Castle Roland

The Challenge of Ate

by MultiMapper


Chapter 2

Posted: 5 Nov 15

The Challenge of Ate

Copyright © 2002-2015 by MultiMapper
All Rights Reserved

Twenty-Five Years Later

Ate had been living in the Halls of War, unseen for the most part by all but the members of that house.

Ares had worked to include her in his plans whenever possible. It became common for armies who'd lost Ares' favor to have a drunken brawl the night before an important battle.

Strife divided his attention between his duties in the House of War and his sister.

Twenty-five years of seeing after her well-being had turned out to be a pleasure rather than a burden.

Then the fateful day came when he faced Callisto and was stabbed with the hind's blood dagger.

Strife died and his shade was confined to the underworld.

Ate couldn't cope with the loss, and in a last-ditch effort to appease her, Ares took her to Hades' realm to ask his Uncle Hades if she could stay with Strife.

"Please Uncle, no one else can understand her and she's been inconsolable since he died." Ares asked quietly.

"The living aren't meant to dwell in the realm of the dead. If she were to eat or drink anything while she was here, she'd be bound to the underworld permanently." Hades said in thought.

"I don't see that being a problem since Strife is here. She'd welcome the change." Ares said with regret.

"But many things can happen to a fallen god. They can be reborn or resurrected. If that were to happen, Ate would be trapped here for eternity and Strife would have to make the same choice... I can't allow it." Hades said seriously.

"Resurrected? Why haven't I heard about this sooner?" Ares asked quickly.

"Because it isn't something that you can do for him. It's really complicated, but it has to do with soul-mates, opposing forces and some factors that even I don't understand." Hades said with irritation.

"So what you're saying is that it's a possibility that Strife could be resurrected, but you don't know how or when." Ares said in thought.

"Yes, it's been known to happen a few times before. Unfortunately, those instances don't seem to have enough in common for us to figure out how to cause it to happen on purpose." Hades said with regret.

"Dagger and dart, smile and heart. Two are one, can't break apart." Ate said seriously.

Ares shushed her and tried to think of what to do.

"All I can suggest is that you bring her to visit as often as you can. Maybe that will be enough to keep her happy." Hades said weakly.

"I guess it's a short term solution. Thanks for trying. Please let me know if you can think of anything else that we can do." Ares said in thought.

"I promise. You're one of my favorite nephews, I'll do whatever I can to help... but right now I have to go deal with a situation. I think Hercules' hunter friend just died again. I need to get him put back to right before anyone finds out or Hercules will be on another crusade to retrieve his soul." Hades said in a tired voice.

"Why don't you just make him immortal? It would end up being just about the same wouldn't it?" Ares asked as he gently put an arm around Ate.

"Why don't you try getting a golden apple from Hera? She guards those things like Athena guards her virginity." Hades said in frustration.

"Yeah, except the apples are worth something." Ares said with a smile.

"And someone wants them." Hades said with a smirk.

Ares gave a gentle laugh and led Ate out of Hades' office to visit with Strife's shade.

//Cupid? Do you have some free time?// Ares called to his son.

Cupid appeared in a pink flash of power, carrying Bliss.

"What's up dad?" Cupid asked casually.

"I was wondering if you could stay with Ate for a while. She usually keeps herself entertained, but I may be gone for a few days and she doesn't always remember to eat... or create edible food." Ares said hesitantly.

"I don't know what to do. I've never really spent any time with her." Cupid said nervously.

"If you have any problem, you can call me and I'll tell you what to do. I'd really appreciate it if you could do this for me. Just about everyone in the House of War is going to be tied up with this war." Ares said hopefully.

"Sure dad." Cupid said reluctantly.

"Oh yeah, could you take her to visit Strife? It's the high point of her day." Ares said quickly.

"Um. Sure, I guess." Cupid said hesitantly.

"What's wrong?" Ares asked with concern.

"Strife and I, we don't get along." Cupid said as he looked away.

"Why not?" Ares asked, trying to think back.

"I don't know. We just never did, I guess we're too different, we don't have any common interests." Cupid said in thought.

"Well it will just be a few days, and if you're taking care of Ate, he'll probably treat you nice." Ares said, then got a distant look in his eyes.

"I've got to go. It's starting." Ares said quickly and vanished.

Cupid put Bliss down and stooped a little so he could hold Bliss' hand to steady him.

Bliss hadn't completely perfected walking yet and still had unsteady moments.

"Papapapa?" Bliss said to his father in an inquisitive tone.

