Love persists like shadow
Dolos took a swig from a small amphora to wet his throat, a long day’s work always left his mouth dry. The winding network of caves that made up the forge contained the oppressive heat from the fires in the lower chambers. He leaned his elbows on the large worktable, covered in tools and pages of schematics, stretching out his aching back. The aches and pains were familiar after days in the lower chambers with the furnaces. The brothers always set him to the most menial tasks they didn’t want to do themselves.
When Epimetheus had left, Dolos had taken the opportunity to get a break. Prometheus’ sculpting chamber was closer to the surface, the cooler air providing some respite. Prometheus had been working on Cronus’ sentries since he had returned from the meeting at the palace. He had spent weeks drawing multiple designs for the Alethiea, before settling on one to begin sculpting. Despite Epimetheus’ insistence, his twin couldn’t be swayed from his obsession. Dolos doubted he even registered his presence as he meticulously carved the face of a woman. Prometheus was always in a trance when he worked, his hands guided by instinct to bring out his creations true form. The final design Prometheus had approved of depicted a tall maiden. A pair of large, elegant wings arced above her head and her slender form was draped in an ivory white chiton. There was a reserved grace and simplicity that emanated from her, even as an inanimate statue.
“What name did he come up with again?”
Dolos asked. Prometheus’ brow furrowed slightly as if the reply took great effort. He didn’t mind Dolos’ company, but once someone began demanding interaction he found the presence of other’s uncomfortable.
“The Aletheia. It means truth.”
He stated curtly. Dolos had gotten used to Prometheus’ blunt method of communicating, he talked with anyone that way. The titan had a particular disdain for social interaction that extended to anyone he met, even his own family. Because it was without discrimination, in a strange way Dolos preferred talking to Prometheus. There was an equality that Dolos rarely experienced since being forced into the titan’s service. He never garnered any respect from Prometheus’ brothers. When Prometheus was the only brother in the forge Dolos was able to take advantage of his apathy and do what he wanted. Which was a reprieve he always took advantage of. Normally he would be content with the freedom to stretch his aching muscles, but today he wanted information. Dolos knew he wouldn’t get much conversation out of Prometheus but he was always guaranteed the truth. Whether the titan had no time for games or lacked the tact to partake in them Dolls didn’t know. For him the art of conversation was a life-long habit, where some hunted game he sought out knowledge.
“Did the king really say Moros had escaped from the underworld?”
Dolos abandoned any tactful small talk. He knew the more direct the better. Prometheus’s eyes quickly flicked to Dolos and back to his creation, humming his confirmation.
“I’ll still believe it when I see it. He may have been able to avoid the king’s notice but mother would never allow it”
Dolos said. The statement was directed toward himself rather than at Prometheus, who was too absorbed in his work to reply. With nothing else to occupy his mind, Dolos reminisced on old times. A time when Moros and the rest of their brethren roamed free.
Back then he had had respect. He was titled the daimone of deception and treachery, but he was much more than that. For Dolos, knowledge was a powerful weapon he could use with great dexterity. Unlike most of his siblings, he had trained his mind to a sharp edge. He had used his mastery of deception to obtain anything he desired. Back then there were no consequences. When Ouranos commanded the surface he had understood the balance of light and dark. Before the golden age had shed its light on the shadows, the Daimones revelled in using their abilities on the denizens of the surface. Dolos missed the exhilaration of spinning his traps. He used to savour using his knowledge to probe a victims mind and take advantage, teasing apart their weaknesses and abusing their trust. He had lived like a king, until the titans betrayed their father. Dolos’ fists clenched as he remembered the humiliation of begging their forgiveness.
Upon Ouranus’ death many of the daimones were banished to the underworld. Cronus and his siblings wanted to destroy them but their parents, Nyx and Erebus, had intervened. They had promised to keep the most dangerous of their children contained in their dark realms. Until today he had not heard anything of his siblings since, assuming that questioning the command of their parents was enough of a deterrent to attempt an escape. Others who were granted clemency had been able to remain on the surface under strict conditions. Dolos had possessed the cunning to swear absolute fealty to king Cronus, vowing to never to use his gifts again. It took all the guile he could muster to carve out his current lot. After Cronus had forgiven him he had been sent to Iapetus to help establish the forge.
Dolos had found it unbearable to be around one of the five brothers who had destroyed his life. Luckily it didn’t take long for him to take advantage of Iapetus’ lack of confidence and subtly push him out. Since then Dolos had lived out his days with the menial tasks he was ordered to do. For a mind as keen as his, the dull work was torture. He needed to apply his sharp cunning to more than lumps of clay and coal, it was in his nature. However he knew better than to give in to his aching instincts, he would much rather the cage of his inhibitions be his own. At least on the surface he could have some semblance of independence, plus he had never been popular among his siblings. The thought of an eternity kept in close quarters with them made the bile rise in Dolls’ throat.
