I don’t know how long I’d been out. I had restless dreams. A mixture of remembering the sounds of the chimera attacking, Rea screaming, Alkaios telling me to run, and the smell of his blood, my blood, for that matter. I relived the feeling of fear and desperation as I tried to navigate my ruined village. But then the fear faded, and I felt safe and could feel the steady rhythm of Andy’s heart beating.
I suddenly woke up, sitting up, trying to figure out where I was. I last remembered being on Atlas, supported in Andy’s arms.
“Eirene...” I heard my father’s voice call out to me moments before I felt him pulling me into a hug.
“Oh, my sweet daughter.” he sighed in relief, hugging me tightly.
“F...father? Oh, thank the gods.” I sobbed, hugging him as tight as I could with my injured arm. He is alive. My father is alive.
I felt fresh tears sliding down my cheeks, releasing my fears for him. “Is mother… is mother okay? What about Rae?” I asked, fearful of the answers.
“Your mother is okay. Or she will be. She was hurt, but she was resting comfortably. Rea… I haven’t heard of her status yet. But I still have people checking around. I’m just so relieved you are okay.” he assured me.
I nodded, sniffling, trying to stop myself from crying more. My parents were alive. There was still hope that Rae was too.
“I’m still looking for Alkaios as well. I assume it was he who got you here.” father sighed, rubbing my arm.
At the mention of Alkaios, I started to cry and shook my head. “No… it… it wasn’t Alkaios who brought me here. But… he did save me. The… chimera attacked us. It got my shoulder but… but Alkaios got between it and me to shield me from further. I… I don’t think he made it.” I started to sob, hugging my father again.
“I am so sorry, my darling. I know how you cared for him.” Father spoke softly, rubbing my back. I cried a bit longer into him before sniffling, trying to stop.
I leaned away from my father, wrapping my good arm around myself, and rubbed my other arm gently as I shivered.
“Here, let me get something to help you stay warm,” Father said as I felt him move next to me.
Then I felt the warm, rich wool of Andy’s cloak. I knew it was his cloak as I could smell it the same as the oil from his armor, sweat, and the smell of his horse Atlas. It was comforting to have it still. Though in the back of my mind, I worried he would get in trouble with his commanding officer showing up not only late but without his cloak.
I heard the breath in my father’s throat catch like something had shocked him. “Father, is everything okay?” I asked, adjusting the cloak to keep it tighter to me.
“I just… um was not prepared to find that cloak,” Father explained. I would suppose that made sense if no one told him how I got here.
“Oh. I’m surprised it was here too. I thought Andy would have taken it with him. I feel terrible about getting him in trouble twice.” I frowned.
“Andy?” Father asked.
“The soldier who saved me. He stopped when he found me, dressed my shoulder, kept me calm, and on his very well-trained and tempered horse, Atlas, brought me here. I made him late, and since he wrapped his cloak around me while riding for warmth, he will have shown up out of uniform.” I explained.
“He stopped and saved you?” my father asked as if he couldn’t fathom it.
“Yes.” I’m not sure why my father seemed so concerned by this. “He was… very kind. His pulse was so steady, and his voice never faltered. It helped me not to panic.” I nodded.
“Father, is everything okay?” I asked, reaching out from the cloak to touch his arm.
“Yes, it’s just hard to imagine. The soldier is from Ares House. That’s all.” he assured, patting my hand.
“You should lay back down and rest. I’ve been told the monster has been driven off, and more wounded are expected. With luck, Rae will be found.” he suggested.
I nodded a little, containing a yawn. “I think you are right. I hope you find Rae. And please give Mother my love.” I agreed, laying back down.
I snuggled under Andy’s cloak shifting it to cover me like a blanket. I was unaware that around me, while I slept content surrounded by the comforting warmth and smell of Andy’s cloak, unaware that my father and the healers of Apollo were giving me strange, fearful looks.
