The Mortality Series (book 1): GOLD Part 1

By Josh Byrne All Rights Reserved ©

Fantasy / Drama

The darkness of the heart

“You seem happier than usual, what’s the secret?”

Ismenara asked as she dug into her pomegranate. Xyanthe nodded in agreement, red juices flowing down her chin. I focussed on my own fruit, averting my eyes so I couldn’t give anything away. I couldn’t help but smile when I thought of Eosphoros.

“Nothing.”

I said, my grin betraying me. Ismenara laughed.

“Fine. Keep your own secrets-”

She said, popping a seed into her mouth.

“-But you’re going to have to tell us who he is eventually.”

My head snapped up. We had managed to keep our relationship secret for weeks. I didn’t like hiding something that made me so happy but I knew it was a necessity. I trusted him enough to know that he wasn’t ashamed, he just had more to lose. I hoped for a time when we could be open, regardless of opinion.

“There isn’t anyone else.”

I said, Ismenara raised an eyebrow with a knowing look.

“She’s right. It’s not like we’re spoilt for choice in the meadow.”

Xyanthe piped up behind me, kicking her feet in the water. Ismenara and I looked at her in surprise and laughed.

“What?”

She said, puzzled by our reaction. Xyanthe hadn’t made a joke before, she was coming out of herself more every day. I didn’t know what was driving this change but it gave me hope that I wouldn’t be so alone for long. We continued enjoying our food in a companionable silence.

The sound of the river as it flowed past and the rustling of the leaves in the forest were all perfection. Xyanthe and I spent most of our time here by Ismenara’s river. She couldn’t go further than a few feet from the water. Since the visit to the palace, I made it my business to spend more time as the three of us. The titans I had met would never know my act of defiance, but I was satisfied that they wouldn’t change who I chose to spend my time with. I wouldn’t bow to their expectations like Astraea did.

“It’s nice to have some time alone. It’s always unsettling when one of those Aletheia are around.”

Ismenara sighed.

“I think they’re beautiful.”

Xyanthe said, licking the excess juices off her fingers. I had to agree with Ismenara. Astraea had introduced them as protectors but they made me suspicious. If one of the mortals left the meadow one of the angelic women was sure to follow them like a shadow. I was always sure I had Xyanthe with me when one of them was near. They never talked. They never ate. They never slept. The Aletheia watched, constantly. It always made the hairs on my neck stand on end when one of them looked at me. Not to mention their constant vigil made it harder to see Eosphoros in secret.

“I don’t like them either.”

I said, watching the ripples my feet made in the river. Despite the water being so clear you couldn’t see the river bed for its depth. Xyanthe became distracted, leaning her head to one side.

“Can you hear that?”

I frowned in concentration. I could hear a distant rustling in the undergrowth.

“What do you thi-”

I didn’t get to finish my question as one of the mortals ran screaming from the forest towards the river. I watched in disbelief as he ran to his death. Ismenara slipped into the river and swam to intercept him. She became one with the water, almost invisible, as she sped into his path. Unexpectedly, Xyanthe stood and started run after the mortal.

“Xyanthe, wait!”

I shouted, following close behind her. As she reached out her arm to grab him her fingers only brushed his shoulder. I tried to catch up to her as she ran after him towards the river. I didn’t want her to go in the water after him, I doubted she could swim. Before he reached the water’s edge a white blur sped past us and knocked Xyanthe to the ground. The Aletheia grabbed the man’s wrist with such force it threw him off his feet. The mortal struggled against her iron grip, his feet kicking in the water.

“NO! NO! I HAVE TO DO IT! I DON’T DESERVE TO LIVE!”

He shouted desperately. The Aletheia ignored him as she dragged the mortal backwards. He fought against her the entire time.

“I’M WORTHLESS! LET ME GO! LET ME END IT! I CAN’T TAKE IT ANYMORE!”

He continued to protest. It disturbed me to see someone fighting so hard to end their own life.

“Are you alright?”

I said as I helped Xyanthe onto her feet. She nodded.

“Is he ok?”

