Mera's point of view
"Where is my child?" Pandora screamed at me with a frantic desperation within her eyes. "Where is Reina!"
An eternity seemed to pass by in the seconds that followed as I tried to take in the fact that Pandora is alive, that my actions freed her. As an expecting mother, I held a certain understanding of her desperation if she feared for her child… yet there were so many unanswered questions. How much did she know? Did she have any idea of what her precious daughter has become in her absence? Or was she simply unconscious while she was within her box? Had she been freed before this only to be trapped again?
I shook my head to clear it, a habit from my mortal days. This was not the time for these questions; a mother was lying there on the floor, begging to know of the wellbeing of her daughter. I put my mind to a different task as I watched Pandora get to her feet in a movement so fast, that if I were still a Descendant, it would have looked like nothing more than a blur.
"REINA!" She screamed, her head tilted up as she looked around, searching for her daughters response. "REINA!"
"Pandora?" I called to her, though she seemed not to hear me. "Pandora!" I screamed to get her attention, her eyes flashed to me, her breathing was shallow and quick, she appeared to be having a panic attack. "This room is protected, she cannot hear your call from here."
Her form became golden light as she tried to teleport, only to find it useless with the wards that had been put up to protect Pandora's box, a truly priceless treasure, which was one of only two items in existence which possessed the ability to lock away and weaken Shadows, those horrifying beings of darkness and evil that plague this Earth.
Pandora screamed in frustration as her form resumed; tears filled her eyes, her hands balling up into fists as she looked to me, then glanced at the doors behind me. Her determination did not end, and how could it? What mother in her right mind would sit back if she feared her beloved child was in danger? My breath caught in my throat as she began running past me; one question echoed through my thoughts, Reina will kill Pandora if she finds her; she is a threat to her every darkened dream.
"Pandora!" I screamed her name again, a desperation within me to protect her as I grabbed her shoulder as she ran by me.
The strangest thing happened in that moment, once my hand touched upon her shoulder; Pandora's whole frame went still and then became stiff, I caught her right before she hit the floor. I was beyond shocked… not knowing how in the hell I did that. My abilities have advanced and progressed greatly during the last five months I have been an immortal, but I had not known this was one of them, to render an immortal goddess unconscious with simply the touch of my hand.
I picked her up her limp body bridal style, opening the grand white marble doors with my mind as I carried her out, knowing I needed to be out of this room before I could call for Zeus. He would know what to do, he is her father after all; I could only imagine what realizing she is alive would be like for him.
Pandora's point of view
My eyes opened in the dark; my mind, which was still in a haze of sleep, registered that this was neither my bed nor my room. An image flashed through my mind, of Reina, on the ground, those Shadows feeding off of her as she reached her little hand out to me, screaming "Mother!"
"Reina!" I yelled out as I quickly sat up, suddenly feeling disoriented and blurry, nearly falling back onto the soft pillow. A pair of strong hands caught me by my forearms.
"Slowly." My father said as he lowed me back to the bed. I looked up at him, confused, disoriented and afraid for the life of my child. "You were rendered unconscious, you are still weak."
"Reina, she needs me." I said, trying to sit up again, only to have him hold my shoulders down as he looked down upon me with a great sadness. "Where is she?" That sadness deepened to near tears, and tears filled my eyes. Oh please, no, please no! "Tell me she lives?"
"She does." He told me simply, tears of relief sprang to my eyes, I cried as I smiled, relaxing against the bed as I rubbed my forehead. I took a deep breath again.
"Thank the Moirae!" I proclaimed as I looked around the darkened room, now knowing I must be either in the hospital or in my fathers apartment in the palace. "Where is she?" I asked, needing to see her sweet face, to have her wrap her slender, small arms around my neck. I was highly disappointed to find the room empty except for my father and I. Reina was no where in sight.
"What is the last thing you remember?" My father asked, instead of answering my question.
"That goddess who resembles me greatly," I told him. "I was asking her where Reina is. She did not answer, and as I tried to run out the doors she grabbed my shoulder, then I lost consciousness and woke up here." My father took my hand, something within me knew this was not a good sign.