"He had to go to work. Let's go find your cousin Ate." Cupid said patiently.

Bliss screwed up his face in question.

"I don't think you've seen her before. You'll like her... I think." Cupid said cautiously.

They walked into the lounge and found Ate staring out into the garden.

"Hello Ate, Dad asked me to stay with you for a while... how are you?" Cupid asked hesitantly.

"Days, pushing. Nights, lying. Lost, living. Lost, dieing." Ate said in a depressed voice.

"Jupa grommish." Bliss said loudly.

Ate turned to look at Bliss and her sadness transformed into a gentle smile.

"Menambis." Bliss said seriously.

"Running, falling. Hurting, giving. Holding, having. Loving, living." Ate said in return.

Bliss broke from his father's hand-hold and hugged Ate's legs.

Ate picked up Bliss and sat him on her lap. She gently stroked his golden curls with one hand and put her other gently around him to keep him from falling.

"Dagon ustavis Stwi." Bliss said as he enjoyed Ate's attention.

Ate's eyes lit up and she looked at Cupid in question.

Cupid tried to follow the mangled, incomprehensible conversation and finally took a chance and said, "Yes, we're going to take you to visit Strife."

"Short shadow, bumpty bump. Whistle wave, joggy jump?" Ate asked hopefully.

Cupid was surprised that he actually understood that and said, "Sure, we can go now if you want to. Then we'll have dinner when we get back."

Cupid appeared with Ate and Bliss in the main hall of Hades' castle.

"Um, I don't know where we're going. Can you lead us there Ate?" Cupid asked hopefully.

Ate looked at Cupid with confusion for a second, then looked around the hall and started walking.

Cupid took Bliss' hand and followed saying, "I hope she knows where we're going."

Ate took them up a flight of stairs and to a door.

"Little bitty, dark and sad. Hurt and lonely, mean and mad." Ate said in warning.

"I won't take it personally. I don't know much about Strife, but I'm sure he has a good reason to be angry." Cupid said as he picked up Bliss.

Ate knocked on the door and waited.

Strife opened the door and a look of delight came over his face when he saw Ate.

He hugged her close, then noticed Cupid and Bliss standing behind her.

"What'cha doin here?" Strife asked in an accusatory voice.

"Dad asked me to watch after Ate because he's going to be dealing with a big war for a couple days." Cupid said cautiously.

"Little, big. Happy, heart. Nice, friendly..." Ate said then got a questioning look on her face that Strife recognized.

"Um..." Strife thought about what the next two words would be.

"Arrow, dart." Cupid said with a smile.

Ate looked at Cupid with delight and Bliss clapped his hands.

"Ya can understand her?" Strife asked with wide eyes.

"Well, not everything. But yeah, all you've got to do is listen. She's easier to understand than Bliss." Cupid said and looked to his son.

"That's Bliss? I ain't seen 'im since he was nothin but eyes an wings." Strife said in wonder.

"Yeah, he's growing up fast... a lot faster than I did." Cupid said with a hint of a blush.

"Ah remembah that. You was a cherub for nearly three hundred years, wasn't'cha?" Strife asked as he withdrew into his room and gestured for his guests to enter.

"Yeah. Mom was going nuts trying to figure out what she was doing wrong." Cupid said as he took a seat on a couch in the parlor area of the room.

Ate sat beside Strife on a love seat and held him close.

"So what's been goin on upstairs?" Strife asked as he held his sister tenderly.

"Not much. Herc's still on his self-imposed quest to piss off every god on Olympus. I think Pan and Lamia are the only ones left." Cupid said with a smirk.

Strife laughed, he never knew Cupid had a sense of humor, much less sarcasm.

"So what'd tha big oaf do ta piss you off?" Strife asked, not realizing that he was becoming more relaxed in Cupid's presence.

"Besides calling my son a monster and a brat, he had a little fling and destroyed about two years of work. I had an epic romance arranged and now the guy's all jealous of Hercules and the woman's pining after him... saving herself for him." Cupid finished with a roll of his eyes.

Strife laughed, not in malice but sympathy.

"Happy horsey, little ring. Jumpy dolly, smile and sing?" Ate asked Strife hopefully.

Strife was about to answer, then looked at Cupid in question.

"I don't mind if you don't. As long as they don't get too rough." Cupid said in response.

"Go head you two. Ya know where Ah keep tha toys." Strife said with a grand smile.

"Dada tanka." Bliss said, then ran to join Ate at the toy box.

"You're welcome Bliss. You two have fun." Cupid said warmly.

