Deimos raises his hand one last time and with a battle cry that shakes the stadium, he slams it in the head of the spirit approaching him. The ground quakes when it happens sending a shudder through the atmosphere. He drops his mace off to his side. His legs are like glue at this moment but he can’t let anyone know. If he showed weakness now who knows what would happen. Someone would try to overthrow him surely as the heir of Ares. Ares didn’t name an heir. He said, “To the strongest” in his will. Deimos had to earn where he was now. His chest is sweating and glistening with the blood of the 5 defeated sons of Enyo who was the goddess of discord, chaos, and strife. His biceps are aching and throbbing. He’s never been so muscular. He’s surrounded now by the other minor gods and spirits of war as they look on as his manliness. They look at his strength.
“He’s ready,” Eris announces to the others.
She doesn’t smile. The goddess of strife never smiles. She wasn’t a pleasant woman. He had five lashes across his back that she had left just earlier in the day. Deimos had been beaten. He’d been attacked. He’d been whipped and dragged by horses all across Olympus. They needed to make sure. They needed to make sure that he was ready for the Trials. There was nothing more important than the War Department winning the trial.
Deimos would do what his father was never able to do. He’d succeed Zeus. As Zeus came after Kronos and Kronos came after Ouranos. He would claim the throne. That was what all of this was about.
“Your father would be proud,” Enyo states.
When it happens at that moment the minor gods of war begin to clash their weapons on their shields. It’s a ritual for war. The steadiness of the beat is like a drum. Today was the trial. Today a new king would be crowned.
The ritual is interrupted by something else. A whistling sound that doesn’t fit, followed by a smell and a light. All the eyes turn at that moment and they see him.
“What the hell is he doing here?” Enyo, one of the minor goddesses of war asks.
Deimos wasn’t surprised by the scorn on everyone’s faces. You would think one of the war horses just took a shit in the temple of Ares by how everyone’s faces roll up. Cupid was so close to Aphrodite and the gods of war still remembered how weak Ares came when it was about the old goddess of war. There was still tension between the two departments.
If he was smart he’d turn Cupid away. This could mean nothing but trouble. He was curious though. So curious. Why was Cupid here?
“Follow me,” he states to him, “We’ll talk in private.”
Cupid seems intimidated when they get in the war room. Maybe it was the smell of blood that stained the table. Maybe it was the fact that Deimos was still shirtless, still dripping with sweat and still 5 times the man Cupid would ever be. He smiles realizing how out of place Cupid is.
“You lost cherub?” he asks, “Your kind usually don’t come around here.”
“I know what the Trial is…” Cupid explains out of nowhere, “It’s a maze. In that center of that maze lies Aegis.”
“The magical shield of Zeus?”
He’d wondered what happened to the shield. The fight with the Titans had come to surprise from the old Olympians. It wasn’t much of a fight. It was more like a slaughter. Deimos wondered if the shield had been left behind with the skirmish.
Cupid nods, “The person who gets to the center of the maze and claims Zeus’s shield becomes king.”
Deimos wants to ask Cupid how he knew what the Trial was, but then again he was sure that Cupid had his ways. He crosses his arms. This was valuable information. It wasn’t just a pure fight. He wasn’t sure if this was a good thing or a bad thing. He still had time to change strategy and talk to Enyo about it. For a moment he’s lost in his thoughts until he realizes Cupid hasn’t budged. Cupid wasn’t a friend of his. Why was he here?
“Why are you helping me?”
“In hopes that you’d help me. The Love Department needs a representative and as you can see our representative is…out. I have no wish to take his place tomorrow.”
It was just like Cupid. If Thaddeus wasn’t back, he’d have to take his place in the trial and that probably scared the shit out of Cupid. He was a coward if you asked Deimos. He wanted to hide behind someone else. He wanted Thaddeus to be the consort of Heracles. He wanted power without any of the sweat. He didn’t expect anything moe from the Love Department. Even now he knows that Cupid wants desperately to get the heir back but he wasn’t willing to do what it took to get the heir back himself. No wonder he was here.
