- Guess I'm out of my wits completely... I smiled and bit on my right index finger.
- Come on! Neyta urged.
- ...but it's Zeus...
I guess I had expected a lot of comments here but everyone – including Neyta – became totally muted.
After a while Scadé of all people was the one to break the silence.
- You mean the Zeus? - Is there anyone else with that name? Neyta scorned. - Yeah, it's him all right, I answered. And here came the babbling.
- Are you out of your.
- Chaos, girlie.
- I though he was with... - No, Amaterasu's been dumped.
- Hera, you're in deep trouble here. Not just politically. I'd back out with the speed of light if I was you.
I looked at Freya who had spoken the last sentence. That's why I like this girl so much. She had already left gossip-status and given the political implications a thought. - Why should she? Because you want him?
- Oh, shut up, Ra! Freya snarled. Of course the elected Chair Lady of the Nexus can't have an affair with the leader of the Olympos. The Divine King!
- Who says? Ra insisted.
- I'm not going to repeat the basic class about shared leadership, I said. Just that Freya is right about how it might look with the two of us being lovers. But there is a way around it. - You're not going to leave the Chair? Freya sounded worried.
- You're not going to leave Zeus? Neyta was also a bit pale. I mean, I have never seen you so happy. And I've known you for - what is it... 12 years?
- I'm leaving neither. Now this is how it's going to work: I'll need a lot of help from you, Scadé. You have a way of talking to people that makes you sound like - well not dumb, but "The girl from the Savage North", who don't know that much about civilisation. I want to use that trait of yours. In return - done right and with care it's going to mean securing your seat in the Hyperpantheon. You all know that the real reason for me sitting in the Chair Lady's office is because the Libertarians and the Radicals screwed the Olympos. And now it's pay-back time. Or that's how it's going to look. Their sad asses are going to get a bit scorched, so they know who they should not be messing with in the future.
- The Radicals were involved? Phoenix asked. - They were, Neyta confirmed. Both Aethra of Raeiadia and Naktraon of Ilaouda. Olympian Iris found out.
It took the lion's share of Snow Month to set our plot in action. We needed the time to make sure that people like troublemaker Eris, newbie Tyche, copycat Aestarion and idealistic Paladin would be acting the way they were supposed to act. Then the trap was set for the Radicals and the Libertarians.
Spring Month starts with the all-Nexus Constitution debate, one of the few that take place with both assemblys present. As usual the Radicals called for a change, claiming that the Chair Lady or Chair Lord should be elected in a General Election instead of being appointed by the Nexus. Usually these suggestions ended up in the trash bin without even being debated. With two assemblies employed by General Elections most delegates were content with the Nexus appointing both the immortal Chair Lord and the mortal Speaker of House.
But this time Tyche of Antiocheia asked to speak in the matter. She looked a bit nervous, the new delegate, tucking back her black curls while entering the podium. In spite of that her voice rang loud and clear when she started to speak:
- I second the Radical suggestion.
Most people hadn't started to pay attention, but they surely did when Tyche went on: - This might be the only way to avoid rigged elections. This year the election of a new Chair Lord got sabotaged by an anti-Olympos wing in the Nexus. - Anti-Olympos?
- Who's anti-Olympos? These questions were heard echoing through the Great Hall. People was staring with accusation in their looks at each other while Tyche went on:
- They rigged the whole process by having Libertarian Notus of Xaliricon backing out and turning their votes over to the New Dawn head Hera of Argos instead. Sure, they could have backed Hera from start, but then they'd lost the element of surprise, as well as the Liberal votes. The Lib's would never have backed a Radical first hand choice if they'd got the chance to discuss it among themselves first. And Conservative Aestarion of Crete lost because of that.
I watched with excitement as Eris entered the platform. Was this going to work now? Zeus was waiting beneath the spectators balcony, leaning on a marble pillar, sceptre in hand and what seemed like nothing more than an idle, semi-interested look upon his face.
- So who's the one you're accusing of being anti-Olympos? the Libertarian asked. My party? Wrong! Our candidate backed out because of personal reasons. The radicals on the other hand! Go after them, Tyche of Antiocheia! They started this request for a second vote, when most delegates were already regarding Aestarion of Crete the winner. They set up the Olympos, not we. We Libertarians have never been...
That's a lie! Aethra of Raeiadia was standing up by her seat!
- You bastard of a Titan bitch! Aestarion of Crete had also risen, pointing at the Radical Raeidian.
- Order! Order in hall! The Vice Speaker Ira Shui was banging her gravel against the desk. No-one speaks outside of protocol!
- Screw the protocol, mortal! Aethra rose her voice. We have not been plotting against the Olympos in the Radical party. All this is a lie! Eris, you are...
- I am the one by the platform, Eris' voice was ice-cold. And when certain delegates can't even follow protocol, how are we suppose to believe their sincerity about not messing with other Nexus proceedings? I repeat: the Libertarian candidate backed out for personal reasons. The rest of what Eris was saying became drowned in a buzz of voices, while accusations were flowing across the hall. I started to clench my fists. Eris was not saying what we were expecting. Or was she, but no-one could heard her? - Order in hall! Ira Shui tried, to no avail.