"Most people teach their kids ta talk before teachin 'em manners." Strife observed.

"Well, Bliss is really special. I didn't exactly teach him manners, he just kind of picked them up." Cupid said as he glanced fondly at Bliss.

"That means he saw you bein polite and's tryin to be like you. I think that really says sumthin 'bout'cha." Strife said in thought.

"Do you have any kids?" Cupid asked as he shifted to be more comfortable.

"Yeah, triplets. But they don't know Ah'm their dad. Unc's been lookin out for 'em since I been dead. Jett and Jayce are makin names fer themselves and comin inta their own... Joxer's, well, he got it in his head that he wants ta be a hero..." Strife trailed off in worry.

"Just what Greece needs, another demi-god hero." Cupid said with full sarcasm, then looked apologetically at Strife.

"He don't know he's a demi-god, none of 'em do. Jett got my godly stealth and fighting ability, Jayce got my sense of independence and individuality, but Ah think Jox got a piece of mah godhood or sumthin." Strife said carefully.

"How's that?" Cupid asked with interest.

"Mischief an mayhem follow him around like a bad smell. He don't exactly cause it, or he don't mean to, but when he walks by... things tip ovah, knots come undone, things just go wrong." Strife said, then met Cupid's eyes.

"You must worry for him." Cupid said quietly, holding Strife's gaze.

"Yeah. Since he was wantin ta be a hero, I nudged him ta meet up with Xena. I thought mebbe she would protect him..." Strife trailed off.

"Let me guess. She treats him like crap or ignores him." Cupid said darkly, thinking of the few times he had peeked in on his half sister.

"Yeah. But it ain't obvious. Xena just rolls her eyes or turns her back on 'im. It's that little bitch that tags along with Xena that's hurtin him." Strife said with pain.

"Um, Gabrielle?" Cupid struggled to remember.

"Yeah, tongue like an adder, manners like a harpy and a heart cold as Zeus'." Strife said in anguish.

"Why does he stay with them then?" Cupid asked with concern for Strife's attitude.

"He thinks he loves her." Strife said in defeat.

"Well, maybe I can do something about that." Cupid said in thought.

"Anythin would be bettah than what he's livin through now." Strife said quietly.

"I'll keep you posted. Don't worry, Joxer will be fine." Cupid said with assurance.

Strife smiled, then thought to ask, "Tell me bout yer wife. Ah nevah got ta meet her."

Ate and Bliss were playing in the floor.

Ate held a Pegasus and was flying it around with a raspberry noise.

Bliss had a boy doll and a girl doll and they were wrestling on the floor.

After a minute, Ate stopped to watch what Bliss was having the two dolls do.

Bliss looked up and noticed Ate's curious expression.

"Moman Herm. Bounce, bounce, bounce, aaaaahhhh." Bliss said sadly so that only Ate could hear.

Ate looked at Bliss with surprise.

"Mind and Heart, feeling start. Feeling die, fall apart?" Ate asked hesitantly.

Bliss looked at Ate with sad eyes and nodded.

Ate put down her Pegasus and hugged Bliss close.

"Come on Ate, give Strife a hug so we can go have dinner." Cupid said gently.

Ate got up and pulled Strife into a deep hug and held on tightly.

Cupid walked over to the toy box to help Bliss put the toys away.

"What's wrong?" Strife asked quietly.

"Heart and Mind, trust and lie. Daddy Mommy, sad and cry." Ate said in despair.

"Who?" Strife asked quietly, feeling that she didn't want Cupid to hear.

"Mind and Thief, lay and lie. Kiss and hug, Heart will die." Ate said with imploring eyes.

"Did Bliss tell ya that?" Strife asked in a whisper.

Ate nodded with worry in her expression.

"Yah need ta not say nothin bout it ta Cupe. Bliss could be wrong an we don't want ta cause no trouble fer him. Will you promise?" Strife asked seriously.

Ate nodded, then fell into another hug with her brother.

Cupid walked over to them, carrying Bliss.

"We'll be back to see you tomorrow Strife." Cupid said quietly, not wanting to disturb them too much.

"Thanks fer takin care of Ate fer Unc. Ah can't think of no one bettah ta do it." Strife said in an equal quiet voice.

Ate hesitantly released Strife and walked to Cupid's side, waiting for him to transport them.

Cupid produced food for all three of them and noticed the subdued mood that had fallen over both Bliss and Ate.

"What's wrong Ate? You've been quiet and worried since we got back." Cupid asked with concern.