She asked as I checked her over. To my relief, no cuts or broken bones. Suddenly, the forest was silent. The mortal had stopped his screaming, knocked unconscious by the Aletheia. She headed towards the tree’s. I didn’t like the way she held him by one arm, dragging him facedown through the dirt.

“Wait. You hurt my friend, I expect an apology.”

I called after her. The Aletheia stopped as I approached. Her face was expressionless but I could feel she didn’t like being questioned.

“This doesn’t concern you mortal”

She replied. I didn’t like the tone of distaste in her voice when she said the word ‘mortal’.

“It is if you’re going to endanger my friends.”

I said. I didn’t notice Ismenara was next to me until she put a hand on my shoulder.

“I think it’s best if we don’t question them”

I looked to her in disbelief. I thought Ismenara would have cared more about our welfare than the Aletheia’s authority.

“No, she could have hurt Xyanthe. I want her to apologise.”

I argued. When I looked back at the Alethiea I fought the urge to scream. Beyond her elegant features, a dark sheen writhed across her skin. The way she looked at me chilled me to the bone. I shook Ismenara’s hand off my shoulder and forced myself to look into the Aletheia’s eyes. I couldn’t leave a mortal at the mercy of this creature.

“Release him. He is a mortal, I can be responsible for him.”

“I only serve his majesty and this one will be of particular interest to the high king.”

She replied and continued to drag the man away. I couldn’t let her leave with him. I reached for the man’s other hand. My people were not at the disposal of these creatures, no matter who commanded it.

“But what do you need……”

The Aletheia drew a sword from her chiton and held the blade to my throat. I heard Xyanthe gasp behind me.

“Under my watch no-one will defy his will.”

She said. I tightened my grip. The mortals didn’t have a voice but I would be that voice for them. I was tired of watching them being taken advantage of. The Alethiea’s arm twitched ready to drive the blade forward. Before she could harm me, Astraea was between us. I fell back onto the grass as Astraea pushed me out of harm’s way, breaking my hold on the mortal’s hand. Xyanthe came to my side to help me back onto my feet. I had never seen her so panicked.

“Leave. Your work is done here. As Custodian, the mortal can be left in my care.”

Astraea commanded, her imposing figure looming over the Aletheia. I had never seen her this angry before and it scared me. Each feather of her wings stood on end, their silver lining glittering like knife edges. Without hesitation, the Alethiea dropped the mortal on the ground and fled into the forest. Astraea looked over her shoulder.

“Are you alright?”

She asked. I was still stunned from what had happened, all I could muster was a small nod.

“You shouldn’t question them like that again.”

Astraea scolded.

“But Callidora was the one who was attacked!”

Xyanthe protested, Astraea was surprised by her outburst. I knew she wasn’t used to the other mortals talking back to her like I did.

“Not so long as the rules are followed. I told you all this when they first came to the southern province.”

I scowled at Astraea’s disregard for Xyanthe’s feelings. I remembered those rules. Don’t question them, don’t talk to them, don’t go anywhere without them. I had no intention of following any of them back then and I wasn’t going to now.

“Those Aletheia are dangerous. What if you weren’t here? T-then she would….”

Xyanthe’s voice trailed off. She couldn’t bring herself to say the words.

“It’s ok. Nothing bad happened.”

I said, I stood and held her hand to help reassure her. Xyanthe had taken large strides in her awareness but it hadn’t occurred to me before how she would cope with the shock.

“But it could.”

She whispered. Astraea remained distant and, having seen how much the mortals admired her, I couldn’t help but resent her for it.

“I made it clear before. Do not get in their way and there won’t be any consequences”

The authoritative tone in her voice made me bristle with anger. What gave them the right to impose rules on us?

“Would you rather I left him at the mercy of that……… thing?”

I said.

“It is my job to ensure the safety of every mortal in the southern province, not yours. I will not have you disrespect the Alethiea. They are appointed sentries for your protection at the request of the king himself. There was no need to cause trouble. I would have resolved the issue.”

To emphasise her point Astraea gathered the unconscious man into her arms. Before I could question her anymore, Astraea turned on her heel and headed in the direction of the meadow. I wasn’t going to be so easily silenced. It was bad enough to watch the disregard for the mortals at the palace. I was not going to quietly let them impose that onto the people in the meadow.