Deimos shrugs, “I guess you’re telling me Thaddeus is in trouble, huh?”
“He’s in the Underworld. Being held prisoner.”
Deimos wasn’t surprised. Anyone could see the trap that was being laid out by Thaddeus a mile away. He wanted to feel bad and a part of him did. He’d been trained not to feel. He’d been trained not to make the same mistakes that his father did. There was a time that his father was dragged in a net by Aphrodite’s husband for having an affair. Deimos and his brother Phobos were the results of that affair. It was a mark that he was still desperately working to remove from the War Department.
“What’s that got to do with me?”
The way Cupid looks at him makes him shiver in his bones a little bit. Know what? It’s almost as though Cupid could see right through his soul and he turns, violently picking up one of the shields from the nearby war rack as though it would help the look.
“I don’t know anything.”
“You care about him.”
It’s not a question. It’s a statement. The shield wasn’t helping. His face gets red thinking about this. He’d take fighting off the sons of Eris any day then feeling so exposed.
“Didn’t he belong to Heracles? Why aren’t you asking him?”
He can’t help but to laugh at that moment.
“Looks like the god of strength doesn’t feel as strongly about Thaddeus as you’d hope.”
“It’s not that simple. Heracles has an agreement never to go back to the Underworld.”
Deimos shakes his head. Cupid was coming to him because Cupid had no one else to go to. It’s clear. He’d attempted to ignore all of this. He’d gone out of his way not to have feelings for Thaddeus. He’d had sex with Krill in front of Thaddeus on purpose. He’d averted his glare on purpose. He’d made sure not to get involved.
“This has nothing to do with me,” Deimos states.
Cupid just stares at him. He just stares through him. He remains quiet.
Deimos struggles, “I need to be worried about the Trials. I have no time to play hero for your lost god of love.”
Cupid remains quiet.
“Stop looking at me. It won’t change my mind. Stop that.”
Cupid doesn’t move. It’s as though he put a spell on him. Deimos knew that wasn’t true though. There was no spell. He’d felt the same way he did since the first day he met the new god of love. Enyo and Eris would release his brother Phobos if they knew that he was being so weak and falling into the same trap that his father had.
And knowing that he just sighs, deeply. He’d battle a thousand men before having to deal with this battle going on in his chest. Why did it feel like this? He’d been involved in so many wars. He’d been involved in so many battles? Why was this the hardest?
“I’ll save him,” Deimos states.
Cupid nods. It’s as though Cupid isn’t even surprised, “Thank you for your time.”
Cupid starts leaving. Just like that. How the fuck had he gotten involved in the life of Thaddeus? Why the fuck was he responsible for saving him?
He’s so desperate to save face at that moment that he’s calling out.
“Only after the trial though. Am I not running at his beck and call? You get that Cupid?” he’s calling after him, “I’ll only save him after I become King and ONLY because I need all the new Olympians in Olympus. You hear me? It has nothing to do with…nothing to do with…”
He stops talking. He stops talking because Cupid isn’t around anymore. At this point, he isn’t even trying to convince Cupid. At this point, he’s trying to convince himself. He’d just went through the most rigorous training ever and he’d never felt so fucking weak.
Out of anger he grabs the table with one hand and tosses the 200-pound table across the room like a rag doll. In the corner of the war room a heavy smoke he hadn’t noticed before separates.
He knew this smoke…
“You’re spying on me?” he asks, “Again…”
The smoke coerces together to finally create a solid figure. She removes the magical cloak that most likely forged herself and there stands Thalia, the new blacksmith of the gods. He can almost see the expression she has behind her eyes.
“You’re going to help him.”
“I was lying.”
“Lying?” she asks with a sneer, “If you were lying how about I tell Enyo what your plans were.”
