“I appreciate it greatly, Nerina. Please give my love to everyone, alright? Call me if you need anything, I mean that.”
I sighed as I hung up, stowing my phone away. Nerina and the rest at Whole Latte Love had volunteered to look after Daisuke while Dinlas and I were away. What had started as a small concept has now evolved into, for lack of a better word, a family business. A few months of being open already felt like it had been there forever, and I was eternally grateful to have found Luna and the others.
They all stood on the docks, waiting for me to arrive: Luna, Atropos, Lachesis, Clotho, Philotes, and Philomela. With the worry of Daisuke alleviated, my mind drifted to Dinlas and the sailor. The Minotaur was no small foe, and I knew he was quite capable of handling himself, but my mind would not settle itself, and dwelt upon the worst. And this sailor, whoever he was – he knew my mother? How would a mere mortal know Chaos, the creator of us all? I was…angry, and I felt somewhat betrayed. I was her daughter. Why didn’t she come to me? Why see a mortal, and not her firstborn child?
My expression must have been ugly as I approached them, for Luna looked troubled.
“Are you alright?” she asked, and I let my face relax, pulling my thoughts back to the present.
“I will be when this is all over and done with. Do we know where this man is?”
“Somewhere in the Bahamas,” Clotho said, leaning over Luna’s shoulder as she pulled out her notebook. “Was last spotted four days ago. Just a little fishing boat, so it’ll be a bit tricky to find, but we can do it.” The confidence in her voice was meant to bolster mine, so I gave my daughter a smile.
Philotes had wandered to the end of the dock, standing beside the boarding plank to a large yacht, waiting for us. “No time like the present. All aboard who’s coming aboard!”
The seven of us situated ourselves onto the vessel, Philotes taking the role of captain. Luna pulled in the plank and signaled Philotes to set sail. The dock fell away, and my chest filled with an unsettling, swooping feeling, as if I had missed a step down the stairs. Philotes took us out to the waters easily, and within an hour, we had all made ourselves comfortable in our cabins. Now we waited.
I sat on the stern, my feet hanging over the edge as we sped into deeper waters. The shore was a fuzzy line on the horizon by now, and I mulled over this mortal we were hunting down. I wondered if perhaps the wording had been misconstrued – that ‘Chaos’ has visited this sailor, but not the Chaos. Maybe some great misfortune had befallen him, and word of mouth had led to the age-old drop in communication, as often happens to stories passed on from person to person. A little part of me hoped that was the case. That my mother had nothing to do with this, and it was just dumb luck that Luna had heard of this man. But the rest of me…the rest of me desperately wanted her to be alive. I was always the mother, never the child. I wanted someone to look after me like that – like their daughter.
My mind drifted back to Eventide, where my statue had seemingly renewed itself to reflect myself and Mother. I had wanted it to be her there with me, but what if it had been latent power within me? I was covering more questions with logic and bandaids, when a hand on my shoulder brought me back to the present, the sea spray refreshing me. When I looked to see who was there, however, it was empty. The closest was Lachesis, who was sitting starboard with her sisters ten feet from me. I glanced around to see if anyone had noticed anything, but I was the only one looking. Shifting on the stern, I sat sideways to watch Philotes and Philomela, bringing my knees up and wrapping my arms around them.
Philomela reminded me of the reality stars that Atropos and Lachesis sometimes chatted about. Flippant, demanding, but caring beneath the exterior of a princess. And her family idolized, worshiped, Dinlas. I was pleased to see the reverence for him, but the way Philomela’s face lit up when I said his name made the hairs on my arms stand up. I told myself I would not be jealous of a mortal, but I decided to keep an eye on her just the same.
The first two days passed by uneventfully, besides a pod of dolphins following alongside us for several hours on the second day. The beginning of the third day had Luna calling me to the quarterdeck. Philotes was there, along with Philomela.
“Mother,” Philotes nodded to me as I arrived. There was a map before them, and Philotes was leaning over it, squinting at the finely written words. Luna had her arms crossed, looking between the map and the waters out the window, but Philomela was pacing around.
“Is this going to be a goose chase, Phil? I could have just hired someone to find and kill this man,” Philomela said, mouth quirked to the side. Luna gave her a hooded, scathing look.
