The consequences of war
The dark smog had become so dense Hecate could barely see where to put one foot in front of the other. She tried to keep the tread of her feet light through the forest. The path had been littered with corpses of the dead. Keres, Aletheia, and Mortals lay where they had been slain and she couldn’t risk joining them yet. Hecate had quickly become accustomed to the sight and wished that she had never found out how little the sight of death wouldn’t faze her. Hecate darted behind a tree trunk when a scream echoed through the trees. A mortal woman ran past, the familiar gnashing teeth chasing her down. The mortal turned and threw her spear as a pair of Keres flew past. Hecate ducked as the spear missed them and glanced off the tree trunk above her head. The woman slipped as she turned to run and fell to the ground. One of the Keres curled its talon around her arm and lifted her up. The Daimones eyed their prey, saliva dripping between their pointed teeth.
Hecate fumbled through the contents of her mother’s satchel and pulled out a handful of pine needles. The Keres were too preoccupied with their quarry to notice the violet glow that bloomed to life between Hecate’s fingers. The mortal saw past her attackers and her eyes widened.
“Cover your eyes!”
Hecate shouted. The mortal shut her eyes and covered her face with her free hand. Hecate threw the needles and they embedded themselves into the back of the Keres. The mortal fell to the ground as they shrieked in agony. The needles exploded showering the women in black ichor. Hecate ran to womans side but she pushed her hands back.
The woman shouted. She crawled backwards and grapped a long branch to defend herself. Her gaze was steady but Hecate could see the woman’s arms were shaking. The gashes on the mortal’s arms and legs were wet with fresh blood and her blonde hair matted with ichor. Hecate put her hands up and crouched to her level.
“I’m not going to hurt you.”
“I’ve learned not to trust any promises made by your kind.”
The woman replied, lunging with the branch. Hecate dodged the attacks. The mortal’s movements were becoming sluggish and her breathing was more laboured.
“Please, let me help you. The ichor is getting into your wounds.”
“I don’t… I don’t want…”
The womans head lolled back as she succumbed to the poison. Hecate went to her and inspected her wounds. The edges were clean and straight, inflicted by the sharp edge of a sword. As she brought out the poultice her mother had used, a cluster of small herbs growing on the rocks caught Hecate’s eye.
If the edge of iron has found you or your kin,
The spires of this plant will knit the skin.
Her mothers rhyme echoed in her mind as she brushed the furry tendrils. She was surprised to remember her mother’s small rhymes. Asteria had used them to keep her attention but what her mother didn’t know was that the lessons were an excuse for Hecate to be away from her father. Hecate pulled the herb from the rocks and crushed the stems between her fingers. This wasn’t the first time she had wished that she had paid more attention to her mother’s lessons.
“I hope this helps.”
Hecate whispered as she poured her mother’s poultice into the mud and mixed in the crushed herbs. The mortal started to shudder, her brow hot with fever, as the daimone ichor polluted her body. Hecate cupped the thick paste in her hands and spread the salve over the mortal’s torn skin.
“Please work. Please.”
Hecate begged. She breathed a sigh of relief when the green salve darkened to a rich purple. The ichor bubbled under the salve and flowed off her skin. The woman opened her eyes and watched the cuts close with her brow furrowed.
“I don’t remember asking for help.”
“You were going to die. I expected you to be grateful.”
“If your kind didn’t drag us into your wars we wouldn’t be at risk.”
“You had a choice to leave.”
The woman shook her head.
“Not when you take advantage of the ones who couldn’t. Apparently, I’ve spent years in service at the palace but I don’t remember a moment of it.”
“I- I don’t know anything about that.”
“You wouldn’t. None of you notice us. There were many mortals tonight who had no way of making the choice to leave. Those of us who could had to stay for them.”
Hecate tried to excuse it away. she had been a child, it was never her responsibility. But the woman interrupted her and continued with the tirade.
“I tried to convince Pacorus it wasn’t worth it. But for some reason he still had faith in you all. I’m not going to make the same mistake.”
Her voice sounded tired but Hecate was taken aback by the fury in the mortal’s eyes.
“I haven’t done anything to you. I just want to help.”
“When you all fell from the sky, we defended you. Pacorus led them out there. Between those things with the teeth, and your sentries, we never stood a chance. The lot of you let them die, you let them face impossible odds to save yourselves, and you expect gratitude?”
The woman stood, holding onto a nearby tree to steady herself.
Hecate couldn’t find the words. The mortals had always been a constant, in the background. They had always been in their service, collecting herbs for her mother when she was busy or doing as her father told them. Hecate realised she had never known the name of a single mortal. As the woman started to walk away Hecate scooped up more salve and pressed it into a length of linen from her mother’s satchel.
The woman didn’t stop when Hecate called.
Hecate called again, scrambling to her feet. She pressed the wrapped salve into the woman’s hands.
“Take this. It will help anyone else you come across. I-it has rosemary for purification and ironwort for any sword cuts and….”
“If you’re still expecting a thank you. I’m not giving it to you.”
“All I need is your name.”
The woman paused, squeezing the bag in her hands for a few moments.
She said, her brow furrowed.
“Thank you. Like I said, the salve will help if you come across anyone injured.”
Hecate turned to leave, following the path.
“There are more of those monsters in that direction. The palace is dangerous.”
“I have some unfinished business. Go. Save as many of your people as you can.”
Hecate said as she walked away.
The dread of the conflict ahead haunted Hecate as she pushed aside the tree branches. She hurried through the grass clearing to the marble steps. The darkness hung in the air like smoke, hiding the cielings and making the pillars tower over Hecate as she entered. Hearing a voice, she pressed herself behind the nearest pillar. Her fingers brushed against the talon marks that speckled the azure-viened marble.