The next moment another Radical rose, went up to the podium and simply pushed away Eris from the platform. Naktraon of Ilaouda. Bulky and tall, he resembled more a war-god than a politician. - Get off our backs! he was growling from the platform. The Radicals isn't anti-Olympos. Look instead who gained the most out of this so called "set-up"! I could feel his gray eyes resting on me a while before he went on: The New Dawn party! Their Hera of Argos is the Chair Lady now. And she has been working against the Olympos almost since she got elected. The New Dawn's agenda is based upon forging new nations into the Union. Nations with different cultural heritage like Aigyptos and Valhalla. If someone's anti-Olympos, it's the New Dawners.
That was it! The Radical had spoken Eris' line. And Zeus's cue. - I do not agree with Naktraon of Ilaouda about the New Dawners being anti-Olympos, the Divine King started after entering the platform. Naktraon is right, we've got new nations, different nations in the Union during the last three years. But the Union is not a closed club for provinces around the Central Ocean, just because it was here the concept started. Instead, one of the points with the Union-idea is to keep it expanding, to make it stronger, more diverse. Aigyptos and Valhall might be different, but the differences between the various corners of the world should be seen as fresh injections into the Union.
- Politically, he went on, Chair Lady Hera and I don't agree upon a lot. But that has not stopped me from appreciating this marvellous woman who is the elected Chair Lady of the Nexus. In fact we fell in love during these long days of debating this session.
Zeus turned to me:
- Come on up here, beloved! This might be a strange way of telling this, but whatever disagreements we're having, this is my Lady! I left my seat and went up to Zeus, who put his arm around me and kissed me on the forehead before going on:
- So if someone in this gathering got the brilliant idea of setting me up for something, it turned out into a blind-date. And actually I don't mind that at all. Ladies and Gentlemen, it's strange. I can stop hurricanes from ravaging the coasts of Thessalia, but I can't stop Nexus delegates from tripping over themselves when they get tied up in the snares of their own plots.
I held on to Zeus while listening to the talks that started in the various corners, and then merged into a new noise. And not unexpectedly some were screaming for me to leave the Chair, others urging me to stay and some people were shouting entirely different things. A group of mortals seemed content with chanting Zeus's name. Ira Shui turned to the Divine King:
- Help me, great Zeus! They don't listen to me! Especially not your kind. They have started a completely new protocol!
Zeus went over to the gong and hit it once with his sceptre. Then he faced the auditorium:
- Anyone's got anything to say - do it up here, not down there! Aethra, if you've changed your mind and want Hera out, come on up here and tell us why!
But the Radical did not obey. She remained standing in the now silent hall. She was staring across the room at the Conservative Aestarion, who was staring back, aura red with rage. Instead my former lover Kandrios of all people spoke up:
- Resign, Hera! he was saying. If you're going Olympic you're not eligible to stay in the Chair Lady's Office.
Then the Sun Guild party head Paladin asked to speak in the matter. He made a big thing out of following protocol and walked with long, striding steps across the aisle and up to the platform. There he gazed at the auditorium a moment, before speaking. - I don't believe I'm hearing this! How many times haven't Chair Lady Hera voted against the Olympos in matters? Or pro? She is not sitting in anybody's lap. Especially not in the Olympos one. No-one should ask her to resign from her office for being in love. This is not how we do things in the Union Nexus. Hera stays! That's my final word. People were screaming "aye" from several corners in the hall.
Then Freya was up there:
- The whole New Dawn party is behind our leader. She's staying. What she's doing is New Dawn politics, not Olympic errands! Anyone should be able to see that!
Xenon of Thessalia-Ekarantanni: - Second former speaker. The Liberals don't support Kandrios of Elesios in this matter. We also want Hera to stay. The Union Nexus needs her. And on top of that: a second Chair Lord election in as many years might appear demoralising on the Nexus.
Aestarion of Crete:
- As a conservative I seldom support the progressive New Dawn politics, but I lost a weird yet fair election this summer. Chair Lady Hera shall remind in office. If she has to resign, then we should all hand in our resignations, because it would mean that we have failed as delegates and as gods. Failed to do what's best for the Union and instead engaged in playground fights.
Then Mnemosyne of West Arcadia had to swallow her pride and say that because her party had supported me once they were still supporting me. The only ones still wanting me to leave were the Radicals. They saw my Olympic connection as a threat to an independent Nexus. And supporting them were some other delegates who had been against me as a Chair Lady from the start. But the battle was over. Because a battle was what it had been, just like back in the war. Not with swords and rifles, but with words. But no less violent.
I almost did a double-take when I heard parts of a discussion among some mortals who apparently had swallowed the plot completely. It was Sharola Iyakar asking Areliouris Keedaes:
- So why did the Radicals and the Libertarians put the Divine King's lover in the Nexus' Chair office?
- Probably because they expected some services in return from great Zeus, Areliouris Keedaes said. And when it turned out that Chair Lady Hera, in spite of being Olympian in all but the name, didn't serv great Zeus everything he wanted on a plate, the Olympos walked out of the deal. That's probably what we saw happening here today.