Since Dolos was forced towards the more menial tasks, the four brothers spent their time with the more intricate or artistic work commissioned by the other titans. Prometheus mostly took on the larger or more alternative projects. His gifts were brilliant when he was inspired but if the project didn’t capture his mind you may as use a cart without a fourth wheel. It was mostly Epimetheus, Atlas, and Menoetius who would bring in food or receive orders. Prometheus was the most reclusive of the brothers. Menoetius and Atlas would source and transport the materials to be crafted, such as clay, fabrics, metals and precious stones. Epimetheus had more of an affinity for intricate work. He would sew garments and design the elaborate platters or accessories that were more in demand. Isolated in the secluded mountainside of the forge, Iapetus’ sons mostly kept themselves private, away from the politics of the provinces. This made information a scarce commodity, another aspect of his imprisonment that drove Dolos to madness.
“And he claimed the Keres and Erinyes were with him too?”
Dolos pressed, any opportunity to learn something new had to be taken. He never thought he would hear about any of those who had been banished to the underworld ever again. Not that the Erinyes, or Furies, made for polite company. The three sisters of vengeance only thought of one thing and you never wanted to do anything that would warrant their attentions. The Keres weren’t any improvement. They were the basest of their kind, driven to violence and destruction. With sharp teeth and long talons they were more than equipped for that purpose but their most intimidating aspect was their number. They seemed to multiply in the darkness, giving rise to large hoards of them in a short amount of time. If they were on the surface it wouldn’t be long before the land was overrun. Prometheus furrowed his brow.
“That’s what I said.”
He replied directly, holding out his hand for another tool. It was rare for Dolos to hear about his siblings. When they lost the war against the titans he had left them to their own devices, preferring to ensure that only his own imprisonment was prevented. Apate, his twin who shared his gifts of deception, had been able to save herself and a few others. He didn’t know what befallen them since they had negotiated their residence on the surface. Dolos felt no remorse, their family wasn’t a loving one, but he was always interested in how the golden age was treating them.
“I highly doubt it’s true. Moros doesn’t do dirty work. He prefers to hide in shadows and watch his targets destroy themselves. The Keres are too mindless to be able to come up with long term plans, their power is more in numbers than intellect. The Erinyes are a different matter. They’re all about retribution and revenge. Although those three witches wouldn’t kidnap an innocent, it’s Cronus and his brothers they despise.”
Dolos mused, handing Prometheus his desired tool.
“He’s lying then?”
Prometheus asked, he always saw matters in black and white. Dolos had to be careful, he couldn’t risk treason. He doubted Prometheus would intentionally tell someone about Dolos’ theories, but the titan rarely understood the nature of secrets.
“Not by any means. I don’t doubt the queen needs help but my brother has little to gain from doing something so conspicuous. Any attention risks the delicate position of our race on the realms……..”
Dolos cut his reply short when he heard Epimetheus’ footsteps echo in the tunnel outside. He quickly busied himself by clearing away the excess clay. Prometheus, still transfixed on the statue, took no notice of Dolos’ change in movements. He absentmindedly held the tools between his teeth, opting to use his fingers to apply the finishing touches. Humming his dissent, Prometheus stood back and observed his work. The titan tilted his head to the left, pushing aside the brown curls that fell into his eyes. He continued to hum and make slight disapproving noises, trying to find a fault he couldn’t identify. Such a flaw was lost on Epimetheus, who made a low whistle at the graceful statue as he entered.
“I wouldn’t mind meeting her when she’s alive, Cronus wouldn’t miss one would he?”
Epimetheus leaned on his brother’s shoulder, admiring the statue. His twin quickly shrugged his brother off and removed the tools from between his teeth.
“That’s not what their being made for.”
Prometheus stated. He squinted at the Aletheia, scrutinizing his creation.
“I’m guessing you’re not finished yet?”
Epimetheus said, ignoring his brother’s cold reception. He gave Dolos a distasteful look as he continued to occupy himself, storing the discarded clay scattered about the floor in a large vessel.
“I see you behaved yourself. Did you finish the order from the southern palace?”
“Yes. I have conducted the work requested of myself with the fabrication of storage vessels required by the residents of the southern province. Once I finished my toil I thought my time could be fruitfully spent on clearing the detritus of your twin’s new project.”
Dolos replied in the most convoluted vocabulary he could muster. Epimetheus wasn’t one for intelligent conversation. He took a little pleasure from the confused look on the titans face. Preferring not to push the conversation further, Epimetheus turned back to his brother.
“I don’t know if you noticed but its dark outside. I received a message from Cronus and he will be coming to the forge in a few days to see how you are getting on with the Aletheia. You need to stop and get some food and rest before he gets here”
“She’s not ready”
Prometheus snapped becoming irritated at his twin’s interruption.
“Prometheus you need to take care of yourself. Dinner then bed. If there is anything else it can wait until the morning.”
Epimetheus steeled his tone, he was used to the task of attempting to prise Prometheus from his work. Prometheus’ breathing became deeper and more rapid.
“But it has to be perfect”
He protested, his voice becoming louder.
“Don’t worry I’m sure it’s good enough. Come on.”
Epimetheus said reassuringly. This had little effect on his brother’s growing distress.
“I don’t care what the king’s standards are! They have to be perfect if father is going to feel better.”
Prometheus shouted, dropping the tools on the floor.
