PART ONE: OF THE GODS
y Gaea… what have you done!”
Zeus stared at the rubble of the stone door that once sealed Gaea’s adyton, a sanctum impenetrable even to the gods, and only the Earth Mother could sanction who entered. Gaea had informed Hermes so he could bring Zeus. He could see the writhing darkness of Gaea’s sister scorn him even though she had no face. Zeus could only hear her in his mind for she had no need to be vocal as a Protogenos, a primordial being.
“What do you mean I ignored you? And how did you enter this place? Only Gaea can sanction…”
Amorphous and ever changing, her tendrils of darkness curled around the Olympian king. Cloudlike, much like her mother, she roiled throughout the stony chamber, seeming to laugh, if a Protogenos could. Zeus, still aghast, examined the wreckage of what once was a set of scales, those that kept the balance of Order and Chaos in this world and the one beyond. Swimming through the dusty air, she smirked at him, or he sensed she did. He, however, was on the verge of tears for the first time in his existence.
“You destroyed the Hieros Zugos, O Dark One. Shattered the Sacred Scales as if they were…”
Her voice entered his mind in a language almost forgotten by the gods.
“Yes, ...'mortal'. ”
The vast tenebrosity pervaded the cavern, filling each cavity. Cloudlike wasn’t even an appropriate description for her; she was a living, gurgling mass of nothingness, darker than even the sky devoid of stars. For her to destroy something so powerful, so vital… he did not have the words. Or did he.
“Nyx, dark Night, how did I ignore you that you should do this? Not even the Moirae know the consequences of such an act! Keeping the tenuous balance is what fastens the cosmos together. I do not understand…” His voice trailed off, trembling before this daughter of Khaos, as he knelt by the debris. It was a good thing Hermes had told only him of this tragedy and not the other gods. The winged messenger, the only other witness to the catastrophe, flitted in the shadows. Nyx’s silent words brought ire to the Olympian king.
“What do you mean you are not as detached from the gods as I think you are? We felt your detachment, despite what you say, and one would think that a Protogenos would have a deeper understanding of the gods.
“Aye, you are correct. I did indeed seek counsel from Erebos, Aether, Thalassa…
“Aye, I sought the same from Eros, Phusis, and even Gaea… and I deeply regret not approaching you. But, this? To have taken the Scales from us? That, O Dark One, seems petty…”
Petty? Filaments of dark, serpents of shadow, made their way toward Zeus—an attack for his disrespect. With clenched fist, he summoned his own filaments, of lightning, and protected himself from her assault. The fires of the sky were enough to repulse Nyx, but Zeus knew well she didn't want to destroy him, simply to scare him for his insolence. He had certainly done as she said. In his pride, he had failed to consult her in the new order after he defeated Kronos and the Titans. Plus, there was one other indignity. How could he now face the gods? No matter. He was King of Olympos, of the Skies, and could wield the thunderbolts forged by the Cyclopes. He would find a way to deal with this. Holding a chunk of one of the scales in his hands, he closed his eyes for a moment and breathed deeply, if gods do indeed breathe. What to do now, he mused. Nyx began to reply.
“No, I do not speak with you,” he muttered, “And stay out of my thoughts.”
He had to tell the other gods. The repercussions of this would resonate throughout time, forward as well as backward, since the scales were not of this world, but merely in it. Even creation itself might change, and he would have to wait to see. Patience was not a godly virtue, however. As he left the bowels of the earth beneath the great mountain, he turned back to see the shifting form of Night vanish into the darkness once more, and he heard what he thought was laughter. The shards of the scales vanished, as well. There was no telling what she had done with them. But, it didn’t matter now. The gods needed to know. There was something else, however, that they didn’t need to know, and he wouldn’t tell them.
He had not walked more than twenty paces when he saw them.
Five immortals stood before him, Hera in front. His sister queen had led them down into Gaea’s innards with her consent. Hermes, guilty of letting the others know where Zeus had gone but not why, darted about in the shadows. Indeed, Zeus would be annoyed, but he would overcome that soon enough. When she saw his pallid, angry face, Hera reached for Zeus’ cheek.
