SEVERAL CENTURIES AGO
A few of my siblings and I sit above in Aether. Of course, Aether is one of my siblings too, but we Primordials are built a little differently than the next few generations of gods. Just ask dear Uncle Tartarus. Sometimes we’re physical beings, and sometimes we’re not. The line becomes kind of blurred, and occasionally we’re both at the same time.
Today’s chipper grouping consists of gentle Thanatos, the ever-dramatic Fates lingering nearby talking in circles, deceitful Dolus and mocking Momus are snickering by my side, and finally, friendly Philotes is with bright Hemera giggling in the corner. Those two have always been the sunnier side of our macabre little family tree.
Being in Aether is different from simply being above. You can see things in a grander way. The world sits below you like a picture book, and you can flip through the proverbial pages focusing on what you want or need to know. Today we are spying on the Olympians, a word we still say with a snicker and a sigh. That is the cute name Zeus came up with for his brood now that they are squatting on the mountain with the same name only ten awkward miles away from Mount Othrys, the seat of power in the cosmos and home to King Kronos.
“So, how long do you give them?” Momus chortles.
“What do you mean? They’re the clear winners,” Dolus lies with a sinister smirk.
“I dunno.” Hemera hums, “Some of the younger Titans have been murmuring about siding with Zeus.”
“Helios whisper that in your ear as he’s riding across the Day?” Momus asks with a salacious laugh.
“Momus! Don’t be degrading,” Philotes chastises softly, putting a hand on Hemera’s shoulder, but the day goddess merely smiles contentedly, sipping her ambrosia.
“Not just the kids, the female Titans are thinking of sitting it out as well. Zeus has quite a way with the ladies, it seems,” I say with a wink.
“You wouldn’t know anything about that.” Dolus nods at me.
“A lady never tells.” I grin.
“What lady are you referring to?” the Momos mocks with a cackle.
“Har, har,” I say and roll my eyes.
“Should give him plenty of chances to make enough gods to help him out.”
“He’s already made quite a few. Hera is his seventh bride. Not that marriage is…” Thanatos mumbles the first words he’s spoken before once more averting his gaze downward without finishing his thought.
I self-consciously rub my stomach but let the comment pass.
“I’m sure he needs all the help he can get,” I say, attempting to laugh it off.
“Oh, he did good that last time.” Momus laughs. “Zeus’s newest bride’s two latest brats? I think they’re gonna be quite the troublemakers.”
“Oh?” Dolus asks, peering through the vapour beneath us.
“Oh yeah, little war gods, no doubt.” Momus cackles before looking at me pointedly. “Bout time we had a God of War, but…” he draws it out as he lures me into eye contact, “do we need another goddess of it too?”
“Hey, I’m not bothered.” I throw my hands up. “Just means more chaos on the battlefield.” I smirk emptily. My eyes narrow downward despite myself. Surely they see through me, my jealousy, my childish temper, I know they talk about me.
“What are we talking about?” Moros enters, cutting off my paranoid mental diatribe. The herald of doom and bad tidings appears from the mist around us in his usual mix of ghoulish rags and decrepit armor.
“Eris is getting replaced.” Momus laughs, and it takes all I have in me not to disembowel him here and now.
“That’s not nice!” Hemera chides.
“Right,” Dolus agrees, “she’s not going anywhere.” He winks at me.
“There will come a time,” Clotho muses, suddenly, taking us all off guard.
“Where a poet calls out for you.” Lachesis looks directly at me.
“And recalls her instead,” Atropos finishes looking away.
The entire cloud falls into silence. In the back of my mind, I can almost picture even Aether holding its breath, listening and waiting.
“How did this become about me?” I laugh bemusedly, breaking the quiet.
“Why not just finish this Enyo girl off?” Moros says with a wet hiss, handing me a dagger from the folds of his shroud. The blade on the weapon is formed from some kind of metallic-looking rock shimmering unnaturally in the light and becoming far too dark in the shade.
“Is this…?” I ask in awe.
“Adamant…oh yes,” Moros hisses.
“Might make Kronus happy.” Momus laughs.
I share a deep look with Thanatos, one which says more than he’s said in the entire day.
“Eris, come one, you’re not gonna hurt her, right?” Hemera says disbelievingly.
“Eris…” Philotes emphasises.
I don’t respond. Instead, I stare down at the dagger as a smile grows across my face.
Olympus has been billed as a young would-be king’s nascent kingdom, but what I find instead reminds me more of a refugee camp. It is a collection of half-built structures, tent-like partitions, and wild animals roving freely. Hardly the grandeur of Mount Othrys.
I walk through the mess listening for a sound I haven’t heard in quite a while—the annoying chirping giggles of youth.
I pass the teenage muses braiding each other’s hair. Demeter doting on her practically full-grown daughter as if she were a little girl. Some of Zeus’s older extramarital parasites are running about, but none are more about than young Hermes. My gods, someone needs to put a leash on that kid. I do not see any sign of the youngest two, though.
If they’re with Hera, she who would be queen, then I may be out of luck. I take another turn and discover I worry for nothing. It seems Tyche is on my side after all because there she is. Enyo is just a little moppet, a mess of blood-red hair on her head and mud on her face, playing with a wooden training sword.
