I absolutely loved your Gods and Monsters stories!!! Your writing flows beautifully and it transmits feelings so well ❤ Are you considering writing anything about Zeus? They way you've retold the other myths is amazing, and now I'm curious about what you'd do with him :) Have a good day and thanks for sharing your stories with us!
Their hold loosens on the earth. Gods aren’t needed like they were before, their names are not chains like they were before. Some embrace this. Ares eagerly shakes off the power he’d never wanted, and Athena lets it pass through her hands like water, wise enough to know that attempting to hold onto it will only hurt her in end.
Some do not embrace this.
Demeter’s skin used to be dark.
It was the rich brown of potting soil, it was the fertile black earth that washed up from the Nile River. Her skin was deep, life-giving brown.
It’s not like that now.
It’s pale desert sand, cracks all along it like baked earth and tree roots searching for water that they can’t find. Her hair hangs thin and grey against her temple, and her dark eyes have turned milky.
She clings to her power over the earth by her fingertips, and she knows that she’s just delaying the inevitable. There’s no coming back from this, not really, the strings of her fate have long been woven. But she will not go quietly. The mortals may take the earth from her grasp, but she’s never been one to cross without consequences. She still isn’t.
Demeter goes to the sea. She hasn’t dared step foot in there since her birth, but now she has so little left to lose. The water’s barely to her knees before a wave rises up from the smooth ocean and drags her below.
Poseidon has long been absent from the sea, yet his palace stands as tall and imposing as ever. Because it was never really his palace, his kingdom, his power.
It was always hers.
“Well, well,” Amphitrite says, circling her with curious green eyes, “Time has not been kind to you, I see.”
“It has to you,” she says tightly. Amphitrite looks the same as Demeter saw her last, has aged even better the goddesses who shed their mantels of power the moment they became too heavy. Then again, Demeter expected nothing less. “I want to make a deal.”
“You have nothing I desire, Sister,” she says, smiling even though it feels like she’s mocking her.
Demeter almost laughs – oh, if they could see them now, if Hera or Hestia could see them now, see her now. How they would laugh, to see how low she has fallen. How they would shudder, to see the truth of what she is, what she has always been. “I have this.” She cuts open her chest and pulls out her heart – rich red, a heart that has not failed her, a heart that can feel love and pain and desire and fear and happiness.
“Sister,” she whispers, eyes wide, unconsciously moving away from her, “what are you–”
“I already know I don’t get to see how this ends,” she says, “I’m not someone he’s interested in saving and I’m certainly not someone she’s interested in saving. You have faired far better than me in that regard.”
Amphitrite’s hands are shaking. Demeter likes the way she’s gone impossibly pale, the fear in her eyes, the way she was so arrogant the moment before and know she isn’t. She has power over so little these days. She’ll take what she can get. “Give me your heart,” she says, “give me power over the sea, and I will grant you a heart with the capacity to feel all the emotions you are so fond of.”
The queen of the sea shakes her head, “Don’t do this, you don’t need to do this.”
“I am Gaia,” she says, hard, speaking a name she hasn’t used in a long, long time. “I am Mother Goddess to all, the first to walk this plain, and your elder sister. You will not deny me.” They call her Demeter. She was born Demeter. But she was something else, something far greater, before she risked it all to be born a lowly goddess. “I gambled, and I lost this game. But I will not go out without a fight.”
“You were second to walk this plain, technically,” Amphitrite says softly, eye lowered, showing vulnerability to Demeter that she wouldn’t show to anyone else. “Thinking this was a game was your first mistake. He never thought of it that way.”
She’s about to snap at her, then Amphitrite cuts open her chest and takes out her cold, dark heart. She slips her heart into her sister’s chest, and Demeter does the same, pushing her violently red heart into the darkness of Amphitrite’s chest. Demeter feels what little grasp on humanity she’d managed to maintain drain away, leaving only a pit of heavy coldness along her spine. A pink flush comes to Amphitrite’s cheeks and a smile tugs on her lips, her eyes warming with the emotions she hasn’t been able to feel since Poseidon left her.
