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The voices. All the voices. Did I really cause all this pain? How could I have allowed myself to become such a monster? When had my life become so vicious? All I wanted was revenge. Revenge for all the wrongs that had been done to me. I wanted to destroy the ones who had destroyed my life. My family. My dreams. When had that changed? When had I decided that I wanted more than revenge? I wanted the power. The power that fear gave me. When did I learn to enjoy the terror in my victims eyes? Is that the look my mother had in her eyes when she was faced with death?
When will these voices stop? Even Hades cannot be this cruel. Surely he is willing to give someone another trial if they show they are repentant. Will there be no end to my suffering? I understand now that I was wrong. I should not have killed all those I did. Even the person who allowed me to die had a moral code she lived by. I had nothing. I never allowed anyone to get close to me. Never allowed anyone to care about me or for me to care about them. I always believed that caring for someone was the surest was to get hurt.
I never wanted to allow anyone that chance to hurt me again.
No, they're getting louder. The voices of all those I've killed. All those whose lives that have been cut short. The innocents, whose only crime was that of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. How many have there been over the years? Hundreds? Thousands? How many more would I have been willing to kill in my thirst for blood? How many more villages would have been burned? How many more children killed before they had a chance to live?
Oh no. Here comes the worst voice. The one that is the most cruel. The one that torments me all through my days.
"Callisto, no matter what, I will always love you my darling daughter."
It was a beautiful spring day in the peaceful village of Ciera. The sun was bright and not a cloud could be seen in the deep blue sky. The birds were singing and everywhere you went you could smell the flowers in bloom. It was the kind of day that made you stop and give thanks to the goddess Demeter for all that she had given the earth. Suddenly the peace of the morning is broken by the sound of children playing.
"Take that and that," shouted a boy, no more than eight. He was holding a stick and waving it around like it was a sword. His target was a girl around the same age, who was also holding a stick. Both children had blonde hair and you could tell that they were siblings.
"Oh yeah. Well take this and take this," the girl said as she lunged toward the boy with her stick, but he easily blocks all of her moves. Suddenly as she is about to come at him again, he turns and gets her in the shoulder.
"Gotcha. I win," the boy says triumphantly. He always manages to beat his sister and he gloats every time.
"No you didn't. It only grazed me," the girl pouts while pulling herself up to her full height of 4'6". The boy continues his teasing, so she attacks the boy bare handed. She tackles him easily and the two begin to wrestle. It is soon apparent that, although the boy was victorious in the make believe sword play, that the girl had the upperhand in hand to hand combat. Soon she had him pinned under her.
"Give." The boy continues to struggle to get up. "I said give."
"Okay, okay I give already." The girl gets off her brother who stands and wipes himself off. " Gods I'd hate to see what happens when you fight someone you don't care about."
"Who says I care about you."
A voice calls from a distant house. "Children, come on. It's time for your lunch."
"I'll race you," the girl says and the two run back to the house. It's a close contest but the boy manages to narrowly defeat his sister as they run through the front door. "No fair, you cheated."
"You say that every time," a woman says. "Your brother beats you everyday and yet you still challenge him to race," she scolds, but she soon smiles at both of her children. She's proud of them. They never give her any trouble and are a tremendous help around the home, especially with their father gone so much. "I'm truly fortunate," she thought. "The Fates have smiled on me and I couldn't be happier."
"That's because he always does," the little girl pouts as she helps her mother set the table. Her brother sticks his tongue out at her and she returns the gesture.
"Stop it you two. Periesis stop teasing your sister and you, young lady, go and wash up. You look like some kind of beggar."
"Yes mother," was the reply from both children. Periesis goes into the other room to put away his playthings while the little girl goes outside to wash up. When she sees an empty waterskin she gets an idea. She takes the waterskin and fills it up with water. When she gets back inside, she nonchalantly walks over to her brother's chair and sets it there. She then goes to the other side of the table and sits in her chair.
