The Mortality Series (book 1): GOLD Part 1

By Josh Byrne All Rights Reserved ©

Fantasy / Drama

Honesty taken for granted

I woke with a start. My pulse hammered in my ears. Even after a few deep breaths, my arms and legs were still shaking. I kept my eyes shut tight, I didn’t want to see the man in black looming over me. What if he was still lurking in the trees? Was he was waiting for me to wake up? A cold shiver ran down my spine when I remembered what he had said about Xyanthe. I needed to make sure she wasn’t his next target. After a few moments, I mustered the courage to open my eyes. To my surprise, the leaves of my elm rustled gently above me. I propped myself up on my elbows, blinking as my eyes adjusted to the afternoon sun. I wasn’t sure how I got back to my elm but I was glad to be out of the forest.

“Hello.”

I jumped at the unfamiliar voice, still unable to shake the fear from last night. A man was sitting cross legged behind me. His blue eyes looked at me with concern.

“I’m sorry if I surprised you. Xyanthe asked me to keep watch on him until she got back.”

He apologised. I looked past him to the mortal Astraea saved yesterday, still tied to the tree unconscious.

“Has he woken up today?”

I asked. It was better to use clear statements when talking with the other mortals. They weren’t the kind for chatting.

“Not yet. Are you alright? You seem very unsettled for someone who just woke up.”

I was taken aback by his question. Besides Xyanthe, another mortal had never taken an interest in me before. He brushed his light brown hair, that fell to his shoulders, out of his face.

“I’m fine, just a bad dream. Who are you?”

“I’m Macar. Xyanthe already told me about you, Callidora.”

Macar gestured to himself. The animated way he spoke unsettled me, it was as if I was talking to Ismenara or Eosphoros. I had hoped for so long for a conversation like this, for my kind to have same awareness I had. but I couldn’t shake the words from yesterday. The thought of him being vulnerable like I was made my heart sink. How many years had he lived here care free? Before the protection of his ignorance was taken away.

“It’s nice to meet you, Macar.”

I replied, tears welling in my eyes. When I wasn’t aware of the dangerous beings that lurked in the outside world all I wanted was for the mortals of the meadow to be like I was. Now, selfishly, that hope was coming true. I had wished for this for so long I couldn’t help but feel responsible. What I thought would have been a blessing for them was now shaping up to be a curse. Macar crawled over to me and put an arm around my shoulders.

“It’s alright. Xyanthe will be back soon.”

I knew he wanted to comfort me, but his empathy made me feel worse.

“I’m ok, honestly. I’m just not good company at the moment.”

“It’s better than the other guy strapped to the tree, not much of a conversationalist.”

I laughed at his joke. Macar took his arm off me and shuffled back against the elm.

“Why is he there?”

Macar asked. I hesitated, unsure of what to tell him.

“He um………. Well we didn’t want him to hurt himself.”

“Why would he do that?”

“I’m not sure. I guess he finds it hard to cope.”

Macar frowned.

“Cope with what?”

I bit my lip. If there were some things that Macar was still unaware of, then I wanted him to remain that way. The man lashed to the tree was a prime example.

“Only he knows.”

I said. Macar looked to the other mortal.

“Is there something we could do to help?”

“For now, all we can do is make sure he’s comfortable.”

Macar nodded. My mind burned with so many questions about how aware he was. I hadn’t noticed him before and yet he was further along than Xyanthe. I knew the questions I asked were painful for her but maybe he might be able to answer them.

“How long have you known Xyanthe?”

I asked. His brow furrowed slightly.

“I-I only time I remember meeting her was today but…. She feels familiar. Does that sound strange?”

“Not at all.”

“If I’m honest I don’t remember much before this morning. My memory is hazy, like I’m seeing it through water. The water gets shallower and then today it’s like I’ve broken through the surface. Sorry, I don’t know why I’m telling you all this.”

Macar explained. I turned over onto my knees, looking at him intently. This was the closest I had gotten to any answers about what made me different.

“Is anything else besides this morning clear?”

I asked. He diverted his gaze too the grass.

“You.”

My eyes widened, I wasn’t expecting that.

“What?”

Macar knotted his fingers together nervously, trying to find the right words.

“W-well I felt it more than saw it, I guess. You were climbing out of the earth and in that moment, I could feel everything. The heat of the sun, the sound of the birds, it was all so sharp. After that my memory is foggy, until today that is.”

