"Mark my words, husband, you have set your mind to doom us all."
Hera, goddess of many things, but probably most notably renowned for being Queen of the Gods, stared at Zeus with a sharpness that matched her tone. His blatant refusal to listen to her advice to instill fear back into the mortals, as it had been dwindling, was as irrational as his explanation of why: because he said so.
"I am not King of all things in creation because I take advice from you," Zeus answered, raising an eyebrow at his wife in indignation. "Remember your place, wife, and who allows you to keep it."
Hera glowered at her husband, who also happened to be her brother. There was a time when she had been quite content with the existence she'd managed to secure, but it hadn't been long. After realizing that the nymph Echo was helping distract her from the many affairs of Zeus with other gods and mortals alike, Hera cursed Echo and set herself to seek revenge upon her husband.
She tortured his children and consorts to no end. Disgusted at the mere mention of them, she worked tirelessly to make their existences as unpleasant as they were to her. Though Zeus had populated half of Olympus with his bastard offspring, there were ones that brought more of a bitter taste to her mouth than others. Apollo and Artemis were constant eyesores in Olympus, but there was little she could do but torture their followers since they were also bestowed with godly immortality.
Apollo's good looks and biologically appealing nature made him a direct contrast to Hephaestus, Hera's own monstrous-looking son. Initially, she'd cast the ugly god down to Gaia, ashamed that she'd produced such a hideous creature, but realized her err and instead awarded him with something that Apollo would never have: the prize of Aphrodite as a wife.
A philanderer like his father, Apollo was known for seeking out the most attractive lovers, both men and women alike, to feed his ego. So what a blow it was to that ego when the goddess declared most beautiful was given to someone else. The look of jealousy Apollo gave Hephaestus every time he saw him was a momentary thrill of joy to Hera.
As for Artemis…Oh how Hera wanted to cast that little chit down to the fiery depths of Tartarus and lock her away for good. The spoiled little goddess could wrap Zeus around her little finger in a way that no one else could. She'd merely have to bat her eyes at her father and any wish she had would be granted by the simpering fool. It was nauseating to watch.
And then there was Heracles. The half-god bastard that had been named for her was more of an insult than anyone else. How the mortals praised him as though he was a true god was unacceptable and Hera drove the man mad when she focused her hatred on him. She watched with glee as he slaughtered his own family and then allowed him to regain his sanity so he could feel the repercussions.
He begged the Oracle of Delphi to show him the path of redemption, and once again was played a fool by Hera when she told the Oracle to send him to King Eurystheus for ten years. The King made him atone for his sins by doing ten labors, in which Hera made each harder with spite. The result was the ten labors being increased to twelve, but Heracles succeeded in completing the tasks.
Thinking he was absolved of his guilt, Heracles tried to move on and settle into a normal life again and remarried. Hera did not allow it to last. She set him on a homicidal path and he killed his wife again. She watched joyfully as he wandered aimlessly and fought the perils she placed in front of him with a broken spirit. It pleased her to think he would forever be without the happiness she also was devoid of for all of his existence.
The fool was even daft enough to take a third wife. She did the work for Hera by accidentally poisoning the man's clothes so that when he put them on, the mortal skin he wore was melted from his body. The result left him a disgusting husk of a demi-god, causing him to hide away from the rest of the civilization that had once praised him.
If only she could do the same for the rest of the little bastards.
Hera hated the thought of Zeus as King of the Gods. Yes, he was better than Cronus, but only marginally, and mostly in the fact that he had not eaten their children. She had tried before to overthrow the arrogant prick that was her husband, but due to arguments between the gods of who should take up his mantle, Zeus escaped and punishment was severe.
He'd hung her from the sky with unbreakable golden chains. He'd told her to scream for mercy, but she'd been determined not to give in to his brutality. Sadly, he won out, though. He made her promise that she'd never try to coup him again, and then released her from her bonds.