“If he’s dead, we can’t question him,” Luna shot. This conversation had clearly happened before, so I did not comment. Instead, I went to Philotes side and examined the map. She pointed towards the eastern side.
“Our man is supposed to be somewhere in this area. However, you should know,” she slid her finger northward, tapping a small landmass. “This island is supposedly the location of an operation for a shady bunch. They may know something about Grandmother, if you wish to look.”
“It wouldn’t hurt. Dinlas would want to know as well,” I replied, Philomela’s eyes shooting towards me at his name. “Let’s check.”
“Miteras, come see the dolphins!” I heard Lachesis call from the deck, and Philotes nodded to me.
“I’ll shout if anything comes up, we should be only a day more away from where he’s supposed to be.” I left the three to their devices, going to join the Fates.
A shout from the quarterdeck heralded dawn the following day. I dressed quickly and ran to the deck where the rest of the girls had gathered, leaning over the side. Philotes caught sight of me below and waved me up.
“Fishing boat spotted in and out of the fog,” she started, skipping the morning greetings and leaning over the wheel. I followed her line of sight towards the horizon, waiting. Slowly, the steel hull of a small fishing boat edged into view, before fading again.
“I saw it,” I breathed, and Philotes nodded once.
“We’ll catch up to him in an hour or so. Best get your questions ready, Mother,” she added, giving me an encouraging smile. I didn’t need to be reminded.
As promised, Philotes caught us up to the sailor within the hour. I had decided on staying in my mortal form for this, boarding as a towering goddess may not have him as receptive as I wanted him to be.
You could just scare him into answers, Nyx, my inner voice told me. I was sorely tempted, but my rationale told me to at least start off courteous. When I returned to the deck, I saw the Fates standing beside one another on the port side, watching passively as Philotes smoothly swung us beside the boat. A middle-aged man appeared, looking incredulous and on the defensive.
“Can I help you? Who are you?”
His voice carried over the waves, steady as his vessel rocked beneath the turbulence we created. I gave him points for not flashing a weapon at us immediately. Clotho answered him.
“We’re looking for a sailor who said he met the Creator, Chaos. Is that you?”
His face dropped, taking a step backward. “Who’s asking?”
Luna came up beside the Fates now, hanging onto the edge of the yacht. “My name is Luna. I am the high priestess of Nyx, and founder of the Order of the Aurora. We mean no harm, we just want to talk.”
I could see the sailor shaking his head, backing up every so slowly. “Y-you got the wrong person, sorry. Wish I could help. I’ll be on my way, then.”
My temper got the best of me. One minute I was standing on the steps that led to our cabins, the next I was glowering at this man on the deck of his boat. He shouted, backpedaling to get away from me, but I closed the distance between us in a flash. I slammed the palm of my hand against the bulkhead he had backed himself against, eye level with him as I reigned in my immortal form.
“I hate liars,” I hissed, “you would do best to not do so. What is your name?”
He swallowed hard, eyes darting between me and the Fates behind me. “M-Mihail. Who the hell are you?”
I leaned in closer, letting my true self flash over my face briefly, and the sailor gasped, scrabbling at the metal. “What the hell are you? What magic is this!”
A hand on my shoulder pulled me back as I regained my mortal self once more, and I turned to see Atropos there with her sisters, circled behind me. Luna came forward once more, her hands on her hips.
“We just want to hear what you know of Chaos, Mihail. Don’t make this any harder on yourself than you have to.”
He looked between the five of us, terrified while trying to catch his breath and steel himself. Luna had infinitely more patience than I did at that moment. I wanted to shake the information from him like the stuffing from a rag doll.
“I was stopped at an island for rest and recount,” Mihail started, the stammer in his voice grating on me. “I hadn’t gone far from the boat, nor had I been there long, when this girl showed up. Silent thing, dressed in these short robes and a bag over her shoulder.”
“Did she say anything to you, this girl?” Luna asked, to which Mihail nodded feverishly.
