I exited the elevator and approached Zeus’ receptionist. “Hello Hebe, is he in?” I asked, inclining my head towards his office.
“Ok, but he has been in a foul mood since he came back from taking Atё down.”
“I can imagine, but regardless, I need to see him.” Hebe called him on the intercom, and he permitted my audience. I strode across the reception area and through the office door. His chair was facing the bay window looking out on the GC grounds.
“What?” His question came from the other side of the chair.
Closing the door behind me, I approached the desk with purpose. “I have a question, a proposition if you will.” I sat on the edge of the seat across from his desk, back straight and attentive.
His chair remained unmoving. “You have chosen a poor time for a favor.”
“I am aware. But it is not for me alone. I have been talking with Persephone, discussing the rehab program and her plans for after, if it works. I have come to discuss the changes I have witnessed in Helios, things that only his sister would know.”
Zeus raised his right hand beyond the edge of the chair, indicating silence.
I rested my hands in my lap respectfully and awaited his reply.
“I will give you this…one…opportunity to sell me on this. One. If any portion of this discussion is not met with honesty, reason, or logic, the answer will be no. Am I clear?”
I remained calm and steady. I was braced for his onslaught of my intent. “That is how I approach you. You know me, Zeus. I do not flit about, nor do I lie.”
Slowly, the chair turned towards me. Zeus appeared tired, worn, and drained. Not something you often see on a king. Considering he just came back from the brink of death and everything that has happened since I am not surprised. I sat quietly, listening as he spoke.
“What do you want from me? What favor?”
I shook my head in disagreement. “No, I wouldn’t call it a favor, more of a compromise. It is merely a word choice, but words have value. Persephone has been working with Helios since he willingly returned to Tartarus. But let’s discuss what I know. Facts.” I paused, drawing in a breath before continuing, “When we were fighting Atlas, I was one with him. You understand that there were no secrets between us? I felt the heaviness and the weight of his guilt, everything. When we returned to Tartarus with Atlas, I knew what he was going to do. He just stood there. He didn’t fight, run, nor resist.”
‘What is he guilty of? What actions is he sorry for?”
“Choosing to side with your father, with Kronos, in the original Titanomachy. For betraying you and me.” I replied with a steady crispness in my voice, obtained over many years of practice.
“Betrayal. A weighted word.”
“Indeed.” I dropped my head as my face twisted with the memory we shared that day.
“You, of all people, should know how much the Titanomachy is…a stain on our history.”
“I do. Do you think it easy to be under your roof, Zeus? One of the few Titans here? Especially with all the doubt during the second rising? But I am here, and I am acknowledging you as the King. As I did the first time.”
“Because that is just something you say to the man with the crown? Or, because it’s me who bears its burden? Swearing allegiance to the victor is not the same as respect.”
I shook my head and took a breath before replying, “Have I not made it clear? I am here, a Titan, under your direction and call. I choose to be here, Zeus. You have the utmost weight on your shoulders. I can only begin to imagine what it is to bear it. I am here because you are a good and just ruler. If that isn’t respect…” I paused for a moment. “I chose you.”
Accepting my answer, he continued, “What evidence do I have that Helios, or any Titan who seeks release, will choose me?”
“I can only speak for Helios. He is the one I know.”
Zeus raised his palms out to disarm me. “A fair statement.”
“As for Helios, he sees the error of his previous choices. He had millennia to run the war through his head and the events that lead up to it. He has discussed the new world, and the choices I have made with Persephone, and desires a chance to prove to you that he can make the same choices. He simply asks for an opportunity, a probationary period, perhaps, like the mortals have.
“He asks? Or you?”
I closed my eyes for a brief second before looking at Zeus square in the face. “I do, Zeus. But it is also his desire to have a chance to prove himself to you.”
