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Guardians of Olympus

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“There is no decision that we can make that doesn’t come with some sort of balance or sacrifice.” – Simon Sinek


 

The sun was delightfully warm on her skin, and her cheeks were flushed red from the crisp wind. 

What a marvelous day, Iris thought. Her golden wings fluttered as she flew on top of a rainbow and admired its beautiful blend of colors. Giggling, Iris twirled in midair before diving towards the earth below her.                                  

Soon, the green grass and vibrant flowers that Demeter and her lovely daughter, Persephone, created came into view. Smiling, Iris trailed her hand along the crystal-clear blue lake, the water cool against her fingertips. Leave it to the mother and daughter duo to create such wonderful land. 

Iris’ form shimmered as she stepped onto the ground. Vividly red poppies decorated the vast, lush fields, splashes of white and yellow daisies also scattered amongst them. Tuscany transformed into a marvel—earth itself transformed into a wonder.   

No fires scorched the land, no ichor dripped profusely from the heavens, no boulders flew over her head—everything was finally at peace. It had been years since Iris had known nothing but war, sprinting across the battlefields unseen and delivering messages amongst the gods, now the newly-appointed Olympians. She was a peaceful goddess and being their messenger had been enough. 

When the Titan War finally ended, Iris had been overjoyed at the prospect of peace, but became terribly distraught when she watched her sister, Arke, thrown into Tartarus with the Titans. Her sister’s beautiful, iridescent wings had been also been torn by Zeus, and to this day, Iris could never forget Arke’s screams while she plummeted into the abyss. 

Iris clutched her caduceus tightly. There was no point thinking about that now. She had to look forward, to the better future, and hope for the best. 

Faint laughter sounded from the distance, carried easily by the gentle wind. Smiling, Iris followed Persephone’s melodious voice on foot, foregoing to travel through her rainbows. The grass tickled her feet but she didn’t mind. Soon, she saw Persephone’s blonde head bobbing through the flower fields. Demeter was not too far as she obliged to the child’s small games. 

Iris watched the two dance and laugh across the meadows, accompanied by some dryads who were Demeter’s attendants. She almost sighed contently. If she could live in this moment forever, she would be happy for all eternity. 

The older goddess soon noticed her presence and nodded slightly in acknowledgment. She whispered in Persephone’s ear before gently pushing her towards the dryads, giving them a stern look as if daring them to hurt or lose sight of her precious daughter. The dryads merely grinned and took off with Persephone, who squealed at the prospect of playing another game. 

“Iris,” Demeter said, approaching her, “what brings you here?” 

She was beautiful, with long, wheat-blonde hair and warm brown eyes. She wore green robes and a crown of woven corn leaves and poppies around her head. Though Demeter was kind, she was an Olympian, a being superior to Iris who was only a minor goddess. 

Iris bowed. “Lady Demeter, I bring a message from Lord Zeus.” 

Demeter sighed. “What does he want now?” 

“He requests you bring Persephone up to Olympus.” 

Demeter’s eyes hardened. “Does he take me for a fool? I have been very specific with my demands. I won’t bring her there.” 

Iris nodded, though her stomach churned at the possibility of Zeus’ anger. She had spent too many times calming his raging storms, but was still quite proud that she was the only one who could. “I will notify Lord Zeus of your answer, my lady.” 

“Thank you, Iris.” Demeter’s face softened. “And how have you been doing? I see that they are working you to the bone again, like always.” 

Iris smiled. “It is nothing I cannot handle. Hermes has taken some of my workload and has been very efficient so far. I mostly deliver messages for Lord Zeus and Lady Hera now.” 

“Ah yes, Hermes is a clever boy.” Demeter pursed her lips. “If only Zeus had any of his work ethic, we would not have to deal with such trivial conflicts. How many children does he have now?” 

It was meant to be a sarcastic comment, but Iris laughed anyways. “I have already lost count, my lady. I’m sure it has risen significantly. The abundance of mortals is simply a feast for Lord Zeus.” Her caduceus hummed lowly and quivered in her hand. “I am sorry, my lady, but I must continue with my other duties.” 

“Of course. Travel safely, dear. And if Zeus gives you a hard time, come to me. I will deal with him personally.” 

“Thank you. I wish you and your daughter well. I am certain she will grow to be a beautiful woman, just like her mother.” 

Demeter smiled fondly. “Thank you.” 

