|What is Love?
Author: brecky PM
Aphrodite doesn't think she knows what love really is, so she partakes in some self-discovery. Part of Windwhistles's Aphrodite Challenge. Includes Aphrodite/Ares/Hephaestus, Eros/Psyche, Orpheus/Eurydice, Echo/Narcissus, Hera/Zeus, and more.Rated: Fiction T - English - Romance/Drama - Aphrodite - Chapters: 47 - Words: 47,122 - Reviews: 113 - Favs: 50 - Follows: 52 - Updated: 07-15-12 - Published: 06-04-10 - id: 6025460
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Eros expected Ares to pace in front of him, blasting a litany of offenses that Hephaestus had committed in an effort to rally him into battle. But to his surprise, Ares sat down with Eros on a log near shore and looked out toward the open sea. It seemed like forever until Ares finally spoke.
"I don't know how to tell you this. I haven't told anyone about this, not even your mother."
Eros didn't know what to say. He had never seen this side of Ares before. His slumped shoulders, his wistful tone – it was as if his immortality had temporarily slipped away with the tide, and his age was showing.
"How long have you known that I'm your father?"
The question took Eros by surprise. "Um... A long time now…"
"Who told you?"
"Well, both Aphrodite and Hephaestus told me, but at different times. Why?"
"I was just curious," said Ares.
A haze of clouds drifted in front of the moon, sending the sea into shadow. Staring out into the abyss, Ares felt a shiver run down his spine. He thought of the heavy silence that came before a battle that was already lost. To a human being, it must feel just like this, he thought, the prospect of death. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath.
"Have they told you anything about your sister, Harmonia?"
"I know she's your daughter." said Eros.
"Yes," he said, his eyes still closed. "She was." Ares had wanted to ease into the subject, but the more he spoke, the more he saw how such a thing was impossible. No matter how carefully he spoke, this would be painful.
Eros, too distracted by his father's change in demeanor, had not noticed the change in tense. For a moment, he could see how this side of Ares would fit well with his mother, but he chose to shake the image from his mind.
"The box I gave Jocasta has a necklace in it that Hephaestus originally made for Harmonia as a wedding present," Ares said. "The necklace is supposed to grant the wearer eternal youth and beauty. I remember thinking that it was a strange thing to give a goddess, but she wanted to wear it anyway - as a gesture of goodwill to Hephaestus, she said.
"But Hephaestus didn't mean it that way. He hated that your mother and I were together, so he had a curse put on the necklace. He was so clever about it, too - he gave it to Cadmus, her husband first, and not directly to her. That way, even if she had been suspicious about it, it was also a gift from her new husband, so how could she not wear it?" Ares shook his head in disgust.
"What kind of curse?" asked Eros. He couldn't believe that anyone, let alone Hephaestus, would want to hurt Harmonia. She was probably the only person, god or goddess, that everyone got along with on Mount Olympus, and that was no small feat.
"I don't know. I've never seen anything like it. But for some stupid reason, her descendants have taken to passing it down, bride to bride, as a wedding present for generations. It's caused horrible things to happen to everyone who's worn it, but they kept passing it down. And then, of course, Hephaestus gave Harmonia a cloak, too. If I remember right, the brooch matched the necklace, but he had dipped the fabric in crime." said Ares.
"In crime? How- I don't- This doesn't make any sense," Eros stammered.
"And then he tricked Athena into saying the cloak was a present from both of them, so again, Harmonia had to wear it."
"Ares, I don't understand. Hephaestus loved Harmonia. Sure, I think he knew that she wasn't his daughter, but he loved her."
"Hephaestus is a very sick being."
Eros looked at his father, dumbfounded. Hephaestus had been so kind to him, and surely he had known that he was not his son. Why would he do this?
"Tell me what happened to her," Eros finally said, but Ares was so far away in thought, he didn't hear him.
"Jocasta was the last person to inherit the necklace. After the wedding, the Oracle of Delphi told her and her husband, Laius, that their son would murder his father and marry his mother. Laius was so disturbed that, when Jocasta gave birth to a boy, he sent the baby to be exposed.
"But someone picked the baby up, and he was passed around, shepherd to shepherd, until eventually he was adopted by the king of Corinth. His feet had been pinned to the mountainside, and they were still scarred and swollen, so he was named Oedipus. Does any of this sound familiar to you?"
"It sounds like Hephaestus," Eros whispered, too shocked to speak any louder.
"Eventually, someone told Oedipus that he was adopted, but his parents denied it, so he consulted the Oracle of Delphi to clear things up. The Oracle, though, said nothing about the identity of his birthparents, but she did say, again, that he would murder his father and marry his mother. Oedipus didn't want to kill his 'father', so he left Corinth to escape the prophecy. But while he was traveling, he met Laius at a crossroad. The two got into an argument over who had the right of way, and in self-defense, Oedipus unknowingly killed his father.
"Further down the road, he was confronted by the Sphinx, who ate anyone who crossed her path and could not solve her riddle. No one, up to that point, had been able to solve it, and since the road led to Thebes, the city had fallen under her rule. Oedipus, though, was able to figure out the answer, and the Sphinx left to kill herself. The people of Thebes were so grateful that they named Oedipus their king, and gave him the hand of the eternally youthful, newly widowed Queen Jocasta in marriage. They had four children."
Eros closed his eyes and crinkled his nose, not wanting to hear anymore.
"The curse is very powerful. It reaches far beyond the person who wears it, and it is devastating. I could tell you more, but suffice it to say that the curse caused a plague to strike the entire city, Oedipus to blind himself, and Jocasta to hang herself. Never underestimate Hephaestus."
"But what happened to Harmonia?" asked Eros.
"She was turned into a serpent with Cadmus, and they died."
Ares thought that telling this to someone would give him some relief, but instead, he felt as if it had released some kind of demon within himself that for the past few centuries, he had been able to suppress. Everything he had felt when Hades first told him that Harmonia had crossed into the Underworld - the shock, the anger, the deep grief - it all bubbled back up to the surface again.
Hephaestus had killed his beautiful, gentle, perfect, immortal daughter.
"She-" Eros was unable to finish his question. His entire worldview had changed in the course of a single conversation, and his head was still reeling from the blow.
"She died," said Ares, hanging his head. "Hephaestus killed our daughter."
"And Aphrodite doesn't know?" asked Eros.
"She has no idea," he said. "She even thinks Hephaestus wants to try starting over."
Eros stared out at the horizon like his father had earlier and tried to process everything he'd just heard.
"Hephaestus is a very dangerous, deceitful, vindictive man." continued Ares, "He can kill a goddess, and today, he brought his cheating wife into his home territory - to a village full of his followers, and to the house of a woman who hates her. Now do you understand the situation we are in?"