Wind softly blew in small puffs, sending the white gauzy curtains swaying in and out of the open hall. The sun shone fiercely on the white tile, causing the inside of the hall to become lighter than the afternoon. There was little ornamentation besides the curtains, the dais, and the mosaic flooring. The mosaic marble floor was elegant with the finest of details, the pieces not more than a centimeter thick each. The mosaic portrayed men with javelins and hurling stones and women with weaving looms and grain grinders. The mosaic rolled across the floor in waves — showing the work of men and women, cattle grazing, children playing – until it ended at a set of pure white marble steps that led up to a magnificent throne where a huge, hulking blond, heavily bearded man lounged on the crimson velvet cushions. He wore a long linen white tunic with a cloud buckle at one of the sleeves and a pair of brown leather sandals.
“Hermes! How nice to see you. How’ve you been? How’s the kid?” the jolly man residing on the throne boomed in his loud baritone voice.
“Zeus! I’m doin’ quite well thank you, but d’you have to bring up that kid. It wasn’t even my fault,” a tall, olive skinned, black haired man answered, approaching the throne. The man wore a light loose weave shirt, brown vest, and brown matching pants that led down to a pair of coarse looking boots. He had a turban and a camel whip in the crook of his right elbow. He had a purposeful manner with a dignified stride. When he came to settle in front of Zeus, Chief of the Great Houses, he bowed slightly with a smart click of his heels.
“What do you mean it wasn’t your fault? It takes two to tango you know, as the humans might tell you,” Zeus scoffed with a fatherly laugh. His laughing barreled out into the yard outside, sending the hall shaking.
“Have you been talking to Orion again? You know that isn’t for another two or three hundred years where we sit, they won’t even get past Waltzing for a while, you even know that. You remember what happened to you when you tried to teach Hera how to Waltz” Hermes replied with a snort.
“Yeah, don’t remind me, but still, Demeter is wanting to call you for a marriage. She wants Cupid to be raised by a man, and she’s saying you’re it,” Zeus cocked an eyebrow at Hermes, humor behind his shining gray eyes.
“I don’t want to marry Demeter, no, no, no, no, no,” Hermes refused swiftly.
“I wasn’t implying that you had to, but Cupid is your son, by consent or not” Zeus winked, “I was just warning you. You know, if you get married before she brings it before the council, she can’t do anything to you.”
“What good would that do me? I have so much to do, remember Zeus, I am the Runner of the Great House. I don’t have any time for a wife. I wouldn’t be able to take care of her like I should. I’m not complaining, but I just can’t do it at this time. I have those messages from Athena to give to your son Hephaestus, by the way. He stuck around the early anno domini for a bit of sightseeing and decided to have a bit of fun. He’s having a ball of a time with that volcano in Pompeii, you must be proud.”
“Oh, I am I am. That’s probably one of the best things to happen to Pompeii since it started, you know, with all that adultery and bathhouse sort of stuff, what wicked people,” Zeus said mischievously.
“Your one to talk. You have a different woman in here every other week, Zeus!” Hermes bantered.
“Shhhh, keep it down will ya, I don’t want to give Hera any more reason to gripe at me,” changing the tone to a more professional note, Zeus continued, saying, “Well, Hermes, you know me, and you know how annoying my wife’s sister is to me right? I do not want to see the spoiled brat get her way, especially with you. You know that little munchkin of hers, yours, shot me in the butt with one of those love potion arrows of his mother. That snot shot me! I’m already in love with my wife, but now I can’t get enough of her, and I have way too much work to do right now.
Hermes, I called you hear to tell you that you are going to be excused from duty for a … while to pursue love and other passions. Smell the roses for once, lad. You have two centuries to find a woman, settle down, have some kids, relax, you name it, enjoy,” Zeus stated, waiting for Hermes’s reaction with an unsettling smirk.
“Two centuries! Why that short of a time?”
“That’s how long it will take to gather the council. I know it’s a short time, but Demeter is pressing,” Zeus shrugged.
“So where is Orion sending me? What century at least. Please, don’t make me go into the twelfth century again, I couldn’t stand repeating that experience,” joked Hermes with a slight beg to his voice, pausing to rub at a ruby red stain of lip stick on his neck.
“What, did the MahaRaja’s Haram not please you as you thought it would? Or did you get caught in the Maha’s wine cellar with one of his daughters?” Zeus joshed.
Hermes glared at him from under fine black eyebrows, “You know well and right that it was Apollo up to his old antics of trying to figure out anatomy and such things like that. You know him and his ‘scientific experiments.’ He wanted a report on the findings, and I had to end up being the guinea pig.”
“Yeah, I know all about Apollo’s ‘experiments’. How else do you think we got most of those six hundred year old men? Alright Hermes, I’ll tell Orion. Go and pack up, get ready to go, and I better not hear another peep from Demeter,” Zues cautioned with a waving index finger pointed at Hermes.
Hermes returned to his house to find a woman lounging on his dining table of all things. Curly brunette hair shimmered in waves across the mahogany table top and her red latex dress. Bright red lips pouted at him. He could feel a headache developing already. “Mommy! Mommy!” yelled a little boy who ran careening around the corner and dived straight into his antique china cabinet from the 17th century. Well, it hadn’t been an antique when he picked it up, it was still practically new, but he had stylized his house around a 20th century home, so it could be considered antique in relation to its surroundings. It wasn’t his most loved possession, but it still hurt him to see it so abused. The woman sighed, her pout developing into a frown, her mood lost. “Cupid, what have I told you about running in other people’s houses?” she demanded, swinging her thigh-high, black booted legs off of the table to rest on his windsor chairs. A cringe worthy offense if he had ever seen one. “Apparently whatever he wants,” grumbled Hermes. “What was that, lover?” the woman asked. He was in no mood for this, not today. Zeus might have found this all amusing, sort of, but he was not thrilled in the least to have found himself used. A goddess tricking the trickster god, yeah, that went over so well with the rest of the world. He was the great messenger, and for Aphrodite to give Demeter a love position to use on the Runner of the Great Houses… Man, someone out there must hate him. He had confronted Aphrodite about it and she had waved him off, telling him Demeter needed to get over Persephone somehow. Using Hermes as the baby daddy was the trick apparently by their mindset. Leave it to women to concoct such a farce.
