I remembered the first time I ever saw death.
It was gut-wrenching, horrifying and I’m sure it made my stomach dispel the food I had for dinner at my wedding. I wanted to cry but I was numb, paralysed, stuck in hysterical trance as I fought to regain some bearing and plead for help. A desperation and gnawing anxiety at the foot of my mind, strangling my lungs. There was danger here and it just struck.
I was feeling it right now.
The world seemed to tilt on its axis, a numbing cold sweeping through me. That blinding panic, the claws of anxiety once again in my chest and throat strangling me. The room seemed to shrink further away, like I was being pulled away, watching it all play out once again. The room seemed to tremble, or that was just me. A roaring in my ears and I was blindly pushing from fading into the background as the hum around me grew louder and clearer.
The strangled cry caught in my throat as a hand clapped down over my mouth, a muffled cry escaping as I felt my body moving backwards.
No! No! No! I’m not going anywhere!
“Stop, Pan! Stop fighting me! Pandora, calm yourself!”
The Box! He has the box! He can’t-
“No! Don’t touch me! Let me go!” I wanted to scream and shout and cry, throw my hands in a rage and demand back what is mine for everyone’s sake. No more bloodshed please! For the love of God, no more! If they had the box then they have-
“Pandora! Look at me!” The stage and the roaring crowd were suddenly gone from my vision and I was staring into a darker space, my face pressed against something solid and warm, yet soft but the fear rose to flickers of white-hot flames in my chest but I couldn’t do anything against the constrictors around me. “You have to breathe, please Pandora! Don’t panic on me. You’re no good to yourself if you panic and causing a tantrum.”
“I know.” I was suddenly looking into Warren’s face as he held me by my shoulders, slightly hunched over as he stared at me, his gaze imploring, the intensity of his gaze holding me as I stood there. “I didn’t expect this either, but we got this, remember.”
“But we could get it! I can go get it! I have to get it-They’ll take it!”
“We won’t let that happen okay.” His voice was cutting and harsh as his grip tightened on my shoulders but I barely felt it. My body unable to process anything except the ball of terror bouncing its way up my body, stringing my body with lasting effects. “Deep breaths.”
“I’m hearing ten thousand from the gentleman in the corner there! Do we have anymore interested collectors! Yes, we got twenty thousand!”
My eyes squeezed shut, my nails digging into Warren’s arm, my fingers aching from the pressure but Warren pulled my grip on him off, turning me to face the crowd though my eyes remained shut.
“We got thirty-thousand! Anymore bidders! Going once, going twice-”
“War!” War suddenly cupped his hands around his mouth.
“I got thirty-five thousand!” He yelled over the din, leaving me in shock as I gripped his arm tightly. The crowd gasped, a few whistles here and there and Pan dramatically swiped his arms in our direction.
“Thirty-five thousand! Incredible! Going once, going twice-”
War cursed menacingly, glaring in the direction of the voice but immediately cut in.
“Fifty thousand!” Warren yelled clear as day despite the roaring crowd who glancing back and forth.
“FIFTY THOUSAND! Ladies and Gentlemen, we are eager for this are we not!?”
“Warren-” I was shaking my head, clutching his arms. “How-” He only gave me a faint smile, keeping his arm around my shoulder.
“I’ve been alive for millenniums, princess. I got a lot saved up. Trust me there.” I was left staring at him stunned, a rise of hope and relief fluttering in my chest. Oh, thank you Athena! But the voices were rising louder, the crowd hungry and begging for more.
“We got seventy! Anymore takers!”
“One hundred thousand!” Someone shouted from the back.
“SOLD! LADIES AND GENTLEMEN WE HAVE OURSELVES A DOOZY ALRIGHT!!” Pan shrieked, clapping wildly as the crowd roared and cheered. But I found it a struggle to do anything. Except maybe pull away from Warren who I faintly heard calling after me but above the roar in my head and the crowd, I couldn’t care to listen. “I want to thank you all for your generous donations and taking these priceless works to a good home where they will without a doubt make your home shine and look more exquisite. I may just visit them!” A white-hot fury fluctuated in my chest as I pushed through the squirming, adoring crowd.
You absolute bastard! Like Hell I’d let someone take that infernal box!
I shoved through the crowd, aware of them yelling and scolding me but I couldn’t care less. I needed to get that box back immediately. The crowd, there was too many people, I couldn’t just climb on the stage, especially with a dress on but there had to be. Movement ahead and shoving through the crowd, I watched one of the stage handlers slink out from a backdoor. Once he had was gone, I threw myself out of the crowd, not caring if people could see but I grabbed the door handle which I threw open with a loud bang.
Without taking a breath I hurried through the darkened backroom, not seeing anyone or anything, a few cords placed on the ground I stumbled over as my heels got caught on them. Almost screaming in frustration, I kicked my heels off, following the sounds of Pan addressing his crowd of adoring lovers and guests as he waved his good evenings til he joined them later. I couldn’t let him catch me though, not that I really cared. I found stairs ahead, some light winking through the now closed stage curtains and a simple trolley with a silk black cloth placed over and a box sat perfectly atop.