"Ugly truths, little lie. Sad and sour, sad and die." Ate said with downcast eyes.

"Oh, a secret. Okay, I won't ask. But if you can't tell me, can we do something that will cheer you up?" Cupid asked hopefully.

"Nia happy, Nia sing, Nia dance, Nia fling!" Ate asked hopefully.

"Okay, but only for a little while. If we visit too long, Mania will get wound up and it'll take Morpheus himself to get her to sleep tonight." Cupid said firmly.

Ate nodded enthusiastically with joy.

"Come on Bliss, we're going to visit Phonos and Mania for a little bit." Cupid said and held open his arms in invitation.

Bliss got to his feet quickly and tottered to his father.

Cupid was emotionally exhausted after a visit with the ever cheerful Mania.

Ate and Bliss had a wonderful time, but it was like a dinner of nothing but sweets to Cupid.

Ate walked into the lounge where Cupid was sitting and said, "Night time dew, risen moon. Swirley swimmy, never knew."

"Oh good, thank you for putting him to bed. I usually have to read him two or three stories to get him to sleep." Cupid said with a smile.

"Beauty flower, muzzy Mind. Daisy worry, seek and find?" Ate asked with concern as she sat in her usual spot by the window.

"Psyche's working tonight so I'm going to stay here. I already told her. Mom can look after things at the House of Love for a few days." Cupid said as he relaxed.

"Muzzy Mind, summer heat, Heart conjoin, couple meet?" Ate asked conversationally.

Cupid smiled and tilted his head back and gazed off in the distance as he said, "Yes, we did meet in the summer, but there was a lot more to it than that."

Ate sat straighter and waited expectantly.

Cupid glanced over and realized that his nightly routine of story telling hadn't been broken, only his audience had changed.

"Let's see, I first met Psyche..."

Bliss and Ate were playing in the floor when Phobos and Deimos appeared.

"What you two doin?" Phobos asked as he flopped himself into a chair.

"Paydolziz" Bliss said happily.

"We don want ta play with dolls or nuthin, but maybe if we could find sumthin we could all play..." Phobos said with a smile, knowing Ate's response before she made it.

"Looky over, in behind. Under in, fail or find!" Ate said with a bounce.

"Yeah, we'll play. Who wants ta be 'it'?" Phobos asked with a smile. He knew she'd want to be it, that he'd hide and when she got close, he'd jump out and scare her... it worked every time.

Ate continued to bounce with excitement.

"What are you up to?" Cupid asked as he walked into the room.

"We're gonna play hide and seek." Phobos said with a sneaky smile.

"Sounds like fun. But you've got to give me plenty of time to hide, I'm big so it takes me longer." Cupid said seriously.

"Really? You wanna play?" Phobos asked in disbelief.

"Sure. Bliss and I play all the time. It's one of our favorite games." Cupid said with cheer.

"Okay, Ate's it." Phobos said and looked at Ate.

Ate turned to the nearest wall and closed her eyes as she slowly said, "Slinky... Spider... Inky... Cat..."

Psyche appeared in the room and immediately asked, "Where's Cupid?"

Ate looked at Psyche with wide eyed surprise, then her eyes narrowed.

"Oh, you're that crazy bitch aren't you? I thought they would have locked you up by now. I'll find him myself." Psyche said dismissively and walked to the doorway to look out in the hall.

"Muzzy mind, rotten core. Stupid slut, rancid whore." Ate said with disgust.

"What the fuck are you talking about?" Psyche said as she spun around to face Ate.

"Hermes." Ate said in a low voice.

Psyche went pale at the single word response and her eyes darted around the room.

She took in a deep breath of relief and said, "Yeah, so what? I got it on with Speedy a few times, Apollo too. Who are you going to tell? Who'd believe a retarded bitch like you anyway?"

"Happy Heart, Scary Skies. Dagger, Sword, and Hurting Eyes." Ate said confidently.

"That's right Ate. We'd trust you even if we hadn't heard it ourselves." Phobos said as he walked out from behind a curtain.

"What?" Psyche said as she turned in time to see Deimos walk from behind the other curtain.

"Ate don't lie." Deimos said darkly.

"Yeah, she may be crazy, but she's honest." Phobos said from beside his brother.

Bliss crawled from behind an armchair and tottered over to stand between Phobos and Deimos, holding on to both their hands to remain upright.

"You don't need to tell anyone about this..." Psyche began to say.

"That's right. They don't need to." Cupid said as he stood from behind the couch.

"It's not..." Psyche tried to say.

