Right. So. Might be mildly addicted to your 'Gods and Monsters' series. Definitely need an intervention, but I'll prolly ignore that anyway, so... anyway, can you do something with Zeus and Hera? I've always thought it was massively whack that the goddess of fidelity was with --according to Greek mythos--one of the biggest adulterers on Olympus. Definitely smelling a bit of an abusive relationship there, if you catch my drift... okay byeeeee
Hera, the young goddess of marriage and family, is only unfaithful to her husband once.
She seduces Zeus first, right as the war ends and they’re all pain and ash and thrumming with the excitement of victory. She smiles just so and touches his bloody chest, her hand pale against the dark copper of his skin and, and when he looks at her his eyes spark with the lightning he so easily commands. She is named his wife that very night, her body littered with bruises from his rough, eager hands, and she tells herself the bile at the back of her throat tastes like victory.
She is queen of the gods. This is what she wants.
They’ve all claimed their domains and gone their separate ways, Demeter to the earth, Hades to the underworld, and Hestia to Olympus where they plan to build their palace. But Poseidon still lingers. “Don’t you have an ocean to conquer?” she asks.
He looks at her, then behind her to where Zeus is busy sketching plans for Olympus. “You don’t have to do this,” he says softly, “you – you can come with me if you want. Or I’m sure Hades would take you.”
Hera has no time for Poseidon and his soft heart. “I will only belong to the best,” she says, tossing her head so her crown of curls fall over her shoulder. “You should go. You have work to do.”
“There are more important things than power,” he says uncomfortably, shifting from foot to foot.
“No,” she says, “there aren’t.”
Hera would not mind Zeus’s women so much if they were not constantly giving him children, something she has been unable to do.
She is an obedient wife. She does not turn her powers against him, and she’s tolerant of his mortals at first, but the longer she is empty of child the less patience she has. How can she be the goddess of family without one of her own?
Her spite gets in her way, and she hurls every kind of obstacle and curse she can at the woman her husband lies with. At first he is angry with her, and bruises litter her throat and wrists. Then, as her wrath and powers grow, he is afraid of her. He watches her warily, sneaking to the mortal realm when before he wouldn’t even try to hide it. He submits when she pins him to the bed and rides him hard, desperate for a child of his, desperate to fulfill the perfect image of wife and mother she’s built for herself.
No matter her magic, no matter how many times they lie together, Hera does not get with child.
She goes to Hestia, and her sister presses a hand to her stomach and purses her lips and says, “Must it be his child?”
Hera stares. She’s the goddess of marriage and family. She is not capable of infidelity. “I – I can’t.”
“Just once,” Hestia says, “the problem is not with you, nor with him, clearly. Only the combination of you both. Lie with any other man, and you will have your child.”
So Hera, just once, puts on a disguise and goes to the mortal realm. She finds a man with skin darker than Zeus’s, a rich warm brown that matches his soft eyes. She lies with him, and it hurts. He is kind and patient and kisses the edge of her jaw, her shoulders, her navel. But to be unfaithful grates against her very nature as a goddess, and every moment is agony. He finishes, his mouth whispering kind things against her own, and she leaves as soon as she can.
It works. She becomes round with child, and is happier than she’s been in a long time. She does not mind Zeus’s mortals, and he even becomes kinder while the baby grows inside of her. His hands become softer, and he spends less time away from Olympus.
The baby is born, and Zeus is furious.
The child is too dark to be his, and he tears it from Hera’s hands while she lies exhausted from the birth. “What do you care?” she cries, struggling to stand, “You have dozens of children. What does it matter if I have one?”
He holds the baby in one hand and grabs her jaw with the other, pulling her to her knees. “You are my wife,” he hisses, “the goddess of marriage and family. You will have my child, or no child at all.”
He throws the baby from Mount Olympus. Hera screams, pushing herself away from him and attempting to jump after it. Zeus catches her around the waist, and with a crackle of power and roar of rage, he sends a lightning bolt after the baby.
The child may have survived the fall, but not the lightning.
“NO!” Hera screeches, clawing at his arm as she struggles to escape his grasp. Normally she’s not this helpless against him, but delivering her baby has left her weaker than she’s ever been before.
He presses the flat of his hand against her swollen womb, adding pressure until she cries out in pain and tries to squirm away from him. “My child,” he repeats, voice low and terrible, “or no child at all.”
He lets her go, and she collapses, grasping out a hand over the edge of Olympus. But the blood between her thighs is still wet, and she can’t find the energy to stand. She wonders if she’ll have to crawl down the mountain to retrieve her baby’s corpse.
“Sister!” Soft hands grab her shoulder and gently roll her onto her back. Hestia’s face fills her vision, and Hera has never seen the older goddess of hearth and fire look so cold. “I’ll kill him,” she says, hands hovering over Hera like she’s not sure where to begin. “I’m so sorry. I didn’t think this would happen, I didn’t think he would – I didn’t think.”
Hera curls on her side until she can place her head in her sister’s lap. She’s not sobbing anymore, she’s never been one to fall into hysterics, but she can’t stop crying, a steady stream of tears dripping silently down her face. Hestia runs trembling hands through her hair. “Don’t,” she whispers, “I did this, this is my fault. I – I should have known better.”
Hestia’s hand cup her face, leaning over so she can look her in the eye. “This is not your fault.”
Her sister stands and picks her up in her arms. Hera tries to tell her to put her down, that Zeus will be angry if she leaves, that she did this to herself. But she falls unconscious before she can get any of it out.
Hera awakens someplace soft and warm. She opens her eyes, and she’s inside Hades’s palace. Her confusion lasts only until her memories come rushing back, and then she has to bite her lip until it bleeds to stop herself from crying out.