“Do not be upset at the messenger, my husband. Hermes told us where you were out of necessity. What is wrong? You have been crying?” She had never seen him cry, ever.
Shifting his eyes away, he pointed toward the inner sanctum. As the remaining Olympians witnessed the destruction, disbelief echoed, and the lord of Olympos made his way back to the scene, now devoid of the perpetrator who had undoubtedly skulked back into the depths of the underworld until Helios’ sun would set. Only light from a lone torch held by Hesteia shone down on where the debris once sat, and Poseidon knelt and hung his head. He, too, knew the consequence of such an act. Creation’s doom, he thought. Hades kept his stoic gaze on emptiness where once sat the keystone of the world, now splintered beyond recognition, its pieces expunged. Unable to remain, Hesteia disappeared in a fiery cloud back to Olympos, ashamed to be in that foul place now. The eldest god, she felt wrenching guilt for not being aware that something like this could happen, or would happen. Deep down, she recognized her own impotence.
Hera touched Zeus’ shoulder and radiant eyes spoke words she need not convey, but he understood nonetheless. They had had their differences, to be sure, with all of his dalliances with mortals and immortals alike, but now—at this nadir of their existence—she knew her allegiance was not only necessary, but also required. What do gods do when they despair?
Zeus’s brethren, after witnessing Nyx’s handiwork and realizing how it might threaten their entire being, took a simultaneous moment to reflect upon that day after Kronos’ defeat during the Titanomachia, the day when each took dominion over his or her province of power. Unlike them, Zeus slumped in his throne, the responsibility of Nyx’s actions weighing most heavily upon him specifically. He knew all too well why, and he wasn’t convinced of her reason either. The gods would look to him for leadership, for strength. How could one who had had prevailed over Kronos now sit, wounded, sulking like a child. His memory of the day after would remain his deep memory, not brought to the nostalgic surface. His ascendance took place the moment the scythe pierced his father’s heart, not when he—later—received the blessings of Aeolos, sovereign of the winds, who pledged his offspring into the Olympian’s service. Having stretched his hand toward the skies, the newly crowned king of the gods summoned a thunderbolt as his scepter, and thanked Aeolos for his service. The prophecy fulfilled, Zeus had plans to bring Mount Olympos to greater glory than the Titans had. For Humankind, he had much in store, punctuated by lightning that streaked across the bloodstained heavens, a fading reminder of Ouranos’ defeat by Kronos that still lingered, but would disappear in time.
Now came his greatest challenge—moving forward and keeping his goals of making the sacred mountain of Olympos the glory of Gaea’s earthly crown. So said Zeus, king of the almighty gods.
While he brooded, a conflagration rose in the hearth, its flames erupting, scorching the ceiling. A voice stemmed from the flames, no… three voices, in unison. Not since their birth had they spoken directly with any god, so hearing this made Zeus stand at attention, his fist clenched around a writhing thunderbolt.
“Who speaks to me now? Show yourself!”
The voices of three replied, and Zeus at once knew in whose company he stood.
“Kneel, O Wrathful One, kneel before those who weave thy aftertime!”
Normally, Zeus would refuse such a command, and would kill the one who demanded such for his impertinence, but in this moment, he genuflected, extinguishing the scepter of lightning.
“Summon thy siblings, son of Kronos, for our words have urgency and purpose.”
Normally, he would call for Hermes to deliver such a message, but in this instance, thunder would do just as well. Each Olympian appeared instantly; apparently, Zeus’ thunder conveyed such urgency, as well as the identity of those for whom he called them: the Moirae, the Fates.
“As the Scales kept the balance, they also provided us the thread from which we weave the aftertime of all, mortal and immortal alike. Without such an instrument of equilibrium, our loom is lost, and a new one has taken its place, and threads of unknown origin entwine and braid with new direction.” The voices paused. “We know not what the aftertime brings, nor do we know what the beforetime has been. As such, new prophecies unfold and will set forth new paths for mortals… and the gods.”
Eyes darted around the chamber, from one god to the other, expressing disbelief mostly, but also, perhaps, fear.
“Take heed of these words, Olympians, if thou hast any yearning to repair what one among has brought.
“Four not born of godly word
Two of vessel, two of sword,
Keep vigil over Gaea’s kin
From Keto’s progeny within.