“I know, I know. But Menoetius and Atlas are helping dad, remember? That’s why they have left the forge for a while. Starving and exhausting yourself isn’t going to help, he needs you to take care of yourself”
Epimetheus attempted to console his brother, who was now visibly shaking. He exhaled deeply, Epimetheus knew his brother wasn’t the warmest of people but it was only because he had a compassion he couldn’t express like everyone else.
“Look. How about I go and get the food prepared? It’s going to take a while so you carry on here for a few minutes to do what you need to. Then come get something to eat.”
Epimetheus suggested, Prometheus’ tension began to relax.
“How many minutes?”
He asked. Epimetheus smiled at the question, he was used to his brothers need for precision.
“Five. Then you come and get something to eat”
Epimetheus replied. Prometheus nodded and picked up his tools once more, eagerly returning to the statue.
“Once my brother is finished you can clear away the mess”
“As you wish.”
Dolos replied through gritted teeth as Epimetheus left. He defiantly stalled with the chore, continuing to lean against the worktable watching Prometheus. Dolos counted the seconds. At precisely five minutes, Prometheus breathed deeply and set his tools down on the worktable for the first time that day. He left the chamber without a word.
“Thank you for the riveting conversation”
Dolos muttered to himself as he set about clearing away the tools. As he continued, Dolos couldn’t help but glance at the statue. Despite the titans’ quirks, he had to admit there was no talent like Prometheus. Once Cronus appraised and animated this statue he and Prometheus would get to work making more. Epimetheus would normally be crafting with his brother but when it came to clay he preferred to make Dolos do it. Dolos didn’t have much crafting skill but he was able to copy Prometheus’ work well enough. As he finished moving the last table to the edge of the room he could feel a presence in the shadows. There was a familiarity to it that tickled the edge of his senses.
“I don’t know who you are, or your purpose, but make yourself known”
Dolos’ demand hung in the darkness until a form coalesced; he could recognise the greased black hair and lilting voice anywhere.
“That’s no way to welcome your brother after all this time”
Dolos could feel Moros’ gift trying to work its magic on him. He tried to shake to fog from his mind.
“I never thought Cronus was actually telling the truth. I guess my argument against us being the culprits behind the queen’s disappearance is unfounded now”
“Still no hello? I’m insulted. I never touched her highness Queen Rhea.”
Moros’ grin still suggested he had something to do with it.
“Why are you here?”
“It looks like you’ve made quite a life for yourself up here as the titan’s pet, do they throw you treats every now and again?”
Moros’ words were venomous as he paced around the statue, admiring it.
“I had the intelligence to know it was a battle we wouldn’t win. Answer the question”
“You don’t have the authority to demand anything from me. If I remember correctly you abandoned the rest of us to save your own skin.”
Moros spat. The two daimones stared each other down for a few moments, until Moros broke the silence with a sigh.
“Are going to co-operate or not? I have things to do.”
“Has the humidity melted your brain? I want to make the most of the time I have up here. Being accused of kidnapping the queen has attracted a lot of attention I don’t need. I’ll admit Cronus was more underhanded than I gave him credit for. Not that he could match you brother, you’re still the most cowardly snake in this nest.”
Moros sneered. Dolos knew that collaboration wasn’t the forte of his kin; they preferred to relish the chaos their own abilities could concoct.
“I’m so flattered. Ask Apate or Nemesis. I’m not interested. Quit while you’re ahead before you invoke some kind of retaliation that gets us all killed.”
Dolos resisted, busying himself straightening out the sheets of white linen hanging on the walls.
“That’s part of the problem, the mortals are such a disappointment. I let the Moirai entice me up here and the useless things don’t respond to me. Not one sliver of power can be garnered from them. It would be such a shame to waste an opportunity like this, don’t you think?”
Dolos ignored Moros’ words as best he could. In his own way he had resigned himself to his current existence. Any kind of hope could compromise his ability to cope and survive.
“Is this work truly satisfying for you Dolos? Don’t you miss the good old days where you could beguile and deceive to your shrivelled black heart’s content?”
Moros coerced. Dolos remained silent as he felt Moros’ voice wash over him, dulling his senses and clouding his mind. He yearned to wield his brain to its fullest once again, for those days of absolute freedom. Dolos attempted fighting off Moros’ influence but it had been years since he had exercised his mind.
“Our time is done, Moros. The age of the Daimones is over.”
“That’s what I’m working to restore. The Moirai have seen the golden age fall. While his queen is absent Cronus is distracted, if there is an opportunity it is now. To make the most of it I need those sentries taken care of.”
“T-that’s madness Moros. You will get us all killed, even mother won’t defend us this time.”
Dolos remained on the edge of lucidity, he lamented the dulling effect working at the forge had. The sharpness of his mind could have cut Moros’ lulling trance into ribbons, but Dolos knew Moros relished exercising his powers too much to stop.
“Ha! I’ll tell you the truth. Mother is just as much a prisoner as the rest of us. Cronus acquired a power unlike anything we know and he was able to restructure the underworld with it. He will inevitably tire of us and try to destroy the diamonds anyway. I can feel your yearning Dolos, just simmering below the surface. You miss the old times don’t you? Will you help me change this world so you can put your desires to good use? Do you want to be put down as their pet or die free?”
