"Dad, I need your help. Zeus wants to be shot with an arrow and we need Psyche's special touch to make it stick. Is she up to it?" Asclepius asked hopefully.
"I think so. Let's go see if she'll be willing to do it. She began to progress rapidly once she was able to recognize the influence of her godhood." Apollo said conversationally as they walked down the hall.
Apollo gently knocked on the door and asked quietly, "Lady Psyche? May Asclepius and I come in to ask you a favor?"
"Yes, come in." Psyche said solidly.
"Good evening Lady Psyche, how are you?" Apollo asked with a gentle smile.
"Good, I'm feeling better than I have in years." Psyche said honestly.
"I'm glad to hear it. Asclepius has a favor to ask you, and I have an offer to make." Apollo said slowly.
"What can I do for you Asclepius?" Psyche asked pleasantly.
Asclepius was speechless at the dignified and well spoken woman standing before him. He couldn't reconcile the sight with the raving shrew that he had seen just a few days earlier. At Psyche's expectant gaze he snapped out of his mental wandering and said, "Jett has asked Cupid to shoot him and Zeus with a love arrow. We were thinking that with your help we could make it stable and cause the effect to be perminant."
Psyche considered the statement for a moment before asking, "They have asked you to do this?"
"Yes, well they asked for the love arrow, the permanence was Cupid and Ganymede's idea." Asclepius said honestly, glancing over his shoulder at Ganymede.
Psyche nodded then said, "If King Hephaestus sanctions the use of my powers on the arrow, I will be happy to agree."
"We'll be talking to him soon. We just wanted to be sure who would be willing to help before we went to him." Asclepius said seriously.
"A wise course of action, Hephaestus' time is no doubt valuable since he has taken up his new duties." Psyche said in thought.
Asclepius was again taken aback by the dramatic change in Psyche. He could only manage a nod at her accurate interpretation of his motives.
"Lady Psyche, your progress is such that I am willing to release you from your confinement if you feel that you are ready to resume your godly duties." Apollo said seriously.
"I'm afraid that I'll stray and become lost in the influence of my godhood again." Psyche said seriously.
"I have another bracelet for you. It is made of the same Hephestian metal as the one you now wear. The only difference is that you will be able to remove this one whenever you wish. You will have full access to your god powers whenever you want, but you will be able to interrupt the influence of your godhood by putting the bracelet back on." Apollo said, looking into Psyche's eyes.
"Thank you Lord Apollo, I will try to be worthy of your trust in me." Psyche said timidly.
"Lady Psyche, the past was destined to happen. Your godhood is manipulation. It was necessary for you to fall under it's control so that you could truly understand the powers that you command. Now you are finally ready to take your rightful place among the pantheon as a full god of Olympus and stand with pride along with us. I have no doubt... you are worthy." Apollo said with confidence.
Psyche smiled as Apollo took her hand and removed the bracelet from her wrist and replaced it with another.
"Your rooms in the House of Intellect are prepared. If you would like, I will accompany you there now." Apollo said seriously.
"Thank you Lord Apollo, I would like that very much." Psyche said with a gentle smile.
Apollo extended his arm to her and she took gentle hold of him so he could properly escort her to her new home.
Ganymede and Asclepius stood stunned as Apollo and Psyche walked out of the room.
"Your dad does good work." Ganymede finally said.
"Yeah, I've never seen him change someone so completely." Asclepius said in stunned disbelief.
"Are you ready for the next stop? We need to talk to Hera and Lust." Ganymede said, shaking off his shock.
"Yeah, let's go." Asclepius said quickly and took Ganymede's hand before they transported to the main temple of Retribution.
//Hey Cupe, ya got a coupla minutes ta talk? I figured out mah retribution fer ya.// Strife's mind/voice sounded worried.
//Sure Strife, just let me ask Ter if he can watch Bliss for a couple minutes.// Cupid responded immediately.
"Sorry guys, Strife needs to talk to me for a couple minutes. He's got his retribution ready. I promise I'll be back as soon as I can." Cupid said with true remorse in his voice.
"Go ahead and get going. We'll be fine for a few minutes, just give us a yell if it's going to be long, okay?" Anteros asked, while trying to find the tickle spot on Bliss' belly that made his wings flutter.
Cupid took a moment to enjoy the sight of his brother and his son playing before he vanished, leaving a pink cloud.
