“You don’t really think they can be rehabilitated, do you?” It was the question I had been asking myself, one that I had been rolling over in my mind since the OA Business Meeting, but Hekate put my thoughts to words. “Ostasus…the only thing the thousands of years in Tartarus did was make him more villainous.”
We sat in the lounge in the GC. The smell wafting off the raspberry hibiscus tea filled my nose with a calming scent. Tea was a weakness for me. The room was well stocked with coffee, tea, and alcohol, but for me, tea was always my go-to; it warmed the body and soul.
“All of them? No, but there are some who I believe can change.” Like Helios. I had visited him often in Tartarus, working hard before spring arrived, before it was time to move to the surface world, to set him up for success. I felt he was a success. I could see Hekate nod as I answered her, dark hair barely moving with the gesture. “But do I really believe they all are capable? No. I have to see the remorse…the WANT to change inside them.”
“How can you know that?” The deep tones of Zeus’s voice preceded him into the lounge, startling us both. “Who are you to determine their desires? Their heart?”
All the ancient frescoes and paintings did not do our father justice. His presence alone was enough to make some immortals quake with fear, let alone what his visage could do to mortals.
“Father,” Hekate greeting him gave me a moment to catch my thoughts.
“Just asking, not making judgments, humor me.” His smile cracked his beard, but it was *not* meant to grant comfort. The weariness in his eyes added to the discomfort. I had never seen my father this way.
“It is their soul. What judgment their soul deserves. What I can feel in them. See in them.” I looked at my elder sister. She gestured with her coffee mug prodding me forward.
“Based on,” he paused, “what evidence?”
“Same as I see in mortals when they come before us for final judgment.”
“Mortals don’t live forever. Their grudges are short.” My father was not pulling punches today. This was not a discussion; it was a teaching moment.
“They are. Mortals are like a flash fire. Not a slow smoldering burn like we are.”
“So explain to me how, you, Daughter of Olympus,” his eyebrows punctuated his sentence for effect, “have insight into the souls of Titans?”
“Experience. Reading their bodies, their behaviors.” Though he was stern, I had not feared my father for a very long time. I was one of the last ones who still called him Daddy when it wasn’t formal. This conversation was very formal. From her seat in the chair across the room, Hekate remained quiet, observing the standoff between us, sipping her coffee, her practiced expression giving away nothing. “Listening to what they say, behind what they say. Judging the souls, and pardoning those who deserve it. It is my duty, Father. It is what I have done as Queen of the Underworld. To mete out justice that is deserved, and mercy when it is needed.”
“I think you may be stretching your mandate.” Zeus sat in the large armchair, crossing one leg over the other.
“Everyone deserves a second chance if they are truly repentant.”
His eyes narrowed as he looked at me. “How much time, prior to their escape, had you spent inside a prison no one knew existed. You seem to indicate you spent time.” The words were a calculated strategy. I could see Hekate shake her head in the corner of my eye.
“Before? No, but is the underworld not a prison in its own right?” The reply was a double-edged dagger. I threw it at an attempt to hurt, but Zeus was emotionless.
“So what would you say to the members of this family to whom you are squarely against in this endeavor? Forget justice or rehabilitation for the Titans. What about the Olympians who’ve suffered at their hand? To say nothing of the mortals to which the Titans have never shown concern.”
My father and my sister looked at me, both of them waiting for the answer to this weighted question. There was an analysis in Hekate’s dark eyes. It was as if she was waiting to take the response and weigh it up against my conviction.
I waited a moment, taking a deep breath before I answered. “I understand their aversion to it. I understand that I stand on another side of it. What would I say? If it fails, then I take all responsibility for it. I take their continued aggressions as if they were my own. I will suffer the same fate as they if I am wrong.”
“You would willingly take up the defense of those who have sworn to do us harm? And who have DONE us harm? To say nothing for those Titans who are STILL at large. Plotting, planning, actively seeking to undo what we’ve built?” Now his voice took the edge I had been dreading.
“If their soul craves it. If they truly show remorse and regret, they deserve someone who will. If it puts me against my family, that is regrettable, but if you punish those who wish to reform and put such a severe collar around their neck, it will only assure they will continue to hate. Not all can be reformed. I am not gullible enough to believe that.” I stood defensive, trying to breathe without giving away my nervousness.
“You cannot help those who do not want it. You cannot help those who do not see their actions as a problem.” From Zeus, this was a statement of fact
“I do not have the ego to think I can magically make them all better. But one. Or two? Maybe.” It was the same argument over and over. I had started it at the meeting when I had admittedly pushed him too far when he raised his voice. I would not get away with it again.