"Mera was protecting you." He said, giving my hand a squeeze, though I was not entirely certain as I looked upon him who needed the comfort more, myself or my father. "I meant before that, before that room. What was the date?"
"It was July 28th," I told him what I could remember. "Epimetheus was training with his brother that day and Alexis was spending the weekend with Astreia on Ennina and Cronus' island. Reina and I were home alone." I took a deep breath as tears came; this memory was so vividly intense I was nearly shaking. "She opened my box, I pushed her out of the way and was pulled in while she was devoured by the Shadows, screaming for my help." I cried, my father helped me sit up and wrapped his arms around me as I cried, still feeling how helpless I felt in that moment, not being able to protect her.
"Where is Epimetheus?" I asked my father as I continued crying. "Why is he not here? I need him." I looked up to my father when he did not answer; he had tears in his eyes, which he wiped away as they fell.
"It is complicated." He told me, which only made me all the more worried. He opened his lips, yet no words came out, as if he did not know how to say the words he needed to tell me. "Daughter, so much has taken place in your absence…"
And it was in that terrifying moment that I realized I knew the desperate and heartbroken look upon his face… he wore the same one when he told me my mother had passed when I was thirteen.
"Father, what has happened?" I asked, tears poured from his eyes as he looked up at the ceiling, as if begging for strength as my mind went into overtime, just trying to come up with an answer to my own question.
"I do not know how to begin." He told me, and an understanding dawned on me, as if a voice were whispering within my mind with an unfathomable truth.
"Father," I said softly, he looked into my eyes and what I saw there was heartbreaking. "How long was I trapped within my box?"
"Thirteen thousand years." He told me. I looked away, trying desperately to process the fact, that a measure of time had passed that I could not even begin to comprehend.
"The goddess whom freed me," I said to him. "Is she…?"
"Your Descendant, your granddaughter." He told me with a bit of a smile. "Her name is Mera, she will be nineteen in a months time."
"She is pregnant." I said, he nodded.
"With twins." He told me, a bigger smile coming to his features. "She is married to your brother Ariston; I had him five thousand years ago with a princess of Thera, whom went by the name Demetria."
"What is she like? My… granddaughter?" I asked him, not truly able to wrap my mind around the fact that my little girls were grown enough to have their own children. My father smiled again.
"She is strong of mind and spirit," He began with pride. "Stubborn, brilliant, a relentless warrior, innovative, fiercely loving and unquestioningly devoted to everything and one she loves. At only eighteen, she has already earned the title of Goddess, though she has yet to specialize in her duties."
"I want to see her, to meet her officially." I told him, he nodded.
"I will arrange it;" He assured me. "She has been dying to see you." Tears came to his eyes once again. I squeezed his hand and gave him a soft smile.
"What is wrong father?" I asked, and only then realized that there was more he was not telling me.
"I thought you were dead." He told me in a choked up voice, more tears falling from his eyes. "You have no idea how much I have lost." His comment brought my thoughts to a different place.
"I have lost too, haven't I?" I asked him, he nodded and once again I saw how hard this was for him. I knew I had to hear these truths, and so I gathered my courage, determined that no matter what he would tell me, I would stay strong. "Tell me, I want to know." I said, my voice holding confidence. He nodded, closing his eyes and taking another deep breath.
"Alexis is dead." He told me.
I was speechless, not able to understand what I had just been told. I shook my head and my eyes burned with tears as this realization came to me. I thought I had been prepared, but with those three words he spoke, my entire world came crashing down around me. I stopped breathing, I could not think, could not hear anything over the sound of my soul shattering. I looked at him, barely able to speak.
"How?" I just barely whispered.
"It was three hundred years after you disappeared and the Shadows were released." He told me. "Your box had disappeared when you did, and we searched for you both, trying to reign in the chaos the Shadows were creating. Alexis, she was so incredibly strong, completely fearless and dead-set to accomplish what you had, to put away the Shadows hopefully for good this time… but she was not immune to the Shadows as you are… she fought the bonding process and it was her end." Silent tears streamed down my cheeks, I could not move, could do nothing but listen as the most horrible kind of pain and loss tore apart my soul.
