I could have teleported to the firehouse, but I wanted to enjoy the crisp air, so I walked the twelve blocks. I snuggled into my bright blue cardigan and set a lazy pace so that I could think back on one particular fall festival I planned for the children. I think it was when they were what you mortals call ‘teenagers.’
I had sent for Moxie one afternoon to join me for a stroll in the gardens. However, when she got to my chambers, she wasn’t prepared for what she saw. Pillows from the lounges were shredded, the downy filling still floating lazily through the air. The center table was upended, the food on it smeared and squished all over the floor, one of the table legs was torn off and laying across the room. The drapes that used to frame the windows so elegantly were torn and barely hanging on.
Moxie looked around in shock. “Mamá? Mamá, where are you?” She walked delicately into the room, her eyes wide with disbelief. She gently pushed a torn pillow out of the way with a nudge from one of her feet as she walked further into the room. Her breathing got faster and she started to bite her lip.
“Mamá! Mamá! I need you, Mamá! Please stop hiding and come out. This isn’t funny anymore.”
Moxie stumbled over an apple and reached out for a pillar to steady herself. When she pulled her hand away, she gasped. Her hand was covered in blood. Behind the pillar was a small table, empty but for an envelope with her name on it. She started shaking as she reached for the envelope.
Her lips trembled and a tear fell down her cheek as she opened the envelope and read the note.
I hope you like the redecorating I’ve done. Hera is far too stuffy, so I showed her how to…loosen up.
You’re probably wondering just what happened here, and why there’s blood in your Mamá’s rooms, no? It’s only a minor injury on her part, don’t worry. I’d tell you she’s not in pain, but let’s face it – I’d probably be lying.
You’re too young to fully understand this, but Hera and I have not always seen eye to eye on children and their upbringing, or lineage. She crossed the line far too many times, and I cannot allow this to continue. So, here are the rules.
If you tell Zeus, she will become one with my void, and that will be the end of that. If anyone in the Pantheon finds out, except the four I have listed below, she’s gone. And please, before you say, “But immortals cannot die!” – consider who I am. There is no coming back from where I will place her if you cannot follow the rules. Not even Lord Hades could save her.
Nike, Ares, and Hephaestus are the only ones you may go to. Remember, if anyone else finds out, Hera is gone. Permanently.
You will find us in the Deep Wilds. You have until dawn.
Tears were flowing freely now and she wrapped her arms across her chest, as if to hold herself together, not caring that the blood was getting on her gown. She was terrified. Nyx had Hera! The only thing Moxie could do was follow Nyx’s orders to the letter. She had to get her brothers and sister together to go save their mother.
Blinded with fear and too upset to teleport, Moxie stumbled out of the room and ran as fast as she could to the training fields to grab Nike.
Moxie followed the sound of Nike’s laughter as it filled the training field. Nike and her brother, Zelus, were racing through an obstacle course. Nike ran toward a rocky pile, leaping gracefully from one rock to the next, her wings making her ascent swifter. Not one to let his little sister win, Zelus grabbed onto Nike’s foot and yanked her backward, so she did an awkward flip in the air and landed badly on her back.
“No fair, Zelus! That’s cheating!”
He laughed as he scrambled up the pile. Pausing at the top, he looked at her with mischief in his eyes. “Everyone cheats, little one! That is life! You must learn to overcome the setbacks and claim your victory.” He cackled and slid down the rocks to the other side, gaining a huge lead over Nike in their race.
Nike got up, rubbing her backside, mumbling, “I don’t cheat.” She flexed her wings out and was about to take off to try and regain her lead when she heard someone calling her name. She turned and saw Moxie speeding towards her.
Nike wasn’t immediately concerned, but then she saw that Moxie’s hair was flying all over the place, she was out of breath, and there were red spots on her dress. Nike drew her eyebrows together in confusion.
“Why are you out of breath? You should have just teleported over here.”
Moxie was breathing so hard, she couldn’t talk, so she did what she did best. She grabbed Nike’s forearm and sent her a picture of Hera’s sitting room.
Nike gasped. “What happened to Lady Hera?”
Moxie tried smoothing back her hair. “I don’t know, but there was a note. Nyx is going to kill our mother! Nike, we have to help her!”
Nike started to get scared. No one messed with the Goddess of Night. “We should tell Zeus. He will tear the heavens apart to find Lady Hera.” Nike started to walk off, but Moxie grabbed her arm to keep her from leaving.
“Nike, we don’t have time! Do you know where he is? Because I don’t and I certainly don’t want to try and find him. What if he’s with another woman? Plus, Nyx only gave us until morning. We don’t have enough time to find him.”
Nike growled a little out of frustration. “Fine, we’ll go save Lady Hera. Let’s go get the boys. Ares is hanging out at the pool with the nymphs.”
“Great, he’s never going to help us.”
“He’ll help us. Even if I have to drag him away by his hair.”
Decision made, the girls took a deep breath and ran to the pool to get their brothers’ assistance.
Nike and Moxie ran as fast as they could to the pools to get Ares. Thinking only of saving their mother, they burst through the hanging canopy and got an eye full of Ares slipping his godhood into one nymph and kissing another, the bare skin on his backside shining in the fading sunlight.
“No! No!” Nike screeched and turned around. “Gross, gross, gross.” She rubbed her eyes as hard as she could, trying to physically remove the image of Ares having sex from her brain.
Moxie just made a disgusting sound in the back of her throat. “Ares, please stop. We need you.”
Ares reluctantly tore himself away from the nymph’s succulent lips and without missing a pump into the other, looked over his shoulder and winked at Moxie. “Enjoying the show, girls?”
“This is serious, Ares. Please!” Moxie huffed at him.
