22. "Embers of the Mind"

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Centering Hera,
Queen of the Gods:

I find Heracles outside the Olympian gates,
          embedded in a crag,
     looking down upon the mortal realm.

I've seen gods go mad before.
          This is always how it starts.
     How it ends is oblivion.

There was a time when I might have suckled this ennui.
          To spite Zeus,
     I might have hastened the decline of his favorite son,
               but I've since raised myself out of such pettiness.

"Hebe tells me you've been here for a while,"
     I say.

"I am here, I am there, I am everywhere.
     Isn't that how it's supposed to be,
          now that I'm a god?"
     His expression pleads for a better understanding,
  and I have to remind myself
       what a child he yet is among the gods.

"There's a place for you in every mortal heart,"
     I say, and--

          "No, that's not quite it.
     How does Hestia describe it so well?
               Oh, yes...

"There's an ember of you in every mortal heart.
     Believers within our realm,
          divide the divine fires into a pantheon of such embers
               so the glow of your light may be seen,
          separate from the rest.
     You must embrace that connection,
     You must tend that ember,
     You must shine that light,
          and when you do,
  mortal minds will make you immortal."

     "Mortals...make the gods...immortal."
          Heracles rubs his head and groans.

"Don't think about it too hard,"
     I advise.

     "Perhaps I'm still mortal,
          and this is a dream I will awaken from,"
               he says with longing.
     "Or perhaps I've gone mad."

"Gods have gone mad before,"
     I allow.

     "I have gone mad before,"
          Heracles retorts.
       "You saw to that."

"That. That. That."
     I have to think a moment
          before remembering the madness of Heracles,
               all the blood and broken bodies,
               all that sobbing and groaning,
               all the distress and pain
                    on the visage of Zeus.
          Oh, those were good times!
"That. Was your choice,
     a punishment imposed on your mortal past
          when you defied the divine laws.
I've explained that to you many times already."

     "Talking to you makes my head,"
       Heracles states.

"Then let bygones be bygones,"
     I tell him.
  "Embrace your new existence.
       Come with us to Ethiopia
            to meet the other gods."

     "Other gods...
          who represent other embers?"

"Other gods represent other ways 
    the same embers can be sifted
  in different mortal minds."

     "Oh, my head!"
          Heracles grips the sides of his skull
       and tries to squeeze understanding into his brain.
     "End this conversation
          and I will go wherever you want."

"Agreed,"
  I chirp,
     pleased with such an efficient transaction.

Heracles may have been my husband's son,
     but he will become my creature.
  he may have been Zeus's favorite mortal,
       but he will become my favorite tool.

After all,
  I made him all that he is today.

I bring Heracles to Zeus's entourage,
     to a suitable chariot for the God of Strength and Heroism,
  and take my place at my husband's side.

With flourishes and fanfares,
     we ride through the pearl-inlay gate

     except for Hestia,
             who remains
          to tend the hearth,
          to stir the embers of the mind.

EPIC CYCLE ROADMAP:

* The Kypria
* The Iliad
* The Posthomerica
* Tales of Nostos
* The Odyssey
* The Telegony
* The Aeneid
  Rage is the first book of the Iliad. Amazons is the first book of the Posthomerica.
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