“So, I hear we have a mortal in the Great Houses’ Realm,” a voice boomed in the hall.  Hermes sat up, startled from his nap.  He could feel his heart pounding in his chest.  It took nothing for him to feel the sweat begin to bead on his forehead.  He was going to die.  Yep, it was the end of him and everything he knew.

He looked back to the front entrance from where he heard Zeus’s voice.  There stood the man, bristled in all of his glory and regality.  He was draped in a fine silk shirt and linen trousers with a royal purple cloak draped about his shoulders.  In one hand he grasped his bolt like a walking staff.

“Well, is no one going to welcome me in?” Zeus started taking off his cloak.  A servant materialized from the air, a wind nymph, and took it, quickly disappearing as fast as she had appeared.  “Hermes?  I thought you were out finding a woman?” Zeus smiled evilly.

“Looks like the Fates found one for me, my Lord,” Hermes responded sarcastically.

“Oh?  Is that so?” Zeus mused, finding a seat on the chaise.  He eyed a silver plate of grapes, but decided against it.  He instead picked up a goblet of wine that Apollo had left for Hermes.

“What do you know of a du’la, oh king of the gods?” Hermes spat out.  Zeus coughed and spluttered, wine spraying unceremoniously everywhere.  Hermes brushed away a stray droplet from his cheek.  “You know of it then,” Hermes eyed the choking god.  Well, if there was ever a time to worry, it was when the king of the gods started spitting up a very good vintage of wine over a simple question.

“A du’la, Hermes?  Where have you heard of that?” Zeus brushed at his shirt.  The wind nymph reappeared with Spot-out and a towel and began helping him get the wine stain out of his shirt.

“When Apollo burned his fingers on one,” Hermes answered, averting his eyes from the indignity of the disgraced lord.  He could feel the heat of the man’s gaze settle on him, even if he was avoiding it.

“Before you were more than a small child, though in a temporal time shift this might not make a great amount of sense seeing as the clan was technically after your greatness in Greece…” Zeus tried to make clear.  Hermes waved him off.  He was all too aware that they, as members of the Great Houses could move through time more like moving across a map rather than linearly through a book.  “The Fates fashioned a cruel trick, bargaining with a clan of mortals that referred to themselves as the Gauls.  The reason for it has been forcibly lost in time.  If I know anything of Chronos, he and the Fates were probably drinking and gambling away the outcomes of god and mortal alike when they came up with that little beauty,” grumbled Zeus.  He looked world-weary and older, drained.  “She cast an Uediumi?” he asked.

“How should I know?  Orion came pounding on my door after Demeter came and harassed me with her rugrat and sent me by starfire to Chronos.  Chronos told me I had to protect the girl in return for one request, to be fulfilled after I helped her.  I get zam-boom banged right into a parking lot in Texas and catch this miscreant trying to rape the girl.  He got her good in the leg, so I did what I knew would be for her best and called Apollo in to help.  It didn’t initially occur to me that he would take her to the realm of the Great Houses, but there’s been no harm done.  She’s not even aware of where she is at, and we can take her back whenever it’s good for us,” Hermes reassured Zeus.  “Apollo pointed out the pendant to me when he picked her up.  That’s when he mentioned that it was a du’la, and as he keeps telling me, I’m now thoroughly screwed for the next mortal century,” Hermes grumbled, collapsing into an armchair.  Hermes rolled his head on the back of the chair to turn a burning eye on Zeus.  “He won’t elaborate on why exactly I’m screwed.  It’s not nice to kill the messenger all the time, and this particular little thing seems to have slipped everyone’s mind recently in regards to me.  Is this a joke, is it funny to you to watch me fumble away at some great mystery?” Hermes was beginning to radiate heat.  The leather of the chair began to crack.

Zeus watched him, unphased.  He got up and poured himself another glass of wine and settled in the chair across from Hermes, watching him with indifference.  “Pretty much…well…” Zeus tried to look for the right words, floundering like a dying fish on the shore.

