too. Nemesis had been forced to follow her across the provinces and had watched her campaign of hypocrisy.
“Is it a desire for order or jealousy? Just because you have taken your position too seriously to live your life don’t condemn those who…”
Nemesis stopped when the back of Themis’ hand connected with her jaw. Despite being a foot taller, Nemesis was caught off guard and stumbled back onto one knee. She felt the wet trickle of ichor down her face where one of Themis’ rings had caught the skin.
“How dare you. I knew the dark stain of your kind was incurable.”
Nemesis held her cheek and stood, towering over the titaness. Themis would regret striking her.
Nemesis broke her menacing stare into Themis’ eyes and looked over her shoulder. One of the Aletheia bowed behind her.
“What is it?”
Themis said, pushing past Nemesis.
“The high king requests your presence at the palace.”
Themis tensed, Nemesis could see her hand hovering over the hilt of her sword.
“Did he say why?”
“No your grace. Only that it was urgent.”
“Very well. I think I may have some recent business I need to discuss with him”
Themis said, looking at Nemesis. She scowled back and didn’t break her gaze until Themis had disappeared in a flash of light.
“Is there something else?”
Nemesis said. The Aletheia continued to linger, usually when their business was done they would return to their duties. As a daimone in a titan’s world Nemesis had grown accustomed to being ignored. It wasn’t long before she noticed something peculiar. The Aletheia’s wings continued to beat in a slow rhythm despite her being on the ground. Nemesis looked closer, there was something familiar about the woman’s presence.
“You sense the energy of my master.”
The Psuedologoi said. Nemesis grinned when she saw the black sheen snake its way across the sentry’s skin.
“So, the rumours are true. Did Moros send you?”
The Pseudologoi bowed again.
“Dolos requests your presence at the forge, mistress of retribution.”
“Was Apate with him?”
Nemesis wasn’t a dog to be called on Dolos’ command. She would have left him to rot if she wasn’t quickly running out of options. If his twin was present, there was someone she could trust.
“No. But she has been contacted.”
“Then lead the way.”
Astraea had always enjoyed the central gardens of the southern palace. The air was usually filled with the soft buzzing of insects, attracted by the colourful array of wildflowers that grew among the mountain rocks. But today the air was still. Dark clouds cast long shadows that extended around her grandparents’ thrones, seated in the shade of a large willow tree. The wide chairs had been hewn from the mountain rocks and carved with depictions of stars and waves, to reflect the power of the southern dynasties matriarch and patriarch. Astraea swallowed her nervousness down and held her head high as she walked towards her family, who were seated on stone benches surrounding the thrones. Most of them were chatting among themselves, she heard queries and gossip over what the topic of the meeting was going to be.
Astraea hadn’t considered the reason for the meeting, she already knew it must be a dire one. The duties of her family members varied according to the phases of the stars and weather, which meant they rarely shared the same time of day. Such a gathering would mean many of them neglecting their duties, which would only be acceptable under the most urgent of circumstances.
Eos waved her over from a front bench, her copper hairnet glinting with amber stones. Astraea tried to avoid Eosphoros’ gaze as she walked past her brothers, who were sat on benches behind their parents. The five members of the Astra Planeta were talking animatedly among themselves, the men jostling eachother boisterously. She resisted the urge to roll her eyes at the brothers, they were bad influences on eachother when left to their own devices. From the corner of her eye she could see Eurus glaring at her as she passed the bench directly behind her parents. He didn’t break his gaze as she joined her mother and father on the front bench. Astraea fought back a grin, losing out on the position of mortal custodian was still raw. Astraea kept her gaze on the thrones in front, relishing her position at the head bench that her role had earned her.
“And how is my hard-working little girl?”
“Mother. Do you have to call me that? This is an official meeting.”
Her father leaned out from beside Eos. Faded purple lines wound their way across his arms and face. His power was similar in nature to her mothers, becoming extant and changing his appearance only during a particular time. For him it was dusk rather than the morning.
“No matter how old you get we reserve the right to embarrass you.”
He grinned. Eos took Astraea’s hand with a wistful expression on her face.
“I remember when you were little. You were like my shadow. Astraios, dear, do you recall the time we found her trying on my make-up?......”