Moros continued. Dolos couldn’t help but give in. He had been suppressing his true nature for so long he had forgotten how much he craved his old life.
“Yes. Yes I miss it, I’ve dreamt of the day I could be free.”
Dolos’ voice was full of longing. The shame at giving in to another of his kind was quickly eclipsed by a thirst to do what he was made for.
“Then I need you to put that mind to work.”
“Must I think of everything? Use the knowledge you’ve earned here and take advantage of their vulnerable position.”
“You want reinforcements?”
“I want as much support as we can get for when the golden age collapses in on itself. You were always good at exploiting weaknesses.”
Moros replied. Dolos felt his skin prickle; the deception was already converging in his brain. He looked to the statue in the centre of the room. It wouldn’t take long for him to copy her form and imbue it with his energy. He only needed one. When Cronus would come to bless the statues and give them life, his copies would answer to him and his kin not the titans.
“I will get you what you need”
Dolos replied. He didn’t care it was at his brother’s convenience, he had a new deception to weave. With a dark grin Moros’ form disintegrated into the darkness. Before his brother had fully evaporated, Dolos was gathering the leftover clay he had previously cleared. It wasn’t long before he encountered a problem. There wasn’t enough. Dolos began to despair, his freedom worth just a few measures of clay. He stared at the Aletheia statue. He couldn’t make his copy smaller, Prometheus was sure to notice. He continued to look at the maiden up and down, her form covered with a floor length chiton. Then the answer came, their feet would be constantly hidden.
Dolos worked through the night until his eyes were heavy and his arms ached. Eventually his work was done and a clay statue of maiden with wings stood before him. This statue was the twin of the graceful angel next to it. Except her legs ended halfway down her shins. Dolos gave himself a few moments rest to revel in his task. After such a long time he could deceive again and he didn’t want it to end. He didn’t have long to revel in his creation when the sound of approaching footsteps echoed into the chamber. Prometheus and Epimetheus were coming to make final preparations before Cronus’ arrival. With extreme care Dolos balanced his doppelganger on wooden blocks and draped a chiton over her. As he set the garment into place with pins of plain silver he whispered into the maiden’s ear, injecting his energy into it.
“You will follow the orders of Cronus and act as one of the Aletheia until I or one of my kin say’s your true name, the Pseudologoi”
He whispered. Just as Dolos had finished concealing the statues absent feet and stepped away, Prometheus and his brother entered the forge.
“You shouldn’t still be in here. The furnaces need stocking.”
Epimetheus dismissed. Dolos only gritted his teeth and walked past the two brothers. He wouldn’t be treated this way for long.
Rhea was in the darkness. She knew she was in a corridor of the palace and walked slowly forward. The only sound was her chiton shuffling on the floor. Before long the double doors to her and Cronus’ bedchamber appeared before her. The images of her and her husband on the stone stared down at her mockingly. The woman with the child she would never see. The man with the sickle who wouldn’t set her free. After they had made their fun the doors opened and she entered the room where her husband was waiting. This wasn’t the first time she’d had this dream. It was always the same corridor, the same double doors and her husband waiting on the other side.
“I see you came back my dearest”
Cronus was sat on the end of their bed, his sky blue eyes staring with extreme confidence. He was younger, the Cronus she had imagined him to be when she first saw him. The husband she dreamed of building a family with, the man who would never touch her or alienate her from those she loved. She looked back on the girl she was with pity, unknowing and full of innocent hope.
This was always the point where she faltered. She couldn’t stand against him. For all that had happened she couldn’t quell the love that rose in her heart. In his perfect manner he rose from the bed and walked towards her.
“I thought I would never see you again, but we always come back to each other in the end.”
He said tenderly stroking her cheek with the back of his fingers.
“Why can’t I have my children? Why couldn’t we have just been a family?”
“I always cared about you Rhea. I wanted what was best”
The Cronus of her dream ignored her questions.
“Best for yourself”
He grinned at her statement, despite the visage of the dream she knew the Cronus of the real world lurked beneath.
“Best for us”
He took her hand and led her to one of the balconies, passing seamlessly through the curtains. She could hear his breathing and the sound of his bare feet on the marble as he took her to a divan and sat down. She slowly took a seat next to him.
“I know I’ve broken your trust my dear, but we can resolve this. I have faith, don’t you?”
He brushed a curled lock of hair from her eyes and rested his palm on her cheek.
“I just want my children Cronus”
“We can do it together. Everything I’ve done is for their welfare, I want to make it right”
“But Moros... a-and what you said before Iris and Arke saved me.....”
“I was angry my love please I don’t ask forgiveness just a chance to make you happy”
Rhea remained silent. Half of her knew it was lies, the same sweet nothings she had heard again and again. But still a part of her dared to hope that this man she loved might make the life with her she always dreamed. Like many times before she began to cry. Her tears were wiped away by his thumb. Cronus stood again holding out his hand to her.