There is a pause. If the others knew that he was going out of his way to help Thaddeus they’d be scared. They’d jump to conclusions. They’d think that he had the same issue that Ares had. They’d think he was falling for another god of love. That affection made his father Ares weak. Ares should have long overthrown his grandfather Zeus. As Zeus overthrew his father Kronos and Kronos overthrew his father Ouranos. It was the divine curse. And Ares didn’t. He was too busy chasing Aphrodite. It had been up to Deimos to overthrow all the Olympians now because his father had failed. He couldn’t allow the same weakness to affect him.
“OK. Listen. It’s not like that. It’s not a big deal. None at all. I need my Olympians beneath me. We need a god of love. Cupid doesn’t want the job. So I’ll just become King and after I’m crowned, I’ll have Hades release Thad.”
“No one tells Hades what to do in the Underworld,” Thalia warns.
She was preaching to him, as though he was a child. As though he didn’t know better.
“Thad is weak. He’s ineffective. As a king, it is my job to protect him.”
“Have you heard of the mask of Metis?”
“The Titan Metis, the first wife of Zeus and the mother of the goddess Athena, was believed to be able to change her appearance into anything she wanted. She taught my father most of what he knew creating magical armor. She created a magical mask. After hearing a prophecy that he would be overthrown by one of his descendants, Zeus became paranoid. In one story, Metis showed off her gift to Zeus. She was so proud, that her husband, Zeus, tricked her into changing into a fly. He then swallowed her because he feared that he and Metis would have a son who would be more powerful than Zeus himself. Metis, however, was already pregnant. She stayed alive inside his head and built armor for her daughter. The banging of her metalworking made Zeus have a headache, so Hephaestus clove his head with an ax. Athena sprang from her father’s head, fully grown, and in battle armor.”
She opens her hand. She shows him the mask. It is the mask of Metis.
“What’s the point of your story?”
“You’re trying to stop the inevitable,” she explains, “Like Zeus did…”
He doesn’t know what she means when she says that. She disappears in a puff of smoke and he’s left with his thoughts. Did she think that he was promising to save Thad out of affection? Of course not. It was his duty once he became king. It was his duty to protect the weak. That’s the only reason he was going to demand Hades release Thad after he won the Trial. That was the only possible reason.
It was the trial. Cupid’s palms are sweating. The sun is so close to them. It’s so goddam close that he wonders if Clep, the heir to Apollo had dragged it here on purpose to blind his competitors. Clep is close by dawned a golden armor that his father had once worn. He looked dangerous. Not him too. Even the god of medicine had made clear that he was going to be a real competitor in this.
He didn’t want to be here. Why the hell did he have to be here?
High above them is Pheme. She flies on silver wings over 12 gates that lead toward the magical gates. Cupid holds tight to his bow for dear life when he sees her. She was the personification of fame and renown. The goddess of gossip. She’d been the one who told him about the maze. She’s been tasked with announcing the trial. His heart is throbbing when he sees her ready to blow through her silver trumpet.
“Scared shitless, aren’t ya?” Pan asks, “Best not go in. No one’s going to force you. I’m sitting my ass right over here.”
Pan has a point. To the left is Heracles completely oiled up with nothing on but a lion on his black. His manhood swings between his legs like a third arm causing the nymphs watching to faint all over themselves and desperately cry out to have his children. To the right of him are Deimos and Clep. Both of them have golden armor. Armor that Cupid didn’t have. Both of them have this look of virtue and strength in their eyes.
Then there was Persephone. No armor. No weapons. She was calm…too calm. There was something off about how relaxed she was. What was she up to?
Cupid stands there for a minute. He watches as Pan goes and sits it out almost immediately. Cupid starts to join them but that’s when he notices Persephone. The other competitors who were participating take off into the maze but she doesn’t.
She walks. Calm. Precise and almost…amused.
Something was off.
If Heracles, Deimos or most of the other gods won they’d most likely demand that Hades released Thaddeus from the Underworld. Cupid had made sure of it. He’d gone to each one of them. He would have preferred Heracles but at this point, anyone could win…
Something wasn’t right on the look of Persephone’s face. Maybe that’s why he turns. Maybe that’s why he takes off into the maze, despite his better judgment.
“Won’t you give up?”