“Demeter, you’ve importuned me for the fifth time this week. I thought I made it abundantly clear that I would not be paying restitutions for the boy. A love position for such purposes as to conceive against the will of the secondary offerer has been proscribed for the better part of five milennia now. You know that. I would imprecate the Fates that you never see your daughter again if you come here again. I’ll even espouse Hade’s proposition to keep all who enter the underworld from ever coming back out if I catch you in here again,” he bellowed angrily.
“Oh, now come on, Hermes. It was all meant in a little fun. Aphrodite told me that if I had someone else to watch over that it would take Persephone off of my mind. Have you seen the harvests recently? The world is doing so much better since I haven’t been dwelling on the tragedy,” she studied her blood red finger nails. She had changed so much since Persephone had disappeared. She used to wear neutrals, her hair was shorter then. She never even wore makeup. Now, she looked like nothing could stop her determination to bed everything that moved. Mother of fertility, more like a profligate whore.
“A little fun, Demeter? You don’t seem to get it. I never asked for this, and I was never asked. Then you come barging in since day one, telling me that I had to be in the boy’s life, that he needed a father figure and such what. Well, bully to you, I get it, but it’s not my problem,” he tried to rebuff her. As he recalled for the second time walking into his house, this was the fifth time just this week that he had this argument with her. She had been doing this to him for a solid decade now, and quite honestly he was beginning to feel his mind slipping. “You’re just palliating your sorrow, you aren’t fixing the root of the problem,” he sat down at the opposite end of the table, hanging his head in his hands. At this rate it looked like he’d be skipping out of dinner again.
“Well, tell me oh great Runner, what do I have to do to fix this problem? Persephone ate the fruit of the underworld. She is now a part of it. There is no fixing this,” she sounded diffident, so despodic. He studied her, as he had found himself doing every day for what felt like an eternity. Her eyes were puffy from crying, though her makeup camoflouged it well.
“And I’ve answered you on this before. I don’t know what to tell you. Persephone is not my child, nor is she my responsibility. I have personally only spoken with her on occasion in passing messages. Discuss this with those in charge of the seeings of the underworld, not me. If you want to care anything about your children, then take care of the one you have now. Don’t look at me like that. He was not my choice, or decision. You took both of those from me. He is your responsibility alone. I’ve prayed more than once for Chronos to take back that night, but he, like the Fates, does not listen to anyone other than himself,” he sighed. Before this snafoo, he had a fairly quotidian life. He ran messages. He watched out for travelers. He fiddled in commerce, and was making a pretty dracma for it. He drank in the evenings with his brother Apollo before finding the comfort of his bedchambers in his bachelor lifestyle. Now, with great compunction, every day he had to remember why he was in this more than obnoxious point in his life.
Apollo had a grand party. He always had them on a solar eclipse. He found it to be a great mini vacation every so many years. He had invited everyone. And the messenger, who else other than his little brother Hermes. Everyone showed up too. Who wouldn’t when it was Apollo setting it up.
In the midst of the festivities Hermes found himself caught at the punch bowl between Hera, Aphrodite, Demeter, and Apollo heckling him on. Hera had been chattering with Aphrodite rather matronly-like about how Demeter needed someone. And the dunce he felt he was, Hermes just kept standing there smiling and nodding his head absent-mindedly. Before he knew it, the house began to blur, just fuzzy spots at the edge at first. He felt giddy and warm. Demeter was smiling her gorgeous smile as usually. She was pulling him along, and he followed her willingly.
And that had been the end of his rather nice, uneventful, childless bachelorhood. “You should seriously stop listening to Aphrodite, Demeter. Hera was no help either. I suggest you leave the boy in their hands for a few years. Maybe they’ll learn a thing or two about encouraging a grieving mother to force a random guy into a one night stand for the sole purpose of conceiving a child. That would give you some time away from the hay-wire to clear your mind and recenter yourself,” he told her as he stood up. “Now, if you don’t mind, please, collect your son and get out of my house. I have some packing to do. Zeus is sending me out on an errand and I will not be back for about two centuries,” he motioned her to the door.
Demeter was flabergasted, plain and simple. She hopped off the table, snatched up her son who had found a dustbunny to play with under the china cabinet and stormed out, leaving an icy frost over all of the furniture. He felt sorry for whichever continent she deemed worthy to seeth her wrath upon that evening.
He threw the deadbolt and looked around his gloomy house. It had once been a joy here. It had once sparkled and glowed with warmth, now, it seemed to sink sallowly in on itself. He wandered to his bedroom. He rummaged around in his closet, thinking to pack a travel bag. Finally, defeated, he extracted himself from the heaps of material and sprawled out on his bed. He watched the sky above him twinkle with stars. The waxing moon glowed, though the light it cast only promoted creepy shadows to hang around sorrowfully. Maybe this was kismet of the untouchable eschallon of gods. He could only hope that his sister Tyche had something better in mind for him then making him miserable for the rest of his eternity. As far as he knew he had not made her mad enough recently to curse him with such bad luck, but he honestly didn’t know. He felt too indolent to go and find out at the moment. His eyes drooped as he felt the comfort of his mattress hug him into the world of dreams.