Fortunately, the two natural paths that formed a cross in the forest were already pulling us, the energy palpable, pushing my heartbeat into my throat. I loved Earth, but there was something about the icy grip of the Underworld that called to me, serenading me with its cacophony of wailing souls and the promise of quiet corridors I could get lost in.
The goddess stood frozen at the kitchen window while watching the scene unfold in front of her. Standing almost sixteen feet tall, the cyclops stomped all over her garden whilst swinging his spiked club through the ground.
So here I am. I will do the rehab like I am supposed to. Shit, I will do anything just as long as they don’t send me back. The room flickers in the next second, her office changing in a blink to the darkened cell of Tartarus and then back.
I began to glow in sheer joy as my heaviness and exhaustion began to lift. I caught a glimpse of Persephone’s face out of the corner of my eye, her love and comprehension evident. “Maybe I don’t need to find my own place. Maybe I already have…”
“Selene! How are you?” She perked up as she caught sight of me. I hadn’t seen her since we returned from the quest, and I was relieved to see a friendly face, albeit it was not the complete quiet I was seeking.
Gods, give me strength. I looked down into her eyes and saw a fire there I hadn’t noticed before. A stray strand of hair had come loose and was hanging in her face. I reached up and tucked it behind her ear, letting my hand gently cup her face for a moment before pulling away. “I don’t want to see you get hurt,” I said quietly.
I tried to pull away from his touch, but not with much effort. I looked up to catch his eyes and showed him the battle. He pulled me into his warm embrace and held me for a while. I didn’t cry, but his warmth filled me, and I felt more whole than I had in centuries. When I pulled out of his arms, we were both glowing slightly.
Quietly, I walked through the graveyard and looked at the old and crumbling headstones. Leave it to the pirates to have the most interesting names. Honestly, I was surprised that there weren’t any Seymore-Butts…oh, wait, nevermind. There it is.
The things I did for my family. That made me remember the words burned on Tuttook’s hind leg. Words I’d seen before on an ancient scripture. A truth I’d come to learn since my return to the Pantheon. A truth we’d need to remember to finish our quest successfully.
They still saw the illusion, and I had a feeling no matter how many times they walked across the bridge, they’d end up at the beginning. “You have to trust me. I think this is part of a test. We have to trust each other and have enough faith to get through each challenge.”
I silently curse Eros because he knows what he is doing. He is playing with me, like a cat plays with a mouse. He says something to pull more information from another, and back and forth they go. Only I am not a house cat, much less a mouse.
Is Hera alive? Safe? Did my bargaining work? Did Zeus set me free? Am I imagining all of this? Another nightmare? Did I really escape or just trade one prison for another? I have so many questions and no answers.
I looked into the pool at the reflected moon and caught my face looking back at me. Darkened over and cold, I realized what must change…me. I closed my eyes and exhaled, a cold breath of air rushed out in a cloud. I have a home, a family. They are here with me.
“Oh, but I am. I am you. The real you. What would your precious family say if they saw the real you? Do you think they would still love you? Would they love the Athena we both know you really are? Take a good look! This is who you really are. Who WE are.”