Zeno becomes immortal, and quarrels with the goddess Styx
Zeno hated being taken advantage of; he despised that fact that he could not control himself around the goddess. Her touch was intoxicating, her voice hypnotic, Styx knew he could not say no to women, and no one could say no to her.
It was just one more reason he couldn’t stand her. If there was one thing Zeno hated, it was losing control of himself. He was a man who came from nothing, who had nothing. If he lost himself, what else had he? Yet on a whim, this goddess would have him whenever she pleased.
Although she pleasured him like no other, he kicked himself afterwards every time they made love and despite his inner protestations he could not stop himself. He wondered what kind of “dark magic” she could be working to manipulate his feelings towards her. Why, despite her manipulative abuses and numerous attempts on his life he, he was unable to leave, unable to resist.
He knew the truth, but he fought vehemently against it and would never admit it to himself; and he surely wouldn’t admit it to her.
Zeno awoke from their latest tryst to see Styx just as she exited the bedchamber. Her hands rose gracefully in the air as she summoned her garments to dress herself. She motioned towards her statue, her fingers waved and her wrist rocked back and forth as if she were manipulating a marionette. Fragments of her statue rattled and came to life and she began to piece together the shattered puzzle. She extended her other arm outwards, beckoning a slab of moistened clay from the ground, she pressed the various pieces back together with it.
“What the hell are you doing?” Zeno asked groggily.
“Rebuilding my tribute.” She stated smugly “I was quite fond of this statue, it truly captured the complete essence of my beauty. I am a most magnificent sculptor. ”
Zeno knew better than to argue, or even comment by this point. Styx was spoiled, and she would have her way, as she did with all things. Indifferent, he rolled over and went back to sleep.
“Now what are YOU doing?” she asked.
“Sleeping, woman…” he mumbled.
“You have slept enough, I require your assistance.”
“I’m not wasting my time with that dumbness. If you want to feed that massive ego, you can do it by yourse…ow!”
He grunted as a chunk of marble pelted him in the back of the head. He scurried upright, facing a grumpy Styx, tapping her foot with arms akimbo.
“Then if you will not assist, you will entertain.” She ordered.
Her foot tapped the ground with increasing force, accompanied by an exaggerated disapproving sigh.
“Jesus Chr…fine, woman! I know better than to argue with you…and a ‘goddess’ won’t stop until she has her way!”
“Are you being sarcastic?”
“Oh I’m absolutely being sarc…ow!”
Another chunk of marble pelted Zeno, a collection of chunks gathered just behind over her shoulder.
“Damnit woman, stop chucking rocks at me!”
“Then entertain me!”
“Spoiled ass…fine damnit.”
Fires of Obsidian ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
"That bitch…I thought.
I let her play me for a fool, that’s what I get for thinking with my dick. I had no clue what was in store for me, I was unconscious again. And that fucking boatman wasn’t as gentle waking me up this time around. The bastard tossed me into that soul burning shit. I sprung back to life and rushed out of the ‘water’ as fast as I could; which was, surprisingly, pretty damn fast. I stood there on the shore of a volcanic island in a stupor, as that shit evaporated off me. I felt, for lack of a better word, different. I could smell the water, and differentiate between the various scents in the air. I could see with amazing clarity, I scanned my surroundings, spying the details in crags hundreds of feet away, and the individual cracks and striations in the larger chucks of ash falling from the volcano.
‘Well, don’t that just beat all…’ I said in disbelief.
Oh…and my left arm had grown back while I was unconscious.
I looked back to see if that ‘Charon’ character was still there. He was gone, I figured he would be. I turned back to look at the volcano, and shrugged.
‘Ugh…what the fuck am I supposed to do now?’ I thought out loud.
Then that harpy spoke in my head, ‘Head towards the mountain.’
‘What the fuck! No! no no! Fuck you woman! You get me the hell out of here, right fucking now!’ I screamed.
I was pissed.
‘I will have Charon return you to me when you are successful,’ She declared condescendingly.