Astraea let herself go deaf to the memories. She was glad this was a family only function. If there had been dieties from other provinces present it would have compromised her authority. She shuddered at the thought of being embarrassed in front of the king himself. Astraea looked to the bench next on her left where her uncle Pallas and his wife, Styx, sat in eachothers arms. In the overcast light, Styx’s deep blue skin had darkened to black. Despite having four young children, their relationship had not lost the intimacy that usually faded with years. Astraois had admitted to her that all his brother had ever wanted was to make a family like he had seen their father build. Her mother didn’t share the same admiration for Pallas’ choice of bride, Styx was a nymph and didn’t even have her own river. As Astraea watched the two of them together, it was clear the couple had found a home in eachother. In the light of such a relationship, origins didn’t matter. Unlike her mother, it wasn’t her aunt-in-laws heritage she questioned but her uncles’ ambition. Astraea saw the appeal in a family but couldn’t understand how one’s expectations out of life could be so few.
“Drop it, Zephyr. Chloris chose you, try and be gracious about it.”
Notus said with a hushed tone. Astraea pricked her ears at the irritation in his voice
“Oh ho ho, no. Big brother thought he was such the ladies man. I’m enjoying the moment.”
Zephyrus replied, clapping Boreas on the back.
“It’s not surprising that compared to those cold boney things you call fingers Chloris preferred a warmer, gentler touch.”
He continued. Boreas sat on the end of the bench, his tall form towering over his younger brothers. His face was frozen into a calm expression. But his mouth was tensed into a thin line and his purple wings bristled.
“It takes intellect to hold a partner’s attention, brother. Have your fun while you can.”
Boreas bit back. His tone was level but the irritation burned in his eyes.
“That wasn’t what Chloris-”
“Will the lot of you be quiet. Can’t you be professional for one evening?”
Astraea interrupted, turning on the Anemoi.
“I’m surprised you know the definition of professionalism, sister”
Eurus piped up. He still had the hard look in his eyes, which was out of character for the calm, caring centre of the four brothers.
“Don’t be jealous Eurus. It isn’t very becoming.”
“Devious isn’t a good colour on you either Astraea.”
Astraea snorted in derision, Boreas was better at harsh words. She didn’t know what Eurus’ problem was. She merely asked father to remind Krios that Eurus had his other duties as the east wind to attend to. If he couldn’t balance his responsibilities she wasn’t to blame for being the better choice for mortal custodian.
“All of you, stop your squabbling...”
Eos snapped. The siblings immediately went quiet at their mother’s authority. Even the five brothers sat at the back stopped their pushing. Eos patted Astraea’s hand.
“…And no outbursts, dear. It’s unseemly.”
She continued in a hushed tone. The two of them turned back to face the thrones as her grandparents walked from the gallery and into the gardens. Everyone was sat to attention, for the heads of their dynasty. Eurybia quietly took her seat but Krios remained stood in front of his throne. He cleared his throat before addressing his family. An eager silence hung in the air, the only sound was the rustling of leaves that heralded another storm.
“I’m sure you are all wondering why I have gathered you all here so I will get to the point. Last night the High King declared war against the Daimones.”
Krios announced. Eos gasped and put a hand ot her mouth, Astraea felt her mothers grip tighten around her fingers.
“But why? I thought only Moros was free. Surely there can’t be war against a single rogue?”
Perses said from the rightmost bench. He sounded calm but Astraea could see how tightly he clutched his wife, Asteria, and child, Hecate, close.
“There was an attack on the forge. Iapetus’ sons barely escaped with their lives.”
“But how? The four of them together couldn’t be beaten by one Daimone.”
Pallas said, Styx’s fingers still interlocked with his own.
“Only the twins were in the forge at the time. Prometheus was in a state but from what we can glean from him, Dolos managed to find a way of turning the Aletheia against them.”
“How are our cousins?”
Pallas looked to his father with concern. Astraea heard her mother huff next to her. Iapetus’ family was an unorthodox one, a quality that earned them little respect. There were only a few, like her uncle Pallas, who were caring enough to show them any concern.
“I always knew Iapetus’ weakness would cost us.”
Eos muttered under her breath.
“Epimetheus is gravely wounded. He hasn’t woken since they took him to the main palace. Prometheus only had a few scratches but he has proven inconsolable.”
“But if the daimones can turn the Aletheia against us then we need to be rid of any sentries still posted in the province.”
Astraois stated. Krios shook his head.
“It was untainted Aletheia who sacrificed themselves so the twins could escape-”
“So, we’re supposed to wait until they betray us?”
Styx interrupted. Her question hung in the air, the titans unwilling to acknowledge the input of a nymph. Eurybia was the only one to address her.
“They won’t. Only those at the forge were turned.”
“But the sentries are in every forest across the provinces. My brothers and sisters could be in danger.”
“Measures will be taken to ensure the Nymphs and Potamoi are safe.”
“Like the twins at the forge?”
“We were unaware of the threat, now we can prepare.”
“Maybe it would be best for us to go back to our own families.”