“Me?”

I said. Before I could get Macar to explain, Xyanthe tapped me on the shoulder.

“You’re finally awake. How did it go with Astraea?”

She asked, holding a woven basket against her hip.

“I didn’t find her. What is that?”

“You like it? I made it myself.”

Xyanthe said as she sat set the basket, filled with different fruits of the forest, down in front of me.

“Are these leaves?”

I asked, feeling the edge of the basket. Xyanthe nodded as she knelt down in front of the man from yesterday.

“It was Ismenara who showed me how. I was able to carry plenty of food for all of us.”

Xyanthe said. She was pulling on the ties binding him to the tree, checking if they were still tight. When she was satisfied she sat with us.

“Plus, I thought I would bring something back for Macar”

Macar smiled, rubbing the back of his neck nervously.

“For me? You didn’t have to do that.”

He said, his cheeks going a slight shade of red.

“Just to say thanks for keeping watch.”

Xyanthe shrugged. We each took a pomegranate from the basket. Macar yelped in pain when he tried biting into the fruit. I fought the urge to laugh, I had been there before.

“They’re tricky. Here, you can have this one I already opened it. Don’t eat the seeds, I’ve made that mistake.”

I said, handing him my fruit. Xyanthe chuckled at the memory.

“You still can’t peel them right either.”

She said, popping a seed into her mouth. The way Macar looked at her in that moment was like he was staring into the sun. When she talked to him his smile got wider and every time Xyanthe looked at him I could see the joy in his eyes. The way he payed particular attention when she spoke and listened to every word told me there was another reason why he had been so helpful. To see a good side to having their feelings was cathartic. Even if Xyanthe seemed oblivious to it.

I didn’t notice the encroaching shadows at first, assuming that the sun was setting. But when the first drops of rain started to fall I realised that thick black clouds had blocked the sun.

“What is this?”

Macar asked, standing and walking out the cover of the elm.

“Just the rain. It’s been happening a lot more often lately but it’s not that bad.”

Xyanthe explained. Unfazed by the weather, she continued to nonchalantly chew on her fruit. I looked at the sky with worry, the clouds had never been that dark before. Normally I would suggest we go into the forest for better cover but the thought of the man in black made my skin prickle. Macar looked up at the sky, marvelling at the rain as it ran down his arms. My ears pricked at the familiar sound of a distant drone.

“Macar get back-“

Before I could warn him, a powerful wind tore across the meadow. Xyanthe caught him as he reeled backwards, knocking us all into the elm. I tried to catch my breath as another wave of wind threw us back down to the ground. Macar winced as he tried to get to his feet, clutching his side.

“Are you alright?”

Xyanthe had to shout over the strong winds that surrounded us. She put his arm over her shoulders and helped him up. Streaks of lightening flashed across the sky, their thunderous roar shaking my bones.

“We need to get to the forest!”

Xyanthe shouted, supporting Macar as he limped towards the trees. I reluctantly started to follow behind, even in the storms I was still reluctant to go where the man in black might be lurking. It was hard to keep my balance as the wind clawed at my legs. I bumped into the back of Xyanthe. Macar had stopped and was pointing to the meadow.

“Why aren’t they moving?”

He asked. I could see the other mortals carrying on, oblivious to the storm. They payed no attention to the wind when I blew the over. There were no shouts of pain when one of them was struck by the branches and stones carried in the storm.

“Don’t worry about that now. You’re hurt. Let Xyanthe get you to safety.”

I said, gently pushing them forward. I couldn’t risk Macar going down the same spiral as the man tied to the tree. I gasped when I realised we had left him behind. While their backs were turned I ran back to the elm. I had to bend over to avoid the branches waving violently in the wind. When I reached him, the man was awake. I was more surprised that he wasn’t struggling like I expected him to be. He watched the mortals caught up in the storm with an eerie calm.

“Come on! I’m going to take you to shelter”

“Why bother? They don’t seem to want to.”

He said, nodding in the direction of the meadow.

“I don’t want something bad to happen to you.”

I said as I started to loosen his bonds. He laughed at my words.

“And them? Your compassion is staggering.”

“Don’t be cruel.”

I said paying close attention to the knots tying him to the tree.

“What’s cruel is keeping me alive when I don’t want to be.”

I paused.

“So, you’re going to hurt yourself again?”

