Worthy of Love
"Hephaestus certainly seems happy, doesn't he?" Zeus asked in an aside comment to Hera. Though she was at a hard spot in her relationship with her husband at the moment, they did appear together at the gathering for appearances' sake. Having lived through the Titanomachy, the pair was able to put aside their differences for the day in observance of the anniversary.
"He really does." Hera said quietly. It truly did warm her heart to see her son so happy. She had had her misgivings about Kabeiro at first, because Aphrodite was not the only woman who tried to exploit Hephaestus for his talent. It had given her no small amount of pleasure to see her former daughter-in-law go into hysterics over her ruined girdle. Served her right.
"Where is he?" Zeus asked. Hera frowned thoughtfully. Things were quieting down, some had already left the party altogether, while others went to various private spots for trysts. She pulled a nymph aside, asking her where he was.
"I think he is with the Cyclopes." the serving-girl replied, offering her mistress some ambrosia. Hera took a bit from the platter and dismissed her.
He had not seen his friends in nearly a year, and when they wanted to show him their current projects and get his feedback on them, Hephaestus was all too happy to oblige.
The God of the Forge lifted a fine gold chain, examining the quality of the work. Apparently his friends had not slacked off in their work during his absence, but then this did not surprise him. The Cyclopes had been running the forges of Olympus long before he was born, and had taught him much of what he knew.
In later centuries, humans would refer to these one-eyed beings as gigantic, easily able to crush humans within their fists, or between their teeth, but in reality, although they were indeed considerably taller than a human, they were still able to interact with them comfortably. Hephaestus looked up at Ionos, the man whose work he was currently examining. Ionos was one of the shorter of his brethren, but still stood about three heads taller than the God of the Forge himself.
"This is truly impressive." Hephaestus said as he let the chain run along his fingers. Because of their size, Cyclopes had an easier time with larger-scale projects such as weapons, armor, or buildings, but that did not mean that the quality of their finer work was diminished. It just meant they had to be more patient, and sometimes they employed crystals that served to magnify vision when held over an object, as well as tweezers and fine pliers. "Who commissioned this?"
Ionos smiled almost bashfully. "It's a gift."
"Aha." Hephaestus smiled. Despite their appearance, Cyclopes held an appeal to some women, and it certainly would not be the first time that one of his friends had taken up with a nymph. Some of them even had children with their lovers or wives. "I wish you the best."
"Looks like you're not doing so poorly yourself." another Cyclops said from behind him, and Hephaestus turned to see Dromos. His specialty was weapons, and he was usually the first one petitioned when a god needed a new sword or spear. Several of the other Cyclopes smiled and murmured in agreement. They had all seen the disdain Aphrodite so openly exhibited while still married to her former husband, and even after the union was dissolved. Many of them had experienced the joy of a welcoming lover, and wished the same for Hephaestus.
Hephaestus was not a man given to boasting or pridefulness, but he would be lying if he said he felt no masculine pride in this bantering. He finally had his own lover, one who genuinely enjoyed being with him regardless of what he could make for her.
"It has been a true pleasure." he acknowledged. "And I do enjoy the quiet, without the other gods coming to pester me to make this or that for them."
"No, you just left them to us!" another Cyclops joked. They all laughed over that. Hephaestus continued to look at various projects, and listened to ideas some of his friends had.
"You should come back more often. Don't be a stranger." Ionos smiled. Hephaestus considered this. Earlier, he would not have relished such a thought, given his previous life on Olympus, but after standing up to Ares and gaining respect from his brothers, he was considerably more amenable to this idea. He had to admit that he did miss the company of his fellow blacksmiths and craftsmen, because they would often inspire and encourage one another.
He nodded in agreement. The Cyclopes passed around several jugs of ambrosia-laced wine that had been pilfered from the party. Hephaestus grinned and took a swig from one of the flasks. They bantered among themselves, and Hephaestus listened to a few rowdy stories and jokes, laughing with his friends.
The laughter died off suddenly as they took notice of their uninvited guest. The jugs of wine that had been passed around were hastily set aside.
Hera made a dismissive gesture with her hand. "There's plenty of wine, surely I can spare a few jugs for the hardest workers on Olympus."
Several of the men gave out nervous chuckles, relaxing only by a fraction.
"Is there something you need? Did something get broken?" Hephaestus asked stiffly.
Hera smiled graciously. "Nothing of that sort. I simply wish to speak with you."
"Well then." Hephaestus sat back. She frowned.
"In private." she clarified.
"Very well." He rose from his seat. He honestly wasn't expecting anything from her, they had always had a strained relationship since his arrival on Olympus, and he was far more attached to his adoptive mother, anyway. Truth be told, at times, he wondered if Hera really was the one who had given birth to him, because they were so different in so many ways, and he bore no resemblance to his full-blooded siblings.
Hephaestus heard the sound of babies fussing as he followed his mother to her villa, and wondered for a moment if he had gained a new sibling during his absence.
