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omicronia
Antarctica

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The following years were far from the most exciting ones in my life. They were spent with endless searches, both in the 3D world and in the dimensions beyond, to find this 'veiled queen'. I could tell about my struggles with the older god Dernigal, who had a real problem with accepting that I was the one in charge. Or I could tell about the few Giant battles we were involved in. But it was mostly boring and tedious work, tracing through 5D sightings as well as the desolate mountains of Outgard where even an encounter with wild beasts or outlaws was seen as an entertaining interruption.

I couldn't help feeling that I have drawn the shorter straw when I heard about the successes of Ares and his troops in slaughtering Giants. All right, they took some losses, like Cleopatra's mother Diophaessa and Hermes' brother Esrendan. On the other hand, when they returned to 'Tanni from time to time they had stories of glory to tell, and they were always regarded as heroes, while no-one paid any attention to us.

Finally after more than two years of struggles our luck turned. We had followed a trace to the southernmost continent, the uninhabited Antarctica. After a fierce battle, where we lost poor Loria and almost Chrysandros "Hermes barely managing to heal him "we backtracked our attackers through a landscape of eternal winter and found a secret gate closed by a spell which only Dernigal was able to break. Behind the gate was an opening to a tunnel leading us through some obstacles and right into the lions den. Or, rather, the Giant's den.

They were strange, these Giants. In battle they appeared like beasts with the intelligence of a 4 year old, relying on strength, number and size to acquire success.  Yet someone must have been able to construct these fortresses the Giants dwelt within. Strongholds of iron, bronze and cupper that hid them well from attackers and with every convenience available.

We guessed these were built by the 'original' Giants, the Gaianes. Still they were so well preserved. Perhaps we had yet to meet these engineers that might've constructed the Giants' strongholds.

This fortress we entered now was no exception. It was only bigger. Probably designed to hold tenfolds of more Giants than those who came at us while we blasted through the iron front doors. They were screaming, swinging their iron maidens and flaunting their fangs, trying to scare us as so many times before.

Another fierce fight, but without losses this time, although Philotes was wounded and had to get help with healing. Britomartis had to hide together with him behind an Aegis while they took care of his blood filled belly, spilled guts and injured inner organs.

Then we had her "the 'veiled queen'. We found her hiding behind large and locked copper doors. She was trembling with fear, but still able to defend herself with some kind of pyrotechnical powers. Auroanos ducked them all and ran up to her and ripped off her veils. Beneath them she was almost naked. Only a tiny leather skirt covered her private zone. And she was a terrible sight indeed.

All the titans we had encountered so far had been leathery in context, but at the same time fish-like and with some kind of mother-of-pearl iridescence. This "queen "was no exception. She also had these reptile-like yellow eyes and pointed ears. But while the rest of the Giants had been more or less covered in thick, green-black hair, this creature was completely hairless. She was thin but not skinny, it seemed like her bone structure was diminutive, giving her an insect-like appearance.
"Ugly thing," Akiko wispered behind me and Chrysandros hummed in agrement.

When Hercules and Auroanos had gripped her she seemed to sway and then she fell down on legs refusing to carry her anymore. My brothers forced her upright, simply by holding her that way. She almost paid them no attention. Instead she was looking at me, she understood I was the leader.

"Stranger woman of the Usurping Race," she hissed. "If you have come so far to kill me, why don't you go ahead and do it now?"
"Because we want something more," I said.
"You can have my name," she answered. "It's Echidna. Content?"
"No, Echidna, we are not. We want the one you are protecting."

I wouldn't have thought it possible for this white woman to pale, but it was. Echidna's yellow eyes widened with fear and she became notable paler in the dim light from the oozing firebrands and our  plasma balls.
"Where's that one?" I insisted.
"The Great Mother," Echidna whispered. "Noooo...."