- But they said.
- What the immortals of the Nexus say and what they really mean is usually two different things. You'll learn that in time my young friend.
Some lesser debates came and went but most of us were sitting down now, feeling the shift of balance in the energies of the Great Hall, and a lot of us were already plotting and planning for new alliances. One of these was Aestarion. He mindspoke me: We can be useful for each other. Let's sit down later. I have some ideas. Way out weird, I thought.
- Correct me if I'm wrong, Zeus, Scadé was saying. But to me you made it look like the Radicals and Libertarians screwed up the Nexus by making Hera, the lover of the Divine King, Chair Lady. Like the very parties who had been talking about decreasing the power of the Olympos all the time actually increased it. - That's the whole point, Zeus answered. Welcome to the Union Nexus! And don't forget to use the Radical Naktraon's attack on your province while going after his party comrade Loke! Now what kind of deity is that really? Hera told me he'd been up to some way out weird things.
We were a large and diverse group who had gathered in the Chair Lady's office. I had quickly arranged some kind of reception out of this spontaneous gathering, and jugs of wine and trays of finger food were being carried around through the rooms. Iris was sitting together with Argus on top of her desk. He was going over today's happenings in the Great Hall. It had already been shaped up a bit. And Vice Speaker Ira Shui was talking with Xenon of Thessalia-Ekarantanni. I saw Protheus speaking to Leto and Aestarion flirting with Freya. And there was Scadé explaining the antics of this Loke to a group of surprised listeners.
Behind me I could hear Amaterasu saying:
- It was Hera! You owe me 500 credits, Sori.
I turned around. The Nipponese met my looks and smiled.
- It was so obvious, Hera, she said. I don't really think there were that many people being surprised when Zeus told about the two of you.
- I admit I was, said Sorawe. I thought he was going back to Ami. Or further on to someone else. I guess I believed in that friendship thing.
- Sori, we're still friends, I assured the Thanigran. Only in a slightly different way. The difference is not as big as I thought it would be.
- So what's different then? asked Amaterasu. Except for the sex thing, that is?
- For one thing we're being more honest with ourselves as well as with each other now, I told my colleagues. I can be honest with myself about being so jealous of you, Ami, that I felt shame. - Because I was with Zeus?
- Yes, and because of Sakura. And I have also been jealous of Elli and of Leto and other women earlier, always standing in front of my mirror denying that it was the case. - Honesty starts in front of the mirror, Sorawe said and sipped on her wine, that sounds like a good rule in life.
- You bitch! I thought you were my friend. Electra was in tears as she came striding over the floor, pushing herself through the crowd in a very un-Electra way. - Elli? I turned to look at the Trojan. - And you took him away from me, the only man I have ever loved. - I did not. It was over long before I.
- No, it was not. He loved you all the time. Don't touch me! Don't. Ever. Touch. Me. Hera!
- I'm sorry. I took back the hand I had tried to place on Elli's shoulder.
- No, you're not. Now go to Zeus and have fun with him! Until he tires of you that is. He does that with women. I watched the Trojan leave, head held high, but every inch of her aura spoke of tears held back. And I was sad too. I had lost a dear friend. (I was going to win her back years later, but that's another story.)
Hours later I was standing in front of the window, looking out at the river Airetis and the half-finished Moon Crescent Bridge. The lights of the city were glittering in the dark water. Neon, street-lamps, car-lights and boat lanterns. The rainbow-coloured ferris wheel on the opposite shore spinning slowly. I felt both tiredness and content. The plan has worked and the 17:th session of the Nexus was coming to an end. In four weeks time it would be New Year. And for the first time it really felt like a chance at a new start for Hera too.
Zeus came up from behind, putting down his cup of wine on the window-sill and embraced me. - You look tired, my love.
- True. But also pleased. I was a bit scared down there. What sounded so easy first soon became complicated. As always with people. - But now its all out there. No secrets anymore.
- One more, I said. I'm pregnant.
- You... Zeus let go of me and reached for his wine. I met his blue eyes:
- Yes. Decided to "egg" you this morning. Because if everything else should have failed, I would at least have some good news for you. - "Egg" me! Have to love your expressions, Peacock.
- How about your "way out weird" then? Everybody keeps saying that now - from Mimi to the United Democrats head Areliouris Keedaes.
- I'm innocent, Zeus smiled. Athena started that one. So is the egg a boy or a girl?
- Ain't no egg anymore, Eagle. It's an embryo. But I can't tell gender at this early state. If you can't wait to find out we'll have to ask Demeter. - Then, let's go home, Hera! Zeus held out his hand and I took it. This time there was no doubt about where "home" was. I was finally going home.
So this finishes "The memoirs of Hera". This feels like a nice place to stop and skipping all that not-so-happily ever after. Hope you enjoyed your read.
And thanks to all of you who have supported me with reviews and mails, you have kept me going when I've felt like tropping the project. Perhaps I'll be back some day with another story, but now I'm just going to sit back and enjoy what others have written.