A/N – hey readers. I decided to re-do this chapter since the previous draft was such a mess. What can I say? It was a burst of inspiration that didn't come out in the way I had planned :L I hope you enjoy my first dabble into greek mythology :D
Chapter one – my birth
"That's it, my maiden," I heard as I strained to extend my arms and legs.
"Come on my dear everyone is eager to meet you" I strained further wanting to meet the encouraging voice. I found some give in the soil above me and began to straighten my back. When I fully stood I felt the enveloping heat of the sun on my skin and the invigorating soil under my toes. I heard a squeal of delight.
"It's not every day you see the birth of a mortal!" I opened my eyes and saw an angelic woman before me, her violet eyes full of love and her waist length curls of blonde hair shining, golden, in the sunlight. White feathered wings arched proudly over her head and as she moved closer I noticed each feather was traced with silver that glimmered with every step. She wore a lilac chiton held in place by silver clasps that hugged her tall frame perfectly.
"Welcome my dear to this beautiful land where you will find bounty and a life of care you deserve" She whispered to me as she hugged me.
"I don't understand" I whispered back. She broke our embrace and held me at arm's length.
"You have just been born from the earth, Gaea. She has given you life and will provide everything you need throughout it." This was so sudden. I tried to organise my thoughts to take in what she was telling me but to be honest, there weren't many of them.
"You must meet everyone they've been waiting for you"
"What?" I gasped as I looked behind her and saw a large crowd in front of me. Unlike Astraea they were all naked; varying in height and hair colour they were all looking at her eagerly.
"Come on" she squeezed my hand in reassurance.
"I'll be here every step of the way"
I swallowed hard and we stepped forward onto the grass. I looked out at all their smiling faces and felt my stomach twist.
"I, Astraea, ambassador of the golden race of man introduce you all too…."
I looked at Astraea nervously but she just inclined her head encouragingly.
"Callidora!" Astraea echoed. "Our new addition, Callidora"
The crowd clapped and cheered but I felt the ground shift under my feet. Astraea and I turned around and saw the small patch of over turned earth shift and change before our eyes. The earth and grass shifted back into its original place then as we looked on an elm tree began to sprout and grow. After just a few moments a fully grown elm stood just where I had been born.
"I think Gaea approves of you Callidora" Astraea beamed at me.
"This is amazing. Who is Gaea?" I asked as Astraea walked to the base of the tree trunk.
"I think explanations can wait until later" the elm bent a branch down to the goddess which she delicately broke off. She walked back to me curving the branch into a wreath.
"For now we have a new arrival to celebrate" Astraea placed the wreath on my head and traced the side of my face lovingly with her hand.
"Callidora means the gift of beauty. It's definitely a fitting name for you"
I smiled at the complement. Astraea then turned to the crowd spreading her silver gilded wings.
"We shall hold a celebration for Callidora. I'm going to tell Krios the good news, you all know what we need"
Astraea then leapt into the air and began her flight to the titans' home. As the crowd disbanded to their various tasks I could take in more of my surroundings. We had all been stood in large meadow. The grass was a bright emerald colour dotted with delicate flowers. I knelt on the ground taking in the sweet taste of the air and the smell of the flowers.
"An amazing place to live isn't it?"
I snapped to attention at the new voice. I jumped as the voice came from a woman sat next to me.
"Sorry, I didn't notice you were there"
The woman giggled. I frowned, unsure of what she found funny.
"I was the same when I was born. Too occupied taking the beauty of the earth to notice anyone else"
The woman giggled again brushing back a lock of straight black hair from her brown eyes.
"It's the colours, especially these purple ones"
"Oh those are called Iris. If you look closer there are spikes of yellow too"
I kept looking on at the 'iris' becoming lost in the deep purple of its petals.
"I could braid them into your hair if you like, for the celebration later"
"Really? I'd love that thank you"
She picked some of the flowers and gestured for me to turn around. When I was comfortably sat she knelt behind me.