"I know where she is now," Astraea said, pointing ahead. "Behind those doors."
"Which doors?" Hercules asked. But at the same time we all saw them. Another pair of these huge, gothic double doors which had been hidden by Echidna.
"Pleeeaz..." Echidna whispered, clearly terrified. She was drooling as she did that. Auroanos, who had always been a bit wimpy about these things, looked like he was going to puke when she spilled her greenish saliva on his bare, muscular arm.

Hermes went up and opened the doors, to Echidna's terrified screams. And there she was - asleep on a cross between an altar and a stretcher. The Great Mother of the Giants. The instant I saw her I knew who she was. The one who had given birth to all these thousands and thousands of monsters. But in spite of these creatures terrible appearances this being was in fact beautiful.

0O0O0

"So we brought both this Great Mother and the Veiled Queen with us," I told the gathered deities. "Unfortunately Echidna didn't survive the trip. We believe she died out of fear. Her heart stopped. Her body is being studied right as I speak. Along with other Giant bodies. The Great Mother, who calls herself Gaia, is being held imprisoned at a safe place at the northern foothills of Olympos. A thorough medical research has showed among other things that she's without eggs in her ovaries and in a hearing she told that she used them all to create her race of Giants through parthenogenesis. The hibernation she put herself into was to regenerate her egg cells. Echidna, her daughter, was supposed to guard her sleep. I'll take the first round of questions now."

"Is she the real Gaia?" Neyta of Kergandar asked.
"Is it true that all the Giants were sterile?" Saretos of Aswee wanted to know.
"And that this Gaia was in a coma all the time and knew nothing about this war?" was the question of Chrysandros' father Kanaton.
"How many of those cursed Giants are still out there?" Marpessa was wondering.

"By 'the real Gaia' I presume Neyta is referring to the old Gaiane immortal who ruled the world before she was brought down by Uranos, precursor of Chronos in that position. We don't know yet if she is the one she claims. We have only held shallow hearing with her so far. She claims to have been in a kind of regenerative hibernation for more than 30 years, and thus unaware of the war. To answer Saretos of Aswee's question, the Giants we have caught and examined were all sterile. But it's too early to say if all Giants are. Last but not least, Marpessa, the number of remaining Giants is a bit uncertain. Ares' last approximation was a figure of 2000 remaining Giants."

"Come on, Athena!" Eurytiar of Senartheda let up his thundering voice, "isn't there any question you can answer with a clear yes or no?"
"Not yet. It's still to early in the process to..."
"Where's Hermes, the real spokesperson of the Divine King's office?" Eurytiar went on.

"He's busy elsewhere. I'm not really representing the Divine King. I'm representing the Defence Project, the organisation started to defend the Union against the Giants. And I'm not a politician. I don't give straightforward but erroneous answers to please someone who is supposed to vote for me. I give the answers I have and consider true. I will get back with more information when I have it. It only happens to be that the last Open Forum of 223 takes part less than a week after our return with the prisoner calling herself Gaia."

Apollon's son Asklepios was next with a request:
"Athena, I've a wish to see and examine genetic material of Gaia and Echidna. To compare it to other Giants. Should that be possible?"
"I can't see any reason why not. The more talented people studying these material the more we can learn."

I answered some more Gaia questions which were all variations of the first ones. Finally the gods and goddesses in the Open Forum seemed content and went on to pester Artemis' secretary of treasure Maera. Maera is one of those people who never forget a number and she's really talented in maths. Artemis inherited her from Hera, so she has been in her office for almost two centuries now. She's nice enough, the tall, auburn-haired semi-amphibian, but there's something with her voice that makes at least me want to fall asleep.

Soon I found myself with my head resting on Chrysandros' shoulder and looking up at the murals in the ceiling. Once there had been nothing but abstract patterns, but after the doom was rebuilt the artist selected for the decoration had chose to make a representation of us defenders of Ekarantanni instead.

