The burden of emotion
Cronus looked around disdainfully as he entered the depths of the forge. He looked up and down the crudely carved out tunnels. Naked torches bathed the rocky walls in a pale orange light. The lack of adornment wasn’t fitting for the home of a titan; no statement of status or power. He never understood how Iapetus’ backward sons could live like animals cooped up in the forge all day. It was always dark, humid and had a musty smell that clogged his nose. He would have insisted they work somewhere more accommodating for his presence but their work spoke for itself. If these surroundings worked for them then he didn’t want to mess with it, they were too valuable.
Prometheus and Epimetheus stood either side of the entrance to the final chamber that held the Aletheia. Cronus was glad they weren’t kept any further below ground, he could already feel the sweat beading on his brow.
“The statue couldn’t be brought outside?”
Cronus said, he had insisted they be brought outside to him but Prometheus had resisted.
“I already explained, we have risked their integrity enough moved them from the forge chamber. In this state they would fall apart outside.”
Prometheus stated to Cronus. The king gritted his teeth as he walked past. He would never have allowed such a slight to his commands but he needed Rhea found. There would be a time when he wouldn’t be of use and Cronus could do away with them and their aberrations. If it wasn’t for his brothers, the king would have banished Iapetus years ago. The graceful statues captured his attention as soon as he entered the cave. Even in this inanimate state he could feel the reserved grace emanating from them. Their fair features and large wings were the perfect image for the safeguards of his realm.
“I see you like them already”
Epimetheus grinned confidently. Cronus circled around the two of them admiring the workmanship.
“They will suffice.”
He admitted, not wanting the brothers to become overconfident.
“We only need you to bless these two. Then we can use their essence to make the rest. The Aletheia will look exactly alike.”
“If I only need to bless one, why are there two?”
Cronus asked. Epimetheus nodded to Dolos, sitting cross armed, lurking in the corner.
“We had only made one. Then we found our little daimone had been working away. We didn’t know he was so skilled.”
Epimetheus nodded to Dolos, who had been leaning on the wall with his arms crossed. Cronus looked to him with distaste.
“Hm. I didn’t notice you there lurking in the shadows. Unbelievable such an inferior being could imitate your brother so precisely”
“I would ask that you be civil when visiting our place of work”
Dolos piped up uncrossing his arms. His outburst immediately earned him a stern look from Epimetheus. Prometheus’ gaze darted around the room, the rising conflict making him uneasy. Cronus took a step closer to Dolos.
“I will say what I please. I will remind you that one of your kind has taken my wife. Anyone could be suspected of conspiring with him”
Dolos stepped into the light slowly, Cronus could see the intelligent glint in his eye.
“As much as I sympathise, she is not my queen and blindly accusing others will not find her sooner”
Before Epimetheus could stop him, Cronus had Dolos pressed against the wall.
“I urge to try to repeat that once more”
Cronus threatened. Epimetheus moved protectively in front of his twin, who had started to clunch and unclench his hands in distress. Prometheus moved protectively towards the statues, he valued their welfare more than Dolos’ if a fight broke out.
“I apologise my king, the three of us having been working too hard. I’m sure he didn’t mean to sound so disrespectful and will apologise.”
Epimetheus said. Dolos met Cronus’ gaze with a rebellious look in his eyes.
“My deepest apologies. The heat must be loosening my tongue.”
Cronus didn’t like the daimone’s demeanour. When he had first pardoned him Dolos’ spirit was broken and would never meet his eye. Now the confidence in his eyes betrayed the words coming out of his mouth. Reluctantly, he let Dolos go and returned to the statues.
“Keep your pet muzzled”
“It would be best if you left”
Epimetheus said to Dolos through gritted teeth. He knew the precarious and isolated position his brothers were in. the last thing he needed was the arrangement that protected their life at the forge to be compromised.
“I want to see this”
Dolos protested with relish. Epimetheus grabbed the back of his chiton.
“Then you are keeping still and quiet”
“Which one did it make?”
Cronus asked standing between the statues.