“If you want us to be protected then you will send those creatures away.”

I called after Astraea as I followed her into the trees. I heard Xyanthe say a hasty goodbye to Ismenara before she trailed behind. Astraea continued to walk purposefully, ignoring my protests.

“I’m trying to talk to you!”

I shouted as we entered the meadow.

“Makes a change.”

Astraea muttered as she walked from the tree line and into the sunlight.

“What?”

I exclaimed, I put a hand on her arm, forcing her to stop and face me.

“Is that what this is about? I don’t accept your platitudes and that makes me the one in the wrong?”

Astraea shook my hand off her arm and walked away towards my elm. Her silence confirmed everything I needed to know. I watched the familiar stares of the mortals follow her as I went past, drinking in Astraea’s presence. One of the blessings of her absence was that I didn’t have to see them silently worship her. Xyanthe had grown into someone more independent but the others were still far behind. I wondered if they would ever see what I saw, a spoilt goddess that wasn’t used to being refused.

“What are you doing?”

I asked as Astraea sat the man down at the base of my birth tree.

“If his behaviour earlier is anything to go by, you may want to lash him to the elm. It will protect him from himself”

Astraea explained.

“What do you want to lash him with? There’s not much we can use.”

Xyanthe said stepping out from behind me. I could see the conflict between me and Astraea was making her uneasy.

“Maybe our gracious and devoted custodian would tear strips from her chiton? I’m sure she would do anything for a mortal in need.”

I suggested. If she wanted to use her work to distance herself from us then so be it. Astraea and I stared each other down for a few moments. Xyanthe, not acknowledging the sarcasm in my tone, looked to Astraea expectantly. Astraea huffed and bent down to gather the hem of her teal chiton. After a moment’s hesitation, holding the fabric tenderly in her hands, Astraea had the strips she needed to hold the man in place. She proceeded to carefully wrap them around the man’s wrists, knotting them together behind the tree. After checking they weren’t uncomfortably tight, Astraea stood and stepped away.

“I will take my leave. I will have one of the Alethiea to watch over him until he wakes.”

“We can do it. He’ll be less intimidated by a familiar face.”

I said. Astraea nodded.

“We will still need to increase patrols in the forest.”

She insisted. Without saying a good-bye, she left us and went back into the forest. Xyanthe nudged me with her elbow.

“Go after her. The two of you can’t leave it like this”

I was stunned for a moment, I continued to underestimate how observant Xyanthe had become.

“I can’t-”

“I’m not taking any excuses. Ever since your visit to the palace the two of you have done nothing but argue. I know you still want to be her friend so go patch things up.”

“I’ve done nothing wrong! It’s her pride that’s the problem.”

I protested.

“Then you’re going to be waiting a long time for an apology. We’re going to see a lot of her and it would make it easier if the two of you got along.”

“Like I said, I’m not the one making the problem.”

“Maybe she wants to apologise, but she needs you to give her the opportunity to do so. Now go, I’ll take first watch.”

Xyanthe waved me towards the forest. I reluctantly made my way back into the trees, I didn’t know she could be so pushy.

“Astraea! Astraea!”

I called her name many times but no luck. I didn’t think she had gotten so far away.

“I just want to talk to you. I’m sorry if I was too hard on you.”

I continued to shout. The shadows cast by the trees grew longer and darker as I searched. I stood in the growing gloom and decided to turn back. If I hadn’t found her by now then Astraea was gone. I just had to hope she was back soon and we could talk things out. I was carefully climbing over the roots of a large tree when I saw something move in the darkness.

“Who’s there? If you’re that Alethiea, Astraea’s not far and I don’t think she will like you harassing me”

I shouted. I hoped I didn’t sound as nervous as I felt. Dark shapes peeked out of the corner of my eye as I looked around, as if something were appearing and disappearing between the trees. All I could hear was the call of the crickets and insects in the dusk. Just as I was about to relax, a slow clapping sound echoed around me. My skin immediately prickled. Someone was behind me and they weren’t a friend.

“Bravo, not everyone can hear me.”

