There was no grandeur or mythical air here. This was as cliche a boardroom as you were likely to find in any Fortune 500 skyscraper. I slink into the back, still deciding how much of a spectacle I want to make of myself, nun costume notwithstanding.
The place was buzzing. I recognized most, but it had been centuries. My mind is a sinkhole, and frankly, most of them were shapeshifters, so I feel like they should give me a break if I mess up on a few of ’em.
To their credit, some recognize me right away, even considering I now wore the full black and white regalia of a Carmelite nun. A little something I picked up on my travels. I HAD wanted to make an impression after all.
Among the noise, my eyes find Atë’s. I hold the gaze for as long as possible. For a moment my world freezes before the silent scream of the room steps in and the world begins again.
Every ounce of me wants to fly to her side, but I squash down that instinct with all the strength I can muster. For once in my Gods damned life, I will do something right and not get in my own way. Like I always did before. If I can help her in any way, I have to do it this way.
I try to quell the conflict within me, as unnatural as that is for me, and listen intently as Dad interrogates one after the other. Eros makes a spectacle of himself as I knew he would, and I smile proudly.
I even interject when it’s my dear Clio’s turn, offering some helpful suggestions, and drinking in the surprise on their faces as many first notice my presence. Not to mention the shock of my wardrobe.
My self-assured tone, which took some effort on my part, seemed to spark something in Zeus who turned to me with a reserved smile.
“Eris, since you are prepared, can you lay out your presentation, please?” he asks, folding his hands in front of him on the table.
I stand up, readjusting my habit slightly. I hear some snickering, and that only makes me smirk as their disapproval and mocking glares give me strength.
“Eris has the floor,” Zeus says firmly, eyeing the dissident voices, motioning for me to begin.
“Thank you,” I clear my throat. “I haven’t given the OA a penny. Not a single one, BUT the same can be said in return. I haven’t taken an ounce of money, resources, not even a favor from the lot of you since centuries before that nice Jewish kid bit the big one on the giant lower case letter T.
Zeus sits silent for a moment, fingers perched. I meet his eyes.
“Even if one person in this room owes you a dime, that’s still more than I’m in the red.” I shrug with a smile.
Zeus looks down at some binder in front of him, giving me no response or indication of how he might react. I stand firm, unwavering, and wait.
“I have you listed in the personal residence on 18, correct?” He looks at me, and his tone is of someone genuinely asking. It seems Hebe forgot to mention that the empty space I was left in was mine. More conversations that are had about me, instead of with me.
“That’s funny,” I scoff. “I spent the better part of the last millennia chilling out behind an Arby’s.”
Zeus cocks his head at me, a wry grin forming on his face. An unspoken moment of shared humor passing between us.
“They do have the meats…” he says after a beat.
“Still tasty, no matter how deep in the dumpster you dive.” I wink.
The moment ends, and his face returns to proper business.
“So, given your recent return to the Call, I am of the mind to let slide any present due rent or tithes. Do you think you could find a place suitable to your talents between now and the end of May?”
“Oh…I think so.” I smile still. “Do you think…you’d welcome having my talents around, though?”
As an answer, he opens a box nearby and grabs a set of keys.
“These are to 18, Eris.” He tosses them across the table. I catch them without breaking eye contact.
“If we can coordinate the Chaos into something useful, then please seek the MR office on 10.”
“Thank you, maybe-Dad.” I grin, pocketing the keys into my robes.
Zeus moves from person to person, Hekate prompting him to prod Uncle Hades as well, much to his ire. He gives his report and cedes the floor to Moxie. Moxie was always a goddess who eluded me. My memories, as hazy as they are, are heavily influenced by the myths and legends of mortals. Sadly for them, they never spoke of her, and so I had nothing to fill in the blanks.
So I watch with interest.
“Not much has changed since I gave my report to you last week, but for the benefit of everyone here who isn’t normally privy to the workings of Malakíes Marketing, we are an expense item on the OA budget. The cost of doing business if you will. Our team of 10 covers the various media outlets, including major networks, cable news, print media, and other broadcast media. We’ve shifted to Work From Home, which has been an easy transition since most of their work is done via emails, telephone and teleconferencing anyway. None have come down with any symptoms of the Virus as of this morning’s check-in.”