Hermes sat up to face the god.  How had he never been informed of what a du’la was?  How had he navigated the paths of the Great Houses without being informed of such a strange creation of the Fates.  His life had come after the Fates and Chronos had made the pact…but that didn’t seem right.  The Gauls had come long after the utterance of the Great Houses existence.  He would have heard something.

“There are very few that have a du’la roaming around in this world.  The Gauls were not massive, but they had a need.  They needed trade to sustain themselves.  It was primarily the gods of travel and protection that were invoked into the du’la’s Uediumi,” Zeus started.

“What is a du’la?  What is this Uediumi?  Concise small sentences please, I’m not in the mood for beating around the bush,” Hermes was in a fowl mood.

“Du’la is Gaulish for leaf.  Uediumi – uediiu is I pray.  It is quite literally a prayer on a leaf.  You said Apollo burned himself on a pendant, a necklace ornament, yes?” Zeus asked.  Hermes nodded.  “That would be the ‘leaf’.  There is probably a spell written within it that implores the particular god or goddess it is connected to,” Zeus elaborated.

“Apollo said that there was a trade involved in this ‘uediumi’,” Hermes supplied.

“He should know, about a dozen turns back, a woman cast one on him and he was stuck in the middle ages as a magician.  He had to stay with her until she finally grew old and died, then he came back here and has buried himself in drink and travesty ever since,” exasperated, Zeus downed his glass without savoring the contents.

“You jest, surely,” Hermes had remembered that Apollo had gone to the mortal world, but had returned rather quickly, a different man.  He seemed worn, and had tried to bolster his perception of youth with too many parties.

“Do you know what her name is?” Zeus pondered the dredges of his glass.  Hermes shook his head.

“Do you know what she has given up for that one moment of rescue?” Zeus glanced up at Hermes, fully aware that Hermes wouldn’t know.  Again Hermes shook his head.

Zeus took in a deep breath.  The Fates were cruel.  “She has foresaken her position as a single woman,” he supplies.

“Beg pardon?” Hermes blinked.

“Let me put it a different way.  This is going to screw with your sense of propriety.  In an extremely great technicality, she has in essence made you her concubinus.  For her life you serve her whims and desires.  You keep her safe,” Zeus smiled maliciously.  

Hermes head snapped up, the color draining from his face.  “That’s not possible.” His breathing became ragged and he was beginning to feel light headed.  

“Shall I rub salt into your wound?” Zeus was beginning to chuckle.  

“I’d rather you didn’t.” Hermes was going to wretch.  

“You’re a familiar, a spiritual medium, a pet.  Bound to her until she dies.  What does any good and loyal servant do for their master?” Zeus was getting into this darkening mood. “With this contract Chronos and the Fates made, you will protect her with your life, no matter what happens.”

Suddenly a bang of a door snapped Hermes attention toward an approaching Apollo.  “She should be right as rain in drought,” Apollo walked into the room, pulling off a pair of surgical gloves.  He stopped dead in his tracks though when he realized who else was in the room with Hermes.  “Zeus,” fell out of his mouth in a hushed whisper.  The color drained from his face as his life flashed before his eyes.

“Glad to see you don’t just think of humans as guinea pigs,” Zeus chuckled.  If it was possible Apollo’s face turned several more shades paler before obtaining an amazing crimson hue.

“Did you explain to Hermes what he’s in for?” Apollo asked, a note of terror in his voice.

“A concubinus, Apollo?” Hermes almost screeched.

“Oh for all of Olympus,” Apollo practically yelled, “Zeus, that’s just down right mean to the poor boy,” Apollo condemned the god.

“Can’t I play just a few jokes on the trickster god?” Zeus chortled.

“Play it on Loki next time you visit Asgard.  This is a matter of some levity, you obnoxious old geezer,” Apollo boiled.

“Oh that old Norse wouldn’t laugh at this magnificent humor,” Zeus was all but falling out of his chair.