Hiking up my skirts I took the steps two at a time, my feet slipping a little, the frantic rush inside me coming to a sudden slow drip-feed. I rushed for the box which was wheeled to the opposite end of the stage by one of the stage handlers. “Stop!” I called to the stage worker who jumped at my shout, spinning to me and catching him off guard, I shoved him aside. He slipped sideways and for a brief moment I appraised the box, strange emotions bubbling inside me as I stared at the wretched item. A simple box, the size of a jewellery box, made of beautiful dark polished wood, with simple but golden flaked borders and a keyhole and latch. It was not a special looking box but it was pure evil and sin. I reached for my box-
“Hands off!” A hand grasped my wrist from behind pulling me away from my box. I came face to face with Pan who glared at me from under his top hat. “This is private property and if you want it, you’ll need to discuss with the one who bought it.”
“I will not bargain with anyone!” I snapped and wrenched my hand from his shoving him away. He barely stumbled, grabbing my wrist, twisting my arm behind my back. A twinge of pain shot up making me cry out as he dragged me to the edge of the stage.
“Lady I don’t know what your issue is but this is out of my hands until now.” I struggled against Pan’s rough grip but he continued to push to the edge.
“If you don’t relax, I may just throw you down these steps.”
“Do that and I’ll tear your spine out of your back.”
Pan froze as War leaped up two steps at a time, standing before Pan and I, his eyes pitch black and his hardened like pure marble.
“For Oberon’s sake, this is private sections! Only workers here.” Pan scoffed and I felt him shove me forward. War caught me easily as I stumbled into him, stretching my aching arm out from its strained position. “Now both of you please leave already. The items have been called and bought upon and it’s not my problem-”
“I don’t care!” I snapped. “That box belongs to no one! And for your sake you would not give it away-”
“My lord, lady listen to me! Not my fucking problem-” I shoved away from Warren, shoving past Pan. I yelped when he grabbed my skirt, the material straining. Pan grunted when War elbowed his wrist, releasing me. Glancing back, a couple of the back stage workers appeared, jumping to help their boss but War slammed the first against the wall, who slumped down on the floor. While momentarily distracted, I ran for the trolley which someone had quickly taken away to the other end of the stage, I jumped from the top of the steps, feeling my ankles groan in protest, but sincerely grateful I wasn’t still wearing my heels. I heard the commotion grow closer behind me, hearing War grunt as he struggled with a few handlers. I elbowed the stage worker pushing the trolley away and snatched up the box without thought.
“Lady put that down-”
“Stay back!” I shouted, stepping back as Pan leaped from the steps, top hat missing and hair frazzled and looking severely pissed off. I clutched the box tightly to my chest. “You can’t take this! It’s too dangerous! And you stole it from the church!”
“What?” Pan froze mid-step, his brows creasing as confusion marred his face. “What church are you talking about? I didn’t steal shit! I bought and paid for everything. I don’t need to steal...unless the opportunity was far too great, which is not often-”
“Then how do you have my box here? And can you even think of selling it off as if it’s some blasted children’s box!? Are you daft?” Pan glared at me, his mouth opening but he let out a high-pitched squeal as War landed with a thump from the stage next to Pan, who flinched, jumping away from Warren, obviously nervous. Warren glanced at me and then the box which I clung tightly to as if letting it go would tear me apart.
“Pan-” War started.
“What?” Pan and I answered at the same time and I glared at Pan who frowned at us, looking between me and War. “Wait,” Pan raised his hands, stepping towards me as I tensed. “Who did you say you were?”
“I am Pandora. This is my box and you cannot just-”
“Pan!” War snapped.
“What?” I snapped at the same as Pan and I glared at him who scowled irritably. War grimaced and gestured to my arms.
“The box...” Confused, I glanced down at the box clutched tightly in my arms, staring at the golden designs as the keyhole and trimming that shimmied in the backstage lights above me. My fingers caressed the smooth exterior but...
I felt nothing.
Unlike the pearls wrapped around my neck, there was nothing I felt from this box. No heavy weight. No sudden emotion except when I first laid eyes on it. No trepidation. Fear, anger, grief or something whispering wicked sins that beckoned me just as I remembered. This wasn’t it. My fingers found the latch, flicking it up with a sharp click and my heart and blood froze inside me, I held my breath without thought, the chill rushing through me. I opened the box a brief crack and my heart stuttered and-
“It’s a fake.” Warren spoke from beside me as I closed the box with a snap, the breath releasing me and my legs trembled under my skirts like jelly as I slumped against the wall. War rested his hand on my shoulder but all I could think was it wasn’t my box.
And I wasn’t sure what I was feeling or I should be feeling. I wanted to cry in either relief or pure frustrated disappointment.
“Of course it’s not the real box. Even I’m not that stupid, nor would I be able to get it anyway.” The fake box was suddenly wrenched from my hands. Pan glaring at War and me with pure frustration. “Pandora is long gone, so nice try. Pure fanatics you are-”
“We’re not-I just-” I stammered, finding it difficult to catch breath as I fought to catch my thoughts.