I had to turn my head to see myself, almost right over the entrance. It was the event with me attacking Giants with the spire I had prayed loose from 'Spear of Tomorrow'. But instead of my burgundies I was wearing a long, white evening gown and an ancient parade-helmet. How can anyone even think of fighting in such an outfit? In fact we all had odd dresses. Dad fought dressed up in his formal Divine King wear, Auroanos had a long cape and an actor's masque and Nike had seagull wings! Then there were Hercules in a lions hide and Sakura in a long, turquoise gown with an enormous belt. Not to mention Hera in peacock feathers. On the other hand Chrysandros looked quite good in a tight fitting black-and silver armour.

"Looking at 'us' again?" Chrysandros asked while I was stretching my neck.
"Uhu…"
"Yup, it's fun. Especially on boring exchanges like the one going on right now. I always see something or someone new. Who's that guy behind Zeus by the way?"
"That's... That must be... That's Ganymedes!"
"The catering guy?"

"The very one. With a tray of food of course. He was never on the battlefield."
"No. He's too much of a YUGI. Neither was Maera. Yet she's right there at the end of the rainbow. With a horn of plenty. Very fitting."
"Oh, right! That's her. Wonder what Iris is doing on top of the rainbow by the way?"
"Colour coordinating her hair. Only thing I can think of. "

We had become really close Chrysandros and I after these years in search for Echidna and her mother. Even so close that people regarded us as lovers. All right, we had sex, but that was a mere pleasure thing. Buddy sex "just like it had been with Nardalon. Or perhaps we were in love. I don't really know. What I do know is that we had a great time together. But hardly ever just the two of us. There were always me, Chrysandros, Nike and Aeolus. And most of the time Nardalon, Donin, Melia, Philotes and Akiko too as well as various constellations of sisters and brothers of mine, including non-Olympians like Britomartis and Arcas.

Artemis and Orion on the other hand "they were a couple for real now. After their first failed try ages ago, they had in a way left each other alone. Up until the attack against Ekarantanni. Artemis and Orion had fought side by side, and had fallen for each other a second time. This time it seemed more steady. We were all happy for Mimi "except for Apollon, who for some reason couldn't stand the large Attic.

To be true several things were going on among my closest kins and friends. It was something with the way Nike was shuffling around her feet and pulling at her fashionably straightened out strands of hair that made me understand that something had happened. I leaned closer, looking at my friend, and she breathed in, started to say something, but then she stopped, avoided eye-contact.

"What?"
"Well..."
"Nike, come on! You know that there's no reason for not telling me."

She still didn't say anything, just pulled and pulled at her hair and I insisted:
"It's me! Athena! Your best friend. We've been talking about everything for two centuries!"
"I guess... I just had to find out..."
"What? Lay off your hair and tell me! Now you've have me cracking up with curiosity."

"Athi, curiosity won the upper hand for me too. I just had to find out if he was as good as everybody was saying."
"Who? Who've you been having?"
"Your dad..."

My friend went totally tomato and I had to swallow all the giggles that started to bubble inside of me.
"You've been having Zeus?"
"Yeah. In fact... yes. Well, it's not like... Well, he's been trying before, but I've always been... But even you know how talk goes. How fabulous he is at these things, and... I wanted to know if he was, if they all were right."
"And were they?"

More blushing, and a moment of silence before Nike nodded slowly.
"I'm sorry..." she started, but I lay my hand on top of hers:
"Sorry for what? As long as any feelings didn't get hurt – what do I care? He can't stay away from women. It's a kind of an addiction of his. Not even Hera bothers anymore. I guess it's rather – well not really harmless, but nothing to fuzz over."  
Back at Olympos the main building was floating in more lights than usual, someone had probably turned everything on to keep darkness at bay and lead tired warriors home. Tonight Olympos was open for all deities, all who had parttaken in the fighting as well as helped along with back service. A lot of people were gathered in the Ball Saloon, tired gods and goddesses. They were celebrating the victory of course, but there was no music, no screams of joy, only a low noise of talking people and some odd laugher.

