Perfect is a word that shouldn’t have a definition. Not that it is without meaning. Rather, it is a concept rationalized by those who could never hope to realize it. Mortals and deities alike are riddled with flaws. Nuances that mar their chances at attaining perfection but make them desirable in some humble sort of way. Having been raised the way she was, Athena struggles with the word, no the concept altogether.
So much of Athena’s life was shaped by the idea that she was perfect. At first, she believed it, and earnestly so. What place did a child have to argue with the father who showered her with that kind of praise every day? So she grew tall, elegant, and beautiful just as he said she would. Perfection is so much more than looks. So she gained wisdom and intelligence far beyond her years. But perfection is so much more than what’s in one’s mind. It’s at times an ideal and at others a benchmark; an impossibility for most, but something preordained for her.
Athena is perfect. Was perfect. That notion like many others was thrown out the day she met the girl with the carefree smile. The girl who sat like a boy and ran while others walked. Crass when she wanted to be and kind when she needed be. A person who embodied victory in ways that far eclipsed anything Athena could aspire towards. Nike was a beautiful contradiction; flawed in her flawlessness. She fascinated Athena.
Athena was sure there wasn’t another person in the world like Nike. To be perfect meant to be alone. But Athena didn’t want her to be alone. So Athena stood by her side for as long as she could. Yet all she has are memories of her voice. Remnants that shan’t ever hold a candle to the original.
“You don’t have to try so hard to impress everyone. Just do your best. That way you’re happy even if you end up losing in the end.”
Cracks, screeches and all matters of destructive noise snag Athena’s attention. She turns and there’s Throoth venting in a way that’s unlike the svelte girl.
“How could I be so stupid?!”
The building before Throoth couldn’t hold itself up and effortlessly crumbles around her outstretched fist. It took muscles Athena didn’t even know she had to resist joining Throoth in the cathartic destruction.
“I was careless. I should’ve checked their futures the moment I got back.” Pain is palpable in her hoarse voice. Throoth shuts her eyes tight then opens them. One of her eyes, the left, burns with the blue flames of foresight.
Throoth’s gaze teeters towards Athena and she throws her arms up in protest.
“Oh come now, “ Athena sighs. “That’s invasive.” Considering what they’ve lost it might be best if Athena put aside her reservations about Throoth’s powers, just this once.
“Throoth, check my future,” Kebechet whispers and takes the attention off Athena. “I might run into Ana. If I do then you’ll see that possibility and know where to find her.”
There’s merit to the idea. But given what Athena knows of the eye, this plan would be better suited for someone with a higher chance of encountering Ana again. That currently leaves Throoth as the best candidate for this method.
“Though, you might just end up seeing a future where I’m asleep. Or dead. Either is fine.” Just like that Kebechet dashes any chances of convincing Throoth. In fact, Athena can swear she sees the exact moment Throoth writes off Kebechet. Throoth scoffs then brushes one of her long braids over her shoulder. A gesture Athena associates with feigned perfection. A nasty little habit she hadn’t missed while Throoth was away.
Sighing, Athena walks over and takes a place at Kebechet’s side. Without a word, she drapes an arm over the girl’s shoulder and smiles. Though Kebechet can’t smile back Athena is sure the mummy understands the meaning behind the gesture.
With her hand clenched around Mjolnir, her war hammer, Throoth gives them a once over. When she turns away she speaks in a quiet voice, much closer to the one Athena remembers.
“Right now I’m at a clear disadvantage against Ana’s lookalike. She needs to be in my line of sight if I’m going to predict her. But if I’m too close then she’ll just enrage me again.” Throoth looks down at Mjolnir. “I won’t risk a fight anywhere near Ana.”
Throoth blinks until she’s doused the fire in her eye.
“I might just have a way to find Ana and handle her lookalike from afar,” Throoth says in a tone Athena wants to believe is confidence and not arrogance.
Just moments ago Throoth was distraught over losing Ana, and her resolve was back just like that. Not to mention there hadn’t been a tear shed for the other friend they’d lost. Some might consider that kind of stoicism a form of perfection. But Athena doesn’t, she knows Throoth is just faking it. Like she always does.
When Throoth takes a step forward so does Athena. Throoth stops and Athena just gets it. She can see that Throoth knows they’ll protest yet gives them the chance to argue anyway. Once more Athena calls upon those unknown muscles to knot in her stomach so she doesn’t say or do anything she might regret.
Throoth stares out with an impassive expression. Perfection isn’t in the kind of person who doesn’t cry on the day their fiance dies. Those dry eyes mock Athena. Here she is fighting tooth and nail to remain calm for Ana even though she isn’t there. Yet Throoth looks at her as though to say she has the ability but won’t bother inhibiting their free will. Like she needs to humor them because she’s so much better than they are.
“So you’re just leaving,” Athena huffs. “Running off on some solo mission to save Ana yourself? She’s our friend too you know. Then there’s the fact that we haven’t so much as discussed what happened to Jesus.”