Zeus folded his fingers into a peak at his lips in thought. “We have never been in the habit of releasing those who betrayed this family. We have never been in the habit of giving away chances without…collateral.” He paused a moment. “You say Helios has changed. Willing. Fine.” He leaned forward to the edge of his desk as I sat there in silent respect. “Give me something in return.”
I raised my eyebrows in shock. “Like what? I have given you my fealty, loyalty, tithes. What do I have left to offer?”
“Helios has changed, yes? He wishes to prove himself worthy?” I nodded in response as he continued, “In exchange for what? For whom?”
“Whom?” I asked, confused for a moment at his question.
“We can’t let all of the Titans think they can just….ask for leniency and expect no exchange.”
“I agree with that.”
“You and I both know we didn’t catch…everyone.” He raised an eyebrow ever so slightly as he read my face, waiting for me to catch up.
I shook my head as my thoughts raced, trying to figure out what he was asking of me. Zeus leaned back in his chair, waiting for me to put the piece together on my own. “Eos?” Surprise crossed my face as it hit me.
Zeus arched an eyebrow. “Tell me why.”
“Eos, oh, Gods. Eos despises you. It drops from her like acid.” I shuddered at the memory of my last encounter with Eos and Atë. “I never got along with her, but Zeus, that would be the betrayal of a lifetime. You talk of betrayal…” I shook my head again, words trailing off as I wrapped my head around what he was asking of me.
“What am I?” he asked plainly. “Tell me, honestly, what am I to you? To this family? To the mortals?”
Pulling my thoughts together, I replied, “To me? The father of two of my daughters and my King. A fair and just ruler who bears the weight of this kingdom and the mortals on your shoulders. To this family? The head. The mortals, I am not so sure anymore. But what does this have to do with Eos?”
I ran my own words through my head, “just ruler…” Zeus wouldn’t ask anything of me that was unjust.
“What is the difference between Helios and Eos? If one is a betrayal and the other is a favor….are they both not borne from the same catalyst? We won the war. But, to us, we are the just and righteous. To them,” Zeus looked me in the eye, “I am the betrayer.”
I returned his gaze, sighed, and tucked a stray hair behind my ear.
“I have to uphold justice. But, it’s only just, to the victors.”
“I know. I see your point. Eos never paid for her crimes against you and your family.”
“Our family. It’s all the same. That’s the problem.”
I closed my eyes, letting the words Zeus just said sink in. “Family, he said, our family. First home, now family…”
Zeus continued, “We chose sides.”
I reopened my eyes and returned his gaze, nodding in understanding and acceptance. “So if I bring you Eos, you will,” I gulped, “trade her for Helios?”
“If Helios wants to be a part of the family, and that is what you’re asking for, then you need to be willing to tell Eos, who does not want to be part of this family, that she must pay the penalty for the pain to all of us. We are going to lose either way. The choice, my dear, is that we must choose who makes the family stronger, not who sows discord.”
I nodded. “Eos would definitely sow discord. Her presence is almost toxic to me, nevermind a more susceptible one.”
“We have to make choices. We have to live with them. Own them.” He took a deep breath before continuing, “Pay…for them. This is not about me or what I want. It has to be about what the family needs.”
I nodded in contemplation, listening.
“You want Helios free. You have to put Eos in the cage.”
I closed my eyes again and took a deep breath, slowly exhaling before I opened them. I stood before my King and stretched out my hand.
Without moving to meet me, Zeus continued, ”Upon release, Helios will swear an oath, here, in this building, to the Three Kings, witnessed by Styx. He will need to provide just as we all do.”
I offered a solid nod of agreement.
“None of this is done until the cage is locked on Eos, and Helios bends his knee. Understood?”
“Yes, your majesty.”
Zeus stood and grasped my outstretched hand.
With stoic resignation, I stated, “A Titan for a Titan.”
“A Titan for the Family,” he replied.
We shook hands in one rhythmic motion, sealing the deal, then Zeus sat and turned the chair back to the window. I retreated towards the door, let myself out, and closed the door behind me.