Attendant-nymphs were carrying around platters with food and jars of beverages and I grabbed a glass of Distilled and gulped it down in one drag the way they did it up north. Astraea was staring at me, she had never seen me do anything like that "natural, since I'm very moderate with alcohol.
"I needed it," I explained.
"Maybe I should do the same," Ea replied.

I nodded taking in the motley gathering of deities. They were in all kinds of mood, ranging from happy to sad. Hephaistos was holding a crying Aphrodite, and right behind them Dionysos, Sakura, Irdonan, Maia, Amaterasu, Triton and Careidon were getting really drunk, talking loud and slurry and trying to sing something.  Some people, like Hestia, Freya and Ra of Aigyptos looked clean-showered and fresh, dressed in casual weekday clothing, while others, like Hercules, Enyo and Ares were still walking around in their burgundys, dirty and bloody.

Phaeton was doing some animated boasting over how many Giant he'd beheaded, swinging an imaginary sword. Marpessa and Aglaia were listening idly, with a 'No, we're not impressed'-look upon their faces. Similar discussions were going around in various corners, people comparing their experiences. Amazing that some actually remembered how many Giants they had killed, I had lost count after my first hour.

Ares, Zephyros, Aethra and Xanthus has captured some Giant weaponry and were comparing them to our stuff. Astraea and I stopped for a while and checked out those heavy swords, made from rather low quality adamantine and with plastic hilts done for larger hands than ours. They had probably been sharp in the beginning of the battle, now they were dull and jagged. I realized that it was not the weight but the odd balance which was the major disadvantage with the Giant swords.

Phaeton, who met my blade in a mock-fight, was soon to point out:
"Those weapons may be of lesser quality than ours, but what surprises me is that the Giants were able to make them at all. There seems to be something wrong with their intelligence, yet they can make these things."
"Perhaps there are other Giants somewhere, more intelligent ones, who do not partake in these battles," I guessed. "They use dumb brutes as expendable bodies you mean?" Phaeton asked.
"Perhaps they do, I think we may have to be prepared to meet other kinds of Giants later on."
"More intelligent ones," Astraea agreed. "Therefore more dangerous ones too. We must organize usselves accordingly I suggest."

Hermes' daughter Auria came up with one of these iron maidens and started to show off. She jumped around and swung it fast around her head while imitating a Giant war-cry until she hit Zephyros in his temple.
"Ouch! Watch it, girlie, he exclaimed and put his hand to the wound."
"Sorry." Auria blushed and lowered her weapon, but Zephy went on:

"Sorry what? If I'd been a mortal you'd cracked my skull with that thing. Had 'sorry' been enough then, eh? If you'd killed somebody, your careless bimbo?!"
"Perhaps instead I should stick it up your..." Auria began, Astraea cutting her off:
"Stop it! Zephy, you're no mortal and that's just a little bump you're getting there. All right, Auria wasn't exactly careful, but I bet she hadn't pulled that stunt with real mortals around. "

"It doesn't matter," Zephyros retorted. I don't expect to come home to Olympos to be attacked by some lunatic brat!"
"You're the one who's lunatic, Titan!" Auria screamed. "You sound like I hit you on purpose!"
"Hey," I started. "We're all tired and suffering from adrenaline overload. If you still think this is something to discuss tomorrow, let's do it then!"

Hermes came up to us:
"Seen dad?"
"No, we just got back," I told. "He's in yet?"
"No idea. I need to see him about what happened to the Mayor-Immortal."
"Telganestros? What's wrong with him?"

"He's dead. He took a cut that went right through his throat, almost cut his head off. I was fetching Asclepios, but we came too late. He died in his mothers arms. "
"Oh, poor Pereoe! That must have been terrible. What more losses do we have?"
"Don't know yet. But Oreynadan is rather bad off. Apollon is working on him. And Aeirene was still healing Diamanda last I looked. Hebe is unharmed but in some kind of shock. She's with her mother. Over there." Hermes pointed to a sofa between two open windows where a minor group had gathered.

