I grabbed a bottle of water on my way to the stage, hoping it would dim the headache I knew was coming in a few hours, and cursed myself for going for so long. Leaning against the column beside the stage, I took a moment to gather up my thoughts, eyes straying across the crowd, before climbing the stairs. The immortals gathered slowly, then started to make their way to the front of the stage, grabbing seats or standing around the perimeter. The murmur of voices died away as they waited for me to start.
I clasped my hands in front of me, smoothing my dress and smiling out at the family. “Thank you all for attending tonight. I hope you have all been enjoying yourselves?” The general consensus seemed to agree, and a few glasses were raised and clinked at my words. “Noel has been the most gracious host to allow us to use his space this evening, so if you see him lingering in the halls, please do pass your compliments on. He is a dear friend, and none of this would have been possible without his generosity.”
I felt my legs shake slightly, and I willed myself to steady. Not much longer now, you can do it, old girl.
“I imagine many of you assume this was just another family get-together, as we are wont to do. And in some ways, you would be right. However, I had my own ulterior motives for gathering you all here. You see, tradition has always been a curious thing to me. We have all experienced it, or at least observed it, in some format. We have been worshipped, we have our own holidays – mortals have created traditions around many of us. We are a tradition, but coming back to the mortal realm has brought many things to light for myself.”
I paused, glancing at my children, before continuing. “I do not think I use the word tradition very well in my life. Most of my children are grown, lead extraordinary lives, and have become their own god or goddess without me. My legacy is their deeds – that is not tradition. I created a way for Thanatos to move undetected and unscathed through the mortal and Underworld planes, but he is the only child I did this for – that is not tradition. Is keeping a promise to your beloved tradition? Is swearing to always be there to protect your family a tradition? I feel like it’s not. Is it old-fashioned of me to want to have a tradition?” The murmurs and shared looks before me urged my voice now.
“I want us to be a family, truly. We can say we are now, and I suppose you would be right, in some senses. While we are still missing a few of our number, there are more than enough of us here to create something awe-inspiring, as we have done thousands of years before. We were tasked with becoming relevant to the mortals once more, but I think we should also focus on becoming relevant to each other again, as well. Because we are not, right now, and it hurts.”
I took several steps towards the front of the stage, the quiet ringing in my ears now. “We are more than just immortals living forever, doing what we please because we can. We have done that for as long as history remembers us. It is time we work together, and put to shame the legends and tales that were sung about us years before. Songs and stories that are often as unflattering as they are untrue. It is time we inspire new stories, new heroes, new songs. And we start that tonight, all of us, just by being here.”
My voice faded as I searched the faces of each and every immortal there. I worried I had somehow become the village idiot as the silence rang, deafening in its own way. A small movement caught my eye. Hekate stepped forward, eyes trained on me, her new weapons now hanging from her sides. She paused before me, and for a moment I thought she was going to laugh. I was instead surprised when she started to clap. Pan joined her a moment later, and then to my utter surprise, Erebus as well. More family joined them, and I felt my face grow hot – whether that was the liquor talking or not, I don’t know. It didn’t matter. I beamed as I looked out over them, relief washing over me like a tidal wave. Not everyone agreed, and I noticed a few darkened looks, but it was okay. Some hearts were more hardened than others, and that I could understand more than many others present.
I bowed to the pantheon, and made to exit the stage, when the crash of a bell reverberated through the room. My wings appeared, helping steady me as the walls and floor shook, and the sound of a slow clap made ice run through my veins. It wasn’t the lonesome applause that set me off: it was the almost-overwhelming vibrations of another Primordial entering the room that did it.
I focused my eyes on two hooded figures coming towards all of us from the far hall doors – one I couldn’t tell who it was, but the other reeked of Chaos, and I knew where the rest of the Primordials were: dead or gone. But it couldn’t be. I had to be wrong.
“Pretty speech, Nyx, as always. You learned so well from Chaos. It’s unfortunate she isn’t able to see you now – she’d be proud of you.”
The gruff voice came from the one on the left, taller than their counterpart. I could just make out a grin beneath the hood as they walked between the immortals. Deities stood and stared as the pair passed, but no one spoke. That is until they reached the witch.
“Who the hell are you?” Hekate growled, her katars in hand as the two figures passed by her harsh stare.