Even now, as she traveled to Sparta to collect her sacrifices, Hera regretted that decision. Surely, she could have out waited that fool and not promised such a ridiculous thing. But alas, there was no changing it now. The words were said and she'd have to continue on abiding by them.
"It would be different, if I were to do it again," she mused, watching from the heavens as the Spartans began the ritual of sacrificing a young calf to her sacred name. She couldn't help but notice that not as many people stood before her temple for this sacrifices as had once before. And if those numbers continued to shrink, so would her power as a goddess leave her.
"Ignorant fools," she hissed, plotting to spite the non-believers.
"Ignorance is bliss, for some."
Hera knew that voice. Her demeanor changed instantly at the sound of Clotho's voice. The Moirae, or more widely known as The Fates, were not to be trifled with in any way, shape or form.
"Great Moirae," Hera greeted, bestowing a rare nod of dominion to them. "I did not know that you also would be collecting praise today in the city of Sparta."
"Take care, great Queen of Zeus," Lachesis advised. "Many a thing will come to end soon. Be sure that your actions do not bring such events about more swiftly."
Something coming to an end?
"I shall school my actions according to your words," Hera assured them. "Pray, tell me, what end shall come?"
"The end of the time of Gods," Atropos revealed, her old voice grating. "It is as sure to come to close as is everything else in the universe."
Hera felt a chill go through her.
"Surely, there can be something done to forestall this?" Hera reasoned, her tone desperate.
"All measurements are exact," Lachesis told her. "Once the thread is spun and measured, the only change that can be made is how quickly it is cut."
The Moirae always spoke in such riddles, but Hera believed she understood what they were trying to tell her: if she did not act soon, the time of the gods would end prematurely.
"I will go forth immediately to Olympus and set myself a task of heeding these words," Hera promised. "I thank you for your divine words of wisdom."
She bowed her head to the three forecasters and when it rose again, they were gone from her sight. Hera set her jaw, knowing that though it was against her nature and all things she stood for, she was going to have to break her promise.
She could not let Zeus doom the Gods of Olympus, and sought out her eldest brother Hades to help her oust the foolish god from his throne, for good this time.
"You are looking well, brother," Hera greeted Hades. In truth, she could not see Hades, as he was wearing the Helm of Darkness, which made him invisible. But still, she could feel his essence and knew that he was in a somewhat pleasant mood.
"And you are looking cross," the emptiness greeted back. Hera supposed he was sitting on his throne, since Cerberus was resting at its side. "What brings the Queen of the Gods to these dark pits?"
"Just a chat," she answered. "How is your wife?"
"You would know better than I," Hades growled. "I have not seen her since the snow disappeared."
Persephone, the wife of Hades, was only required to stay with him for three months of the mortal year, during which time Demeter cast winter upon the world. Hera smiled, knowing that this subject was a touchy one and that a damned-Zeus-tirade usually followed.
"That my wife is taken from me for many months is deemed acceptable is ridiculous!" Hades roared. "She is my wife! She should be here with me all of the time!"
"I agree," Hera told him. "As goddess of marriage, I think it an atrocity."
"So says the woman who allows her husband to bastard hundreds of children," Hades quipped, finally removing the Helm of Darkness. The look Hera returned him was one of indignation and pain. "You did not come here to just chat. Out with it, sister."
"I wish to remove Zeus from the throne," she told him. Hades' laughter boomed throughout the great throne room of the Underworld.
"Are you daft, sister?" he chortled. "Or have you forgotten what happened last time you attempted such a feat?"
"Neither, brother," she answered sharply. "I have spoken to The Moirae and they told me of the coming of the fall of the gods because of him."
Hades laughter quieted as he took in his sister's seriousness on the matter. "You are sure of this?"
"I believe the Moirae have greater things to do than lie to me," she bit. "Of course I am sure."
Hades regarded her proposition. "You are aware of the repercussions if this fails?"
"Greatly so," she agreed. "I also have a better structure in place when I remove him. That is where you come in, brother."
"Do tell," Hades smirked, gesturing forward with his hand.
