“No, no, no, no, no.” Nike just shook her head.
I leaped from my seat and stalked the children in their beds. “How DARE Nana Rhea have an affair with one of his brothers! How DARE she bring a bastard into the world when she was married to HIM!”
Moxie was almost speechless. “What a dummy.”
Ares nodded in agreement. “He w-was an idiot.”
I paced between the row of beds. “It took him three strides to get to the bed. He snatched her up by her biceps and hit her over and over and over. He was in such a blind rage at her infidelity that he couldn’t stop, not even when she was lying limp on the stone floor.”
The children cried out.
“No!” Tears flow freely from Nike’s eyes and Moxie’s fingers wrapped tightly around her blanket. “Is she dead?”
“The priestesses prayed fervently for Mama Gee to help Nana Rhea. They prayed harder than they ever had before for anything, ever. Thankfully, Mama Gee heard their prayers and boy, was she PISSED!”
Ares pumped his little fist in the air. “Yes! S-she is g-gonna kick his butt!”
Moxie hugged Nike tightly and helped wipe her tears. “It’ll be okay. You’ll see.”
“Mama Gee manifested in the temple as a violent whirlwind. All the priestesses and attendants ran out of the temple, ushering the supplicants out so they could save themselves. No one wanted to be around two fighting Titans! Mama Gee scooped Papaw Cronus up and threw him so hard he landed head first on the other side of the world! Then she gently picked up Nana Rhea and, using the earth’s magic, wrapped Nana Rhea in healing vines and flowers.”
Nike looked up with hope in her eyes. “BOOM! Smackdown!”
Moxie giggled at Nike. “Mama Gee didn’t raise a spouse abuser.”
Nike nodded. “That’s right, Mama Gee don’t play that game.”
Ares was dancing on his bed. “You g-go, g-girl!”
Hephaestus looked like he wanted to join in on the celebration but instead, laid his head back down on his pillow and closed his eyes again.
“It took almost three weeks for Nana Rhea to recover, even with Mama Gee’s help. Nana Rhea felt that she had nothing left to live for. Mama Gee reminded her about her newborn son, but that just caused Nana Rhea more pain, because she knew that Papaw Cronus would eat him, too. If he ate one more of her babies, she wouldn’t have anything left to live for. Mama Gee told Nana Rhea that she wasn’t going to help her save the baby if Nana didn’t get off her ass and prove to Mama Gee that she wanted to protect him.
“It took a while for Nana Rhea to understand and then gather what little strength she had left. Once your heart is shredded by the one you love, it’s difficult to do anything but watch the pieces fall limply through your fingers. But if there is one thing in the world that can rally a woman’s strength once she’s lost the love of her husband, it’s the love she has for her children. Nana Rhea slowly and oh so carefully pulled her feet under her and stood up.”
“Protect the children, right, Lady Hera?”
”That’s right, little one. We always protect the children we love.” I smiled at the four of them, knowing I would do anything to protect them. “She was weak and shaking and could barely stand without help, but Mama Gee saw the fire light in her eyes again, and knew that Nana Rhea would do anything to protect her baby. Knowing that Papaw Cronus would find them again, the two women concocted a devious plan that would fool Papaw Cronus and save the baby.”
Ares giggled and rubbed his tiny hands together.
“Four days later, Papaw Cronus found the women at the temple. By this time, he’d calmed down enough to realize the baby was his, but that got him more upset, because now he had to eat another child. Frankly, he was running out of room in his very large belly. He stormed into the room and saw Mama Gee and Nana Rhea sitting on the bed, holding a baby and making googly eyes at it. He demanded that his wife hand over the baby to be eaten!”
Nike was exasperated. “No, not again! Don’t do it, Nana! Don’t give him my daddy!!”
Moxie piped up with a “Kick him in the nuts!”
My bloodthirsty son shouted, “Cut off his boner!”
“Demurely, Nana Rhea stood and held the baby tightly to her chest as she walked to Papaw Cronus with tears in her eyes. She begged Papaw Cronus not to eat their child. She pointed out how tiny he was, and how he could never harm his parents if they just loved him enough.”