Still rubbing her eyes, Nike called over her shoulder, “I thought you were dating Ianthe anyway?”
Ares released a hollow laugh. “She broke my heart, little one, and you know the saying, ‘The best way to get over one woman is to get inside another’. Best advice I’ve ever heard.” Ares grunted and the nymph under him let out a scandalous moan.
Moxie tried to reason with him. “Ares, our mother is missing. We have to find her. Please help us.”
“Mother is always ‘missing’, which usually means she’s chasing after Father while he chases another woman. Personally, I don’t care. I’m busy. Now go away already.” He leaned back into the mouth of the second nymph just as a third emerged naked from the water and started walking toward him.
Nike looked at Moxie. “I’m not going anywhere near that mess.”
Moxie nodded and sent a thought to Ares, who immediately made barfing noises and stumbled away from the nymphs, leaving them painfully unsatisfied.
“Really, Mox? I didn’t need that image of Mom and Dad in my head.” He yanked his clothing off a tree branch and started getting dressed. “Why is this so urgent anyway? I told you. She does this all the time. All she’s trying to do is get the attention that Dad should be giving her. It’s exhausting.”
“Ares, Lady Hera is in trouble. Moxie went to see her earlier and found her rooms in disarray. There was blood.” Nike finally turned to face Ares and crossed her arms.
Moxie whimpered a little. “There was also a note. She’s not looking for attention, Ares.” She handed the letter to Ares, who passed it to Nike once he read it.
Ares gritted his teeth. “You may be right this time, Moxie.” He started pacing back and forth in front of the girls, running his hand roughly through his hair several times. Finally, he stopped abruptly in front of them. “All right. I’ll help you. I don’t care what she’s done, Mother doesn’t deserve to be hurt like that.”
Nike nodded. “We need to get Hephaestus and some weapons. We’ll probably find them all in the same place.”
Ares took off at a quick pace, the girls scrambling to keep up. One more stop and they could go rescue their mother. Moxie only hoped it didn’t take too long to convince Hephaestus to help them. He hadn’t been on the best of terms with their parents lately.
The trip to the forge was long, and the teens were breathing heavily by the time they got there. As they came upon the forge, Moxie looked at the sky, nervously counting the hours they had left to save Hera.
The ringing of metal on metal could be heard across the land. Each strike was a precise blow, designed to work out any imperfections in the metal. Hephaestus was standing in front of an anvil, wearing nothing but loose pants, a leather apron, and a pair of leather gloves. His lean arms strained with youthful muscles that could only be attained by physical labor. Each time he raised his hammer, his shoulders tightened. Each time he swung the hammer onto the flat metal, his back flexed. Though his movements were slightly awkward because of his youth, you could almost see the man he would grow into.
Ares stepped forward, but as soon as he opened his mouth, Hephaestus said, “No. Whatever it is, no. Now leave me alone.” He turned and dipped the hot metal into the water, watching the steam rise up.
“Come on now, man. Is that any way to say hello to your favorite brother?”
“I don’t have a favorite and even if I did, it definitely wouldn’t be you, brother.” Frowning, Hephaestus limped over to a workbench and attached the long blade of metal to a vise, then grabbed a different hammer and started banging away.
Nike’s wings flexed with exasperation. “Hephaestus, please. Lady Hera is in danger. She needs our help.”
Hephaestus let out a loud roar of laughter. “Oh, that’s rich. My mother has never needed me before and she certainly wouldn’t need me now. Go away, little one.”
Moxie lowered her head and looked at the blood on her hand. This wasn’t right. Why was it so hard to convince them to help? Hera may not have been the best mother, but she loved her children. Moxie knew this without question. She walked over to Hephaestus and put her hand lightly on his forearm.
Whispering, she said, “Please, Hephaestus. I’m begging you. She needs our help. You know I would never ask anything of you that wasn’t important.”
Hephaestus flinched at Moxie’s light touch. “I can’t, Mox. She may have birthed me, but she’s never treated me as her child. She’s no mother to me.”
Moxie gasped. “How dare you say that, Hephaestus! You need to stop throwing a temper tantrum and get over yourself.” Moxie then pushed memories into his head, memories that he had either forgotten or blocked out. She showed him visions of Hera tucking him into bed, holding him when he cried, scolding him when he did something wrong, protecting him from harm, fighting about him with Zeus.
A lone tear fell down Hephaestus’ cheek and he pulled away. “Stop it, Moxie. Those things never happened.”
“That’s crap and you know it! She needs our help, Hephy, and she would fight anything that got in her way to save anyone of us.”
Shaking his head, Hephaestus limped over to the wall and grabbed another strip of metal.
“If you won’t do it for her, Hephy, then do it for me or for Nike or for Ares, because we’re going to save her from Nyx and we might get hurt. Could you really live with yourself if you could have protected us but didn’t?”
Hephaestus growled, threw the metal across the forge, and ripped his leather gloves off. “Fine, Mox, I’ll do it for you. But only because I know you’d probably find a way to get yourself killed if I’m not there. Hang on.”
He grabbed a shirt and put it on as he limped over to the far wall where the finished weapons were. Hephaestus deliberated, then grabbed two swords and a handful of knives. He handed a knife to Moxie, who tucked it into her belt, gave a sword to Nike, and the other sword and the rest of the knives to Ares, who distributed them in different places along his body.
“They’re not perfect weapons, but they’re the best I’ve made so far. Come on.” Hephaestus started to limp away from the forge when Nike called out, “What about you?” Hephaestus patted the heads of the hammers attached to his belt. “I’m good.”
Moxie called out at his retreating back, “You don’t know where you’re going!”
Hephaestus stopped and sighed. “Fine, Mox, you lead the way.”
Moxie took one last look at the darkening sky, shivered, and led the other three to the Deep Wild.
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