Athena pauses only to shake her head. “You may not see it this way Throoth, but we’re your friends. Let us in. Let us help you. Whatever it is you see, whatever it is you’re feeling. Know this…you don’t have to do this alone.”
“I want to help Jesus,” Kebechet speaks up. “I want to help Ana.” She nods. “I want to help Throoth.” She nods once more.
Chances are Throoth has heard this all before and will give the ideal response. Still, Athena stands beside Kebechet with her eyes locked forward on the petite girl.
“Fine,” Throoth says. “If you want to help me then you can start by informing the Archangels of what occurred here today. Their prince has been murdered.”
Obvious questions come to mind. How did Throoth expect Athena to get in touch with any other realm, let alone The Archangels in Eden? Instead of a direct answer, Throoth unties a pouch from her waist and throws it over to Athena. She catches it. Within the pouch is an array of colors in the form of powdered crystals.
“There’s still a ways to go but The Bifrost is semi-functional on most Realms now. Unlike before, your thoughts won’t be enough and you’ll need a conduit to access it. By using these shards as a medium you can travel to another realm.”
They really made that much progress on the bridge? This was the fantastic news Throoth was about to share when their home was attacked. Athena has to tell her. This is amazing.
“This is…” Throoth raises a hand, stopping Athena.
“I know. It’s amazing. It’s why I was gone for as long as I was. My powers saved Brokkr and his men a lot of trouble.”
“I do have a question,” Athena says while looking from the crystals to Throoth. “Why didn’t you mention this sooner? We should have left Midgard long before any of this happened.”
Throoth shrugs. “I told one person.” She glances away. “He’s dead now. It was his idea to withhold the information. But seeing as he’s gone, we might as well alert his family. Maybe they can put their efforts towards finding the one behind the attack. That way they won’t bother me while I’m looking for Ana.”
“Don’t you see what this means Throoth? Now you definitely don’t have to do this alone. We’ll have all sorts of help in our search for Ana. There won’t be anywhere in the 9 realms she can hide if we get our families involved!”
“No,” Throoth’s response is a simple one. “Do you think if I were to go to Asgard, where my mother is, I’d be able to leave again? She feels I’m all she has left.” Throoth stares down at the palm of her hand. “I’ve studied my future. If I go back the Archangels will try to harness my sight, like anyone else would, for themselves. I can’t let them confiscate my power.”
Throoth always speaks with so much certainty. As one who knows what comes next should. Even so, it leaves Athena cold. Always does and always will.
“So don’t worry about me,” Throoth whispers as she looks back at them. “I have a plan. After I’ve found Ana I’ll focus my attention on figuring out what happened to Jesus.”
“Then I’ll formulate a plan as well,” Athena responds. “I’m the strategist, right? If I’m careful I can even outplay your visions.” Athena offers Throoth a smile. Regardless of how she feels on the inside she still wants -- no, needs -- Throoth to succeed.
Athena looks to the sky, closes her eyes and holds a hand up to her face. Athena intones a series of soft coos. The calls hit their marks, and several white owls fly appear after little less than a minute of hooting. She holds up an arm and the owls know where to land. They perch about her body; one on her forearm, and the other two on her shoulders.
“My lovelies,” she whispers while moving in and kissing each owl atop their feathered heads. She stays close to them and whispers a message to be sent to any of her siblings on Midgard. Each Owl’s eyes radiate with a golden glow, now brimming with orders from their princess. Raising her arm, Athena sends the owls away, each off in a different direction.
There’s one last lingering look paid to the birds before Athena spins, puts her arms behind her back and looks to Throoth. “You follow your heart and eyes on this one. I’ll follow my mind and think of something to assist you in the meantime. Good luck Throoth.”
Before Athena leaves there’s something important she needs to take care of. She walks over to Kebechet who kept herself busy by staring at the building Throoth hadn’t destroyed. Athena touches her shoulder and when the mummy turns she’s met with a tight embrace.
“I won’t be gone long. So if you wander off please let it be to somewhere I can find you,” Athena whispers, tightening her grip around Keb. There’s some much-needed warmth in this cold dead, hug.
“Athena,” Kebechet whispers, likely prepared to protest like she always would. Kebechet isn’t a hugger. Throoth isn’t a hugger. Jesus was a hugger and Ana gives the best hugs of all. So for right now, she just kind of needs this.
“Athena.” It hits her ear again, but she won’t let go.
“Please,” Athena whispers right back, “just a tad longer.”
A tightness surrounds Athena’s midsection and she comes to find Kebechet cradling her back. She pulls away so that she can look into Kebechet’s eyes. She tilts her head and leans in, searching for something.
“Are you,” Athena begins, finding it hard not to smile. “Are you being nice to me?”
“No. You were shaking. So I assumed you were cold.”