"I'm Xyanthe by the way"
The two of us continued to chat as she worked on my hair. We continued like this for the afternoon watching the people gathering wood and food for the celebrations.
It wasn't long before Astraea saw her Grandfathers mountain-side home, a distant glint of marble in the setting sun. As she flew closer the goddess began to glide to the enormous propylaea that served as a gateway to their home.
I can't wait to tell him the news
As she came closer Astraea lowered herself onto the flat marble platform Krios had built for his winged children. When she felt the cool marble on her feet she rushed to the main gate. The gate itself was of simple construction, two large square towers with the doors between them, except every block was made of stark white marble with deep azure veins tracing their way around the structure.
The gate watchers spotted the approaching goddess and promptly bowed as the large doors opened. Normally she would have stopped to greet them and ask about their day but she was too much in a rush to notice them now. She began to ascend the stairs these irritated Astraea slightly since she could fly up them in half the time but Krios had a strict grounding policy in his home since her brothers, The anemoi, would wreak havoc racing each other within the corridors of the palace. Eventually she had reached the top and was making her way through the entrance hall which was a basic square of columns with curtains between them rather than walls, there was an open roof since krios always enjoyed the view of the night sky. There were loungers and tables with bowls and glasses in case they were going to receive company but all were empty, they were alone tonight.
Astraea noticed the vacant seats.
Please don't have them visiting others today
The titans were close siblings and were very common visitors in each other's homes. She brushed aside the black curtains as she emerged from the other side of the hall. She looked on the rest of the palace. Krios' palace was certainly one of the most difficult to navigate. There was a wall around the perimeter with the propylaea as the only entrance. Within the border was the usual mountain landscape, with buildings dotted inside the complex. Naturally the largest was Krios' own home with his wife Eurybia this was the one Astraea was now making her way towards. Even though his home was open on the mountain side Krios never had it landscaped. He kept the mountainside at its most natural with large fir trees and wildlife, which Astraea had always respected him for. As she walked along the path Astraea saw the sun begin to set behind the trees and began to go at a faster pace. Before long Astraea had reached the high columns of Krios' home, made of the same marble as the gates. She made her way up yet more steps and into the corridors of the palace.
Astraea called as she drifted from room to room, each lit by the soft orange of the setting sun. Eventually in a corridor she bumped into one of the servants of the palace.
"Hello lady Astraea. Is there anything I can help you with?"
Astraea acknowledged him as he bowed his head in greeting. She didn't recognise his olive skin and boyish features. Her grandfather was always accepting new staff, but only when the mortals volunteered. They remained naked like the others not in service and they were treated like equals within the titans home, mortals mostly volunteered to serve the gods out of respect not force.
Astraea inclined her head.
"I'm sorry but I don't know your name. Could you tell me where my grandfather is?"
The servant only smiled.
"I am Pacorus. I have only been here recently but I think…."
The man's voice trailed off as he counted on his fingers. With each count Astraea felt the urge to tap her foot impatiently.
"It is about this time master Krios and mistress Eurybia move to the roof to watch the setting sun"
Great, the stairs to the roof are on the other side of the building.
Pacorus noticed the goddesses face fall
"I'm sorry my lady is there something wrong?"
"Well another mortal was born today and I don't want to miss the celebrations"
The servants face lit up.
"That is amazing news! I guess in this….. extraordinary circumstance I don't think master Krios would object to a granddaughter having a 'flighty' mood"
She grinned noticing his hint.
"I guess not, thank you for your help Pacorus"
Before the servant could respond Astraea was brusquely walking down the corridor to a gap in the pillars, her wings spread wide.
Within moments Astraea was landing on the roof, instantly she spotted where Krios and Eurybia were lying on pillows watching the sunset in each other's arms.
Astraea saw the last rays of the sun were gleaming on the horizon and approached in earnest. She cleared her throat.
"Grandfather I have some news"
The couple jumped, shocked out of their moment together. Krois turned on the pillows to face her. His short, sandy, hair slightly tousled where Eurybia had run her hands through it and his deep midnight blue eyes glinting in the brightening starlight. He was always more active at night.