“We could be on the hillside with our brothers and sisters in moments. I don’t want anything going wrong for the sake of your pride.”
A man said, cradling his left arm as he hurried into the centre of the foyer. Hecate snuck a look at the man as he paused and looked behind toward the gardens. She didn’t recognise him, but Hecate knew the woman who sauntered into the foyer behind him. The woman in black from her visions was more imposing in life. The darkness flowed from her statuesque figure like water, dissipating into the air around her. Her short hair was cut to the line of her jaw and her black eyes had no iris. Her skin was grey, as if you were looking at smoke behind glass.
“I am not going to be pushed into a bottle and commanded like your little Furies. I was imprisoned in this palace. I am going to walk from it with my head high and Krios under the ground.”
“I told you, we had to leave him alive.”
“I was burning in that prison for years. He more than deserved it.”
Hecate gasped at the mention of her grandfather, and put her hand over her mouth. The Daimones didn’t notice the sound, the mans worried gaze didn’t shift from his sister.
“We are not prepared for that kind of retaliation. We need to get away.”
“Moros, I know those of you with less power would be fearful but the titans don’t scare me.”
She tutted. The darkness flowing from her made it look like she was gliding over the marble with each step.
“They should. I paid a heavy price to get you out. Revenge can come later.”
Moros waved the stump of his left arm for emphasis as she walked past.
“Not before I walk on the grass.”
“We must go before anyone gets here. Geras was supposed to cover our retreat but…..”
“I don’t care about your petty plans. Have you already forgotten the old hierarchies? It is you who begs for my help.”
She interrupted. Moros scowled behind the woman when she couldn’t see. Hecate watched him take a low breath and force a smile.
“Eris. Dearest, powerful sister. It wasn’t my intention to command. I know how much you want to bring retribution to the titans. The quicker we leave, the sooner you can punish them. I was only considering your satisfaction.”
Eris looked to Moros with a superior grin.
“I know the lies when they come from your lips, but that’s more like it.”
Hecate’s gaze was on Eris as the daimones approached the main entrance. Hecate held her breath, hoping she would remain unnoticed as they went past. Moros was close enough for her to see the annoyed set of his jaw. After a few moments, Hecate crept to the entrance and peeked out onto the stairs outside. All Hecate had known from her visions was that she had to be here when Eris was freed. But now as she watched the Daimone relish her first steps on the grass, Hecate was at a loss.
As she prepared herself to confront them, Pallas erupted from the tree’s brandishing a long golden spear. Hecate recognised the weapon. It had been given to her uncle as a wedding present and had been kept as a decoration. Now the spear gleamed with a far more sinister purpose.
“This is for my brother!”
Pallas roared, the spear piercing Eris’ chest. Moros recoiled back, gripped his dismembered arm. Eris only looked bored.
“Is that all?”
She said. Pallas dropped the spear and it clattered to the floor, passing through Eris as if she were made of smoke.
“You titans have many repulsive traits, but your arrogance always outshines the rest. No matter, I will teach you about your superiors.”
Eris tutted, a sinister grin spreading across her face. The darkness grew dense, licking at her form like an eager pet. Eris raised a hand and flicked Pallas’ chest. Hecate’s grip on the pillar tensed as her uncle flew backwards, colliding into the trees. The sound of him coughing and spluttering echoed across the clearing as her uncle tried to get to his knees. Before Pallas could react, Eris raised an arm and he was lifted into the air. With a flick of the wrist Eris propelled him into the ground and back up again, the darkness obeying every twich of her fingers.
“Leave him sister. We really have to go.”
“Come now Moros I’m playing with my latest toy.”
The joyful smile on Eris’ lips sent a chill up Hecates spine. She had seen so much cruelty in one night, but the sheer relish on Eris’ face unsettled Hecate.
“It’s not just him. There are others who might reach us.”
Eris rolled her eyes, stopping her hand. Pallas was left suspended upside down in the air, coughing and groaning from his wounds. Eris beckoned, Pallas was righted and drifted slowly towards her. The muscles in his neck and arms tightened as he tried to stuggle against her grip.
“If you want to leave then do so. I will not be running tonight. Any who resist me will follow the same pitiful example as this one.”
Eris circled Pallas like a predator, stopping to look him in the eye. His gaze burned with hatred but, no matter how much he resisted, Pallas was held fast. Eris laughed at the man’s bloodlust.
“You want to kill me, don’t you? Well I’m afraid after I dispose of you, I’m going to have to hunt down the rest of your family.”
Eris placed a hand on his chest, her fingers primed to gouge out his heart.
Hecate shouted, running out to the top of the steps. Eris looked to her with distaste.
“I did not ask for an audience.”
Eris snarled. Before she could reply, Hecate was thrown to the floor by a sudden quake. The constellation of her grandfather flared to life, piercing the mire of Eris’ darkness. Hecate crawled to the nearest pillar and put both arms around it to stop her being thrown down the stairs. Cracks snaked their way from the foyer and down the stairs. Krios erupted from the gardens in an explosion of soil and rock. The gravity intensified around them, pushing Hecate to the floor. The upper floors of the palace caved with the pressure, causing rubble to fall around her. Hecate bent her head down and held on as tight as she could. Moros was propelled off the steps and sent rolling onto the grass. But Eris stood tall, unaffected by the titans display of power. Krios danced towards the heavens, dappled in the blazing starlight.
“Leave my son alone!”
Krios roared as small spheres of starlight formed around him. Moros was pinned down at Eris’ feet, his gaze transfixed on the light.
“Unfortunately for you, I’m finding him very entertaining at the moment.”