A slow, lilting voice said. I wanted to run but there was something in its lulling tone that froze me to the spot. A tall, thin man in black circled me like a predator and stooped down to look me in the eye.

“How fortunate, two mortals in one day. But this one can actually see me, how intriguing.”

He mused, the moonlight reflecting off his slicked back hair. I had never seen eyes like his before, there was no iris or white, just black. Every fibre of my being screamed at me to get away, to even flinch.

“I must be very lucky. I never like being ignored, it’s nice to be listened too for a change.”

His mouth spread into a wide grin as he held a lock of my hair between his forefinger and thumb. He slowly ran his fingers down the lock until it fell back, cold, against my face.

“Although I never believe in luck. You are a curious one. There is something-”

He sniffed the air between us.

“-Infectious about you.”

“I-I should go”

I managed to whisper. His grin only grew wider.

“But I thought you wanted some company? I heard you calling after your dear custodian so fervently.”

I managed to take a few steps back but he vanished like mist and reappeared behind me.

“Ah ah ah you should show a little more appreciation for my charity. I will make allowances this once. For someone who craves independence like you do, I can imagine gratitude to be struggle.”

“How did you-”

“Call it intuition.”

He cut off my question, his voice seemed to surround me as he spoke. I shivered as he put his hands on my shoulders. He sucked in a deep breath, feeding on the tension in the air.

“Let’s delve a little deeper. I’m not so used to being seen but I will make do.”

I broke from his grip but he appeared in front of me again, backing me against the tree trunk.

“You’re not one for being alone, are you? I’m not the only one who doesn’t like being overlooked, and by your own kind no less. It must be such a struggle.”

He said in a mocking tone. I started to cry, the fear settling like weight in my chest. I didn’t know how he knew so much. He relished it, as if he was feasting on my pain. My anguish about the mortals rose. I couldn’t ignore the confusion and loneliness that I pushed down every day. Waiting and hoping for the day my own people would acknowledge me. The hope I had held since I first met them.

“P-please….”

“They won’t ever change. Even the titans aren’t to be trusted. You’re just an inconvenience to them. They don’t respect you, they barely tolerate you.”

I was shaking, the words spinning around my head. Something in me was compelled to believe in his words, to quash the hope I had held for so long. My breathing became shallow and rapid. Even when I put my hands to my ears and slumped onto my knees, his voice was all I could hear.

“Your new love doesn’t change a thing. The whims of the titans are short-lived, he will be done with you soon. Really what is the point of such an isolated existence?”

I could feel him looming over me, gratifying in my pain.

“S-stop it”

I protested. He continued regardless, laughing ecstatically.

“I’m only telling you what you already know. Despite that, you would inflict that knowledge onto others. Xyanthe will hate you like the rest for taking away her blissful ignorance.”

Dark thoughts whirled across my mind like a storm. I screamed to drown out his voice as all of my deepest fears were given form.


Eros darted through the forest in a panic. Where did the mortal go? He didn’t intend to cause him any harm. Since his encounter with Callidora, he had watched over the mortals of the meadow in fascination. He could feel their emotions and personality begin to grow, it was like watching flowers open their petals in spring. Eros had come across the young man that morning. He didn’t recognise him from the meadow, the mortal must have been from another province. He had watched the mortal for a time as he made his way through the trees. Unlike the budding residents of the meadow, his emotions hadn’t been quickened.

Eros thought it was a shame that something so beautiful would be kept locked away so deep within. For the first time in years Eros interfered with affairs beyond what his role required. The deed had been quick, bringing the glimmering facets of his personality to the surface was easy. The mortal seemed to handle it well, savouring the sights and smells of the forest for the first time. But it proved to be too much, in moments his senses became overloaded and he had run off.

Eros had been searching for him ever since. Guilt like this had never plagued him before. He always used his abilities at his own whim and rarely thought of the consequences. But as he searched among the trees he was desperate to right the damage he had caused. When the forest darkened to night he began to fear the worst. His heart sank when he heard screaming in the distance.

“I’m coming”

Eros whispered, flying at full speed. He would reverse what he had done and hopefully the man would be unscathed. It wasn’t long before he reached the source of the screams. He recognised his sister’s child, leaning over Callidora hungrily.