The arrow that Clep shoots at Deimos whizzes past his head. Deimos barely jumps out of the way. He hadn’t been expecting the Apollo’s heir to be this prepared. Maybe it was the fact that he was a goddam doctor. Clep had something to fight for though. He can see it in his eyes. There was only one thing that Deimos knew most of the others were fighting for.
“You must think he’s in the Underworld proud of you right now?” Deimos asks him, “Give up, Clep. You can’t win.”
It’s been three days and three nights. You could hardly see much in the darkness of the maze. There was no sun in the sky. There was no ceiling. It seemed to go on forever. It was clearly magic. It was clearly a maze designed to challenge even the divine. Deimos was hungry. He was tired. He hadn’t drunk anything. Mortals would have died in the maze but the gods just kept on going through their aches and their pains. Every once in a while, there was a fight. Every once in a while, the gods would cross the paths down the dark paths with stone walls and there would be a confrontation.
Every once in a while…like now.
“I’ll win for my love,” Clep states.
Clep shoots another arrow of pure light. It pierces the darkness with the speed of light. The arrow comes at Deimos and the magical arrow breaks into a million arrows. It’s a neat trick. Not neat enough though. Deimos throws his shields toward the light and the shield spins like hurricane blocking every single arrow that comes his way.
Clep is tired. He can tell. They’d battled for three hours now. Three long hours and it wasn’t getting any better.
“Cupid must have gotten to you too,” Deimos realizes.
Cupid was a sneaky one. Deimos shouldn’t have expected less. No wonder everyone was so prepared. They all wanted to save Thaddeus. Everyone that he’d come in contact with in the maze was dead set on it.
“Thaddeus is counting on me,” Clep responds.
He had to admit, the boy was in love. The god of Medicine has bleeding fingertips but still gathered one of his bows ready to aim at Deimos yet again. He wasn’t going to give up, not if he could help it. He’s ready to attack him again but it’s clear within the next few minutes that he can’t help it. There is the sound of a grunt and then a deep hard shout.
Deimos looks into the darkness and he can see someone has come up from behind Clep. The person has grabbed Clep by the back of the head and tossed him into the air. Literally, the god of medicine disappears into the darkness as though lost in the dark abyss of the maze.
“Heracles,” Deimos states looking at Heracles.
This would be a battle of the century. He looks at the son of Zeus and he has to admit that he is amazed. The god of strength has muscles in places that Deimos didn’t know muscles could form. The oversized god stands tall and gives Deimos a long hard look.
“Did you know Hebe made the comment about winning Thaddeus as that golden-haired pretty boy just now?” Heracles asks me, “You want to know what happened to her?”
Deimos wasn’t surprised. Heracles and Hebe were married at the time but had separated due to their competitive nature. Was this a fight for the throne or a fight for Thaddeus? Deimos looks up into the sky where Heracles tossed the god of Medicine. He wonders how long it would take the god of medicine to come back down.
All of a sudden he realizes that this would be no easy fight. He’d taken on Iris, the heir of Hermes already and defeated her near the entrance. The rainbow goddess was easy. He’d also taken on Nike two days ago and won that. She was a bit harder. After Clep, he wondered if he had it in him to take on Heracles. Looking at Heracles it was intimidating. The god of strength looked the same as he did three days ago. He still seemed to be slathered in oil as though he secreted the stuff and he had this energetic look on his face.
“I’m ready for this…” he states.
“I should break every bone in your body,” Heracles tell him, “But I won’t, God of war. I need your help. Plus you’re the only one I know who isn’t eyeing Thaddeus. You’re no threat to me.”
There is a pause.
“Why do you say that?” Deimos asks.
“It’s clear you dislike him, just based on how you treat him,” Heracles states, “So how about this. Ahead of us is a riddle. I believe we are towards the end. Help me solve the riddle and then we fight it out…”
Were they the last two then? Had Heracles defeated all the other Olympians or had the others just not found their way this far through the maze as of yet? Deimos is curious about Heracles. It was no wonder Heracles was walking the wrong way. He was stuck. He didn’t know what to do. He had turned back for help. Deimos wonders if he should try to fight Heracles now, but the truth was he had lost so much energy from fighting Clep. He needed a breath. Maybe it would be best to wait. If he was going to fight Heracles he needed to do it at his best.