“The one to your left”
Prometheus replied. Directing a disgusted glance to the left statue, Cronus closed his eyes and raised his arms. He spread the fingers of one hand on each of their foreheads, his gold torque beginning to glow. The air thickened with Cronus’ power which, combined with the humidity of the forge, made it hard for the others to breathe. The glow emanated from the torque and surrounded Cronus, travelling up his hands. The energy rippled over the surface of the statues like water, the light slowly being absorbed into the clay. The grey of their skin started turn a light peach and their hair became white. Within moments the Aletheia had opened their violet eyes. Their chitons fitted their forms more naturally and they had already begun to move, extending their fingers and opening and closing their wings. When Cronus was finished he lowered his arms and moved in front of the statues. Both Aletheia looked to him and bowed.
“I name you the Aletheia. You were born to serve me, to act as sentries to protect this realm.”
Cronus commanded. The two maidens bowed to him again, accepting their role. Cronus turned to leave the cave. Eager to get out of the heat and into more opulent surroundings.
“Get busy making the rest. I expect to have them distributed across the provinces in a few days.”
He instructed, walking hastily form the chamber. Prometheus exhaled with relief and immediately made his way to the main forge, Epimetheus roughly let go of Dolos’ chiton.
“I don’t expect any more outbursts. We can always find more work for you to do.”
He threatened before following Prometheus. Only Dolos noticed the statue on the left slowly beating her wings, hovering at the height of the Alethia next to it. The maiden looked at Dolos, a flare of dark energy snaked up her body.
“You hear my words in your ear’s, don’t you?”
The maiden’s expression remained resolute.
“I don’t need you to listen to them yet, act the same as the others for now.”
He instructed. She bowed to him like she had to Cronus. Dolos grinned. He had pulled off his deception; he hadn’t felt a rush like this in a long time. Cronus wouldn’t be able to threaten Dolos ever again.
The moon was high in the sky when I opened my eyes. I flexed my fingers and stirred slightly, aggravating the dull ache across my body. Holding onto my memories had taken more energy than I thought. In the days since I was barely able to walk. Xyanthe had stayed by my side the entire time, even now she was curled up next to me fast asleep. Still tired, I was content to just take in the scenery of the meadow in the moonlight. But my gaze eventually drifted to the stars and I thought of Eosphoros. Despite what happened I wanted to see him again, even if it was to shout at him for treating me like that. I couldn’t deny how much he meant to me, not after how hard I had held on to the few memories we had together. Even though I hadn’t known him as long as Xyanthe or Ismenara, I could open up to him in a way I never had with them. When I was with him I didn’t feel alone, except when he made it clear he didn’t feel the same way. When I spotted a figure floating in the sky I thought it was tiredness playing tricks on my mind. If it was Astraea I still didn’t want to talk to her.
My heart leapt as his black hair and hazel eyes came into focus. I didn’t know what to say as he landed softly on the grass and walked towards me. I tried to stand but I was too drained to move my legs.
I said in a hushed tone. He stopped two paces away from me. My delight at seeing him and my anger grappling for dominance. A part of me wanted to run up to him and hug him close.
Another part wanted to kick him. I hated that he had such an effect on me, that he had treated me the same way as Astraea but I just couldn’t send him away like I had her. Since I had been born I had watched the dependency the mortals had on the gods. They basked in their presence and served them without question. All to be in the presence of something they lacked, to be close to even being whole. It scared me that I could be affected that way too. To be so dependent on someone’s presence that you couldn’t resist when they took advantage.
“Please let me explain.”
“You don’t need to explain yourself. I understand perfectly well.”
“I didn’t mean to hurt you.”
“Neither did Astraea. But she just watched like you did. I sent her away too.”
He took a small step back. The part of me that wanted to bring him close screamed at me not to let him leave.
“I-I didn’t think. I’ve never come across a mortal like you before Callidora.”
Eosphoros said, his gaze fixed on mine.
“I realise now how I have taken your feelings for granted. I didn’t think that you would be so hurt……..”
“So, it’s my fault that, unlike the other mortals, I speak up when you mistreat me?”
I wanted to forgive him. I wanted to let him close to me but I knew that I couldn’t compromise myself. I couldn’t let myself be at the whim of someone else. I placed a hand protectively on Xyanthe’s head. Just because the people at the palace were ignorant of their actions didn’t make it right.