"King and Father," Athena greeted Zeus, bowing to him as he sat in his throne atop Mount Olympus.
"Daughter," he nodded, gesturing for her to rise.
"I see great upheaval in our future," she revealed, coming to kneel at his feet. "I believe that an evil from within seeks to destroy the gods."
"What unrest gives food to these thoughts?" Zeus asked, regarding his favored daughter.
"The Moirae give warning that the gods will soon be tested in their own divinity," she told him. "And that they will fail."
"Be sure that the only one in the universe who tests divinity is your father," Zeus assured her. "And there is no test I could give you, daughter, that you would fail."
Athena smiled at his praise, but Zeus could tell she still carried the worry in her eyes.
"Tell me, daughter," he began, leaning close to her with a playful smile. "What may I do that will put your mind at rest on the matter?"
"I have heard stories in the east of a practice of a single god," Athena related. "A god that claims to control all of humanity and offers to save their souls from the Underworld after death. A god that promises to give them divinity and bring them up to the heavens in exchange for their patronage."
Zeus raised an intrigued eyebrow. "No god in Olympus would dare offer such things to mortals."
"I fear an uprising," Athena whispered, leaning close. "From within."
Zeus stared into the eyes of his 'brain child.' Born directly from his head when he split it with an ax to relieve a great headache, she was the personification of his mental capabilities and could detect things at a swifter pace than he some of the time. He had no doubts in her loyalty since she was completely of his creation, and believed her worry not to be something to trifle with.
"It is decided. I will go to the east to seek out the blasphemer with my own eyes and ears," Zeus said. "Remain in Olympus, dearest daughter, and keep your vigilant eyes on my throne."
Athena nodded in agreement, watching the godly form of her father transform before her eyes to a golden eagle. The majestic bird cocked his head to the side and gave her one last look, before striking out towards the distant sunrise.
"And off he goes to impregnate someone else."
Athena turned to see Apollo and Artemis entering the great coliseum where Zeus' throne sat. Apollo gated arrogantly up to the throne and fell into it lazily, hanging one leg over the side.
"The truth hurts, beloved," he shrugged, pulling his arms behind his head to lean on. "Our sister Athena is our only sibling that is not so only by half, since she was born solely of Zeus."
Athena turned a disapproving eye to Apollo sitting in their father's throne.
Artemis pulled on her brother's sandaled leg so he could not lollop in the throne. "Do not be angry at our family. All of our siblings are as important as us."
"I think even Athena would disagree with that statement," Apollo predicted, changing position in the throne so he leaned in it the other way and Artemis could not tug on him anymore. "Some of us are better than others."
"Your father seeks out a betrayer in his midst," Athena cut in, eyeing Apollo suspiciously. "Not to 'impregnate.' The Moirae have predicted—"
"The fall of the gods," Apollo finished for her, waving a hand dismissively. "I have heard this already. Hera gave speech of the same nonsense not long ago."
"What Hera spoke of was different," Artemis disagreed, giving her brother a dark look. "She said that the actions of one will—"
"Bring down the gods from divinity," Apollo interrupted hastily. "A load of rot. Just like the godly sow who said it."
Artemis still looked to be in disagreement with her brother on the subject, but said no more. Athena still wondered about her brother, who had once before tried to usurp their father with Hera. His punishment had been the same as their uncle's; to help construct the walls of Troy. Hera's punishment had resulted in her making a solemn vow to never commit such an atrocity again.
Athena did not trust that her brother had learned his lesson.
"I doubt any part of me is dear to you," Apollo contradicted, turning to gaze at Hera as she entered his sanctuary.
"True," she admitted with a smirk and nod. "Though I cannot say that you do not have your usefulness to me."
"Which is probably the only reason I am not to be cast down to Tartarus with my father," he predicted. "Athena has warned him of the rumors in the east, as you thought she would."
"And he has taken it upon himself to see what disturbances lay there," Hera agreed. "He is more predicable than Demeter's turning of the seasons."
