You might not expect a Titan to run away scared from a fight, especially not one with my reputation. The truth is, I’ve made a habit of it. I ran away after Heracles released me from the rock. I ran away after my plot against Zeus turned sour. And I ran away when the man who called himself Derek showed me the beak of Koraki.
Of course, it wasn’t Derek (the mild-mannered government officer I was supposed to be meeting about a planning issue) who I met in the café. I don’t know who it was, but they certainly gave me the shivers. It was like they didn’t have a soul and wanted nothing but to inflict pain on the world. So yes, I ran, but hear me out.
When I was tied to the rock, it wasn’t a normal eagle that came to see me every day, it was a giant caucasian eagle with an eight-meter wingspan. It was the only monstrosity Zeus could find that had the power and the tools to penetrate the skin of a Titan. Its beak was 20cm long and as sharp as an adamantine sword. I see it every time I close my eyes, I break out in sweats and wake up hyperventilating. I have to take a cocktail of drugs just to sleep, and still, it lurks deep in my dreams.
I thought it was gone, that I would never see it again, so you can perhaps forgive me for being a little bit jumpy when “Derek” presented me with an emblem of my nightmares. Where did he get it? How did he find me? What’s happened to the actual Derek?
My third question was answered when I got back to my room in the GC: an email was waiting for me from the actual Derek, apologising that he had been taken ill and would have to postpone our meeting. At least he’s alive.
The other two questions still lurk in the shadows though, and now something else has caught my attention. A letter has been shoved under my door. I open it gingerly to unveil a sheet of A4, folded four ways. It says simply: “YOU ARE NOT WELCOME HERE”. It has been typed and left unsigned so, short of carrying out a fingerprint test, there’s no way of knowing who sent it.
Could be anyone, I’m hardly the flavour of the month. My return has caused quite a stir. No one can quite believe that Zeus has allowed me back and that he hasn’t tried to punish me for plotting against him (again). He’s not really known for his forgiving nature. No one here trusts me, and I don’t blame them, but I will need to earn their trust if I am to exploit it.
Why did I return? It’s the unasked question I can feel whispered along the corridors. It’s the question I keep asking myself. I guess what I’ve learnt about running away is that at some point you can’t run any further, and the only thing you’re running away from is yourself, and that’s no mean feat. The only way to get past it is to take a look at yourself in the mirror and confront your biggest obstacle: your own self-loathing. I spent so long looking at myself I made Narcissus look modest. I couldn’t run anymore. I had nowhere else to go, so I had little choice but to make peace with Zeus.
But how? One does not simply walk into Zeus’ office with an olive branch and hope for the best. As the ancient proverb goes: “you cannot reason with a tiger when your head is in its mouth”. I knew that if I wanted to return to the fold, I’d have to be smarter than that, and so I made a plan.
Zeus has always been a bit touchy about getting overthrown; let us not forget that Zeus overthrew his father Kronos, who overthrew his father (and Zeus’ grandpa) Uranus. An eon ago, I made a throwaway comment about a prophecy I had heard that Zeus would one day be overthrown by his son, thus continuing the family tradition. It was meant as a joke, but it was like I had set off a grenade. I didn’t know which one of his many sons it would be, or how, or why, but Zeus would not let it drop. He thought I was keeping it from him, and it made him furious (almost as furious as he was when I stole fire for the mortals). Eventually, I succeeded in convincing him that I didn’t know anything, that it was just a rumour, but I knew that I had uncovered one of his deepest fears and that one day, that knowledge would come in useful.
Emotions are a weakness; they can be manipulated and molded like clay on a wheel. I find it’s better to keep them hidden if you don’t want them to make you vulnerable.
I knew that the only way I could return was to make myself indispensable to Zeus, and so I reignited the rumour which sent Zeus into a panic all those years ago, and it was carried by the four winds – Zephryos, Notos, Euros, and Boreas – into the ears of anyone who was listening. I knew that Zeus would eventually hear about it, and so I waited patiently. I wish I could have seen the look on his face when the news landed…
Part one complete, I then sent a message to Zeus. One which told him that I knew of whom the prophecy spoke and that I could prevent its fulfillment. I told him that if he wanted me, he could find me on Mount Caucasus. I didn’t tell him it was me; I didn’t need to.