“No. That wasn’t what I meant.”
He replied, running his hands through his hair in frustration.
“Then what do you mean?”
“it’s hard to say……..”
“Not if your honest.”
I said, cutting off his excuses. I had heard enough of them from Astraea.
“I love you. Alright.”
Eosphoros blurted out.
“I barely know you and yet I- I love you. I don’t know how and I don’t know why. It scares me, Callidora. I can’t be apart from you, I’ve done nothing but think of you since that night. No-one in my life has ever made me feel like this and I didn’t know how to handle it. It scares me that there is someone who I can’t live without and that person is you”
Eosphoros’ outburst left me speechless. I could see in his eyes it was the truth and I felt all those things too. I was afraid of being dependent but maybe if we both were reliant on each other, there was an equality in that. He walked towards me and took my free hand.
“But I…… I don’t know if I can trust you again.”
“You have opened my eyes and I will never treat you like that again. One day knowing you has changed me more than anything else in my entire lifetime. I beg you for your forgiveness and for the chance to earn your trust and love again.”
As he pledged himself to me he bent his head forward, pressing the back of my hand to his forehead. Tears prickled at the back of my eyes. I pulled my hand from his and lifted his chin. Before he could speak I leaned forward and kissed him. After his initial surprise, Eosphoros held the back of my neck in his hand, angling my lips upward to his own. I could only hear the hammering of my heart and see the lights behind my eyes. I parted my lips from his.
“I love you too.”
I whispered. Eosphoros held me closer to him and brought our lips together again. I had been taken to the palace to find answers but now I knew that I had found something better. I had found a part of myself that I didn’t know I needed until now.
Eros hid behind the elm in awe. He had followed the young titan across the night sky and was meticulous to remain unseen when he landed, but he was yet to get a look at the mortal. He had thought of many theories as to who this young god had given his heart to. But not even the most imaginative ideas predicted his lover would be a mortal.
He had known of the mortals, the race Cronus had created with his sister, but didn’t think they were of any consequence. The gods and mortals had coexisted much like oil and water, never intermingling. Eros didn’t know how the king would react to such a relationship. He had heard how protective Cronus could be of his creation.
As he felt the emotion emanating from the woman he knew he had been ignorant. He had seen romantic love before, he knew how heartbroken Gaea had been when Ouranos had been deposed and murdered. But he had never had the privilege of feeling it for another. Even though he hadn’t seen the mortal he could feel her love envelope him, he had never felt emotions so strong that his heart was beholden to them. His face was still wet from tears when he felt the moment when they declared their love for one another.
He continued to listen in on the couple as they sat together.
“I need to go”
He heard Eosphoros say, Eros almost gasped in pain as he felt the woman’s sadness.
She said, the reluctance clear in her tone.
“I need to get back to the palace. Grandfather will have noticed my absence by now.”
“You want us to be a secret?”
“It’s not something I ask lightly. You know their attitudes as much as I do. I want us to have the chance to enjoy our time together before we let others know about us.”
He heard the mortal sigh.
“You’re right. Come back soon.”
The mortal agreed. The grass rustled as Eosphoros got to his feet.
“I wouldn’t be able to keep away”
Eros peeked his head around the trunk to see the two of them holding each other’s hands as Eosphoros levitated off the ground. They held on until only their fingertips were touching. Now that Eosphoros was gone he could get a good look at the mortal, eager to see the owner of the emotions that had enraptured his heart so much. He was sure she wouldn’t be able to see him. The mortals lacked the sight to see the deities who had corporeal bodies. Eros gasped. The long auburn hair, the green eyes, at a glance he might have mistaken her for Gaea. At his gasp she looked around, puzzled.
“Is someone there?”
She called. He froze when she looked at him, but her gaze quickly skimmed across the meadow behind him. Eros quickly darted behind the elm, not wanting to risk being seen. He knew he couldn’t leave, there were too many questions his curiosity demanded he answer. For the first time in years he was compelled to remain on the ground, to watch the events unfold around this mysterious mortal. He hadn’t felt such anticipation quicken in his heart for a long time.