Krios snarled at her reply. He swept his arms through the air causing the small orbs of light to pause in their orbit and fly towards the daimones like comets. Eris set her jaw as the darkness in front of her solidified into a wall. The orbs were absorbed into the darkness, their light snuffed out before they could reach their target. Despite the onslaught, Moros struggled to his feet and grabbed at her arm.
“I will have us out of here in moments.”
Eris pulled her arm from his grip and pushed Moros back. Pallas dropped to the ground behind them and lay still, released by her moment of distraction.
“Quiet! I will put him down like the miserable creature he is.”
Eris shouted. When Krios’ onslaught stopped, Eris brought the wall down.
“It seems it is my turn.”
She said, raising her arms. Spears of darkness coalesced around Krios and stabbed at him. They pursued him with deadly precision as he turned and danced from them. Eris laughed, moving her fingers like she was playing an instrument. Moros rubbed the stump of of left arm as he watched the sky.
“You can’t prance forever!”
Eris gloated. The orbs and spears collided, making shockwaves that sent rubble flying around Hecate. She watched as her grandfather tried to dodge the onslaught but she could see he was getting slower, the spears coming closer to their mark. Hecate ran from the crumbling palace, covering her head against the flying debris and rubble. A shockwave made her slip backwards on the stairs. Eris’ gaze was fixed on Krios as her darkness chased him down. Moros watched Hecate approach but he was frozen at his sister’s side. Hecate met his gaze as she reached for the pine needles from the satchel. She knew he could stop her but he only watched, frozen next to his sister, as Hecate threw the needles. Eris screeched as they swelled with violet light and exploded.
“You dare strike at me!”
Eris looked to Hecate, defenceless on the stairs, her form dotted with holes that were slowly filling with darkness. Hecates heart sank, she had made her distraction but nothing was between her and Eris’ fury.
“You are dealing with powers beyond your comprehension, little girl!”
Eris raised her arms and Hecate felt the darkness around her quiver. Moros stood and reached for Eris.
“This is enough sister…”
Moros was winded as Pallas shouldered him back and put his arms around Eris, stopping her attack. Her nostrils flared and he fell through her form and onto the ground.
“I am tired of these petty distractions!”
She shouted, a shockwave of darkness sent Moros and Pallas reeling backwards and out of sight. Pallas’ spear flew through the air towards Hecate. She rolled over at the last moment and the spear embedded itself into the marble where her head had been.
“Where was I?”
Eris said, a sinister grin playing on her lips. Her eyes widened when Krios’ fist, shining like it were encrusted in diamonds, protruded from her chest. Eris turned, with a feral ferocity, and clawed Krios’ face with her fingernails. The darkness coiled around him, squeezing the life from him. The intense gravity in the clearing lifted and Hecate sat up from the stairs. She despaired at what to do. Her Grandfather was overpowered. She looked to the her uncles spear. Hecate pulled a pin from the satchel and pricked each finger. She concentrated and her blood fell from the wounds in thin violet threads. She laced the blood over the weapon as she pulled it free from the marble.
“I will teach them not to mess with a user of the craft, Mother.”
She whispered as she aimed the spear, glowing with the thin interlocking threads. The spear shone through the air like a shooting star when she threw it. Eris shrieked when the weapon pierced her through the heart. Eris desperately clawed at the weapon but it burned her flesh where she touched it. She sneered visciously at Hecate, moving her fingers.
“I am not going alone.”
Eris hissed. The darkness around her fell in on itself, her form melting away. Hecate gasped as a dark blade erupted through her stomach, the force of the weapon driving her to her knees. As the darkness cleared like mist, Hecate watched the rays of morning sunshine peek over the tree tops. She could feel the freshness in the morning air. Krios limped towards her, the image of the almighty titan had evaporated.
“I already see the apology in your eyes.”
Hecate said. She could feel her strength draining as her chiton became wet with blood. Krios reached her just as she was about to fall forwards on the grass and held her in his arms.
“How can I not ask a child I have failed for their forgiveness?”
There was a hitch in his voice as he tried to fight back the tears.
“By carrying me into the clearing so I can watch the sunrise”
She whispered. Krios gathered her into his arms and carried her to the centre of the clearing. She was surprised he was capable of such tenderness after seeing the raw power he had used. He sat behind her and let her head fall back onto his chest, giving her the best view of the morning sky. Hecate felt a spreading sense of calm and weariness. She had expected to be afraid but in her grandfather’s arms she was ready.
“Do you have any messages you want me to pass on?”
Krios asked. Hecate thought of the promise her mother had begged her for. She knew it was one she wouldn’t keep. Hecate shook her head.
“Make sure they don’t grieve too long.”
Hecate leaned back and saw the tears streaming down his face. She took his hand and he held her close.
“Tell me some happy memories.”
Krios nodded and she looked back at the sky, illuminated in shades of copper and red.
“Did you know your mother and father met by accident? Perses loved your mother at first sight but she was devoted to her parent’s work. Your grandmother didn’t approve of the match, she didn’t want Perses to get hurt but when she saw how much he loved her she relented. He was never a patient boy but he waited. Waited for Asteria to see the love he saw. They were so happy when you arrived and I...”
Krios’ voice broke as Hecate closed her eyes.
“…I remember when I held you for the first time. You were so small, but you held my fingers with such strength I knew you would make us proud…”
Hecate smiled. The heat of the sun on her face fading. The freshness of the air entering her lungs becoming less frequent. Hecate was grateful she wasn’t alone as Krios’ voice became distant and the morning sun faded away.
