"Do you think I like punishing my children?"
A few snickers circled around the marbled chamber, snickers that quickly turned to low coughs when the piercing blue eyes of Zeus, King of the Olympian Gods swung around the room to meet those of each member assembled.
"Children or pets, Father?" Ares, the God of War, was bold enough to throw the question out, earning him a shoulder shove from his mate, Eris. She was the Goddess of Discord and Chaos and normally the tension in the room would fill her with glee, she thrived on such but right now, she was more concerned and focused on the three tiny females standing before Zeus's grand, ivory and gold carved throne. Small, hardly bigger than children, each Goddess's head was bent, a symphony of sharp contrasting colors; ebony, flame and snow.
"Don't push me right now, Ares." Zeus rose, shaking off the soft hand of Hera, his wife and Queen and descended the dais, hands clenching in both fury and frustration. Fury because his direct command had been defied and frustration because there was only so far he could go with the sisters.
If the three before him knew the exponential power they carried, Olympus would fall and he would suffer for it. The Greek pantheon was one of the last surviving ones, followed by the Norse and Egyptian. He, powerful Zeus, God of Thunder and Sky, had taken down his enemies and laid waste to their Gods and Goddesses. He'd allowed some to assimilate within his own domain, Gods and Goddesses whose powers in no way challenged his own authority. The rest, he'd killed and absorbed their primal energy as his own.
But he couldn't kill the three before him. Ever. What they were was far too critical to helping him maintain his own hold over not just the Gods, but man as well. Through them, he ruled supreme.
Something he planned on doing for countless more millennia.
Staring down at their bent heads, his regal voice boomed through the Council Hall. "Answer me, do you three think I like punishing my children? For all intents and purposes, I gave you a home when I could have easily turned you away."
"We were babies. You took us. We didn't ask for your charity."
Thus spoke the dark haired one, raising up her piquant face, eyes glistening like polished peridot, a curious, swirling mixture of green and yellow, shot through with the barest streaks of gold. Her voice was husky, laced with defiance and more than a little boredom. The sheer fabric of her black gown clung to her curves with maddening seduction, setting off the pale perfection of her flesh. Unlike the other Olympians, she, along with her two sisters, held a mysterious, mixtured skin tone of a milky, light pink iridescence. Vital and thriving, every line of her body bled with radiance and power. He found himself staring down the scooped neckline of her dress, creamy full breasts pushing the material slightly and causing him to growl again. When had they grown? Changed from weakened infants to curious toddlers and onward towards adulthood, now they were full grown women and he was losing control.
It was imperative he keep them under his thumb by any means necessary.
Atropos, Lachesis and Clotho.
The Moirae. The Fates.
They and they alone controlled the will and destiny of mankind. And the Gods. Although the Gods knew it not. Far as anyone was concerned, he, Zeus, was the strongest, most powerful deity.
And that's how it needed to stay.
Forcing his thoughts to the matter at hand, he glared at Atropos, or Atty, as she was affectionately called by her sisters. "You dare defy me?"
"I dare to call your rhetorical into question, Father. You ask the question we all know the answer to and simply look for us to admit guilt so that we may be shamed and your chest may puff with pride. So, let’s just get on with the punishing so you may feel vindicated, we may look defeated and all will be well."
Her sharp tongue always had rubbed him the wrong way. She was the outspoken Fate, her charge was Death and she reveled in it. While her sister, Clotho, spun and wove all destinies and Lachesis determined their life span, Atropos bore the burden of cutting the threads of life when that life was over. She'd been born seemingly without excess of emotion, something that enabled her to feel no guilt, no shame, and no remorse. She tolerated very few people and was eerily indifferent to all things. Unlike calm and evenly tempered Lachesis, she of the fiery hair and chocolate colored eyes. She was in constant pursuit of knowledge, often seen in the company of his own daughter, Athena, herself the Goddess of Wisdom. Temperate and sage, not much fazed her.
Then there was Clotho. She was the merriest, sweetest creature, childlike and fey. She was Hope and Light. Flexible, biddable and eager to please, she was his avowed favorite and the one he took most pride and pleasure in. The spitting image of both her sisters, they were identical triplets but for hair and eyes. And hers shone with purple vibrancy, the jeweled tone mesmerizing. Whereas Atropos and Lachesis had gilt streaking through, the youngest Fate had shards of the most sparkling rose, pink and haunting. Watching her fidget restlessly, he narrowed his gaze and looked once more to the other Olympians, seated in smaller thrones of ivory and bone. Not a single soul there, except perhaps Hera, Hephaestus and Demeter cared for these creatures. Most saw them as mongrels, leftovers of a dead pantheon who only called Olympus home by his grace.
The truth was a complicated thing. And a secret he was the bearer of.
“It’s my fault, Papa. Don’t be upset with Atty or Lacy. If you punish anyone, let it be me.”
Her voice was the lightest of music, the pealing of bells. Its childlike resonance was soothing and soft. Clotho finally raised her platinum head, nothing but sincere earnestness in her face. She moved to approach him but was stopped by both sisters, each laying hands along her arms.