When I woke up later to eat, my father had brought a different blanket. “Here, why don’t you use this blanket instead of that dirty cloak?” he suggested.
I reached out and touched the blanket he was offering. It wasn’t a bad blanket, not too scratchy. But it was not the quality of Andy’s cloak. And when I brought it up to smell and frowned as it was sterile in comparison.
“I would rather use the cloak, father. It’s warm, and the smells on it are comforting.” I frowned, handing him back the blanket. My father sighed.
“Very well..” he conceded. “I have news. We found Rae. She’s a bit worse off than you or your mother. But she’s expected to survive. I’ve been assured that she’s getting the best care. I’m also planning to travel to the capital once you and your mother are well enough. It will take time to rebuild the village. When Rae is well enough, I’ll send for her as well.” he explained while I ate my soup.
I smiled, glad to hear Rae had been found and would be alright. I understood why we were going to the capital. However, I did not look forward to it. I wasn’t as familiar with that house and property, even less with the city. And without Rae, I would need to have a new servant to help guide me around.
I don’t know if my parents will trust to let me go off the property with whichever servant is assigned to take Rae’s place. I love my parents, and I understand that they’ve always been worried for me since I was born blind. And then losing my brother Eneas over a year ago, and now this has probably made them even more anxious.
“It will be a nice change. I hope Rae will recover quickly and can join us.” I nodded.
“Leander, sir?” our conversation was interrupted by one of Athena’s soldiers.
“Excuse me a moment Eirene.” he patted my leg, stepping away. They hadn’t gone far enough away to stop me from hearing them.
“Sir, we found the young man you were asking about.” the soldier spoke regretfully. I felt the tears welling again as I set my bowl down. They found Alkaios.
“He’s… he’s dead?” my father questioned to confirm.
“Yes, sir. We have his body prepared as Lord Hades is expected to arrive in the next day or so.” the soldier explained.
“I understand. I will pay for Alakios’s funeral and the costs of Lord Hades. He was a member of my staff and... a friend to my family.” my father confirmed.
“Of course, sir.” the soldier agreed.
“F...father?” I called out.
“Um... Yes, Eirene?” he asked.
“I want… Can I please see Alkaios? I just… I need to say goodbye.” I questioned. I heard my father sigh.
“Of course. Could you please bring Alkaios to my daughter? They were… close. And he saved her life.” Father requested.
“Of course.” he agreed before I heard his footfalls going away.
“Eirene, you don’t have to… to see him, you know. We’ll have his funeral before we head to the capital.” Father encouraged me, sitting down to take my hand in his.
“I know. I just… even though I knew Alkaios died, I had a sliver of hope he survived. He gave his life to save mine. I want to say goodbye.” I explained, squeezing his hand.
It took an hour, but Alkaios was brought to my bedside. Carefully kneeling on the ground by him, I gently touched his face. He bore a scar diagonally across his once-perfect face. I choked back a sob, confident that it was from the same claw that had left a mark on my shoulder.
“Th...thank you, Alkaios. You are my hero. You died protecting me from that creature. And thanks to you, Andy found me and was able to ensure my survival. I will… I will live to the fullest and best I can, so your heroism will never be in vain.” I managed to say as I cried over his body.
“Miss Ismene-Eirene, we… we need to take him now.” a soldier spoke gently. I nodded softly, reluctantly taking my hands from him.
“Oh, my poor girl.” my father sighed softly, pulling me into a hug.
I don’t know how long I cried in his arms. But it felt good to cry. To let out everything that had happened, all the pain and heartbreak I felt. Once I’d calmed down, I moved to sit on my cot again, finding myself once more reaching to wrap Andy’s cloak around me.
“Eirene… the armies will be pulling back in the morning. So it would be best if you were prepared to let the cloak go. I can see that it is returned.” father offered.
I slowly shook my head. “No, I should return it. I owe him that. I owe him my life. Is...Eumelia, okay?” I asked, having a thought.
“Um, yes, she’s been at your mother’s side when I have been here,” Father explained.
