What was once a majestic, grandiose, and all-too-real place, the palace of Mount Olympus now stood silent and empty. This was the home of the Olympus Administration in the days after the first Titanomachy. When the world was divided by the Three Kings, as they called themselves. The open corridors, the marble-lined walls, and columns upon columns; an ostentatious and pompous castle if ever there was one.
“Welcome home,” he whispered to himself. The wind blew through the expanse, as it was built to do, yet today it felt cold on Zeus’s skin. He felt a chill roll across his entire body and knew that the sensation was unique to the circumstances he found himself in, having nothing to do with the weather.
Today history will repeat itself, he thought.
Zeus would be the third king to fight his child for control. The difference between this fight and the previous battles was that Zeus wasn’t sure he would win.
He walked into the great hall. The fountain, in all its glory, was adorned with stone carvings of peacocks, of which his wife was inordinately fond. “I hate those birds,” he laughed to himself, lost in memories of events long faded. He saw the staircase that led up to the master bedchamber. The sanctum for Zeus and Hera. This was the room where he built the most important piece of the empire he would now battle over: family.
Aged paintings and tapestries of legends and victories still hung on the walls, the frames were caked with dust. Zeus had rarely stopped to just look at them. They were there, he knew they were, but their meaning was insignificant to the larger games he played. Power. Authority. Law. Those were the measures by which he ruled, or by which he thought he did.
“No, you were nothing but an arrogant child with a chip on your shoulder,” he said to the empty hall. “A runt, with an axe to grind and a point to prove.”
Zeus shook his head at himself. He knew what history said of him. Wild conquests, sexual escapades, and indiscretions. Some were true, but he hadn’t written them, the scribes had. Fanciful tales meant to entertain a sensationalist mob of people who couldn’t possibly know better. Zeus never argued, he never fought with the reputation. He had always told Moxie: Whatever they think, it doesn’t matter as long as it’s about you. This motto worked for a king, was fine for a monarch ruling his subjects, the mortals whose worship the Olympians relied on for their power. However, in private, it foiled any attempt at being a decent and loving parent. He knew who called him ‘home’, and he knew what she wanted him to pay for.
The King of Olympus bent down to regard the crack that split the room in half. He grabbed a piece of rubble, tossing it over in his fingers as he recalled the memory from the night he caused its breaking. He stood and let out a massive exhale, looking up at the ceiling, knowing he would be forced to cause another fracture.
“Hello, Daddy. Miss me?
She didn’t give him the chance to respond before a fist shot out for his face. All the rage and power inside her finally bubbled over and connected squarely with his jaw. She stood and watched as Zeus flew backward, smashing into a column. Another fracture. The room shook slightly before the residual release of energy dissipated. Zeus stood and rubbed his jaw for a moment, staring impassively at her.
“Atë,” he said, “I’ve been expecting this.”
She paced slowly back and forth, not breaking eye contact. “Oh, have you now?” she laughed, bitterness evident in her voice. “Of course, you have. Of course, you would remember. Unlike everyone else. Tell me again, why is that?” She placed a hand on her hip, a dismissive and defiant gesture. “You erased me.” She pointed at him with her free hand. “Don’t you remember what you said? Here, let me help refresh your memory.”
She cleared her throat, stood straight up, and mimicked the voice of Zeus, “You are done. No statues will be built in your honor. No mortals will recall your name, and soon no gods will either.”
Zeus grimaced and furrowed his brow, closing his eyes. “Daughter, please.”
“NO!” she snapped. “It is MY turn to speak.” Energy flashed like lightning in her eyes. “Isn’t that what you promised? I’ve played those words in my head for centuries to remind myself of the monster you are.”
Their gazes met, Zeus raised his hands to the side, “And to strike back at me, you release the Titans?” he asked.
Atë seemed caught off guard as she let loose a genuine fit of laughter. “The Titans? You idiot. Do you think that was my grand plan? Release them to what? Kill you?” She stalked back and forth, her gaze never breaking connection. “Oh, it’s much, much more than that.”
The rumbling sound of thunder echoed through the chamber. Atë smiled as she turned to the balcony to greet the oncoming storm.
“I want you to suffer,” she spoke aloud to the storm, “I want you to feel what I felt when you cast me out, when you threw me from my home.” She turned back to her father, steel and pain and power in her eyes. “I want you to know what it’s like to have everything you’ve ever loved ripped away from you.” She smiled a wicked smile. There was no fear in her. The Goddess of Ruin had come home.
She raised her hands high and the room trembled, an increase tenfold from before. Marble and stone collapsed around them as she darted forward to strike the man who had brought this calamity upon himself. She struck him hard in the chest, shock on his face as he tumbled into a wall. Quickly, she was upon him again, raining down blows with a ferocity that was thousands of years old. Each strike was clean and on target, and Zeus was feeble in his attempts to block the hits. One after another Atë smashed him in the nose, cheekbones; each punch drawing blood and making his face swell up. Finally, Zeus managed to grab her wrist and throw her face-first against the floor, gaining a small window of separation.
“I don’t want this,” he said, gaining his footing and charging a bolt in his right hand. “Don’t make me fight you.”
Atë rebounded with supernatural speed, she rose to her feet and faced Zeus down with pure primal energy seeping from her body. She was aglow with rage and fury. “All you ever do is fight. Showing off your power and your authority. Making everyone believe you are this fearsome Sovereign.” She spat on the ground at his feet.
“You’re a liar and a coward!” Atë yelled as she charged again. Zeus was caught off guard by her speed and threw the bolt too late. It whizzed past her, falling harmlessly beyond the open balcony. Just another bolt in the oncoming storm.