“Damn it, Cloie!”
“Bit. No! Together. Always. Or not at all. Remember?”
Atty’s low snarl mingled with Lacy’s murmur, each sister moving in closer, as though to guard her from any more of Zeus’s wrath but she gave them both that sweet smile and shook off their hold, facing her adopted father once more.
“Papa, I understand how much you favor Castor but I cannot alter or tamper with the Princess Kybele’s fate simply to bestow her heart to him. He is meant for another. As is she. I’ve seen it.”
“Cannot or will not, Clotho? Castor has done well, I wish to reward him. His union with Kybele will enlarge his holdings and bring him untold wealth. You will do as I say and you will do it now.” Zeus was fast losing patience, his face thunderous and savage. Hera made a small sound of anger at the mention of Castor, one of her husband’s half mortal sons with a human woman. It was well known, far and wide, that Zeus couldn’t keep it in his robes. Well and good, as she had lovers, too.
“No. No I will not.” The baby Fate squared her shoulders and gazed up into Zeus’s translucent blue eyes stubbornly.
He shot up from his throne once more and came down to tower above her slight form, grasping her wrist and squeezing. Where his fingers pressed into her skin, the flesh sizzled and burned but she didn’t cry out even as her liquid eyes filled with tears.
Both Atty and Lacy tensed as a fierce wind swept through the room, their powers rising up in defense of their sister. Apollo, God of the Sun, along with his twin, Artemis, Goddess of the Hunt and Moon exchanged a side long glance, communicating silently. Apollo nodded his golden blonde head at his sister who smiled wickedly back.
“Father. I have a solution for such obvious disrespect. May I speak?”
Zeus snapped his gaze onto his other daughter’s beautiful, patrician face, seeing how her emerald eyes glowed with malice and no small amount of glee mixed in. Releasing his hold on Clotho, he stepped back and beckoned Artemis closer.
Everyone watched as she approached him, the airy fabric of her own cream colored gown hugging every curve she possessed. Whispering low in his ear for a few seconds, she threw a smug grin at the Fates when he dismissed her and sauntered back to her place at Apollo’s side.
Regarding the other Olympians thoughtfully for a full moment, he looked back to see Hera watching him, concern etched on her face. Ironic that she felt for these children, these things, that weren’t even hers. She had much patience for them, Atropos especially. Finally he spoke, locking eyes with each Goddess in turn.
“I’d intended to send Apollo and Artemis as my representatives to the summit on Naxos tomorrow. But I’ve changed my mind. You three will go instead. However, I’ll have Hephaestus fashion containment bracelets so your powers are locked down. Kybele and Castor are attending as well. You will do as I asked, Clotho. You have one week. You will do as I asked, in person. You will bind Castor and Kybele together. Or I’ll kill your sisters.”
The entire chamber erupted in gasps but for the twins who merely sat back grinning. It was no secret they abhorred the Fates. Most did. They feared them as well but hate was so much easier to admit to.
Atty rolled her eyes, completely unmoved by the theatrics of her father while Lacy merely looked to Cloie, shaking her head. No one was surprised when the white haired pixie finally nodded slowly.
“Say it Clotho. Say the words. I mean to hear them. I mean to have your promise.”
A visible tremor ran through the Goddess, her tone full of aching sadness even as Atty and Lacy started to object.
“I will bind Kybele and Castor. They will marry.”
“Swear it by the River Styx.”
“I don’t need to, Papa. Remember? I do...or I die.”
Flicking a hand out to dismiss them, the Greek God sat back on his throne. “The next time I see you will be after the summit. Hephaestus will bring you your bracelets tonight. Don’t let me down. Now get you all from my sight. You sicken me.”
“I just want to go on record as saying I think I’m looking forward to this vacation.”
Atty threw herself down on the padded chaise lounge she called her own the moment they made it back to their own temple, aptly named Pepremeno…House of Destiny. It was only steps from Zeus’s own, but it belonged to them entirely. And whereas every other temple employed countless handmaidens or servitors, theirs did not. It was small and simple, housing only six separate rooms, the most important being the Thread Room where they resided over the duty of keeping the Great Balance for both God and mankind. And all species in-between.
“Vacation? Hardly. Although, it’ll be nice to meet new people. When was the last time we visited the mortal realm anyway?” Lachesis sank gracefully onto her own chair, drawing her legs under her gown and leaning back. A moment later a goblet of nectar appeared in her hand. She took a few sips, then handed it to Atty then Cloie who was busy pacing and chewing on her lower lip agitatedly. She waved off the cup.
“The last time we went down was Kybele’s birthday celebration. Years ago. We snuck down and got caught coming back by Hera, remember?”
“That’s right. And by the way, your soft heart and fondness for that human is going to come back and bite us in the ass, Bit.” Atty glared at Cloie.
“She’s your friend, too.”
“I don’t have friends. Not my job. I care about you and Lace. Sometimes. Everyone else can kiss my divine rosy butt.”
“Even Ares?” Teased Lacy.