“Fine…” he states.
Heracles doesn’t say another word to him. He just nods with his same overpowerful nature and begins to guide Deimos silently through the maze. Deimos was pretty sure by this point that Heracles had probably gone back for Clep. Clep was smart. Too bad for Clep he made the wrong comment about the wrong person that was overheard by Heracles. Deimos looks at the back of the broad neck of Heracles. The man’s neck even has fucking powerful muscles in it. He had to have a weakness though. A weakness somewhere.
He had to figure it out. That was the real riddle.
“So you still plan on marrying Thaddeus?” Deimos asks him.
Heracles shrugs, “Of course.”
“Everyone’s going crazy about him, huh?” Deimos asks, “No offense but he seems like an idiot. Who just wanders into the Underworld knowing that Persephone had beef with him?”
Heracles doesn’t seem surprised at all the talk about Thaddeus. The shrug of his shoulders shows that he’s not surprised at all, “Oh yeah, he’s an idiot. That’s for sure.”
“But you still want to marry him?”
“Why do I care if he’s an idiot? I don’t care about anything except that he’s most beautiful, worthy of a king. He’d be a good trophy. You know?”
Heracles turns to him as though expecting him to agree with him. Deimos just stare at him through his helmet. What the fuck? He was calling Thad an idiot but honestly, it was Heracles who seemed like the fucking imbecile. Heracles was making it clear that he knew nothing about Thad except for how he looked and the fact that everyone else seemed to be infatuated with him.
He is about to say something but he decides against it. One wrong word about Thad and he knew Heracles would attack him. He would last longer than Clep. He knew that much, for sure. Still, he needed another plan.
On the door, there is a riddle.
It’s hard to focus on the riddle. Behind us, there is water from a fountain. It makes a steady noise, clearly meant to distract. I can tell Heracles is highly annoyed by it. The truth is though I’m not even sure Heracles can read. He just stares at the symbols like they don’t make any sense to him at all.
I ignore the fountain and look at the riddle, “Imagine you’re in love with someone that is in another room as you. There is no door connecting the rooms. There are no windows. How do you get to that person?”
It was a love riddle. How weird.
Heracles looks at me, “Well…”
“I don’t know.”
“Think about it. You’ve had to have been in love before…” he states, “Something like this has to make sense to you?”
I shrug. I start thinking about one thing. Behind that door is my throne, but there was something more behind that door. If I won the throne I would be able to demand Hades release, Thaddeus. I imagine all of a sudden his smile. It sounds stupid that I’m thinking about that right now at all times. I imagine how he would look running towards me. He’d be so happy to get out of the Underworld. He’d be so happy to come back to me.
I’d probably pretend like I wasn’t interested. I’d probably try to hide the fact that I didn’t care about him. I’d probably try to imagine that I wasn’t just as in love with Thaddeus as all of these other people. I’d deny the inevitable…just like Zeus and Metis. It’s the same warning that Thalia had tried to give me earlier in the week.
I ignore the fountain and look at the riddle, “Imagine you’re in love with someone that is in another room as you. There is no door connecting the rooms. There are no windows. How do you get to that person?”
“Stop imagining,” I state, “That’s the answer.”
All of a sudden the door opens. The door creeks open and just at that moment, I feel something. It’s this feeling. It’s this feeling that we are not alone.
I jump out of the way at that moment as I see the fountain explode out of nowhere. A force of water comes at me. The water rushes through to me sweeping me clean off my feet. I turn at that moment and see Krill! He’s not alone. He’s with Persephone.
The water lifts me in the air keeping me straddled there. I can’t move. The water surrounds me like a prison holding me. It’s clear that we are above an underground reservoir in the rock.
“It’s an ambush!” I state.