“I won’t suffer in this world for another second.”

“But-“

“I don’t want to hear it. I’ve been in this meadow, I’ve tried talking to the people. I know how empty we are.”

“That’s no reason to give up. We are different, we can change them.”

He shook his head.

“We’re not different, just the outliers. We’re cursed to know how inconsequential we are. I refuse to live a life that’s worthless. There’s no other way out. I wish I could just go back to being the way they are. Ignorance really is bliss. I was better off not knowing how powerless I am to change I life I don’t want.”

I didn’t say another word as I worked on loosening the last knot. I bit my lip to stop myself from crying. He confirmed everything I feared the most. The thought of Xyanthe, Macar, or any of those after them thinking that way broke my heart. When the last knot was undone he quickly stood, rubbing his sore wrists.

“It’s only when we give up that our lives don’t mean anything. I’ve seen their progress.”

I said as he turned to the forest. He laughed again, looking derisively over his shoulder.

“What progress? Even the elements can’t move them. What makes you think any of us can?”

“Hope”

“That always runs out eventually.”

I knew I wouldn’t forget the misery in his eyes. The man’s reply left me stunned as he ran from the elm. I recognised those words. Even outside the forest the man in black was able to haunt me. Xyanthe ran towards me and shook me from my thoughts.

“Come on! We have to get to shelter!”

Xyanthe shouted over the wind. She took my hands and pulled me to my feet. I resisted her grip, staying by my elm. I couldn’t leave the other mortals behind.

“I can’t!”

I shouted back. Xyanthe desperately clung to my wrist.

“Why not?! We have to get to safety”

To emphasise her panic another streak of lightening lit up the sky.

“The other mortals. They’re not even trying to take shelter”

“Right now, I care about you. We have to go”

Xyanthe pulled again but I stayed put.

“Do you trust me?”

I asked. Xyanthe nodded.

“Then let me help them.”

She reluctantly let my arm go. I stepped forward. I had to do something to help them. Astraea for all her authority wasn’t here to do her job. Even if I was only one who cared, I had tope that I could get through to them.

“Everyone! You have to get to safety!”

I shouted. My heart sank when none of them turned around, unfazed by the perils of the storm. I continued to shout, pleading with them to listen. Xyanthe gently took my hand again, guiding me away from my elm.

“You tried, we need to get away now.”

I couldn’t leave them. I thought of what Macar had told me. If there was something I could do, I had to figure out what was different now. Words weren’t going to reach them, maybe doing something would.

“Wait. I haven’t tried everything.”

“Now really isn’t the time. We could get killed.”

“We need to show them. Just follow my lead.”

“Callidora please. I don’t want you to get hurt.”

I looked assertively into Xyanthe’s eyes. I couldn’t let this world constrain the mortals anymore. I would defy them and make sure my people had the power to change.

“There was a time when you wouldn’t have felt that. I want them to have that opportunity too.”

After a moment Xyanthe sighed.

“What do you need me to do?”

“Just focus on your emotions. How the storm makes you feel. I’ll do the rest.”

Xyanthe closed her eyes. I face the mortals and raised our held hands for them to see. I willed them to look, to acknowledge us and save themselves. It felt like ages, wishing they would react. My heart leapt when, one by one, they turned and faced us.

“How?”

Xyanthe said, staring in wonder.

“Get to the forest! Leave no-one behind!”

I commanded. I didn’t know how long I would have their attention. Slowly the mortals took eachothers hands. I ran to the nearest mortal, pulling Xyanthe behind me, and grasped their hand.

“Follow me”

I said. I had despaired for their future but I wasn’t going to be alone for long. I had Xyanthe and together we had made them listen. As I guided them to shelter I couldn’t help but feel like I was taking them from their old existence, to a new life where they would flourish.


A thin shaft of light illuminated the damp chamber. There were no windows. No doors. Just a small porthole in the ceiling. Arke knew she was being taunted. With her wings she could fly free from this cell but the chains kept her grounded. Her hands and legs were left free but around the base of each wing loops of thin chains were bound tight. This forced Arke to kneel, leaning backwards, to ensure her precious wings weren’t severed from her body.

Arke didn’t know how long she had been kept here. She had watched the small circle of light travel from one end of the cell to the other many times, as the sun rose and set. It felt like an eternity. All she knew was her throat was dry, she was hollow with hunger, and she was in immeasurable pain. Many of her feathers littered the chamber floor around her, the dark grey plumage reflecting an iridescent sheen when the light hit them.