"Hebe!" Astraea exclaimed. "I've better..."
"No," Hermes said, "there's more than enough people over there. She won't be helped by another curious face."
"I'm no curious face," Astraea spat, "I want to see my sister!"
"What's with Aphrodite?" I asked Hermes.
"I don't know." He shrugged. "Probably something Ares said."

"There's dad!" Alatheia suddenly said and I turned. As usually when dad entered a room the buzz died down and people were waiting for what he was going to say or do. He was still dressed in burgundy, although he seemed to have washed his face and hair. And he looked less tired than he had three hours ago, when he ordered us to kill the fleeing Giants.

"My brave friends," Zeus began, "we have done a great work here tonight, defending our city and its mortal population. I know that the Nexus building is partly destroyed, but it's after all just a house. The symbol of democracy, that's true, but still a house, and a house can be rebuilt. While the idea still lives. We killed more than 50 000 Giants here in the day we've just left behind us, an amazing performance. He indicated the wall clock that showed half an hour past midnight. And we did it all together, in an example of the most impressive co-operation the divine nation has seen in a long time. Not since the Titan wars have the gods of Hellas been standing so united. With their hearts and their minds focusing on one single thing. Victory!"

"On behalf of the City of Ekarantanni, he went on, its mortals and those deities who didn't partake in the battle I want to thank you all for your deed. I know that you're tired and more or less shocked. But life goes on. Quite a bit more secure after this battle. Now I will ask you this: Eat, drink, talk and hug each other and then go home and sleep a good nights sleep, if possible in the arms of a beloved. Sleep in as long as you want tomorrow! Because then we are to rebuild 'Tanni. There's a lot of wreckage out there, but don't go out now and clean it up! Other deities are working on it. Those who did no battling. Rest first! Then I promise you all, that when Ekarantanni carries no marks of the battle we will celebrate this victory with a big party."

At those words a group to my right started to cheer. It was Dionysos and his gang.
"Shut up!" someone screamed. "All you can think of is partying, Dionysos. It was Persephone, and she sounded heartbroken."

"These were the good news," dad went on, unbothered by the interruption. "The bad news is that the war is not over. Now comes the 'cleaning up'. There are still aboout 500 000 Giants out there, and they need to be taken care of. Instead of this defence battle, it will be a guerilla war with us as the aggressors and the Giants as the defenders. A kind of reverse situation to the Titan war for those who were around back then. Then I have these news..."

Dad stopped, breathed in and closed his eyes for a second or two. All of us knowing him could tell that he was close to tears. So came the real bad news. Oreynadan, Demeter's husband was dead. And so was Herophilos, Aphrodite's frivolous and careless 70 years old son. Our brother Imandros, Zeus's son with Trimerda, had also died.

The Hyperpantheon had lost three delegates: Kelementhe of Tartega, Megaron of Orkhomenos and Manes of Lydia. On top of that was Telganestros' death and the loss of a handful other immortals: Pherene, Zoros, Ilanios, Eketha, Valdis and Xenodorus. Aeolus' daughter Antiope was first reported as killed in action, but later Artemis found her alive among the rubbles downtown, and she was taken to Olympos and the healer Asclepios.

There were several gods in healing process, and dad was not sure if all of them would make it. Alonadar for instance was really bad off, after getting his scull cracked.
"He has suffered bad brain damages, dad said, looking with sad eyes at Alonadar's wife Doradala. I'm not sure they are curable. Perhaps it's more humane to let him go.

Doradala rose:
"I wish to see him once more," she said with a broken voice and Iris rose, took her arm, saying:
"I'll come with you my friend. "

After his speech dad started to walk around, talking to people, offering comfort, sharing information, explaining things and toasted to victory with those who wanted to do that. He stayed a long time with Hera and Hebe, hugging his daughter and talking to her. And Hebe seemed to come around, I could see the change in her aura.