I kept my eyes on his chest, my hand over his beating heart. I focussed on it’s rise and fall, every breath he took was one closer to me. I couldn’t look away. He had the life so many of my people had lost in the night. Since the dawn, the bodies of the fallen were laid out in rows and I couldn’t bare to watch the numbers grow anymore. I intertwined the fingers of his right hand with mine. His face was calm, a contrast to his tattered, ichor-soaked chiton.
“I swear, there was a man with wings. He made them go away.”
“Cleon, stop. Some angel didn’t save us.”
My gaze flicked to the mortals beside me, where a man was bandaging a womans arm with leaves.
“Just because you didn’t see him doesn’t mean he wasn’t there. I felt him, he held me when I woke up.”
“Then where is he now? My arm still hurts, I don’t see him making it better.”
I watched the woman pull her arm from Cleon’s grip.
“Don’t make sudden movements. I haven’t made sure it’s tight.”
No-one had known what happened after the darkness fell. When I woke, I feared the Keres had had their fill. But the meadow was silent, atleast I hadn’t seen any angels. I held my temple as another jab of pain lanced behind my eyes. Xyanthe had fretted about them and insisted I stay behind to rest. I couldn’t watch the rows of bodies at the edge of the trees grow so I stayed with Eosphoros. I could atleast care for him.
“I thought this might be where you went.”
Xyanthe said from behind me.
“How many were lost?”
I dreaded the answer but it was that was the only question that was in my mind.
“All the injured have been moved, we have patrols in the forest to alert if any daimones show up.”
She crouched down and placed a comforting hand on my back. I knew Xyanthe was trying to avoid the subject.
“Please. I have to know.”
“It won’t do any good.”
My hands shook and the tears streaked down my face.
“I have to know what happened. I have to know how many lives I cost.”
“They were after me. They wanted me. Eosphoros insisted we go to the palace but I wanted to come here. I brought them, I’m the reason they’re dead.”
Xyanthe looked to Cleon and his patient, who were staring at us.
“You need to calm down.”
Xyanthe said as she put an arm around my shoulders and pulled me to my feet. I let her walk me to the trees and into the forest. When we were out of the meadow, she held me at arms length.
“Look at me.”
I shook my head. Xyanthe squeezed my arms.
“Look at me.”
I slowly raised my head and looked into her eyes.
“You weren’t the only one who lost them.”
“Are not responsible for any of this. I’m not going to let you take this on alone.”
“But I am, I…”
“Listen to me. You can fall apart for those we’ve lost or can pull it together for everyone who is still here.”
Xyanthe looked at me with a stern expression.
“They look up to you. Our people want to know what to do next, what you want them to do next. You are not alone anymore and that means you have a choice.”
“I-I never thought of that.”
“You may not know but for many of us, our first memories are of you. I don’t know how or why, but I means that you are important to them. They can’t see you like this. This won’t be the first fight. They need you to be strong so they have the confidence to face the world together.”
I put my hand over Xyanthe’s. they were hard words to hear, but I was glad she was here to say them. I wiped away the tears.
Xyanthe pulled me into a hug.
“Ofcourse I am.”
“But what if I don’t know what to do?”
“We’ll figure it out together.”
I hugged Xyanthe close. She had been looking out for me, I wondered how long she had done so without me noticing.
I turned to the direction of his voice. I ran to him and he lifted me into his arms.
“I’m so relieved you’re awake.”
I whispered as he held me close.
“Are you alright? I saw all the injured out there.”
“Just a headache.”
Eosphoros put me down but I kept an arm around his waist. I didn’t want to let him go.
“So, Mystery man. You’re the reason why Callidora’s been worried sick?”
Xyanthe crossed her arms.
“I prefer Eosphoros. Xyanthe, I assume? You’ll remember me from the time I made sure your boyfriend got to safety.”
Xyanthe pursed her lips, and I could feel Eosphoros bristle in my arms.
“Come on, there’s been enough fighting.”
I said. Eosphoros kept his gaze on Xyanthe, who huffed and uncrossed her arms.
“Speaking of Macar, I should make sure he’s okay too. You coming?”
Xyanthe took a few steps and held out her hand.
“I’ll be right behind you. I just want a few moments.”
Xyanthe nodded and disappeared into the trees. Eosphoros took my hand.
“Are you sure you’re alright?”
“There might be one more thing that would make it better.”
I said, pulling him close. But as I held him Eosphoros winced and held his back.
“You didn’t tell me you were injured. Turn around I can sort it out.”
“No. It’s alright. I need to get back. The lights over the palace. I need to make sure nothing’s wrong.”
“What if I came with you?”
“Are you sure you want to go?”
“You wanted to take me last night”
“That was different. You were in danger, we can’t be too conspicuous.”
I put my arms around his neck and pulled his face closer to mine.
“Last night I thought I was going to lose you. I don’t want to be a secret anymore. We love each other and that means we should face whatever happens together.”
He wasn’t going to change my mind. Eosphoros kissed me, his lips warm against mine.
“Hold on tight.”
I felt a tingling under my feet as he levitated us off the ground and out of the forest.
Despite the bright sunlight, a shadow hung over the southern palace. The marble didn’t have the same glittering sheen as before, the azure viens darkened to black.
I asked, holding Eosphoros close. He stayed silent and flew us over the wall. I looked down at the amphitheatre outside the entrance. The curtains were in pieces and the furniture destroyed. I squinted to pick out the talon marks in the pillers.
“I don’t know but stay close.”
Eosphoros’ was distracted, scanning the forest. I tightened my grip on his chiton, only a thin wave of energy separated me and shadowed forest below.
“I don’t see anyone.”
“It would still be best to approach the palace from the forest. I don’t want to get caught by anyone out here.”