My father gave me time to take this in, but there was no way to cope with this, the death of my daughter, my eldest child. I saw her in my mind, the day she was born; the first time I saw her I cried. I could still feel her in my arms the very first time I held her perfect little form. In that moment, I promised myself I would always keep her safe. I made that promise to both of my girls Another memory of her flashed through my mind; she was looking at me with a bright smile as she presented me with a shawl she had woven for me. It was a shimmering white with little silken rosebuds and vines woven into place, a true work of art. I broke down, the tears springing up to pour from my eyes, eyes that would never look upon my daughter's sweet face again. My father held me tight, trying to soothe his inconsolable daughter. My sweet girl was gone… it was in that moment I sat up and pushed my father away so that I could look into his eyes.
"Where is Reina?" I asked, realizing that she must be a grown woman by now. "I have to see her."
"It is not possible right now." He told me.
"Tell me why." I demanded, crossing my arms. "Whatever else you are keeping from me… it cannot be any worse than this." Tears sprang to my eyes, and yet I stayed determined.
"She is not who you remember her to be." He told me, his words filling me with dread as my eyes slid shut.
"The Shadows." I whispered, he nodded.
"There was no one to save her from them." He told me. "Until a few months ago, we thought she was dead as you were." Father went on, so many emotions flashing through his sky blue eyes. "Epimetheus told us that when he returned home, Reina was so weak from the Shadows attacking her, she died in his arms; and you were no where to be found. To make matters worse, your box had disappeared and so Alexis, the only child with your divine ichor, could not make right what had gone wrong.
"We now know that he lied. Reina did not die that day; however, she was… changed. To the point where he barely recognized her, his own daughter. He feared the purge would have ended her, so he sent her to the other side of the continent and made her swear to never return home." I was horrified, and shocked beyond belief. How could my Epimetheus do this? "Reina went on to become the Shadow's new queen, and even though we had informants within them, we never knew it was her, not until she told Mera everything… before nearly killing her. Although technically, Mera's death is on her hands. she knew the blade possessed a poison which would destroyed Mera's body and her soul. Mera is only alive because of Ariston sharing his soul with her."
"My daughter did this?" I asked in shock, not able to imagine this. "How can you be certain it is her and not some imposter?"
"For one, Epimetheus confessed to everything," He told me. "And we have certain informants who also know of these truths. Beyond that, your box was in her possession before Mera finally got hold of it."
"You do not know the things Reina has brought about," He told me. "The pain she has caused, the families she has ripped apart… all the death and destruction that is on her hands. When Mera told us who she was, we confronted Epimetheus and placed him under arrest. He is now in Asphodel, and will remain there for the next fifty years." My mind was swirling, a torrent of thoughts spinning around so fast it was all I could do to grasp onto just one, and this torturous pain made it impossible to even attempt to.
"How can I see him?" I asked, looking into my fathers heartbroken eyes. "I need him." I whispered, he took a deep breath.
"There may be a way if I speak with your uncle," He paused, giving my hand a tight squeeze which told me that this was going to hurt. "But there is something you must know; He has remarried."
"… He remarried?" I whispered, my heart somehow finding yet another way to break with this latest piece of information.
"Pandora, you cannot blame him for this." He began, his eyes both compassionate and pleading, making me wonder what he was speaking of with the jumble my mind was in. "We thought you were dead, it was the only thing that made sense. We who knew you, knew you would not abandon your family. We searched for you, and so did Epimetheus. Long after everyone else had given up hope, he kept on searching; you were all he had left after he lost the girls. It took two thousand years for him to believe that you were dead, and a few hundred years afterwards, he fell in love and remarried. His wife Jasmina has been his only source of happiness since he lost all of you." He took a deep breath once again, trying to get his thoughts in order as I tried to take in that my husband had fallen in love with some other goddess, even though he promised me his undying love.
"Can you stand to hear anymore?" He asked, his eyes wondering if it were best to stop now.
"Let's get this over with." I told him, even though I felt as if I would break with just one more piece of horrifying news.
"The Nameless One, he is no longer imprisoned, he escaped the Underworld nearly a thousand years ago." My eyes flew to his in horror, my jaw dropping.