“Whatever you need to say, say it to the cops when I kick your ass out of here-”
“Now hold on!” War snapped, turning to pan sharply. “We weren’t trying to steal exactly but we thought this was the real deal. Not to mention stupid to entice the crowd for something so dangerous-”
“What people do in their own time is their business. Besides, that box is gone and you’re in my way now!” Pan glared at me and War. “I don’t know what you’re trying to pull, daring to put yourself as lady of the past but shame on you! I was having a wonderful night until you two thieves just snuck in here and probably broke a handful of my workers.” He gestured around him which I noticed a handful of other satyrs lying around, groaning in pain and resignation. Pan sneered at us. “You owe me big time, big names, fake names won’t help-” I stammered at Pan, the despair growing. No, he was the only one who could us and now I’ve ruined our chance!
“No, we need your help-”
“Hah! Take whatever you need and leave it outside! Guards-”
“It’s hardly a fake name, my friend.”
It was like the whole backstage froze. Even out in the hall, the activities out there became silent and immobile as if the air was sucked out of the backroom. Even those groaning on the floor went immediately silent behind their porcelain masks. Warren’s eyes widened briefly, his shoulders tensing as he stared behind me where the voice spoke softly, calmly and yet resonated like a thunderous drum beat. A strange pull, my body tensing as I slowly turned to face the voice that spoke from behind, hidden partially in the shadows casually like a passer-by. Even hidden in the dark, the dark barely melded over his form as if shy to dare even envelope his presence. He strode casually towards us, my eyes obediently falling down in respect or fear but immediately drawn back as if pulled in by a snake’s gaze.
The man was tall but not as tall as Warren yet he resonated power, a power unmatched by most. His skin was a light olive tone that had a soft hue, golden, hidden in its depths much like a flame flickering at the end of a very dark corridor. His hair dark brown, smoothed over the top of his head and tied in a bun at the nape of his neck with a piece of red silk. His eyes were green like the leaves on an olive tree, highlighted by his thick dark lashes and a smooth, dark beard painted over the lower half of his face. His features were much like a marble statue themselves and his eyes were cool and piercing as they eyed the small crowd gathered in the backstage as if we were children running amok in an off-limits area. His tux jacket was opened listlessly, his tie hung around his neck carelessly, a couple buttons at the top of his dress shirt undone as if he was in midst of tryst. Though he appeared more like he had been annoyed by a mere bunch of ants.
Pan scoffed, opening his mouth but the man cut in, casually swirling his wine glass with red liquid inside.
“I was having a lovely moment with a couple beauties - you would like them, Pan - and I hear there is quite a commotion going on. Needless to say, I’m a little annoyed.” He sips his wine as if he was speaking about simple politics. My whole body was tense, my mind screaming unintelligible words at me like a mouse cornered by a predator it did clearly see. The back of my mind though was pushing in another direction, towards the past, the sense of nostalgia or familiarity, is what I could only place the feeling I had. War stood beside me, his shoulder stepping slightly in my sight as if he was stepping between me and another formidable foe.
“But I see who we have here. And I assure you, Pan. This is Pandora herself. Back from the dead it seems.” He raised his glass as if mock cheers, casually watching us in our tension. War glanced at me slightly confused but I dared meet the man’s gaze head on and he smiled coolly but politely at me. “Pandora, it certainly has been a while and you look as well as you did, some millenniums ago.”
“Forgive me,” I wiped my clammy hands on my skirt as I questioned. “But I don’t recall who you are.” He chuckled softly; the sound seemed to echo around the room.
“Ah yes, forgive me. I am Dionysus, one of the twelve Olympians.” He bowed slightly, a smirk gracing his face. “And may I say it is an extreme surprise to see you here. Alive. And with the War horseman himself.”
“So, this is really Pandora?” Pan cut in, looking a little stunned as he pointed to me and back to War. “And this is-”
“I see that there appears to be some distress, my dear and I don’t take well to lovely ladies in distress if I can help it.” Dionysus stepped sideways, stretching his arm towards the door which led back into the ballroom. “And I have a feeling some questions are in order. Pan, shall we adjourn. This may be quite fascinating.” Without waiting for an answer, Pan stormed towards the exit, throwing War and I a confused frown and I glanced up at War who looked away from glaring at Dionysus and to look at me, giving me a faint weary look. Smiling faintly, I followed after Pan, Dionysus following behind War as we left the backstage back into the large ballroom.
“This way.” Dionysus strode past Warren and I breezily after Pan who led us towards the visible, private rooms. A door next to the stage with a rope barricading people from going by was dropped by the bouncer who allowed us to follow Dionysus and Pan up the narrow staircase. The higher we climbed the sounds of ecstasy and pleasure grew louder making me cringe, an uncomfortable feeling that I was invading someone’s private moments. But considering the idea of this place, it was pretty open it seemed. A couple stood at the top of the stairs were making themselves well acquainted with the way leaned into the wall and into each other. Blushing furiously, avoiding watching them out of respect though there was a slight intrigue to watch, I couldn’t actually look anywhere without seeing exposed flesh and desirable, lustful activities as Warren and I reached the top of the V.I.P balcony which overlooked the crowd below. The space up here was stunning. More private rooms further back into the wall with thin lace curtains that barely hid a thing. Some private rooms didn’t bother closing the curtains at all and Warren sighed deeply behind me.
