Adrestia took a couple more deep breaths, whispering to herself, “It wasn’t real. It wasn’t real. It wasn’t real.”
I tilted my head as I heard the low chant of denial, the images so distorted and confused they made little sense. I quickly set the tea to steep as Ky’Elli trotted through the space. Her face lifted high, and her nostrils flared as she took in the scents.
“Come on in, Adrestia. I need you to brief me on the situation.” I hoped the familiar command would steady her.
Adrestia stepped further into my home and peeled off her jacket. I could see it cling to the sweat still coating her skin. She contemplated lying to me. I felt the urge flicker through her thoughts. She discarded it almost instantly as a useless strategy. Her voice was still strained when she said, “To be honest, my lady, I’m not completely sure what happened.”
I motioned Adrestia to a seat, placing a cup of tea in front of her. I sat across from my squire, studying her for a moment before saying, “It is not like you to panic, not since your youth. Whatever it was, had a great impact and can be good for no one. So we shall start at the beginning.”
Adrestia sighed deeply before beginning. “Okay. Um, we were all invited to a party at one of the warehouses. I thought it was some trick Eros and Clio had cooked up, but apparently, it wasn’t. And it wasn’t Eris or Atë, either.” She nearly spat the name Atë. “In fact, no one seems to know who sent out the invitations, not even the usual suspects.”
I took a sip of my tea and listened quietly, Ky’Elli hopping up on a spare chair and watching Adrestia just as intently.
“Then, the lights went low, all of these curtains dropped, and the walls were covered in mirrors. They had our names on them, and they started glowing…” Adrestia’s breathing quickened again, and her eyes glazed over. “The next thing I know… I’m…I’m me but not me…” She groaned at her own confusion, running her hand over her face.
I arched my brow. “You but not you? Did this happen just to you?”
Adrestia shook her head. “I’m not sure. It seemed like the same day, but…I remember several weeks passing. It felt so real.”
“Was it maybe a batch of bad ambrosia? Or Demeter’s brew? I had an…experience with that last Samhain.”
“I…I don’t think so. This was something sinister…. Wait, what happened with Demeter’s brew?” Adrestia said, desperately trying to change the subject.
I glanced at Ky’Elli and waved Adrestia off. “That is a story for another time. What do you remember happening? What was sinister?”
“Whoever or whatever did this was trying to put us into nightmares,” Adrestia said with another sigh as she sat back in her seat.
I studied Adrestia, once more trying to piece together the jumbled images of what she’d experienced. “Did it feel like a different realm? Were there other gods there? How did you get back?”
Adrestia shook her head. “I don’t remember anyone else being there, none of the gods, anyway. Maybe it was a different realm? I don’t know. I’ve never been good at that stuff. As for how I got back…I…I died.”
I paused with my cup halfway to my lips. I set it back on the table. “Is that what had you so panicked? Or did something else happen?”
“A lot of things happened. When I woke up in this…nightmare, I was in a hospital and,” Adrestia looked down at her leg, “my leg was gone. Apparently, in this strange world, I was a soldier. My friends, my squad, were the target of an attack. I was the only one who made it out alive…and I wasn’t completely intact. And the worst part was it was our commanding officer who killed us.”
I nodded and felt the weight of those lost. “We both know that kind of loss, whether real or imagined, is not something we recover from easily. But, do know the betrayal is something that will not be forgiven or left unpunished.” I held her gaze, willing her to believe that whether it was in this realm or the next, the scales would be balanced. “I am very interested in how this all came to be and who was behind it. Who else was there at the party? Anyone you did not recognize?”
Adrestia shrugged. “Just some random butler.”
I studied Adrestia as I took another sip of tea. “Who else was in the warehouse? Did all the gods seem to be affected?”
“I…I think so. I saw a mirror with Eros’s and Clios’ names before I went unconscious…I don’t really remember much from when I woke up. I was…distraught.”
“I would imagine so. I had not seen you so panicked since your youth. Does it feel like whatever it was has followed you?” I asked as I continued to shift through the images of the dream.