Iris bowed in farewell before summoning a rainbow and quickly taking flight, her wings unfurling behind her and lifting her to the skies. The sound of Persephone’s and the dryads’ laughter grew gradually softer behind her until there was nothing but her and the wind.


This call was certainly different. 

It was not from an Olympian, Lord Zeus, or Lady Hera, but a mortal—Iris’ favorite mortal to be exact. 

The rainbow goddess had grown upset over the years ever since mankind started worshipping the gods. Though she was acknowledged in a few tales, her godhood was demeaned into nothing but a messenger. Hermes was much more revered than she was (although she harbored no ill-will towards the younger god). 

She may not have outsmarted a deity when she was a child or tricked a powerful being to sleep, but she was relevant too, thank you very much. The rainbow was the bridge between Olympus and the mortal realm, a link between two worlds—and she was the one who controlled it. She just liked some credit where credit was due. Was that too much to ask for? 

That was why she grew fond of the Giglio Nero Famiglia, one of the very few who worshipped her. Since she had no sacred shrines herself, the small family went out of their way to create one for her and she had never been so delighted. Though she was not powerful like the Olympians, she was still a goddess. She had blessed the family with the power to control their life-force as a high-density energy form, taking on the seven forms of the rainbow. Nonetheless, she was very pleased with the result. Its name was also quite amusing—Dying Will Flames, was it?

When her feet touched the carpet of Sepira’s bedroom, Iris hid her presence and curiously watched the woman sitting by the empty fireplace. Sepira was a mysterious mortal, but not dangerous. Her prayers were always kind and well-meaning. She never asked for anything in return from the goddess and sacrificed frequently, which always delighted Iris. Sepira also had the ability to see the future, which was astonishing since she was neither associated with the Oracle of Delphi nor any of Apollo’s temples. 

Iris had always been intrigued by Sepira, but never revealed herself to ask her any questions. She would simply accept her prayers and move on. 

However, this time her prayer was urgent, almost a request. Iris had thought of revealing herself but went against it. It wouldn’t be right. She would have to wait. 

Iris froze when Sepira’s cloudy blue eyes looked directly at her. That was impossible. Could she see through the Mist? Very few mortals could, but it was a possibility. Iris hoped it was that instead of Sepira being an unknown enemy. She didn’t think she’d have the heart to smite her, but that would be better than Zeus hurling one of his thunderbolts at the woman. 

Sepira smiled gently. “Iris, thank you for receiving my call.” 

Iris shifted on her feet. Should she reveal herself or just leave? Yet, her curiosity got the best of her and she stepped forward, her form shimmering as she transformed into her mortal form. Her wings disappeared and her caduceus vanished, making her feel naked and vulnerable. 

“Sepira,” she said, nodding in greeting, “you have called for me.” 

“Yes. Please, sit.” 

Iris moved gracefully towards the chair across the other woman and sat down, perusing the room for anything amiss. Nothing so far. She couldn’t fathom what was going on or why the mortal called for her, but she was too curious to leave. 

“Would you like some tea?” Sepira poured a cup. “It’s quite delicious.” 

Iris didn’t touch it. “Thank you.” She tilted her head. “Why have you called for me?” 

The blind woman smiled, suddenly appearing older than she seemed. Iris tensed. Was Sepira an enemy? A threat to the gods? Iris cursed. Had she been tricked? Her hand twitched, tempted to call her caduceus back. If anything, she could destroy Sepira right now, although her heart felt heavy at the prospect.

“Relax, young one. I do not harbor any ill intentions nor do I wish to harm you.” 

Sepira’s form then flickered, briefly transforming into a blindfolded woman with lovely cheeks and blue robes, before reverting to her current disguise.

Iris gasped. She immediately fell to her knees and bowed. “Lady Themis, forgive me. I did not know it was you.” 

Themis patted Iris’ head. “Rise, child. There is no need for that.” 

Iris reluctantly looked up. “What are you doing here, Lady Themis? Have you been Sepira this whole time?”

“Yes, and I will explain. Now please, do sit up. I would like to face you while speaking.” Themis’ face—No, Sepira’s face was gentle as she helped Iris up. 

“You disappeared for some time, my lady,” Iris said quietly. “Lord Zeus was very upset. It took days to calm his storms.” 

Themis looked at her sympathetically. “Yes, I know. I apologize that you had to go through that, child. Zeus can be a handful and you controlled him admirably.”

