Gaia opened her eyes. She’d had a difficult night, and her head ached. But the decision was made now, and there was no going back. She rose and began preparing for what she had to do. As she moved, the natural world began waking up around her. Gaia loved this time, loved hearing the birds break into squawks, chirps, and tweets, loved seeing the sky change from indigo to grey to pale gold and pink to clear blue, loved hearing the trees and grasses stretch and yawn, loved feeling great and small creatures rise and begin a new day. Today, she barely noticed.
How many thousands of years had it been? She had given birth to many of them, and they had given birth to many more. They were her children and grandchildren, a family spanning millenia. That made them her responsibility, and she felt the weight of their failure. She had waited too long, hoping to see signs of maturity and growth, hoping they would each grow into their intended roles with grace, once they shook off the silliness of youth. She had been so disappointed. Lazy and corrupt, they had used her gifts for their own pleasure, giving nothing to her or to those they were made to care for. Gaia had seen the selfishness, the rivalries and petty bickering which often exploded into bloodshed, the graceless sensuality that produced monsters as often as it produced gods. All of it must end, she thought, as she walked up the steps of Olympus.
The great hall was empty when Gaia made her way into the meeting place of the gods. She hadn’t looked for her children before coming to Olympus, didn’t want to see where they were or what they were up to, knowing that it was likely something that would stir her to great anger. She needed her wits about her today, to remain calm and rational as she delivered the news to them. She walked to the center of the great hall and stepped onto the dais. She spoke the names of her children: Zeus, Hera, Poseidon, Hades, and her grandchildren: Artemis, Apollo, Aphrodite, Ares, Athena, Hermes, Hephaestus.
She didn’t have to wait long. Hermes arrived first, a brisk breeze announcing him as surely as any trumpet. He flew in from the west, a look of pleased expectation on his face, and landed a few feet away from where Gaia stood in the center of the hall. Immediately, he went down on one knee, golden head meekly bowed. Gaia wasn’t fooled. She saw the mischief light his turquoise eyes, saw the muscles of his shoulders flex with impatience. The messenger of the gods was always ready. The moment he was given leave, he would spread the news as fast as his winged sandals would carry him. Gaia sighed. She would make him wait.
Hera walked into the great hall, bringing with her the scent of apples. Tall and regal, the queen of the gods and goddess of married women kept her lovely face perfectly composed, amber eyes giving away nothing. Gaia knew her daughter, however, and saw the barely restrained grief and anger that were always there with Hera. Her body was rigid, her smooth face taught, the lines of her perfectly shaped mouth turned down with permanent disapproval. Gaia couldn’t remember the last time she saw Hera happy. There was always a new hurt, a new betrayal to add to her list. Had Zeus taken yet another new lover? Had she discovered yet another bastard of his hidden away on Olympus or on earth? Hadn’t she tried to warn Hera about him, tried to keep him from getting to her? Oh, well, now was not the time for regrets. Hera nodded to her mother and walked away, wearing her grief like a mantle.
Gaia nodded to her daughter, as the heady fragrance of roses suddenly filled the great hall. Gaia rolled her eyes. Aphrodite, the embodiment of physical beauty, always made an entrance. She strolled in slowly, swaying provocatively as she walked. Hair the color of honey, eyes the blue of twilight sky, skin like the finest porcelain, she was truly the most beautiful creature ever created. And fickle. And flighty. Dangerous. She would not be happy about this. Aphrodite stopped in front of Gaia, dropping into a graceful curtsey. Lifting her head, she looked around. Seeing only Hera and Hermes, her face fell a little, and a pout graced her perfect rosebud lips. Without a sufficient audience to admire her beauty and grace, Aphrodite lost interest and quickly became bored. Gaia hoped the rest would arrive soon, as her patience would be sorely tested if Aphrodite decided to throw one of her trademark hissy fits.
A sudden screeching noise startled her. The screech was quickly followed by a loud crash and Apollo walked into the great hall. Gaia couldn’t help the smile that crept onto her face. He was the sun god, no getting around it. The golden boy, with spun gold hair and emerald eyes. He had sped to Olympus at his usual breakneck speed, and must have crashed the chariot into one of the marble columns outside the great hall. He sailed into her presence, a bright smile on his beautiful, boyish face, arms outstretched for a hug. She struggled to remain cool in the face of his exuberance, schooling her features and keeping her own arms by her sides. Apollo’s gait faltered a bit, but he recovered gracefully, slowing down to a stately walk, which he ended with a perfect bow.