"How?" I demanded, not able to believe Hades would allow that to happen. After all I had seen him do, the suffering he had brought about… I could only imagine what he has done since his flight, and I could not contain my rage. "I thought he was being well guarded in Tartarus!"
"He was eventually moved to Asphodel, where he found a way." He told me, his eyes apologizing. He went to say more when I put my hand up and shook my head.
"I need a moment." I told him, my eyes pleading. My father nodded and held his arms out to me.
I broke down as I wrapped my arms around him, laying my head on his shoulder as he tried to comfort me. This was my mother all over again… only this was worse. Losing your mother is one thing… losing your child is another completely. The tears kept coming, born from something that went so far beyond pain and suffering, an agony my soul had never before know.
My daughter's face kept flashing through my mind, how tightly she would hug me when we would be reunited, even if she were only with her friends for less than an hour. I could feel Epimetheus, see his smile, the way he would look at me. So many memories of us staying up at night to care for the girls when they were infants, of playing with them when they were young; and now all of that was gone, my family torn apart. Reina was all I have left… though I was not certain how much of her was left, I knew I would fight to get her back and save her from what she has become no matter what it took.
It must have been hours later before my tears ended. No part of me wanted to hear anymore of the things I had lost, yet I told myself it would be easier to learn about it now and deal with it later, instead of letting it linger within my mind, driving me to insanity with worry.
"Tell me more." I told my father, my voice numb. "I should be aware of these things." I pulled back to lean against the pillows as he began speaking again.
"What would you like to know?" He asked.
"Everything." I told him.
"Most of your line has been destroyed." He told me, I took a deep breath and nodded. "You will be grateful to hear that Alexis had happiness and love in her life for centuries before she passed. She met the god of her dreams, they had a beautiful son together and lived for countless years as a happy family. Her son went on to have children of his own, and so on and so forth it went. Descendants of your blood thrived among mortals and immortals alike, and were honored and revered for being originated from your ichor.
"Things were well, to a point. The Shadows still ran wild as we did what we could to keep this world safe. Yet when the Nameless One was released, less than two centuries after the fact, he began hunting down your line for the power they possessed and the possibility of them using the box against him. We protected as many as possible, yet he still found so many of them. By the time the millennium turned most recently for the mortals, only a handful were left. Mera is one of the few, we thought her to be last, besides her mother whom is not an active, and past her childbearing years.
"Mera is everything that was prophesied, and she has taken us by surprised at every turn by far exceeding our expectations. Now that she carries twins, that is two more of your line. Beyond Mera, her unborn sons, and her mortal mother, there are more whom have survived." I felt a dash of hope, seeing as how this was the first bit of good news I had heard since I woke.
"And they are?" I asked him.
"This will not be easy for you to hear," He warned. "Of course, none of this has been easy." He shook his head.
"Go on." I told him, he nodded. I was almost completely numb now, though there were flickers of emotions still lingering, some flaring up now and again.
"Reina fell in love," He began. "With the Nameless One, and they were married for three years."
"HIM!" I nearly screamed, even more horrified as that emotion sprang to life.
"I did warn you." He carefully reminded me. I shook my head as I looked at the ceiling, wondering how I could handle any more. This was not right, she was not supposed to end up with him; not my sweet, little Reina. I was positively livid!
"How in Tartarus could she end up with him?" I demanded.
"Power." He told me simply, as if that would explain everything. "She wanted what he had; she craved his darkness. Yet their union bore to us a gift." I looked into his eyes, seeing a warmth there that could be described as no less than unequivocal love. "A daughter, my only sister and your granddaughter. Her name is Nell, she is nineteen, almost twenty years of age. And just as I was, she was born with light within her; even though her parents did everything they could to discourage it, that light grew stronger over her years. She is incredible.
"There are also two more in your line." He told me. "Her first son, Edmund, whom I have taken in to raise as my own. Her second son, who is mine as well, is due to be born within the next four months."
"That would make them my grandsons, who are also my brothers." I mentioned, he nodded, we both knew that such things were FAR from unheard of among the gods, and he seemed to truly love her and their sons.
"Edmund could not be more full of life," He told me. "And I can only guess the same of our unborn child."
"How many children do you have now?" I asked him, guessing he had not changed and continued in affairs with women he cared for.