Iris flushed, suddenly finding the carpet interesting. It was thick, red, and soft underneath her feet. “It is nothing, my lady. I am used to his temper now.” 

“You are so much more, child. It’s a pity you cannot see that.” 

Iris blinked. “You…believe so, my lady?” 

Themis nodded. “Yes, and that is why I called for you. I request your help.” 

Iris perked up. “My help? If you ask for it, I will most certainly help to the best of my capabilities.”

Themis smiled. “Thank you, child, but I do not wish to force you. It is your choice.” 

“And we both know what she will choose,” another voice said. 

Iris jumped when a door suddenly appeared beside her. A tall, two-faced man walked out while the door vanished in a swirl behind him. He glanced at Iris, who found it hard to look at both his faces at once, before bowing towards Themis. Iris couldn’t tell if he was smiling or sneering at her. 

Themis nodded towards the Roman god. “Impeccable timing as always, Janus.” 

“Anything for you, Lady Themis!” his right face said. “You call, I come.” 

“Thank you. Please, make yourself comfortable. Would you like some tea?”

“Yes, please!” and “No” were said at the same time. Themis took it all in stride, pouring another cup for him. 

“Now that we are all here, I will explain. Janus already knows the situation.” Themis looked towards Iris, who shivered from the intensity in her blue eyes. “After the Titan War and being spared by Zeus, I came here to check on the Tri-ni-set. You may not know of it, child, but it is what keeps the world, our universe, in balance. Janus and I had created it long before the world was created and have protected it all this time.” 

Iris widened her eyes. Tri-ni-set—Judging from what Themis told her, it was certainly powerful, maybe even more powerful than the gods. “I understand, my lady, but how can I possibly help? Not that I am doubting your power, but it seems like it is in good hands.” 

Themis sighed wearily. “Janus and I had others who helped us protect it, but they were killed during the war. The two of us cannot protect it on our own. We have already discussed this beforehand but we need your help in order to secure its power. If the Tri-ni-set falls into the wrong hands, it will bring utter destruction and leave this world in ruins. It will make any war seem like nothing but child’s play.”

Iris paled. A calamity worse than any war? She doubted she could stand the chaos if the world’s balance disrupted. Straightening herself, Iris nodded determinedly. “Of course, my lady. I will offer any assistance you need.” 

Themis smiled. “Thank you. You will forever be in my debt.” 

“Oh no, my lady. I couldn’t possibly. I am more than happy to assist you. There is no need to pay me back. How can I help? Do you need to hide it somewhere else more secure? There are some places I know that can be suitable.” 

Themis shook her head. “No, I cannot risk hiding them. Things hidden will eventually be found.”

“We have already chosen what we will do with them,” Janus said. “You’ll just help carry them out.” 

Iris pursed her lips. “And what exactly is the Tri-ni-set, my lord?” 

Themis waved her hand before a simple wooden box appeared on the table. She unclasped it, revealing seven different-colored stones. “This is the Tri-ni-set. Each attains its own power.” She held up a Carnelian, a lustrous orange mineral. A rush of warmth surged through Iris’ body—it felt undeniably like home. “This is the most important one. It binds the other stones together.” 

“Like the sky,” Iris said, admiring the stone’s brilliant orange sheen. The color reminded her of the fire of a sunset. 

Themis smiled. “Yes.” She gestured at the other stones. “And they are also like the sky’s elements, don’t you think?” 

“Rain, Cloud, Sun, Mist, Lightening, and Storm,” Iris muttered, ghosting her hand amongst the stone rings. “They are…like the rainbow.” 

Themis nodded. “Yes. That is why I called you here, child. You are the goddess of the rainbow; the sky, clouds, sea, and wind are all within your domain. I have not forgotten what you blessed the Giglio Nero Famiglia with—I am grateful for that—and I know that they will prove useful for the bearers of these rings.” 

Iris’ smile grew wider when the Titaness acknowledged her godhood before she tilted her head. “The bearers? Are you planning on giving them to some of the Olympians, my lady?” 

Janus’ left face sneered. “Humans—she wants to give them to mortals.” 

“They are quite the interesting specimen,” his right face said. “I’ve grown quite fond of the eastern world. Their deities are peculiar but fascinating.” 

“Stop blabbering.” 

“Janus,” Themis said, “we have already discussed this. We have also seen what will happen if we do not entrust these to their rightful owners.” 