"What will you do about it?" he asked.
"Nothing," Hera answered. "I need not do anything. He will manage to do all of the work on his own. In the mean time, I wish to discuss my brother Poseidon."
"What about him?" Apollo shrugged.
"It seems that he is not as…open to a coup attempt as he had been once before," Hera explained. "In fact, he seemed quite against it."
"Likely, he believes your attempt will fail again," Apollo guessed. "He probably does not want to be up for punishment, though building the walls of Troy was hardly any kind of penalty. I have another patron city because of it. And so does he."
"My concern is him making any attempt to thwart us," she revealed. "I ask that you keep an alert eye on him in the coming days."
"Simple enough," Apollo decided. "Just remember our bargain. I perform any request you have, so long as my mother and sister are unharmed."
"Of course," Hera agreed. But that agreement only lasted until the coup had taken place. Afterwards, they were fair game.
A golden eagle approached the quiet grounds of Olympus. Preparing to perch on the golden throne, the bird suddenly transformed back into Zeus, looking weary. He sat down heavily in his throne, rubbing his forehead tiredly.
"You have returned."
Hera approached from the shadows of the coliseum. She walked slowly over to her husband, placing a hand on his shoulder.
"You have been gone for a while," she pointed out, running her hand lightly down his arm. "Pray, tell me what has kept you away for so long?"
"A disturbance in the east," Zeus told her, eyeing her suspiciously. "It is a threat to our existence. I must speak to the other gods immediately."
"Rest, husband," Hera urged. "You are exhausted. Take some sleep and I will assemble the other gods for you."
Silently, Hera exited the coliseum. The next footsteps he heard were Athena's. She approached her father cautiously, staring after Hera.
"What news, Father?" she asked, bowing before him.
"Your unrest about matters in the east was not tenuous," he told her. "I have found much that brings me displeasure."
"I must tell you, Father," Athena began, lowering her voice, "I have my suspicion of who is to blame."
Zeus raised an interested eyebrow at his daughter.
"I fear that my brother Apollo has not learned his lesson bestowed on him lately," she confided. "He seems to brush off the threat in the east as nothing, and has begun blatantly showing disrespect towards you."
Zeus sighed in irritation. It figured. Of all his sons, Apollo was the most like him. Of course it would be him.
"But I do not think he works alone," Athena continued.
"You do not suspect Artemis," Zeus denied. "She is too pure."
Athena nodded in agreement. "And Poseidon has not gone against you since his punishment from the first attempt to dethrone you."
"Then who?" Zeus asked quietly. He doubted he'd get an answer from Athena if she was not sure.
"I fear we may not have long to find out," Athena warned, watching Apollo enter the coliseum with Artemis a few steps behind.
"Welcome home, Father," Artemis greeted, passing her brother to rush up to Zeus and embrace him. As he had when she was little, Zeus pulled the girl onto his lap. "How was your trip?"
"Tiring," he answered, rubbing her cheek affectionately. "But it will soon pass. I am now back in the protection of my home, with those that love me."
A sidelong glance at Apollo revealed the god to be smirking. Yes, Apollo had definitely not learned his lesson.
"The heavens are not the same without you," Artemis proclaimed, placing a kiss on his cheek. Apollo snorted in disgust.
"You had better kiss your brother, before jealously gets the best of him," Zeus advised with a chuckle, watching Apollo's smirk disappear and be replaced by a look of indignation. Artemis rose from his lap and walked to her brother, who turned his glare at his father into a beaming smile when he looked to his sister.
Apollo grabbed her suddenly and pulled her back towards the coliseum walls. Black chains encircled the throne that Zeus sat upon, burning his godly skin where it touched.
"What goes on here?" Athena cried, rushing forward to help her father. One touch to the chains forced her back so roughly that she stumbled to regain her footing. Athena could see Hades behind the throne, controlling the chains.
Gods began filling the coliseum, but not in a rush to help Zeus. They walked in slowly, at the pace of Hera, who also entered with a wicked smile on her face.
