The world couldn't stay in the blackness of Nyx's embrace for very long. Life had to continue, no matter how long her grieving process was or however long it would take Gaia to forgive her greedy children. The tensions amongst the immortal world had been high, for the dawn after this night would mean more to everyone than it ever had before. It was not a symbolic beginning, but a true change for all living creatures. Zeus pressured Hermes to finish off his speech and when it was prepared, he flew through the thickness of the night by the grace of Erebus to lift the weight of mourning. The messenger god was all too relieved when it took very little to convince the primordial goddesses.
Hermes then took his leave to Rhea and the remaining mortals, his heart beating with the anticipation of numbers; he had no concept of how many mortals had survived their power struggle. As he walked the muddy earth, Rhea was there to greet him with a friendly smile that warmed his nervous stomach. She opened her arms and without thinking, he collapsed into her embrace and she hugged him tightly. It was then he realized she hadn't seen anyone since before the battle and suddenly his grip tightened, realizing she had no idea of the losses they suffered. As if his actions told her everything, she shushed softly before he could feel the pain of their loss again and she kissed his forehead.
"All roads lead us through pain," she told him, lifting his chin up to look at her and her smile widened. "Pain is a feeling you have before you heal and grow stronger. This is a lesson everyone must learn …even us."
"Of course," he replied quietly, lowering his head. "I'm ashamed to feel more for our small loss in comparison to what the mortals have lost."
"No," Rhea shook her head as she turned over her shoulder, looking onto the camp site as the dawn began to break. "No need to pity them, for they should pity us. We feel only a fraction of what they do because they know they have such a short time to feel it. They burn stronger and brighter than we could ever hope."
Hermes furrowed his brows, wondering if Rhea could truly mean that after everything she had been through, but the dawn was quickly catching everyone's eye. He had little time to get their attention, for beginning anew meant work. Rhea nodded to him, motioning to a small hill that seemed to perfectly align with the field of tents and makeshift homes. He rushed to the top with great ease, galloping up and appearing with the sun behind him like rays of golden hope. Many mortals immediately took to his alluring presence, while others were ushered by Rhea and assured of their security. The god was immediately dismayed when Rhea gave him the sign to go ahead and he realized how few were left. He could feel his face grow concerned and stiff as he stared on, staring to count in his head but he closed his eyes before he could further injure himself.
"To address so few of you today was a path forged by many betrayals and lies," he began with his voice puncturing the silence with calm security. "A lineage of cooperative hubris and deceit from the very foundation of the immortal world. But blame for the events leading to this day lays on all of us on Olympus, and those here on Earth as well. I realize there is much to be explained to you – a tradition we gods have rarely followed. But we see now that without liaisons, a consistent cycle of communication between the mortal world and us, we deviate from what matters. Consequentially, your relationship with me directly will evolve from this point on: I am Hermes, messenger to the gods and herald of Zeus' word. Whether you know our names from myths, or find us strangers, it matters not for you will come to know us as we are and not by the stories of our shadows.
"Ever since creation, there has been a mystical nature between immortals and mortals. You have known it since your first ancestors and you have always striven to explain it. It had been called many names: mysticism, energy, all-mighty nature, Chaos, Brahman, Itzamná, and so on. It is the one that set our world into place. Mortals had come to see this as a divine goal, something or someone to reach out to and hope for. We answered your calls instead, for no voice has ever answered your prayers but ours; the one, as I have come to call it, does not respond.
"But we were limited by the very mystical presence that drew you to us; we were separated from your world by a sort of veil, preventing us from interacting with you directly or hearing you as clearly as you would think. It left the mortal world to write the answers to their questions, fabricating images of us within their culture, guessing at our natures. It wasn't until the early Grecians that someone strove to find us, seeking out the answer instead of creating one. It was then, nearly three thousand years ago, that the ancient Grecian philosophers and priests tapped into another dimension by way of the oracle ritual. By directly contacting the prophetic gods, your ancestors ripped open the barrier between us and had successfully gained our attention.
"Without a division between our worlds, we were drawn intimately closer to each other. We were able to interact with you now directly, instead of through the means of our prowess. We could communicate, empower and punish those we saw fit. In turn, you mortals were able to contact us directly, too; we heard prayers like whispers now and the temples acted like amplifiers of your words. Our vanity kept us in Greece where our names were whole and our stories more accurate, but it did not mean our reach was limited. We heard the prayers from every tribe, civilization or isolated mortal and we could feel their pain or joy despite our negligence. It was this reason that we hated the Grecians as much as we loved them; we were harder on them than pleasant, for we blamed every generation for the first – the one that had created this load to bear. And such malice and cruelty had not gone unnoticed.
"It is here this tale becomes important and crucial for you: the primordial gods, the old ones that have been here since creation, took pity on the Grecians. They had bypassed the barrier all along, able to come and go, communicate and live amongst the mortals far longer than we had and they had grown accustomed to it. And they saw a world in which you killed each other to be a better fate than that which we dealt unto you. We were plagued with exhaustion, each falling prey to a long sleep and leaving Earth to continue on without us. Without our guiding hands, the nymphs fell into hiding, fantastical creatures were hunted to extinction and the mortals were left to gather the pieces of religion with no answer in sight. The ancient gods had abandoned the mortal world, or so it seemed, and the rest of your history has been forged by your own hands and doing.
"Over the passed few centuries, the collective you have unknowingly turned your backs on your savior and protector. She is all that is around you, all that you stand on and would claim as your own: we call her Gaia, but you would know her better as Mother Earth. Your overpopulation has starved her of natural fertility and abused the resources provided. As she is beyond our own understanding of immortality, all of us have foolishly come to believe she is also beyond physical pain and suffering. She isolated herself from those who could help her and slowly she was weakened, every so often crying out in the form of an earthquake or eruption. But it was never enough. In desperation, she saw nowhere to turn but to us, sleeping soundly through her pleas. And by the command of Zeus, we punished you in her name.
"This world, as you know it, has passed and the concepts of our own have been transformed. Both you and us must adjust to a new kind of living. We must become neighbors and share this world as it should have been from the beginning," Hermes paused in his speech, his eyes rolling over the various faces that hailed from different areas of the world. He looked down onto the ground and stepped down into their ranks, reaching his hand out and touching them. Some retreated at first, fearing him and the sensation he brought but when the realization of his soothing presence struck, the crowds began to envelope him. It took hours for him to work through the crowds, touching each person that would accept him and he came out on the right side to see Rhea, holding the first newborn mortal of the new era. When he was close enough, he placed a hand on the baby's head and placed a soft kiss on its forehead.
"I will find a way to make you proud of this world," he said to the small child. "I promise."
Thank you so much for following me through this hefty story! I appreciate all the comments, reviews and suggestions I have received along the way; they have been very important to me. I have already begun rewriting the story, fixing the early chapters that aren't too impressive and going over the many grammar errors many of you noticed. ;) I am unsure if I will repost the rewrite or try to submit it for publication, but I will keep you guys updated! Also, happy new year!