"Astraea my dear it's a pleasure to see you"
He turned mischievously to Eurybia.
"However unexpected it maybe, what is it you wanted to tell me?"
The titan asked as he rose, straightening out his black chiton and adjusting the position of his dark blue himation on his tall muscular frame.
"And how is it you reached the roof so fast?"
He added raising an eyebrow questioningly.
"Well another mortal was born today I thought you would like to know but I need to make it back before the celebrations started"
"Hmmmm that's great news but not exactly worth your effort of flying all the way here and disturbing our evenings….. entertainment. Is there something else?"
"I was hoping that we could talk about that privately but it can wait if your erm….. busy"
Eurybia giggled at Astraea's last statement.
"There's no need, If Krios can hear it so can I. remember I am your grandmother too and frankly if I stood up now it would compromise my dignity a bit"
The titaness glanced at the discarded pins and belt as she propped herself up better on the pillows, gathering the material of her sea blue chiton as she did so.
Astraea stood nervously glancing to Krios then to Eurybia, she cleared her throat.
"When the mortal was born, her name is Callidora by the way, an elm tree grew where she had come from the earth and her looks are akin to a goddess. She could pass for one of us with the right clothes"
The couple looked at Astraea as if she had gone mad. A few moments passed before Krios opened his mouth to speak.
"I'm not sure what you're getting at my dear. It's not the first time Gaea has propagated a tree in place of a birth mound and as for looks I'm not too sure where that would be of any concern"
Astraea looked to the now dark horizon in frustration and saw the Aries constellation, Krios' symbol, rise in the sky.
"I mean that I get the feeling something bad is happening. Gaea can be prophetic, yes? Well and elm means strength of will but also the death of a state of existence. I've seen olive trees, pine trees even the odd cypress tree but never an elm in the event of a birth"
She raised her arm gesturing to the Aries constellation.
"And she is born on the first night of the rising of your constellation, Aries, a sign of the spring and new year, essentially a symbol of renewal. Not to mention at this time she is born in your province, the south, and I think her goddess-like appearance is conformation that Gaea has intentionally interfered and created this woman out of the normal cycle as a sign, a warning of the end of man"
Eurybia brushed back a wisp of black hair and looked at Astraea in concern.
"I think you're putting together pieces that aren't there. Just because you've never seen an elm doesn't mean it's never happened and the timing is coincidence. I know mother she has never been known to be this subtle and as for her gift of prophecy she can be a bit dramatic at times. Honestly dear you should just enjoy this as any other birth"
"No you don't understand it's not just her but lately I've felt a change in the cycle of mortals there are less births but the number of spirits being taken back into the earth to be born is the same. There is something going on and Callidora is the cosmos warning us about it"
Krios placed a hand on Astraea's shoulder reassuringly.
"It's nothing to worry about. Numbers of mortals as with any other earth-dwelling creature are bound to go through their phases of bounty and decay, it's only natural."
Krios could see this wasn't of much reassurance to his granddaughter and sighed.
"How about you keep watch on this mortal? If there turns out to be a sign then you can come back and we'll look into it. But for now there truly is nothing to worry about, life is as good as it has ever been."
The titan then joined his wife on the pillows.
"For now go and celebrate, it's a beautiful night"
"Fine, but I'll be back if there is anything new"
Astraea spread her wings and started her flight back to Callidora's birth celebration, leaving the titans to their evening together.
"I hope she comes back in time" I said nervously.
"There's no need to pace like that Callidora. For someone born this morning you're awfully stressed"
I gave Xyanthe an exasperated look.
"I don't want her to miss it"
I sighed as I sat next to Xyanthe on the grass, watching the starlit sky. We sat in silence looking at the multitude of blinking lights and the pale moon lighting the meadow in its pale glow. I had to admit the wonderful sight soothed me a little.
