I watched, pleased, as Connor and a few of his cousins heaved crates and packages of food and gifts onto the boat we chartered to get to the Isle of Skye for Nyx’s hearthwarming. I had been told more than once the modern term was “housewarming”, but as that was silly, I ignored it.
Connor barked at his minions, and four satyrs picked up the spears that formed the rack for the magnificent boar we’d hunted for this most special of feasts. Nearly a ton on the hoof, he had led us a merry chase across the taiga of western Russia before we brought him down. Watching the massive beast loaded onto the boat made my leg twinge in remembered pain.
I led the hunt, much to the dismay of our Russian guides, and had eschewed a gun for my traditional spear – although they had refused to let me out of their vehicle without some ridiculously overpowered pistol, which I had had no idea how to use. I strapped it to my hip, intending to completely forget about it and try to drop it somewhere.
The hunt had gone well, and we had reached the final standoff in a grove of trees just as the sun hit the horizon. I had stepped in to strike the killing blow, when the big bastard flung his head around at the last second, his tusk ripping deep into the muscle of my thigh. If I had been human, I would have bled out in seconds.
Connor yanked the gun from my hip and delivered a shot right between the boar’s eyes, but not before the guides had heard me scream. Now, for those of you just joining us, gods don’t bleed. We don’t really have blood, we have ichor, which looks nothing like blood. In my case, it’s a dark gold, which is rather pretty in evening sunlight, but not something we can let mortals see.
I swore, and the other satyrs circled in. I was already tying my scarf around my leg, and they all could see the welling of ichor slowing as the flesh knit itself back together.
“What do you want us to do, lady?” one of the hunters asked, and I shrugged. I wasn’t one of the gods gifted with the ability to mess with people’s minds, so I tended to take more traditional ways of dealing with problems.
“Put them to sleep,” I said, and the boys grinned. The guides recoiled in horror at the grunting and bone snapping crunches as the satyrs assumed their natural forms, huge horned beasts with horns gilded in the dying rays of the sun. The braver one of the three tried to get a shot off at Connor, and nearly succeeded before one of the others took the high-powered rifle out of his hands and bent it in half backwards.
The other two took off running, and the satyrs chased after them while I began the ritual of cleaning the boar. By the time they came back with unconcious hunters over their shoulders, there was a massive heap of viscera left for the scavengers. I had retained the heart and the liver, wrapped in a cloth and stuffed back in the cavity. This boar was black as pitch and had beautiful curved tusks – he would be magnificent for Nyx.
We left the guides in their truck, pockets stuffed with extra cash and their clothes soaked with vodka, the truck carefully rolled into the trunk of a tree – still driveable – and them with massive headaches and an incredible story that precisely no one would believe.
“Hes, we’re ready,” Connor said, smiling up at me and slinging his hair out of his eyes where it had flopped loose. “Your conveyance awaits. And don’t forget the dress Nyx sent you!”
I muttered something unkind, but picked up my knife case and a bag made of heavy well-oiled brown leather, just the same shade as my hair, and made my way down the rest of the way to the boat. Connor reached up and gallantly handed me down into the boat as the sailors cast off for Eventide.
“Don’t forget, as soon as you get the meat started, you’re to go change and make yourself gorgeous. You promised me, satyr’s girl, no cook’s drab tonight. I want my lady of the hearth to dance by the fire with me.” He nuzzled into my neck, and I sighed, half in pleasure and half in frustration.
“Yes, yes, I know,” I said, leaning back into his embrace as we pulled away from the dock and into the deep, deep blue of the North Sea.
Eventide was buzzing when we arrived, but Nyx had plenty of staff on hand to help us unload, and soon enough, I had touched my fire to the pits for the beasts, and the cooking didn’t need me anymore. We had more than enough hands to turn the spits, and everything else was either ready to go or wouldn’t need to be ready until nightfall. The seafood from the Mediterreanean and the Highlands were nestled down in their beds of glittering ice draped in North Sea seaweed, hidden gems among the dark green leaves. The boar and the steer began to waft their scents over the island, and the resident nymphs had garnered the attention of all the of the satyrs not currently employed in prep work. More than a few of the elders had brought their instruments as well, and I could see where Golly had set up a space for them to play.
Not much else to do then, save getting ready.
I grumbled, but in secret, I was looking forward to it. All the other goddesses were in black or white, as befit our hostess, except Nike, who invariably wore gold, but I was doing something a bit different. Rather than my usual greens or browns, I had worked with Nyx to find a deep, rich blue, shot through with gold threads, and it draped over my form like a dream, clinging softly to the swell of hips and breasts but pouring like water down to my ankles. I hung it in the private room I had been given to change, and thanks to no small magic, the wrinkles just fell away.