"Save it Psyche. I'm going to be watching the kids for a few days. That should give you plenty of time to clear your stuff out of the temple before I get back." Cupid said in a tired voice.

"Where am I going to go?" Psyche said with a trembling lip and voice as tears began to fall.

"I don't care. How about with Speedy or Apollo?" Cupid said coldly.

Psyche dropped the hurt act and snapped, "Fine! At least they know how to satisfy a woman!"

"Lucky them." Cupid said dryly.

Psyche stomped her foot once, then disappeared in a flash of yellow.

Cupid walked to the couch and sat heavily.

Bliss ran to his daddy and climbed up on his lap.

"Daddyhug?" Bliss asked quietly.

"Yeah baby, a hug will help a lot." Cupid said as he pulled Bliss close to his chest.

"Ya did that on purpose didn't'cha Ate?" Phobos asked when they were safely out of the room.

Ate looked at Phobos with guilty eyes and nodded slowly.

"Didn't want his pain." Deimos said in a mumble.

Phobos pulled his brother into a loose hug and said, "I didn't want his fear either."

"Dagger and dart, smile and heart. Two are one, can't break apart." Ate said in a quiet, child voice.

"Really? You think it could work?" Phobos asked uncertainly.

Ate nodded firmly.

Phobos looked at Deimos for a long moment then said, "We'll help ya."

Phobos, Deimos and Ate walked into the lounge to find Cupid rocking Bliss in his lap and crying silently.

"Ate wants ta visit with Strife... We can take her if ya wanna stay here." Phobos said hesitantly.

Cupid quickly wiped his eyes and tried to put a less-than-devastated expression on his face before saying, "Thanks Pho, but I can take her. You two can come if you want."

"Yeah, we ain't visited with Strife in a while." Phobos said impatiently.

Cupid picked up Bliss as he stood, then took Ate's hand gently into his.

Phobos and Deimos looked at each other and flashed out together. A moment later Cupid followed.

"What's tha mattah Cupe?" Strife asked with immediate concern.

Cupid looked at the children all watching them and said, "I'll tell you later."

"Come on Ate, why don't you show us your toys?" Phobos said assertively.

Bliss began to wiggle in his father's arms and Cupid put him down.

Strife and Cupid sat down and watched as Ate and the children proceeded to pull every toy out of the toy box.

"Can ya tell me now?" Strife asked quietly.

"Psyche... she's been cheating on me with Hermes... and Apollo." Cupid said in despair.

"That's tough. It's hard ta lose sumthin like that." Strife said uncomfortably.

"Yeah... I didn't see it coming. I guess I just didn't want to see it." Cupid said as he looked off into a distant place only he could see.

"Would it help ya ta talk bout it?" Strife asked carefully.

Cupid looked into Strife's eyes and found only concern.

"Yeah, I guess." Cupid said uncertainly.

"What was wrong?" Strife asked, hoping it was the right question.

"Besides the absence of love, trust, respect and affection, it was the perfect marriage." Cupid said with a pained smile.

Strife couldn't help but giggle. Cupid had a sense of humor he could appreciate.

"Why'd ya stay with her if she treated ya like that?" Strife asked with concern.

"I didn't want to be alone." Cupid said in a distant, hollow voice.

"Did it work?" Strife asked, knowing the answer.

"No. I've never felt so lonely as when I was laying next to her." Cupid said with pain.

"Thought so." Strife said in sympathy.

"Did the same thing happen to you?" Cupid asked with concern showing in his eyes.

"Naw. The triplet's mom. Her husband was a no good sack'a shit. Ah found her when she was lonely and hurtin and Ah was feelin bout tha same. Me an Jocasta shared our pain an fer that one night, we wasn't lonely. She nevah saw me again aftah that night, but Ah been keepin an eye on my kids." Strife said distantly.

"Then you've never been in love?" Cupid asked hesitantly.

"Naw, nevah." Strife said sadly.

"It hurts... Gods it hurts. You're lucky your dead, I wouldn't wish this feeling on you." Cupid said as his tears began to fall.

"Don't say that Cupe." Strife said weakly.

"It's true Strife. Love is the worst feeling there is... it cuts so deep... I wish..." Cupid stammered through hitching breaths.

"Don't say it Cupe. Yer hurtin, but remembah that yer a God. Yer words have powah an can cause things ta happen." Strife said as his panic began to rise.

"I wish I were dead too." Cupid whispered.

"He don't mean it." Strife screamed into the air.

