Unlike when Mineekas had first arrived at the tent, no one ran around. The entire area was empty except for the trio of goddesses. Another thing seemed off, but it wasn’t until they were mounting the stairs that would take them to the pavilion’s stage that Mineekas realized what it was.
There was no noise.
No music. No shouts and laughter. No calls from vendors with enticing offers. All performers had fallen quiet.
The sudden lack of sound chilled Mineekas, especially when she looked past the stage and saw a sea of faces gazing up at her. For a second, she worried something was wrong with her. Had she been cursed when the Olympian had spit on her?
Then, just as she reached the top stair, Mineekas stumbled and would have fallen if not for Hestia. A ripple of laughter followed her blunder. Her cheeks reddened, but she wasn’t as embarrassed as she normally would have been. Though she appeared a fool, at least her ears worked properly.
Hestia guided her nieces to the center of the stage where three white-haired goddesses, all in identical blue-black peploi that sparkled with moving star constellations. Hestia turned the pair toward the Fates, kissed each on the left cheek, and left.
Due to the Fates’ Purposes, and their clear favoritism of Hades, Mineekas had seen them often over the years. She’d never been allowed to interact with them, but the few times she’d caught their soft black eyes, she’d never sensed they disliked her. More than anything, Mineekas thought she intrigued them (she did exist because of their meddling millennia ago).
Now, directly before them for the first time, Mineekas couldn’t assume any of their opinions. Their round, so-pale-it-was-translucent faces held no expression. They remained so still they seemed carved from stone.
The only part of the Fates that moved so Mineekas knew they were alive was their visible golden veins. If Mineekas concentrated, she could see that they wove into intricate designs, only to unravel the next moment. Then the process would repeat, on loop, though the same design never formed again. It was as oddly captivating as it was unsettling.
Without warning, Clotho, the middle Fate, flung her hands out and caught Devert’s head between them. Devert’s breath hitched. Her skin lost all color when Clotho pulled her close, and the other two Fates stuck their faces in Devert’s.
Mineekas pondered what the Fates searched for. What could they see in another’s features that revealed an individual’s Purpose? Had they ever been wrong? If they were, what did that mean for mislabeled god?
Suddenly, the Fates stepped back from Devert. As one, they stuck their right thumb against Devert’s forehead. A glow formed where their skin touched Devert’s.
“From this day forward,” they started (their harsh, low voices shouldn’t have echoed from the stage and through the crowd like they did), “Devert, youngest of Zeus’ progenies, you will know your Purpose as Goddess of Forgotten Baseborn.”
Delighted gasps followed the announcement. Mineekas wanted to react, though not because she found the Fates’ declaration funny. In fact, it disgusted her. How could they be so cruel? Already Devert carried a stigma that made her life difficult. Thanks to the Fates, they’d made her existence impossible.
Devert didn’t react to the Fates’ announcement. She wore an insipid grin, and her eyes had become unfocused. Her silly expression remained even after the Fates removed their thumbs from her forehead and moved on to Mineekas.
Like with Devert, Clotho grabbed Mineekas and brought her so near their noses almost touched. Then Lachesis and Atropos bent forward. An overwhelming scent of age wafted from the trio, though they appeared only a few years older than Mineekas.
To have three pairs of the same eyes study her made Mineekas’ heart skip a beat. At first glance, the Fates didn’t have the most unsettling gaze Mineekas had ever seen. Their eyes could even be considered pretty, once the golden ring around their irises and their thick lashes were noticed.
Moments after the aesthetic value of their eyes were noticed, it became clear the unmeasurable amount of knowledge the Fates contained. One realized the eons the Fates had lived and would continue to live. With that vast information and longevity of life came a power only one being had ever attempted to control, and in the end, he’d failed horribly.
How did the trio remain sane? How didn’t they rule the world? Why didn’t they seem to want to? Most others wouldn’t hesitate to abuse the Purpose the Fates possessed.
The Fates considered Mineekas for another minute. She couldn’t be sure, but she swore they were taking longer with her. If so, why? Was she hard to read? Could they have run out of Purposes to assign? If they had no Purpose to give, what would they do with her? Would Mineekas be forced to wander as a Purposeless goddess, weak and yearning for belonging?
More than one god and goddess had forsaken The Deciding, believed they were better than the ones before them or hadn’t considered a Purpose that important. Every one had faded from reality, an outcome worse than death. At least in death, a bit of the god or goddess remained, though on another plane. If a god or goddess faded, they disappeared entirely.
Was that Mineekas’ future?
The Fates stepped away from Mineekas. She waited for their thumbs, but they never came. Instead, the Fates focused past her, into the crowd.
Mineekas didn’t care if she broke a rule, she turned to see what had captured the Fates’ attention.
Far in the back, the crowd parted to allow a lone figure to make its way toward the pavilion. Grumblings and cries of outrage followed, but the figure didn’t slow. Though it caused much distress, no one tried to stop it.
Halfway to the stage, Mineekas recognized the figure’s muted orange hair and ruby red skin. She frowned. What was he doing here? Hades couldn’t have granted him permission to leave the Underworld.
In no time, Epiales, an Underworld god Mineekas had never liked, reached the pavilion. With one mighty leap, he left the ground and landed on the stage, not too far from Mineekas. He nodded at her, then bowed at the disgruntled crowd.
“Forgive my rudeness,” he called. His slick, deep voice promised excitement-tinged terror. “I should have done this before now, but time did get the better of me.” He glanced over his shoulders at the Fates. “Do you forgive me?”
Atropos harrumphed. “Even with this predicted, it still irritates. So, no, you are not forgiven.”
Clotho nudged her sister. “Be a good sport. Besides, you’re wasting time. The child is overcome with worry.”
“Yes, yes,” Epiales said. He addressed the crowd again. “I relinquish my Purpose.”
Before anyone could react, the Fates forced Mineekas to face them once more. Their thumbs pressed against her forehead, and she felt warmth flood from the source of contact through every limb. It was like she’d just dipped her body into a heated mineral spring, and Mineekas loved every bit of it.
“From this day forward,” the Fates said, though Mineekas could hardly hear them through the pleasant fog that had filled her mind. “Mineekas, the only child of Hades, you will know your Purpose as Goddess of Nightmares.”