“I haven’t seen this much activity at once like this for probably a whole century.” I had to stare at him confused, then stunned and that flicker of jealousy appeared in my depths but I didn’t say anything as Warren pulled me along. Some people leaned against the banisters overlooking the crowd, drinking, talking or being touched in the most intimate of ways. Couches and giant silk and velvet pillows lay around for more to lay upon and the path War and I walked between was for servers and waiters to bring food and drinks to those who requested them. They barely wore much themselves, female workers wore gold or silver dresses wrap dresses that draped over one shoulder and flowed just below their upper thighs. Dionysus and Pan strode into one of the private rooms in the middle of the balcony and was the larger of the private rooms and stunning to look into. Thanks to the couple of candles upon the creamy, pale gold wall and the lilac-coloured lace curtains which were drawn closed by a waitress set this room into a sensual soft haze with a faint purple hue. The floor was crimson velvet with a couple rises for leaning and lying down, pillows strewn about perfectly that suited the crimson carpet with some gold twine and trimming. A small table sat in the middle with a crystal bowl full with fresh fruits and a large wine bottle. With a heavy sigh, Dionysus smoothly took his place in his chair of pillows, Pan falling on his spot with a huff. Taking my skirts in my hand I sat across from Dionysus on a bed of pillows and surprisingly comfortable carpeted floor. My skirt splayed around me like a rough circle of pale gold and little flowers and Warren took a spot next to me, finding some steps to sit upon and resting comfortably against some large velvety cushions.
An awkward silence commenced.
I glanced at Warren unsure and hesitant and he gave me a faint shrug, unsure himself. It wasn’t every day one was in the presence of a God much less an Olympian. A minute may have passed but Dionysus did not seem to be in a rush or uncomfortable. In fact, he seemed mildly amused like one would be out of curious boredom. Pan seemed more calmer as he reached for one of the wine glasses and poured red wine into three of the glasses, handing me one to pass to Warren and to myself.
“Efcharistó.” I murmured, taking a sip. I gagged inwardly, my eyes twitching at the dry bitter taste. Why was this popular? I had better wine long ago.
“Parakaló.” Dionysus replied, seemingly amused at my reaction. “It’s a recent brand that I’ve acquired a taste for. As you may be aware, I have very good taste when it comes to alcohol and all things...pleasurable.” He never removed his eyes from mine as he sipped his wine and it took a lot to not grimace in disgust at his words. I vaguely noticed War place his full glass of wine back on the table without trying. “Now then, may I ask Pandora, why were you giving my friend a bit of grief as well as our stage workers? We’ll have to pay double for the trouble tonight. Much like their possible hospital trip.” War chuckled faintly beside me.
“I assure you; I didn’t damage anyone that bad. I just...kept them occupied briefly.” War glanced at me, tilting his head as if he was expecting me to continue. He was right, this is my job to take over now.
“We didn’t mean to cause an issue.” I started, trying to remain polite and not show how nervous I was. A lot hung in the balance right now. Several lives in fact. “I apologize very much for the trouble.” I bowed my head slightly, hands folded neatly in my lap. “But I panicked. I assumed that was actually my box and you would understand why I would not be so keen as to let it be in just anyone’s hands.” Dionysus stared at me unfathomably but he gave one simple nod as he stared into his wine glass.
“I appreciate your apology but the box is not in our itinerary. Nor would it be as I am most definitely not stupid. A drunk most times yes. Frivolous, yes of course. But that box is a wretched condemnation upon this world. I know better now than I did millenniums ago.”
“But now this poses the question.” Dionysus straightened, his eyes latching onto me and I flinched at the sudden harshness of his gaze that could freeze even the most hardened or vilest of people or monsters out there. “It is not possible for you to be back. I am aware you died. You were living a lonely eternity in the fields of Elysium and now you are here. Alive. And well it seems. Looking for your box.” His eyes flickered to Warren who didn’t react at his terrifying look but matched it head on with a chilly stare. “And believe me when I say I’m extremely surprised to see you alongside the last of the Horseman. It doesn’t seem grudge like anymore-”
“My body was hidden in the Church in Brooklyn.”
“It was guarded by the dryad, Daphne.” War chipped in briefly as I continued.
“I have no clue where the box is since it was hidden long, long ago but the priest and the nuns there, they are gone.”
“Kidnapped it seems.” War replied. “They sent Pandora away, she was summoned by the Fates and she was sent to me for protection. Those innocents were taken and Pandora has most likely been found alive and word is starting to spread. The box could be around so now it’s open season.” A chill ran down my spine at his matter-of-fact words but looking at Warren, the edge of his voice I heard a strange waver and his fist was white as it clenched on his lap. “Some are looking for the box now.”
Pan looked a little stricken, glancing at Dionysus whose expression was chilly blank as he stared at us both.
“And why are you here then?”
“Because Pan knows everyone-” I started but War gripped my hand tightly, cutting me off. Licking my lips before I continued, I carefully spoke my words to sound less accusing. “Because I want to find the priest, Father Marios and the other nuns taken because of me. They are being tortured, possibly killed off because someone is looking for me. And I need to find at least so it’s safe. Hidden.”
