A Cold Shoulder to Lean On

“Have you ever run a city?” I demand, my hackles up. “Do you know what it’s like having everyone sniping at you? Plotting against you?” I suck in a breath. I don’t want to show her weakness, but I can’t help it. “This is the easiest thing I’ve ever done.”

“I’m sure that’s enough for what you need.”

Khione gives one final flourish of her hands, and the flakes whirl round our heads in a stunning spiral. She’s been concentrating hard for the last hour, and I can see the frost growing on her skin in ever-changing forms. I tug my heavy overcoat tighter but can’t stop the shiver that runs up my spine. I tell myself it’s from the cold that the Winter Goddess has summoned, but it’s also a little eerie looking down on the white landscape from the roof of City Hall.

“Didn’t I order a blizzard?” I demand, not meaning to be so blunt, but this is important to me.

She gives me a stare that reminds me she’s doing me a favour and being pretty generous at that. When I got her number from the Goddess of Love, I was warned that Khione may still not wish to speak to me. I’d known that it was a gamble. There was always a chance that she could flat-out refuse my request. But I needed something big and natural.

Ever since Kinnesberg was arrested, my administration has been shaky, to say the least. I hadn’t realised how much control she had, how many strings that woman was pulling until I was without her. And, of course, I haven’t been able to keep her being in jail quiet. A lot of journalists had come after me, despite the police pointing out that I had been the one to bring her in and how crucial my support was. There have been plenty ready to point the finger at me, many who have asked difficult questions. Guilty by association, that’s me. While I tried to cope with that and do two jobs, a lot of spinning plates have come down, making things even worse.

I knew I needed something to bring support back around to me. It had to be an event that would bring the whole town together, with me at the forefront, something on the scale of an earthquake or a volcano. It was then that I recalled Khione. I can already see the pictures—me directing rescue efforts, clearing snow with the emergency services, and dishing out hot drinks to volunteers.

“I don’t think we need to go any further than this.” The goddess’ look has hardened into a glare. Clearly, she’s still unhappy about what happened the last time we were together.

“Didn’t I explain my plan in my message?”

“Dolus,” she snaps, “if I keep bringing snow down on this town, lives are going to be put at risk. The roads are already blocking up. People are going to struggle to leave their homes. I am not inflicting anything more on these poor people.” I huff, but she seems set. “At least you’ve got your teams set to respond.” I break eye contact, looking out on the winter wonderland before me. Her voice hitches up a notch. “Do not tell me you haven’t prepared anyone for this?”  

I turn back to meet her wide-eyed gaze.

“It wouldn’t be much of a difficult situation if we were all ready for it, would it?”

“But, all the people down there. You are meant to be responsible for them.” She’s incredulous as she looks out on the city. “Surely you have prepared something.”

“What is your problem, Khione?” Does she think I’m one of those Lost Ones that I was told about? Someone who needs her rescuing them. Or maybe her pity? I just need a little help, a bit of a steer to get me back on track.

“My problem, Dolus?” She spits my name because she knows I remember how much she dislikes her full one being used. Another wind whips across the rooftop. It’s forceful, almost wild, but I’m pretty certain it’s aimed at me. “You asked me here. You wanted me to unleash this weather, and you’ve done nothing to protect your township, the families, the people who rely on you. You are meant to have everyone’s best interests at heart. You don’t change, do you?”

That hurts, and I can’t help but let it show on my face. I’m not even the same deity I was eighteen months ago, let alone the last time we spoke. I thought by coming here it meant she had put the past behind us, gotten over her issue with me. I certainly haven’t lost any sleep over it. Well, not much.

“Have you ever run a city?” I demand, my hackles up. “Do you know what it’s like having everyone sniping at you? Plotting against you?” I suck in a breath. I don’t want to show her weakness, but I can’t help it. “This is the easiest thing I’ve ever done.”

She doesn’t miss a beat.

“I didn’t say it was,” then her face changes, her anger slips, and I see something different. She’s finding this harder than me. “It’s just…oh, never mind.”

“What?” I ask gently. Clearly, there is more to this. Something that goes beyond the words levelled between us that night.

“It’s just, recently, I needed you, and I didn’t reach out. I didn’t feel I could. Yet, the moment you ask for my help, I’m here for you. It’s not fair, especially after what you did.”

I sigh, asking what I was hoping to avoid.

“How is Autolycus?”

She stares out on the crisp scene.

“He’s doing okay. You know, he’d be all the better for an apology.” I start to roll my eyes and catch myself. I have come a long way, and this is a chance to prove that. I suck up my pride and try to make an effort.

“I’m not sorry.”

A hint of a grin crosses her face, and I can’t help but smile to.

“Thank you. That means a lot.” I try to offer a little more. “I won’t ever be there for you if you need me.”

A silence hangs between us, neither looking at the other. She’s got what she wanted, and now I need more from her. Getting her to change the weather in my favour wasn’t the only reason I asked her here.

“What was it like? Going back to the God Complex?”

She’s quiet, clearly caught off guard by the question. I sense, rather than see, her head turn towards me.

“A lot has changed since we were last there. Returning was nicer than I thought it would be. I’ve made some new friends. Had a chance to deal with some old issues. Why do you ask?” I say nothing, just keep my eyes fixed forward. “Wait, are you thinking about leaving this all behind?”

It’s a difficult question for me, especially after everything that has happened lately. I’ve found it hard, living amongst the mortals, after recent events. I don’t like giving up, failing. And I’m not sure I’m ready to turn my back on these people. The ones who did show their support for me. Put some trust in me.

Yet, I also feel like maybe I should take a break from all this. Get back to my own kind. Try and mend some other bridges. I let my lips tug up slightly as I say,

“Didn’t you say I was meant to be responsible for everyone who lives here?”

Whatever Khione’s reply is, it’s lost to the roar of the explosion that rips past us. My eyes swivel to the cheaper side of town, and I see the mushroom of fire billowing up into the air. I feel its warmth on my skin as it consumes a warehouse.

Immediately, I’m moving towards the stairwell.

“What are you doing?” The Blizzard Queen calls out, and I glance over my shoulder as I move.

“I think these mortals really need me right now, don’t you?”

“I’ll do what I can to help,” Khione shifts and disappears as the winds pick up around me.

I push forward and descend the stairs, three at a time, wondering what the hell just happened in my city.

Dolus (Andrew Harrowell)
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