“I know it’s hard but we can still have what we want. Don’t you deserve that? Doesn’t our unborn child? Would you have him live without both his parents with him?”
She grasped his hand in both of hers, pressing her forehead to them.
“Then tell me you love me, you love our child”
The ensuing silence was always the hardest part of her nightmare. She closed her eyes and pressed harder.
“Please Cronus tell me you love us, tell me you love our child and I’ll do anything please please”
It always went the same way, she would get no answer, the darkness would envelope her again. Begging for the man who had tortured her, the man she loved, to love her in return.
Rhea woke in the darkness crying, she did most times now. She felt the baby move and kick inside her, disturbed by her mood. Even apart from him she still wasn’t free. She was ashamed that despite everything he had done part of her was still his. Rhea turned and looked up at the cave ceiling, wondering if she would ever purge the part of her that still gave itself to him. She looked at Iris, who was lying next to her, as she slept. Memories of being cuddled up with her sisters as a child danced behind her eyes. How many memories did she miss out on with her siblings suffering with Cronus? Rhea slowly stood and went outside to the fresh night air, hoping to calm the dark thoughts in her mind. Rhea climbed down the rocks without hesitation, she was a daughter of Gaea and would always be sure footed on her mother’s land. Rhea reached the beach and found Eurybia standing in the surf, moving in a slow flowing dance. Sitting on the sand Rhea continued to watch the titaness as she moved, admiring the power she had in her element. The sight lifted the spectre of Cronus slightly. The tides seemed to flow with Eurybia gathering where she retracted and receding when she expanded. It wasn’t long before Eurybia spotted Rhea watching her and stopped her movements, joining Rhea on the sand.
“It’s still disconcerting when someone’s watching me”
“You shouldn’t be. It’s beautiful. I sometimes envy the active abilities the others have. To have the power to fight, to be able to defend yourselves”
“You are far from powerless Rhea”
“Would you have let Krios take your children from you? Mother would be ashamed.”
“Never, You remind me of mother the most”
Rhea gave her a wane smile.
“She left her children often too”
Eurybia’s eye’s widened.
“That’s not how I meant it at all. You were manipulated we all understand that. We owe you so much Rhea. Without you all of us would have gone our separate ways years ago. That takes strength the rest of us don’t have. Not even mother had it.”
Eurybia’s conviction soothed Rhea’s doubts. Despite her being a half-sister Rhea never felt less close to her. As a sea goddess, Eurybia hadn’t spent much time with her full siblings when they were young. Gaea had led a nomadic life, rarely staying in one place. It was only when the earth mother drifted to the shore did they see their half-sister for the first time. When Tethys had found her affinity for the ocean Rhea had proposed they settle on the coast. Those settled years with her sisters had been the most fulfilling of her life and she had tried everything she could to bring Eurybia into the fold. Them is still help the reservations but her other sisters had accepted her regardless. At the time they were blissfully unaware of Ouranos and their brothers. Living in a bubble untouched by his reign due to their mothers status.
Despite her mother’s actions, Rhea never doubted she was loved. It was just Gaia’s nature. But there was a part of her that had hoped her mother would see what they had made and find it too good to leave. But it all changed when Rhea sought out their mother to make her dreams a reality. Rhea was always able to find those she loved but discovered more than just her mother. When she saw her mother again she was handing the sickle to Cronus. Rhea’s life was never the same. He was young, ambitious and exuded power. She had loved him at first sight and that love had never faltered. It grew with every act of affection. His compassion when he made the mortals, the loving smile on his face when she was pregnant with their first child, those small moments made her love for him grow. But his darker side tarnished their happiness before long. Feeling the spectre of him descending on her again, Rhea shook her head to clear of the memories.
She wasn’t a child anymore. She was high queen and her children needed her. Eurybia wasn’t the unfamiliar half-sister, she was the titaness governing the force of the sea’s and matriarch of one of biggest titan dynasties in the provinces.
“It’s nice of you to say it but I’m not in the mood to accept complements”
“I know its difficult Rhea but you’ve done nothing wrong”
Rhea could feel the tears prickling behind her eyes; she deeply inhaled the sea air.
“I’m as innocent in this as Cronus, there’s no point in denying it. All I can hope for is that the damage to my children is minimal and they can still happy lives.”
“You’re not being fair on yourself. We know your reasons. No-one loves your children more than you”
“I-I still beg for his love in my dreams. Even after everything that has happened a part of me still betrays them. What if it was Astraios or Perses or Pallas? Or even your grandchildren? Could you forgive yourself?”
Eurybia placed a hand on Rhea’s.
“The only time you truly fail them is when you give up. This child can still have a chance out of Cronus’ clutches. So long as you never stop fighting for Hestia, Hera, Hades, Poseidon, and Demeter they will know you did your best and will welcome you as their mother. Just have faith.”
Rhea leaned her head on Eurybia’s shoulder, listening to the tide.
“We won’t be able to hide forever. I’ll never be rid of him and I don’t know if I can trust myself to resist living without him.”
“You did it before and you will do it again. All it takes is time to heal. I know how hard it must be. Krios is such a large part of my heart that if I don’t know what I would do if I lost him. But I know that we are all here to support each other. We will get you the time you need.”