Thoughts of her sister were the only things keeping her mind sharp. She couldn’t let her down. Arke could take anything Cronus would put her through so long as Iris was safe. Her surroundings had been more comfortable when she was first brought back to the palace. Cronus had said her old rooms weren’t good enough for her commendable service. He had told the others she was the driving force behind the effort to find the queen. There had been opulent furniture, comfortable pillows, and a small retinue of mortals to take care of her every need. However, once she had made it clear she wasn’t going to tell him anything, Cronus decided her current surroundings served his purposes better. Arke’s head snapped up when a pale golden light flared in the chamber.

“Ready to co-operate?”

Cronus gloated. He made this visit at the same time every day. When the circle of light from outside was at the centre of the floor. Arke remained silent. Cronus let out a long, exasperated sigh.

“I really wish I could be a good king. That I didn’t have subjects that would drive me to such measures”

Cronus walked slowly across the floor, the tread of his sandals echoing with every step.

“It really pains me to see you in this state Arke. You’re born to be free, surely you want to be again?”

“My heart bleeds, your majesty”

Arke coughed, lack of water had made her voice hoarse. Slowly, He bent close enough to look directly into her eyes.

“I am a merciful king. Tell me what I want to know and this can end.”

Arke maintained a level stare, she knew no reaction drove him mad more than defiance. There was a slight twitch to his brow that told her it was having the desired effect.

“Your touching gesture for your sister will only garner so much pity. Be grateful those chains are around your wings and not your neck”

Cronus’s hand was around her throat for emphasis. Arke kept quiet.

“Perhaps I’ll keep that idea in mind for Iris.”

Cronus grinned when Arke wrested her head from his grip.

“I’ll never tell you where they are”

She said defiantly. Cronus laughed.

“You seem to be out of the loop. Do you really think you and your sister were so cunning? If I can’t sense my wife on the earth then you’ve taken her somewhere surrounded by water.”

Arke stared in horror. He had spent many visits interrogating her on this exact subject. What had changed? Ignoring Arke’s reaction, the king continued.

“Now I know you were raised in the southern province and, since you were apprehended in the same area, I would guess that is where you are keeping my queen. I wonder what you would have to say if I told you I had a particular island surrounded by the Alethiea?”

“No, please. I’ll do anything you want, just leave Iris alone. I forced her into it. The queen’s sisters are aiding her now. I-I’ll tell you anything else.”

Arke pleaded, straining against her chains in panic. The sound of tearing skin and tendon echoed in the cave but Arke didn’t care. She had to keep her sister safe, no matter the cost. He put a hand out to silence her, bored of her actions.

“Calm yourself. I have all the information I need. Rest assured, you still have your uses. But before I leave I should let you know the final piece of the puzzle that damned them”

She could feel his breath warm on her face as he leaned in once more.

“Your reaction.”

Arke tensed in shock. She’d been tricked. Cronus sneered down at her with satisfaction.

“Thank you for your cooperation, nymph-spawn. If you don’t mind I have an ocean to search. I should reward you but I think this is the best place to reflect on your actions.”

Arke’s screams of anguish lasted for hours after Cronus disappeared.

­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­

Late in the night, Eurybia made her preparations. This was the only time she had the opportunity. Krios was away with their sons, his work required he be out the entire night. She had never been concerned with his work before, but now she praised the opening that it provided. Many had questioned their unorthodox arrangement but she never paid them any mind, the couple always had the dusk and dawn together. Unlike many other marriages between the titan, the two of them had independence which made the time they spent together even more special.

Eurybia had heard her half-sisters talk of minor quibbles with their husbands but she had none of that. Rather than acting as two halves of a whole, where they would grate against one another, Eurybia and Krios were more than a single. They were a pair. Neither one trying to mould the other to their shape. Eurybia loved Krios with all her heart ever since hse first met him years ago. She had even given up living near the oceans that were so familiar to her.

This was why these secrets hurt so much. She had never needed to hide anything from Krios before. She didn’t know what bothered her more, the circumstances that forced her to deceive or discovering how adept she had become at maintaining her deception.

In the months since Rhea had asked for her help, every night was the same. At the beginning of dusk Krios would wake and the two of would watch the sunset on the roof together. They would talk, eat dinner and, when the moon was high, Krios would go to the stars. Eurybia used to remain home but now, she would sneak away to help her sister.