Lead day’s darkness to finds its path
Let spirit restore balance without wrath.
Four for Gaea, four must be,
For being lacks uncertainty.”
With that, the voices departed, leaving behind simply glowing embers in the hearth, and only the bewilderment on the faces of the gods marked the Moirae’s presence, and they had questions. Fate never gave a straight answer.
Gods begat gods, and Olympos grew strong, overshadowing what remained of the Titans’ tyrannical rule, the promise of a bright future, perhaps, but only the threads of Fate would truly know.
Nyx’s rash act, the ripples of which would crash upon the world, however, would change that which should have happened into what might yet be… or not.
Sample from Task Force: Gaea—Memory's Curse:
PART ONE: Oblivion
1—Age of torment
2009, the Modern Era: inside Gaea’s vault, the adyton.
daughter… Zeus and Nyx?” asked Themis, the blindfolded goddess of Justice, the only Titan not entombed in stone in Tartaros with her brethren. “How… inconvenient.”
Gaea, Earth Mother, had given her grandson Apollo and her daughter Themis special dispensation to enter her adyton, her most sacred repository deep inside the earth where the Scales existed, and he had just told Themis a most intriguing tale about how four mortals restored balance, and only he remembered what happened. The gods both of reason and justice seemed appropriate in this place.
The sun god, who strangely took great solace in the darkest parts of the underworld, stared at the scales that kept the shaky balance of order and chaos.
“Yes, inconvenient to say the least. The sky god and Night incarnate. Three thousand years ago, I had come to this place, if you can even call it that since it has no tangible mortal dimension, to find solitude and reflection after the gods imprisoned your brethren Titans after the Titanomachia, the Great War. In that heavy blackness, when I came here, with Gaea’s consent, I spied my father and Nyx in an impossible embrace. They shared no words, and after he seduced her, had been with her as he had been with so many others, he spurned her—as he had so many others. Alone, her rage festered, and I didn’t have to be the god of prophecy to know that that wouldn’t bode well.”
Themis’ expression remained unchanged; however, Apollo sensed a question brewing.
“I have... mixed memories of that day, however. One tells me that I saw this event unfold, that Zeus saw me, and then used that as a reason to banish me to Gaea, so that I wouldn’t say anything to Hera. It was during that memory that Nyx destroyed the Sacred Scales after being scorned, or from being ignored after Zeus, Hades, and Poseidon established Olympos for the gods. Another memory, if that’s what it is, tells me that I saw them, but then Zeus returned to Olympos, reluctant to linger too long in her murkiness, regretting his choice. Not long after, I chose to live a mortal life for a year, but then the prophecy about Nyx’s daughter changed everything, and I uprooted my life and lived permanently in the mortal realm. Regardless, events that followed have not given me peace.”
“How do you know about this daughter of Nyx? Why wouldn’t others know, too?” Themis asked.
“Within Gaea’s embrace, the story remains hidden; such is her shame. The Earth herself told me the horrific story of the birth, and even she shuddered as she told me. This is what I know...”
1019 B.C.E. or Ilikía Olympios (Olympeian Age)
A churning blackness, Nyx shaped herself in ways that would stagger the mortal mind, collapsing into maelstroms of dark, living clouds, ready to bear her offspring implanted in her by Olympos’ adulterous king. With the catacombs of the dead for her nursery, Nyx wanted to bring forth her daughter in the company of the agonized, pitiable souls of those who had never made it beyond the gates of the underworld; they had a great deal to offer her child.
Sidetracked by her thoughts, she almost forgot her role in the cosmos and raced toward the exit of Tartaros, a cave entrance kissed by the air that mortals breathe. As she neared the opening, bright Hemera, her daughter—the Day itself, descended into the Hadean depths, and both Protogenoi, primordial gods, touched ever so briefly before Nyx bubbled forth into the air, becoming the blanket of obscurity shrouding part of the earth until Day would rise again—mother and daughter in a forever dance.
Taking her place in the sky, Nyx felt it was time: her newest daughter would enter the world in a way no other elder god had.