I got a mindcall from Nardalon down in Athens. He, Clyanassa and Aganthanon had been prepared to defend the city all day long, but hadn't seen a toenail of a Giant. Now Nardalon and Clyanassa were going to bed, letting Aganthanon stand guard, 'just in case'.

Not long after that dad came up where I sat with Hermes, Alatheia, Nike, Aietes and Chrysandros of Arvandessar. He hugged us all hard and sat down and talked for a while. After that he told us to eat and then go to sleep.
"Tomorrow," he said, "we have things to take care of."
"Sure," Hermes said. "Whatever I feel like I could sleep for a week."
"I know. But it'll feel better tomorrow when the sun comes up. Besides, Hermes - who can't sit still for five minutes, how are you going to sleep a week?"
"Valid point," my resless brother grinned. "Guess it runs in the family."

When we were leaving Chrysandros suddenly took my arm:
"Athena, please! Let me hold you tonight!"
"Hold? You're content with 'holding'?"
"Well..."
"Come on, handsome! Don't look so lost!" I led the way to my home, not bothering with Nike and Alatheia's giggles behind my back.

O0O0O

The next morning we met in a large conference room. Dad was back in Divine King mode, in civilian clothes and a headband adorning that odd, short hairdo Ares was referring to as effective-looking. (In less than a fortnight all the beards and most of the lion manes would be gone from the men of 'Tanni. Guess the barbers made a fortune.)

Hestia was asking Auroanos about Herophilos:
"What happened to him? I thought he didn't parttake in the fighting."
"You're right, he wasn't. Until he decided he wanted to impress a few girlies and got a sword and attacked some giants. He knew nothing about fighting and shielding. Needles to say he became hacked into pieces. "

Persephone was arguing with her mother:
"Mama, please! Persephone was begging. Let me talk to Hades! Let me having him find daddy for us!"
"Persephone, you stop this immediately! I'm sick and tired of your dead so called friends. It's not normal. It's sick!"
"They can't help they're dead," Persephone replied, staring at the patterns in the carpet.
"Forget it," Demeter said.

Dad called for silence and began explaining the strategy for the next part of the war "the guerilla chapter and about rebuilding 'Tanni. He handed out tasks and I was appointed leader of the group that was to look for the 'veiled queen'.
"But didn't Porphyrion know where she was?" I asked.
"In a cave," dad spat. "But that idiot didn't have a sense of direction, he had no clue how to get there!"

Then dad went on to inform us about the state of the rest of Hellas. Apparently he hadn't obeyed his own orders about a 'good nights sleep' but had stayed up and taking in news from around the commonwealth. The Giants had been concentrating on cities housing large amount of immortals, that was why Athens had remained untouched. Guarded by only Aganthanon, Clyanassa and Nardalon it had probably not been seen worth bothering with by the enemies. On the other hand large immortal home cities like Atlantapolis and Nantaria had taken severe damages.

All of the other 9 grand pantheons seemed more or less intact. Save for one. The Valhalla Pantheon up north had been annihilated. All of these gods had died in the battle at Ragnarök. Selene's pantheon had also take huge losses. In fact she and her young daughter Pandia were the only survivors together with Selene's nephew Tiaros who was working for Artemis in the Chair Lady's office.

Two hours later I was joined by the Olympians Hercules, Astraea, Auroanos and Hermes together with Britomartis, Akiko, Philotes, Chrysandros, Dernigal of Plenitaa and Loria of Xanotha in dads office to be briefed about our quest for the 'veiled queen'. Ares, Irdonan, Alatheia, Orion, Enyo and the rest who were drafted to kill Giants had already been sent off.

Iris was leading a third group assigned to the task of rebuilding Ekarantanni and helping homeless mortals, a lot of them finding temporary homes in our temples. Apollon, Eleithya and Ersa were leading soul healing teams and Aeirene and her sister Eumonia were healing mortals. At the same time people like Hera, Artemis and Hephaistos were back at their old tasks.