‘And when I get back, I’m going to shove that heart stone, and this hammer, up your ass!’ I countered.
‘Oh ho ho, child, there is no need for such violence. Besides, do you not approve of the enhancements I have bestowed upon you?’
Yeah, I liked it. At least what little I had experienced, but I wasn’t going to tell her that.
‘Look there, to your right.’ The witch instructed, still as bossy as ever I might add, ‘Do you see those three crags in line with each other?’
I was still stewing in my anger, so I didn’t respond immediately.
‘Child! Do you see the…’
‘Yeah, I see it!’ I barked, cutting her off. ‘But how the hell can you?’
‘By Zeus child, must you be so vulgar.’
She sighed, obviously frustrated, but I didn’t give a damn. I went to take a deep breath and realized just how polluted the air around me was. I almost hacked up a lung choking on ash, the stench of sulfur alone would have killed me if I were weaker.
The bitch responded while I was coughing, ‘To answer your question child, I see through you. You are an extension of me, through our soul link.’
I didn’t feel like conversing with her ass, and I wanted out of there as soon as possible. So, as much as I hate being someone else’s lapdog, I unhooked the hammer from my belt and jumped. It was easy; I soared effortlessly through the air, right above the crags. Turns out it was a little too easy, I smacked into the rock face, plopping hard on the path behind my target.
‘Son of a..,’ I groaned, rolling around on the ground.
I could hear that succubus laughing at me in my head, it only served to incense me even more. I figured I should just follow the path; it was well worn, and probably lead to where she wanted me to go. A gust of wind surprised me as I ran up the path, blasting me in the face with shards of obsidian and volcanic ash. Some of it got in my mouth, and I spit it out, but not without consequences. It shredded my tongue. Fortunately the pain didn’t last long, my wounds healed within seconds as I continued on my way.
‘Hmm…That was fast,’ I muttered to myself, ‘Just like her after…’
‘Yes child, you are immortal now. Stronger, faster, and more resilient than before. But not as strong as an actual goddess, not as strong as…’ She chimed in with her typical arrogance.
‘Would you shut up?! I don’t have shit to say to you till this is over with.’
I think she got the picture; she was silent for the rest of my climb up the mountainside. I arrived at the mouth of the cave. The threshold was decorated with ornate carvings, some kind of hieroglyphs or something, I didn’t understand any of it.
‘Tread carefully, Hephaestus has booby trapped the cave,’ she warned.
I suppose I should have been grateful for the information, but it was her fault I was there in first damn place. The info turned out to be useless though, ‘cause when I entered the cave I could see that something had already activated the traps.
…and destroyed them.
Metallic debris was strewn about, shattered bricks littered the walkway, and blood painted the walls. Lots of it. I gripped the hammer tight, and swallowed my fear as I shuffled carefully down the walkway.
‘By Zeus child…what happened here?’ she asked.
‘How the fuck should I know? I don’t even know where the hell ‘here’ is!’
‘Spare me you boorish obscenities child! We are in this together now, whether you like it or not.’
This one was crafty, she had me painted into a corner, and I didn’t have a response. And my only way out was forward, so I soldiered on. I entered the clearing, and before I could scan for any potential threats, I saw him. Hephaestus. Whoever had gotten their hands on him was not gentle. Like Styx, his hand was severed; spears impaled each of his major joints and pinned him to the ground face down. The spears glowed strangely, an unsettling black aura emanated from them that billowed outwards like heavy smoke. His entrails were splayed out all over the ground from under him.
But he was still alive.
I could only imagine how long he had been there like that, quite some time I assumed, due to his immortal nature. He was on the verge of death, that much was certain, but I had no idea how much longer he had left. He struggled to raise his head to look at me; his face was an elderly man’s, with a flowing white beard stained with his own blood.
‘Kill…me…,’ he pleaded, with labored breathing, ‘Use…the…hammer…’
‘Styx?’ I called out.
I paused, I couldn’t believe I was actually calling that she devil’s name, but I was at a loss.
‘Styx? What the hell happened here?’