“Not…not followed.” Adrestia ran her hands over her face “I’m being stupid. It was just a dream. It can’t hurt me. I’m fine.”
I arched a brow and looked steadily at my squire. “Surely you have not forgotten your most basic of training? We do not ignore our instincts, we do not ignore our fears, and we do not use words like fine when we are anything but.”
“I am fine. I’m not afraid.” The girl was obviously fucking terrified.
I stared steadily at Adrestia. “We have met, right? You do remember that your emotions and thoughts are…available to me.”
Adrestia’s face glowed red with embarrassment. “Okay, I’m not fine. But I have to be. I have to get my shit together.” If Dad finds out. If Eros finds out. Oh, us, if Eris and Atë find out…
I shook my head as those last thoughts resonated in her mind. “You need to trust yourself, Adrestia, not worry about what others will think or believe. If whatever this was scared you this much, there is probably a reason, and you need to pay attention. If it is just the remnants of whatever you saw there that has you so rattled, then you need to ask yourself why. But no matter which it is, you need to heed your instincts. Not only were they good before you came to me, but we spent centuries honing them. I would trust them.”
Adrestia held my gaze, listening to every word before casting her eyes to the floor, sighing as she rested her face in her hands. I saw her begin to tremble. I pushed the cup of tea closer to Adrestia and took a sip from my own, comfortable with the silence as I allowed my squire the time she needed.
Adrestia sniffled as she lowered her hands, letting the tear trails be seen as she picked up her cup and held it between her hands for comfort. “I’m scared.”
I nodded, unsurprised and understanding. “You do remember that there is no shame in that? Fear is simply information. What has brought you to this place of such self-doubt, my squire?”
“I’m the Goddess of the Revolt, the Daughter of War. I can’t be scared.”
I scoffed and nearly rolled my eyes. “Believe me when I tell you that everyone is afraid. Your brothers and father feel fear intensely and often. The moment we no longer fear is the moment there is no longer balance living inside of us. Yes, you are the Goddess of Revolt, but fear is what keeps your powers in check and you on the right path. We, of all beings, should feel fear. We are too powerful not too.”
“What if I mess up? What if I lead my friends, my mortal friends, to their deaths?”
“We both know there will be those lost in any fight. That is the burden of any leader. You have to ask yourself if what you are fighting for is worth it. It is that fear that will keep you from sacrificing all lives in the pursuit of fulfilling your calling.”
Adrestia rubbed her hand against her right leg again. “Is this what our soldiers went through when they lost their limbs?”
I nodded. “Yes. The truth is the mortals are always the ones that pay the highest prices when gods war. They suffer the most loss, the most injustices. There were many reasons why the gods disappeared from the world. Many reasons why the mortals stopped worshipping.”
“I knew they were strong. Strong to push through and survive when even the fates were against them.”
Memories of Adrestia in her youth, how brash and impetuous she used to be, filled my mind. I was beginning to understand how her time with mortals had changed her. “You have surrounded yourself with mortals. You work with them daily. You call them your friends and your peers. Is it any wonder that when faced with their fragility, you would feel fear and loss? That does not make you less. It grows you as a goddess. You are the Goddess of Revolt, Adrestia. You have to understand the price of that in order to make the right choices in how you use your power.”
Adrestia looked at me again as she took in my words. “You know, the others tease me for caring so much.”
I held her gaze unflinchingly, refusing to let her drop her eyes again. “Does it matter? And I do not mean that to shame you. But, in who you are, what you do, and what you know…does it matter?”
I could hear the loneliness and longing in her voice when she said, “No…it is just nice that someone gets it.”
“You are too powerful to allow anyone to dictate you or your actions. Down that path lies regrets and losses. You are not alone, my squire. You just need to find your feet again.”
Adrestia nodded solemnly. “Thank you, Lady Nemesis.”
I smiled and poured us both a fresh cup of tea. “Now, tell me what you have been up to these long centuries.”