"I have assembled the gods for you, husband," she told him, waving one arm out widely. "They are all here to see your last day as King of the Gods."
Fire burned in Zeus' eyes as the chains around him continued to scorch him.
"Betryal?" he scoffed in disbelief. "From you who holds the sacred vow of a promise to be above all else?"
"A promise is only as good as its intention," Hera returned. "It does no one good if I promise not to coup you if as a result, you lead us all into damnation. I do this for the good of the many."
Around her, other gods nodded in agreement.
"Tartarus hath no fury, woman," Zeus warned, "as the likes of I if you do not remember your place this instant and release me!"
"Tartarus?" Hera repeated with a chuckle. "I'm afraid that I do not know the fury of Tartarus, and therefore cannot fear it. But since you have such regard for the place…"
A venomous smile reached Hera's face.
"To Tartarus with him!" Hera called out to Hades. The god of the Underworld smiled evilly as he took the chains that Zeus was bound by and hooked them to Cerberus. The three-headed dog growled loudly before dashing off, dragging the King of the Gods behind him.
A large roar of approval could be heard among the gods. Apollo finally released his sister, who glared at him with a fury that matched Zeus', and spoke harshly to him in a quiet voice.
"Brother, what have you done?" she demanded in a whisper. Apollo attempted to pull his sister in a comforting, one armed hug, but she shrugged away from him immediately and stalked out of sight. Apollo stared after her forlornly for a moment until his attention was gathered back to the center of the room.
"Today is the day we have taken back the godly powers denied to us by a so-called higher authority," Hera called out to her fellow gods. "Celebrate, my family, for soon shall come better times."
Hera toasted the other gods with a goblet and then smiled at her two compatriots, Apollo and Hades. They each toasted her back with wicked smiles and then began mingling with other gods. No one seemed bothered at all by the immense shift in power that had just taken place.
No one but Athena. All Athena could do was see the immanent disaster that was undoubtedly headed their way. She shook her head at the blatant stupidity that her godly family had unleashed, wondering why they didn't see their own forthcoming betrayal in the eyes of the Queen of the Gods. The look on Hera's face indubitably told that she was in charge, and would do whatever necessary to keep it that way.
Across the coliseum, Athena spied Artemis still glaring daggers at her brother, though out of sight of the others. Maybe not everyone in Olympus was blind. She walked inconspicuously over to her sister, putting a firm hand to her shoulder.
"You had suspicions?" Athena guessed, watching Artemis' gaze switched from Apollo to Hera. Her teary eyes narrowed in hatred.
"That my brother would once again side with that monstrosity?" Artemis added with a sob. "No. Never. But I did suspect that the reptilian snake who calls herself Queen of the Gods would do this again."
"Something must be done," Athena spoke lowly to her. "Soon."
Artemis nodded, blotting away the tears from the corners of her eyes.
"However, while our father is entombed Tartarus, there is little we can do for him," Artemis surmised. "Least not without other help. I could beseech myself on our uncle Poseidon if you believe it to be beneficial."
Athena considered for a moment, and then shook her head slowly.
"I am not sure what help we will get from our divine family," Athena spoke gravely. "Perhaps we should seek out our half siblings who reside in the mortal realm."
Artemis nodded in agreement. Apollo had spied the two of them in the corner and was headed over with a cocky grin on his face.
"Welcome to the next generation, sisters," he greeted, waggling his eyebrows at them. "You should rejoice with us. It is now time to be the gods we always wanted to be, but were prevented."
Athena and Artemis shared a look of disdain.
"I am going to be with Mother," Artemis sharply told him, and turned to leave. Had she not been in the present situation, Athena may have laughed at the blatant pout that crossed Apollo's face at the rejection.
"I told you everything would work out, didn't I, sister?" Apollo asked, turning his attention to her. Athena wore the same grave look she had since she'd heard the prediction of the Moirae.
"We shall see," she said, gazing about.