Couldn’t stay where they were put, of course – and when I find out who turned them loose, that person will wish for the tender mercies of Thanatos by the time I’m done.
Zeus likes to complain that all of us buggered off to Egypt during the Titanomachy, but not all of us did. Go ask him about his sinews – but pack a lunch, you’ll be there for days.
Some of us stayed quiet, stayed underground, offered what aid we could to those who asked, tried to hunt down the ones that weren’t actively trying to crack the world in half.
Not going to happen again, at least not for me.
Sure, there are brash ones who are going to go after the big boys, but those of us who think in subtlety, who know how to see the bigger picture, know that they are just…distractions.
Go ahead, put Atlas back in prison. One down, however many to go – and while you’re all sitting there patting yourselves on the back for taking down the marquee stars, the other ones are moving under the radar, setting up for another attack after you’ve all gotten complacent. There’s a reason I haven’t exactly started broaching casks to celebrate the resolution of this nightmare.
I didn’t think the revolution had started, to be honest – more of the first shots of a new war. Just because you survive an initial salvo doesn’t mean the battle is over. And let’s be honest, in this day and age, humans know Atlas isn’t holding up the sky. He wasn’t nearly as powerful as he used to be. All flash and no substance, like a has-been actor showing up to a movie premiere as a seat-filler. Makes the paparazzi go nuts for half a second, then back to obscurity.
I had sent Connor away, with Bruna and Eros-the-donkey-not-the-jackass-with-wings, after Hera went a little crazy. I didn’t blame her – Sparky was in rough shape, but Dinlas had gotten there in time, and he would pull through. I don’t always agree with the Lady of Peacocks, but there was no doubt of her devotion to Zeus. At least Connor had Bruna to keep him company. Maybe they would be happy together.
No, I tell a lie. I didn’t send him away. I drove him away – and I wasn’t sure he would ever come back.
You know what civilized humans into what they are now? What was the falling star that struck the rising ape and changed the course of the world as we know it?
“Tool use! Sophisticated social structures! Clement climates!” I hear you saying.
Whatever, I’m not an anthropologist. I’m just a goddess that predates humanity.
What turned the primate reaching for the stars into the human was mastery of fire.
I sat in front of my fire and stared into the heart of humanity.
“For gods’ sake, Hes, if I’m not safe here, nor are you! Come home! I won’t leave you behind!” Connor had demanded, standing in the doorway to our bedroom and looking very stubborn. “I know immortal isn’t invulnerable, but by Cernunnos’ brazen balls, woman, you’re no warrior goddess! You’re the goddess of the hearthfire and home! Come home where you belong, and we can come back after the worst is over.”
I exhaled through my nose, trying to stay calm.
“I’ve run with the Pack since before you were born. I don’t need to sit at home and wait this time. I’ve learned. Evolved. I can do more than sit here and try to hold all the pieces together while everyone else gets to go earn glory and renown.”
“This isna like huntin’ a stag or a boar, Hes! The last time you tangled with a Titan, you got eaten!”
“That was my father, and I was a child! What was I supposed to do?”
“How do you know there’s not another one out there who’ll eat you this time? I mean, for the love of Pan, Zeus ate someone and not in the fun way and wham, there’s Athena! You’re the one who told me that there are fates worse than death for the gods!”
“Connor, humans forgot about me for two thousand years. I’m sure the Titans have forgotten about the meek little goddess who tends the hearthfire on her pile of sheepskins while her siblings rule Olympus on thrones of gold, fucking anything they please and getting sloshed on ambrosia all day and night.”
I had even surprised myself at the sheer amount of venom that soaked my response. Connor had rocked back on his heels, shocked, and I felt a tear slide down my cheek, unbidden.
“The barren one, the forgotten one…well, I will make sure that they don’t forget me again,” I said, and clenched my fists so hard my knuckles hurt. “You know what powers all that precious technology that humans love so much? Fire. The fire of the sun, the fire of those miniature stars, the fire of life that spins the Earth and heats the clouds to produce the wind and the water to keep rivers full. Fire smelts the minerals, fire purifies them, fire melts them together and gives them life. AND THEY FORGOT ME, BECAUSE OF HIM!” I shrieked, my voice rising in frustration.
The flames rose in their brazier, roaring like a jet engine, white-hot. Connor backed away from me, instinctually knowing that proximity would likely result in roasted goat-man, immortal or not.
