Even Goddesses have to tuck the children in at night and they don’t always go quietly.
“Mom, don’t leave yet! Please?” Hephaestus begged with his sweet voice. I just smiled and shook my head.
“Mommy has to get ready for bed too, my heart.”
His tiny lower lip trembled, “Please, mommy? Please tell us a bedtime story.”
The other children joined Hephaestus’s pleas and I knew there was no way I would be able to slip out quietly. Zeus would have to wait. The children needed me.
I smiled softly at them and walked back into the room, “Fine, are you all tucked in?”
Hephaestus let out a gleeful “Whoop!” and leaned across the narrow walkway between their beds to give his brother Ares a fist bump with his tiny hand.
“Hephy, do you have your blankie?”
He nodded and held up a ratty square of navy blue material that he’d had since birth. I turned to my other son, Ares and quirked an eyebrow.
“Do you have your My Little Pony, dearest?”
“G-got it m-mommy,” Ares stuttered quietly, sitting up in the middle of his bed, arms wrapped tightly around a faded purple pony.
I looked over at my girls, “Nike, did you wash your wings carefully during your bath tonight?” Nike flexed her tiny shoulders and let her downy wings spread out so I could inspect them. I ran my fingers down the side of her cheek and smiled.
“Moxie moo, did you brush your hair and lay out your toga for tomorrow?”
“Yes, ma’am. I picked-ed the pink one ‘cause Gaia said I looked the cutest in it.” She hid her heart-shaped face behind her hands and giggled.
“Mama Gee certainly knows what she’s talking about. You are adorable in the pink toga” I tugged gently on the end of one of her blonde pigtails. Smiling softly, I pulled a rocking chair to the center of the room so that all four children could see me easily.
I eased into the chair and began the story, “A very very long time ago, when the world was still a baby, Mama Gee had created all the beautiful creatures and the Titans were still young and happy. After some time, Nana Rhea and Papaw Cronus realized they were madly in love with each other (or Nana Rhea just like what Papaw Cronus had hidden behind his toga).”
Hephaestus and Ares fist bumped again, Moxie nodded solemnly, and Nike sat in the bed looking confused. I covered my laughter with a cough and continued.
“They frolicked in the fields of flowers, Mama Gee smiled, and everything was good. Soon, Nana Rhea gave Papaw Cronus two beautiful daughters, Hestia and Demeter. Papaw Cronus loved his girls so much and thought to himself often that his life couldn’t get any better than it already was.
One day, while out scouring the lands to find the 3 most beautiful flowers to give to Nana Rhea and their daughters, Papaw Cronus stumbled onto a wide meadow full of thousands of different flowers. Papaw Cronus had never seen this meadow before but he was in awe of it. Everything was so vibrantly colorful and his fingers itched to touch every petal of every flower and every blade of every piece of grass.
What Papaw Cronus didn’t know was that Mama Gee had hidden this meadow for a reason. In the middle of the meadow was a plant that could be dangerous to anyone who ate it. He walked along the edge of the meadow, taking everything in. He said hello to the honey bees, helped the grasshoppers from one end of the meadow to the other, watched the rabbits and mice play together, and listened to the harmonies of the birds as they flew languidly over everything.
When Papaw Cronus got to the middle he saw the most beautiful flower he had ever seen. Its beauty paled only in comparison to the beauty of his wife and he knew he had to have it. But instead of plucking it from the ground and rushing off to give it to Nana Rhea, Papaw Cronus first brushed his fingertips over the tops of the petals. Curious, he held his fingers up and saw a light film of yellow powder. Bringing his fingers to his nose to smell the powder he was hit with a succulent honey apple smell. His mouth watered and without thinking, he brought his fingers to his mouth and sucked the flower’s powder off of them.
Papaw Cronus started to get a little lightheaded and giggly so he laid down in the grass and stared up at the sky. He saw the clouds turn into nymphs and laughed as they played together. Time passed and the sky got darker. Finally Papaw Cronus realized he’d been gone too long and slowly got to his feet to head home.
Laying in bed that night next to Nana Rhea, Papaw Cronus thought back upon his day and his chest warmed as he remembered the light feeling he had while in the meadow. He realized he couldn’t stay away. After many many days spent in the meadow eating the dust off of the flower, Papaw Cronus started to hear voices in his head. These voices were not fun ones that helped him think of ways to make his wife and daughters smile. No, these voices were scary and told him he needed to kill Gaia. Papaw Cronus knew he would never be able to do that because he loved Mama Gee with all his heart – more than he loved Nana Rhea. So he fought the voices as hard as he could and hid from Mama Gee to make sure he wouldn’t hurt her.
The more he fought the voices, the weaker he got, the more he visited the meadow to taste the dust from the flower thinking it would give him strength. Eventually, the voices got so bad he stopped sleeping beside Nana Rhea.”
I paused and the children started talking over one another.
“Moooooooom! Why’d you stop?” Hephaestus bounced on his bed.
Ares looked sad and thought the story was over already, “But we’re n-not t-tired yet m-mommy.”
Nike climbed out of her bed, padded across the room and crawled into bed with Ares. “It’s okay brother. Lady Hera will finish the story. Just watch.”
Moxie took the opportunity to pad over and crawl into Hephaestus’s bed, cuddling one of his pillows in her lap. Her wise eyes wide, while she waited for me to continue.
I felt my heart swell with love for these four children and said a silent prayer to Gaia that nothing bad would ever come to them.
((Stay tuned for part II!))
- The Trials of Herakles, Part VII - September 1, 2022
- The Trials of Herakles, Part VI - November 5, 2021
- Herakles, Part V - October 18, 2021