“Daddy just needed to be loved more,” Nike said sagely.
I hid a laugh behind my hand. “No, little one, your father is loved too much.” Moxie nodded and I cleared my throat, going back to the story. “Papaw Cronus was not having any of Nana Rhea’s nonsense and just held his hand out for the baby. Nana Rhea stood toe to toe with Papaw Cronus and met his eyes with a defiant stare. She told him if he was going to eat their child that he would be dead to her, and she would never want to lay eyes on him again, let alone have him touch her. She hoped he loved her enough to save this last child. Papaw Cronus did love Nana Rhea, but he loved himself more, and he couldn’t do what she asked.”
“He was afraid, wasn’t he, Lady Hera?”
“You’re right, Nike, he was afraid to die. The only thing a Titan or God truly fears is death. He said nothing to Nana and extended his hand towards the baby. Mama Gee was there, remember, but she just watched the exchange. She hoped that her son was redeemable. She was so wrong.”
Nike looked confused and mumbled, “But Uncle Hades says it’s great down there.”
“Heartbroken tears fell in a cascade from Nana Rhea’s eyes, but she refused to give up the child. Eventually, she saw that Papaw Cronus would not be moved to change his mind, so she agreed to give him the baby. On one condition.”
“I h-hope she d-drops a g-grenade down his t-throat instead.”
Hephaestus peeked open an eye and sleepily reached out to fist bump his brother, then promptly went back to sleep.
“The condition was that Papaw Cronus had to close his eyes and let her drop the infant down his throat and into his belly. Papaw thought deeply for several minutes, but couldn’t see any problem with this condition, so he agreed. He closed his eyes, tilted his head back, and opened his mouth as wide as he could – which, you know, is big when you’re a Titan. Nana Rhea let out a heartbreaking sob, told Papaw Cronus that his son’s name was Zeus, and then dropped the baby down Papaw Cronus’ throat so it landed in his belly!”
The children gasped in disbelief.
“Nana Rhea ran from the room sobbing, the entirety of her being just shattering into a billion pieces. Mama Gee looked at her son with the deepest level of disappointment that only a mother can give and told him she would never forgive him for what he’d done to Nana Rhea. Papaw was sad, but knew that he was finally safe, so he went back to his home and lived a lonely, quiet life without his family.”
Nike let out a large, God-like, yawn and laid out on her bed, snuggling into her pillow.
“Nana Rhea no longer had the strength to hold herself together, so Mama Gee took her pieces, shaped them into stars, and gave her to the night so she would always be able to watch over her children. Then, Mama Gee went to the next city over and paid two attendants to protect and raise the baby Zeus in a mountain cavern far away from Papaw Cronus. You see, Mama Gee and Nana Rhea finally outsmarted Papaw Cronus.”
“Mortals raised Daddy?” Nike whispered sleepily.
“You remember when Papaw Cronus first stormed into the room and the attendant ran out with the baby? Mama Gee put some magic on a rock to make it look like the baby Zeus, and that’s what Nana Rhea dropped into Papaw Cronus’ belly! Then Mama Gee made sure that the real baby Zeus was protected and raised to be the strongest of all the Gods, so he could come to rescue us from Papaw Cronus’ stomach.”
I stood from my chair. “The end. Now go to sleep, children.” I walked to each of them, tucking them in and kissing their foreheads.
Moxie clapped. “Best story ever, Hera!”
“G-goodnight everyone.” Ares waved and snuggled into his bed, pulling his pony close to his chest.
Nike jumped up. “The end?? No way, how’d you get out? How about the war? Aww, can’t you tell us more, please?”
I tucked Nike back into her bed. “I’ll let your father tell you the next part, little one.”
Moxie grinned. “The next part is when I come in, right, Hera?”
I smiled and tugged one of her ponytails. “That’s right, Moxie-moo.”
I walked to the door and before turning off the light, I looked over at my children. “Good night, my little loves.” Leaving the room, I looked forward to seeing my husband. Hopefully, he would be receptive to me this evening. Perhaps if I let him tell me the story of his bravery, he’ll let me show him my gratitude.