"She's the first person I saw when I was first born today and I want to show her the great job you did with my hair"
As if to illustrate my point I began nervously fingering a brown lock of my hair, breathing in the smell of wood that had been gathered for large bonfires.
"I'm not even sure what to do at this celebration anyway"
I added, bringing my knees to my chest.
"If I've learnt anything about you in the last day is that you over think. You've asked me countless questions today on just about everything. Have you ever thought of just feeling what to do?"
I snorted in derision.
"How do you do that exactly?"
"That's what I mean. Don't ask questions just go with the flow. Do what you feel is right, there's something called free will I suggest you use it"
I pondered this for a while. Xyanthe and I had become very close over the day we spent together but I didn't expect her to know me that well. Xyanthe continued her rant.
"We live on earth provided with everything we could ever need throughout our lifetime. There is plenty of game to hunt and fruit to pick, not to mention we can live in any way we wish doing anything we like and whilst living amongst gods no less. It is truly a free life with no hard struggle and the freedom to speak our minds, everyone is equal and everyone is good. There's no need to do everything perfectly for the first time…."
I just silently continued to listen to Xyanthe talk whilst watching the other people doing the finishing touches decorating the tables of food with flowers and preparing kindling to start off the bonfires. Then a distant silver glint caught my eye. At first I thought it was just a star but as I looked more intently I realised the star was moving towards us. As the silver glint moved closer I could see the outline of a woman.
I shouted running forward waving my arms. Astraea smiled and waved back at me as I began jumping up and down out of excitement. Before her feet even touched the ground Astraea pulled me into a hug.
"I thought you were going to miss it"
We broke our hug and I beamed at the goddess. Astraea laughed and straightened the elm garland on my head.
"I didn't think you would be that excited to see me"
We both turned to hear panting behind me.
"Next…..time…..you decide… to run off…. give me a warning"
Xyanthe had just caught up and bowed her head to Astraea.
"Thank you Xyanthe"
Astraea then turned to me
"Shall we get this started then?"
The three of us walked back to the bonfires where a chorus of voices began announcing Astraea's arrival and to light the fires. Not long afterwards each bonfire began to blossom into flames, illuminating the whole field. The people started crowding around us. Xyanthe grabbed my hand and pulled us to the front of the crowd.
"What's going on?"
"Shhhh just watch"
Astraea's eyes glazed over and she raised her hands above her head. She spread her silver wings wide as golden scales materialised into her grasp.
"I Astraea goddess of justice, daughter of Astriaos titan of the dusk and of Eos titaness of the dawn, announce the arrival of a new mortal to this world. Callidora!"
I could hear Astraea's voice resonate within me, across the meadow and to the land beyond. It was as if I could feel everything around me rejoicing at my mere presence in the world. Astraea herself was a sight to behold, the silvery gleam of her wings in contrast to the golden flare of her scales. As I watched in awe Astraea spoke once again in her rapturous voice.
"May she be provided with everything she needs, may she be happy throughout her life until sleep takes her once again, may she be protected and never feel fear"
With these last words Astraea walked towards me and lowered the scales into my hands. They still flared yet felt cold to the touch and I could hear the hum of the power flowing through them. The scales remained exactly level as the silver and golden lights began to die out and Astraea returned to normal. When she was fully aware again Astraea cupped my hands, still holding her scales, in her own and looked into my eyes.
"You are truly a gift to this world don't forget that"
The scales melted in my hands and disappeared. The sheer acceptance of the world to me sent my mind reeling. I could feel it almost calling to me, welcoming me. The two of us stood for what felt like a life time my hands in hers, her face frozen in a smile. As I returned to reality I glanced at Xyanthe whose mouth was agape in shock.
"I…. I have never thought the scales could ever be that level for a mortal"
I could hear her whispering to herself. In that moment Astraea let go of my hands.
She announced. After that I couldn't remember much. the night was a blur of dancing, eating and laughter. We pranced and leapt around the bonfires until the early rays of the sun peaked over the horizon. The only thing I could remember was the feeling of utter happiness and joy.