“Arty!” I almost felt bad trying to catch up to the doe-eyed huntress; her attention was fully on the muse standing beside her in a beautifully sparkling gown, reminiscent of the celestial bodies she loved to study. Artemis finally looked over and flashed me a radiant smile, looking stunning in her own golden dress that hugged her curves. I kissed their cheeks, noting the slight tinge of pink on their faces, and gave Arty a sidelong glance. She shrugged half-heartedly.
“This estate is gorgeous, Nyx! You must have pulled in quite the favour for Noel to give you this place,” she said, admiring the intricate mural painted above us. “And why the North Pole of all locations?”
“I wanted a venue we didn’t have to worry about mortals or protective spells to shield us. The top of the world seemed like an ideal location, and Noel is very familiar with the need to be secretive. As for the favour,” I shrugged noncommittally. “We get along well enough, and he owed me for hiding him one year when an entire boarding school dorm nearly found him in Sweden. Bloody carpet bags, who lets their child take a carpet bag to school?”
Urania giggled, and I flashed her a grin. “But I digress – I’m pleased you like the accommodations. You had no trouble getting here?” They both shook their heads, and it was when Urania swirled her drink shyly that I realized I was making a better door than a window.
“I won’t take too much of your time, I wanted to give you my gifts before I lost sight of you for the evening.”
Artemis raised an eyebrow at me and folded her arms. “You never mentioned gifts in your invite, Nyx.”
I wondered how many more times I was going to be told that tonight. “Yes, that was the idea. I do not want anything in return. You can admonish me after you look over this.” I snapped my fingers and a thin strip of black card materialized. I handed it to her, my silver penmanship scrawled across it. “I hope you can read my chicken scratch.”
Arty’s eyes scanned it twice quickly, glancing up at Urania both times.
“What’s it say, Arty?” Urania asked, trying to take a look at it over her arm, but Artemis slipped it away into her clutch and straightened up.
“Tell ya later,” she said and winked at her, before giving me a quick hug. “Thanks Nyx, I really appreciate it. We can talk about it later?”
“Of course, at your leisure. And for you, Urania,” I said, turning the muse and rubbing my hands together. Black smoke wafted from between my fingers, until a thick-walled mason jar sat in my hands, and I passed it to her. Inside was a small nebula of black, orange, and blue, swirling around not unlike a bottle of Viniq. Urania held it up to her face, frowning at the whirling mass.
“What is it, Nyx? Besides very pretty.”
I clasped my hands behind my back as Arty peered into it as well. “It is a fragment of Night.”
Urania and Artemis looked at me, startled. “A fragment of Night?” Urania looked back inside the jar, almost pressing her face against it. “You mean that’s you in there?”
I chuckled. “Yes, I suppose that is technically a piece of me in there. I wanted to give you something closer to examine for your studies. It is a living thing, as the skies are, but don’t worry about mundane things like feeding, etcetera. I hope you learn something with it.”
Urania’s eyes were as wide as saucers, and her face shone when she hugged it to her chest. “I will, this is…well, I’m speechless, aha. I will treasure this, Nyx, thank you!”
The muse alternated between hugging the jar and peering inside it, Arty grinning beside her.
“Would you like me to have it waiting for you in your room? For safekeeping?”
Urania passed the jar back to me delicately, as if she’d never see it again, and it vanished in a puff of black mist. “I assure you it will be on your nightstand when you get back tonight.” She gave me a crooked smile and nodded, before taking a long drink from her glass, nearly draining it.
“Thanks again, Nyx, that was really sweet of you,” Arty said, grabbing a glass of wine for Urania as it passed by her. I spotted the God of War on his own opposite us, and I nodded to the huntress.
“It was my pleasure, truly. I hope the both of you enjoy the evening, I’ll see you a little later on.”
I slipped through the crowd with Ares in my sights. As I approached I called to him, and he turned and smiled when he saw me.
“Nyx, you have outdone yourself, and of course you look beautiful as always.”
“Thank you, Ares, but really the credit all goes to Noel. He and his people took care of everything.”
“Well, it is so far a fantastic evening. I hope you are taking time to enjoy yourself. You aren’t alone this evening, are you?” His face clouded over for a moment and he lowered his voice. “My son hasn’t done something stupid to upset you, has he?”
I chuckled at Ares’ concern over Dinlas’ behavior. “No, your son has treated me fine, I have no complaints. I am here because I wanted to speak to you for a moment.”
“Me? What about?”
“I have a small memento for you,” I said as I held out my hands. He started to protest, but I waved him off.
Seriously, is gift giving so hard to accept? Why won’t they just let me?
“Most of what I have given tonight is practical or fun. Your gift may be the sole exception.”
Ares furrowed his eyebrows and looked at me questioningly, but didn’t say anything.
I manipulated my hands in front of me and a small journal appeared in them. I turned it over once or twice before I handed it to him.
“Did you know that Cassie kept journals?” I murmured to him, moving slightly closer to his side.
Ares started at her name, then shook his head. He didn’t respond as he reached out and took the journal.