“We heard there was a family gathering tonight, and we were sure our invitations were in the mail. When we didn’t receive anything, well, we couldn’t miss this for the world, would we?”
The figure on the right pulled his hood off, and a hiss escaped me. The deepset eyes of Kronos, Titan and father of Zeus, met my stare without flinching.
“You,” I spat, and Kronos gave me a wolfish smile, opening his arms wide to present himself. As Kronos turned away, I saw Dinlas conjure back the night-sword to his grasp that I gave him earlier that evening. I shot him a warning glance to do nothing foolhardy.
“The one and only. So good to see you too, son,” he added, seeing Zeus’ face switch from shock to barely-contained rage. “Such a poor reception for a lovely event, don’t you think, old friend?”
A wave of nausea hit me, and I staggered slightly as the other figure removed his hood.
“No,” I whispered hoarsely. “No, it cannot be.”
Chronos, the Primordial god of time, looked the same as the last time I saw him. He was a mammoth god, towering above most of the immortals here. He leaned on a rough hewn staff. His face still had that long, coarse beard that hung passed his barrel chest, scraggly and white. The hair atop his head was combed back, thick and a little wild. Even from a distance I could smell him, the scent of old parchments and dusty tomes, like a forgotten section of the Library at Alexandria. A section neglected, overlooked, and allowed to grow fetid through time and disuse.
He looked at me with barely concealed murder in his eyes.
“You’re right, the reception is quite poor. What kind of hostess turns their nose up at guests?”
His thunderous voice pulled me back to the present, and I shoved aside my shock for the rage that started to grow when Kronos revealed himself.
“You are not my guests. Neither of you – you shouldn’t even be alive.” I sobered quickly, the nausea still rolling through me as I leapt nimbly off the stage, standing beside Hekate and Zeus. “Get out. I won’t ask twice.”
Kronos cackled, making Zeus’ fist ball up, and Hera grabbed his arm, shaking her head. “Don’t, not now – not here.”
“Your wife is smart, son. You’d do well to heed her words. We’re not here to fight with you, any of you. Not tonight, anyways.”
Kronos always reminded me of a double-edged sword. His sharply trimmed mustache and beard accentuated his heavily Grecian looks, dark hair trimmed and brushed back from his face in a short cut. He folded his arms and turned to his silent counterpart, who hadn’t broken his gaze on me.
“Turn over Olympus, and we will avoid all the ugly things that happen when we go to war.”
“We will do no such thing.” It was Hera that responded, the sneer on her face venomous. “But you knew that already, didn’t you?”
Kronos shrugged, a greasy smile on his face. “Of course we did. But I thought I’d give you the opportunity to not be stubborn. Obviously that was a mistake, again.” He glanced at the Primordial. “Now what?”
Chronos hobbled forward, grip tight on his staff, eyes narrowed on us. “Now we wait. Our plans are in motion, Nyx. There isn’t anything you can do to change that. You could make it easier by listening to Kronos, but we all know that will never happen.” He turned, pulling his hood up once more, and started back towards the hall doors, Kronos joining him.
“And where do you think you’re going?” Dinlas spat as they walked by him. Chronos glared at him, giving him a once over.
“None of your concern – not yet, anyways. I’ll be seeing you soon, son of Ares. Your brother, too.”
Kronos turned around, walking backwards and blowing me a kiss. “Do give my regards to the Moirai for me,” he called, and my vision went red. Wings flared wide, golden kopis materializing with my anger, I made to give chase, but hands on my arms stopped me from going any further, and I whipped my head around to see Zeus and Dinlas there.
“Let him go.” Zeus shook his head, and Dinlas squeezed my arm as I flexed, trying to pull forward. I scoffed and shook them off, turning away. The telltale pop of an immortal disappearing bounced off the walls, and everyone immediately broke out in a frantic chatter. Hekate, Nike, Ares, and Eros were immediately around us, weapons drawn.
“We’re going after them, right?” Eros said tersely, bow already drawn.
“No, we’re not.”
“Father, you can’t be serious,” Ares started, but Zeus cut him off, sparks flying from him.
“We are not going after them. We need to plan, regroup. Nyx,” Zeus turned to me, “thank you again for all this, but you’ll understand that Hera and I need to leave.”