Apollo’s entrance was quickly followed by the arrival of his twin sister, Artemis. The huntress swept in, carrying the scent of cedar and trailing swirling leaves in her wake. Her silver hair and grey eyes, so different from Apollo’s golden coloring, sparkled with pent-up energy. She came because Gaia’s call could not be ignored, but given the first opportunity, she would disappear in a silver mist, returning to the deep forests to run wild with the stags. Artemis walked briskly, her lithe body an instrument, one she took care of but never really noticed. She was tall and slender, long arm and leg muscles accustomed to archery and running. There was nothing soft in her, the planes of her face defined, the angles of her cheek bones sharp. Her face was stunning, though. Storm grey eyes flashed under strong black brows, framed by long, dark lashes. No rosebud, her mouth was generous and expressive. With tanned skin and silver hair, in her own way, she was as much a temptress as Aphrodite, inspiring fascination and devotion, where Aphrodite inspired lust and madness. Unlike Aphrodite, however, Artemis had no use for men’s love. All business, she made her way to Gaia, bowing respectfully.
The air stilled and all turned to see Ares striding into the great hall. He walked slowly, rolling in like a dark storm cloud. Black hair streamed wildly behind him, even though no breeze dared stir it, and black eyes flashed as he looked around. The god of war was angry. That much was obvious. He scowled at everything, spoiling for a fight. The huge biceps flexed as he clenched and unclenched his fists. His footsteps echoed as he walked through the great hall. The other gods parted to give him a clear path, no one willing to put themselves in the way of his famous temper. He marched to the center where Gaia was seated and stopped, glaring at her from beneath his eyebrows. Gaia met his eyes calmly, held them until Ares dropped his gaze. His anger dissipating suddenly, he grinned at her, bowed respectfully, and backed away.
Gaia looked around. The gods were gathering, speaking quietly in small groups. She could see heads turn in her direction, questioning glances shot at her. Nobody dared ask outright why she had called them together. They knew better. She would tell them when she was ready. She was the Mother, the one who made their existence possible, and they would wait until she spoke to them.
Athena glided in, a fresh citrus scented breeze preceding her. Gaia wondered whether the goddess of wisdom was aware of where she was. Athena’s earth-rich brown eyes had a far-away look. She was frowning slightly, small furrows marring her forehead, and she was speaking quietly to herself, shaking her head occasionally, sending her auburn curls waving in every direction. Her slender hands moved in front of her as she walked. Quite suddenly, however, her expression cleared, the frown leaving her face. Whatever argument she had been working through, she obviously had resolved it. Her eyes focused on Gaia, and Athena walked toward the dais with the confident gait of someone who knew the answers before others knew the questions. She smiled and curtsied deeply.
The lovely lemon fragrance was suddenly replaced with the stench of sulfur, and the air became uncomfortably warm. Gaia wrinkled her nose. Hephaestus rarely left his mountain, preferring the company of his forge to that of the other gods. His limp made it difficult for him to get around, and he walked in slowly, making his way painfully to the dais. His shoulders sloped and his head was lowered, his back bowed from the millennia spent hunched over the anvil. Hephaestus caught Aphrodite’s eye, but his wife tossed her hair and turned away from him. Sighing almost imperceptibly, he continued his slow walk toward Gaia. Gaia’s heart went out to him. His sandy hair was shaggy and matted from years of neglect, and his red beard covered his handsome face completely. When he finally reached her, Hephaestus lifted his head and smiled in greeting. His smile was always such a surprise! His clear blue eyes twinkled, perfectly sculpted lips parting to reveal gleaming white teeth, as the aristocratic nose crinkled charmingly. Just as quickly, the smile left his face, and his expression once again became shuttered, guarded. He bowed stiffly and walked away from the dais.
A strong wind blew through the great hall, salty with the taste of the sea. Poseidon strode in, his great, green mane of hair framing his face and mingling with the foamy white of his flowing beard. His sharp green eyes took in the scene and he frowned. His powerful body took up a great deal of space as he walked toward his mother. Executing a stately bow, Poseidon lifted one eyebrow in question. Gaia shook her head mutely, not yet ready to speak. Poseidon shrugged his massive shoulders and walked away.
Gaia allowed herself another soft sigh. She knew her two other sons would be last to arrive. Zeus, king of the gods, would never allow himself to wait for anyone. Hades, god of the dead, would not be bested by his brother. Their rivalry was as old as the gods themselves. Somehow, Hades would find a way to spoil Zeus’s entrance, would do everything in his power to upstage his brother.