“My lady”

A mortal woman bowed and entered the bedchamber. She held a large tray laden with oat cakes, bread and various amphorae containing olive oils, wine and water. Since Tethys lived in the ocean it was much easier for Eurybia to source food and water to keep Rhea and her retainers strong. Being titans, they couldn’t starve to death. Their link to Gaea kept their bodies sustained, but without food they would still be left weakened and incapacitated.

“Where is the gauze I asked for?”

“The linen is still being laundered, my lady.”

Eurybia sighed.

“Fine. I will have to bring them tomorrow. You can go.”

She waved a hand to dismiss Aspasia. She set the tray on the bed and sheepishly went to hurry from the room. Eurybia didn’t expect her linger at the entrance, the mortal knew the routine by now. One of the reasons she had included mortals in her preparations was they rarely had the opportunity and inclination to talk. There was no point in keeping secrets from them.

“W-with all due respect I would ask that you not dismiss the hard work and effort we do in your service.”

Before she could reply, Aspasia 2had darted from the entrance. She only pondered the mortal’s unorthodox behaviour for a few moments. She had to get to Rhea, with the irregular and sudden nature of the storms Eurybia didn’t know how long it would take her to reach the island. As she was packing the last of her supplies, Eurybia saw a figure in the doorway.

“What is it now?”

Eurybia turned and expected Aspasia to have returned. But it was Krios instead, leaning on the door frame with his arms crossed.

“Where have you been going Eura?”

Krios asked. She dropped one of the amphorae causing it to shatter, blood-red liquid streaked across the marble floor. Her empty hand began to shake. She turned back to the sack she was packing, getting the last of the supplies into it before Krios saw them.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about. I couldn’t sleep and felt like a walk in the forest”

Eurybia had to force her voice to remain steady. A damp feeling creeping across her feet as the wine continued to spill. Her reaction had already compromised any cover of ignorance.

“Don’t move. You don’t want to cut yourself”

Krios said. He held his himation like a makeshift hammock and began gathering the broken shards of clay. When he was done he kept the pieces safely covered as he carefully removed the garment and placed it on the bed beside the empty tray. Standing behind her he tenderly clasped her shaking hand in his own.

“You’ve been distant. I can feel it since Cronus announced Rhea’s disappearance.”

She closed her eyes against his affections. She had avoided him because she knew she didn’t deserve it. But Eurybia had to make the sacrifice for her sister, who had been through so much.

“Eura?”

Krios asked quietly, the worry in his tone cut Eurybia like a knife. The affectionate nickname had arisen by accident. When they first met he never remembered her name correctly. Back then his head was full of the heavens, not names.

“I’ve just been afraid. If the daimones will take the queen hostage what will stop them taking one of our children? They’re roles always take them across the provinces and I don’t know what I would do if it was one of them. Or you”

“The daimones wouldn’t dare, and you know that. Whatever it is you can tell me.”

His insistence wasn’t petulant or pleading. He only cared for her welfare. It was pointless for her to pretend she wasn’t hiding something. As much as she ached to tell him, Eurybia couldn’t let Krios know. It would put him in an impossible position. For now, it was cruel and selfish for her to tell him who his brother really was.

“I’m not keeping anything from you if you don’t ask.”

She said, leaning into him.

“Do you remember when we first married?”

He asked. Eurybia smiled at the memory. The sound of water lapping against the rocks, the buzz of love in the air.

“It was night, on a cliff overlooking the ocean-”

She recalled one of the happiest moments of her life. She could smell the sea salt and remembered the feeling of the wind on her face. Her heart still fluttered with the happiness she felt when they had vowed to remain together for the rest of their lives.

“-I also remember Cronus wasn’t too pleased”

Eurybia said. When Cronus had taken Rhea as his wife he had expected his brothers to follow suit with her full sisters, as a gesture of solidarity. He never approved of Krios and Iapetus marrying deities from the ocean, water was an element the king couldn’t control.

“That didn’t stop Rhea dragging him with her to attend. You would think she ruled alone. Rhea was always the only one who could tame my brother.”

The thought of her sister’s self-destructive charade caused Eurybia to tense, something Krios noticed immediately. He intertwined his fingers with hers and continued to walk her through the memories.

“His original plan was to pair me with Mnemosyne.”