“I’m not laughing, and I’m sure as Hade’s bedspread not Norse,” Hermes growled.  From the vortex he extracted his caduceus.  He began to glow a deep red purple as electricity began to discharge around him.

“Oye, that’s for negotiations, Hermes!” Apollo tried to wave down his half-brother.

“Now, see here Hermes,” Zeus began to try to placate the god.  Both Apollo and Zeus had not seen Hermes this angry since the destruction of the last of his temples during the middle ages and he had ruined the health of travellers in Europe for over a century.

“I am Hermes of Olympus, messenger of the Great Houses, keeper of the Ram and Feather, protector of travelers and thieves, and carrier of the sacred truths.  You who hath abused the privilege of the gate keeper shalt know no mercy,” Hermes smiled maliciously.  His eyes had entirely blackened.  His skin glowed almost a purple white.  

“I haven’t seen him this mad since the defamation of his favorite herma before the sack of the Library of Alexandria.” Apollo started to back out of the room.  Hermes might be the god of good faith and luck, but he was no door mat to be walked all over and it looked like he had finally had it.

“Um…hi?” a hand caught at Apollo’s back to keep him from backing up.  “Am I interrupting something?” a shaky female voice asked from the door Apollo was trying to go through.

Zeus and Apollo turned in horror toward the sound.  Hermes, still glowing with murderous intent was the only one not to notice the new intrusion.

“Did you forget something, Apollo?” Zeus grumbled at the blond god.

“Like what,” Apollo hissed back.

“Like the anesthetic?”

“She should be out for the next week with the dose I gave her.”

“Well it didn’t work.”

“Oh, really.  What gave you that idea?”

“Why?”

“Don’t ask me, a mortal anesthetic of any higher dosage and she’d be talking with Hades about purchasing a room,” Apollo retorted, inching away from the woman.

“Mortal?” Zeus caught Apollo’s glance.

“She shouldn’t be…”Apollo whispered.

“A demi-god?” Zeus filled in the answer to the hanging question.

“Not possible.  All of them are accounted for,” Apollo stared in awe at the enigma.

“Hi, I’m right here, or have I gone mute?” Rose asked before the floor began to spin.  She reached out to stabilize herself, and Apollo made to catch her.  She sank to the ground and Apollo was left in searing pain as her skin burned his hands.

“Crap, I can’t pick her up while she’s awake,” Apollo shoved his hands into a water pitcher.  He looked up in time to see Hermes hunting down the distracted Zeus.  “Zeus…Zeus!  ZEUSSS!” Apollo pointed, flinging water all over the room.  Zeus turned to assess Hermes.  “This isn’t good,” Zeus mumbled as he eased over to Apollo.

“At least he’s pretty slow when he gets mad,” Zeus ducked behind Apollo.

“At least it takes him forever and a day to get him mad,” Apollo eased back, trying to get out of the room.

“He’s seems a bit more on edge than usual, wouldn’t you say?” Zeus continued his backward movement.

“Something about Demeter and Cupid recently I think is making this more difficult,” goaded Apollo.

Zeus’s eyes widened as he realized his foolish mistake at poking Hermes buttons.  “Oh…crap,” mumbled Zeus.

“Um…hi, yeah, what’s with the crazy glowing man over there?  Should I follow you?” Rose asked.  She had a throbbing headache and a general disconnect with her feelings that comes with some high dosages of anesthetic.

She didn’t have great feeling in her legs and she knew if she was told to run, it sure as hell wasn’t happening.

“What’s your name, girl!” Zeus demanded.

“Rosemerta!  Who’re you?” Rose slurred as the world began to slip again.

“Rosemerta, hi, how are you?  I need for you to do exactly as I say,” commanded Zeus as he extracted his bolt from the vortex.  Rose watched him, slightly horrified, but also fascinated.

“Repeat after me, exactly,” Zeus moved Apollo behind him as he moved forward to stand in front of Rose, but giving enough room that Hermes could see her.

“I can try,” Rose was eyeing the floor.  It looked so comfortable.