“I see. That does pose an unfortunate situation indeed.” Dionysus frowned, a clear expression of concern of the situation at hand. “I have no care for that wretched box. It could be lost in time for all the fucks I can give. But I would indeed rather it’d be found by a simpleton like you before some fool with no brain does.” I tried not to let the distaste show on my face as I glowered inwardly. Dionysus stared sightlessly at the wall next to him, finger taping on his glass as it went quiet in here although there was plenty of noises beyond the room. “And with your current situation, trouble following you of course. Have you had much issues?”
“Enough.” Warren answered. Dionysus barely spared him a glance.
“Then may I suggest for your protection at least - and do not take me as benevolent for this - it would be merely easier to keep you safer in here than out there.”
What? I was left reeling at the offer and despite it being a helpful and a good choice, I didn’t know how to turn down such an idea at the thought of staying amongst a duo of salacious characters.
“I am protecting her.” Warren’s voice cut me off suddenly, his voice sharp and cutting. He was staring harshly at Dionysus without care for cutting in as he sat straight and rigid in his chair. It was all he said and left me and it seemed Pan a little stunned. My heart stuttered at the fierceness of his words.
“Will you?” Dionysus sat up slightly in his chaise, swirling his wine glass like he never stopped. “Or are you playing fool?”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Warren’s expression darkened as he frowned at the God who merely eyed Warren with a look until a slightly mocking smirk crossed his face.
“I mean of course, you are War. The second horseman. The last of your brothers. It would appear that you bear no grudge. How...peculiar.” He smirked as sipped his wine with a soft slurp, downing the rest of it and with a heavy clink laid his wine glass on the table as if he did not care for alcohol right now. The tension in the room was strung tight like piano strings and I wanted to cut the tension but Warren was brazenly facing the God without care.
“My choices are no matter to you. I’ve promised Pandora I’d keep her safe. And I will. And I have. Better than most have in the past.” A mocking smile copied onto Warren’s face as he leaned in slightly to Dionysus. “I could do better than a frivolous alcoholic.”
Oh dear, Warren. Easy please. Don’t insult a God.
Dionysus didn’t seem to pay heed to the insult. Seeming to find amusement he leaned in closer and the tension reached new heights that made Pan and I glance at each other nervously and it was almost as if the entire ballroom went quiet outside, as if they could feel the sudden tension.
“Of course. The harbinger of War himself.” Dion raised a finger, scratching the bridge of his nose. “I have no doubts of your capabilities of...defence. I’ve heard all your tales. The whispers. The power you, shockingly, wield yourself. Capable of slaughtering armies with whispered words, a terrifying gaze or God forbid, we place a sword in your hands.” War was tense beside me but my mind was struck on Dionysus’s words since it was the closest, I’d get about Warren’s history. Dionysus smirked, waving his hand towards him. “What did they use to call you amongst the streets of old towns and cities? Or in the arenas as you earned your riches? Deus Bellum."
Nervously I watched Warren tense until he became a hardened statue. His eyes turned blackened like depths of the Underworld would only show. The words Dionysus had said were unfamiliar to me but they struck a chord in Warren but he remained stoic, his gaze pure onyx.
At least they weren’t red.
“Did you judge the victims around you horseman? When they asked to be spared or saved? Did you protect them?”
“Speak your case without riddles.” Warren’s voice was low, shockingly calm but I shuddered, gripping his trouser pant legs desperately as if I could do something to control what could happen. “Do you deny the hypocrisy you want to travel into?” Warren’s eyes narrowed, the smouldering fury growing like a raging fire.
“Hmph, oh I don’t deny it.” Dionysus sneered. “But I don’t paint myself in any other way and give myself another name to shy away from the consequences of my past.”
Warren reared back, straightening, leaving me reeling as well, confused and angry for Warren but worried for the further words spewed. Dionysus glared at Warren.
“Let me be clear, I have had an unfortunate hand - slightly - in the making of you, Pandora and that infernal box. I know without doubt that if what you say is true and word gets further spread that Pandora’s box is indefinitely out there, much less with Pandora tracking it or has in her possession, like you said, hunting season begins. And do not take my words lightly, horseman. A war, small maybe, an army comes knocking. Are you going to play pretend then?”
“If you do intend to protect Pandora, how will you do it if you’re just a reserved teacher surrounded by fresh faced mortals? You haven’t played the game in a long-time horseman. Once this is out, you cannot play the diluted game you have grown comfortable in.”
“I have control.” War growled and I gripped his forearm in protest to stop him from speaking but he continued, clutching my hand but gently but not removing it. “I’ve had years of control.” A flicker of red blew vibrantly in the depths of his eyes and a shudder ran down my spine but not out of fear. But fear for those who faced those eyes.
“I have no doubt. But which of you is in control? The simpleton or Bellum?" Dionysus slowly leaned back in his chaise and the room was silent once again and my chest fell as I let out a heavy, tense breath, my palms clammy and the tension gripping my chest making it difficult and stressful. Even Pan looked a little pale and nervous as we both once again sat holding our breaths as the two formidable two glared coolly at one another.