“Through PNS, we’ve been putting the Wash Your Hands PSAs into heavy rotation. Apparently, the mortals who work with us, actually listen.”
“Neat trick.” I laugh.
“Excellent, thank you, Moxie.” Zeus nods.
“Also,” My would-be foster sister nods back, “I have a bit of encouraging news…”
“Oh?” Zeus asks.
Moxies nods happily, a small smile creeping at the corners of her borrowed mouth.
“I mentioned that we are an expense item, however in recent months, we’ve taken on clients outside of OA to help offset our costs and to maximize the use of idle resources. Primarily human resources who handle our social media platforms. In short, I can see us running at a profit by year’s end if contracts continue to be signed at the current pace.”
“Fantastic information, Moxie. Never disappoints.” Zeus smiles at her with naked approval. I imagine others might feel envy. My mind instead turns to fascination. She seems to have become the epitome of the modern god. Personifying this new world and its technological wonders in a way leaps and bounds beyond the rest.
She bears watching.
As things seem to break apart, I take the opportunity to make my way over to Atë. I lay my hand on my half-sister and best friend’s shoulder, and it’s as if we haven’t been apart for centuries.
“Thank you all for taking the time, I know many of you are busy adjusting to the world events and have things to deal with. I do want to close with one item for those who have stayed.” He glances at Atë.
“As everyone is aware, Atë is set to be jailed for the crimes of loosing the Titans upon the mortal plane. However, I am allowing the remainder of the time allotted for Atë to converse with the gods in this room.”
I remain by Atë’s side as Hades lurks, Persephone and Selene waver, Erebus becomes awkward, too awkward, even for him. I will follow up on that at some point no doubt. Clio pouts in Eros’s embrace, and Hekate appears to be readying herself to attack.
Atë sighs. “Do your worst, Hekate…I have nothing left to lose…”
“You won’t do anything, Katie,” Eros says forcefully. “She has four hours.”
Hekate walks around to the other side of the table, sits down, like preparing to play a game of chess.
“Do you need me to stay Percy?” Selene asks, eyeing the growing situation.
“No, thank you. I only have one question anyway,” Persephone assures Selene, who hesitantly makes her way to leave.
The growing tension in the room is mirrored in my stomach. I respond by kneeling by Atë’s chair and laying my head on her shackled hand.
Around me, the tension boils as Persephone goes back and forth with Hades over the viability of Atë’s rehabilitation. Me in the middle, longing to see both sides but finding myself with my Kallis as always, regardless.
“Why are you all so quick to absolve her?” Hekate hisses.
“I would still be a blithering blatherskite in a dumpster, were it not for her,” I say, not looking away from Atë. “She woke me up, and for that, I will be grateful till the stars burn up.”
“Hekate. Would I not absolve you the same?” Persephone asks softly.
“Ostasus turned my people inside out. I people. H almost killed me!” She looks at Persephone. “KILLED me, Seph. I lost my people, my dogs, my magic, my control, my…” her words fail as her gaze lands on the King of the Underworld. “And you all sit here like she got caught with her hand in the cookie jar.” Hekate’s eyes search for someone to assure her.
Persephone and Hades both rush to do so, without the hard admonishment of Atë that she was clearly desiring. Instead, the Spring Queen swerves to assure Atë in turn. She crosses the room and puts her hands on the arms of Atë’s chair.
I back up slightly to give Persephone some room, but I make sure to remain in physical contact with Atë.
The Goddess of the Underworld kneels and shares some hushed words with Atë, and I do my best not to listen. Instead, I turn to her husband, the man who may be both my maternal and paternal uncle, with pleading eyes.
“Lord Hades…I know your realm is beyond such simple ideals, but in this new world they often promise to keep punishments from being cruel and unusual. Can we not take a page from that book at the very least?”
“And why would I do that? To emulate mortals and their rulers? I’d rather emulate pigs in a sty, rolling in mud and fornicating indiscriminately. Come to think of it, both seem the same.”