No response. Then reality began to warp around me again. A rat scurried past me, losing speed as time crawled to a stop. The light in the room all shifted from white, to red, to black. And I awoke.
‘The astral plane…’ I mumbled, inspecting my now translucent body.
‘Correct…boy.’ Hephaestus spoke from behind me. ‘I see my wife fooled another mortal into doing her dirty work.’
‘Wife? She never mentioned you were her husband, or that she was even married.’
‘Of course she didn’t, the only thing that harlot knows better than sex is deceit.’
I laughed my ass off, but Hephaestus didn’t think it was very funny.
He glared back ‘I see you swore an oath with her, so you’re a fool,’
‘I didn’t, she forced it on me,’ I countered.
He turned his back to me and started pacing around the immediate area. He was massive, had to be eight, maybe ten feet tall; and was built like a bull, muscles on top of muscles, but his right leg was deformed. I guess even ‘gods’ were imperfect.
‘I don’t want to waste time boy, time flows differently here in the astral, but it’s still precious.’ He continued, ‘Styx…she wants revenge, and to unseat Zeus.’
‘Why am I not surprised,’ I grumbled.
‘Good, you’re not a complete idiot like the rest. All she’s ever cared about is status, and power. She cast her damn oath in an attempt to subjugate the warring factions.’
He tensed as he recalled Styx’ deception, the veins in his forehead throbbed and he scowled as he continued.
‘Problem is, the idiot isn’t tactically minded. Her oath, ‘Serve your new queen, stand by her side or sacrifice your soul and die,’ was nothing more than a nuisance.’ he recounted, mocking Styx’ rhythmic incantation. ‘The God-Kings dealt with it swiftly, and demanded her head. Like a fool I pleaded for leniency for her, only to be humiliated.’
‘Because you pleaded for her?’ I asked.
‘Because that whore opens her legs to anything that draws breath if it had something she wanted.’ "
“What?! I cannot believe that bastard said that about me!” Styx exclaimed “The nerve!"
“…and that’s surprising because…? Zeno countered
“You…That is not true, I am not that way! Coitus is not my only tool…simply the most effective. Still, I am insulted! The mongrel obviously did not recognize, nor appreciate how fortunate he was to be blessed with marriage to one as beautiful as I.”
“Guess we had something in common, cause I don’t either…”
Styx paused her work and sauntered over to Zeno with a deadpan stare.
“What?” I asked
She said nothing, glaring at him in silence, she smacked him. It was a much harder than the usual horseplay between them, but still managed a chuckle out of Zeno. After the shock had worn off.
“Bastard…” she grumbled.
With a playful riposte, Zeno grabbed one of her buttocks as she returned to her repairs. Zeno persisted despite her attempts to shuck his hand away and was met with another backhand for it.
Smirking, Zeno blew her a kiss.
“Just continue your damned story…you arse.” Styx ordered sharply
" ‘I guess that’s the story of my life, I’ve been nothing but a tool for the ageless anyways…’ Hephaestus continued recounting
‘Ageless?’ I asked
He ignored my question while recalling more of his troubled past. I didn’t ask for it, but I didn’t really have a choice.
‘I slaved away building their weapons; betrayed by my love Aphrodite, isolated for an eternity in solitude and madness. After the war I thought I found a new love in Styx, but she was just like the rest. She betrayed me, slept with ageless and mortal alike, and….Charon. I’ve thirsted for revenge, against that whore, against the other gods, but I am not a warrior. Like her, I never had the stomach for war and conflict. I just wanted to create…that was my passion.’ "
“Oh god,” I grunted. “I forgot about you and that shriveled bastard haaa!”
“Like most men, I manipulated him to serve my purposes.” She countered.
“But damn Styx, he was hideous! Your standards are worse than mine! ha ha …ow..ow OW! Woman!”
“Continue with your tale, or I will heave this statue upon you!”
The ripples of his disappointment and sadness radiated throughout the astral, washing over me like an incoming tide, I could feel his emotions. With him I relived his hopelessness, depression…and anger.