My heart beat faster as we lowered through the canopy. I could feel the presence of the daimones in this place. The last time I was in a dark forest the experience hadn’t ended well.
“Are you sure? Who would see us from up there?”
“That’s the perils of having a family who can fly. Don’t worry my grandparent’s residence is only a short distance ahead.”
He led me by the hand down the path. I made sure to stay close, the forest had a mournful stillness that made the hairs on my neck stand on end. Eosphoros froze when he saw the palace, his hand went limp and slipped from mine. I gasped, the resplendent palace with tall pillars and bustling with mortals was in ruins. The stairs to the main entrance were laced with cracks and the upper floors of the façade had collapsed. I was frozen but Eosphoros stepped out of the trees, his gaze fixed on the group circled by the Alethiea. They had had their heads bent, looking down at the body wrapped in a violet shroud surrounded by six urns. I didn’t recognise Astraea among them, but I did see her mother. She wasn’t the prim figure I had met before. Her dark hair fell to her shoulders and her peach chiton was stained with black and red.
Eos exclaimed. She ran to Eosphoros and pulled him into a tight hug.
“My sweet boy, I thought something had happened to you. I’m so glad you’re safe”
She looked him over and held his face in her hands.
“What happened here? I don’t see my brothers. Where are they?”
I didn’t hear her reply, but the anguished cry from Eosphoros made my blood run cold. He fell into his mother and she guided him to the rest of his family. I moved out of the trees to join him. I needed to comfort him, to share and lessen his pain.
“It’s adorable when the pets stare after their masters”
My skin prickled when I heard the lilting voice, it had haunted my nightmares for weeks. “Get away.”
“No need to be so defensive. I can assure you, I am no threat to you. But going out there isn’t a good idea.”
His tone was less predatory than before. I turned slowly and looked him in the eye. He wasn’t the same imposing figure he was last time. There were dark circles of exhaustion under his eyes and he was holding one of his arms across his chest.
“Why should I listen to you?”
Moros furrowed his brow and stepped closer to me. In the light I could see the arm he was holding ended in a stump.
“Because those immortals you hold so close will choose their own kind every time.”
His voice wasn’t the same compelling force that it had been before. I remembered how it had washed over me, invaded every corner of my mind to his words. But It was different this time. This was a shadow of the creature who had attacked me in the forest.
“Eosphoros saved me. You’re wrong.”
“Hmmm I will admit I didn’t expect your doting paramour to be with you.”
“How do you know that?”
“Who do you think sent the Keres to you. I had to make sure you were protected.”
“You sent those savages? What do you mean protection?”
Moros bent down so we were face to face.
“Oh, your ever-faithful lover didn’t tell you we were in the middle of war?”
“Don’t you think its extremely coincidental he shows up just as the battle starts?”
“You’re lying. You expect me to believe all this?”
Moros chuckled and straightened.
“Deceit is my brother’s field of expertise I’m afraid. I’ll admit I was not being benevolent, I’ve never drawn such power from another being before. Power from mortals like you is indispensable…”
Moros walked around me, sniffing the air slightly.
“…Although it seems any sustenance from you has spoiled.”
I jerked away from him and against a tree. I wish I had a spear with me, I would plunge it right into his chest.
“I trust Eosphoros. If there was something that threatened my people, he would have told me.”
“I’m disappointed you could be so naïve. This is what war looks like. Destruction and loss, it’s beautiful really.”
I shook my head.
“What could there be war over?”
“Come now. You’ve seen the titan’s true colours firsthand. I can see your fears, your memories of them. My kind want our freedom and the titans disagree. Its rather simple really.”
“That’s nothing to do with me.”
Moros’ mouth widened into a sneer.
“It’s everything to with your kind.”
I stayed silent. I didn’t want to hear anymore lies. Moros let out a slow breath.
“I can see this is going to take a little more. If you want proof, I can show you.”
He walked past me and into the trees, beckoning me to follow. I glanced back into the clearing, where Eosphoros was crying on his mother’s shoulder. A part of me needed to know it was true. I didn’t want to admit it but as much as I wanted to trust him, I had to be sure.
“I don’t have all day.”
He called from behind. I reluctantly walked around the tree trunk and followed him into the forest. Moros led me through the trees, away from the main path which made it hard to keep my footing. I stumbled into a small glade and sank to my knees in horror. It was like a bloody scene from a war painting. There were mortals covered in blood and Keres soaked with ichor. I cupped my hand over my mouth, open in a silent scream of anguish. The mortal’s eyes were open, frozen in fear. Moros appeared behind me, standing taller.
“Oh, don’t look so horrified. This is what a titan victory looks like. Built on the corpses of daimones and mortals alike.”
I looked up at him. His lips were pursed and he held his injured arm closer to his chest.
“They did this?”
I whispered, my hands shaking. Moros shrugged.
“In a sense.”
“Just tell me.”
“Fine. So long as promise to believe me this time. It starts to offend after a while.”
The smirk playing on his lips told me he didn’t care.
“When the titan’s realised they couldn’t hold our forces back, they abandoned the palace. Your kind weren’t given a second thought.”
Moros interrupted me when he put his hands on my shoulders, his mouth next to my ear.
“I haven’t got to the best part yet. I’ll admit we made the same mistake as the titans. We overlooked your kind which gave them a brief advantage of surprise when they took up spears against us.”
“Very faithfully. They saved many lives, none of them mortal of course. It’s curious really. Your kind were never our target and yet once the Keres got a sniff of them we couldn’t stop their instinct’s taking over. There was something that wasn’t there before that the Keres couldn’t resist but take a bite.”
I felt the bile rise at the back of my throat as my eyes fixed on one body in the scene. His eyes were open in horror and a spear was still clutched in his cold hands.