Iris shivered. The Titaness’ visions were always true and all the gods took them seriously. She had built the Oracle of Delphi herself before Apollo became her guardian. Iris had a feeling that she would not like the plan as she was much fonder of the mortals than the Olympians were. 

Themis placed a comforting hand on Iris’ hand. “It is alright, child. All I ask is that you help us gather the seven bearers when the time comes for it. That is all. You do not need to get involved any further.” 

Iris chewed her lip despite herself. By accepting this task, she would seal seven mortals to a cursed fate. Even though she did not know who they were, she couldn’t help but pity them.

“Small sacrifices are necessary to prevent greater ones,” Janus said, eerily calm. 

Iris could not tell which face spoke and she didn’t want to know. 

“Janus,” Themis said, giving the god a small look. 

Iris played with a strand of her pale blonde hair, a nervous habit that Lady Hera gently scolded her for. If she did not do it, the balance of the world would be in danger and she absolutely did not want that. She didn’t even want to think about the repercussions if it did happen. 

“Why me, my lady?” she said quietly. “Certainly Lord Hermes or another Olympian would be more suited for this task.” 

“Because it cannot be carried out by anyone else but you,” the Titaness said. “You have extraordinary gifts, child, and a kind heart. I would think of no one else more fitting. Do not worry. I will give you a week’s time to think. You know where to find me.” 

Iris took a shaky breath. “I…will do it, my lady. I may not like it, but I do not want to see the world in danger.” 

Themis nearly beamed. “Thank you. When the time comes, I will call for you.” 

Iris nodded. “Of course.” 

“Swear on it,” Janus’s right face said. “This is something you cannot go back on.” 

Iris hesitated before summoning her pitcher filled with water from the River Styx. She raised her hand. “I solemnly swear on the River Styx that I will protect the Tri-ni-set to the best of my capabilities and do whatever I can to ensure its protection.” 

A low hum reverberated in the air, signaling the acknowledgment of her oath. Iris had never felt much colder than she did now.

Themis smiled. “You are doing the right thing, Iris. Do not fret.”

Iris took a deep breath as her pitcher vanished. “I know, my lady. Thank you for trusting me. I am deeply honored.” 

“Of course, child.” Themis patted Iris’ hand. “You may go now. I do not want to take too much of your time from your duties.”

“Thank you, my lady. I will wait for your call.” 

Summoning her caduceus, Iris shifted back into her godly form. Her golden wings expanded behind her as she summoned a faint rainbow by the windows. She bowed towards Themis and Janus. 

“It was a pleasure to meet you, Lord Janus.”

“It was a pleasure as well, Lady Iris” and “Just leave” were said at the same time. Iris didn’t know whether to be amused or annoyed. The Roman god was an enigma but she hoped they wouldn’t meet again. She wasn’t too fond of the Roman gods. 

“Iris,” Themis said, “please do not tell anyone else of our meeting. I do not wish to burden them or Zeus.” 

Ah, yes—Themis had been Zeus’ second wife and his counsel before she disappeared. Iris didn’t know how he would react to her place on earth. She nodded. “As you wish, my lady. Though I do hope you come back soon. Lord Zeus would be very happy.” 

“In due time, child. Travel safely.” 

“Thank you, my lady.” 

With that, Iris took off, the wind tousling her hair and the sun warm on her back. The rainbow’s beautiful colors shimmered around her, as if reminding her what a wonderful thing she possessed, as if to pacify her doubts. 

She couldn’t help but smile.

Chapter Text

“Fate leads him who follows it, and drags him who resist.” – Plutarch


Iris waited like Themis had told her, but grew anxious when there was still no word from the Titaness. 

Hundreds of years had already passed and they were now in the early 20th century. The world was constantly evolving as the mortals built impressive civilizations over the course of centuries. They were fascinating beings—some were almost reminiscent of ancient heroes—but their lives were fleeting and so very delicate. 

That did not stop the Olympians from mingling from time to time, however. Their demigod children were scattered across Western Civilization, most achieving greatness and immortalized by history, but sometimes for appalling reasons. The gods were also terrible parents, constantly squabbling over which children were the best, but never actually being there for them. 

The request came when Iris was delivering a widow spirit to the Underworld. After comforting the weeping woman and assuring here that she’d be in good hands, her caduceus hummed and Cosmo, one of her serpents, spoke softly in her mind, “It is a summon from Lady Themis, my lady.” 