"Before we go in, here's some money for each of you." Joxer said and produced three dinars each for the boys.
"This is nothin." Phobos said as he looked in confusion at the money in his hand.
"I know. Just follow my lead. One way to tell the nature of a mortal is by the way they react to someone who seems to be of a lesser station than themselves." Joxer said as he led the boys into a pub on the main street.
Joxer led the boys to a table and they waited for the waitress to come and take their orders.
A delicate Nubian woman came to the table and kindly asked, "What can I get for you gentlemen today?"
Joxer carefully dumped the entire contents of his money pouch on the table, then asked, "What can we get for five dinars for the three of us?"
"I can bring you soup and a small loaf of bread." The waitress said with a look of compassion in her eyes.
Joxer looked into her mind, then sent to the boys, //It costs seven dinars for the soup and bread. She is willing to pay the other two dinars out of her own pocket to see that you two are fed.//
"Thank you... What is your name good lady?" Joxer asked pleasantly.
"Senscie is what I'm called. I'll return with your food in a minute." Senscie said with a gentle smile before leaving them alone.
"Why would this woman care for strangers?" Phobos asked in confusion.
"Because you are children. When she was a child, she didn't always have enough to eat so she tries to see that children aren't left hungry." Joxer said as he reviewed the images he had drawn from her mind.
"So she's a good person." Phobos said in speculation.
"For the most part. Every mortal has good and evil in their souls, the only thing that defines one from another is the choices they make." Joxer said in thought.
"So you said you want us to use our god powers for good. What good can we do for her? She was nice to us, shouldn't we be nice to her too?" Phobos asked carefully.
"Yes, that's the idea. Deimos, look at her with your godhood and see her pain. What can you see?" Joxer asked quietly.
Deimos closed his eyes and concentrated on the waitress. After a minute of thought he said, "Her son. He was killed. It hurts her when she remembers."
Joxer looked into her thoughts and found the image of her son, almost a man, being mortally wounded in a raid by a ruthless warlord.
After a moment to consider the situation, Joxer said, "Phobos, can you see her fears?"
Phobos looked in the direction of Senscie and concentrated.
"She's afraid of being alone. That's why she took this job. She hates going back to her room at tha end of the day cause there's no one else there." Phobos said slowly in thought.
Senscie brought the soups and bread to the table and all three smiled and thanked her before she left to attend to other patrons.
"Deimos, can you help her to accept her pain? Change it?" Joxer asked, hoping that he was right in his assumption of Deimos god powers.
"Dunno. Never tried." Deimos said and concentrated his thought into his godhood to see what he could do.
"Phobos, can you do the same with her fear? Not take it away, but lead her to overcome it?" Joxer asked seriously.
Phobos nodded and focused his power too.
While the boys were concentrating, Joxer focused his god power and found a long forgotten spark of mischief deep in her soul. It had been squashed, repressed and nearly extinguished many times, but somehow it endured.
Joxer focused his godhood and thought and the mischief bloomed into a beautiful fountain of humor.
Senscie paused and got a curious look on her face, then went back to her work.
"I done it." Deimos said proudly.
"What did you do?" Joxer asked curiously.
"I untwisted her pain. Now when she remembers her son, it still hurts but she don't get caught in tha knot. Tha pain leads to memories of when they was happy." Deimos said with a proud smile of achievement.
"An now instead of gettin stuck in fear, she's gonna use it ta do somethin bout it." Phobos said with equal pride.
"Great work boys. Now there's only one thing left to do." Joxer said and focused his god power on Senscie. There was a flash, and anyone with supernatural sight could clearly see the smirking face mask floating above her.
"What'd you do?" Phobos asked as he looked at the floating icon.
"She has my blessing and protection." Joxer said with a smile.
"Can I do that too?" Phobos asked hopefully.
"Sure, just focus your power and attach your emblem to her spark. Anyone with even a drop of godly blood will be able to see that she is blessed and protected." Joxer said in an instructive tone.
Phobos pushed his power and did as he was told. A moment later another symbol was hanging above her. It was the image of an eclipsing sun, almost entirely blotted out by the moon.
Deimos didn't ask, he just did as his brother and the image of a firey red teardrop of blood formed into being.
Joxer looked on with approval and said, "Now let's enjoy this wonderful meal before it gets cold."
Both boys started to eat.