“Seriously? That fascination came and went. No desire to go down that road. Sex looks and sounds gross. No thank you.”
The middle Fate chuckled then they both looked to their younger (by 9 minutes!) sibling who was clearly distraught.
“Bit, you need to calm down. We have to choose our battles with Papa. As much as I adore Kybele, I’m not sure it’s worth the punishment being given.”
Atty shook her head. “See now, Lacy, I thought you’d love to have some time below. Think of all the people you can meet. And you know, since the Norse and Egyptians are going, well, just think of how many brains you could pick. Figuratively speaking of course.”
Lacy’s sable eyes grew thoughtful. “I didn’t even consider that.”
“And Bit. This whole summit thing was your fault anyway.”
Cloie shrugged. “Athena helped.”
Five years ago, during an idle conversation, she and Athena had discussed how interesting it would be if the remaining pantheons gathered somewhere and united. A meeting of the ideals, politics and entertainment. An opportunity to call truce for an extended period of time. Each pantheon could send their own representatives and some selected mortals as well. It would be one time human and deity came together to learn, to explore all cultures. Perhaps this tenuous peace could hold indefinitely.
Zeus loved the idea.
And soon after, each King God from the pantheons met. Odin, Ra and Zeus. They all mapped it out, all chose their favorites to attend. Plans were made and construction began.
Five years later, on the isle of Naxos, a grand edifice now stood. A temple of mass proportions built to hold over 100 beings for one week. It was jokingly referred to as “God Camp” by many.
And now they were being forced to attend.
“Are you really going to bind Castor to Kybele? I know how much you adore her.” Lacy gave Cloie a resigned smile.
“I said I’d bind them. I never said to each other. I said they’d marry. Doesn’t mean one to the other.” A cheeky, mischievous grin filled the baby Fate’s face.
Atty crowed while Lacy snorted. “You’d think after all this time, they’d know it’s not the words, as much as the wording.”
The two men stood side by side, at the prow of the Viking long ship as it pulled slowly into the port of the isle of Naxos. Of equal height, both were possessed of more than their fair share of seduction, it wafted off them, called to all women, many of whom would prostrate themselves before each for just one night in their company. Sleek bodies honed with lean muscles born of years in training, in battle. One was fair haired, the longish strands brushed back and hanging past his shoulders as his keen, alert cocoa colored eyes swept over the other ships gathered already then danced up across the rocky terrain that boasted no color whatsoever except for a splash of faded green dotting the land.
The temple they were headed for was barely visible over the crest of one rocky hillock and shone bright white under the noonday sun. “Remind me again, why we are here? Granted, Oslo is cold and desolate this time of year, but I'd rather be home topping the wenches in your father's hall, Soren.”
“Is there one you haven't had yet, my lord?”
A bark of husky laughter echoed as the man shrugged casually, flashing a smile full of gleaming white teeth. "I doubt it. We've both covered a lot of ground. Not sure there are any women left there to be had which is one of the reasons Odin commanded me to attend this meeting.”
“Tyr would have a fit if you married any but one of our kind."
"He might be my father, but even Tyr says "how high" when Odin commands him to jump."
"Do you think you're ready to take a bride, my Prince?"
"Why tie myself down to one when there are so many to sample?"
"So you plan on sampling the Greek fare, then?"
A slight cough interrupted them as another Viking approached, head bent low in respect as he murmured, "Sire, we're ready to disembark. There is a servitor from the Greeks here to assist and escort us."
"Soren and I will go ahead. Follow with our belongings, Rurik and make sure the ship is secured. Keep two sentries behind to stay and guard. We'll make sure ample food and drink is provided."
Nodding, Rurik excused himself, leaving Soren and the Prince, Dagr, to mull over this forced attendance once more. Dagr was the son of Tyr, the Norse God of War and favored son of Odin. His mother had been the human daughter of Jarl Rigr, a powerful lord known for his ruthless strength among the subjects of Icelandia. Discovering his daughter was pregnant by a God hadn't softened his anger at all. Tyr, while revered, wasn't known to put down roots or show favor. He had countless children scattered far and wide, and none he actually claimed formally. What honor in that? Dagr's mother, Frieja, died giving birth to her son, a weakly sick infant. Rigr had been appalled and ordered the boy left out in the freezing elements, surely Hel would claim him. It wasn't his concern. And by that overt act, the Jarl damned himself for Tyr had had a strong affection for Frieja, far stronger than any other woman he'd bedded and was beholden to her memory to at least provide for their son. He rescued Dagr, naming him and then fostering him out to a loyal half godling chieftain who owed him service. This chieftain had a son named Soren, only a month older than Dagr. They were raised together, brothers under the skin, their loyalty to each other was unquestionable.
Soren ran a hand through his own dark hair, shorter than Tyr's and adjusted his furs elegantly before nodding towards a solitary figure waiting at the edge of the plank that was lowered as they watched. "Must be the Greek dignitary."
Dagr nodded, already bored with Greece. He much preferred his homeland to this bleak place. "Lead the way, Soren. Odin surely owes us for doing this."