“If I remember correctly, he was the one to lead the charge.”
Moros whispered with relish. I couldn’t tear my gaze away from Pacorus’ dead eyes.
I held my head in my hands as the back of my head throbbed and the world around me started to spin. I remembered the day I had visited the palace. The spark of recognition when I touched Pacorus and Aspasia. The same one I had with Xyanthe. Moros let my shoulders go as I bent forward and retched.
“It was me.”
I whispered and wiped my mouth with the back of my hand.
Moros grinned, as the realisation dawned on me. He enjoyed revealing the terrible secret that he had led me to. In that moment, I understood all the suspicious looks, the hidden questions. Since I was born Astraea had known. My ignorance had endangered my people and everyone who had watched let it happen.
“It all came from me.”
“Very perceptive. I should thank you for serving my kind a new delicacy. Not as filling as the first time but second helpings are enough for now.”
My entire body was shaking. Moros crouched down to face me. He held his head higher as if he were more energised, even his form had more definition.
“I-I couldn’t have known. I can make it up to them.”
The tears streamed down my face.
“You’re making a splendid start, choosing to be here instead of helping them. Now what does that say about your motivations? The titans can claim ignorance but you, you can’t help yourself but be selfish.”
“No! No, I care about my people I…”
“You think you deserve to say that. All you have done is bring them all the darkness the world has to throw at them and then leave the behind to deal with it alone.”
Moros didn’t say the words with any judgement or malice. It made his statements worse, it made them sound like fact.
“You killed that man. Someone like you is in no position to tell me what’s right and wrong.”
“But I am honest about what I am. Destruction is in my nature and I won’t deny it.”
“You didn’t have to bury him, I did. I had to make sure he was remembered.”
“You had to make sure you felt better. I’m sure the attention and pity were very addictive. That’s one thing I’ll give for your new kind, you can certainly know how to make a spectacle.”
“You were there?”
Moros’ index finger was ice cold where he touched my temple.
“I didn’t have to be. I see your memories; your darkest secrets and I can tell you that the thing you relished most was the opportunity for attention from your masters.”
“That’s not true. You killed him, I had to do what was right.”
“That man made his choice. I wasn’t there when he met his unfortuneate end. If not for his own actions he would be alive. The greatest insult is his memory being used to make yourself feel better.”
I shook my head, all I wanted was to do the best for my people. Yet the deepest part of me knew that on some level it was true.
“I-I can try to do better.”
Moros stood and laughed.
“Your capacity for lying to yourself is truly commendable. I’ve seen dieties live unchanged for hundreds of years what makes you think you could manage it?”
I got up to leave the glade, I didn’t want to anymore.
“Now wait. I couldn’t leave you without one parting gift.”
I paused, knowing I would regret it.
“His name was Pythein. But then what is name? when you still failed them all.”
I put my hand over my mouth to muffle my sobs as I ran from the glade. I had to get out of the palace to anywhere I couldn’t do anymore harm.
Eurybia climbed the steps two at a time. Her heart sank as she walked through the abandoned gates. The wood doors hung ajar and were speckled with talon marks. Her worst fears reeled through her mind as she thought of the pain that had raked across her back. The same pain that let Cronus walk past her and take Rhea away.
“Please let me find him alive. Please.”
Eurybia said under her breath as she hurried through the ruined amphitheatre. Memories of the times spent under the stars eating and drinking with her family haunted her like ghosts. Warped platters and broken furniture littered the floor. Cracks and gouges, where talons had ripped away the masonry, dotted the pillars.
It had taken Eurybia the entire night to make it through the storm, and the whole morning to get to her home. As she started down the path through the forest, Eurybia made sure to keep her eyes ahead. She couldn’t see anything that might betray the slim hope that her family were safe. No matter what buildings had fallen or possessions had been lost, her family made her home. When she emerged into the clearing before the palace her fears were made real.
Krios stood at the head of the group, his head hung low. On his right was her son Pallas, his eyes distant as he stared at the dead. On his left was Eos, holding her son Eosphoros, who was crying into her shoulder. Their group was flanked on either side by a vanguard of Aletheia. She walked past the vanguard of Aletheia and approached quietly, the sight of the shrouded body made her sick. Her gentle Pallas maintained the hard look on his face as she took her place next to him.
“I’m glad to see you safe my boy.”
Eurybia whispered, pulling him into a hug and kissed his forehead. But her son remained silent and stiff in her arms.
“…And although they are gone, they will look upon us from the stars and the winds.”
Krios finished. Eurybia tried to catch her husbands eye but he kept his gaze on the dead. He walked around the circle and touched each urn in turn, saying the name of its occupant. Eurybia’s legs almost gave under her when she heard her sons name.
“Perses, Stilbon, Pyroeis, Phaenon, Phaethon, Eurus, and Hecate”
Only Eurybia noticed the quiver in Krios’ voice when he said Hecate’s name and placed his hands on her shoulders. Despite his calm expression, she knew the hesitation in his movements. She knew he was feeling the same ache she was and wanted nothing more than to soothe it. When Krios stood back a faint light shone from within the urns. Glowing ashes drifted in the air around them and dispersed into the sky.
“Those who took power from the heavens will return it again. They will be with us in the stars that light up the night and the air we breathe. Their bodies will be gone but their spirits will remain close to our hearts.”
Krios finished. Eos took her son’s arm.
“It’s time to go, dear.”
Eosphoros seemed to barely hear his mother as he watched the remains of his brother’s disappear into the evening light. She held his chin tenderly and drew his focus back to her.
“Your father and sister will want to know you’re alive.”