“They forgot me because of Prometheus,” I growled, not even sure who I was talking to anymore. “Mister ‘stole the fire from the gods’ himself. That was MY fire he stole!”
Sparky may have forgiven him after torturing him with that eagle, but I haven’t. Couldn’t go after precious Prometheus now – Zeus had let him out of Tartarus for some unknown reason, and for all the fact that I begrudged my baby brother the throne in my darkest moments, I wasn’t about to start a civil war with him out of commission. Prometheus was off the table, but I wasn’t ready to call the battle over yet.
“Hestia!” Connor roared. “Get ahold of yersel’ before you set the place on fire!”
I turned to look at him, and he held up a hand against my gaze. I saw the fine hairs on his arm begin to frizzle in the heat, the edges of his shirt begin to singe. The brazier was still in high blaze, and he was visibly sweating as he backed away from me.
“I am not going to let this stand a second time!” I bellowed, and the flames rose again, licking at the stone walls of the foyer, hungry for something to feed upon.
“Lady of Flame, I’m beggin’ you, spare me!” he screamed, and dropped to his knees, raising his arm to shade his face from the incandescent rage that was coming off me in waves. The flagstone floors began to shimmer with heat, and he retreated further from the incipient inferno.
Then it hit me.
“Ankhiale,” I hissed. Prometheus’s sister. That was my way to get my revenge. Surely she would have escaped too, if only to find her darling brother and her spawn. Titan of the warmth of the fire, or so she said. I remembered the words she had spoken to me, millennia ago, as she was dragged away to Tartarus, spitting defiance to the end.
“My Dactyloi are the greatest gift to humanity – my sons will teach man how to master the forges and the metals, to work the iron and the bronze, and my daughters will give birth to the most beautiful of all the creatures to walk the Earth. My sons guarded your precious mother while she gave birth to Zeus, and my daughters grace humans with the dancing nymphs and the lusty satyrs. What do you offer, barren one? What gift will you give humanity?”
No one had spoken up for me then. It was time for me to speak for myself, and I wasn’t going to let her have the last word this time. I had never expected a second chance to settle the score between us, and yet here it was.
“By the holy fires, Ankhiale, I will see you dead beneath the burning eyes of the Heavens or die myself in the attempt,” I swore, and the inferno leapt from the brazier and surrounded me, called as witness to the oath. “You won’t escape me this time, and your brother won’t be there to protect you.”
The fire slithered down my arms and freed me from its embrace, going back to its low, contented crackling in the brazier. The flagstones cracked as they cooled, and I shuddered at each snap of burnt stone. The beautiful bouquet of flowers that had been in the foyer was so much ash, interspersed with shards of glass from the vase that had exploded in the heat. The wooden worktops in the kitchen beyond the foyer, just recently repaired from the attack by Nyx, had a new coating of soot and and singed oil.
I exhaled, slowly, feeling myself begin to shake. This is why you don’t argue, Hestia. You have your father’s temper.
Oh, gods. I didn’t….
I ran past the clouds of smoke and through the kitchen to the room beyond. No Connor. It didn’t look like the fire had gotten this far – the bedroom door’s varnish wasn’t even bubbled. My hand shook as I reached out to the doorknob, my mind’s eye helpfully replaying the vision of him crouched and beginning to smolder around the edges. I gripped the door lever and pushed.
The room was undamaged – no smoking satyr corpse. I let out a sigh of relief loud enough to distract Eros from his basket of hay in the solarium. He flicked his ears at me, and I just shook my head. I heard a muffled thump from behind me, and turned back to the hallway. The door to the ambrosia vault was slowly pushing open, and I could hear strained Gaelic swearing.
“Oh gods, Connor, I’m so sorry!” I ran over and began to pull the door further open, nearly pulling Connor off his feet in the process. “I am so, so sorry!”
“Right,” he said, not looking at me. “Don’t make you angry. Lesson learned.”
“The eldest Olympian who was been underestimated and left to mind the bairns one too many times, oh aye.”
“Connor,” I began, pleading. This was really not what I had meant to do.
“I understand, love, I really do. I don’t need the lesson burned into my hide,” he said, and there was a ghost of a grin. “Just don’t get eaten, aye? I don’t think I can take down a Titan to get you back.”
I smiled back, even as tears ran down my face. “No promises. This time, I’ll take a sword with me, and anyone who eats me is going to have the worst indigestion of their life.”
“Just remember – some of us never forgot you. Don’t forget us.”