"So," I asked dad, "what do we know about this 'veiled queen'?"
"Not much," he admitted. "She used to follow Porphyrion closely. Up until he led his forces into Thessalia and threatened Ekarantanni. She wasn't around then. I have her energy-patterns mapped but her dwelling is yet to be found. I suggest some soul tripping here at home before you go out there and try an actual physical search. Dernigal, I know that you're an expert-tripper. The best of us Olympians was unfortunately Oreynadan who fell defending Ekarantanni. But his daughter Persephone has declared that she's willing to help you on this first leg of your search."

"Thanks, Great Zeus." Dernigal said. There was something cold in his voice that I couldn't put my finger upon, and it made me feel quite uncomfortable, but I shook it off. You can't like everybody you are supposed to work with. Perhaps I would become on good terms with Dernigal later, just as with Aganthanon.

"Now," dad said, "I don't have to point out that this lady is far more dangerous than she looks. What I do need to point out is that even if she's in charge, it won't be enough by removing her. Oreynadans and my soul trips regarding the Giants showed us that this is a multi-layered scheme. Behind this 'veiled queen' is another one. Perhaps not a 'ruler', but something else. Something that might have to be removed before we can consider Hellas being out of danger."

"Don't worry," I told dad. "We'll get all the Giants there is. Including this 'veiled queen' and the mystery one behind her. "
"Athena! If possible I want this one 'behind' to be taken alive. And if you can make it, the 'veiled queen' too. "
"Why?" Astraea asked.
"I want to know more about these 'living fossils'. I want to know where they came from, how and where they survived. And why they suddenly exploded in number. Perhaps there's something we must do to prevent these kind of things from happening again. "

After leaving dads office Dernigal came up to me and took my arm, saying:
"Lady Athena, I know that Zeus is a bit too found of handing over important missions to his own offspring. But isn't it better if this mission is led by the best."

"And that should be you?" I asked the Plenitaaite.
"Of course! Since..."
"Forget it. You might be an expert soul tripper, but I'm a warrior who had gotten the best training there is. I am not giving up command. "
"Don't be stubborn, Athena! We can't afford to get this mission halted by personal issues. "

"You're the one making this personal, Dernigal," I said and Astraea came to my defence:
"I saw how angered you became in dads office because Athena got the command. But I'll tell you, my sister is the best."
"Of course you are defending her, but..."
"Chrysandros!" I called, "Loria, Britomartis, Akiko, Philotes! Come back here! We have a leadership issue, and we have to deal with it now. Dernigal has questioned that I should be in charge of this group. "

"On what ground?" Chrysandros wanted to know, while the others, including the Olympians, were returning.
"I think the most skilled should lead us," Dernigal said.
"And that's Athena, no doubt about it!" Akiko said and Britomartis let up an agreeing sound. "Everyone who saw her fight can testify to that. We're behind her, and I don't even think this is something we need to discuss."

Sakura's sister managed to silent Dernigal for the moment, but I was well aware that he wasn't entirely accepting me as the one in command for this mission. And that bothered me, we didn't have time or energy to waste on home-brewed difficulties like this. Whatsoever, already the same afternoon we went to work, Hermes and I warding on Dernigal and Persephone while they started soul tripping.

The duo was down for a couple of hours, and I followed Peri through ragged landscapes with burning villages and camps of refugees. Seemed like the real fighting was still going on in certain places. Peri in turn followed Dernigal who was speeding fast through the sub-3D. Several times my cousin had to alert him that he was too fast, and they risked entering 4D-mode and thus loosing the track.
"We're not," Dernigal answered. "I'm in control. if you can't keep up, Olympian, cut out! I can finish this on my own." He's a Butthole! Persephone mindspoke me, and I sighed. Dernigal was problem, that was obvious now.

