There were days when Persephone couldn’t believe that her only daughter was nearly 300 years old. She could still remember the day, as she could with both her sons, that Callidora had been born. It had been a rainy mid-autumn day, so it made sense that Callie loved the autumn more than any other season. Archimedes, her eldest son, had been a winter boy. He’d been born on the day of the first snow that year, over a millennium before Callie. Phelix was a spring boy. Giving birth to such a bright boy, a boy whose eyes always reminded her of the first buds of spring, was a surprise because both she and Hades were dark. He was 500 years older than Callie.
Slowly, she walked over to Callie, smiling at the way she was playing with the two puppies. They were the only two who’d taken after their father and it wasn’t easy to keep all three heads interested in something at the same time. It could be funny to see the fights that went on when one head wanted to chase a ball or a stick when the other two didn’t. A huge part of training the puppies was getting all the heads to work together rather than fight against each other.
Kerberos lay in the shade watching them. He looked like he was napping but if one of them made a run for it he’d be there in an instant. Ever since he’d had his first litter; having three puppies the first time had been a nightmare; he’d been an amazing father. They hadn’t been sure what to expect from him as he’d been adopted and they didn’t know what his relationship had been like with his parents. It wasn’t as though they could ask him. After a quick sniff, which obviously told him more about them than any of them thought possible, he’d gathered them into his paws so they could sleep close to his warm body.
“Morning, sweetheart,” Persephone said, sitting next to Callie and gathering one of the puppies into her lap. “Which one is this?”
“Thaleia. She’s just about getting used to having three heads but it’ll take a bit longer.” She tapped the other puppy, Panteleimon, on one head. “This one doesn’t have a clue what to do about the fact he has three heads. He keeps chewing on his own ears and then wonders why it hurts.”
“He’ll get there.” She stroked Panteleimon’s heads. “I’m sorry you’ve been stuck looking after the puppies so much.”
“I don’t mind. I know that you and Dad have been really busy.”
“It’s not really fair though. If I’d known that we were both going to be busy at the same time I’d have picked another time.”
“There was no way you could have known, even if you’d spent three days staring into the vision pool, and none of us should expect to be totally sure of the future. I know that things can change in an instant.”
“At least I know you listen to me sometimes.” They smiled at each other. “I’m serious though. You shouldn’t be expected to do this when you’re busy with lessons as well. I know that we’ve probably put back your studies by at least six months.”
Callie raised an eyebrow. “Mum, I don’t mind. This is good experience for me. If I can’t look after puppies then how am I meant to be able to look after a race of people?” She smiled. “Nan told me that if I do well with this then we’ll begin looking around to see where I’m interested in taking on my first work experience.”
“Hekate, although Demeter agreed with her.”
“I’m glad that you’ve had a chance to work with both of them. I always found that their combined wisdom taught me more than they ever expected it to.”
“They were telling me about how you used their advice to talk them into letting you handfast Dad.”
Persephone laughed. “Neither of them expected me to fall in love with the Lord of the Underworld when they sent me to learn from him.”
“Did you expect to?”
“No,” she said, shaking her head. “I went down expecting to learn and nothing more. Instead I found the man I am happy to call my husband even after two millennia.”
“How did you know you were in love with him?”
She looked at Callie but Callie’s eyes were locked on one of Panteleimon’s heads. “That’s an impossible question to answer, darling. I just knew. For me it was because I could talk to him as an equal and there were probably other reasons back then. Even now I can still talk to him about anything.” Persephone put a hand on Callie’s arm. “Is there a reason you ask?”
“I… It’s hard.” She shook her head. “I’m too old to feel embarrassed about talking to you about this but I still am. There’s someone I think I might like but I don’t know if he likes me as a person or if he sees me as some sort of surrogate daughter or cousin or something like that.”
“Are we talking about someone who’s been visiting quite a lot recently?”
“Who is it?”
“I can understand why.” Persephone smiled. “The only thing you can do is talk to him and find out if he’s interested in you in the same way, otherwise all you’re going to do is wonder.”
“Maybe it’s better to wonder. I can’t see why he would be interested in me. He’s much older, he’s been written about in different worlds and he always seems too busy to even think about having a relationship with anyone.”
“Callie, your dad is much older than me and we never let it get in the way of anything. Being immortal changes how you view age because it seems much less important as you hit different milestones. After a millennia you start wishing people wouldn’t keep counting the years as it doesn’t matter any more how old you are. What matters is who you are.”