“Could you have her come to me? There is something at the house I need.” I requested.
“Hmm, well, alright. I’ll have Eumelia come over shortly. I need to check on your mother and Rae anyways.” he agreed, kissing the top of my head.
It was closer to the evening when Eumelia came to me. “Miss Ismene-Eirene?” she asked, announcing herself.
“Eumelia. I’m glad that you are safe.” I turned to the sound of her voice.
“Thank you, Miss. We are all glad you are safe too. Your father said you wanted to speak with me. How may I be of service?” she asked.
“It may not seem like much, but back at the house, there is a small box of jewelry on my vanity. Inside is a gold brooch with two wolf heads snarling at each other. It was something my grandmother owned. Could you bring it to me?” I asked, giving as much detail as I could.
“Um, of course, Miss Ismene-Eirene.” she agreed. “I should have it by morning,” she added. “Now, you should rest. Shall I get some fresh blankets?” she offered carefully, starting to lift Andy’s cloak.
I, however, was quick to grab the cape. “No, I’m fine with this. Thank you, Eumelia.” I smiled.
“Of course. I’ll be back in the morning then.” Eumelia agreed, leaving.
The following day, Eumelia had brought what I asked for and a fresh outfit to wear. I heard Ares soldiers march past, and I wanted to return Andy’s cloak and give him the brooch. So I changed and, with the help of Apollo House staff, could ride out to where the soldiers would be marching.
“Do you know whom I’m looking for?” I asked, nervously fidgeting with the brooch as I had it sitting on his neatly folded cloak in my lap.
“Um… yes, Miss. I was there when he brought you in. I will know him when I see him. Though I cannot guarantee we will be able to approach him.” he assured.
“I understand. But I must try.” I nodded.
We’d been fighting and driving the chimera back for four days before it was finally far enough into the mountains that we couldn’t go after it. Now we were marching back. Some soldiers would return to their posts while my unit and I returned to the capital. As we rode in formation, I was alongside the commanding officer at the front. I’d tried not to think about the blind girl during the fighting. Though I found my mind wandering to her in the hours, I rested. Holding the mati my elder brother had forged for me in the mortal realm.Often I’d found the mati would give me a sense of warning, of foreboding when someone had ill intentions. Often I felt this when my father or Eugenius would speak of my future. I also would feel it around town and even among the soldiers of Ares. Their fear of me differed from the evil I felt from my father and Eugenius. But with her, with Ismene-Eirene, the girl with two names, the mati didn’t give either of those reactions. It felt warm, like when I’m
Two months. That’s how long it took to get things settled in the village, and mother recovered enough to travel. We’ve begun to settle into the estate in Olympia. I’m still learning my way around the house and the property. I haven’t started to explore the city, not that my parents would let me anyways. “Eirene? Can you come and sit with us?” Father called me into the sitting room with him and Mother. Carefully finding my way with a cane, I managed to find a chair. “Yes, father?” I asked. “I know that much has changed for us. And that you are still mourning Alkaios.” Father started. “But given your age and, if anything, recent events showed us, we want to ensure you’ll be taken care of if anything happens to us.” Mother added. I frowned, knowing where this was going. “We don’t want to arrange a marriage in which you wouldn’t be happy.” Father quickly said. “Of course.” I nodded, taking a calming breath. I know they want to protect me. And to them, having a husband is
Yet another tedious session of the council. Mostly arguing about taxes and how much each House charged for its services. Poseidon argued that the fees Apollo, Athena, and Ares billed for the chimera attack on a village predominantly made up of members of his House were far too high. Zeno is still a young Poseidon, only having taken his title ten years ago. Well, young by some standards, I suppose. Diokles is the youngest council member but has the most power, literally and figuratively.“Lord Poseidon, that is enough,” Diokles stated in his rarely utilized commanding voice.The whole Parthenon went silent, from the council members to us heirs down to even the scribe that documents the meetings. Electricity was in the air making even the hairs on my