“Thank you Eurybia your words really are a comfort”
Eurybia extended her arms around Rhea’s shoulders.
“I’m only reminding you of the strength you already have. I should get back to the tides and make sure they stay in place. The waters are the only thing keeping Cronus from seeing you.”
Rhea smiled and remained sat on the sand as Eurybia returned to the surf and carried on her dance. Conscious of Eurybia’s embarrassment, Rhea lay on her back and stared up at the full moon. Her baby had settled and was still. She placed a hand on her belly, counting the other full moons she had seen since she had first fallen pregnant.
“Not long now before I meet you properly my child”
Rhea whispered to herself before slipping back to sleep. The surf lulling away her nightmares.
Eros flew high above the clouds. He extended his broad wing’s fully, glittering gold in the unencumbered sunlight. He felt his most free at these heights, he never understood how his siblings could stay in their dark realms beneath the surface. Gaea was the only one to share his love of the surface whereas Nyx, Erebus, and Tartarus receded to their dark domains. He remembered when the five of them were the only deities in existence. The surface had once been a barren wasteland, illuminated by the sun, but Gaea’s adoration for the realm gave the earth its natural and fertile beauty. Before long there were colourful plants and creatures to populate it. Then she had met Ouranos and the surface changed. He had remained impassive as his nieces and nephews warred over the land, the titans claiming ownership in the end. He hadn’t seen any of his siblings since then and he missed them. So he opted to remain in the heavens, above the world which had become complicated. Where he could reminisce of better times when he wasn’t taken so for granted.
Where Gaea’s calling lay with the life that surrounded her, Eros’ purpose was focussed within. With his gifts, he bestowed the beauty of the soul. Most only recognised him for his influence on love, but the entire spectrum of emotions that made someone an individual was within his scope. He could soothe the ache of depression, stoke the fires of anger, and make happiness all the sweeter. He spent his days flying free to wherever his heart took him, away from the demanding realm below. His gifts were usually commissioned to bless marriages and other occasions of the heart. He resented his gifts being used to bolster an institution used for the purpose of binding people together out of duty. Out of the twelve only Krios and Iapetus had married those they loved, even then they had to fight for the approval.
Over the years he had been forced to bless other unions, mostly nymphs and indiscriminate gods, and most of those were either lust or politics. He had seen it too many times in this new age and had become disillusioned with his own purpose. Over the years his detachment and contempt had only grown. To the point that he rarely intervened in the affairs of the surface anymore.
Eros continued his flight in reckless abandon until he felt the presence of another, whose heart hesitated with reluctance. They called after him nonetheless. Eros could barely hear over the whistle of the wind in his ears. He refused to slow down and hoped whatever momentary fancy his visitor had taken would be discouraged and he could be left alone.
“Most gracious Protogenoi, Eros, I ask for your help.”
The voice persisted, it had been a long time since he had been addressed so formally. He stopped and hovered in the sky, beating his wings slowly. A man levitated into his view, Eros instantly recognised his lineage. Even a couple of generations hadn’t distilled the resemblance to his patriarch, despite the darker hair and hazel eyes.
“Descendent of Krios. Why do you call on me?”
“My name is Eosphoros, head of the Astra Planeta. I require your services.”
Eros felt his indignation rise, another nameless god asking for another petty union.
“I will not be blessing any unions today. There are other deities who can provide a service.”
He stated with clear finality. Eros turned to fly away.
“Please that’s not what I need. I cannot go to anyone else. I ask for you to remove the love from my heart”
Eros was taken aback. It was within his reach. As much as he could bestow emotion he could sever the bond between two people. But he had never enjoyed doing the deed. He turned back to Eosphoros.
“I can grant your request but are you sure? The process can be painful.”
In world where true unconditional love was discouraged and rare to find, Eros didn’t relish destroying something so precious.
“This love will cause great pain if I keep it.”
The answer only made Eros more curious. He wasn’t going to do something so serious without knowing the circumstances.
“Who has evoked this love?”
“I-I would prefer not to say”
Looking into the man’s eye Eros could see his fear and his dedication to keeping his secret. He beckoned Eosphoros to follow and led the titan to a nearby mountain top. The two landed on the flat mountain peak. He could feel Eosphoros’ intentions were out of care for those he loved, he wouldn’t deny him the opportunity to do what he thought was best for love.
Eros instructed. Eosphoros knelt before him. Eros hoped his could withstand the ritual, it could be tiring for the subject. The process of taking emotions out was much more traumatic than putting them in. Eros placed one hand on Eosphoros’ forehead and the other on his chest. The love had to be removed from both body and soul.
“You’re first instinct will be to resist. It will be less painful if you repress the urge to do so. Feel my energy as it enters your body and embrace it.”
