I spent several weeks going over that ancient manuscript. Though I had planned on returning it the next day, I became quite involved in its contents. Hundreds of scrolls, written over thousands of years. Many written by the gods themselves.
I focused my research on the scrolls written before the Titanomachy. Especially those written in the days when my parents were still children. The world was so different in those days, and in some ways, a much darker place.
I read about the days when my father and his brothers rose against their own father. Though I’d heard the story a million times, there were details in the scrolls that were new to me. It sent shivers down my spine to realize that my own dominion over agriculture came directly from him.
I found a story that talked about my father and one of his cousins, Phobetor, the Frightener. As I read his name in the scrolls, fear gripped my soul. I’d had visits from him throughout my lifetime, especially after my siblings and I had escaped our paternal prison. But I’d never really known anything about him.
As I read, it quickly dawned on me that this story hadn’t been passed down to the mortals. This was a tale time had forgotten. It was the story of a Cretan king who’d shown a little too much attraction toward a statue of my mother, Rhea. My father went into a rage and vowed to destroy the entire island.
My mother held a special place in her heart for the people of Crete and begged him to spare their lives. Though rage still gripped his mind, he gave in to his wife’s request. However, he refused to spare the king and thought long and hard about how to get his revenge.
He came up with a way to punish the king without getting blood on his own hands. He turned to his cousin, Phobetor, and had him invade the dreams of the king’s beautiful wife, Aloria.
The God of Nightmares came to her in dreams. First as her loving husband, then as something horrific. On one occasion, the king came to her with a smile on his face. She reached for him, baring herself for his royal pleasure. As he came upon her, his teeth turned to fangs and his fingers to claws. He slashed at her skin and snapped at her face. As she shot up in her bed, she thought she could still feel the trails of blood streaming down her cheeks.
On another occasion, the queen dreamed she stood on the balcony beneath a full moon. Her husband came to her with flowers and jewels. He offered them to her and sang the songs of his desires. As she returned his gaze, he morphed into a serpent. His tail wrapped around her waist, dragging her to his side. He pulled her up to his hooded face, venom dripping from his golden fangs. She tried to scream as the serpent tightened his coils, crushing her within.
On the final night, the queen found it hard to sleep. She had the temple priestess make her a concoction that would put her into a deep, dreamless slumber. However, these weren’t just any nightmares she was experiencing. These were the work of a god.
A dream came to her that found her walking through a field of white flowers. The breeze was light, and the air was warm. In the distance, her husband stood on a cliff overlooking the ocean. He was dressed in the same robes he’d worn the day she became his wife. She felt the same love for him as she’d felt that day.
He had his back to her, but she could tell he had something in his hands. As she came upon him, she placed her hand on his shoulder. When he turned around, she found the face of a monster covered in blood. Her gaze ran down his front, taking note of the trails of blood that led to the ground. Horror filled her when she saw he held the remnants of a child’s shoe, her child’s shoe.
Queen Aloria awoke with a start. She jumped out of bed, sweat covering her face. The king rose and reached out to her, fearing for his wife. In doing so, her fears were heightened, and she grabbed his sword from the wall. He pleaded with her to put the weapon down, but Phobetor was still vivid in her mind, and she beheaded the king with a single blow.
As soon as the deed was done, Phobetor released his grip on the queen, and my father’s wishes were granted. He’d gotten his revenge on the king without spilling a single drop of blood himself. It didn’t matter to him that Queen Aloria was soon after executed. It only mattered that he’d won.
At the end of the story, the author penned one last piece. It read, As his part had been completed, Phobetor met with his cousin, Cronus. Phobetor reminded him of the pact they had made that brought death to the king. That there would come a day when he would take something of Cronus’s without the need to ask. It would be something personal and something he’d held close to his heart. But when that day would come, was known to Phobetor and Phobetor alone.
As I sat back from the manuscript, I caught movement out of the corner of my eye. Lana had come in with a tray of coffee and pastries. I looked to my left and found the sun had come up at some point, though I had no idea what time it was. Lana looked over at me sitting at one of the tables and simply waved and smiled.
“Lana,” I said with a tired voice, “could you send word to Thanatos that I need to speak with him? I just read something, and I think he might be the only person who can corroborate the text.”
Lana brought me a cup of coffee and a bagel before dashing out of my office to complete her task. Within moments, she came back with a strange look on his face.
“Miss Demeter,” she said with a quiver in her voice, “we seem to have a problem.”
“Of course we do,” I quipped as I rubbed my brow. “What is it now?”
“Um, well…” she sputtered.
I looked up at her and sighed heavily. “Spit it out, child.”
She took a deep breath before answering. “Miss Demeter, it seems Mr. Thanatos is, um well, missing.”
I squinted my eyes at her, wondering if she was up to something. “What do you mean, missing?”
“Well, ma’am. It seems he left some time ago to take care of some business, and no one has seen him since.”
I watched Lana’s body language and quickly realized that she wasn’t kidding. How could Thanatos be missing? But more than that, how is it that no one had mentioned it before now?
Lana gave me all the details she’d been given over the phone, most of which only made me more curious as to Thanatos’s whereabouts. As I listened, I got the feeling that I was about to head off on a journey that I might not return from.