Styx broke away from her husband and stood from the bench. Krios set his jaw at her proposal.
“I will not abandon the lands given to my care and I expect the same loyalty from my family.”
“I am loyal to my children. I can protect them better in the elements of my birth.”
Pallas looked between his father and wife with uncertainty.
“I’m sure it won’t come to that.”
Pallas said taking his wifes hands once more but she still refused to take her seat. Krios’ expression softened at the mention of his grandchildren.
“The forests are not as safe as they once were. It is best you remain here.”
“Whats that supposed to mean?
Styx said as Pallas slowly guided her back down onto the bench. Eurybia and Krios shared an uneasy look before Krios answered the question.
“The daimones that were allowed to live on the surface have been disappearing. The king believes that they are going to use the forge as a base.”
“But the forge is just on the border! We’re supposed to watch the snakes nest grow at our doorstep? We can’t let that fester so close. We need to go where it’s safe, if we leave now the forests won’t be so dangerous.”
Asteria exclaimed, Hecate shuffling closer into her embrace. Astraea could hear her brother’s murmuring their agreement behind her. Asteria shared her mother’s reputation for prophecy, which meant her opinion was always respected for its insight.
“Everyone, calm down. We are safer together.”
“This might present an opportunity. If the queen is being held hostage by the Daimones then they might take her there.”
Astraois said. Astraea saw Eurybia tense in her chair at the mention of her sister.
“We can’t be sure she is being held there.”
“But we could hold a siege and demand her release. That way theres no danger and the queen is back-”
Krios raised a hand to silence Astraios.
“That isn’t our primary focus.”
“How could it not be? The queen’s kidnap is the reason the Daimones have risen up in the first place.”
Astraois furrowed his brow. Perses eye’s widened, realisation dawning on his face.
“Because they are going to attack us regardless. Aren’t they?”
Krios remained slient. He sat in his throne and tapped his fingers on the arm.
“I had hoped to spare you all the worry. There is something in the southern province that they want. Something that will give them the power to fight back. I have been charged with keeping it safe.”
Astraea took in a sharp breath. In all the years she had been alive she hadn’t experienced war, she had been born long after Ouranos had fallen and had only known peace. The prospect of her home becoming a battleground made the hairs on the back of her neck stand on end. She felt her mothers hand shaking in her own.
“When were you going to tell we were living in a war zone? Before or after we have to fight off talons at our throats?”
Boreas said in an unforgiving tone. He stood from the bench and his brothers followed suit. Even the Astra Planeta behind them started to file from the gardens.
“I will not have my children at risk.”
Styx said. Pallas’ protests didn’t stop her walking from her seat.
“Please. Everyone, it isn’t safe.”
Eurybia tried to appeal to her family as they dispersed. Krios sat upright in his throne. A wave of gravity emanated from him, weighing down the grass and making the willow groan with the strain. Everyone in the gardens felt his power and didn’t move.
“Sit back down. I will not have you throw yourselves into danger.”
Krios commanded. His family retook their seats, except for Styx who stood defiantly behind her husband. Krios sighed as he relented his power and the weight in the air dissipated.
“I know it must be a shock. Arrangements will be made to ensure our protection. Eurybia and I have worked to build you a home here. All we ask from you is your trust and loyalty to defend it.”
“My children are not fodder for you to throw at the darkness. I would rather take my chances in the forest.”
Styx was the only one to speak. Krios’ gaze met hers with absolute conviction.
“If you leave now you are putting yourself at their mercy. Many of you have not seen the cruelty of the Daimones firsthand but I can assure you, you don’t want to cross their path alone. Have faith that we will keep you safe.”
“With the way my kind are treated, you will understand why my faith isn’t as strong as others.”
“Styx, please, enough of this. Father would never put us in danger. We will stay.”
Pallas said. Styx put a hand on her husband’s shoulder.
“I won’t have you speak for me, Pallas. I will protect myself and my children as I see fit.”
Pallas swung his legs over the bench and faced Styx. He looked up into her eyes and kissed her hand.
“Our children. We are stronger together. At the very least you can trust me.”
“I’d better not regret it.”
Styx relented. She bent over and kissed Pallas’ forehead. As she watched the couple, Astraea spotted Pacorus listening in on the meeting from behind the rocks. She looked around and realised there were mortals watching from the galleries that ringed the gardens, hiding behind the arches and pillars. Astraea had never felt so many eyes at once. The rest of her family continued to be oblivious to their unseen audience.
“If there is no other business then this meeting is over.”
Krios stood from his throne. Astraea took her opportunity, eager to make her own contribution as the mortal custodian.