“You’re placing a significant amount of faith in a group of individuals who immediately caused havoc the moment they set foot outside of prison.”
“And what makes you think you can’t be deceived.” Hekate’s tone was cooler than our father’s as she spoke for the first time in the discussion.
“It might happen. It has happened before. I made a mistake with Sisyphus. He tricked me, and I have learned from that mistake.” At least, I hoped I had. I turned back to Zeus. “Perhaps I am going on faith, but I am renewal and rebirth. If I were to deny those who cry for it, I am failing at my duties.”
“At the risk of being predictable…renewal and rebirth are not justice.” As smooth a reply as ever from my Father as if he knew exactly how to counter. He should. He has been doing this for thousands upon thousands of years.
“Justice is merely a form of punishment,” I said.
“Is it? To the victim?” he retorted.
“The root of justice is rehabilitation.”
“And where have you learned that?” He paused, eyeing me. “Whom? Where? In…” again the pause, “Tartarus? You are placing a lot on your expertise, to which none of us have ever known you to have.” It was becoming a chess game. He moved. I countered. He would move again: a verbal sparring match.
“As Queen, yes.” I pulled myself up to my full height. “Involved in the sentencing of souls, some deserve punishment, but at the end of that should be a chance to become better. Of course, no one knows of this because this is what happens when everyone forgets my existence. They don’t notice what I do and not do, because I am not as flashy or as important as others.” I rolled my eyes. “Oh, isn’t she cute. I have heard that for a long time. I know I am putting a lot on this. Don’t think I haven’t thought long and hard about what could go wrong.”
“So, is this because you want attention? Admiration? A sense of deserved respect? Or is this an actual concern for the rehabilitation of Titans? Are you concerned for their crimes against us and the mortals to whom we are supposed to serve?” Every word he said was crafted to push the next envelope, but I would not break and stomp my feet like the child so many saw in me.
“I am not deluded. I do not think it is all rainbows and sunshine.” I saw the small movement of Hekate’s eyes, just enough for me to see she was still following the conversation and judging by her own criteria. “It comes from actual concern for all of us: Titan, Olympian, Mortal. You said we had to be relevant to them again…the mortals. This is relevant. I stayed up late last night. I studied prisons. Norway—and yes father, I know how you feel about those northerners—their prison system has the best rehabilitation success rates in the world.” That got his attention and his goat. He hated the Northmen to no end. “Applying skills and tools some mortals have perfected can be beneficial to the mortals as a whole.”
“For Mortals, Persephone. For Mortals.” He almost sounded fed up with the whole thing.
“We are not so different. We all act from the same passions and desires. Love and hate. Anger. Mortals, Titans, and Olympians. We burn for the same reasons.”
“I am loath to entertain any idea from the Vikings or their descendants. We are not imprisoning boat thieves from Lillehammer.” The contempt for the northerners was thick in his voice. “You want to entertain the rehabilitation of Atlas seriously? Perhaps, you need to discuss with him why he ended up holding up the sky in the first place.”
“I will study each one. Compile a list of pros and cons. Put forth a dossier of who has potential.” Point from me.
“A list of pros and cons, defined by who? Potential determined by what?” Counterpoint from Zeus.
“Analysis of their behaviors and past crimes. Review them against criteria laid out in numerous studies. And present the findings to you, Hades, and Hera for review. You can review and decide then if you see merit in each individual’s rehabilitation. Let me ask you a question. What about Helios? How do you feel about the success there?”
“Potentially self-serving. Was he truly assisting Olympus, or his sister, herself a Titan?” His broad shoulders shrugged, “Remains to be seen.”
“Then give me the chance to try with others?”
“There is an entirely separate argument you aren’t considering.” This was a deflection, but I nodded for him to continue. “Olympians, to the Titans, are rebellious children. We won the war, and then we placed them in prison. At this point, it has been something like forty-thousand years. What if,” he raised a finger to stall my response, “allow me to elaborate here. What if our opportunity for rehabilitation is ten, twenty, thirty-thousand years too late? What if our placing them in a cage and walking away caused them to hate us further?”
To the side, I saw Hekate’s jaw tighten. Her eyes flared with an inner fire, the burning flame of her vengeance. She knew the truth of that statement all too personally.
“I have considered that. It is not only possible but probable. But, what if for one it is not too late? Or, for example, Atё?” I got in the jab I wanted, bringing up the main shift of my focus since the Business Meeting.