“Moros!”

Eros thundered as he spread his golden wings wide. He came to her aid without a second thought. An anger he had never felt before swept away any hesitation. He had never held anything precious enough to be worth protecting. Eros didn’t have to wonder what motivated Gaea when she defended her children. Moros’ head snapped up in surprise.

“Leave her!”

Eros shouted walking towards Moros, the shine of his wings tearing the shadows apart.

“W-why uncle what a pleasure”

He greeted, running a hand over his slicked hair. Callidora slumped onto the ground unconscious, Moros’ trance over her broken.

“Spare your words. Leave her alone.”

“Since when do you take an interest in mortals? Surely they do not warrant attention from such a divine being as yourself?”

As Moros regained his composure the velvet tone, that he was notorious for, returned to his speech.

“Your gifts are wasted on me. I will direct my attention where I wish. You are lucky I don’t drag you back to Nyx myself.”

The daimones eyes widened.

“But surely you understand? I need sustenance-“

“You will find it elsewhere.”

Eros interrupted.

“But you know our nature. Why would you care?”

Moros looked from Callidora to Eros and grinned with a knowing smile.

“You know uncle, you were less vulnerable when you stayed in the heavens.”

Eros stood his ground, he would always be beyond Moros’ influence. But he didn’t like the daimones sudden change in confidence.

“There’s something different with her, isn’t there? I thought the power from her was especially………….. Delicious.”

Moros continued. Eros know how the daimones worked, enacting their powers onto others was how they fed. The more people they had under their influence the more powerful they became.

“Enough.”

Moros ignored the command, stepping slowly towards him. The glow from Eros’ wings gave his sallow skin a yellow tinge as he approached.

“I remember in the time of Ouranus you were not so sentimental. What if your influence brings them ruin? Are you sure your power is controllable outside of your regular duties?”

Eros recoiled slightly as Moros’ words snaked across his heart, licking at his insecurities. Even at their infancy, they gave the daimone the hold he needed.

“You have been away from the surface a long-time uncle. Wouldn’t the world be best served if you remained at a distance?”

Moros’ eyes gleamed with relish. Eros had never known a daimone who could make him vulnerable. But the power from this one mortal had given Moros enough influence to make him question his actions. Eros shook the doubts from his mind, he would not take this slight.

“I said enough!”

Eros roared. His wings flared to life, creating a golden shockwave that sent Moros reeling across the forest floor. He turned over with a groan and sat up, but the grin on his face remained triumphant.

“Very well Uncle. But a power source such as her cannot remain untapped forever.”

He said, melding into the shadows. When Eros was sure he was gone, he quickly scooped Callidora into his arms. He brought her close. She was shaking feverishly from the shock. Eros began delving into her emotions to feel the extent of the damage.

“It will be ok I can undo his work”

Eros consoled her, brushing her hair out of her face. Moros’ words still whispered in his ears and made him unsure of his ability. As he searched he soothed her distress and panic, causing Callidora to stop shaking and fall into a peaceful sleep. He found the dark kernel of trauma Moros had left behind, reeking of the doubt and paranoia that he embedded into his victims. Eros knew the victim of a daimone would succumb to this small kernel, leeching their power and resolve until nothing was left. Eros immediately set to work removing it, lightly placing a palm over Callidora’s heart.

The extraction wasn’t easy. As he worked the shard of darkness free he could feel Callidora’s pain. But, to his alarm, as soon as he removed the shard another grew and took its place. He tried again and again, but to no avail. The darkness stayed, embedded in the light of her heart like a stain. As he attempted it again Callidora murmured in her sleep, her face scrunched in discomfort. Eros reluctantly decided that he would leave it be, his influence had caused enough damage for the day.

He carried Callidora back to the meadow, where he knew she felt safest. Lost in his own thoughts. In all the years he had spent on the surface he had never doubted himself. Eros had always been confident in his immunity to the powers of others but now he couldn’t rely on that anymore. He thought he had been immune from caring too, that he would never have anyone in his life he felt responsible for.