“I had no cause to guess why, but certainly cause to ask that you might.”
“Then, the simple answer is no.”
I feel Hekate’s fiery glare. It’s been eons since I’d seen her, she’d always been so fascinating to me. A dark angel representing the mysteries beyond what can be understood and must then be considered magic. I’d feared her as much as I’d loved her, and yet now I look at her and see only pain. Pain wearing the mask of anger, but pain nonetheless.
“What would a creature of chaos know of the order of law?” She steps toward me, still shaking, “Or are you simply rolling the dice and choosing a side, the way the wind chooses a place to blow from?”
I shrug and smile at her, not a mocking smile but one soft and sincere.
“When I thought myself no more than an urchin on the street, I knew the swift hand of law that cast me into cells for the simple crime of being hungry and in the way. I stand for one who has helped me regain myself. Seeking to prevent her from losing that very thing.”
“SHE NEARLY COST ME EVERYTHING I AM!!!” Hekate screams.
“And so you would do the same to her?”
“I am doing NOTHING to her. She has chosen this path. I want her to pay. I want her to suffer. I want her to know the loss that cannot be healed.”
“Do you feel Hekate,” my self-assured calm gives way to warmth, sympathy even, “that you can not be healed?”
“You condemn me for taking everything from you, and yet you still do not see how similar we are in that aspect…” I hear my Kallis laugh an empty laugh, but for once, she does not distract, and instead, my eyes remain glued on the witch queen.
“Yes, Hekate, you. I fight for her life. Do you really think I wouldn’t do the same for yours?”
Hekate does not answer me right away, instead she casts wild looks at all present.
“How has this become about ME?”
The much-feared and dreaded primordial of vengeance, Nemesis, stands. I am as in awe of her as I ever was. “The problem is…revenge, vengeance, retribution, justice. You all try to dabble in things that you do not understand. Each and every time, all you do is make things worse for yourselves and everyone around you. And yet…you never learn.” And with a smile, she leaves. The part of me that wishes I were her, grows as she does so.
“All of you. Hekate is hurt. I notice that all those in favor of leniency are coincidentally the ones who suffered little in this debacle.” Hades says, trying to temper the rising anger in the room.
“That’s funny, Hades…You say one thing and then act another…perhaps Hekate has blinded you too…We used to be best friends. You of all should know I wouldn’t have burned the world without reason,” Atë says, her eyes glistening with unshed tears. “Damning words, old friend?”
“We will work this out, Atë,” Hades responds, his voice resigned.
“We won’t….we both know this is it for me. I just I just wish things would have been different.” Tears fall from her face, and the sight of it is so foreign to me. The strongest person I ever knew brought down to this level. What heart I had left was breaking.
“I as well,” Hades answers quietly.
“Change is constant, my Kallis,” I whisper comfortingly.
Thanatos steps out from the shadows and looks at Hades. “Her cell is ready, sir.”
Atë lifts shackled hands up towards Hades sniffling. “Tartarus awaits…”
At the thought of her vanishing forever into the dark, a panic grips my thoughts, I turn to Hades quickly.
“My lord, If I may have just a moment with her first?” I soften my composure and breath, “Please.”
“Go ahead, Eris,” he says to me before turning back to Death himself with a nod. “One more moment. Don’t worry old friend, I will take her.”
I lean down to be at eye level with Atë, who is now crying freely.
“You saved me. You may be ruin but remember that you SAVED me. The universe is not black and white. Order gives way to entropy. You saved me. And so long as I am out here, a piece of you will always be as well.”
Atë nods, closing her eyes briefly as I kiss her forehead. As I step back, I wipe a tear from her eye.
“Always, Atë. ALWAYS,” I say fervently as I step away, wiping a tear from my own eye in echo. I nod to Hades.
“Thank you…uncle.” I muster a small smile.
“Of course, Eris.” He turns to Atë. “Are you ready?”
She nods slowly before standing. Hades moves to her, taking her under his arm and they disappear into the shadows.
I stand thus in the room alone and I know in my heart I am where I need to be.