I was angry. Although that was a common occurrence.
Zeus’ command was not one I was interested in obeying. I was a Titan. I was the grandson of Gaia, the great-grandson of Nyx, and the great-great-grandson of Chaos itself. Who was he to tell me to return to the Earth and interact with mortals? I interacted with them enough. It was I who gave them light as I rode my chariot through the sky, pulling the sun behind me. It was no easy feat and still, all I ever heard from them was, It’s too hot. So, the next day I try to fly a little further from the Earth, and their voices echo around my head Oh, hasn’t it gotten cold? And don’t even get me started with their infuriating children and their songs; The sun has got his hat on, hip hip hip hurray. Argh! Even when in the Heavens, they irritated me. I had no desire to be surrounded by them and their complaining all day, every day.
But the King of the Gods, he who ruled the skies, the mighty Zeus had made a decree. All of us immortals were to travel to the mortal realm and live amongst the humans. A ruling from Zeus could not be denied. We had all seen what happened to those who went against him.
I knew I had to leave the Heavens and so made my way to my palace at the bank of River Okeanos. The home was gifted to me by my cousin Okeanos when I agreed to marry his daughter Perseis. I stormed through the onyx and obsidian halls, my radiant glow being the only source of light illuminating my path. I reached an archway leading back outside into a garden that I usually found beautiful, but today it angered me. Everything did. Who knew how long it was going to be before I was back here? Who knew how long Zeus expected us to play his little game? That man had no shame expecting his equals, even some of his superiors, to bow to his desires! My golden eyes flared violently, and the humidity of the air in the garden rose excessively so that even I could feel the heat. I saw the leaves on the trees brown and wither as the flowers on the ground curled up and died.
Good, I thought. No one was going to be here to enjoy it, anyway.
“Helios, that’s enough.” My sister Eos, the rosy-fingered dawn, emerged from behind a tree. My eyes ceased their flaring, and the temperature returned to normal. “You know, brother, you really should get that temper of yours under control.” Eos was often my voice of reason, the one to simmer my ever-bubbling rage.
“How am I to control my emotions when I am expected to go to Earth? To be surrounded by mortals who do nothing but whine and complain all day about the most mundane of things?”
Eos rolled her eyes at me. “Don’t give me that. I know why you’re so concerned about going down there. You’re worried you’ll see her again.”
“You don’t know what you’re talking about,” I responded quickly, maybe a little too quickly. “Besides, I don’t even know if she’s still alive.”
We spoke of Clymene, a nymph who had borne me my seven daughters, the Heliades, and my doomed son Phaeton. After the birth of our eight children, I had to leave to deal with a matter of great urgency. I forgot what it was, but I had promised Clymene that I would return to her and raise our children. Unfortunately, that slipped my mind, and I never saw Clymene again. I ended up marrying Perseis, who had given me my most famous children, Circe, Pasiphae, Aeetes and Perses, though I haven’t seen them in over a thousand years.
It wasn’t until Clymene’s and my son, Phaeton, had arrived at my door asking if I was his father that I even remembered Clymene. But who could blame me for that? I was a very busy deity, and I had a lot to remember at all times. I did feel guilty when Phaeton arrived. I had left him without a father, Clymene, an unwed nymph with eight children, and so, to make amends, I promised my son I would grant him one wish. It was very generous of me.
Of course, being my son made Phaeton ambitious, and he asked to drive my sun chariot. I tried to talk him out of it, but he reminded me that I had promised him one wish. I had to give in or else face the wrath of Styx. As expected, it went terribly, and Phaeton wound up dying in a rather gruesome manner right next to me. It was a truly awful affair. It took hours for my servants to clean the blood and melted flesh from the seats of my chariot.
After that, I heard rumours of Clymene. Some say she went insane with grief. Some say she gave up her immortality and killed herself so she could see Phaeton in the afterlife. But some of my most trusted sources claimed that Clymene kept her sanity and immortality. They said that she had decided to remain on Earth, waiting for me to make an appearance so she could hold me accountable. Yet no one truly knew the truth. Not her sisters, not her father, not even our daughters, and I couldn’t bear to ask Hades if her soul had yet ventured to the Underworld. I couldn’t decide what would be worse, her waiting thousands of years for vengeance or her committing suicide as a result of my negligence to my promise and our children. Either way, I had not ventured onto the earth since that day. The saying was true that Tartarus hath no fury like a woman scorned. My granddaughter, Medea, was proof of that, and I did not wish to be on the receiving end of such furor.