Callie smiled wryly at her. “Who am I, Mum?”
“For a start you’re mine and Hades’ daughter. That gives you an interesting lineage to begin with. We’re thought of as the Lord and Lady of the Underworld on Earth and he’s always been a death god. It’s just who he is. Then your grandmother is Demeter. She has always been an earth goddess of some form. If you decide to become a deity then you can be either one or both, whatever works for you.
“You spend most of your time with Hekate, who has so many different roles on different worlds that sometimes I think my head would explode if I ever tried to do what she did, but then she is one of the oldest deities I know. She has taught us both things that we would never have known if she hadn’t taken the time to teach us. Sometimes I think of her as a teacher deity, someone who’s always there to take you by the hand and teach you something new.
“Then, of course, you know the people I work with. You get on well with deities from all the old Earth pantheons and the newer deities that have been born since they stopped worshipping us. I know how much time you’ve been spending with the old Egyptian deities since you met Anubis and Bast, which is something I think is really good for you. You’re able to see all the old pantheons as equal, as well as understand that some of what has been written about us is due to miscommunications.”
“Like Loki being the evil trickster of the Norse pantheon and you marrying your uncle in the Greek.”
Persephone nodded. “Exactly. Sometimes I can’t help but wonder at why the ancient Greeks thought we were all related to each other. Zeus, Poseidon and Hades saw themselves as brothers-in-arms but nothing more than that. I also can’t understand where they got the idea of my mother being Zeus’ sister.”
“The ancient Greeks obviously had an interesting view of the world. At least they gave Kerberos all three heads in most of the writing.”
Kerberos lifted one head when he heard his name. Persephone looked over at the dog she’d gained when she married Hades and thought about some of the things she’d read about him. The dread guardian of the Underworld, who wouldn’t let the dead leave, but fell asleep if music was played to him. None of the description was really correct, although he did occasionally fall asleep if music was playing. Usually that was only if the music was something he didn’t like. Once he was asleep he could snore through it and annoy Hades.
“Unless they were giving him fifty heads.” She shook her head. “How did they think it was possible to get fifty heads attached to dog shoulders, no matter how huge the dog was?”
“Imagine trying to train the puppies in dealing with fifty heads rather than just three.”
“Three heads is definitely hard enough.” She tapped Panteleimon on a head when he tried chewing on his ear. “Why don’t you take these two for a walk and think about talking to Loki?”
“Do you think Dad would mind if something did happen between us?”
“No, he likes Loki. He’ll probably still do the over protective dad thing but you are his only daughter.”
“I just wondered if it would be a problem to him that I was with someone from another Earth pantheon.”
Persephone looked at Callie, knowing exactly where her worries had come from. Almost all of the deities saw themselves as a collective ever since they had first started guiding the many races of the multiverse, but there were some who still, even after over two millennia, clung to old ways. Zeus was one of them and he was someone who was very hard to ignore.
“Before the Greeks knew him as their Lord of the Underworld he was a deity in several other worlds and he doesn’t cling to the old Earth ways because he was always a death god. For Zeus it was his first time being ‘king’ of the gods and it went to his head a bit. Now he’s clinging onto those days because he’ll never be in that position again.” She sighed. “I can’t help feeling sorry for him, even though I think his views are wrong. He needs to find another race to guide but he won’t and no one can convince him to.”
“So you think I should just go for it with Loki?”
“Yes, Callie, I do. If I’d have left your dad to make the first move I’d still be waiting now.” She smiled. “Sometimes it’s better to take the initiative. If he’s not interested you know that you need to move on.”
Callie stood up. “I’ll think about it while I’m out with the puppies. I’m really not sure that I’m ready to talk to him about this.”
“The worst he can do is say no.”
Callidora nodded. “I know, but I don’t want my interest in him to affect what you’re doing. By talking to him about how I feel I might affect whether he feels comfortable coming to the house and that’s another one of my worries, because I know how important it is that you all work together right now, so I’m just not sure what the best thing to do would be.”
“Loki’s old enough to have dealt with things like this before.” Persephone stood so she was next to her daughter and wrapped an arm around her waist. “He knows that the worlds always come first, so even if he did feel uncomfortable it wouldn’t affect him in such a way that he’d stop coming to work with the Thearans. Especially at the moment. What you need to think about, darling, is what is best for you, not what’s best for him, even though I know it’s hard. I remember doing the same thing when I was wondering whether I should ask Hades out and it took me a long time to decide that I needed to ask him, even if he did turn me down, because otherwise I’d never know.”