They’d been waiting for someone to come and solve the riddle. I didn’t get it though. Why was Krill helping Persephone?
“Keep him like that,” Persephone tells Krill.
“Not so fast bitch,” is how Heracles responds.
Krill attempts to send his waves at Heracles but the god of strength is too powerful. He digs his heel into the ground and doesn’t budge even as wave after wave of water comes pouring at him. It’s clear it’s not having an effect on him. I watch as Nike appears throwing her swords at Heracles. She swings to no avail however as he grabs the sword and throws Nike away like a tissue.
Persephone was just standing there at that moment. Krill was focused on me and there was nothing between her and Heracles. Looks like all the agents that she had recruited to help her win this war were disposed of at this point.
“Hold on big guy,” Persephone states, “We can rule together.”
“I have no fucking interest in ruling with you. Don’t you have a husband already?” he states, “Besides the seat belongs to Thaddeus. You know…the boy you tricked into the Underworld?”
Heracles is approaching Persephone slowly. Slowly. All of a sudden, there is a voice.
We all turn. The voice is light. It doesn’t sound right. When we turn we notice the person it’s coming from. The look on the person’s face is as clear as day.
“Thaddeus?” Heracles asks, “How…how are you here?”
“That’s not—” I start.
I can’t get it out of my mouth. I’m being gagged. The water flows into my mouth. Krill would literally drown me doing this if I was a mortal. Instead, it’s this consistent feeling of drowning without actually dying. I hate the feeling. It’s torture in more ways than one. Heracles is letting his guard down though. If he was really in love with Thaddeus, he’d know that isn’t what his voice sounded like. Thaddeus had a unique voice. His voice sounded like the morning. His voice sounded like that feeling of waking up on a new day. It has a slight rasp to it but was really uplifting. It warmed the soul. If Heracles really loved Thaddeus he would have noticed those little things.
Instead, he just loved his appearance and so he looks at this figure and he approaches.
Heracles walks up to the figure, slowly surely. This was an imposter. I knew it in my bones. This was some trick somehow. Heracles couldn’t tell the difference though. He approaches. Closer and closer. His hands are stretched. He’s ready to embrace the person.
I see the false Thaddeus take a dagger out. I recognize the dagger. It’s a Godkiller!
Just at that moment someone jumps in the way and pushes Heracles out of the way. The person cuts Heracles. He stabs him but it seems to barely miss anything serious. I realize who the person is when Heracles squirms away in pain. It’s Cupid. Cupid saves Heracles and knocks Heracles to the ground.
“Fool,” the false Thaddeus states.
The person turns the knife on Cupid. Just at that moment, the person pierces Cupid. This was the perfect aim. This was the aim that was meant for Heracles. It goes straight into his heart. Cupid falls to the ground at that moment.
There is a silence that takes over. A strange feeling that enters the soul at that moment. I’d never seen a god die before. It’s the oddest thing when it happens. I watch how Cupid hits the ground hard. His body seems unaware of what to do with itself. Does it turn to stone? Does it turn to dust? I watch in horror as the figure contorts somehow.
And then settles down. And slowly…Cupid closes his eyes…
I fall to the ground. I’m throwing up water but I’m still unable to move. I’m weak. I’m ineffective. Just at that moment, I turn and I see Persephone standing there.
She isn’t alone.
Krill stands by her side and then I watch Thaddeus walk over to her.
“What—what’s happening?” I ask looking up at Thaddeus.
I’m still drowning inside. Heracles is too wounded to move. Persephone smiles at the others.
“I learned a long time ago to join the winning team,” the false Thaddeus states.
Just at that moment, I realize I have been betrayed. I shouldn’t have trusted her. The false Thaddeus takes the mask off at that moment. I recognized the mask immediately. It was the mask of Metis. And standing there is Thalia.
For the first time I see Thalia with no mask and I see that she has a hideous face to match her hideous soul.
We watch as Persephone walks in to take her throne. She didn’t even lift a finger.
We’re helpless watching it.
Persephone was now the Queen of Olympus…