Ma’cing, atespos uediiu,” Zeus provided the litany.

She gave it a good effort but she thought it sounded like she was drunk.  Immediately Hermes attention snapped to her.  “What exactly did I just say to the axe murderer over there?” Rose asked as she laid her head on the cool marble floor.

“Kind warrior, an answer I pray,” Zeus said without looking back at her.  He didn’t want to give Hermes the advantage of a dropped guard.

“And what was that supposed to achieve?” she asked.

“Got his attention, didn’t it?” responded Zeus.

“Now what?” she asked as her lashes began to feel heavy.

“Try this: Delug nertos selua novio. Ta vasso uiro tu,” supplied Zeus.

“You’re joking right?” she murmured.  That was way too much to try to say in her state.

Delug nertos selua novio.  Ta vasso uiro tu,” Zeus reiterated slowly.

“What are you talking about?” Rose asked.  

“It’s a rough estimate on Gaul, I hope.  I haven’t had to use it in a freakishly long time,” Zeus shifted as Hermes continued his slow approach.

“Fair enough, but what am I telling him to do?” Rose asked as her consciousness slipped.

“I’ll tell you after you say it,” Zeus was aware that she was falling asleep.

“Fine,” Rose mumbled out the words.  Immediately the murderous aura surrounding Hermes dissipated as he found himself forcibly genuflecting, his scepter having disappeared into the vortex.  Hermes could feel his energy draining away and his legs and arms began to tremble.

“What gives, Zeus?” Hermes fought to say.  He couldn’t stand up, he was bound to the position.

“You should be able to command him without the pidgin Gaulish,” Zeus reassured Rose.

“Why would I want to command him?” Rose asked, her eyes closed.  She just wanted to sleep.

“So that he doesn’t kill all of us,” Apollo supplied.

“Sounded to me like you guys taunted him into it,” mumbled Rose.

“More like Zeus taunted him, I just saved your life,” Apollo grouched flippantly.

“Zeus?  Your mom must’ve loved Greek mythology.” Rose’s head was beginning to throb just as much as her leg was beginning to regain sufficient enough feeling to inform her that she was in more pain than she expected to be in.  Apollo snorted.

“Zeus, when I get out of this, you’re moving in with Hades,” Hermes threatened.

“Rose?” Zeus prodded.

“Hmm?” she was so close to la-la-land it was intoxicating.

“Rose?” Apollo poked.

“What?” she was becoming agitated.

“Hermes, this is Rose.  Rose, this is Hermes.  Rose, be a good girl and tell Hermes to take you back to the sick ward,” Apollo soothed.

“I’m not a middle man,” Rose tried to roll over.  She squealed and shot upright.  “Bloody hell,” Rose practically shouted as she tried to get a better look at her leg.  Her head swam with the sudden blood rush.

“We can’t help you, Rose.  Say Hermes, please,” pleaded Zeus.

“Why the hell would I say Hermes?” She asked, and that was all it took.  The spell holding Hermes to the floor broke and he rose to a towering height.

Hermes approached the woman and knelt down, having had a few minutes to regain his composure, though he still was seething at Zeus.  “Are you alright?” Hermes asked, reaching to help her up.

“What gives you the impression I’m alright?” Rose backed away from the prior axe murderer.

“It was a question, not a statement,” said Hermes testily.

Rose caught her breath.  He was close to her.  She had flashbacks to the Tarzan cartoon and sympathized with Jane about the issue with boundaries.  He was looking at the wound that Apollo had meticulously sutured.  “As always brother, you tend towards perfectionism,” Hermes mumbled as he quickly hefted Rose into his arms.  She gave a slight yelp of surprise, but he didn’t notice.

“Don’t think this is over, Zeus,” Hermes hissed before the door slammed closed after his departure.

Zeus and Apollo glanced at each other and back at the door.

I am a writer and artist working through the Kavordian Library series. I write sci-fi, fantasy, lgbt romance.

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