If his sisters’ dark children were going to start walking the overworld again it wasn’t a good sign. He had never been concerned with the conflicts between the titans and the daimones. But, as he looked down at Callidora in his arms, he knew the mortals would be at risk. He pushed the thought aside. He had to retain his impartiality.

When he gently lay Callidora down at the foot of her elm tree he intended to leave the meadow and never return. From what he had done he was as much a risk to the mortals as the daimones were. There was nothing more he could do for Callidora or her kin. But as he turned and looked out onto the groups of sleeping mortals his heart ached. He wouldn’t admit to himself that his curiosity had developed into something more, something that made him responsible. They were so vulnerable and so precious to this world that as he leapt into the sky he began his search for a solution, for a way to protect them from the daimones.


“I-I can’t find her. I’ve looked everywhere and I can’t find her!”

Iris paced the cave floor frantically, her bangles chiming in time with her steps. Her wet chiton left water marks trailing behind her on the cold stone. She had spent days searching the provinces since Arke had disappeared and had begun to despair.

“I tried mothers’ island but she had already left. I’ll go to back to the east province. With the storms becoming more frequent Arke may have taken shelter there”

Before she could fly of the cave, Rhea pulled Iris into a comforting embrace.

“Calm down. You’ve done all you can. She would not want you to endanger yourself any further.”

Rhea said, stroking the locks of Iris’ damp hair.

“But……… What if the king has her? What if I don’t see her again? I know Arke she won’t say a thing. She’ll risk her life and if I lost her I don’t know what I would do. She was the one who knew what to do and I……. I…….”

As Iris’ words degenerated into sobs, Rhea sat her down. It broke her heart to see Iris so hurt. Her retainers had offered their help and now they were paying the price. Rhea pushed down her guilt. The baby was going to be coming soon and she couldn’t remain idle in self-pity. She had watched iris fret and her sisters taking measures to make sure Cronus couldn’t detect the island. Rhea wanted to do her part, for now that part was to comfort Iris.

“I know. I know. We can’t assume the worst. For all we know she is on her way back.”

She said, as Iris’ sobs began to subside. The howling winds echoed around the cave, Rhea could feel the storms were a sign. As her due date loomed, she had the growing sense of forboding that Cronus finding her was an inevitability. It was going to be difficult hiding both her and the child. Between the Aletheia, the storms, and losing Arke it was becoming harder to co-ordinate. With both time and circumstances against them, Rhea knew they had to take action.

“It’s time I honoured yours and my sisters sacrifices. We need a plan.”

Rhea said. Iris broke from her embrace, rubbing her eyes with the heel of her hand.

“What message do you need me to carry?”

Iris asked without hesitation. Rhea smiled at her devotion and straightened Iris’ circlet.

“I’m not asking you to fly Iris. I think it’s best for you to stay with me until we know what happened to Arke. But I do have something that might work.”

Rhea stood and walked to the centre of the cave. With her fingers she drew a small leaf surrounded by a circle. Rhea looked down at the small symbol and breathed deeply. Her mother used to use small tokens like these to let them know she was safe while she travelled. She used to use them herself but had lost the faith in her abilities long ago. Cronus had seen to that, in hindsight Rhea now knew it was to keep her isolated. She placed her fingertips around the edge and closed her eyes, the image glowed a deep green. In moments, a white flash appeared in the cave.

“Stay away from my sister you monster!”

Themis shouted in rage, brandishing a longsword. Iris screamed as Themis stabbed at the empty air.

“Sister! Calm down. I’m not in any danger. When did you learn to wield a sword?”

“Oh! Rhea I’m sorry. I saw the sign and I thought you were in danger. Considering the circumstances, I thought it best to know how to defend myself. When I asked at the forge Prometheus took a liking to the project. Considering his……….. Peculiarities I did intend for one of the others to craft it for me. But I won’t question the quality. He even carved the hilt into a set of scales. I’m not usually one for something so garish, but isn’t it a lovely touch?”

Themis explained as she turned the sword downward to show the filigreed set of golden scales carved into the hilt.

“Do you think it’s wise to arm yourself? Won’t that draw attention?”

Rhea asked, her back beginning to ache. She retook her seat next to Iris.