Arke looked at her mother’s surprised expression with contempt. She didn’t have time for her mother’s theatrics.
“Did I stutter?”
She said. Arke needed to return to Rhea as soon as possible. Since the Alethiea had been introduced across the provinces it had become harder to hide, even on the isolated islands her mother. Electra looked out to the horizon, the surf lapping at her toes.
“I never imagined you or Iris would be involved in something like this. I knew something was wrong when Iris was so vague.”
“You’re the one who called us here. You asked how we were doing and you got your answer.”
Electra looked hurt but Arke ignored it. If her mother wanted a loving relationship she should have paid attention to her when they were children. Electra sobered, sitting straighter on the rocks.
“Where is Iris? I was hoping to see the both of you.”
“I insisted she stay behind. One of us needs to be there if we need to get the queen out quickly. If we are done here I’m going to get back.”
As Arke spread her wings to leave Electra hastily got to her feet.
“Wait. W-wouldn’t you like to see your little sisters? They’re excited to see their eldest sister”
Electra said, the desperate edge in her voice made Arke suspicious.
“No thank you. You can raise these children yourself.”
“I-I know I haven’t always done things right–”
Arke turned her back to Electra, clenching her fists.
“Not now Electra.”
“Mother. I’m your mother Arke.”
“It’s too late for that now, don’t you think?”
Arke said through gritted teeth.
“Iris is such a wonderful young woman a-and I know that’s due to you. I-I’m sorry you had to take on such a burden.”
“My sister is not a burden. It has been hard because you were too selfish to care for us.”
Arke faced Electra, her fists shaking with anger.
“I deserve that. I just want you to know that I always loved you and Iris. I’m sorry but you must understand that I did my best.”
“How dare you! You think one apology makes up for that?”
Arke paced the beach unable to contain her anger.
“What brought this on? Did you just feel guilty on a whim?”
“N-no Arke. I-I’ve just seen the sacrifices you’ve made. That maybe you could have made more time for yourself.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
Her mother’s hasty excuses gave her pause.
“I’ve never seen you wear any colour. Iris tells me of her life at the palace and you rarely do anything outside your duties.”
Electra said. Arke looked down at the grey chiton. She knew that most of the clothes she wore were plain but that was her choice. She had never felt comfortable in clothes that fitted her tall figure and preferred the shapeless garments she wore. Even as a child she knew she wasn’t as feminine as she should be.
“That’s none of your concern.”
Arke said defensively.
“But it is. Maybe if I had been a larger influence in your life the responsibility wouldn’t have weighed you down so much.”
“I’m not talking about this anymore.”
Arke turned to leave but Electra took her hand.
“Please I want us all to be a family when this is over. Stay.”
Arke paused when Electra’s eyes flicked to a nearby cave. She realised her mother’s actions too late. Before Arke could shake off her mother’s hand a pair of Aletheia flew from the cave entrance and held her fast.
“I should have known. You never took an interest before.”
Arke said, struggling against the Aletheia.
“Please understand my dearest. This is for your own good.”
Electra begged, tears streaming down her eyes.
“Where is the other traitor?”
One of the Alethiea asked.
“You were going to sell Iris out too?! She has done nothing but love you, despite everything. You heartless excuse for a mother!”
Arke flew into a rage, extending her wings as she struggled against the other women. She never tolerated anyone putting her sister in danger. The Alethiea held her fast.
“The king told me he would spare you. Please understand I did it for your own good. He would have found you eventually I couldn’t bare to watch him execute you for treason.”
“Do you think he will keep his promises? He isn’t someone you can trust. You don’t know the levels of cruelty he will go to.”
Electra shook her head and lifted the material of her chiton, exposing the burn mark that wound around her upper arm.
“I know more than you think. I had to protect the both of you from yourselves. Please be selfish and tell him what he wants to know. You will be comfortable and both you will be safe. This madness can end.”
Arke stood tall and looked into her mother’s eyes.
“I will never forgive you for this and you had better hope nothing happens to Iris.”
She threatened. Her rage made Electra step back.
“Don’t say that dearest, Please. I only do this out of love.”
She whispered, but it didn’t sway her daughters hateful stare as the Aletheia carried her away.