The sound of steel striking steel resonated loudly throughout the caves that cut through the bowels of Olympus. The hammer rose, then fell, then rose again, guided by the strong and leathery grip of the God of the Forge. Each strike cast sparks against the craggy floors and parched walls of his forge in Olympus, where he did his work when the peace of the others was not of particular importance to him.
Athena had requested a new sword. The lance he’d crafted for her was as sharp and deadly as ever, of course, but now, she wished to hold a blade that bore the insignia of the city that had claimed her as its patron. Hephaestus quite liked Athena, so he was all too happy to oblige. He would insist, though, that she promise to keep and maintain the first weapon he’d made for her; he did not like his creations to go to waste.
Fire and lava burned freely through his chamber, and the steam and ash obscured all sight. Other Olympians were loath to endure such conditions for very long, which suited him just fine. Their company was hardly any comfort to him.
He raised the glowing blade to inspect it closely. His sullen gray eyes traced its entire length, noting every bump, every crevice, every imperfection that remained. It wasn’t nearly ready for the hands of the goddess yet. With a sigh, he considered that perhaps it might never be. The weapon it could become would be a mortal’s dream, but it was not one suited to serve as the sidearm of one who called Olympus home.
His ash-stained fingers rose to press against the sides of his face as he tried to squint away the stress. He decided that it was time for a reprieve; he was in no proper state to forge the kind of masterpiece that had earned him his station.
He clapped his hands twice and was quickly joined by a quartet of fair maidens whose very flesh was forged of gold. Unfazed by the smoke and the oppressive heat, they came bouncing into his forge like nubile nymphs, their faces shining with mirth and excitement. They brought a casual levity to the harsh forge, and Hephaestus could not keep himself from smiling at the sight of them. These were without question his favorite creations, his only children and greatest friends, which never failed to soften his hard and haggard heart.
"Calm, my lovelies," said Hephaestus, gesturing with his palm to quell their bouncing and giggling. He handed his hammer to one of them, then removed his apron and gave it to another. "Please put these in their proper place," he asked, and the pair skirted off to fulfill his request. Turning to the two who remained, he smiled gently. "Come. Help this old god to his bedchamber."
He reached for the cane of oak that leaned against the anvil. The wood should easily have ignited at those temperatures, but with a little aid from Demeter, he’d managed to grant it resistance to the heat. She was another of the very few divinities to earn his love; though a rather abrasive goddess at most times, she never failed to be sweet to the humble and patient God of the Forge. Sweetness was an uncommon comfort for him. He relished its every source.
Hephaestus leaned against the cane as he took labored steps on legs that had been mangled for as long as he could remember. The golden pair quickly fell into step beside him, their tender hands reaching out to offer support whenever it seemed he might weaken and fall. In truth, he was more than strong enough to make it with the aid of his cane alone, but it did his heart good to have his maidens to dote on him from time to time.
Slowly and carefully, they ascended the steps that led out of the forge and up to the chamber where Hephaestus stopped to rest his head. It was altogether different from the dark caverns beneath, with ivory columns, marble floors, and elaborate statues carved by Hephaestus’ own hands. A fountain at the entrance gave him water to wash his hands and his face. He took several drawn out moments to cool his hot flesh. His features sagged, and he let out a heavy sigh.
He snapped his fingers, and his attendants froze in place, existing then as the statues of gold that they truly were. He never liked to have an audience as he addressed the glamorous figure who now lay unwelcome in his bed.
"What do you want now?"