I nodded back to him. “She did. Whenever she went somewhere special, she kept a journal of her feelings and experiences. It was her way to never forget for a moment, the emotions, and the sensations of memorable events in her life.” Here I paused and pointed to the small bound book in his hands and continued. “Don’t ask how I came by it, but this is her journal from when you and she went to Paris.”
Ares blinked and looked down at the journal, then back up to me. “This, this is Cassie’s journal?” he whispered.
“It is. It is a day by day collection of her thoughts and feelings from that trip. It is intimate, poignant, and captivating. But most of all, it is a deep and profound testament of her love for you.”
Ares stifled a quiet sob with a staged cough. “I-I don’t know what to say, Nyx.”
“You need say nothing, Ares. It will no doubt reopen painful wounds now, but hopefully in time, it will become a source of beloved memories from time spent with an incredible woman. She loved you every bit as much as you did her, and she expressed it beautifully here.”
Several tears streaked down his face. He smiled ruefully and said, “Curse you, Nyx, how dare you make the God of War cry?” Then he forced a short laugh and pulled me into a hug.
“Thank you,” he whispered in my ear.
After a few moments, he let me go and looked down again at the book. He didn’t open it; clearly he didn’t trust his emotions to read any of it in a room full of people.
“If you’d like, I can transport it up to your room. It will be waiting for you there. That’s what I have been doing with most of the other guests’ gifts.”
He pulled the journal back for a second, almost as if he thought I was trying to take it back. Then he relaxed and said, “No, no, Nyx, but thank you. I will hold onto it.” He tucked the journal into the inside breast pocket of his jacket. There, it was close to his heart. I gave him a knowing smile and squeezed his arm gently, before leaving him to find our Victory.
Nike was sitting by herself near the band, a Shirley Temple in hand, overloaded with cherries but hardly touched. A plate that had held dinner was sitting beside her on the table she had picked out for herself, and her foot tapped in time to the rhythm of the music. She looked over as I approached her, and an easy smile spread across her face.
“Hey, Nyx,” she said, moving her plate out of the way. “Join me?”
“Thank you, Nike.” Turning the chair sideways, I slid in next to her.
“Thanks for putting this together, Nyx, it’s so well organized! And the food is so good, I wish Aunt Hestia would hire some of them to work with her.”
I thought of Hestia working with anyone other than her lovely satyr, and tried not to laugh. “I’ll mention it to her when I see her – fair?”
Nike grinned and nodded, adjusting herself so she was facing me, her wings furled close to her body so as not to hit anything.
“You doing alright, all things considered? I hope Eros hasn’t been bothering you tonight,” I added, thinking of him and Dinlas earlier. Nike shook her head, her smile dropping ever so slightly.
“I’m alright, Nyx, and Eros hasn’t done anything out of his usual. But thanks for asking.”
She turned to watch the band again and I studied her for a moment. She had one of the most peculiar upbringings, and that was saying something for our family. Nike was a fostered goddess, raised by Hera and Zeus, alongside Moxie. For all intents and purposes, she had been a sheltered woman, almost eyebrow-raisingly so. But she had begun to become more curious of the world and the workings of man, and from one woman to another, it was not an easy task.
“Nike, I have something for you.”
She turned her attention back to me, frowning. Wait for it…
“I didn’t get you anything, though, that’s not fair.”
I sighed and smiled wearily at her. “I assure you it is quite alright. I didn’t want anything from anyone, as long as they came here tonight.”
I gestured for her to hold open her hand, to which she obliged me, and a plain black book appeared. It was thick, and dog-eared pages could be seen inside of it. Nike immediately flipped it open and began to thumb through it.
“What is this, Nyx? A journal?” she asked, stopping at a random page to skim it.
“It is. In fact, it’s my journal, from many years ago.”
Nike frowned at me, a thumb tucked into the page now. “But why are you giving it to me?”
I leaned against the table heavily, resting my chin on my hand. “Because you are just starting to become curious about…the world at large. That book has all my thoughts since before I met Erebus. My feelings when I first met Erebus, our relationship, my day to day adventures, intimate ideas I had throughout the years, musings on other immortals, and so on. I think you’ll appreciate the Titanomachy entries as well,” I added, winking at her.
“Nyx, you can’t give this to me! This is like, I don’t know, stealing or something,” she started, looking mortified, but I cut her off.
“If I didn’t want to part with it, I would not have given it to you. I am in a new chapter of my life, and I think my old life would help you gain some wisdom in your new one. It’s meant to be another point of view on the world, albeit from an old woman,” I said, grinning at her. Nike rolled her eyes, looking back at the book like it was going to leap at her.
“That is a lot of writing,” she said, thumbing through it again. “You sure I can have this?”
I sat up straight now. “Yes Nike, I’m quite sure. We all have opinions on how you should be, and I know I was one of them. But it is ultimately up to you on who you want to be: not Zeus, not Hera, not any of us. You are your own goddess. That is just another resource for you, should you wish for one. Or, y’know, light reading.”
She chuckled, and I hugged her tightly. “Thank you, Nyx, that means a lot to me.” She opened it to the first page and started reading, sipping her drink absently, and I left her to it – no point sticking around, I still had half the family left to find.