He had been in his mother's house just a few times, and he always felt uncomfortable. Everything within the grounds, down to the smallest detail, reflected Hera's love and attention to detail and coordination. The Cyclopes had complained how picky and exacting she could be when she asked them to create or construct something, but nobody could deny the elegance of the Queen of the Gods in her tastes.
A nymph was watching over two toddlers that appeared to be the same age, on a blanket in the garden. One was flaxen-haired, the other had black curls. It took a couple of moments to remember, but he recalled their names.
"I take it these are Harmonia and Eris." Hephaestus said. It'd been over a year since he had seen them, and despite their youth, their mother's features were becoming apparent.
The twins excitedly approached their grandmother, clamoring for her attention. Hera nodded in response to her son's statement before she fished some ambrosia out of a fold of her gown and handed each girl half. Harmonia lingered near her grandmother as she ate her treat, but Eris looked up at her uncle with wide, curious eyes, approaching him.
Hephaestus smiled at her, and the child did not flinch. Stories of the lame god repulsing women were rife around Olympus, especially from Aphrodite's mouth, but young children shared no such reservations. She held out her arms, and he recognized the gesture for 'pick me up and hold me', so he happily obliged.
Harmonia saw this, and approached him, asking the same. He chuckled and scooped her up with his other arm, and Hera studied the scene with a small smile.
"You will be a good father." she said, remembering how gentle and patient he had always been with children. Hephaestus' eyes widened at what he thought to be a non-sequitur comment, since his mother had never expressed any interest in him having children before. But then, she'd never expressed much interest in any other aspect of her life, either.
"What did you bring me here to talk about?" he asked in a voice that bordered on terse as he gently set the twins down, motioning for their caretaker to usher them away. He would have enjoyed playing with the girls if his mother wasn't around, he had always felt uncomfortable around her in the same way a plain or ungainly person would feel around an attractive one.
"I... wanted to have a talk with my son." she said with a faint smile. "I've not seen you for so long, can you blame me for wondering how you were and wanting to see you?"
"After I was born, you did not see me for over a score of years, and would not acknowledge me when I finally came to Olympus." he reminded her in a flat tone.
"I'm sorry." It was the first time she'd made this admission. "I really am."
"Did you ever try to find me?"
"Yes. And when I found you, I saw that you were safe. I refused to give Zeus the satisfaction of bringing you back to Olympus, so I thought it would be best to leave you where you were. Thetis loved you and doted on you, so I thought you would be safer where you were. It..." She sighed. "It was a way for me to spite Zeus. He kept asking me where you were. and I kept refusing to tell him."
It was the first time they'd ever talked about what had happened.
"Why did you reject me when I came to Olympus, then?" he demanded. She looked away in shame.
"I foresaw your coming and the unhappiness you would gain from being here." After seeing his appearance, she had tried to reject him in the hopes that he would go back to the safety of the ocean. He had been happy there, and she had foreseen unhappiness for him on Olympus, and that vision had come true. "I figured that if I rejected you, you would go back to the ocean. You are happier there, anyway, so I thought it would be better for you..."
"And look how well that worked out." he said ruefully, thinking of the mockery he had gotten from his siblings, and the bitter union with Aphrodite.
Hephaestus let out a small snort.
"Do you forgive me for the pain I have caused you?" Hera asked more gently.
He stared at her for several long moments. No one had ever asked him for forgiveness, so it was a concept that was somewhat foreign to him. Throughout his life on Olympus, people had always assumed he was a pushover since he was more inclined to flee than to argue, much less fight.
His mother hadn't ever apologized for her treatment of him. After he had released her from her throne and his father gave him a place in the Pantheon, Hera hadn't teased or tormented him like some of the other gods, but she never went out of her way to try to make up for lost time. Despite already having an adoptive mother he already loved very much, it had always hurt him that his birth mother had rejected him.
"I need to go." he said quickly, offering no answer to her request.
"Wait." Hera said, reaching out for him. He turned towards her and spoke in a quiet but steady voice.
"It will take more than mere words to show that you are sorry. For so long people have seen me as someone fit to take or demand things from. There will be no more of that. Good evening."
Hera let him leave, both stunned and admiring of her son's newfound strength.
The Cyclopes did not ask him what he and Hera had talked about. They simply passed him the flask as if nothing had happened, and he was relieved to not have the subject approached.
When he had left Olympus a year ago, he had been prepared to never see it again. He had been so bothered and disgusted by the antagonism towards him that he had lost sight of the friends he did have here. With a new perspective gained by his recently-discovered inner strength, he was no longer afraid of coming here, and would no not meekly accept the abuse that had been given him in the past. He'd made that clear already, and could not help but smile a little as he remembered the surprise on his brother's faces when he stood up to Ares. That was a memory he would savor for as long as he could remember.
Hephaistos lay in his bed, staring up at the ceiling as he felt his wife cuddle up to him, draping an arm and leg across his body.
"Did you enjoy yourself at the party?" she asked, her head resting on his shoulders.
"Surprisingly, I did."
"See, I told you it would be good for you."