"Many thousand, though I have lost more than I can stand to the war and even more to the fact of them being only half divine. A few hundred remain to me." He told me and I took hold of his hand as tears ran down my cheeks, now understanding exactly how it hurts him.
"I would like to meet my grandchildren, and my siblings, sometime in the coming days." I told him, he nodded.
"You will love them." He told me, I nodded, the pain still tearing me apart. "You should get some rest."
"How am I supposed to be able to sleep?" I asked him, looking into his eyes.
"Hera is still awake, if you are hungry." He offered.
"Alright." I said, realizing in that moment just how much I needed to see her.
He helped me out of bed, his arm wrapped securely around my waist to support my weakened frame as we made our way to the kitchen. With each step, each breath, my heart and soul shattered more. My fathers arm around me was the only thing keeping me from crumbling again. As we neared the kitchen, Hera came out and looked at me with tears within her eyes, ones that were between inexplicable sadness, and true joy.
"Mother!" I cried as I ran to her and she came quickly to me as we embraced.
"I am so glad you are alive." She told me, her voice full of emotion. "And I am so sorry you have returned only to face such heartbreak." I nodded as I continued to cry.
Hera has been a mother to me since I was thirteen, when my mother passed away. She was there for me when I first bled, and spoke to me once again of what it means to be a woman. She was the one who guided me through motherhood, and before that taught me so much of life, helping me down what was a difficult way of life.
Hera kissed my forehead and helped me to the kitchen, where a different table from the one I remembered held many appetizing foods, some of them my favorites. Truth be told, no part of me wanted to eat, no matter how good it smelled. I sat with the two of them, eating with a mechanical sort of motion, doing anything that would prolong facing a painful reality. I came to realize that it was easier to focus on eating than to deal with my grief.
They made small talk with me, touching my hands and shoulders on occasion, a gesture of comfort and affection. I could see within their eyes how grateful they were to have me back; and as much as I wanted to return their sentiment, there was not enough room for true joy within my soul. Their presence helped, yet only slightly.
I had never in my life felt so alone, so completely isolated and lost; even with my father and step-mother there to comfort me. I had lost everything, everything that mattered to me was gone. My husband, my daughters… gone, in what only felt like a matter of hours to me, and was in reality many thousands of years.
I excused myself after eating; father offered to come and stay with me, yet I declined. I found my way to my old room easily enough. I closed the door behind me, deciding to bathe, wanting to do anything that would prolong the time I had before I would have to get into a cold, empty bed. Everything felt strange, and not only because of the odd objects within my room, such as the black panel of glass and other small objects that light up in the dark. I was in shock, still trying to understand what had transpired while I was locked away within my box… and not being able to cope with all that had been lost.
I cried and cried for the longest while as I sat in the claw footed gold tub, which sat across from the small pool of steaming water. After a time, the tears subsided but the pain did not. It was a grief, a torment I could foresee no salvation from. Never again would I hear Alexis' laughter, hold her in my arms, see her smile light up her face that was so like my own. Alexis was gone, my daughter, my wonderful child, she was gone. Reina was lost to a darkness that has plagued her soul for thirteen thousand years, since she was only eight… and my husband… not only was locked away… he was no longer mine. He remarried, leaving me alone.
Reina was all I had left, and one way or another, I would find a way to save her from what she has become. It would not be easy, and I would not give up. No halfway decent parent would ever dream of giving up on her own child.
Author's Note: Well it certainly took me long enough! Forgive me for putting you through such a long wait, I simply could not focus on the story and refused to upload a chapter unworthy of this series. I hope you enjoyed this chapter, though it is heartbreakingly sad. Pandora has quite a journey ahead of her, and a multitude of loss and heartache to bear. I wanted to write a longer chapter as I have done with my other stories, yet this was what I had done tonight and I wanted to post something for you all! It would delight me to hear your thoughts on it, those reviews and those of you who have followed and favorited both myself and my story mean the world to me! As any writer will tell you, feedback whether it be good or bad, fuels our creative fires!
For those of you who read More Than Life, I am working on the Epilogue and hope to get it out soon! I cannot wait to be done with the story!
Much love, Jasmine Dubroff