“Yeah,” Athena says as steps back. “Alright then. One more thing before I go. Kebechet, return to the apartment and do your best to preserve Jesus’ body. Anything to help The Archangels with identifying who might’ve been behind the attack.”
“I’ll give him the best embalming of his life.”
With that taken care of, Athena puts some distance between her and her friends. At last, she pours the contents of the pouch into her hand. She closes her eyes and clenches her fingers around the fine powder. Like how they would access the Bifrost before, Athena pictures a place she wishes to go. It’s always difficult because everything has to be exact. A description of a place isn’t good enough, it takes a memory. Though Athena hadn’t been to Eden since she was a child she still has very vivid memories of its arena.
An amphitheater much grander than any in Olympus. Whenever they visited Hera would scoff and criticize every detail of the structure. For her, it was too large and gaudy and would distract from whatever was to take place at the center, be it sport, drama or battle. To this, Athena’s father would always laugh. For he could tell how jealous Hera was that the style had been borrowed from them. Zeus found this to be flattering and saw no harm in the Christians housing Olympian architecture. Because no matter how big it seemed, it could never be as perfect as anything crafted by their hands, for only they understood what made these things great, to begin with.
It wasn’t only with her father and ‘mother’ that Athena went to Eden, but with Nike as well. Even through her sandals, Athena can feel the weightless sand shift around beneath her. She can hear the echo of cheers bouncing from one side of the arena to the next. There’s competition in the air.
“I’m Olympus’ best bet, so be sure to cheer loud as you can! I wanna be able to hear you from the finish line,” Nike declared with a grin Athena couldn’t resist.
Instead of letting Nike see the red in her cheeks, Athena looks away.
“Rude,” Athena scoffed. “You and I both know that if women were allowed to participate you’d be the one calling my name!”
“Rude,” Nike huffed. “Last I checked I’m just as much of a girl as you are. Others just don’t have to know until after I win.”
“You sound sure of yourself,” Athena said with a smile.
“What do the mortals call me,” Nike asked, with a smile of her own.
“Why is that?”
“Because you don’t lose.”
“Because I don’t lose.”
Nike and Athena looked at each other and laughed. Then, when that laugh ended they shared another and another.
“My father has a lot of faith in you. And if you win a chariot race here in Eden, against all the other Pantheons then I believe things will start looking up for girls throughout all the 9 realms,” Athena said.
“Oh yeah,” Nike responded.
“Of course. Men are a competitive lot. They’ll want to reaffirm their dominance through honest competition. Not just in chariot races but in all sorts of matters. Like politics. Maybe one day a woman could even become king.”
“Huh? What do you mean huh?”
“It’s just this is the first time you’ve ever told me this.” Nike sat up from her seated position and crossed her legs. She stared up at Athena who always made sure to sit like a proper lady, with her back arched and her shoulders square. “About the kinda goddess you wanna be.”
I-I never insinuated these were my own goals. Rather something I feel all women should aspire towards.” Heat blossomed in Athena’s cheeks. “Besides, even though I’m only a godling, mortals worship me as a full-fledged wisdom goddess. I’m a prodigy who earns divinity outside of her allowance. Why would I need to be king? Especially when my father-”
“Because you’re amazing!!” Nike cut her off, and Athena froze. Fastened there, by the gaze of someone she admired. “I think you’d make a great king. And even though I’m only a godling, mortals worship me as a full-fledged goddess of victory. So…” Nike reached out and put her hand on Athena’s shoulder. “You have my blessing.”
“Idiot,” Athena sighed. “Let’s just worry about plotting your course to victory in this race. Susano’o was recently exiled, so I doubt another Kami can take his place in time. But we still have Horus and Ullr to worry about. Then there’s no telling who will represent Heaven.”
Athena looks up in time to see a colossal paw looming over her. She manages to avoid it with a well-timed roll but is nearly snagged beneath another. Once she’s to her feet she’s able to put some space between her and the wolf. Despite having never seen him before in her life she knows for certain it’s the gargantuan devourer himself; Fenrir.
A subtle tilt of her head and that’s all it takes to see the many royal heads who’ve gathered around the amphitheater to watch as this large beast is made to answer for his crimes. It would seem she couldn’t have picked a better time or place to appear in Eden.
The wolf seems to have caught sight of her and turns his attention to the girl. She grits her teeth and whips her arms out, summoning two spears in anticipation of whatever he might do. She peeks back to the crowd and sees a lot of notable reactions to her sudden appearance. Amidst the chorus of confused gasps, there are panicked groans, frightened that a godling as delicate as Athena might meet her end by way of this beast.
When her gaze falls to her family, the lot with the same violet hair as her, she sees Hera dead center, drinking from her goblet as though unphased by the sight of one of her own in such peril. Though it would seem that her siblings have already sprung to action. Even with their helmets, Athena recognizes Ares and Enyo attempt to join the fray until they are stopped by an invisible barrier bordering the arena.
Heat brushes Athena’s skin and snaps her attention forward to see Fenrir’s massive maw part above her.