Eosphoros nodded slowly, bringing his mother close beside him as they levitated out of the clearing.
“Pallas, what happened to you? Say something.”
“We were fighting them back. I-I wasn’t strong enough to save them.”
His voice was despondent as she fretted over his bruises and cuts. She held one of his arms and inspected the dressing, already dark with weeping blood.
“It will be alright.”
“I’ll hunt them down mother. I’m not letting their deaths go unavenged.”
Pallas clenched his fists, his mouth twisted into a hateful scowl. Eurybia held his face in her hands.
“They wouldn’t want that from you. Are Styx and the children safe?”
Eurybia knew her son was not the same when his gaze met hers. She didn’t recognise the fury and bloodlust in his eyes.
“I’m not letting them get away with it.”
He said through gritted teeth. Krios put a hand on his shoulder.
“It will have to wait. I need you to lead the Alethiea back to Cronus’ residence.”
Krios said. Pallas nodded at his fathers instructions, who turned to the Alethiea.
“Follow Pallas and carry the dead with you. Phoebe and Crius will want to bury their grand-daughter.”
Krios instructed. The Aletheia bowed and delicately lifted Hecate’s body and the urns off the ground. When the group left Krios and Eurybia alone there was silence, and to Eurybia it was deafening. All she wanted was to take him into her arms so they could grieve but she could see the distance in his eyes. He turned to the steps into the palace and picked up a golden spear. She recognised it immediately. She had given to Pallas and Styx as a wedding present. The waves and stars carved into the hilt glittered in the sunshine.
Krios raised a hand to silence her. Eurybia didn’t know what to expect when she saw Krios but she thought he might have shown some relief.
“Where were you?”
He asked quietly, the hurt in his voice made Eurybia’s heart ache again.
“We were making preparations to protect the palace and then you disappeared. Where did you go that was so important?”
“I… My brother… He was…”
“Don’t insult me by lying to me. Perses is dead, Astraios is fighting for his life, and you’ve seen what this has done to Pallas. I am holding the last weapon our granddaughter touched before she died in my arms.”
“Please. I’m here now. I know how much you’re hurting…”
Before she could finish he turned and walked up the steps to foyer. She started after him and froze when she saw the damage. The family home they had built was ruined. The upper floors had caved in and the large columns were stained with blood and ichor.
“Don’t just walk away from me.”
“I don’t have the energy for lies.”
“I told you my brother he…”
“Enough! I have given you opportunities to be honest with me, Eurybia! I know you had something to do with Rhea’s disappearance! I don’t know what or why! But I do know you didn’t choose us!”
Eurybia was stunned, Krios rarely ever shouted and he never used her full name. The sound of it coming from his lips unsettled her.
“It’s not my truth to tell. What was I supposed to do? Put you in danger too?”
“But you knew. You knew they were coming and you knew why. Rhea was the reason he declared war and you let it happen. To make it worse, you abandoned us.”
“I did what I did to keep you safe.”
“And how did it work out?! Everything we’ve built is destroyed! The family we raised is broken apart! I-”
Krios stopped himself. He put his fist to his mouth and turned his back on her. It was a few agonising moments before he spoke again.
“I don’t want to argue with you Eurybia. I don’t want to shout and I don’t want to say something I regret. I just wanted you to trust me enough to understand. To have enough faith in our family not to go on your own.”
“I couldn’t put you in that position. Rhea needed me.”
Krios put a hand on one of the pillars.
“I needed to know you were safe. I had no idea if you were coming home or if there would be a home for you to come back too.”
“I’m here now. We can work together to rebuild.”
Krios shook his head.
“The rest of my family have to take refuge with Cronus. He’s the only thing between them and the daimones.”
“You don’t have to rely on a tyrant…”
“You don’t think I see who he is? But he is the only option to keep this world stable. Before he took power the land was very different to the oceans. I won’t see my family go back to living like that.”
“What do you want me to do? Apologise? Wish it was me in one of those urns instead?”
Eurybia stepped forward and took her husbands hands, for a few moments she saw the young man she married, vulnerable and loving.
“Don’t make this harder than it has to be.”
He shook his head and withdrew his hands from hers. For as long as she could remember he was half of her, to lose him was unthinkable.
“No. We need eachother.”
Eurybia refused to accept what he was saying.
“I need to greive, Eurybia. I don’t think I can do that with you around.”
“Krios. You can’t keep me away from my family.”
She reached for her husband again but he levitated away.
“I don’t know what Cronus will do to you if he see’s you. You’re only Rhea’s half sister, you don’t have as much protection. I have to do whats best for them. IF you understand that then you’ll stay away.”
Krios couldn’t keep his voice steady as his eyes filled with tears. Without another word he left the palace and flew to the horizon. Eurybia sank to her knees in the rubble of her former life, weeping for something she had lost that was beyond the physical. She didn’t notice the wavering shadows ripple and fade behind her.
“What happened down there?!”
Dolos shouted. Lyssa was curled up asleep at his feet, as if his unbridled anger calmed her in her slumber. Momus and Oizys lurked behind Dolos, spattered in blood. Momus’ left side was drenched in ichor.
“In mine and my sister’s defence we were hardly involved in what happened to Eris……”
Momus raised her mask, which was splashed with blood and ichor, to her face. Dolos rounded on Momus.
“If I recall the pseudologoi told me the two of you were busy on a mortal killing spree! If you two paid more attention to the task at hand you would have been of some use!”
“You sent us to the wrong place. Eris was in the central palace the entire time.”
“Exactly, besides I wouldn’t do anything as garish as killing. It’s not my fault they lost the will to defend themselves from the Keres.”
Momus piped up. Dolos’ eyebrow twitched.
