It never occurred to either of us, Castor or myself, that our father would ever request our presence from our lives of quiet isolation. We’d been comfortable for far too long; perhaps it came as a shock. We discussed it. One of us was to stay and one of us to go. The price of Zeus’s gift. Separate and yet together. In the end, I made the decision. I’m less likely to start another war with relatives over something as fickle and unimportant as women. I’d go.
You pricked your ears up at that, didn’t you? The war over women? It wasn’t really a war, not to begin with, but it changed us. Forever. Initially, before the daughters of the white horse, we were different. Twins, but Castor, the son of a mortal king and I, the son of Zeus. Still, being twins, we were inseparable, though Castor, in spite of being the one not blessed with immortality, was ever the wild and reckless one, despite my best efforts. It was he who insisted on accompanying Jason to retrieve the Golden Fleece, he who pressed Jason to level the city of Ioclus, and he who nagged at me to join in the hunt of the Calydonian Boar. No surprises, it was Castor (shut up, brother, I’m telling the story) who suggested we kidnap Theseus’ mother at the same time as we rescued Helen, and Castor again who talked me into kidnapping those damn girls, the end result of all of which turned out to be the Trojan War, for pity’s sake.
Next thing you know, there was an ambush and Castor, the idiot, was speared. I would have joined him were it not for the intervention of Zeus, who hurled a thunderbolt to defend me, but Castor was already dead.
I am, was, nothing without my brother. It was as if I had been reduced to a half, a lesser and incomplete self, and I was inconsolable. Zeus took pity on me. I, who was immortal, wished to die if it would reunite me with Castor. I begged Zeus: if he could not take from me my immortality and grant me death, then perhaps he could split my life that it might be shared with my brother. I begged and grovelled, I prostrated myself, I wallowed in my self-pity and grief, and after what seemed an eternity, Zeus conceded. In hindsight, he was probably well and truly sick of all my grief entailed for him. And my wailing was likely to bring me to the attention of Hera, something he definitely didn’t want.
He granted my request and Castor was restored to me, my immortality shared equally between us both. The gift permitted us access to both Olympus and Tartarus, from which Castor walked free, though we both agreed (one of the few times we clearly agreed without argument on anything) that we’d rather reside in neither place. We have a fondness for the sea and the plains. Castor has an unrivalled affinity for horses (I could care less) and I prefer ships, their motion far more to my liking and their temperaments far more predictable.
We were comfortable in our own company, until the message came, the one bearing my father’s request.
And so here I stand, apprehensively, uncomfortably, at the doors to this edifice Father has deemed the OA, home to far too many relations I’d rather not be in too close proximity to, and wondering what I’m supposed to do next exactly.
“Do you mind? You’re ogling and you’re in the way. Could you move? Now?”
I dipped my head, clenching my jaw at the wave of irrational anger sweeping through me, (not now, brother!), and watched the retreating back of the speaker. I recognised the voice, I recognised the speaker, even if he didn’t recognise me, us. Ares. Convenient. I’d follow him in. I, we (I get confused sometimes), marched with far greater confidence than I felt through the automatic sliding glass doors.
I hadn’t stopped to think about it, which was a first for me. I never went anywhere, did anything, moved without thinking about it at least four times over. I’d learned to think ahead. I’d learned to plan and be prepared. On account of Castor.
But that’s neither here nor there right now. I’ll fill you in on that some other time. Ares didn’t seem aware of me following him in and was intercepted as he walked into the sprawling expanse of the lobby anyway. The lobby. I stopped and stared in awe.
I’ve been in some impressive buildings before. I’ve worked with production company moguls and been on some of the most exclusive sets on the planet (I worked on the set of Ben Hur, which is why it looks so incredibly authentic. The watch incident I blame entirely on Castor, and he can mutter all he likes, but it’s true). This was bigger and more awe-inspiring than even Olympus at its zenith. Father always did aspire to ever-greater things.
I shook my head. This was no time to be drifting back into things of no current consequence. I was permitting myself to be distracted from the extremely serious matter at hand. I was about to meet with Father, who I hadn’t seen since, when? When had it been? I wracked my brain, oblivious to the fact that I was still standing in the middle of that polished marble floor. When? Father had brought Castor back to me and, to be honest, I don’t think we’d seen each other since.
“Don’t trouble me again, Pollux,” he’d said. “I’ve granted you your favor; don’t ever force my hand to relieve you of it. Stay out of the way.”
I knew why. Hera. My stepmother had no fondness for me and when she found out about Castor, another bastard child to claim Zeus as father, and not even of his blood…a cool ripple rolled down my spine and Castor chuckled in my mind. You should drop by to see her while you’re there, he teased.
Are you mad? I cursed him. Or are you not as fond of your immortality as you make out?
He shut up.
I thought so. I approached the reception counter, where a receptionist glanced up at me from her keyboard, a headset over her ears, speaking to someone on the phone. She smiled at me and motioned at me to wait, which I did, glad to have the opportunity to catch my breath.
“Can I help you?” she asked. “Do you know who you’re here to see?”
I cleared my throat and shifted unfamiliar tension from my shoulders.
“Good morning. I’m Pollux, and I’m here to see…”
She put up her hand and her eyes shifted focus as she answered another call. “Yes,” I heard her say. “He’s here now. Shall I send him up?”
My eyebrows rose, though I shouldn’t have been surprised. Father knew things in the same way as I always knew about Castor and he of me. Perhaps, though I’d never bothered to try it, it was a common trait amongst the family. I might now be forced to find out.
The receptionist pointed helpfully at the elevators and I gave her a tight smile of appreciation. Much and all as I owed Father a great debt of gratitude, I still wasn’t in any hurry to see him again.
Scared? You? Castor.
Butt out. I’m not scared, I’m concerned. I don’t know why I bothered with the lie. Castor would see right through it.
It’s all right, brother. I’ve got your back.
Right. As if he could do anything useful if things went sideways.
There was a distinct air of tension radiating through the building I hadn’t noticed through my own anxiety earlier. I could feel it as I took the seemingly interminable ride upwards, the sense of something threatening, ominous, the same heavy static heat that lies in the air just before a Southern storm. I ran my fingers under the collar of my shirt, suddenly too tight and clammy with sweat, and wished I’d not bothered with wearing a suit. What was with me? This went entirely against my nature.
Castor chuckled. Told you you’d regret it.
“Shut up,” I muttered back out loud. The mortal riding the elevator with me shot me a suspicious glance and shuffled a sideways step. Damn Castor!
The mortal got off, I failed to register which floor, and the elevator continued upwards. Finally, it stopped and the doors slid open. I took a deep breath.
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