I was so happy when we returned home, and they allowed me to ride. Of course, that was dulled when I realized I would be confined to a pen on an older mare used to teaching children to ride. Father excused himself, probably not wanting to deal with my annoyance, as he headed to another enclosure to prepare horses to show a customer coming by, leaving my mother and a servant standing by the pen watching me.“Oh, I hate how he allows this...” I heard my mother sigh nervously. I know she loves me and, at her core, just wants me to be safe. But her overbearing behavior is going to drive me insane. She was always hovering over me as a child due to my condition. And it only became worse after my brother died. And now it has tripled since the chimera. I can't f
It felt strange talking to her like this. Not odd in a bad way. But I can't place the feeling. She's not afraid of me. She wants my company. Very few wanted my company, and even fewer were women. As she made a point about leaving, I looked up at the sky and realized the sun was going to set soon. Which meant it would be dinner time at Ares House. "I should. It is getting late. But I should also wait for Dio to finish his business. I did arrive with him." I sighed, looking into the distance, and saw Dio talking with a man I assumed to be her father. Dio was indeed a strange man. I'm unsure what he was playing at by introducing himself as Dio to her. Or when Dio intercepted Elaine to give us more time to speak alone. "I hate to say this, but if he loves horses half as much as my father, they'll be there until dinner is cold,” she said with a chuckle. She has a nice laugh. Wait, did I think that? "I could call someone to show you around. I wish I could show you myself if you w
It was that thought that stayed with me the rest of the week. Even as I entered my childhood home of House Zeus for my Sunday lunch with Diokles, it was one of the rare days I was given no tasks. Diokles had always insisted, even when he first came here, that we have a meal together on Sundays. He told me that in the mortal realm, his family would have Sunday meals together with whoever was able to attend. Eugenius felt this was good practice for me. He, of course, wants me to carry on the long-standing alliance between Ares and Zeus. But nothing about Sunday lunch with Diokles is business. It's just a chance to relax. Sitting in the dining area waiting for Dio, I found my mind returning to Ismene-Eirene, again. I need to stop that. But she said she wanted to see me again, to speak again. I don't know how or if I should. I am not shopping for a wife, and I know my father and Eugenius would probably not approve of her, given her blindness. Though they may be talked into considering h
It's been over three weeks since Andy, and his brother Dio visited. Three weeks hoping he may call on me. So we could talk more. But he never called on me. And I've not gotten to leave the house, so I couldn’t try to call on him. I sighed as I sat in my room, practicing my lyre, singing softly, "Oh Nymphs, daughters of the ocean. Daughters of springs and of deep caves. Beautiful virgins, wood-clad priestesses. Xothies of the woods amadryades daughters." I paused as I heard a commotion outside. Something was moving through the woods by our property. Whatever it is, it is knocking down trees. I listened to the servants as they hurried to inspect what was causing the disturbance. After the chimera back in the village, father was extra careful about wandering beasts. After a moment, I didn't hear any fighting, just the sound of whatever was out there continuing to knock down trees. The servants returned, not thinking it was a threat. "The groves resound by their songs. And their choir
I'd been so frustrated about everything that I'd not even paid attention to where my path of destruction led me. No wonder I'm called the Destroyer. But it led me here. I'm not sure if that's good or bad. But I do know I like talking to Ismene-Eirene. Even if I'm frustrated, I can't talk about this with her and be Andy, a mere soldier, which was confusing. Why hasn't her family told her? And then that brought my mind back to what her parents thought of me. And the speculation they probably have about my involvement with her. I sighed again, running my hand through my short hair. She made it sound so easy. Which, on the surface, it was. Diokles seemed to think that too. And I wanted to believe that it could be. "I'm sure people have wanted to use Lord Hades and his power in the past. A previous Lord Hades tried to start a war with his powers, and it landed him excelled and his heirs till the current Lord Hades to be ostracized." I shrugged. I blinked, startled when her hand touched