Eros felt the titan nod as he closed his eyes and began to probe the emotions within the titan’s soul. Instantly he recognised the burgeoning seed of love in his heart. Eros could feel the man’s reluctance and resentment at being forced to go through with it. He brushed the seed with his energy and instinctively knew it had the potential to grow very strong. He almost regretted what he knew he would do next. In a realm of convenience, love like this was becoming a rarity. He surrounded the seed, bathing it in his energy, and began to extract it. Uprooting it from the man’s heart would cause it to wither and die. Not only would this relieve the subject of his feelings but any love it was connected too in the other partner. He felt the titan’s suppressed resistance, but nothing that couldn’t be overcome. But as he pulled more vigorously, energy that scorched like fire began to burn his away. It encircled and protected the seed. The shock almost broke his hold as Eros tried to identify the source.
I had not spoken with Astraea since the incident in the dining hall. The journey home had been long and quiet. She had returned every day since, but I didn’t want to talk. I had seen enough at the palace. Xyanthe and Ismenara had tried to ask me what happened but I chose not to tell them. Today Astraea had found me in forest picking fruit.
“Callidora can we please talk about what happened?”
She asked as I walked from the trees and into the meadow. Every time I looked at her all I could hear were her mother’s words, words she believed in. It made me sick to think that the whole time she said she was my friend, she truly thought of me as something beneath her. To my annoyance, Astraea pursued me across the grass.
“I don’t want to talk to you”
“Please I just want to help you understand…………”
I shrugged off a hand she tried to place on my shoulder.
“Understand what? Why your family treat these people like servants? Why Eosphoros humiliated me like that? Or even better, why you sat there and watched it happen? I guess out of sight out of mind, unless we can conveniently serve breakfast!”
I didn’t realise I had started to shout. I wiped my tears away furiously, I didn’t want to be upset I wanted to be angry. The mortals around us remained oblivious to my outburst, sitting amongst the grass contentedly.
“Is that what you think of me? You mean more to me than that, there are just things you don’t understand about the world.”
Astraea looked hurt by my outburst but I didn’t care. I thought I had someone I could talk to. I thought she was someone I could confide in and help me understand the world I had been born into. The world that I couldn’t accept blindly like every other mortal I came across. She had taken me to the palace only of rme to learn how much her family deigned to share the world with us. To make it worse Eosphoros, the only person who was willing to listen to me, acted as if I didn’t exist.
“I am trying to. But no-one values us enough to explain.”
“Because it’s not important for you to know. The mortals are able to enjoy the bounty of the land, there’s no reason to question it.”
“Spare me the rhetoric! It’s important to me to know! You don’t think I see the looks you give me? You don’t think I don’t notice the differences?”
“I’m trying my best…………”
“It’s not good enough! We are not some kind of toy you can play with and leave when you’re done.”
I shouted. I was tired of her platitudes and excuses. Astraea stood tall and lifted her chin imperiously, it seemed my response had got to her.
“I don’t need to explain myself to you. I am trying to help you but if you don’t see it then I guess my business here is over.”
She said, her tone more formal. I didn’t want to give her the satisfaction of watching her leave so I turned on my heel and walked away. As I approached my elm a burning fire exploded in my chest. It felt as if someone was ripping my heart out. As I screamed out in pain and collapsed to the ground, Astraea was by my side. Images of Eosphoros flashed through my mind with every wave of pain, the two of us dancing together, the light of the stars, the sound of his heartbeat. Astraea held me tightly. I could see her lips moving but I couldn’t hear her over the screams, my screams. As the pain grew more intense I could feel the memories of Eosphoros start to fade. I could feel the fire starting to burn at them, eroding the memories away. Despite Eosphoros’ rejection I held onto them. There was something inside me that couldn’t afford to lose them.
Eros strained against the fire, he had never encountered this before. Whoever shared these feelings was fighting for them and winning. He tried surrounding the fire in an attempt to quell it but his energy was burned away as fast as he could project it. He could feel the struggle draining him and the incredible pain the struggle was inflicting on Eosphoros. As Eros pulled away the fire died back in equal measure. In a rush Eros sent his energy forth again, no more delicacy, he would smother the seed before the fire would return. He lanced the seed but the fire returned with a vengeance.
Every part of my body convulsed in pain as the fire came in pulses again and again. My fists ripped the grass from the ground as I fought to preserve what I had of Eosphoros. I gritted my teeth as I felt the next wave build, I had gone too far to let go now.
Eros was exhausted with the effort to quell the fire that opposed him. As his last rush collided with the opposing force Eosphoros broke the connection.
Eosphoros pleaded, crouched on all fours. Eros, breathless, also fell to his knees.
“I...... I didn’t resist..... I just need…….. to……. to catch my breath. I can try again.”
Eosphoros panted, barely able to keep himself balanced. Eros had to catch his breath and gather his thoughts before he could reply. He had never used that much energy at one time before. He knew he couldn’t attempt it again, for fear of permanently damaging the couple who shared this love.
“I don’t know where that force came from but I won’t attempt this extraction again.”
“Please I need this to be taken away. What can I do?”
Eosphoros begged. Eros put a hand on his shoulder.
“I know love, son of Krios. It is an emotion set apart from the others. There can be no reason to its birth but it can tie people together stronger than any physical bond. That bond can be toxic or it can make you better than you can imagine. In cases like this, when loves grips you so fervently, all that is left is for you to do Is pursue it. The consequences cannot exceed the damage ripping it from you would do.”