The next thing happening was Hermes cursing and then rising from his lotus seating in the sofa. Persephone returned up at the same moment, consternated.
"The bastard cut me off!" Hermes said.
"And then he 5D-dived," Persephone went on. "I couldn't follow, the angle was too sharp."

I looked at the immobile man in the sofa next to Hermes.
"What in the name of... what does he think he's up to? "
He's risking himself going 5D without a ward!" Persephone said. "And yet he call himself a pro. Every novice at tripping know that you can't do these things."
"All right," I mulled. "He might have a problem with my command, but does that have to mean that he's going to sabotage the whole project for us? "

A moment later Dernigal returned up, and I scolded him, but he defended himself:
"The Giant bitch discovered us and blocked us out. I tried to break through before she got the block in place, but she was too fast. Now we have to do it the old fashioned way, wait her out. Sooner or later she must lower that block and then we'll go get her. But I got a sight of the place of that cave. On a snowy and cold place."

"That we could have told without you," Persephone scorned.
"That's enough, Peri," I told my cousin. "But don't ever drop your ward like that, Dernigal! You're risking both him and yourself. "
"I know what I did, Athena. You're not the expert here. Let me handle this!"

"I'm not questioning your skill, Dernigal, I said. It's your behaviour I'm questioning. If we're going to work together we can't go on fighting like old mortal neighbours. We're doing this tripping your way, because you are the best at this, but don't be rude to my cousin! "
"I'll do my best," Dernigal said dryly.

I let him off the hook for the moment, but he had turned Hermes into hostile mode too. My brother had that look upon his handsome face, that told me he was seriously pissed off, and I knew I had to do something about Dernigal before he alienated more of us. I only wondered what.

O0O0O

The same evening I went to see dad over that matter. He was talking to Ares when I entered his office. My little brother hadn't bothered with showering and changing and he looked possibly even more gory and bloody than he had done yesterday. And now he was sitting opposite dad boasting about in his usual way:
"300 of those freaks did we slaughter! 300, do you believe that! All of them dead and gone! We lost Tanimo, that's true but we..."
"Ares," dad said and folded his hands. "Ares, that's not a good balance."
"What do you mean, we killed 300?"
"That means it's going to cost us about 1600 immortals to get rid of the Giants. Suffice to say, that many are not available."

"But..."
"I know you can do this, I know you're good at kicking ass. But you have to cover your flanks too. You have to make sure our guys survive. "
"Dad, Tanimo was careless... "
"No excuses, son! You have to balance this a bit better. If possible do it a bit slower. Work on splitting them up and take them out in smaller groups instead.100 Giants a day is better if you can manage to cut your losses to about 10 percent."
"But then it'll take years and years."
"Ares, we have years and years. But we don't have that many immortals. Try to remember that!"
"I'll do my best," Ares slumped his shoulders.  
"I know you will, and I know you'll make this work. I don't send people on missions they cannot manage. I can't afford that. We, the immortal nation, cannot afford that."

Then he turned to me:
"Now Titi, how may I help you?"

I told dad and Ares my story and Ares was of course of the idea that I should dismiss Dernigal. Dad on the other hand wanted me to use my diplomatic skills a bit better.
"We need him as a soul tripper, since we don't have one as good anymore at Olympos."
"How about yourself, dad?"
"You know I can't do that. Someone has to manage this war from the top. Now, Ares, go have a shower before dinner, and then both of you think over what I said here."
"I will," Ares rose, "good luck Athi."
"And good luck to you little bro' gung ho," I returned. "And sorry about Tanimo."
How did it all start?
How did Zeus and Hera meet?
What happened during the Titan war?
How was the Titan leader Chronus defeated?
How did Zeus become divine king
Where did all the other gods and goddesses come from and how did they congregate around Zeus and Hera?

This and a lot more in my very own steampunk styled take on the early life of the Queen of the gods - Hera!

STORY COMPLETE!

_________________________________________________

I am also starting now to publish the sequel - Athena - My life as a goddess - I hope you will enjoy that one as well!

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