“She was just as pleased as I was.”

“Do you know the reason why I defied Cronus so much?”

“Because Themis didn’t want to be stuck with Iapetus?”

Eurybia replied. Krios chuckled.

“When we were with our father it wasn’t a loving family arrangement. I was only kept with him because I was a useful tool. I knew if circumstances were different, any of us would be abandoned without any remorse. I fought so much because I knew that, no matter what happened, the two of us would have each other. Not only do I love you Eura but I am here whenever you need me, regardless of the circumstances. The only thing important to me is you and family we have built together.”

The two stood in silence together. Eurybia bit her bottom lip as she grappled with whether or not to tell him. She knew she was at a crossroads, to choose faith or her family.

“There’s something that requires my help while you work. That’s all.”

She excused. Krios exhaled deeply, gently letting go of her hand and backing away. Eurybia knew this wasn’t the vague answer he wanted.

“I need you to tell me. If you-”

“Ultimatums? My life isn’t yours to control.”

Eurybia interrupted, lifting the bag strap across her shoulders.

“You’re right, it isn’t. I wasn’t giving you an ultimatum. You can leave this room with telling me a word if you so choose. I don’t want you to tell me out of some service of marriage. I want you to tell me because we keep no secrets, Eura. I’m giving you the choice to be honest with me. I-I thought you would have chosen differently.”

The disappointment in his tone made her heart ache. But she had to hold onto her faith that the truth was crueller than the deception.

“Krios……… I need you to trust me. I need you to not ask any questions and accept that I’m not telling you for a reason and that reason is best for the both of us”

“If it concerns both of us, do I not get a say?”

The couple stood in silence, the moon casting a sombre light. Eurybia had to go. She was already late. If the water currents around the island were left to degenerate for too long Cronus would be able to find them. Krios let out a slow breath.

“I guess I will have to hope your conviction is worth the risk.”

He said, breaking their impasse. Eurybia walked from the room, stopping to kiss Krios as she passed. She could feel something was different. He didn’t hesitate when she leaned in, and his touch was just as warm, but she knew her choice had made it different. She fought back the tears as they whispered their goodbyes.

“My love is deeper than oceans Eura”

“I love you to the stars Krios”


Astraea shivered in the cool night. No matter how much she tried she couldn’t sleep, even after fetching a thick shawl from one of her chests. She looked up from the bed and saw the sky was black, no stars. Usually the night air was always warm, but tonight the clouds and wind suggested another storm was brewing. Astraea knew something was wrong.

In a world where there were dieties who regulated the climate, you were guaranteed consistent weather. Yet here was the coming storm, defiant in its existence, keeping her awake in an ice-cold bed. She regretted having a room that was so exposed to the elements. Astraea lived in a tall tower she shared with her family. The lower floors were used as reception rooms whereas the upper rooms were more private.

Her bedroom was on the topmost floor, although the term room would apply loosely. Instead of walls, a ring of columns defined the space. Astraea had asked there not be a roof so that even in her room she could feel as if she were flying in the heavens. Now she realised that her design was not very practical in the current circumstances.

“There’s nothing for it now”

Astraea muttered to herself as she got out of the bed and stretched her wings. She would sleep in the main palace tonight, in a room with a roof to keep the wind and rain out. Astraea lazily beat her wings and glided down to the palace entrance. She had her eyes, heavy with tiredness, half closed and almost flew straight into someone making their way down the steps.

“Watch it, Astraea. How many times must I tell you that flying within the walls is forbidden.”

“Grandmother? Where are you going this late?”

Astraea turned abruptly to avoid a collision, skidding slightly on the top step as she landed.

“For a walk. I’ll see you in the morning.”

“But a storm is coming. Don’t you think it’s best to be inside and wait for it to pass?”

“Rain doesn’t bother me”

Eurybia turned to descend the last few steps. But now that Astraea was fully awake she wanted to take the opportunity while she was alone with her grandmother.

“The storms are getting more frequent. I wonder if there is something going on.”

“Astraea, I don’t have time for this right now”

“You never do. You said we would talk about Callidora but you’ve yet to ask.”

Her grandmother sighed and pinched the bridge of her nose.

“I have to be somewhere tonight but I promise we will talk tomorrow.”