Two days later, in Megara, Greece, screams of torment and railing pain cut at the air like talons, ripping apart the peace of the healer’s tent in the cultist’s sanctuary, a humble place in the mortal world where those afflicted by madness came to embrace the darkness of Nyx. A woman, crazed with murderous thoughts and tortured dreams, reclined on a woven grass mat, her wrists and ankles bound with worn leather straps anchored to the ground to prevent her from hurting herself or others. Her eyes as black as Erebos, the darkness itself, she became the ideal choice for this birth, a living receptacle for Nyx. Her madness would mix well with the darkness. Ancient primordial entered her human host and the body took on the pregnant form, bloating the abdomen with life.
Soon, echoing cries interlaced with unintelligible mutterings escaped the woman’s lips while the healer, his white chiton stained from years of patient’s blood, knelt ready to extract the newborn, eager to come forth; he was certainly ignorant of what would come. He preferred the bloody patches on his garment to help him remember each forced amputation or sutured wound, usually brought about by a stony fragment or stick used during an arcane ritual to Nyx. Anarchy bound the cult, it would seem, and spontaneous fights were commonplace. Night incarnate had selected well, largely to reflect the chaos within, but also to see what it would feel like to push her progeny forth as a mortal would. That connection to humanity would prove so very useful.
Following a pain-induced shriek, a volcanic spray of blood and placenta erupted forth as the part human, part primordial being pushed her way into the world of Humankind without the benefit of the healer’s aid. Wiping the sanguine discharge from his face, the healer caught a glimpse of this child, and as he felt his psyche melt, he gouged out his own eyes with his fingers, mumbling as his intellect fragmented, foaming at the mouth like a rabid beast. A mortal mind could not comprehend such a primordial in her true form. Soon, he lay still, and the entity moved over to the lifeless body, draining it of its soul as a child takes sustenance from its mother. Not even Hades would want the sack of skin and bones, as it had no spirit to wander the underworld.
Nyx exited the woman’s spent body—now a lifeless, vacant, fleshy shell—and coalesced around her daughter, ready to take her back to Tartaros where the newborn would mature among the imprisoned Titans, Gaea’s children buried beneath stone and Zeus’ curse, and there she would feed off ancient energy originating from Khaos, the mother of the cosmos herself. In such a place of despair, this child would find solace near yet another tomb, a place no mortal could ever see, and no god would ever go. She would grow accustomed to the dead chill of one whose presence no one spoke, for fear even saying his name would rouse him—Kronos, the Titan king.
As the Moirae wove the fate of Humanity and the immortal gods, so too did they spin the threads of those who came before them. Part of this tapestry would form a path for the daughter of Nyx, who would be known by all as the Nebulous One, for uttering or knowing her true name would bring on madness. Bony fingers on the loom, bound by duty and a yearning, trembled with each pass, and the fabric it brought forth for Zeus’ daughter bore the color of blood.
“That was all,” Apollo said. “Gaea would tell me no more, but I could tell she knew more. It was not like her to be fickle. With what I do know, and what every prophetic bone in my immortal body tells me, I feel my ichor run cold, colder than the tomb of Kronos.”
“Where is she now?” Themis asked.
“I don’t know. But, I need to see Zeus and pray that he believes me.”
Gaea indeed knew more about this child’s early days.
Nyx waited in Tartaros for the return of Day so she might become the night sky once more, an eternal cycle she had entered long ago. While the Nebulous One drifted around the Titans’ rocky tombs, she absorbed even the faintest traces of energy from within the encasements, energy tainted by hatred of the other Olympeian gods—especially Zeus, her father. She felt their rage, their unremitting, seething rage against the youngest son of Kronos. Like mother’s milk, this life force leached through the stone into her, and her form churned like a storm-battered sea with every acerbic drop. Each of the Titans remembered the day Zeus’ scythe took their lord’s life, returning his energy to all-encompassing Khaos. Each remembered the sacrosanct pact of Zeus, Poseidon, and Hades, the one that turned their own mother, Gaea, against them. Mother Earth was nothing if she was not loyal to prophecy, the very one that foretold of Kronos’ demise by his son’s hand.