“Do you ever wonder what it would be like if you hadn’t asked him out?”
Persephone smiled. “Of course I do and I could show you, but I’m not certain you’re ready for that yet, Callie. Learning what the future could have held for me is something I don’t suggest you do until you can accept that you’re a natural Seer.” She shook her head. “Trust me, I know how hard it is, but being able to See isn’t really that bad. It can be hard to cope with at times, especially if you chose to become a deity of prophecy on any of the worlds you chose, and occasionally I can’t help wishing I made a different decision on Thear, although I was the only one of us who could. Hekate might have stayed, to be the Seer, if I hadn’t been willing to, but I knew she had other places to be, and there are only three other Seers who could have chosen to become the deity of prophecy on Thear.
“All three of them are busy being the deity of prophecy on some other world, where they’re needed just as much as I am on Thear. I could never have asked them to walk away from their duties because I know how important they are to the races that their working with. Being my daughter, and Hades’, means that you have inherited some abilities that I would never have given you if I had a choice, but I didn’t, and the time is coming when you need to decided if you’re going to use them or walk away, although walking away won’t make them magically fade away. You’ll still have them, you’ll still be able to use them if you wish to, and I always thought that would make things harder.
“However that was my choice. We aren’t the same person and I don’t want you to think that I’d be unhappy with you if you made a different choice to me. The last thing I want is for you to think that you could disappoint me, because that just isn’t possible, Callie. Before you were born we had no idea that we were going to have a daughter, but I hoped we would, and you have been more than I could ever have hoped for you to be. You’re becoming a wonderful deity, a beautiful woman, and when you are making decisions, no matter what they are, always put yourself first. That way you’ll be making the best choices that you can.” Persephone shook her head. “I have no idea how that turned into a pep talk, but it might have something to do with the fact I don’t make enough time for you.”
“Callidora, we both know it’s true. You’re my only daughter and I don’t have enough time to spend with you at the moment, because I’m always working, and that isn’t fair. This is the most important time of your life, a time of decisions and stress, so I should be available more, the way Mum was for me.”
“It’s different.” Persephone felt Callidora take her hand and gently squeeze it. “Nan wasn’t in the middle of helping her people through one of their most difficult points in history, and I know that right now that needs to come first. The people of Thear need you more than I do, but I’m certain that if I asked you for help you’d be there to give it, no matter what. I’m not as badly affected by you being busy as you seem to think I am.” She smiled. “You spent time with me when I was younger preparing me for this time, telling me that I needed to talk to as many deities as possible for as many pantheons as I call, which is exactly what Hekate is also telling me, so I am ready. Even though I’m terrified I’m ready.
“This isn’t a choice that’s going to be easy for me to make. It’ll take time and the other thing you told me was to take as much time as I needed. I have the rest of my life ahead of me, so giving myself a few extra months to make such a difficult decision is something I shouldn’t be scared of doing. To be really honest with you, Mum, I’m actually grateful that I have the puppies to take care of right now, because it means I’m happier taking the time. Otherwise I would be pushing myself. Even though I know that I should I would be. I want to be a deity, so much, but at the same time I don’t think I’m ready for that, and it’s trying to make those two things work together that is the hardest part.
“Wanting something and being ready for it are too different things. That’s part of the reason I haven’t spoken to Loki yet about my feelings for him. I know I want to be more than friends with him, but am I really ready to take our relationship that step further.” Callidora smiled. “Maybe I’m not, as I’m thinking more about him than I am about me, and I think that, if I was, it wouldn’t matter so much what his reaction is to me telling him. Then the worst thing he could do is say no.” She shrugged. “Right now I’m more scared of losing someone I’m close to by saying the wrong thing to him and as I feel that way I don’t think I’m ready to talk to him about this.”
Persephone nodded. “You’re smarter than I was.” She squeezed Callidora’s hand in return. “Even though I believed I was ready to have a relationship with Hades I never stopped to think that my fear might well mean that I wasn’t. I don’t know if it was because I was in a different position to you, as it wasn’t that long after Dad had moved on and I felt like I needed to make the move before something happened to either me or Hades to mean that I no longer could.” She sighed. “I don’t think I ever talked to you about that.”<<< The Deities’ World: Hestia: Goddess of Hearth and Home***