‘I sacrificed my freedom to spare her life, but she was stripped of her god hood, cast down to the surface and cursed to her temple. I gifted her that hammer before my exile, to hide it. I suppose I take solace in the fact she does not realize its full potential. Or she would have been free by now. My life has been nothing but millennia of pain, and it is too much for even a god to bear.’
Again I was empathizing with an immortal being, it was crazy to me, I still hadn’t quite come to grips with it. Uncomfortably, I tried to redirect the conversation.
‘So…how did they deal with her oath? I think she mentioned they were unbreakable.’ I asked
‘She is arrogant; they are difficult to deal with, even for the most powerful of us. But I was able to figure out a way to dispel them. But it required…abnormal means.’ He explained
‘A being of sufficient power can sever the soul connections she makes with her wretched curses. However, the sheer number of us connected to her damned heart stone required more drastic measures. Even Ahura Mazda wasn’t strong enough to undo her magic, only Azathoth was powerful enough to handle it. So I had her stone delivered to his prison and let him do the rest.’
‘Who the hell are they?’
‘That weapon…’ Hephaestus continued, ignoring my question yet again. ‘It is incomplete, but its potential is vast. Its unique ability will make you a target of the gods, specifically Odin. They will fear you. They will come for you…’
He looked back at me, with a deathly serious expression on his face. ‘…just like they came for me.’
My heart sank, and my stomach fizzled. That crazy witch got me embroiled in a conflict with Gods.
‘I honestly don’t care what happens from this point on. I cannot bear this pain any longer. I’ve been lying on that floor bleeding out for months, and the bastard Odin sent for the hammer will return…I want to be dead when he does.’ Hephaestus pleaded
Just like that, I was ejected. Back in the physical world I stared the dying god in the face.
‘Do it…’ he labored through raspy breaths
I cocked the hammer above my head, I winced, and trembled. I fought a lot in my life, even seriously injured a few, as well as took my own lumps. But I had never actually killed anyone. I don’t even know why I was following through with his request, maybe ‘cause I felt like he did, maybe ‘cause I was just as familiar with that hopelessness as he was.
Zeno paused to ruminate deeply. Styx stopped what she was doing and watched as he slumped over and sighed exasperatedly.
“What is the matter, Zeno?” she asked with a hint of concern.
Twenty two years we were separated, even when I was with her I still couldn’t bring myself to believe she cared about me. Guess I still have some demons I haven’t dealt with yet. He mused
“I don’t know why…remembering my conversation with Hephaestus, and his feelings in the astral plane…just dredged up some old feelings of my own.”
“Your struggles with those suicidal tendencies…they worry me.”
“Well if you had let me die woman, you wouldn’t have to worry.”
“Stop it Zeno! You will not leave me again, now or ever! As your goddess I command it, you will remain by my side and serve as my champion for eternity.”
“If the ‘gods’ don’t kill us first.”
“Then you will die in service to yours…me.”
“You know that doesn’t help at all right?”
Styx lowered her hands, letting the remaining chunks of her shattered statue fall.
“Why did you seek to end things, my love?” she asked.
“Because I never asked for ‘things’ to start in the first place. But it is what it is…I don’t want to talk about it, back to my story.”
I buried the claw end through his head and ghostly, finger like tendrils of ethereal energy whipped about the room. As they erupted from the dying god, they produced a vortex centered on the weapon. I could feel it, not the physical sensation in my hand, but its spirit. Like it was alive, and now, like it was a part of me. My body began to shift physically; my muscles bubbled and roiled beneath my skin as they expanded.
I heard Hephaestus’ voice in my head once more.
'The hammer is now forever linked to you, my technology is powered by souls. And boy… be wary of that wench.'
'Technology?' I asked.
As his consciousness faded into nothingness, I could see into his mind and memories. They flashed through my head, like flipping the pages of book. I couldn’t understand half of them, they were all grandiose concepts beyond my comprehension. I saw…
A sky with two suns.
Power from the world beyond.
The consumption war.