Demeter can feel the power of the current beneath her, the water eager and ready to do her bidding. “Use my heart well,” Demeter tells Amphitrite, Gaia tells her little sister, before using the water to carry her far from where her sister and heart remain.
She will die. But her heart will on, her little sister will live on, and that will have to be enough.
Demeter leaves the sea and climbs the steps to what remains of Mount Olympus.
Only Zeus remains, and all that remains of him is skin and bones and sunken eyes. He maintains authority over the skies even though it’s killing him. He’ll maintain authority over it until it kills him.
She needs that power.
She doesn’t care if it kills her.
“My king,” she murmurs, kneeling before his crumbling throne. Their once great pantheon lies around them, nothing left but rubble and ash.
He almost meets her eyes, copper skin now sallow and black hair now white. “She left,” he tells her, high pitched and something terrifying in the edges of his eyes, “She left me – she was never supposed to leave me.” He reaches out and grabs her shoulder, bony hand surprisingly strong, “I miss her.”
Demeter only has one thing left to trade for Zeus’s power.
“Give me what our mother Rhea gave you,” she says softly, “Give it to me, and I will stay on Olympus and you can go to her.”
“There must always be one on Olympus,” he tells her. She doesn’t think he recognizes her. “As long as I am on Olympus, we’ll be fine. He can’t do anything if I’m here, as long as one of us is here. I am here.” Tears leak from his eyes and drip down his face. He doesn’t wipe them away. “She’s not here. She was supposed to be here. I did not want to be alone. She – she was supposed to stay. As long as she stayed by my side, she would be safe. She’s not safe anymore.” His face crumples, the truest expression of grief she’s ever seen from him. “Her sons think they can protect her, but they can’t. They can’t even protect themselves. Only I could keep her safe! But she left. She’s not safe anymore.” Quieter now, “I wanted her to be safe.”
“Give it to me,” she repeats, firmer. She doesn’t have the time for his existential crisis over his missing wife, nor does she have the energy to pretend she cares. “What did mother give you, Zeus? What do I need to take?”
“You can’t take it!” he screeches, scrambling back and away from her. “You can’t have it! I need it! Mother gave it to me, said I had to keep it safe, said I had to stay on Olympus. You can’t have it!”
Demeter growls and grabs the front of his too-big robes, pulling him upright, getting ready to yell at him.
Then she sees it.
His eyes are young, are brown and beautiful. They are eyes that haven’t aged.
Those are not the eyes he was born with.
He fights her, but the heart of Amphitrite beats in her chest, but the strength of Mother Gaia remains in her limbs even now. She plucks his eyes from his head like grapes from a vine. She wonders how old he was when Rhea did this to him, when the woman who called herself mother tore out her son’s eyes and put these ones in instead.
“No!” he sobs, and his voice is clearer somehow, there’s more strength to him even as his face is soaked in blood. “Demeter, do not – it is not your burden to bear!”
“It is no burden,” she says eagerly, “it is a gift.”
She swallows them whole, each eye getting stuck in her throat and she has to force it down. They are part of her, and after a disorienting moment she sees the world as Zeus has seen it his whole life.
It’s no wonder at all he went mad. She’s almost impressed he lasted as long as he did.
It will drive her mad too, but she doesn’t care. She’ll be dead long before that can happen.
“What have you done?” Zeus asks in horror, “Demeter – please, they’re not meant for power, they’re meant to save us. To save us all.”
“I am not Demeter,” she says, and presses her hand to his head, using some of the power coursing through her veins to stop his bleeding, to save him from the swiftly approaching death. “You want her? Go to her. Nothing is stopping you now. And it’s no use trying to stop me.”
Less than an hour later, Zeus takes hobbling, slow steps down Mount Olympus. He doesn’t want to, wants to stay, wants to fight her, wants to take back what she stole, but he can’t. He has no power and no strength and no eyes.
She sits on the abandoned, crumbling throne and curls her lips into a cruel grin.
She has dominion over earth, over water, and over air.
She will make these mortals beg for mercy before they kill her – Gaia, Mother to All, Earth Goddess.
gods and monsters series, part xxii