I shook my head. “It doesn’t matter if she is on Earth or not. I am Helios, and I answer to no one.” I reminded myself of the motto I had carried since the death of Phaeton—guilt is for the insecure. “Honestly, Eos, you do know how to distract me. I didn’t come here to reminisce about the past.”
“No, you like to leave the past behind you even when others can’t.” Her tone was disapproving. “Why have you come here?”
“To say goodbye.”
“To me?” Eos sounded surprised. She may have been my mediator, but neither of us was ever affectionate to the other.
I scoffed, “No.” I moved past Eos, and she followed as I made my way down the garden to a large section of open space. I whistled loudly. One moment the field was empty, echoing the high-pitched noise. The next four glowing white horses were before me, Aethon, Pyrois, Phlegon, and Eous. They were the steeds that pulled my sun chariot and ran at the speed of light.
“Of course, it’s the horses.” I heard Eos mock in a nasal tone.
I ignored her and stroked the noses of my steeds. They had served me well, and I didn’t know how long it would be before I saw them again. Another reason this whole setup infuriated me. “Okay, listen up, guys.” I had no idea if they could understand me, but talking to them gave me comfort. “I am being forced to go away for a while, which means you are going to have to do our job alone, okay? I know you can do it. You’ve done it before. Just remember, not too close to the earth and not too far away, either of those will kill all the humans.” Maybe that wouldn’t be such a bad idea. At least they’d stop their whining then. I gave each steed one last pat. “I’m gonna miss you guys.” Between one breath and the next, Aethon, Pyrois, Phlegon, and Eous bolted and disappeared from view.
“Well, that was touching,” Eos said dryly.
I glared at her. I rarely showed emotions other than anger, and when I did, they were minimal. “Shut up.” I sighed.
We made our way back into my palace, and I stopped at one of the golden mirrors lining the walls. I could pass for a mortal. I was able to keep my hair the same glowing white as the colour of my steeds, but I had adjusted my height to a reasonable 5 foot 10. I toned down the glow of my skin to a human-level tan and adjusted my eyes so that they were not lit with golden dancing flames. Instead, they were grey-blue with golden flecks, like the sun trying to break through a cloudy sky. I had kept my sharp-angled features.
“Have you considered the fact that you are going to have to get a job in the mortal world?” Eos asked smugly, as if she wasn’t going to be forced down to Earth with us.
She did raise a good point. What was I going to do? I was going to need money to survive, and the only way to make money on the mortal plane was to…work. Ugh, even the word disgusted me. What was I good at that didn’t take much effort? I took a few moments to think, and then it came to me. “I am going to be one of those people who get paid to listen to people’s problems and pretend to help them.”
“A therapist?” Eos eyes were wide with surprise and confusion.
I grimaced. “No, most certainly not.” I was the all-seeing, omniscient sun. I carried myself with a presence and grandeur others could not. I had advised many immortals in my time. I could not be described as a mere therapist. “I am to be a counsellor.”
“Weren’t you just saying that the mortals complain too much?”
“Well, yes, but if I’m getting paid to listen to them, then it won’t be too bad.”
Eos rolled her eyes, something she frequently did whenever we spoke. “And what qualifies you to be a counsellor? You will be expected to help people.”
“I am great at helping people. I listened to Demeter go on for weeks about how she couldn’t find Persephone when she went missing, so what did I say? Check the Underworld. And low and behold, there she was. When Hephaestus wouldn’t be quiet about Aphrodite and Ares potentially having an affair, what did I say? Set a trap and humiliate them. And he did! Granted that one didn’t solve his issue, but it made for great entertainment.”
Eos smiled and chuckled lightly. “Well then, best of luck with that brother.” With that, Eos disappeared to tend to my steeds and ready them for the next morning.
I sighed heavily. This was not going to be a fun trip, but at least I had a vague idea of what I was going to do with my time there. Before I could begin my work as a counsellor, I had to sort something out. First, I had to find out if Clymene was still alive and, if so, what she was planning. I wasn’t going to live however long I had to on Earth with the constant threat of her turning up looming over me. Maybe once I at least knew if she was dead or alive, I could start my new life and see my family again.