“Aye, she asked me where I was going and if I worshiped any gods. Thought it was a strange question, but you get all kinds in this part of the world. Told her Poseidon was high on my list, being a sailor and fisherman, of course. She asked me if I wanted to trade for some things. Showed me these weird bracelets, some dried fish and whatnot, and these bottles of weird-looking mist.”
Mihail mimed twisting shapes while Luna glanced at me – I knew why. She thought it might be my mother. I couldn’t risk getting my hopes up, not yet.
“She said she would trade me these memories for a few of my fish. I asked her, ‘Memories? You can’t store memories’, but she just smiled and insisted I take it. Walked away with a few mackerel and never saw her again.”
“So, what did you do with the bottle she gave you?” Luna’s voice told me she had an idea, and I think I had a guess, too, though my heart ached.
Mihail shrugged half-heartedly, not quite meeting her eye. “Got drunk one night, happens sometimes when you’re out here for a while by your lonesome. I pulled the bottle out, was looking it over, and I just…sort of…” he mimed a corking popping off a bottle, and Luna rubbed her face. I, however, reacted less passively.
I was two steps away from him once more when a pair of hands grabbed my arms, stopping me. My eyes bored two holes into Mihail. He had squandered those memories, a drunken pastime with no meaning to it.
“What did you see? What did you see, mortal?” I spat between clenched teeth. He gave me a fearful glance, looking me up and down.
“You’re not human, are you?” he said, looking defeated suddenly. Mihail’s eyes roamed over the rest of them. “None of you?”
“I am,” Luna said, “the rest are not. You stand before Chaos’ firstborn child, and her children – the Fates, and the goddess of friendship.”
Mihail dropped to his knees, head hanging. “I knew that damn bottle was a bad idea. What have I gotten myself into…”
“What did you see in that bottle, Mihail?” Clotho asked, repeating me. He glanced up at her, then her sisters, before sighing.
“I don’t know exactly what I was seeing. A lot of it was a blur, but there was a lot of music. Lutes, I think. Someone was singing, and there was a black fog that was rolling in. I couldn’t see much of anything, it was so thick, but I remember seeing the skies empty. No stars, no moon, nothing.” He stared at his knees, hands steadying himself as he recalled it all. “It was cold, but the music was pleasant enough. And then there was a loud ringing, and this crow-human…thing, appeared from nowhere. It looked like a black hole, but darker. And then…” Mihail looked up at me. “I was back in my bunk.”
Frustration rolled through me like one of Zeus’ thunderstorms as I turned on my heel and went back to the yacht. I could hear Luna and my daughters talking to Mihail, but I could no longer stand the sight of him. Philotes was waiting on deck as I came back.
“What did he do, Mother?”
“Squandered a gift,” I replied in clipped tones, heading for my cabin. She did not follow me.
I shut the door to my room behind me and sank my fist into the wall. I looked at the dent and immediately regretted my action. Taking a deep breath, I fixed the damage, before flinging myself onto my bed, pressing my pillow over my face.
A mortal had seen the memories of my birth. It could have been nothing but that. But where did these come from? No one alive besides my siblings have lived that long. It had to have been one of them, because this ‘crow-human thing’ could not have been anyone but me.
I bit down hard on my pillow, screaming into it. Must these roadblocks persist!?
A short knock on my door brought me back to the present. Rising, I swung it open to find Luna, looking pale. She beckoned me to follow her, heading back up to the deck. I tossed my pillow back on my bed, following my priestess upwards to the quarterdeck. Philotes had her map out once more, but Philomela was absent. It was safer for her that way.
“Mother,” the goddess started, but I shook my head.
“Not now, Phil,” I said, walking around to the opposite and peering at the map. There were several circles and crosses. “What is all this for?”
“Mihail gave us directions to the place he landed, called it Tiverna Isle. That’s where we’ll find this girl, and hopefully a better idea of where this memory came from.”
“It may be a long shot,” Luna warned, worry creased into her face, “but I think it’s worth a look. If anything, it’s a new place to put under our belt.”
She tried to smile at me reassuringly, but I didn’t want it. I wanted to know what was going on and why Mother was involved at all.
“Alright. Take us there, Philotes.”
The goddess saluted me, heading to the wheel. “Aye, captain. Next stop, Tiverna Isle.”