Kate Helens walked home late from the office as if she owned the world. Perhaps that was because she once had, at least a small part of it. Once upon a time she had been called Hecate, but now she was more frequently known as Ms. Helens and that was fine. Even so, the night was her time and she’d never feared it. This city had been her home off and on for a great many years. Riddled with crossroads it supplied her with small trickles of power that kept her sated. The recent events with her fellow gods only increased the wisps of power that came to her from the whispered prayers of the faithful and those who had come to believe after witnessing the battle in these very streets. She’d not been there to defend this city and so she wasn’t as well fed as Athene or Hephaestus or the others who had been seen, but she’d never exactly been starved either.
She looked down as the phone in her pocket chimed, slipping her finger over the face of it to unlock it and began to read the notes about her meetings the next day, just sent by her assistant. Because she was occupied with her phone the missed the sounds of footsteps behind her, a rookie mistake that she would have been embarrassed to admit to had anyone been given the chance to ask. When she did hear the sound of shuffling footsteps behind her she rolled her eyes and readied herself to cast something nasty at the purse snatcher behind her. She was a goddess after all, it might drain her resources but it would be worth it. She turned, hand held high, a dense ball of darkness pulsing within her palm only to freeze. It wasn’t a purse snatcher, it wasn’t even a pair. It was at least a dozen and all of them looked at her with a strange expression on their faces. It was something akin to lust and hunger but twisted, a distant relative at best.
They were the usual sort for the most part, hollow eyes people with varying degrees of jaundice or tooth loss depending on their preferred poison. Some of them were the sort to shake cups at you listlessly from doorways, change clanging in the bottom of it. A few of them were not the usual sort. A young girl, probably in high school stood in the back, her face flushed and her manner nervous but still she looked at Kate with that same hungry expression. Not far from her, as if they sought each other out for normality’s sake was a business man, approaching thirty and fighting it if his body were any indication, there was muscle under his suit.
That was when she saw it. A small pulsing golden light flickered under his skin and then disappeared. Once she saw it on him she began to see it on the others. There was no rhythm to it, just the occasional appearance under their skin, on all parts of their bodies, gone as soon as it was noticed. She was unsettled by the appearance and began to back away slowly, knowing not to run. She’d been around Artemis enough to know that you never turn and run if you wished to avoid being hunted. It didn’t matter. They weren’t animals. Animals would have been kinder.
One of them hissed, voice thick with need and phlegm “I can smell it, she’s full of it.”
It was as if the words were a switch, in unison they sprang at her, roaring inhumanly and moving faster than they had any right to. She stood no chance. They had her and she was buried under the lot of them. There was no time to think, no time to react, there was only time to die as hands and mouths found their way to her body, piercing her flesh and draining her dry.
Athene moved about the cabin restlessly. She’d been so happy there despite the pain she’d been in. The whole world had been the four walls of the cabin, her life beginning and ending with the inhabitants. But that was when she’d been helpless and hurting. Now she was well, or well enough she could fake it. She still had deep gnawing pain that she hid for the most part. It made her grateful, that pain. It made her appreciate every breath she took, every breath he took. But he wasn’t there just then. He’d had to go back to his mortal life, even if only briefly and she suddenly had a great deal of sympathy for her stepmother. Which was not a comfortable place to be in. No, she didn’t care for that.
She hadn’t heard from her father, but then she hadn’t expected too. Even though she had been the worse of the casualties he wouldn’t have approved of her company and so had stayed away. She supposed he might think he was doing her a favor. He wouldn’t have been able to hide his disapproval so he’d given her silence. Still it stung more than a little to hear on the news of all things the main reason for his disappearance; it seemed Hera was pregnant. It was shocking really, the first god to be born in her family in forever it seemed. What would it mean to be a god born to this modern, unbelieving world?
Leave it to her father, he’d turned a tricky situation into campaign gold. He’d withdrawn from the race to stay home and tend to his wife whom Athene had to admit, glowed for the few seconds they’d had the camera on her. This had had a strange effect on nearly the entire female voting base and Athene was certain once he got back on the campaign trail the numbers would be vastly different no matter his “conservative views”. She snorted thinking of it and was only momentarily distracted by the boredom setting in.
She needed to get back into the world. Her spiders brought her plenty of tidbits, keeping tabs on most of her family but it wasn’t enough. She like Hephaestus was a god of the people. She’d spent so many years of her immortal life fostering and mentoring worthy men. She felt cut off and alone without some interaction. She’d toyed with the idea of slipping in to the military. She’d done that before. Through her guidance she’d brought many a promising soldier into prominence but it seemed too much like crowding her love. The military was his life right then and she was so new at being with someone that she didn’t want to misstep and crowd. Though her body and heart sang from their time together her mind was filled with doubts. She’d waited so long for this that it still seemed like a dream and she waited with baited breath for him to compare her to his wife and realize the mistake he’d made. She hated that she was being so irrational but she couldn't seem to help herself. She took herself out to the porch and leaned against one of the posts that held up the roof, twining her long arms around it, pressing her cheek into the smoothness of it. She stared out at the woods that had been her own personal haven and considered not for the first time seeing if there was enough juice in her to leave, to walk the ways to her old home and begin again. Not leaving him, no, never that but getting her own life back, not separate from him but apart. It didn’t make any sense to her, even as she said it to herself. She supposed it was from a lifetime of being a goddess alone.
Just as she closed her eyes and began summoning her strength the phone rang. It was an old phone, one with a rotary dialer and thought they were not connected to any phone lines that she knew of it worked. Hephaestus hadn’t cared to explain and she’d liked the twinkle in his eyes when he’d refrained from answering so she hadn’t pressed. Now she strode over to it and lifted the receiver.
“Hello.” She said into it, her voice a purr, a strange tone for a goddess of wisdom to sport.
“Is this Minerva Grey?”
Startled she answered in a short surprised tone. “It is, what is this in regards to?”
“Were you aware that you were listed as the next of Kin for Kate Helens?”
Kate Helens? Athene was momentarily stunned and then it came to her. Hecate. Next of kin. That wasn’t good.
“Yes, is something wrong? Tell me.” her words came out in a sharp crack, a voice that had commanded armies, won battles.
The woman did. As her hurried words came out the goddess leaned against the well made wall upon which the antiquated phone hung and slowly slid down to the floor, horror and remembered pain threatening to overwhelm her.