The roll of thunder announced the entrance of Zeus himself. Lightning played on the ceiling of the great hall, sending showers of sparks wherever it struck marble. The king appeared directly in front of Gaia, foregoing the long walk to the dais. His eyes traveled around the great hall, taking in the gods and goddesses assembled there. His expression darkened, noting Hades’ absence. He strode to Hermes. “What news, messenger? My mother’s call reaches all realms.” He looked around again, nodding to each god and goddess in turn. “Her call was heard in the deepest oceans, and my brother Poseidon has heeded it. It was heard in the highest heavens, and the sun god, Apollo has heeded it. It was heard in the wildest forest, and the huntress Artemis has heeded it. The mountains, the cities, the temples, and all of Olympus has heard her call, and the gods of these realms have heeded it. Is it possible that the call of my mother was not heard in the realm of the dead?”
Cringing under the blows of Zeus’s words, Hermes paled, the spark of mischief dimming in his eyes. “Majesty, all realms have indeed heard the Mother’s call. Your brother, the Lord of the Underworld does not heed it.”
Zeus faced Gaia. “Mother, you have heard the words of the messenger. Your call was heard throughout all realms. We, your children, have heeded your call. We await your word.”
Gaia nodded. There was no point in waiting for Hades to arrive. He could show up at any moment, wait until the meeting was ended, or remain absent. He would be dealt with later. The pantheon faced her, and Gaia spoke.
“Hear me, my children. For thousands of years have you lived on Olympus. I brought you forth. I gave you power. With your power, I gave you your duty. Your cause was noble, and your strength great. But you have failed. In your indolence, you have turned your backs on all you were meant to care for and protect. Your neglect is obvious. The forests burn. The oceans choke. Storms ravage the lands. Beasts, great and small, die and disappear, never to grace the earth again. The great cities lie in rubble. You drain my resources, but return nothing to me. Your deeds benefit nothing and no-one. Your arrogance has produced abominations—monsters and demons that have harried, tormented, and killed the very people you were meant to care for. You have forsaken that which I had given into your hands. The people of the world no longer look to you for guidance, for wisdom, or for protection. You have proven yourself unworthy of their worship, and so they have turned from you. You are no longer gods to them, and so you are no longer gods. Therefore, I revoke your deity. I remove my blessing. Your powers are forfeit.”
A stunned silence greeted Gaia’s words. Finally, hesitantly, with eyes lowered and legs visibly trembling, Hermes stepped forward to address the Mother.
“What are we do to?” he asked in a barely audible whisper.
“You will live in the world you have deserted,” she pronounced. “You will become men and women, and I will send you to live among them, one of you each year, starting today. You must work, you must learn, and you must contribute a gift worthy of my blessing. You will take nothing with you, save one talent I will bestow upon you. An ability, something that will aid you in creating a life for yourself. You will have no powers, only your hearts and minds, this one talent, so use your gifts well.”
Athena spoke, then. “Mother, must we perish, then? Human lives are fleeting, a few short years, and then they are gone. Are we to vanish? Can we not be restored?”
“You will live as men and women,” Gaia answered. “Once you have given of yourselves and fulfilled the purpose for which I send you, you will have a choice. Your may choose to have your human life ended then and return to me. I, in turn, will return you to your beloved forests, skies, mountains, and water. You will guard these and become part of them. This will be your reward. Or, you may choose to live out your life as a human, and return to me upon your death to be restored. I will come to you when I deem your purpose fulfilled, and you will make your decision then. But hear me, children. If you squander the gifts I give, refuse to learn love and service, you will die a human death, return to me, and be forever forgotten by the earth. You will not be restored. The choice is yours.”
No one spoke for a long moment. Then, Hera stepped forward, lifting her head to face Gaia, amber eyes luminous with unshed tears. “Your will is my will, Mother. I am ready,” said the queen of the gods.
Gaia stepped off the dais and walked to her daughter. Embracing her, she spoke softly, then stepped away. Hera was gone. Tears streaming down her face, Gaia turned to the gods. “My daughter has made her choice. Each of you must do the same. In one year, my call will go forth once more.”
Title – Chapter 3 Gaia
Excerpt – Gaia opened her eyes. She’d had a difficult night, and her head ached. But the decision was made now, and there was no going back. She rose and began preparing
Tags – Gaia, Olympus, Zeus, Hera, Poseidon, Hades, Artemis, Apollo, Aphrodite, Ares, Athena, Hermes, Hephaestus, Alla Reese, Alla, Reese, Olympian, The Olympians