Atë connected directly with his stomach, forcing him to double over. An uppercut snapped his head back up, ichor pouring from his face. She nearly blurred as she moved behind him, grasping a handful of his long braided locks and pulling hard. Zeus was off of his feet and flying backward into another column. Stone and debris fell, littering the bedroom.
Zeus coughed up blood, the golden ichor staining the ground. He was on his hands and knees, totally vulnerable and exposed, using his forearm to wipe the liquid from his mouth. Atë ran with all her force and energy to unleash a powerful kick to his stomach, launching him back into the air. His body smashed against a wall where a beautiful tapestry hung, depicting Zeus and Hera on top of the mountain. The power couple. The King and Queen of Olympus. It fell to the ground without a sound, covering Zeus like a blanket as he lay lifeless on the floor.
“What’s wrong, Father? Were you expecting the same little, scared girl you threw away?” She stepped forward, towering over him. Revenge and justice at her fingertips, Atë stood with fists of radiating energy, ready to land the final blows that would end this for good. The room was shaking itself apart with the anger in her heart, literally bringing ruin to this once majestic palace.
Her heartbeat was audible to Zeus’ ears. Her breath was rapid, like that of an animal who had just chased down its prey, and was finally ready to rip it apart.
“You made me beg you not to throw me away. I pleaded for months after I fell for you to just come back. To take me home!” She threw down one solid right punch to the side of Zeus’ face. “What kind of man does that to his child?” She spat on him again.
Atë looked around the room, her gaze locking onto a column that looked to support the ceiling directly over Zeus. Her essence changed into the floating mist and she reformed next to the pillar. “You don’t care! You never cared! You left me to rot!” Her voice resonated like the thunder of the approaching storm, the rumble of it in sync with the shaking of the room, an earthquake localized to this bedroom. Atë raised her hands to shatter the pillar and hurl it towards her father. Her focus shattered when a full force lightning bolt crashed at her feet, the explosion of energy tossing Atë into the railing of the balcony.
“Is that all you’ve got? One bolt is all the King of Olympus can muster?” Atë stood up again, ready to launch another assault. “Your wife put up a better fight before I turned her over to your father.” She dissipated into mist again, forming right in front of Zeus she attempted to land a headbutt. Surprise crossed her face as a bright light encompassed the space she occupied. He knew I’d come forward, Atë had a split second thought, realizing her father had studied her patterns. Her body arched back into the air, the scene repeated from all those thousands of years ago. She would be cast off the mountain once again.
Time slowed, her mind filled with memories of the night when her torture had begun. The night she fell. This time, however, she didn’t reach for the rail like before, didn’t use her hands to grasp at the air like the helpless child she was back then. She closed her eyes and awaited the collision with the ground below. For her body to break again. For her to realize how utterly alone she still was. A fitting irony to end this all where it began; broken and alone.
She felt a hand catch her wrist and the fall stopped. Zeus hung over the rail, arm outstretched to hold Atë from the end she thought she would receive. He pulled her up, his strength and power apparent even after this incredible battle. The moment her feet touched the balcony, Atë shoved Zeus away, creating the space to stand on her own.
“You caught me?” she said, shaking her head, “ No. No, this is wrong. This isn’t how it happened. You pushed me. You let me fall,” she blurted out, panic and exasperation in her voice.
“I was wrong,” Zeus said, “A regret that haunts me every waking moment of my life.”
“I…don’t…I don’t understand. Why did you catch me?”
“I never should have let you fall in the first place,” Zeus said, his bloodied and bruised face weak and frail. Age appearing on his immortal form for the first time. “I failed you, Atë. I cast you out to cover for my vanity.”
Atë struggled to breathe, it came out ragged and rough, tears spilling down her cheeks. Emotion could no longer be held behind anger. She stumbled off balance and Zeus caught her, the raw dump of emotion making her lose control of her equilibrium. A flood of tears clouded her eyes and she pounded again on his chest, her fists useless and Zeus made no move to stop her.
“This isn’t right!” she sobbed, striking him weakly. “You’re supposed to hate me! You have to fight me! Why won’t you fight me?” Her body shook from the release and rapid exit of the hatred. She collapsed in his arms and sobbed.
“You have every right to want to hurt me, Atë. I am so very sorry it went this far.”
Atë stirred in his hold, a daughter cradled by her father in an embrace overdue by thousands of years. “You should never have suffered the sins of your father. I have done you wrong, and for that, you sought to repay a debt. I deserve your hatred, but I would beg you for your forgiveness.”
“Forgiveness? I tried to kill you.” Atë said through tear-stained eyes.
“I am willing to let you kill me, if that’s what it takes for you to forgive me.”
They sat there, on that balcony, rocking back and forth for an unknown amount of time. Atë cried out everything she had in her. Exhaustion took hold and she pulled back to look up at her father.
“What happens now?” she asked.
“The thing that neither of us wants,” Zeus replied.
“Tartarus,” Atë said, resignation in her expression.
Zeus cupped the underside of her chin, forcing her to meet his eyes. “This is what must be done,” he said, the words were almost a script as they hit the air. These were the words of the God of Justice, not of a father holding his daughter. “I am bound to seek justice. My duty demands it.”
“After everything I’ve done, I deserve it.”
Zeus shook his head, a pained expression crossing his face. “The actions of a child reflect those of their parents. No one is without blame.”
“It isn’t over,” Atë said, sniffling and wiping her nose. “What I started has only just begun. A catalyst causing a chain reaction. Kronos will come for you, all of you.”
Zeus stood and lifted his exhausted daughter in his powerful arms, safely carrying Atë as he walked down the mountain with her cradled next to his heart.
“Then our family will be together when he comes.”