I nodded and they popped out almost immediately, leaving Hekate, Eros, Ares, and Dinlas with me. Most of the family had started to head back to their rooms, drinks and food forgotten in the wake of the new Prime and Titan.
“How the fuck did they find us?” Dinlas started, eyes narrowed.
Hekate snorted. “How are they here, let’s start with that. One is supposed to be dead, the other is supposed to be in maximum security in the Underworld.” The witch looked to me, as if I was supposed to know, and I glared at her.
“I am as mystified as anyone else here, Hekate,” I hissed, kopis still in hand.
“Alright, enough!” Ares stepped forward, a growl in his voice. “No one is to blame here, but arguing is going to get us nowhere. Let’s just…finish the night, and we can sort this out in the morning. No one did anything intelligent with no sleep.” He nodded once to us, and he turned on heel to head to his room, his hand touching his breast pocket.
“Sorry, Nyx,” Hekate said, eyes dark. “Just interesting that they would both show up together, tonight of all nights.” She shook her head, thumbs on the katar handles. “I’m going to bed. See you in the morning, folks.”
“Eros, Dinlas…?” Nike spoke up, wings fanned out with adrenaline. Eros wrapped an arm around her shoulder, squeezing her gently.
“Calm down, Tory, there’s nothing we can do about it right now. It’s alright.”
He gave her a warm smile, and Nike relaxed a little, nodding. “What do we do? Dad looks like he’s going to go home and talk with Mom.”
“And we’re going to let them do just that. We’re only inviting more trouble if we do anything right now.”
It was odd to hear Eros speaking so rationally, especially to Nike. She chewed her cheek, looking between the three of us and folding her wings back tight to her shoulders.
“Are we going to war again?” I couldn’t tell if she was afraid of asking the question, or if she wanted more bloodshed from the unexpected guests. And I didn’t know if I wanted the answer.
“I don’t know, Victory. I don’t know.” I gave her a maternal smile. “Why don’t you head to bed, and try not to get too wrapped up in this just yet? We’ll wait and see what Zeus and Hera have in mind, alright?”
She nodded, gave us all quick hugs before bidding us goodnight. It was just Dinlas, Eros, and myself left now. I backed up to the stage and hopped up onto the edge to sit, pressing the palms of my hands into my eyes.
“What in the name of Rhea is going on?” Eros asked, rehooking his bow to his quiver and leaning against the stage on my right, his face clouded. “Since when does Chronos squared get along, or even work together in any sense?”
“I don’t know – this is wrong, all wrong.” My voice sounded foreign, even to me. I kept my eyes shut tight, hoping the nausea would go away – the last thing I wanted to do was vomit. “If Kronos is here, what about the rest of the Titans? Is Tartarus overrun?” More answers I didn’t want to know, but…
“Nyx…Nyx,” Dinlas’ voice pulled me back out of my mental spin, “what do you need us to do? If Tartarus and the Pit are overrun, can we even fix that at this point?”
I stared at my feet, trying to think clearly. “Anything is fixable. I don’t know if we should, though.” I glanced at him. “I guess it would depend on what the damage is, if any.”
Dinlas threw the sword over his shoulder, then stood in front of me and placed both hands on my knees. “Do you need me to go check and see what is happening? Have you heard anything from Uncle Hades?”
“No, don’t you dare go there alone.” I looked up proper now, rubbing my face and sitting up straight. “I’ve not heard from Hades, so perhaps it’s not as bad as I think it is. But no one is to go to the Underworld right now, especially alone. I should tell Zeus as well.”
Dinlas nodded to me, then glanced at his brother. “Okay, we will wait. Just don’t you do anything foolish and alone.”
I gave Dinlas a small smile, hand on his cheek for a moment. “I’ll be safe.”
He answered back, almost immediately, “I’m serious, don’t take this on as something you are responsible for fixing alone. Now is not the time for reckless behavior.”
Another wave of nausea hit me, and I closed my eyes with a grimace, before nodding. “I know.” I slid off the stage to stand beside the brothers. “We’ll be alright. We should turn in for the night.”
Dinlas slipped his arm around my waist as we said good night to the few remaining deities still clustered and whispering about the unexpected way the evening ended. The silence that fell upon us only made me feel worse, and I couldn’t help but sink back into my thoughts again.
He was coming back for me. And I was terrified.