"What's wrong?" Phobos asked as he ran to Strife's side.

"Get Ate an tha kids outta here quick Pho." Strife said as he heard rumbling in the distance.

"Ate, get Bliss and let's go home." Phobos said as he ran back to Deimos unsteadily. The floor was shaking and throwing him off balance.

There was a great flash which left Cupid and Strife alone.

"No Thanatos, don't do it, he didn't mean it." Strife said in panic.

Cupid was only vaguely aware of what was happening around him.

//When a God wishes for death in this realm, it is my responsibility to grant that wish.// Thanatos spoke to Strife's mind.

"Please Than, he didn't mean it. He has a kid ta watch out fer, ya gotta let 'im take it back." Strife pleaded.

"What?" Cupid asked as he came back to himself.

"Tell Thanatos that'cha didn't mean it, that'cha don't want ta die." Strife begged.

"Why do you care?" Cupid asked in confusion.

"Cause you got all tha things Ah alway's wanted. Ya got all tha things worth livin fer. Ya got yer dad an yer son. Don't give that bitch tha satisfaction of destroyin you. Ya have'ta want ta live." Strife pleaded.

Cupid looked Strife in the eyes and nodded, then looked at Thanatos.

"Is it possible to give my life to Strife?" Cupid asked in an emotionless voice.

"Wha? No Cupe. Ya can't do that. Bliss don't need me, he needs you." Strife said as he was assaulted by a fresh wave of panic.

//Lord Hades is the only one who can do such a thing, do you wish me to summon him?// Thanatos asked with sad eyes.

Cupid nodded slowly.

A black blur of power faded to reveal Hades standing before them.

"Ya can't let him, it ain't right." Strife began to beg.

"Cupid, do you, of your own free will, offer to sacrifice yourself so that Strife might live?" Hades asked formally.

"No Cupe, say no." Strife said quickly.

"I do." Cupid said coldly.

"Then I have no choice but to grant your wish for death and accept your sacrifice. The living flesh you now inhabit will be remade for Strife." Hades said darkly.

"Ah won't take it. As soon as Ah'm alive Ah'll come back an ask Thanatos ta kill me." Strife said defiantly.

"You don't want to be alive?" Hades asked curiously.

"Yeah, Ah do, but not like this. Tha price is too high... I ain't worth it." Strife said and looked away so he wouldn't meet Hades' eyes.

"You are." Cupid said and turned Strife to face him.

"What?" Strife asked, unable to break Cupid's gaze.

"You're worth it. I may have dad and Bliss, but they can take care of each other without me. Ate needs you, there's no one else who can take your place." Cupid said quietly.

Strife looked into Cupid's eyes and finally nodded.

"Kay, fer Ate Ah'll do it. An Ah promise that Ah'll see aftah Bliss an he'll come ta visit'cha every day." Strife said with certainty.

"What was that?" Cupid asked as a strange feeling washed over him.

"That was your wish coming true." Hades said with a curious look.

"I'm dead? I don't feel dead." Cupid said as he patted himself, somehow expecting to become insubstantial.

"Ah can feel it... Ah'm warm again. Ah felt cold the whole time Ah was dead." Strife said as he enjoyed the feeling of blood moving through his veins.

"I don't feel cold... I don't feel any different." Cupid said in confusion.

Strife walked over to him and put an ear to Cupid's chest.

"Uncle Hades, I think ya missed or sumthin. Cupe ain't dead." Strife said curiously.

Hades walked over and looked carefully at Cupid, then Strife.

"I guess the wish I granted was the one in your heart, not the one in your mouth." Hades said with a cryptic smile.

"Strife! You're alive! Come on, let's show the kids!" Cupid said with excitement.

Cupid and Strife flashed out of the room simultaneously leaving Hades and Thanatos looking at the empty room.

"Kids..." Hades said with a shake of his head as he walked to the door.

//Do you think they learned anything?// Thanatos asked as he followed.

"Only time will tell, but my gut tells me yes." Hades said as he led the way out of the room.

Ate and the kids looked on with apprehension that turned to joy when Cupid and Strife appeared in the Halls of War.

Of course Strife immediately went to Ate and hugged her tightly. Cupid held Bliss and watched fondly as Strife, Ate, Phobos and Deimos danced around in a circle.

"Come on Cupe, you an Bliss are part'a this." Strife said quickly.

Cupid shifted Bliss to his shoulders and said, "Hold on tight, we're going to dance."

Bliss happily held on and enjoyed the dance as much as anyone.

To Be Continued...

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