“Are you done?” Warren finally spoke, shattering the strung-out silence. Dionysus didn’t reply straight away as I struggled with holding my breath involuntarily, while Dionysus took the wine bottle and filled his glass up again halfway. He continued to remain silent, swishing glass calmly before taking a gentle sip. Once he finished his sip, he raised his glass in salute.
“Of course. Until next time. I always like being theatrical.”
Immediately the tension was cut and I released my breath in a heavy sigh of relief, shoulders collapsing and I felt a slight ache from them from being so tensed up. Warren smiled but it was not a completely friendly smile in his eyes as he took his glass, taking a sip. I only realized I was still gripping onto his trouser pants when he laid a hand upon mine.
“I really think that was all uncalled for.” I muttered, taking a couple of grapes from the platter of fruits in front of me.
“Now then,” Dionysus murmured. “About those mortals who have been kidnapped, in truth I haven’t heard a thing. If it was recent, it could take time. Depending on where they were taken. If it’s in the underground then that’ll be harder to find.” Dionysus turned to Pan who took a branch of green grapes, plucking them off one by one. “And you, my friend?” Pan sighed heavily
“I haven’t heard anything about a church being attacked or kidnappings of mortals.” Pan cut me off starkly, a dark frown on his face. “I promise you that. I don’t partake in the auctioning of living beings, so I don’t listen to those talks.”
“Do you remain ignorant then?” I grumbled under my breath, fiddling with my skirt. I could feel Pan’s glare on me, as he chewed through a grape off the branch.
“If you want to call it that, then sure.” Pan chucked the grape into his mouth as he thoughtfully chewed. “What I can do is listen on purpose, bring up whispers and once I find something - because I assure you, a situation like this would not go unnoticed.” Pan waved his hand nonchalantly. “I can get back to you within a day with news.”
No. No, no, no! No more fucking waiting around!
“So, we wait to hear anything that you may or may not possibly hear,” I was nodding my head along as I spoke, my voice rising along with my words. “While there are innocent people out there, people who risked their lives for me and are being tortured and God knows what else? It’s been long enough! They need help!”
“And I will help!” Pan snapped, throwing an irritated glance to Dionysus. “Quite frankly, be glad I’m offering to help. Callous I may be, but I’m listening to my friends’ words here and I don’t want any bastards to potentially destroy this world. I quite like it as it is. Now if you’re gonna lecture me, I can give my help to others who are more grateful.”
“Grateful!?” I sneered. “I don’t have anything to be grateful for!”
“Really.” Pan snapped. “You have a second chance at life. I’d be fucking grateful.”
“That’s not what this is about.” I threw my hands up in disgust. Pan glared at me then at War who remained silent, watching me snap in frustration.
“I can only offer what I have. I told you, give me at least a day. Otherwise, go looking yourself.” With a sneer, Pan stood up slowly and with a huff, he nodded his head to us then Dionysus. “If you’ll excuse me, but the world is calling my name. Especially the women and drinks. I’m gonna need them now.” With another glare in my direction, he stormed out leaving us three hidden behind lace curtains while the crowd outside seemed to grow louder and more...vivacious.
“Can Pan guarantee he’ll find anything?” Warren murmured, suddenly taking my hand in his. “Cause whether he does or doesn’t, we can find something eventually but it may be too late, especially if it is an underground market.” Dionysus shrugged.
“Pan is a manipulator for all juicy gossip and rumours’, true and false. He’ll find something.” I took a deep heavy breath, feeling exhausted and frustrated. We’re so close. I can feel it. We’re so close to finding them and saving them and we can!
“Pandora,” Startled at my name to see Dionysus place his glass on the table as he stared at me with a strange look. Or more precisely where my hand lay against my throat, touching the pearls laid coolly against my neck. “If I may?” Warren tensed slightly but I nodded hesitantly as Dionysus leaned over the table and reached for the pearls around my neck, rolling one of the beads in-between his fingers as he observed them closely. I felt slightly on edge being so close to a God, as if instinct was telling me to move away because there was something overpowering here.
“Hm, fascinating indeed.” Dionysus murmured and released the pearl, dropping back into his chair. “My uncle did fine work on these pearls.”
“Your uncle?” I fondled the pearls on my neck as my heart stuttered as I realized something. Dionysus, one of the twelve Olympians himself. He was there at the very beginning!
“My uncle, Poseidon.” Dionysus smiled wryly in his glass. “Very unique man indeed. He took to those pearls full of absolute pride and joy. Especially the box he kept them in which he gave you.”
“Poseidon gave me these pearls? Why?” Dionysus shook his head, leaning back in his chaise, crossing a leg over the other.
“Father help me if I know. I vaguely remember hearing him boast about those pearls, found in the deepest darkest depths of the ocean that he struggled to behold. But he says Tiamat herself led him to such a prize. Beautiful clams that held the most perfectly purest pearls to ever lay before a God themselves. He had to take. And he took them all.” Dionysus frowned slightly, tilting his glass in his hand. “I don’t believe Tiamat was impressed. So avoids her waters, I think. It’s been too long.”
I didn’t know a Tiamat exactly but the story was a start to who I was and I honestly did not know what I was looking for but the absolute curiosity was pushing and pulling me along.