"Come one Periesis, it's time to eat," their mother calls. He comes back into the room and without looking, sits in his chair. The little girl gets the desired effect of her little trick, because as soon as he sits down, Periesis jumps up again with his pants soaking wet.
"What the.... Mother look at what she did. I'm soaked clear through."
"It's just water Periesis and you have been asking for it, what with the way you've been teasing her lately." She gets up and hands him a dry towel. "Now just go into your room and change your clothes." When he leaves the room, she turns to her daughter and prepares to give her a scolding over her little trick. The little girl just sits there and gives her mother the same puppy dog look that has always gotten her out of trouble before, and today was no different. Her mother ends up just shaking her head.
"Callisto, what am I going to do with you?" Callisto just shrugs and both woman smile at each other. "You know you shouldn't have done that to your brother, don't you?"
"And you know that you should be punished for doing it, don't you?"
"And I know that youÕre going to apologize to Periesis as soon as he comes out, aren't you?"
There's a pause before Callisto finally says, "Yes mother."
"That's my girl. Now eat you lunch so you can start your chores."
Callisto dives into her food and wonders if life can ever get better than this.
"Mother, why doesn't father come home?" a now ten year old Callisto asks.
"I don't know baby, but hopefully the gods will brings him safely back to us again soon."
"Doesn't he know how much we miss him?" Periesis asks.
"I'm sure he does and I'm also sure that he misses us just as much. Now why don't the two of you run along outside and play. Let me do my chores." The children give their mother a hug and then go outside. Soon you can hear laughter as they are quickly joined by their friends. Their mother just sits and listens to the noise and tries to remember when she and her husband were like that. They had known each other as children and their friendship had grown into love. She wondered if that would be true for her children as well with those they now played with.
Periesis was already well on his way to being a man. At ten years old he seemed more like twenty. With his father away so often, he had taken upon himself the burden of being the man of the house and the protector of the women. She smiled as she remembered that day when she saw him practicing with one of his father's old swords. She was both proud of him and fearful at the same time. Proud that he was growing into such a fine young man, but also afraid that she would lose him to some war, like she had lost their father.
Then there was Callisto. Even though she and Periesis were twins, Callisto was the baby of the two. Even at her young age, she was turning into the town beauty. When she took her into town, everyone would stop and stare at her, even those who had watched her grow up. Thank the gods, Callisto wasn't aware of the power she already had over men. Her ignorance over her beauty was one of her greatest strengths. "She'll be a handful when she gets older. I may just have to lock her up." She smiled as she pictured her daughter getting married and having children of her own. "I only hope that she finds a man who is willing to stay at home with her and not go running off into battle."
The woman than shakes her head to get rid of her melancholy thoughts. She slowly gets up and starts to do her chores. A short time later, there is a knock on the door. When she goes to answer it she is surprised to see their neighbor, Xpilot, standing there. She's curious as to why he was there because Xpilot had gone with her husband to fight the latest battle. When she notices that he is alone, fears seizes her heart.
"Xpilot, what are you doing here? Where is Bengal?" she asks, but suddenly, she is afraid of the answer.
"I'm sorry Tamrin. He is on the other side now."
She breaks down into Xpilot's arms. "No....Why?...How?" she cries not able to accept what she was just told.
Xpilot pulls her over to a chair and sits her down gently giving her the details. "We were on the move. We thought we had the enemy cornered and that they would surrender within the next couple of days. When they sent a messenger saying they were ready to talk about the terms, Bengal took four men with him to the army's camp. We tried to talk him out of it, but it was no use. They never returned. Two days later, we were attacked. The man who I killed had Bengal's sword in his hand. We never found him or the others"
Tamrin breaks down even more and Xpilot goes over to comfort her. "I'm so sorry Tamrin." Tamrin doesn't see or hear him. She is overcome with grief for the man that she has loved for her whole life. She had always feared that this day would come, she knew that it was inevitable and she had tried to prepare herself for it, but it still hit her like a rock. Although she spent many months alone, she always held onto the belief that he would come home. She didn't know how she would go on without him or if she really wanted to try.