Eurybia’s tone was clear, the conversation was done. But Astraea wasn’t going to be put off any more. Now that Callidora wasn’t talking to her she didn’t have an opportunity to gather more evidence. She needed her grandmother to listen.

“Please. I could come with you instead and we can talk.”

“Leave it be Astraea. I will be back in the morning”

“There is something going on with the mortals and it is my duty to make sure it is addressed.”

“Where I am going cannot be postponed”

“This affects everyone. Callidora and the storms are signs and I am the only one who is paying attention”

Astraea protested. Eurybia turned to face her grand-daughter.

“How many times must you be told?! This mortals’ anomalies aren’t worth your attention or mine. She will live out her short life and that will be that. Getting attached isn’t worth it. It is best you carry on with your regular duties. I don’t want to hear of it again.”

Astraea stood defiantly against her grandmother’s rage. She wasn’t backing down just because Eurybia lost her patience.

“So you do see it? Ignoring her won’t work. There was an incident with one of the Aletheia. She could be putting herself and others in danger if we don’t find out what’s going on-“

“Leave it be Astraea. Mortals like her are best left alone.”

Eurybia interrupted through gritted teeth.

“But why?”

Astraea asked. She wondered why her grandmother wouldn’t want to help.

“That isn’t your concern.”

Eurybia turned to leave. Astraea stood taller and puffed out her wings, she wanted to look as authoritative as possible.

“As the custodian to the mortals for the southern province, I have no choice but to take this to the king. Secrets kept from the king could-”

As soon as she mentioned the high king, Astraea knew she had crossed a line she didn’t know was there. Eurybia scaled the stairs between them in a few steps. She towered over Astraea, the intense anger in her eyes melted Astraea’s resolve.

“Listen little girl, you are meddling with things you do not understand. You will do as I say. Your duty is to observe and report to us, nothing more. Do not over assume your position. if you persist I will have no choice-”

“Eurybia”

Pacorus interrupted, standing in the palace entrance. Astraea quickly took the opportunity to step away from her grandmother. Eurybia looked to Pacorus with surprise, the mortals never addressed the titans by their first names.

“Who are you?”

Eurybia said tersely.

“Pacorus. I’ve been serving you your meals for a few months now.”

“I will remind you to address me in a more respectful manner.”

“Noted. I should respectfully remind you that with the coming storm you might want to move everything from the entrance all inside before it is ruined.”

“I am sure you and the other mortals are more than capable. I have some business to attend to”

“Yes I am sure we are going to be capable at moving your possessions. I thought you might want to help”

Eurybia was speechless at such insubordination. Astraea thought of how the mortal’s obedience had been taken for granted, she still wasn’t used to Callidora’s friend using her first name. When mortals worked in the residences they tended to follow the lead of the others.

“Astraea will help you.”

Pacorus was only marginally satisfied as he went back into the palace.

“None of this happened before Callidora came here.”

Astraea said, mustering enough courage to make her point one last time. Eurybia gave her a tired look.

“Please. Don’t do anything. The last thing we need is the king’s scrutiny.”

Astraea watched her grandmother walk down the steps and into the forest. She couldn’t let this lie. Her grandmother was hiding something and she had to find out what. Whatever it was, it was important enough to be kept from the king. If she was the one to expose such conspiracies she might even receive commendations for her dedication. Also, such a cover up could endanger the mortals. It was the best for their welfare that she found out all she could. Astraea shivered with anticipation.

“Ready?”

Pacorus said, pulling her out of her reverie. A group of mortals filed out of the palace and walked down the stairs with their usual despondency. None of them acknowledged Astraea as they walked past.

“I guess I should thank you for deigning to join us.”

Pacorus said.

“As custodian I am always here to help with the needs of mortals.”

He raised an eyebrow.

“Even if those needs are in the service of your superiors?”

“Your service isn’t unpaid.”

“Excuse me?”

Pacorus said with an incredulous tone.

“It’s a partnership. Many of my brothers spend their days and nights ensuring the cycles of the weather and the night sky. There are many other deities out there whose jobs ensure the balance of the world.”

“I hadn’t considered that.”

He conceded.

“But for what it’s worth Pacorus, thank you for your assistance.”

The mortal smiled.

“And thank you, Custodian.”

“Shall we?”

Astraea said gesturing to the forest. Pacorus nodded and they walked down the stairs together. She looked to Pacorus and silently vowed that she would do her service, no matter what her grandmother said. That service began with Callidora.

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