"Hmph." he said before he felt a poke in his side.
"Come now, love. Never question the wisdom of a wife."
He cast a sideways glance at her. "There was a wife I once had who will remain unnamed who was far from wise."
"She was not a real wife, so she doesn't count."
He let out a quiet chuckle at that.
"Your mother pulled me aside when you were... occupied."
Thetis was the first person that came to mind, but he frowned when he realized she meant Hera. He sat up, looking down at his wife. Given how his own conversation with Hera had gone, he wondered what his biological mother had to say to his wife. A dark thought came to him, what if Hera had a negative vision of their future?
"What did she say to you?" he asked, trying to sound calm, but Kabeiro did not miss the underlying terseness.
"She was being a nosy mother-in-law."
"I suppose she thought you were just using me." he replied.
"She didn't come out and say it, but yes, I had the feeling that she was trying to figure that out."
He thought of his own conversation with Hera. Though he was angry at her over some things, he saw that she was trying to protect him in her own way. After how Aphrodite had treated him, he could see how an outsider could think that Kabeiro was just another pretty face trying to exploit him.
"She asked me to forgive her. For how she treated me before." he answered quietly.
"Did you?" Her voice was neutral. He shook his head, and her eyes widened a little.
"Not because I was trying to be spiteful, understand." he said quickly, and she nodded. "She said she was sorry and it was nice to hear that, but it's going to take more than a few words to erase the hurt."
She gently squeezed his arm, sitting up and cuddling to him as she wrapped her other arm around his shoulder.
"I'm not going to hold grudges, but my respect has to be earned."
"As well it should." she affirmed. "You are more than worthy of respect... and love."
"It feels nice to hear that." he said. Her response was a kiss on his cheek.
"Let's talk about something else. Something happier." There was something in her tone which portended good news. He wondered what it could possibly be.
"What is it?" he asked, squeezing her hand.
"I am carrying your child."
A flurry of emotions overcame him as her words sunk in. Anxiety, joy, nervousness, happiness, and borderline disbelief clamored for his focus as he stared at her. He felt her hands cup his face as she lightly touched her nose to his.
"You... you are certain?" he whispered. She nodded and kissed him.
"I am going to be a father." Hera's comment about him being a good father came back to him, and he realized why she had said it. "I... I need to think." He slid out of bed and pulled on a robe before walking out of the house.
The ocean breeze helped to clear his mind as he considered his future. He already knew that he would do his best to be a good father to this child, but at the same time he was not sure if his best would be good enough. Recalling his own strained relationship with Zeus, he wondered if he could be someone the child would look up to.
A hand alighted on his shoulders, and he startled a bit before he turned around.
"Are you... well?" Kabeiro asked gently. "Do you not want this child?"
He realized what his walking out must have looked like to her, and he pulled his wife into his arms to hug her tightly.
"I do. I am just... overwhelmed. I needed to think. I worry that I might not be a good father."
"You have been an excellent husband. There is no reason to think that fatherhood will be any different."
"Are you not the least bit nervous?" he asked. She looked so calm and cheery, but then, very few, if any, things fazed her.
"Of course I am! I worry about being a good parent too, and keeping our child safe. But with you as my husband, I feel less worried, knowing that I have you to support me. You are a more than worthy husband."
Her confidence buoyed him, and he relaxed a little. "I love you." he whispered, his voice quiet but firm with the truth of his words.
"I love you too." She pulled him in for a kiss.
I know some people like epilogues where the couple bring their baby into the world and everyone lives happily ever after. I did not feel the need to write that far, as I feel I have already implied that this is going to happen, and sometimes less is more.
In the original myths, there were a few women that Hephaestus ended up with after the dissolution of his marriage to Aphrodite, and I felt that Kabeiro was the best choice. According to the myths that mention her, she had at least two or three sons by Hephaestus known as the Kabeiroi (or Cabeiri), and was the mother, or grandmother of nymphs called the Kabeirides (also through Hephaestus)
Cabeiri also refers to a group of enigmatic cthonic deities worshiped around Lemnos, sometimes with the worship of Hephaestus, and may have originated in pre-Hellenic times. It's been said that these same Cabeiri were also Hephaistos' children, but then, oftentimes myths tended to mix over time so it could be confusing figuring out what part of the myth came from where.
When I started writing Darkness Becomes Her (now known by its published title, Seeds) and did my research into various aspects of Greek mythology, I got the idea to write a short story about Hephaestus. I never imagined that it would turn into a ten-chapter story! I will be releasing a book of short stories next year, based off various myths and legends in the world.
Worthy of Love will become part of that collection, after further editing. I am open to any ideas and suggestions you might have for this story before I publish it into the book. The entirety of Darkness Becomes Her is now available in the novel trilogy, Seeds (check my profile for links where you can buy the books) and Worthy of Love can be seen as a companion to that story, since both stories happen within the same universe, though WoL happens at least a century after what happened with Hades and Persephone.
I hope you enjoyed this story, and I also hope you will enjoy more stories from me in the future!