“Don’t think I don’t see the chitons you’re hiding behind your back! We had one chance and your incompetence has cost us dearly.”
Oizys shuffled the fabric she was holding and Momus remained stoic.
“They ruined my outfit. I needed a good quality replacement.”
She muttered. Dolos stepped toward her, he would have been more intimidating if his eyeline wasn’t level with her collarbone. He looked up into the eye-slits of her mask, which was dotted with pits where the gems she had stuck into the wood had fallen out.
“What was that? I am sick of your dramatics.”
“You should remember who you are talking to. We are the only beings powerful enough to face a titan.”
Dolos turned his attention to the Furies. It was Magaera, the leftmost sister, who had spoken.
“What about six?! What about the entire pantheon?!”
Dolos shouted, he was past false courtesy. The three sisters didn’t reply but the waves of their hair slowed. Moros appeared in the shadows beside them. He was breathing heavily and there were dark circles under his eyes. His tired appearance didn’t earn him any mercy from Dolos’ anger.
“Good of you to finally show up. Do you want to tell me your version of your failure?”
“I thought it was obvious brother. Eris' pride cost us dearly. I was barely able to regain enough power to get back here. I see now that effort was wasted.”
Moros retorted, holding up the stump of his left arm for emphasis.
“I know she’s gone! I felt it! Everyone felt it! You were supposed to get her out of there alive! It was simple. Find Eris and get her back here!”
Dolos’ face turned a slight shade of red.
“Atleast she was able to take one of those titans with her.”
Geras huffed from Dolos’ right, held in the arms of a Psuedologoi.
“Maybe it wouldn’t have been necessary if you had followed orders and covered her retreat!”
Dolos repled. Geras’ face twisted into a hateful sneer.
“You don’t command me. I had an opportunity to kill those titans and I took it”
Dolos’ frustration and anger had boiled over. He had taken their barbs and disrespect, if it had meant that he could have his freedom. But with his plans in ruins, Dolos wasn’t going to take anymore insubordination.
“I was the one who brought you together! I gave you the opportunity to strike back! Now look at what the lot of you have done with it! Our most important weapon is dead along with half of Krios’ dynasty! Do you know the kind of retaliation we’re going to face?!”
Dolos calmed down as he realised the position they were in. His anger quickly subsided into desperation. He started to pace within the circle of his siblings.
“They will hunt us down, and this time they won’t be merciful. We need to get back to the forge and find a way to protect ourselves.”
He said. Moros huffed and turned from the group.
“If you want to back yourself into a corner brother then go ahead. I’m not fighting anymore titans.”
Dolos protested but Moros had already melded into the shadows.
“He’s right. The mortals are vulnerable to us now. I’d rather die than go back to how things were. Sister?”
Momus said, holding her hand out to her twin. Oizys twirled around as she took her sisters hand and the two of them departed through the trees.
“We can’t separate. We stand the best chance together.”
“Not if you’re suffering delusions of grandeur”
Tisiphone retorted as the Furies also faded from the clearing. Dolos turned to his last ally.
With great effort Geras raised an aged hand to silence him.
“Do what you will.”
He said with an exhausted tone. The Pseudologoi holding him launched into the sky. Dolos sank to his knees, Lyssa breathing deeply next to him. No amount of the Pseudologoi or Keres were going to keep the titans back.
“What do I do?”
He said to himself quietly. He was near to tears but managed to compose himself as Nemesis and Apate materialised on the hillside.
“We’re late, I know. But we may have some information that could be useful. Where are the others?”
Apate said. Dolos just stared blankly at the setting sun. He wondered if this would be his last.
Apate crouched in front of her twin. His despondant eyes flicked to hers, he found compassion when he didn’t expect to.
“They’re gone, sister. Without Eris they’ve scattered.”
Apate’s mouth went dry, she couldn’t remember the last time he had referred to her as ‘sister’. They had never been close but she could see the weight of the situation before them was breaking him.
“Come now Br… Dolos.”
Apate tried to reassure him. It was an unusual feeling to be consoling her twin. Dolos had always been boastful and overbearing, never one to accept any gestures of affection. But now as she saw his vulnerability, she couldn’t help herself but put a hand on his shoulder.
“I-I never expected this. I thought we would be victorious. My plan was flawless.”
Dolos said. Nemesis looked at something under her fingernail.
“Everyone’s always surprised to see where pride and undeserved authority leads them.”
Dolos ignored her disdain and appealed to his twin.
“Please, Apate. I’m out of ideas. I don’t know what to do and I am not done yet. Don’t let them hunt me down. You must have something. Anything.”
Apate knew how much pride Dolos had to swallow to beg for her help. After a night where Apate had seen so much needless loss, she was willing to help him. A brother who had done nothing but to help himself.
“There is something. But I didn’t want to use it. Nemesis can you accompany me?”
Nemesis rolled her eyes.
“I’m not doing that weasel a service.”
“You’ll be helping me. Not Dolos. He is right, none of us can defend ourselves alone. I need your connections for my plan to work”
Realisation dawned on Nemesis’ face.
“No. You can’t ask me for that.”
“Nemesis, I don’t want to have to remind you how I managed to save you from being sealed in the underworld. I need you to do this for our survival and look past your own issues”
“That was 0ut of practicality not endearment.”
Nemesis relented and offered her arm with a huff.
“I will do you no more favours after this.”
“I won’t ask you for anything else I promise.”
Apate replied. She quickly got to her feet and took Nemesis’ arm.
“Go back to the forge. I’ll be back when we’re done.”
Apate said as they faded into the the shadows and Dolos was left alone. As he sat back Lyssa began to stir, her eyes half closed from sleep.
“What did I miss?”
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