Doeskin boots, worked soft, gleaming with oil, came out of the bag next, and a veil that was made of something like spiderwebs, but gilded. I swept my hair back and laid on the diadem that I had bought off of a website – wrought bronze, delicate but sturdy enough to keep my hair out of my face during the dancing, and worked in the shape of delicate antlers.
I heard the sounds of the satyrs beginning to play, and specifically the deep bass drone of Golly’s bagpipes. I couldn’t delay it any longer.
I left the safety of the private cottage near the cooking area and made my way down the path.
The first satyr to catch sight of me was Golly, and he nearly choked on his bagpipe chanter when he saw me.
“That bad?” I said, with a rueful smile.
“No bad at all, lassie,” he said, and his eyes were practically bulging out of his head. “You look verra nice.”
“Nice, he says,” I heard Connor from behind him. “Let’s see how you-”
I stopped, and tried to smile. I never knew what to do with my hands in situations like this, so I just held them out as I turned slowly in a circle.
Connor had apparently lost the ability to speak, because Golly clouted him over the head.
“Go say something, ye wee idiot,” he grumbled, and went back to working on his pipes.
“You look…stunning…” Connor managed. He didn’t look half bad himself, tricked out in a brand new black kilt, white swordsman’s shirt, and a green plaid slung over his shoulder. I could see a dirk at his waist and a sgian dhu tucked into his high socks. His hair was back in a ponytail and laced tight against the evening breeze.
“Well, you clean up nicely yourself. Let’s go say the blessings and get to the fun part.”
I walked between the fires, inhaling the rich smoke, and smiling at the satyrs and nymphs tending the spits. In the old days, the smoke of burning fat and roasting meat carried the prayers of the faithful to Olympus.
Not all of us had been prayed to – Nyx, for one, had never had a cult of her own, nor had Thanatos, or Nike, or Urania, or even Chloris – but we had all benefited from those prayers carried on the smoke, and tonight, it was fit that we consumed that which had been offered to us in the past.
It was a solemn moment, but joyful at the same time. Ever since we had started coming back together, we had all had our little fits and starts and growing pains. We had lived too long apart from each other, done whatever we needed to do to survive, but today we were back as a family again.
Zeus, Hades, Poseidon – my brothers. Hera, Demeter – my sisters. Dearest Nyx, who had been as close as a sister, if not closer. Artemis, and even Apollo. Thanatos, with his shy smile, and Eros, ever the mischievous one, as bad as his mother for starting trouble. Aphrodite, bane of several people’s existences, had not yet made an appearance, and that was fine by me. Dionysus was missing, but I had no doubt he would show up in time. Athena and Ares, and clever Hephaestus, who would no doubt be giving me a hard time for using satyr power to turn my spits when there were machines to do it for us.
I recited their names, looked for them in the crowd. A flash of movement caught my eye, a shape among the smoke, half-seen on the edge of the forest.
A swish of a long white tail, a hand raised with a blown kiss. Chiron. I smiled, and a tear ran down my face, falling unnoticed into the dark fabric of my dress. I knew he would be here, when the veil was thin, and song and dance and merry feasting brought us all together on the cusp between dusk and darkness.
He nodded to me once, and I saw his smile, even as I felt Connor come up behind me to lead me down to the beach to watch the races. He nodded once, and swished his tail again, disappearing into the inky shadows under the trees.
“Are you ready, love?” Connor asked, his voice rich and warm, and I could smell the spiced wine he carried for me. “I brought you a wee nip, the wind is coming up.”
“Yes, I think I am.” I turned once more to the fires, and raised my hands, making the flames jump up to lick at the succulent beasts before once more settling into their crackling beds of coals.
“May all who drink and dine tonight carry the warmth and joy of this time and place within them for the rest of their lives,” I whispered, and let the smoke carry my prayers to the heavens.
“I’ll drink to that,” Connor said, handing me the cup of wine and clinking his own against it. “Now come on, satyr’s girl, Lady Nyx is waiting for us.”
“Let’s go, then. I didn’t get all dressed up just to bestow blessings, you know. You promised me a dance.”
“And a dance you shall have, my lady, until you can’t dance anymore. Then we’ll see how that beautiful dress of yours looks heaped on a floor somewhere,” he said with a grin.
We entered the party just as the satyrs struck their drums for the first time, and the ground itself shook with the power and intensity of their playing. It was going to be a good, good night.