“All I know is pearls, quite fitting when they were white. Something special for the honeymoon night, right? But those pearls feel as wretched as that box must be, am I right?” A flicker of a car in the middle of the night, the foggy windows and sounds penetrating the silence as I was encased in powerful arms and presence of War lit up in my mind like a movie. I shook myself of those thoughts, afraid the heat on my cheeks may give me away. I don’t think I had it from Warren who tensed slightly beside me. I tried not to feel a flicker of hurt still over everything but right now-
“You were there, right?” I could feel Warren’s eyes on me but I was too caught up this turn of conversation and I needed to hear things about it. “When you...created me?” Dionysus stared at me silently, his eyes flickering over me.
“I was present. Drunk, enjoying a very enjoyable once-in-a-blue-moon, bonding moment with my siblings as we...how shall I say, made you, just right.” He smiled wryly but my body felt a little heavier, my shoulders tense once again and my stomach twisted. Just, right? “It was a... tedious process indeed. I mean, I didn’t partake because I didn’t actually have anything to give of course, unless you wished to be a drunk. I just enjoyed the moment as they played dress ups and characterize you til you were exactly what Epimetheus wanted in a woman. They all had something to give you but I just call it as my rowdy siblings stitching and playing dress up. It was like watching children stitch their own product and art and design onto a mother’s quilt. Messy but once put together, it’s quite a pretty picture.”
I felt sick.
“Stitching? Gifts?” Wrapping my arms around myself, pulling my hand away from Warren who seemed to be saying something beside me but my head throbbing and my heart hurt.
“Aphrodite gave you your beauty based on what your husband preferred in women. Don’t get me wrong, your husband adored any pretty woman but you, he did genuinely care for you and would’ve no doubt have spent your life taking care of you.” He shrugged as if the thought was odd enough while I was slowly rocking back and forth, the memories, thoughts and pain awash over me. “And there’s Apollo, gosh if I know completely but maybe knowledge. I’m sure you’re a quick learner. Athena made you capable of being the perfect housewife, handicrafts. Hephaestus created your soul from the forge in Olympus. Hera, I’m sure you can figure that crap out.” Dionysus waved his hands as though it wasn’t completely far off. “Hermes, I see it in your eyes. The ever-growing curiosity, that which made you open a box that clearly said not to-”
“There. Was. No. Note.” I spoke through gritted teeth, clutching my body as if I could hold all those stitched up pieces together even though I wanted to tear it all apart. “Why does everyone think that?”
“You’re telling the truth.” Dionysus frowned and Warren sighed.
“Of course she is. She’s tearing herself inside out of guilt but she is not a fool.” Warren snapped.
“I honestly didn’t know how bad shit would go down. Nor did my siblings. It may have gone a little far.”
“A little far?” I shrieked, my words spewing out Greek, straightening up despite the ache in my chest. “Going a little far is saying an insult. A slight bump in the head. Forget my creation for a bloody second but going a little far is not destroying my home. Taking my only family. Losing my husband and Zeus could only know what is happening to to him and Prometheus! That is going too far for a simple act of kindness towards humanity! Asynchóritos!
“Our father is a petty man, even Prometheus knew that-”
“Do not!” I was suddenly up on my feet, skirt falling around my legs as I stood on shaky legs furiously glaring down at the God in front of me. “Blame Prometheus! He tried to help humanity! And Zeus was happy to let his little pets die out thanks to the cold winter! And now he’s out there, dead or being tortured! I read the stories, the ideas of what he’s probably going through! He didn’t-doesn’t deserve that! And my husband...” My breathing came out shakily, as I leaned over to catch my knees and breath.
“Pan are you-” Warren stood up but I shook off his words and his gesture.
“God knows where Epimetheus is.” Dionysus stared at me unfathomably, almost uncaring though his eyes were hard. “And me...my memories of the last millennium are blank, empty, cold and dark and brief at least, but I must’ve hoped I’d at least be in Elysium, with my mother so I could apologize for what I did to her.”
“You were in Elysium.”
“Wh-what?” I stammered and Dionysus sighs.
“You lived a long, lonely life in Elysium.” Dionysus stared off beyond my shoulders. I was left reeling but there was a faint delight at the thought that maybe I did spend it with mother. I got to be me with her in a peaceful afterlife until I was taken from her again.
“I don’t understand.” Warren gripped my arm, but frowned heavily at Dionysus. “Elysium is not a lonely place. It’s a place for those who deserve peace in the afterlife and altogether. How could it be lonely for Pandora?” Confused, my heart quivering in my chest at Dionysus’s oddly sympathetic look. He sighed heavily but faced my eyes square on, hardened.
“To put simply, Pandora,” I tensed as Warren stood next to me, not touching me thankfully because I had a feeling I may hurt after this. “You were constructed by us Olympians to fulfill a plan. A seduction, if we want to be crass, for our fun or more specifically, our father’s petty fun. You matched every little check box that Epimetheus wanted in a woman and he fell for you immediately. Plan accomplished.”
“Then, you brought chaos and evil and destruction upon the world further than it already had. And of course, us God’s had to get involved and all those who were involved, were punished.”