When my mind and the dust settled, I gripped the hammer for dear life. It felt like a fifth limb, an extension of my body… and my soul. But…was something dark about it, and I could ‘hear’ something, or someone calling out to it, calling out to me.
Then I heard ‘her’ calling me, the sound of her voice gradually increasing in intensity inside my head.
'Child…Child? What happened? I lost contact with you.'
'You keep asking like I know what the fuck is going on! I should be asking you!' I cursed in frustration.
'Spare me child! Where is my replacement heart stone?'
'Don’t you care that your husband is dead?'
'Husband? I am not…' She paused, realizing I was about to catch her in a lie 'I see, you spoke with Hephaestus…What did he tell you'
I didn’t want to let on too much. Who knows what she might have been able to use against me, or if she would go crazy and try to kill me. Pretty sure that was going to happen anyways though.'
'He asked me to kill him… see.' I pointed towards his corpse with the hammer
'By Zeus! Who did… never mind.' Styx gasped
'Head there, straight ahead.'
'That wall, there is a hidden room behind it. Touch it; I will channel my magic through you to open it.'
Begrudgingly, I did as she asked; I approached the wall and placed my hand on it. I felt a surge of her power through me. The stone separated and a hidden door swung open. It was a clean and shiny metal room, lined with objects I had never seen before nor understood. On a shelf were three pedestals, on two of the pedestals sat objects; one pedestal, the last, was empty. I looked down at the hammer, then back to the pedestals curiously.
To the left, there was a pair of rings; to the right there was a strange glass thing, or maybe crystal. It looked like a hand and forearm. Two long silvery metal veins were embedded in the crystal, and seemed to serve as the globe retainer. They almost resembled the bones of an arm. The hand was clenched into a fist; the fingers were thin and claw like with mechanical hinges. Silvery metal flowed into the hand and was stylishly charred into an iridescent black around the wrist and up into the fingers. There was a symbol etched into the back of the wrist.
'Magnificent work Zeno! That is project Zeta, the lantern of souls. Bring it to me!'
Project…Zeta? I asked inwardly
I was surprised; she actually called me by my damn name for once.
'There is a coin in your pocket, bite it, and it will return you to Charon’s boat.' She explained.
'What?! You’re telling me I had the means to get back this whole fucking time?!' I huffed in anger.
'You also had a job to do,' she responded with her typical smug arrogance. 'And keep your eyes closed - if you activate my oath, you will be forced to kill Charon.'
Then it hit me like a tone of rocks, the pieces started falling into place.
She was going to need a soul to activate this damn thing.
“My word child, must you insult me so?!” Styx grumbled
“You asked me to tell the story like this, to tell you my true feelings…well you pissed me off. As usual.” He countered
“I asked for your admiration!”
“Oh, so you wanted me to censor myself to spare your feelings?”
“In spite of your sarcasm, you are correct.”
Styx was busy, her statue almost completely reformed. She could be persistent when she wanted, especially when it came to satisfying her grandiosity. Zeno admired her handy work as he strolled casually up beside her with his hands on his hips.
“wow…” He exclaimed “…your arrogance knows no bounds.”
“Shut it, child.” She barked
She turned to smack him again, repeatedly. He caught her hands, laughing heartily as he drew himself in close to her. In a huff she ripped her arms away from him and continued her work.
“Ha ha, you’re so cute when you’re angry, Styx.” Zeno snickered
“Well If you continue with your prodding, I will become downright gorgeous according to your standards!” She snarled bitterly
Zeno’s chest pressed against her back and he embraced her from behind. Kissing the back of her neck, he chuckled.
“Unhand me you brute…” Styx hissed “I am busy ‘feeding my ego’”
“Ha! We’ll be here for centuries waiting for you to…oof!”
A fist this time and not a playful one either. A few of Zeno’s teeth shot from his mouth as he was sent flying several hundred yards past the pillars of Styx’ temple. He tumbled through the dirt, end over end before finally skidding to a stop a few feet from the shore.
“ugh…ha ha ha…ptew” Zeno chuckled, expelling another tooth and grunting as he sat up. “Women…”