“Hestia brought you here. She’s returned to Olympus to cover for you both. Do not worry – Zeus doesn’t know where you are.” She turns her head, and sees the goddess of magic at her side. Hecate smiles, “I have mended you, do not worry. All is well.”
All is not well. That statement is so far from true, and her instant urge is to crush Hecate to dust for the audacity. Before she can make up her mind one way or the other, there’s a soft knock on the door. It opens to reveal her elder brother. “I have something that belongs to you,” he says, and Here focuses on the bundle in the crook of his elbow.
Her baby’s corpse. She’s relieved someone thought to get it. Her heart feels like lead, and all the control she’d had over her emotions is gone instantly. She hopes they’ll leave her alone to hold the body of her child and weep.
Hades gingerly sits on the edge of the bed, and Hecate rises to help Hera prop herself up so she’s at least sitting. “He’s a strong little thing,” Hades says, and Hera doesn’t understand.
Then a warm, wriggling baby is placed in her arms. He’s got great big eyes and his mouth splits into a toothless grin when he sees her. “He’s alive,” she says numbly.
“Not without sacrifice,” Hecate says softly, and reaches over to undo the blanket he’s swaddled in.
Her son has no legs below his knees.
“Zeus’s lightning bolt didn’t kill him, but we cannot return what was lost,” Hades says, pained. “When he’s older, maybe we can do something, give him something in place of legs. But for now, there’s nothing I can do.”
The king of the underworld is the most powerful god after her husband. Hera knows that, even if Zeus doesn’t. If Hades can’t do anything about her son’s legs, then no can. But he’s alive, Zeus didn’t manage to kill him, and Hera finds herself so grateful that she’s holding a smiling, living child that she can’t be anything but relieved. Her son is alive, and happy. He doesn’t need legs.
“I can’t bring him back to Olympus,” she looks up at them, “Can you find someone to raise him? Someone you trust?”
She doesn’t trust anyone, so it can’t be her choosing.
“You’re going back to him?” Hecate demands, “Hestia said – but I thought for sure – you don’t have to! Don’t go back to him!”
“I must,” she holds her son to her chest, and he reaches out with chubby hands to tug at her hair. “I am the goddess of marriage, and he is my husband.”
Hecate stares, aghast. “Don’t – don’t, Hera. Please. Stay here. Hades will protect you.”
She looks up at her brother, and he raises an eyebrow. He would protect her, he would put himself in between her and Zeus’s wrath if she asked him to. But she won’t, and she thinks he knows it. She says, “I am Hera of the Heights, of Argos, of the Mound. I am the cow eyed, white armed goddess of marriage and of family. I am Hera, queen of the gods.” She looks down at her son, and her heart clenches, because for now a title that cannot be afforded to her is that of mother. “I will not abandon my dominion, nor my husband. I will return to Mount Olympus.”
“But you don’t love him,” Hecate says helplessly.
Hera stares, baffled that anyone could think her marriage had anything to do with love. “Of course not. But this isn’t about love. It’s about power.”
The goddess of magic swallows, then says, “I will raise him.”
Even Hades is surprised by that. “Hecate?”
“I will raise him,” she repeats, “He will stay with me, safe in the underworld where Zeus cannot find him, until he’s old enough and strong enough to protect himself.”
“Thank you,” Hera says, and lowers her head enough to kiss the top of her son’s head. “Tell him that I’m the one that threw him from Olympus.” When she looks up, Hades is resigned while Hecate looks on in horror. “Tell him, tell everyone. I gave birth to a hideous son, and I threw him from Olympus. His legs were crushed in the fall. I did this. Zeus tried to stop me, but could not.”
“Why?” Hecate asks.
Hera smiles down at her son, her heart full with a helpless sort of love. “So that when he ventures from the safety of the underworld, Zeus will have no reason to hurt him. So that when he comes to Olympus, Zeus will be unable to hurt him without explaining he was the one that tried to kill him in the first place.” She runs the back of her finger down his cheek, and he grabs it, his little fist holding onto her. “Blame me, and he will be safe.”
Hecate looks like she wants to argue. Hades puts a hand on her shoulder and asks Hera, “What’s his name?”
Her son smiles, and tugs at her hand, the beginnings of a giggle gurgling in his throat.
“His name is Hephaestus.”
When she returns, she no longer has any patience for Zeus’s mortals. When before she had only inconvenienced them, now she’s not playing any games. Those that do not die end up wishing they had, and she’s especially vindictive to any mortal carrying her husband’s child.
She sits on her throne, waiting, a smirk curled around the corner of her lips.
Zeus barges in and charges towards her. He’s so angry smoke is rising off his skin. “You,” he hisses, “this is your doing.”
“Whatever do you mean?” she asks, unflinching when he slams his hands on either side of her head, crushing the back of her throne with the force of it.
“She and the children are dead,” he snarls, “my children are dead! I know this is your doing, it reeks of your handiwork.”
Hera slides forward to the edge of her throne, their faces nearly touching, and spreads her legs. He flexes his hands, because even at his most furious he still wants her. She is his wife and his queen. She banishes her clothing so she’s spread out before him, hair piled high and jewelry glinting around her neck. “What are you going to do about it?”
He kisses her hard enough to bruise, and Hera crosses her legs around his back, urging him closer. “Why are you doing this?” he hisses, mouthing at her neck, because he hates her even as he loves her, hates her because he loves her, and loves her because he hates her.
She waits until he’s inside her to lick the shell of his ear and whisper, “My child, or no child at all, husband.”
When he breaks her skin with his teeth, she only laughs.
They do this to each other. Maybe they are meant to be together.
gods and monsters series part xv