“With Cronus lurking about I think it’s more than appropriate. If that man thinks to question me he’ll be lucky I don’t run him through-”

Themis turned up her nose and jabbed the air in front of her to demonstrate. Iris backed away cautiously, shuffling to the opposite end of the log. In moments like these Rhea still found it hard to believe how much her family supported her. Without a single complaint, they continued to make sure she was protected. Cronus had convinced her for so long that they would abandon her that she had lost her faith in her family. Now that she had it back it gave her the strength to carry on.

“-on the spot. The world is becoming a dangerous place, especially with the Aletheia lurking about. I know Cronus suspects us but he can’t prove it. The others are safer, he can’t attack his brother’s wives directly. But Mnemosyne and I are in a more vulnerable position. I also heard rumours more of the Daimones have broken out of the underworld. If those beastly things are around too then we need to gird ourselves.”

Themis said, taking a seat next to Rhea.

“That’s what I wanted to talk to you about.”

Themis’ hard visage slipped slightly.

“And you called me? I have to say a wise choice indeed”

Themis said eagerly. Rhea supressed a smile as she continued.

“I know of the Aletheia and the Daimones. Arke has kept us well informed-”

“Oh, the poor dear. I heard only only yesterday that she had been ‘found’. I dread to think what kind of dungeon he has her in.”

Rhea’s eyes widened at Themis’ interruption. Iris rose from where she had been sitting.

“What?”

Iris said in horror. Themis looked at her in surprise.

“I do apologise, I didn’t see you there. I’m sure he has her kept somewhere comfortable-”

Before Themis could finish Iris had darted out of the cave and into the storm outside.

“Well, the girl was going to find out eventually.”

Themis excused, smoothing out her chiton. Rhea shook her head; her sister was prideful to a fault.

“You really should have been more careful”

Rhea said. Themis pursed her lips.

“You wanted to discuss strategy, yes?”

Themis said, diverting the conversation.

“Cronus is going to find me-“

“You have to trust us. We will protect you.”

“I know that, let me finish Themis. I can’t hide forever so, instead of sitting here waiting for him to walk on the shore, I want him to get here at the right moment.”

“I will not allow that abominable man near you.”

Themis protested, shaking her head.

“Please, listen. This isn’t about me, its about my children. I can’t save this little one and leave his brothers and sisters at Cronus’ mercy. I want them all freed.”

“Ah I see. He can’t stand up against all of us. We just need him alone, force him to release them and then he can abdicate in favour of Hestia for good measure. I quite like the thought of a female sovereign, don’t you?”

Rhea sighed in frustration at Themis’ interruptions.

“Stop. I don’t want to make grasps for power. I know Cronus, he will not give up his throne so easily. It would result in war and casualties I don’t want to be responsible for. All I want is my family together and safe. I have thought of a way to do that but I need your help-”

Incredulous that someone could have an idea better than her own, Themis listened to Rhea’s plan. When she was done, Themis was vigorously shaking her head in refusal.

“No. I simply can’t allow it. I won’t have you as bait in the clutches of that man.”

Rhea comfortingly placed a hand on Themis’.

“I beg you, Themis. I need you and our sisters to do this. You are the only ones I can trust. I made this mess and I want to put it right. This is the only way. Cronus can have his kingdom. Once I have my children, we can get away. Make a new home like the one we used to have, Do you remember?”

“I do. Sometimes when I see the sunset I’m back at that coast.”

Themis’ expression became wistful, reminiscing of the simpler life they had long since lost.

“Mother used to tell me of the lands outside the provinces. We can go there. We can have that back.”

Rhea said. Gaea had told her about the other lands she had encountered on her travels. Of the tribal deities across the sea, or the Nordic deities to the west living in the trees. They could find a peaceful life where her children could grow up outside of the politics of power.

“You will need to tell the others.”

Rhea could see her sister still had her reservations. Themis never called on the counsel of others. She wasn’t the democratic type in a debate and always thought she knew best. Rhea felt the baby kick. She would do whatever it took to convince her sisters to follow her plan, to make sure her child would grow up in a peaceful land surrounded by the love of his family.

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