“What about the mortals?”
“What about them?”
Krios replied. Eurybia sat rigidly behind him, her eyes trained on her granddaughter. Astraea remembered their last discussion and tried to avoid her gaze.
“Don’t we need to make sure they are safe too?”
“They aren’t vulnerable to the Daimones. With the current circumstances they are of the least concern.”
Astraea recognised the usual tone of disinterest in his voice.
“What if they were? I told you before…”
“Not these theories again. My priority is your safety Astraea.”
Krios crossed his arms.
“They’re not theories. I have seen the effects firsthand.”
Astraea insisted. Eos patted her hand.
“Dearest, its wonderful you take your role so seriously but now isn’t the time. I know this must be emotional for you but you’re starting to make a scene.”
“No, mother. There is something going on and no-one is listening to me.”
Astraea pulled her hand from her mothers.
“Astraea. Stop this nonsense.”
Eurybia said, giving her grand-daughter a hard stare. Astraea held her grandmothers gaze, she was not going to be silenced.
“But you’re hiding something. I know it. Please grandfather you have to believe me.”
Eurybia tensed in her chair, her knuckles turning white. Krios let out a slow breath.
“I’m sorry Astraea but without evidence…”
“But I do.”
Astraea looked to Eosphoros. He shook his head slightly, his eyes begging her to keep his secret.
“I know that the mortal in question is different. She has told me herself that she and Eosphor…”
Astraea was interrupted by screaming. Hecate was shaking violently in her mother’s embrace. Asteria rocked her daughter to try and comfort her.
“It’s ok dearest, don’t fight it.”
She whispered. Hecate held her head in her hands.
“But it hurts! It hurts!”
Hecate screamed. Perses knelt in front of his wife and daughter, despairing at what to do.
“The first vision is always the most vivid. Don’t worry, she’s just taking after her mother.”
Asteria explained, cupping his cheek with her free hand. Astraea huffed in frustration, all the attention had shifted to Hecate. Why did the girl’s abilities have to come in now? Astraea hadn’t spent much time with her younger cousin but she looked about the right age. Everyone watched as Hecate continued to shake violently in her mother’s arm’s.
“It’s alright. Just let it pass”
Asteria continued to comfort Hecate. When Perses took his daughters hand, Hecate gasped loudly and reeled back. Her violet eyes had turned silver, staring into a place no-one else could see. After a few moments she began to speak, in a low voice that was too old for a child.
When the stars clash with the night,
For all his might,
A father’s fight can only buy a few moments more,
As life flies from a hidden shore,
family won’t be as before.
A cold chill ran up Astraea’s spine as Hecate recited the prophecy. When she was finished, Hecate slumped against her mother.
Perses slowly reached for his daughter. She recoiled at his touch, as if his hands burned her skin.
“No! father! Stay away! You have to stay away!”
Hecate sobbed, burying her face into her mother’s chiton. Asteria combed her fingers through her daughter’s hair tenderly. Perses tried reaching for her hand again.
“Sweetheart. It’s alright the visions over.”
“No! no! no! Get back! Get away!”
Hecate pushed herself back off the bench and ran from the gardens.
“What did she see?”
Perses asked in disbelief.
“I’m sure it’s nothing. The first can be intense she just needs time to process it.”
Asteria kissed Perses on the cheek before following her daughter out of the gardens. Perses stood to leave but Krios put a hand on his shoulder.
“Sorry son but I need you to discuss defense strategy. I’m sure Asteria has it handled.”
Perses nodded. Krios beckoned to his other sons.
“Astraois. Pallas. I will be needing the two of you as well.”
Pallas hugged Styx before joining their father. Astraois turned to the benches behind him.
“Boreas. Eosphoros. I think the two of you would benefit from listening in.”
Eosphoros glared down at Astraea as he walked past and joined his father. Astraea watched them leave the gardens.
“After such a serious evening I feel like a light dinner.”
Astraea barely heard her mother as she watched Eurybia get out of her throne and walk towards the foyer. Astraea wondered if she was going on another of her trips.
“Sorry mother but I need to do something.”
Astraea tried to excuse herself but before she could get away Eos locked arms with her.
“Come now. I haven’t seen you for a meal in such a long time.”
“I know mother but it’s really urgent”
She tried to pull away. Astraea needed to know what her grandmother was hiding. Since Callidora was being so uncooperative, it was the only lead she had left.
“I’ll get those mortals to whip up something nice. You’ve been working so much I think a rest is just what you need. I’m not taking no for an answer.”
Astraea sighed as she let her mother lead her away. She would have to track down her grandmother another time.