Wham. A blow to the heart.
“Your very own Elysium was constructed. Beautiful, expansive. Never changing. Never moving. and no other soul.” My breath shook heavily as my knees buckled slightly. “You were sentenced to live in Elysium alone for eternity for the chaos you brought upon this world.”
I would’ve preferred Warren to slay me where I stood. It would’ve hurt less.
“Are you fucking serious?” Warren snarled while I stood there my chest heavy, my throat dry and my mind blank like static. “For everything that you made her do, you had to punish her?”
“Our father did. Not us. We do not have the power to create Elysium but my father or Hades does. I can understand, it is exceedingly harsh Pandora and I express my condolences-”
I was stitched together. Piece to piece. Tick every box for perfect wife for someone. Forced to marry someone I never loved and someone who didn’t truly love me. Lost my family and my freedom and punished for it all. Wow, it couldn’t get any fucking worse, could it? Without thinking, I grabbed my skirts, curtsied quickly and turned around, throwing the curtains open and running out, ignoring Warren’s shout of my name behind me.
Pandora. Let this name be a fucking curse for me as well anyone who hears it!
I blindly ran down the stairs, shoving past people who shouted at me but I was deaf and numb to it all as I ran for the bathrooms, throwing myself in the private bathroom, slamming the door forcefully and locking it. Immediately inside the enclosed in room, the only sounds I could focus on where the breaths leaving my chest, my blood rushing and pulsing through my head making my ears and head throb. My breathing grew louder, the cold floor soaking through my skirt as I collapsed to my knees as I rested my arms and forehead against the door, gasping and trying to stop the sobbing cries that wanted to escape.
There is no shame in crying.
Just breathe, Pan. Breathe.
The words pulsed through my head with the rushing blood running through me and my throat opened up as a choked sob escaped me and the river of tears, agony and anger were released. My body wracked as I sobbed hysterically on a bathroom floor in a gold ball gown, words of comfort repeating themselves gave me permission to do what I needed right now.
Just cry and breathe. You’re hardly their puppet anymore.
I wasn’t sure how long I just sat on the marble white bathroom floor but my eyes were dry, my face was caked in dried tears and I just felt tired.
But I felt something else.
With a heavy sigh, I slowly dragged myself up onto my feet, standing in front of the sink and the mirror where I could see how much of a mess I was.
No. I’m not a mess, not anymore.
My hair hung around my back and shoulders, slightly fluffed up, messy from running my hands through it. My eyes weren’t red much now and my cheeks glistened with dried tears and my cheeks were flushed. Pushing my hair back over my shoulders, I turned the tap, cupping a handful of water and splashing the cool water over my face and it felt exhilarating. I grabbed some paper towels to dry off my face as I let out one last sniffle before facing my reflection.
“I’m not that puppet anymore. I may be stitched and painted but I don’t belong to you bastards anymore.” I spat the words quietly to myself in front of the mirror, a slight rush breezing through me and shaking myself out of it, I took one last glance at the mirror.
The girl in there wasn’t broken or a mess anymore. Her hazel eyes burned fire that came all from herself. And she’d do anything to keep that fire.
I left the bathroom area to find myself in looking into a sudden growing crowd that was dancing in manners both innocent and not for public eyes. The music was festive, louder and had a sultry hit to it. Distracted by the activities dancing around, I almost didn’t hear my name next to me. Startled, I looked over to see Warren leaning against the wall next to the corridor leading into the bathrooms, his eyes on me, appraising me, reading me. I met his gaze evenly and catching his eyes only, a smile graced my face that trembled was the only thing I could give to express my feelings.
I will be okay.
Seeing that, Warren’s shoulders grew less tense and he pushed off the wall to stand before me. His body was mere inches from mine and I could feel the warmth exuding from him that I wanted nothing more than to relax into like a steamed bath. Warren must’ve read my mind. He wrapped an arm around the back of my shoulder pulling me into him until my face was pressed into his chest as he held me there tightly but the comfort in his hold was all I needed to relax into.
He didn’t say anything, he just allowed me to lean into him, gripping onto his tux jacket as I let out a few heavy breaths as I took it all in once again. It was gonna take some time to move on from that ridiculous blow and the punishment I had endured but in truth, I didn’t remember it so that was okay for now. But I’d rather suffer than let my mother suffer. I knew she lived somewhere in Elysium and at least she would be with my father. I would take all the punishments thrown my way for my mother’s peace.
But once I had the others back home and the box continued to remain hidden then I could try and focus on myself a little and grieve further. Until then, I was okay for now.
As though my thoughts had been voiced, Warren slowly pulled away and I looked up at from where my face was buried in his chest. He stared down at me with his eyes which were now like autumn leaves and my heart sighed inside my chest. He gave me a faint smile and the hand on my back holding me to him, he raised it to my face as he leaned in quickly, kissing the top of my head.
“You’re okay now, princess.”
I rolled my eyes which he saw and a soft chuckle as he lightly flicked the tip of my nose, making me scrunch my face in protest, he only laughed and keeping his arm around my shoulder pulled through the dancing, swaying crowd with its dimmed golden pink hue swallowing over all of us.
“Let’s go home now.”