Eros replied, helping Eosphoros to stand. With a conflicted look in his eyes Eosphoros nodded and levitated from the mountain. As he watched the titan leave Eros’ curiosity got the better of him. He had to know who had evoked such emotion and why it still persisted. Emotions were at his disposal, not the other way around. When it came to him emotions couldn’t be so defiant on their own. Whoever this man loved, Eros had to meet them. When he was sure Eosphoros was too far to detect him, Eros started his pursuit.
As suddenly as the pain had started it was gone. I lay on the grass exhausted, I barely had the energy to breathe. As my vision came back into focus I noticed Xyanthe was by my side in a panic.
“Will she be alright? Is she dead? Callidora can you hear me?”
Xyanthe said, holding my face in front of hers. I scanned my brain for the memories of Eosphoros that I tried to defend and found them intact. As I tried to sit up Xyanthe drew me into a hug.
“Thank goodness you’re ok. You were just screaming and screaming and then you went still. I didn’t know if you were alive.”
“It’s all right. I’m fine really just tired”
I whispered to Xyanthe. I was taken aback by her concern. Out of the corner of my eye Astraea hung back, giving Xyanthe the same look of curiosity she usually gave me. When I managed to prise Xyanthe off me another arm came around my shoulders. The chill of the shadow cast by Astraea’s wings made me shiver.
“Come on let’s get you to the elm and you can rest.”
I shuffled closer to Xyanthe, putting my arm around her neck.
“It’s alright I have all the help I need”
I said. Xyanthe’s brow furrowed at my reaction to Astraea’s help. Regardless she helped me stand into the sunlight and make my way to the tree. When I looked around I gasped. The mortals in the meadow were watching us. I could feel their stares on me. By the time we reached the elm and sat back down they had returned to their usual blank ignorance. But I knew they had seen me, they had reacted to me. Astraea followed us closely behind.
“I could go to the palace. We should find out what happened to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
“I wouldn’t want to inconvenience the custodian.”
I said harshly, I had someone who actually cared about me. Astraea looked hurt but I didn’t care. Maybe she would have a better idea of how I had felt back at the palace.
“I was only trying to help.”
She tried to sound authoritative but it just came out as petulant. Astraea spread her wings and left the meadow.
“What was that?”
Xyanthe asked as I watched Astraea disappear into the horizon.
“I don’t know but I have a feeling it won’t happen again.”
“Not the pain. You can’t talk to the custodian like that.”
I looked at Xyanthe and realised she had been crying. It shocked me how upset she had become. The other mortals in the meadow had barely reacted at the episode but here Xyanthe was driven to tears.
“Have you been crying?”
I asked. I was so used to the mortals apathy that the sight was unsettling. Xyanthe looked offended at my question.
“Wouldn’t I? I’m in the forest collecting fruit and the next thing I know I hear your screams from the meadow. I thought something was wrong. You go away, come back in a worse mood than ever, and then this. I thought I was going to lose you.”
Xyanthe’s voice quivered she was so upset. I realised that I hadn’t given any thought to how everything that happened would affect her. I had assumed she wouldn’t notice like the others but I saw that I hadn’t appreciated how much she had changed.
“I’m sorry. I’m not going anywhere. Astraea had taken me to the palace. I was curious to see where she lived so she showed me.”
“Then why didn’t you let her help you?”
“The pain was just traumatic, that’s all.”
I lied. Xyanthe gave me a look that told me she was not believing my excuses. Luckily for me, she seemed content not to harass me for the truth so we just looked out onto the meadow in silence. The mortals, as ever, carried on as if nothing had happened. But I had seen that flicker of emotion. There was something there that I hadn’t seen before. Xyanthe’s sudden leap and expression of emotion made me hopeful. I didn’t know what had changed them but maybe I wouldn’t be alone for much longer. Maybe I could reach out to them and I wouldn’t cause them pain, like Xyanthe had in the beginning.
“What was life like before you met me?”
I asked eager to see if her change was really as profound as I thought it was. The last time I had questioned her past the confusion had caused her pain. Xyanthe furrowed her brow but not in the same amount of distress as before.
“I………….. I don’t know.”
“But you knew Ismenara and Astraea. You also knew things about the animals and the forest. You should remember something”
“I’m not sure. It’s like a haze. I know these things but I don’t know where the knowledge comes from. Maybe the memory is there but it’s been a long time. Honestly, the earliest thing I remember clearly is talking to you. That’s strange I should remember more shouldn’t I?”
Xyanthe looked worried but she was able to answer the question for the first time. I smiled.
“I wouldn’t worry. Memories fade over time, I guess I’m too young for any of mine to go yet”
Her worry started to ease. There was no point in burdening her with what I knew. For now, ignorance was the kinder of two options. It was isolating being the only one to know, but it wasn’t a burden I would wish on Xyanthe. But for the first time I felt like she genuinely cared for me and I hoped that the more time passed the more I could rely on my own kind. It was clear from my visit to the palace that we could only rely on each other in a world shared with the gods.