Xpilot's heart went out to Tamrin. He had also grown up with her and Bengal and he had grown to love her over the years. He had always been jealous of the relationship between her and Bengal. Of the way she looked at him. Xpilot never understood why Bengal left her alone so often. If she had been his wife, he would have given up fighting and stayed at home to farm. As he held her and gently tried to console her, all his feelings toward her threatened to spill out, but he held himself in check. He allowed her to cry on his shoulder, knowing that it would have to satisfy him.
Just as she was trying to regain control of her emotions, Callisto and Periesis came running into the house. When they saw their father's best friends, the smiles on their young faces grew larger than they had already been. They ran and jumped into his arms.
"X,X, where's father?" Periesis asks.
"Is he hiding somewhere?" Callsito adds, looking around trying to find him. Neither child notices their mother as she wipes the tears from her eyes.
"He didn't come home with me this time, kids. I'm sorry, but he didn't make it." The children look at him with the eyes that remind him so much of their father and Xpilot's heart breaks for them. Periesis just stands there as he tries to comprehend what he has just been told, while Callisto runs around the housing calling out and looking for their father. She knows that this is just another one of his little jokes and that he is hiding in one of the other rooms. When her search turns up nothing, she comes back into the room. Xpilot can see the fear creeping into her eyes.
"He can't be gone," she cries. "He promised he would come back." Tamrin takes hold of Callisto as the little girl starts to sob. 'He promised me he would come back, he promised me, he promised."
"I know baby, I know." Tamrin strokes Callisto's hair, trying to soothe the hurt that the child is feeling. Tamrin knows now that she has to put her grief aside if she is going to be able to comfort both children. "You know he would have kept that promise if he could have. We must remember that he loved us. He...." Tamrin stops as she feels the tears begin to flow down her face again.
"He wanted to be with you, " Xpilot says when he sees Tamrin beginning to lose control. "That last night we were together, he told me that it was going to be his last battle. He missed watching the two of you growing up." He looks over to Tamrin and she silently acknowledges his lie, knowing that it would help the children.
"Did he really say that?" Periesis asks. Now that his father is gone, he has become the man of the house and he feels he shouldn't show his emotions, at least not openly. That doesn't prevent a look of anguish from expressing itself there.
"Yes he did Periesis. He was on his way home."
Xpilot watched as Tamrin, still holding a crying Callisto, signaled for Periesis to join her. As the boy went over to join his mother and sister, Xpilot once again finds himself thinking about how much was missing in his life. Tamrin reaches out and Periesis allows himself to be enfolded in her arms. Xpilot silently goes to the door and with one last look at the now grieving family, leaves. Inside the once happy home, Tamrin, Callisto, and Periesis hold onto each other and grieve for the man that they loved and that will never return to them.
"Come on Callisto, I don't want to be late," Periesis says, waiting at the door.
"What's your hurry? It isn't as if you haven't seen it before," Callisto teases her brother.
"I know, but I want to get good seats."
Callisto finally comes out of her room. It has been a little over a year since that day Xpilot had told them about their father. Their grieving period mostly over, the children have adjusted relatively well to his death. Xpilot had come over a lot during that time and he was slowly becoming a surrogate father to them. He was always bringing him gifts and telling them stories. Now he was taking the children into town to see a puppet show.
"Tamrin, are you sure that I can't talk you into coming along," Xpilot asks the woman who was supervising the children's preparations. "You really should get out. It's a beautiful day."
"I will be fine Xpilot, don't worry about me. It's enough that you are taking the children so I have the day all to myself, to be as lazy as I want to be." Tamrin smiled as Callisto finally comes out from her room. "Now go, before Periesis leaves without you." Tamrin herds the three of them out the door and then takes a deep breath. She loved these moments to herself. It always gave her time to think out things and people. She appreciated the fact the Xpilot took the time for the children and herself. It helped her get over he grief and allowed her to move on with her life, but she was worried that he didn't have someone of his own in his life. "He would make someone a fine husband," she thought on more than one occasion. "He has so much love to give a woman, it's a shame that he never married."