The Nebulous One glided further away from her mother, tumbling over the rock-strewn floor until even she felt the gelid tomb, the one place in all of creation not even the gods visit. Surrounding the earth sarcophagus, she waited to feel that familiar electric sensation of life, but... nothing. Her frustration subsided, as she slowly comprehended what she had learned from the Titans: Kronos, the son of Gaea and Ouranos, the king of the Titans, truly was no more.
After her feeding, she wanted to explore her new home, like any curious child, and found the path to the place where she knew she could find the one she needed to meet, the one she needed to see, the one she needed to kill—Zeus—for he not only had abandoned her mother, as he had so many others, but he also was despised by the Titans, and it was their hatred that fueled her. The journey to high Olympos from Tartaros, even for Nyx’s daughter, would take time. Immune to mortal constraints, she could not be bound by chain or rope, by solid or ether, but time had neither shape nor form, neither matter nor mind—and it could affect her. She would eventually reach the sacred mountaintop, and she would ensure that Zeus understood what it meant to abandon her. Making her way through Hades, though, would teach her much, if nothing else, how nourishing souls could be.
Through the fields of gray asphodel, she wended her way, rolling like a black tide. Spirits of the dead—pale mist swirling with no human resemblance—paid her no mind, neither knowing nor caring who she was, and they wandered through the fields as the billowing daughter of Nyx wafted around them. Near Hades’ palace of inky marble columns, striated with wispy bits of white, she stopped, looking like a storm cloud that had lost its buoyancy. This was Hades, she thought, the underworld where the dead found their solace or their suffering. She had already felt the deep, aching torment from the Titans, raw emotions able to carve into the densest stone, and now she felt at home. Onward she moved, undulating, rolling across the realm, and finding her bearings, until she saw her kin. Hovering on scaly black wings behind the Hall of Judgment, their arms and legs entwined with sleek serpents, three sisters tormented a soul not yet ethereal, but no longer corporeal. Having drowned his newborn child, this once-mortal man would spend eternity in Tartaros, enduring punishments not fit for humans to comprehend. Such was the will of Rhadamanthys, Aeacos, and Minos, the three judges of the underworld. Each had been mortal, and a son of Zeus, rewarded for his good deeds with this post, and so they spoke in one voice, “Tartaros shall lay claim to you, and none shall discern your screams amid those whose voices you join.”
Despite lacking a body, this former human felt every talon strike ripping through what was left, every snakebite and the venom it released, every contemptuous gesture, and he would never again know peace. One of the three winged goddesses, Tisiphone, took perverse pleasure in bringing anguish to him, the murderer of the innocent; the other Erinyes, Alekto and Megaera, assisted in his torment. Daughters of Nyx, by Ouranos, and sisters to the Nebulous One, they only relented when their cloud-like sibling moved closer. Through thought, she conveyed her contempt for Zeus and all of Olympos, relaying how the god of the sky had abandoned their mother. She was going to Olympos seeking vengeance, to tear down the oligarchy of the gods one by one, starting with her father who had wronged the Protogenoi. The Nebulous One had few emotions known to her for one so young, but the Erinyes saw her deep pain, felt her yearning. To demonstrate what she would do, she swirled around the tortured soul before them, exacting her own revenge on him for his heinous crime. None who knew him would ever remember he existed—such was her power—but his spirit would remember the egregious harm he had done to his infant girl. How appropriate, the Nebulous One thought, that he had tripped on a stone after committing the deed, cracking open his skull. As his blood leached into the earth, Hermes dragged his soul to the underworld to face judgment. And now what was left of him would go to Tartaros, to endure whatever agony he deserved, knowing no one would ever mourn him or feel the finest shred of pity.
The Nebulous One left her sisters and headed directly for the meandering caverns that stretched out beneath Olympos. Magaera and her sisters followed. Others found their path with the Erinyes, too, and those who inhabited the darkest realms of the underworld saw opportunities to glorious and plentiful torment with the daughter of Night.
It would take time to find the right path to Olympos, the new home for the gods; spirits sometimes wandered from their eternal existence, and it would be easy for some to find their way beyond the underworld. Blind caverns and labyrinthine paths meander through the caves, some harboring creatures that dine on lost souls. It could take eons or seconds to find the Olympeian gods. Nevertheless, she would find her prey.