Zeus shook his head, “Atё wasn’t betrayed by the Titans like we were. Hers is a different rage. Perhaps the comparison does not hold. Her anger is more recent. Fresh. The wound has not yet healed. You need to understand the goal, Persephone. You, in the act of justice, need to know who you are giving it to, and taking it from. It is not to say it isn’t worth doing.” There was a light, for a moment, I thought I had broken through. “However, you need to be prepared to risk being alone in your task.”
“I do understand what I am proposing and what I am suggesting. I also know that this is very likely something I endeavor to accomplish on my own.” Loneliness was not new to me. I had spent a long time alone before Hades requested the divorce to finalize what had become our reality.
“Then do not talk of attention, admiration, notice, or respect. Those are selfish pursuits.” The weight of his years filled his voice with this simple statement.
“I know that many may see it as a child being petulant.”
“If your concern is the appearance of your behavior to others, then yours is not the cause of Justice.”
“But I do not suggest this for myself or any glory. I want to help people. I need to be a force for their change. It is a driving force. I feel the need to be of service to them.” I knew they both would understand if I could only find the right words.
“There is a difference between justice and retribution. Administration is a simple choice with consequences to follow. You hold the line, so everyone knows where it is. You don’t waver. You don’t move. Softness is a luxury that does nothing but blur the line.” Hekate shook her head at me, “Your iron has become soft, Persephone.”
“The line has to move sometimes, Hekate.”
Our father cleared his throat and brought our attention back to him, holding a hand to us both.” Please.” Once we stopped, he continued. “I hate to point this out, but seeing as how justice is one of my jobs, I feel as if I can speak to this from a place of value. You cannot have things work both ways. If you want justice, you make a choice, and with it, consequences. You can say ‘I know’ but, do you? Do not speak only to respond. Use the silence to listen. And consider.” Always the more thoughtful of the two of us, Hekate nodded in agreement with Zeus’s statement. “If you are always in the act of defense or explanation, your position is not strong.”
“I believe it will work. My iron is strong in my conviction of this. We cannot remain stagnant and black and white because the world is no longer black and white.” My voice was giving way. I felt weary repeating the same argument over and over. Why did they think I was not thinking this through?
“Then you need to make your iron freshly forged, Daughter. Everyone will not share your beliefs. You will choose a side. And sometimes, that side will be wrong, even for the right reasons.”
“I am fully prepared and capable of standing alone if it is so.” I squared my shoulders, standing tall as a queen should.
Zeus leaned back in the chair. I could see him considering what I had said. “You may think that. But in the moment, you may waiver. Think upon this, weigh it all as if it were the only decision in the world.” He pushed himself up from the leather chair. “I must take my leave.”
Hekate tilted her head in a farewell to Zeus as he left the lounge. I let out my breath and dropped back to the couch. “Was that a win? A loss? I am not sure!”
Hekate laughed wryly, “Rule number one of going up against Father. Don’t bring a knife to a gunfight.”
The whole incident drained me. I looked at the now cold cup of tea on the table before me and crossed the room to dump it in the sink.
Nodding, I agreed with her, “The problem is you do not know which fight you are going to until you are in it. That wore me out. I…” pausing, I took a deep breath. “Thank you for listening to me, Hekate. I am going to head up to bed.” Waving as I left the room, I made the long trek back to my apartments on the 12th floor.
I had much on my mind but wrapped up in the warm blankets on my bed, it did not take long for me to fall asleep. The words of my father ran circles around me as the darkness pulled me down into the thick embrace of sleep.
Though it was easy to fall asleep that night, it was not as simple to stay there. Tossing and turning through the night, my sleep was troubled. Images ran through my head: prisons, chains, the deep dank of the cell beneath Tartarus. I shot straight up in bed, heart racing. I gasped for breath as the moonlight shone in from the partially-closed curtains. I blinked away the terror that gripped me from my dream, a feeling that held my heart in a vice.
I felt the pressure on the edge of my bed as Snow placed his large head on the comforter, his blue eyes pleading for comfort as he whined, echoing my disturbing dreams. Snow had been my comfort since I found him cowering in the deep tunnels in the underworld. I patted the bed, and the ghostly pit bull jumped up and turned thrice around before settling down to sleep. The weight of his head was heavy across my thighs as I lied there staring at the ceiling. A single tear rolled down my cheek as I idly stroked his head, fingers trailing across his velvet ears, and he sighed with a rumble I felt in the bed. It had to be my guilt for Atё. The discussion with Father had given me such tumultuous slumber, leading to dreams of the prison below, and such an ache in my heart.