One week passed. Nothing. Two weeks. Nothing. Finally, twenty-three days after I sent my message, Zeus appeared. He came alone, as I knew he would; he didn’t want anyone to know about his fears, and he certainly didn’t want to run the risk of Hera finding out any more about his dalliances. It was evident he hadn’t slept, he looked a shadow of his former self, and I knew I had him, hook, line, and sinker.
The conversation was brief and formal. We made a deal: I agreed to remove the threat and keep it a secret, and in return, Zeus agreed to permit me to return to the God Complex, with all previous sins wiped from the slate.
It was a good deal. The only issue is that the time has now come for me to carry out my side of the bargain, and given that the threat is fictitious, that could be a problem. The anonymous letter is also evidence that there are Gods here who are not willing to forgive and forget, and who could be watching me like a hawk, so I have some work to do. I might have to work on my social skills.
An alarm on my watch brings me to my senses. I’m late for my appointment with the God of War!
“Eirini is my dog,” Ares tells me firmly as I lean over his desk, trying to look as formidable as possible. He sits back in his chair, his right heel on his left thigh, looking at me calmly.
“She’s called Sera,” I protest but know that I’m fighting a losing battle. Sera wags her tail excitedly, completely oblivious to the fact that she’s in the middle of a custody battle. I call out to her, but Ares gently holds her collar and she sits back down.
“You left. We didn’t know where you were, or when, or even if you’d come back. You left her. You can’t expect to just walk in here and take her back.” Ares glances fondly down at Eirini, who is resting her head on his leg. “She came into my life at a time when I had just suffered a tremendous loss. She’s helped me heal those wounds. There’s no way I could part with her.” He looks up at me. “I hope you can understand that.”
I’m supposed to be the God of Forethought, but this one has really caught me off-guard. I never expected the God of War to become attached to a dog, and Sera does look happy. “She’s mine,” I say feebly, but I know that I’m on shaky ground. I have no right to ask for her back after I just left her.
“I might have something for you, though,” Ares says as he plants both hands on his desk and stands up. He places the index and middle finger of both hands into his mouth and whistles an intense and piercing whistle. I wonder what on Mount Olympus he is doing, and then a second dog slowly plods its way into the room, limping on its right paw. It’s a black and white border collie with a shiny coat and wolf-like eyes.
“He started showing up here recently,” Ares explains. “I think he might be a stray. He doesn’t have a collar, but I felt sorry for him, so I gave him some food and now he won’t leave.”
“So?” I ask, unsure what to make of this sudden development.
“So, I already have a dog, but I thought you might like to have this one. He’s yours, if you want him.”
I look at the dog, who looks in need of a good meal. His tongue is hanging out of his mouth and he’s panting heavily. He walks over to me and I scratch his head, noticing that he has one blue and one brown eye.
“I think the two of you would be good for each other,” Ares adds. “Like Eirini was for me. You’re both a bit lost and trying to find your way.”
I crouch down to get a better look at him. He might not be Sera, but there’s something in those eyes I can’t resist. He’s unwanted, just like me. An outcast. “Okay,” I say standing up. “I’ll do you a favour and take him off your hands.”
“Good,” Ares nodded. “Not that I would have thrown him out, mind you, but I think he is more of a one-dog home, and I’m worried he might start taking an unhealthy interest in Eirini.”
I put the lead I had taken for Sera around the stray’s neck and he comes willingly with me, pleased to have some attention. He seems too docile to have been a stray for too long, and something tells me he might have a sad history. I look back as I leave, but Ares is busy working on his computer and Sera – Eirini – is lying on the floor resting, uninterested in what I’m doing. I feel betrayed.
“What do I call you then boy?” I ask as we make our way back to my room. He looks up at me grinning. “How about…Argos?”
I get a bark in response.
“Argos it is then!” I take his lead off as we enter my room and he immediately jumps up onto my chair and makes himself comfortable, clearly accustomed to living in a house. I squeeze myself onto the chair next to him and look again at the letter. “Who could it be from, eh boy? Someone doesn’t like me.”
Argos sniffs the letter and lets out a low growl, and then starts barking. “What is it, boy?” I ask as he becomes more agitated. Something has really given him the willies. He stares directly at the letter sniffing deeply, a look of fear in his eyes. I smell it and notice a faint aroma, difficult to place, yet distinct.
“You know who this is from, boy?” I ask. “You recognise the smell?” I put the letter down the side of the chair out of sight and Argos calms down. “Seems like we both have some demons we need exorcised,” I mutter.
My problems are multiplying, but right now, I have a dog that wants its tummy tickling…