Embers of Pain

When I said my hearth, I meant it was the first hearth. It was from the first offering I ever received. They were blessed with as many children as they wanted. I watched her become a great-grandmother, so rare back in those days. Many barely saw their children leave their homes. She was later deified by her great-grandchildren, but alas, Despina never reached true goddess status.

I let out a low growl as my guests filed out, heading to either chase their own stories or prepare for battle. Was I sure that I would be shedding mortal blood soon? Yes. Yes, I was sure that their life force would be spilled upon the ground. Someone stole children under my care, yet I had no idea. 

How long have they been missing? What did their captors do to them? If their captors harmed my charges, then I’d bribe Thanatos or Hades to get creative with their punishments. If not them, then there are a few other Death Gods that I could exchange something with to deal with them.

I snarled and stomped my foot. A puff of flames shot out from my shoe as I let my anger roll over me. My hand lit up like Johnny fracking Storm. I snorted at the thought of the rip-off of proper pyromancy. Why would the kid fly if he turns into a fireball? It’s not like you could control heat well enough to create enough lift to fly. No, wait. Focus. I couldn’t squirrel off like that. 

Slipping into my key room, I moved to the third row. Walking about a quarter of the way down, I reached behind a box and pressed a button. I went to another row, pushing in a latch, before leaving the room. I headed back up to the kitchen area and pushed the refrigerator back slightly. There was a loud click behind me. 

Turning, I lifted the counter before starting down the stairs. I knew it was overly elaborate, but I would never hear the end of it from Tia or Athena if they saw my collection of weapons. I could just hear it now. How do you have Joan of Ark’s sword? Is that a blade from the Abbasid Caliph Harun? That can’t be a Spartan blade, can it? That’s a spear from Athens. Can I have it? The Goddess of War totally would want to keep it.

I paused at the spear. Should I take it? No, I would take the Spartan blade, but first, armor. Heading to the rear of my personal armory, I stopped before a shrine. The leather armor was gifted to me by those Tia and I saved so long ago. You’d think the leather would have rotted away after four thousand years, but a little Olympic magic later and it had endured. 

The chest wasn’t done up like Xena’s, thankfully. This armor actually protected my chest, instead of showing off my boobs. There was bronze bolted over the stomach area and around said breastplates. After buckling the sides in place, I put on leather braces, followed by bucking on the battle skirt. Well, that was what the pleated leather strips reminded me of. I tied the shin guards on before stepping into steel-toed boots. Yeah, it was not what was expected, but there was nothing better for putting your foot up someone than steel-toed boots. 

As I left, I grabbed the Spartan Blade, attaching it to my waist as I walked up the stairs. Closing the counter, there were loud several clicks throughout my place as everything reset. I glanced at the fridge to see what the code would be the next time. I really didn’t want others to find out. 

I paused as my breathing hitched, my hand snapping out to prop myself up. My stomach did flips as I felt my chest cramp. I closed my eyes, forcing my breath to go from a quick, shallow beat to a long and slow one. Panic attacks were never fun. That at least was something the mortals had figured out how to help. I stood there, trying to calm myself for a few minutes, while I did a mental body scan. I focused on how each part of my body felt, trying to center myself in the here and now. Seeing if my body was really trying to tell me something or if my brain had glitched again. 

What was the trigger this time? It was the feeling of losing control with the more boisterous members of my family. They tended to be all in your face, needing all of your attention. No, that was not the problem this time. It was the thought of sharing something that was mine and mine alone. 

Yeah, family was great, to a point. There was a reason why I was one of the quiet ones. I didn’t need much, unlike a few of the others. They thrived on attention. They were  extroverts. I was not one of those. I was an introvert. Give me a nice scroll, I mean book and a glass of wine, and I was good for the night. 

I needed to focus on the problem at hand. Why was I so scatterbrained? Well, I was pretty sure I knew why. I was angry. Someone hurt those under my care, and that was unforgivable. I took a few more breaths before entering my personal altar. 

From there, I could at least get an idea of their status. If they were hurt, hungry, thirsty, or worse, dead. Flames burst into their sources as I stalked my way through the short passage. I left footprints of fire across the obsidian path that reflected my mood. My hair sparked as I knelt before my hearth. 

When I said my hearth, I meant it was the first hearth. It was from the first offering I ever received. They were blessed with as many children as they wanted. I watched her become a great-grandmother, so rare back in those days. Many barely saw their children leave their homes. She was later deified by her great-grandchildren, but alas, Despina never reached true goddess status. 

I touched the wicks of handmade candles, leaving a flame behind. I closed my eyes and slowed my breathing. “Agapiménoi, sas échasa. Pou eísai?” I whispered, lacing power into my voice. I repeated the phrase twice more before I felt the family I’d created. I felt the worries of my adult mortals. How they felt over inflation. Their concerns over how they would make ends meet, and if they would be able to put food on the table for their children. 

Letting out a long slow breath, I left a small blessing at a few homes, but I had to keep searching for my lost ones. A lance of pain shot through my arm and then through my heel. I swallowed hard as I felt my palms cry out as if they had been slammed into asphalt. I swallowed hard. They were hurt and lost.

My wards were… no wait. What’s wrong with that link? Why couldn’t I find her? Did I lose her? Did I fail my assumed charge? I felt a tear slide down my cheek before it evaporated in the heat of the flames that wrapped my head. I must find them. I must help them. I swore they would be safe, but I let them down. 

It was not right. I didn’t want this at all. I should have known of the danger. Why didn’t I feel them? Whoever took them shall pay. They would suffer under my hand. I knew a few that would help me flay them. Yes, I would have to learn the whole keeping them alive while a crow eats their liver every day. That seemed fair for taking what was mine. 

The candles’ flames burned hot and fast as I sent warmth to my wards. They had to know that they were not alone. Help was coming. Quickly standing, I left the altar. My path was clear. I needed to start with my safe houses and see where they went from there. I would need a huntress to track them. 

A feral grin crossed my face as I wondered what Adrestia would do when she found out what had happened. Sadly, I didn’t think what she’d do would satisfy my desires regarding this. I entered the lift, heading to the basement. The doors opened to let in a woman with her child. The girl held a leash and led a poodle in.

“Mommy, how is she making her hair burn but not burn?” asked the girl.

I knelt down, tapping down on my emotions. The fire around my hair went out as I flashed her a smile. “It was magic,” I said with a soft laugh. 

“Really?” the girl asked, her eyes wide.

Winking at her, I nodded. “Yep.”

“Is that why you’re all dressed like Momma’s hero, Xena?”

“Kelly,” the dark-haired mother said.

“What? You always say I need to be brave like her. It’s why you have me in karate classes,” exclaimed the girl. 

“We should let Lady Hestia go on her way,” the mother said.

Standing, I brushed my finger across the girl’s cheek. “She is right. Xena is a good person to be like.”

“Wait, you know that old show too?” the girl demanded.

“Of course. Didn’t care for peanut’s show, mostly because Hercules wasn’t that lacking,” I said as I tapped the side of my head. 

The mother laughed, shaking her head slightly. “Disappointed,” she play yelled. 

The doors opened. “Keep your body moving and eat well. You’ll end up like Xena, too,” I said as I headed out of the building. I had a teleport to catch. 

Hestia (Kaitlyn Kalor)
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