My wings gently flap as I land in front of her, and she predictably oohs and ahhs, as any youth might at the sight of my glory. That’s right, child, this is what you think you can live up to.
“Who are you?” she chirps.
“Eris. Heard of me?” She looks puzzled but gives a soft nod. Good. “And who might you be, little one?”
“I am Enyo!” she says with a laughable amount of sass. “Goddess of War!!!” She holds her toy sword aloft.
“Goddess of War, eh? We already have one of those,” I hiss, circling her like she’s a field mouse.
“You mean Athena?” I roll my eyes at this.
“See, there’s your first mistake.” I smile smugly. “The subtle distinctions, little one. Athena is Goddess of Wisdom first and foremost, and after that, she is Goddess of Tactical Warfare. She’s a planner, a general, moving pieces on a chessboard. She is fearsome, to be sure, but she’s in the business of winning victory, not of the war itself, the violence of it, the euphoric taste of blood,” I say with a malicious grin.
“What about you?” she asks suddenly.
“Me? Oh, that’s my bread and butter, little goddess. I could eat your golden heart like an apple, little girl, and let the ichor dribble down my chin.” I snap my jaws as I say this and watch with glee as the young goddess flinches before running off. Some competition, she is.
“Great,” A soft voice says to my right, “You scared a ten-year-old girl…what a badass,” Thanatos says, suddenly appearing at my side.
“What can I say? I’m terrifying.” I shrug with a smile.
“No, you’re terrified,” he says back.
“Me?” I laugh forcefully. “Of what?”
“Of being forgotten,” a voice to my left says.
My face contorts with rage, but instead of unleashing my power on the offender, I walk away from them and Thanatos. Best not, I think. I need to save it up.
I’ve been missing in action for weeks, maybe months, Gods know time was never my strong suit. Leave that to Uncle Chronos. I have kept out of the ongoing cold war between Zeus and Kronus entirely, which is perhaps one of the hardest things I’ll ever do in my life. One of, I think, once more finding my hand at my stomach.
As we enter Olympus once more, we are unseen, or so I think.
“Stop right there.” Philotes voice sounds more stern than I’ve ever heard it.
I turn swiftly and realise she’s eyeing the knife in my hand. The special one Moros gave me.
“Relax, I’m not gonna kill her. I thought of something much better.” I flip the knife and let it slip into my pocket of the Void. My hands flourish as if I’m performing a magician’s trick.
“Then what are you two doing here?” She looks at my companion and me suspiciously.
“Why are you following us?” I counter.
“Because I know you, Eris. I know you’re offended, upset, and wanting to vent. It’s been building for a while, and I hoped you’d come to me but—”
“I didn’t. So you thought you’d get the jump on me? Not really how friendship works, Sister,” I needle her.
“I’m just trying to help you! You know what you get like when you try to go too big,” Philotes says hesitantly, trying to soften the blow as always, with a half-grimace/half-smile. “What crime has this girl even really done to you?”
“She need not do anything,” I snap. “The others are all doing it on her behalf! They talk like I’m retired, and she’s the heir apparent! Aren’t I pushed out of this pantheon enough?”
“Eris,” she says in the tone of a disappointed parent rather than sister, “you’ve been so good lately, though. Do you really want to spoil it?
“I haven’t been good!” I laugh uproariously at her ridiculousness. “I’ve been saving it up.”
She’s suddenly all serious, her eyes widening.
“Saving it up for what?”
“Nothing you need to worry yourself about,” my companion to my left says quietly.
“Stay out of this, please,” Philitoes says sternly, looking over my shoulder.
“Philotes, I’m just gonna show them who the real deal is around here. You shouldn’t get so upset,” I say with a fake smile and glaring eyes.
“I’m upset because I care about you, Eris. I care about all of us. We can work with the Olympian generation. Embrace change. That’s what can make us different from the Titans who are so terrified of being replaced that they’re acting like monsters.”
“Why do you care about me?” I ask somberly. “Why would anyone be stupid enough to do that?” I snap. “No offense,” I say as an aside to the companion on my left.
“Eris, you’re not just my sister, you’re my—”
“Stop!” I scream, cutting her off. “You don’t get to say that. That doesn’t even count coming from you. You’re the Goddess of Friendship! What if it’s just your power making us want to be around you? Gods, can you just get out?!”
She looks utterly heartbroken, and for a split second, I want to comfort her, but I restrain myself. She says not another word and instead turns and walks away. No doubt the others will detest me for snapping at her. Good, I need them to keep their distance.
“Are you ready?” my companion whispers.
As an answer, I let my wings loose, and with them, I let every nook and cranny of discord I’ve saved up go. A fog of confusion billows out from me like tentacles, and I feel it crawling into every crevice of the Olympus refugee camp. I give it everything I have, and part of me can feel it working.
“It’s done,” she says next to me before she herself vanishes as Philotes did before her.
I open my eyes to look, but as I do, Persephone comes into view instead.
“Oh, hello there.” She smiles at me, her eyes cloudy. “Dad’s calling a meeting, help me gather up the little ones, and we’ll get in there.”
“You got it, Sis.”