Chaos Is As Chaos Does
By: Lena (Airelle Vilka)
Steam rose through the dark forests of Cumae as two figures hissed out of the earth, leaving trails of Underworld magic behind them. In her sleep, the Sibyl, oracle of Apollo, stirred fitfully, her dreams full of giants and monsters and crying children. A nightmare—or perhaps another premonition?
She rolled over in her cot, determinedly asleep. She did not know what the dream meant, and would not wake up to look into it further.
If she did, she may have prevented one of the worst slip-ups in Olympian security.
But as it were, the demons Pain and Panic remained undisturbed as they streaked toward the mountain home of the gods, covered in suitably fluffy clouds and sparkling with stars. Only the Pleiades saw them pass, and alternately glared and winked at them.
"All right," said Pain after a while, "I give up. What in Tartarus are you so happy about?"
His companion almost stopped in mid-flight, his features crinkled with the emotion that gave him his name. Apparently, he did not think he was being watched, and gave Pain's observational skills too little credit. Of course, his grin had been stretched from horn to horn, but that was beside the point.
"What?" he stammered. "H-happy? Me? Not at all!"
"Uh-huh," Pain snorted. "That's why you've been beaming like a crab in a nudist camp." (His similes could have used some work, but if there was one thing he knew well, it was pain.) "Fess up."
"N-nudists?" Panic asked, bewildered. "But I thought those nymphs were only—"
"Don't change the subject! We've been sent on the worst mission ever, and Zeus is gonna toast us if he finds out, and Hades is gonna toast us some more if we fail, and you're happy?"
Panic couldn't help grinning, and zoomed faster into the sky. Cloud cover was now necessary, because the gates of Olympus were heavily guarded. But if all went well, that was already taken care off, and there was no need to worry. Of course, Panic always worried; but this time, he worried with a smile.
"What's gotten into you?" came Pain's voice from below as the plump demon struggled to catch up.
"Quiet!" Panic warned, and raised a greenish claw toward their destination. Pain immediately fell silent as a wave of impending doom washed over them both. They had arrived, and now was crunch time. Hopefully, it would not involve bones.
The golden gates of Olympus's peak shimmered in the night, a testament to the humbling majesty of Hephaestus's work. Beyond them, immortal birds sang lullabies to the gods, and endless waterfalls spilled into oblivion from white gardens. And somewhere, in one of the highest buildings, on a veranda kissed by the breeze, a sleeping baby waited for them.
And in front of the gates, demi-god guards waited for them, too – along with their sharp arrows and their very large swords.
"Now what?" asked Pain in a buzzed whisper as they assumed the shape of insects and drifted behind a nearby cloud. "Did Hadez zay anyzing about getting pazt zem? Demonz aren't even allowed inzide!"
Panic nodded with his antennae. "Juzt wait."
As if on cue, the lead guard's head tilted forward. His body and his sword were still in a vigilant position, but the snores coming from his helmet spoke of a deep, dreamless sleep. As the demons watched, more and more guards succumbed to the unseen spell, nodding off in their places.
Pain looked around, confused, but followed Panic as he returned to his normal form and flew toward the steps. The snores were deafening, but it was well known that gods slept soundly, even through natural disasters. Such a noise was not enough to awaken them.
Pain squinted his eyes, and then opened them in wide, abject terror as he saw exactly what Panic was looking at.
Someone was standing just inside the Olympian gates – someone with a glowing aura around them. In other words, a god.
"We're dead, scram!" he shouted, attempting to pull his partner away by the tail. Panic, however, did not budge. He was shaking, Pain could feel it. But it wasn't his usual state… it was more like… nervousness. Excited nervousness.
The figure raised a pale arm, and motioned the pair forward. Panic flew toward the entrance, seemingly ignorant of Pain's grip on his tail. They cleared the steps, and stopped just ahead of the golden bars.
"Don't worry, they won't wake," said the figure, noticing their shaky glances at the dozing guards. "Sleepy Time spell, Extra Strength, courtesy of Morpheus. Well," it added, removing its hood, "he'd be courteous if he knew I took it."
It was only then that Pain understood Panic's odd behavior. But before he could say anything, his partner spoke. Okay, stuttered.
"Y-you sure this wasn't too… too much trouble?"
"Trouble's what I live for, sugar," said Eris, winking. "'Sides, I owe your master a favor, 'n I'd rather pay it off now than later. But there won't be much of a later if he gets his way, hm?"
Panic nodded, fervently. A bead of sweat dripped down his nose. "The Master… is… ambitious like that."
Pain rolled his eyes. His partner had never been accepted much in the Underworld; death, at least after Charon, had a kind of calm certainty about it, leaving no room for panic or jitters. Eris, however, was kin to Chaos, the almighty void that was even older than the gods and Titans. Privately (that is, when Pain got him drunk on nectar), Panic had confessed that he had always been drawn to her, Discord personified.
Eris smiled dreamily, long fingers grasping the bars. "Mmm. Ambition is good. It makes for good conflict."
"Um," said Panic sagely. "Yeah. Um. You know, Miss, Goddess, Lady Eris… I was thinking, I mean—I was… I was kinda hoping—"
Eris's silver eyes fixed on him again as she seemed to remember something. "Oh. Right. You want me to open these gates now. Silly of me. Hm, distractions."
Panic looked crestfallen, but didn't say anything as the goddess whispered a few choice words and raised her hand. With an almighty creak shared by doors and fences everywhere, the bars were dragged aside. A few more words, and the demons were able to cross the threshold without feeling like their insides had been turned out.
"There you are," she said. "Now off with you, 'n make it good 'n fast, 'cause that spell might wear off soon."
"You—you're not coming?" asked Pain, staring around nervously. Olympus always gave him the creeps; he'd heard enough stories of Zeus's parties from Hades to know that non-deities were not welcome here.
Eris shook her head. "Nah. You boys can take it from here. 'Sides, I got my own fish to fry." At this, her gaze grew darker, more metallic, and the demons shivered. "Seems great Zeus forgot to invite me to a certain wedding."
Normally, Pain would take this as the part where he ran away, fast. Angry people always seemed to use him for liberation of said anger. But in a moment, the glint was gone, and the goddess shrugged.
"Anyway, I'll be waitin' on the results from you two. Good hench-demons are always hard to find." With that, Eris turned away and began to saunter toward a distressingly ornate bath-house.
"C'mon, Panic," Pain urged, nudging his companion in the other direction, where an elegant palace loomed in the clouds. For a while, it might have been easier to move a mountain; but Panic eventually recovered enough to let himself be dragged away.
It was then that Eris stopped in the doorway of the bath-house, and looked back over her shoulder, her wild hair streaming in the rising wind. Panic froze like a deer in torchlight as she grinned in his direction.
"'N by the way, sugar," she said, "I'll be paying a visit to the Hesperides soon, 'n I'll need some help. Gimme a prayer if you're interested."
As she strolled into the building, Pain sighed wearily. Then, he turned into an ostrich, heaved his stupefied partner onto his back, and legged it up the slope toward Zeus's chambers.
Some demons had all the luck.
Author's Note: This idea, like many good ones, came to me in the shower. I couldn't resist giving Panic a crush. It's too horribly cute.