A sudden sharp pain of jealousy seared through Tamrin. She doesn't want to think of him with someone else. She doesn't understand why she suddenly felt that way. Xpilot was her husband's best friend and he was quickly becoming a dear friend to her also, why shouldn't she want him to be with someone? "Because that would take him away from you," she admitted to herself. In spite of her own desire to be independent, she had grown used to Xpilot being around. She cherished the talks they had until the late hours of the evening. She felt closer to him, then in all the years she was married to Bengal.
Suddenly Tamrin froze. Gods can it be possible? Is it even decent? Bengal has only been gone slightly a year? Surely she should still be in the grieving stages. It's too soon, isn't it? Then as she sat there alone in the kitchen, Tamrin realized that , not only was it proper, it made sense. She shared everything with him. Her fears about the farm. Her joy at how the children were growing up. Even some of the concerns that most men would rather not hear about being a woman.
How did it happen? When did it happen? Was I so blind that I didn't recognize it? Do the people in town know? Most importantly, how does Xpilot feel?
"I've fallen in love with him."
Tamrin's thoughts then turn to the children. How would they react if they found out? They clearly love Xpilot, that much she was certain, but would they be willing to accept him as a presence in her life? In their home? Would they be willing to let him be a father to them? Let him replace the father they hardly knew, but still loved and missed?
Get with it Tamrin. You're getting way ahead of yourself. You don't even know how he feels. Maybe the only reason he is so attentive is that he feels responsible for us because of Bengal. They had been best friends, and fought many battles side by side, so it only made sense for Xpilot to take on the burden of his friend's widow and children. That must be it. It was just her imagination going into overdrive. But what if it wasn't?
Tamrin stood up and shook her head to clear her thoughts. "Enough of this daydreaming, girl, you've got more important things to do than act like some teenager in love for the first time. There's no reason to get yourself all exited over something that in all likelihood does not even exist." Never the less, as she straightened the house, she took extra care to make everything look just right. And as she was deciding on what to make for dinner, she decided to make something that she knew Xpilot would enjoy. And as she looked around and saw how everything looked, she decided that her everyday dress wasn't quite right, so she changed into her emerald green dress that she hadn't worn in years. All in all, she was pretty proud of herself. And as she heard Xpilot and the children come into the house, she knew that all her effort and hard work were about to be put to the test. She took a deep breath, gathered all her courage, and walked into the living room.
"Wow, mother, you look great," an awed Periesis says.
"I've never seen you in that dress before," Callisto says also. "It's beautiful."
"I have seen her in it before, and you are right little one, she's just as beautiful today as she was then." Xpilot tries to regain his breath, that is only now beginning to return to normal. He looks at Tamrin with a glimmer of hope in his eyes and is surprised by the answer that is in her own. Periesis and Callisto look between the two adults. They know that something is going on, but can't quite put their finger on it. Xpilot and Tamrin just stand there without saying a word.
"Something smells delicious," he finally says, breaking the hold that she has on him.
"Wait until you taste it." Turning to the children, "You two are a mess. Why don't you go outside and wash up before dinner." When the children go outside, Tamrin turns her attention back to Xpilot. "X, can I get you anything to drink? You've had a long day with those two hooligans and I'm sure you are thirsty."
When Tamrin goes into the kitchen, Xpilot finds himself following her, not willing to let her out of his sight. When he gets there, he finds that she is already pouring him a mug of ale, without him even asking. When she gives it to him, their fingers touch slightly. Tamrin blushes. She can not believe she is behaving like this. Neither move apart for what seems like an eternity, but is actually only a few seconds. The awkward silence between the two would be lovers is louder than anything that could be spoken.
They hear the children coming back into the home and break apart. "Tamrin..."
"We'll talk when they go to sleep."
Callisto and Periesis come into the kitchen and head to the table. Both adults look at them and decide that they can't wait until bedtime.
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