relished the hot water around me as I leaned my head back in the deep tub. I had spent much of the day down by Tartarus, working on the grounds and surveying what could be done to reinforce the prison. I wasn’t an architect or an engineer; perhaps Hephaestus would have been a better choice, but this was what I had.
Closing my eyes, I could feel the breaths flowing in and out, the rise and fall of my chest as I felt my heart slow, the beats pacing themselves to a relaxed state. The exhaustion of the day seeped out of my bones as if the water pulled it from my soul. The same as it scrubbed the dirt from my skin.
Everyone had been deeply busy since the escape of the Titans, focused on their individual passions, or personal quarry. The secrets of the world were blasted open when the prison had blown apart.
The water sloshed as I shifted lower, shoulders beneath the crest of water, as my knees bent to accommodate my shape. I could hear small ripples casting out from the slow breaths coming from my nose.
These days, my thoughts tended to wander. I had been so driven by keeping things the same, and performing my duties as Queen and Spring Goddess, that I had lost time for my own inner reflection. Now with all that was going on, with Transitonem opened and ready for those searching to become better, or different, my mind shifted to what I could accomplish in my own growth. How I could help others instead of hinder.
The silver light cascading through the window of my apartments brought the conversation with Selene to mind. How small she had seemed, how lost, and grasping at straws. How she clung to a single solitary hope.
“He could have run, you know: just popped back out of the welcome center. Instead, he stood up and just LET THEM rechain him.”
Her words rang through my mind as we had walked through the gardens during her last visit. She spoke of her brother, of Helios, the Titan of the Sun: radiant and gold as she was cool and silver. Two sides of a coin that radiated down on the mortal world.
“He also COULD have tried to persuade me to join Atlas, but he didn’t. He helped me!”
Selene had been through so much. Who was I to turn down a friend? And Helios? He and I had our own past. When Mother searched the world for me, Helios is the one who had pointed her to Hades. He had seen it, as was his sight that scanned far and wide. He had seen me carried away and told her where to find me.
In a way, Helios helped create the arrangement that had been my life. I had him to thank for that, for giving me the vehicle to be with my mother and my then-husband. So, in a way, I owed him a debt as well.
“I think it can be done with those who are willing. Do you think he would be willing to swear fealty to Zeus and Olympus?”
I had held her hands as we spoke, sitting in the groomed gardens Hades cared for so well.
“I hope so. I have to have hope. I can’t answer for him, of course, but the mortals have a saying that actions speak louder than words. I think he proved that to me this week.” I saw the tears form in her eyes as she replied; the pain in her words called to my heart. They called me the Iron Queen, but I also knew when it was time for mercy.
“Selene. Keep hope. Don’t let it die. I can only talk with him and see what he thinks. What he says. I cannot promise anything, but I will try.”
Those words echoed in my head. I said I would try. That I would speak with Helios to see what he thought. That I would speak to Zeus about the possibility of parole for those who showed redemption. That I would offer therapy and counseling to those who showed a want to return.
I felt a smile cross my lips, and I jumped up from the tub with new energy. “Whoops!” I stared as the water sloshed over the edge, pooling on the floor. Cleaning it would have to wait. At that moment, I had a purpose, and it was all that I had a focus on.
Every time I saw the Prison of Tartarus, the size and sheer presence of it amazed me. The massive dark shadow it cast could make almost anyone feel small. I took a breath and pushed the door open, the sound of my shoes on the stone echoing into the oppressive silence as I wound my way through the halls. I felt the weight of my crown more so on my brow than any other day. The smell of deep earth hit my nose, filling it with a rich scent of damp decay. In the distance, the golden light shimmered against the stone walls, a light easily discounted if it wasn’t for the sheer blackness of the jail.
The iron bars were cold against my hand; I was unsure what had inspired me to wrap my fingers around the bar as I stood before the cell that held Helios chained.
He looked up at me, his eyes as I remembered, full of the light of the sun he had cared for before the war. Before the Titans had turned on the Olympians and the war had crashed around us all.
Even here and chained to the walls, I could see that though he was downtrodden, his spirit was not broken.
“Helios,” I greeted him, the sound of my voice lost in the cavernous void. “Selene asked if I would come. If I would visit. She is worried about you. Is it true, that you helped her when she needed it? Helped to bring down Atlas?”
His nod was slight. If I had not been watching for it, it would have easily been missed.
“I can’t promise anything. You know how Zeus is, and how King Hades is, but I can offer you someone to visit. Someone to talk to.” I felt nervous for a moment, I wasn’t sure if this was the best idea. “If you wish.”