As I stood on my knees across from him, I could not help but reflect on how he was the most powerful god now. Therefore, making him the most dangerous one.
Fortunate were those who had this male’s regard.
Weak. Ugly. Cripple. Disgusting.
Those insults that the Olympians made it their sole duty to throw at me could never affect me. It was easy to push all of it behind my apathetic mind. But I could not say the same for the anxiety that rose within me as my uncle's red eyes stared down at me.
The Ruler of the Underworld, had always been one scary entity. And with time, he just kept on becoming even more fearsome.And while uncle Aiden had been kind, King Hades was always twice as cruel.
Just like his twin sister.
Just like my mother.
The only difference was, King Hades always meant to mete out his cruelty. Queen Hera never knew realized it if she was being cruel.
And at this very moment, I had no idea if I was facing my uncle, or the master of all things dark.
“Have you finally returned to us, son of Hera?” He asked, as he crossed his legs, and assumed a casual pose. But I knew that, the casualty in this very moment was very deceptive. Seeing that the throne room of the Underworld was fraught with tension.
The question was not surprising in itself. I had even expected it. But I wish I knew how to answer that. The world of humans had known me and called me by many names through different civilizations and times.
Hephaestus. Ra. Ogun. Zhurong. Gibil. Agni being the prominent one in my timeline.
But before any of that, I had been the proud son of goddess Hera, and the god she had loved since her childhood.
I had been her precious fire. Did I dare claim that I was as strong as he, as I used to be? Did I even have the right to claim such glory again?
“I am not sure.” I answered him honestly.
“That is not good enough, son.” His expression stayed the same, but his voice had softened just a measure. I hung my head, trying to hide the shame. “You have had enough time now to grieve. It is time for you to fulfill the oaths you have taken.”
“Forgive me, my King.” I told him with all the sincerity I could muster. My guilt and regrets had poisoned me from the inside out.
Just as my curse had. Just as she had. I thought with a touch of bitterness that still ran within me. She had always had had too much influence over me. And it was her loss that had at first destroyed me.
And with time I had simply become numb and tired of it all. I had become complicit and comfortable with all of my weaknesses. Both the real ones and the perceived ones.
“You do realize that I never blamed you for her death?”
My snapped to his at his quiet words, my eyes wide with shock. How could he not? All had been lost, because she had sacrificed herself. Died for me. Because of me.
The sad smile on his face, made me want to argue that he couldn’t really mean what he was saying.
But it seemed that there was still a part of me that wanted to live. And it was never a good idea to argue with or question him, if you wished to live.
And because he could never miss anything, he knew exactly what I was thinking.
“Child your survival could never disappoint me. She would have lost her mind anyways, if you had been lost to us. She chose you, over herself.” He took a pause as grief overtook him. It could never be denied that her loss had hurt him as much as it hurt any one of us.
“No one understood her as much as I did. And I would have done the same thing as her. But the way you live though? The loss of your will? It does offend me. It would have shattered her to see you like this. It ruins her memory for you to be this way.”
He said quietly but firmly. He wasn’t telling me anything I already didn’t know. He was demanding for me to do something about how I had become. Of what I had become.
“You must hold someone accountable then uncle?" He raised an eyebrow at that, obviously annoyed. He only did that to people who he found were being stupid.
“Your father vowed that he would protect, and yet someone like him failed to do so.” He blamed my father, and the irony was not lost on me. There was a time when my uncle would not have tolerated a single word against my father. And yet
But the dark God’s words did give me pause. I could never agree with him. I was not innocent by any means. He didn't know why my father's hands had been tied. And as my parents' proxy, I could never reveal that secret to anyone. Not even if I wanted to.
My arrogance had cost me my purpose. My shame would never let me forget how she had stood between my prone body and that mighty sword of Uranus. How her body had shattered into tiny pieces of brightness, the moment it had pierced her through the stomach.
My blind trust had cost me my direction. My heart wouldn’t let her go still. How she had kept her secrets from me. And how it had destroyed the both of us. I loved her for who she was. And I hated her for what she had done.
And then in turn, my own secrets had ruined someone else. My reprieve. She had been the most innocent of all in my existence. And to my utmost regret, I had treated her worse than anyone. Yet she was the only one who was hadn’t tried to purposely cause me pain. Not in the beginning of us at least.
After what I had put her through, the humiliation at the hands of her and her brethren had always been a small price to pay.
The return of my former self, could very well mean the end of her current glory.
I could now admit it to myself, that I loved her. And the thought of her pain, was like a shard of ice through my heart.
But I knew I had no choice. My duty had finally come calling. My oath to my mother could not be ignored any longer. It was time for her revenge. It was long overdue.
“I request that you pay your two debts owed to me King Hades.”
The answering smirk on his face only served to strengthen my resolve. The power of my fire already thrumming through me. The power of all my knowledge almost making feel invisible. But I would never be that arrogant again to think that I was invulnerable.
“What is the first thing that you want from me Hephaestus?” He asked for formality’s sake. Because I was certain that he already knew where my demands were headed.
“The return of my late wife, if you please.” I demanded with coolness. The idea of her return, filled me with both anticipation and dread. The one who had been the centre of my world for so long. My first love. The very one who had inadvertently ruined my second.
“And your second demand, Aziz Azar?” He had purposely used that name of mine, when he eluded to what I was about to ask next. He was reminding me of my priorities.
I closed my eyes for a moment at the reality of what this would mean, what it would end. But it had to be done. Thus, I voiced the most important debt that had to be repaid to me.
“The ability to kill a god and a goddess.”
A life for a life. It was the just thing in our world. And no one understood that better than the God of the Underworld. Only if mother had accepted that bitter truth sooner.