Even though the food wasn't very good by godly standards, Senscie's act of compassion added a special seasoning that made it delicious. All three ate their fill and both boys laid their three dinars on the table when they left to enjoy the rest of their afternoon in Arcadia.
"Cupe, ya know I love ya an I don wanna hurt'cha. I thought 'bout how we was afore an figured out what we did an how ta fix it. Cause, ta tell ya tha truth, I ain't angry at'cha but Ah still don trust ya not ta be like ya was afore." Strife said seriously and turned to look Cupid straight in the eyes.
"Ya treated me like I wasn't good as you. Like I was some kinda dirty secret. I wanna know that you think I'm your equal, I want tha mortals ta think I'm your equal. My retribution is that I want all your temples ta become our temples. I want alters same as yours and tha statues same as yours... but with clothes. I don wan them smelly mortals lookin at my bare ass. But anyways, when you done all that, Ah'll believe that'cha ain't ashamed of me an Ah'll trust ya if ya say you ain't better than me."
"Strife, it's not enough. I hurt you and used you for so long, it's not nearly enough to make up for all I did to you." Cupid said honestly.
"Ah know you wanna make up fer all that Cupe. But you asked what I wanted, an Ah'm tellin ya. If you feel you need to whip yourself or sumthin to make up for alla that, do whatcha need to. But all Ah'm askin fer is ta be same as you. No bettah, no worse." Strife said seriously.
Cupid thought about Strife's words, then nodded.
"Ah love ya Cupe. Remembah that. Now you need to get back to your cherub. Give me a yell when tha temples are done." Strife said, making it clear that they were finished.
Cupid whispered, "I love you too Strife." Before flashing back to his temple.
When Cupid was gone, Strife walked on shaking legs to his bed and flung himself to lay face down. [God's Cupe. Why do you have'ta make it so hard. I just wanna love you.] Strife thought as he held his pillow close.
"Let's go do that job for your dad now." Joxer said as he led the way down the street, toward the blacksmiths shop.
"What're we gonna do?" Phobos asked curiously.
"Let's see..." Joxer said in thought, then summoned his old sword from his mortal days.
"It's bent." Phobos said, stating the obvious.
"Yeah, and let's see if twenty dinars can get Codgis to repair this sword or provide me a suitable replacement." Joxer said to the boys as they walked.
"And if he does?" Phobos prompted.
"Then we tell your dad that he is a fair businessman, and a bad blacksmith. Maybe we'll ask Hephaestus to provide him some instruction or divine inspiration or something." Joxer said as they turned down a side street.
"If he doesn't?" Deimos asked carefully.
"Curse him, rain misfortune on him, something like that... We'll just have to see. I'm sure we'll know what to do in just a minute." Joxer said and pointed at the forge before them.
"Good day sir." Joxer said, as he was carefully walking among many carefully stacked piles of weapons on the ground.
"What you want?" Codgis asked as he worked the metal before him.
"I was hoping you could help me. I have two sons and I need to see after their protection..." Joxer began.
"What do you want?" Codgis asked again, still hammering the metal.
"My sword's bent. I only have twenty dinars, I was hoping I could get you to fix it, or get a replacement from you." Joxer asked hopefully.
"Got nothin for twenty dinars." Codgis said gruffly, then thrust the sword he was working on back into the forge.
"Let me see what you got." Codgis said quickly and held out his hand for Joxer's sword.
Joxer hurriedly handed the sword to Codgis.
After a brief inspection Codgis said, "Come back in half an hour. It'll cost you... five dinars for the work. Now go. I've got to make six more swords by the end of the day."
Joxer nodded and hurried out of the forge.
"What does that mean Joxer?" Phobos asked in confusion.
"Tell me about his fears." Joxer said in thought.
Phobos focused his power and said slowly, "He's afraid if he doesn't get all the swords made that were ordered by the king, he'll be executed like the last blacksmith."
Joxer nodded and looked into Codgis mind for himself.
"He's overworked. The order is too much for him to handle alone. He's making substandard weapons because he doesn't have the time to do a proper job on each one, he has to sacrifice quality to maintain production." Joxer said as he analyzed what he was seeing.
"So we don't get to curse him?" Phobos asked with disappointment.
"Sorry Pho. Maybe we'll find someone else for you to curse. Let's go talk to Hephaestus and find out if we can get Codgis some help." Joxer said seriously.
Phobos and Deimos nodded and followed Joxer to the Great Hall of Olympus.