Iris appeared in front of the Titaness immediately, bowing her head. “Lady Themis.” 

The Titaness smiled gently in greeting. “Iris, it’s wonderful to see you again.” 

Her eyes were covered by a blindfold, but her most striking features were her lovely cheeks. She had olive-toned skin and short dark hair that curled elegantly at the nape of her neck. Her long white dress was vintage and clung onto her wide hips. The Scales of Justice hung by her left side, unmoving, and her sword was embedded near her throne on her right. 

“Is it time, my lady?” Iris said quietly. 

Themis nodded. “Yes. And don’t worry, child. Fate will aid us.” 

Still, Iris tilted her head. “Of course, my lady, but—do excuse me for asking—I thought you would want to find them sooner. Why now?” 

“There is a reason for everything. You will know in due time, child.” Themis smiled wryly. “My daughters are very careful when it comes to the Tri-ni-set. I have never seen them so dedicated in the fate of others.” 

Iris smiled weakly. Themis’ daughters, the Fates, were frightening, possessing powers beyond the gods and Titans. Not even a god could defy fate after all. Despite being their father, Zeus was deathly afraid of them to the point he divorced his Titaness wife. Themis had taken it in stride though and harbored no ill-will to her ex-husband, which Iris admired. Anyone else and they would curse Zeus’ name for millennia. 

“I see. What shall I do, my lady?”

“First, travel to Sicily. There, you will find the Sun Guardian…”


 

“You are with me, you are under my protection. What do you need all these cops for?” 

Francesco Cuccia’s careless remark was all it took for Mussolini to declare war on one of the largest crime syndicates in the world—and the son of Mars did not hold back. 

Iris was not ignorant to the mortal realm like most Olympians were. She traveled frequently in-between the different worlds to better understand the mortals. Fleeting as their lives were, they were like the gods in ways she would never say out loud. They were trapped in a vicious cycle of war and strife, as everlasting peace was impossible with their flawed nature. 

If Pandora had never opened that pithos, if Zeus had never sworn vengeance against Prometheus’ betrayal, how different would this world be? Iris thought pityingly. 

The goddess quickly concealed her presence as she flew across Sicily. Too focused on pinpointing the Sun Guardian’s location, Iris didn’t bother appreciating the view. She soon came upon a large, spacious house in the wealthier parts of Palermo. It resembled some of Rome’s old architecture, all white marble and sturdy. 

Reborn must live quite lavishly, she mused, flying towards the windows. What a strange name, too. Perhaps it was an alias? 

Peering through the windows, Iris noted the extravagant furniture and fine paintings on the cream-colored walls until she found a man with his back facing her. He was tall, wore an all-black suit, and had a black fedora on his head. Even though Iris couldn’t see his face, her hand still hovered hesitantly in the air before she phased through the walls. 

Bending down, the man rummaged through something on the floor. A small gleam from his right hand caught her eye. Iris tensed—it was a gun. She already knew who the man was and what he did, but… 

Floating just a little closer, she looked over his broad shoulder. A pair of terrified, glazed eyes stared back at her. Gasping, Iris recoiled immediately. She watched with wide eyes as the hitman removed a small envelope from the dead man’s coat. There was only one wound—a bullet to the head. 

Iris couldn’t help but admire the hitman’s frightening efficiency. It was simple, clean, and, dare she would say, almost elegant. He even carried himself with a cat-like grace, reminiscent of a predator lying in wait. How he wasn’t a demigod, she didn’t know. Apollo would have loved him as a son.

Reborn soon stood up and approached a rotary phone on the large oak desk. He spun the dial a few times before placing the phone against his ear. When he spoke, his voice was a smooth baritone. “I have it. I will meet you at the same place.”

He hung up promptly, then calmly exited the office. Iris kept a considerable distance from behind; even though the man couldn’t see her, she was wary of him as if he could. Moreover, she had to think of the best way to approach him without setting him off. 

When they stepped out into the hallway, Iris wrinkled her nose from the intense smell of blood. Several suited men were sprawled across the floor, pale and unmoving. She gaped at Reborn’s back. How could one man plow through hundreds so easily? She pursed her lips. Now she could see why he was chosen as one of the bearers of the Tri-ni-set. She shuddered at the thought of him being an enemy to Olympus, even if was he was only a mortal now… 

Reborn maneuvered through the city streets with ease, drawing little attention to himself. His eyes darted occasionally around him, but he managed to maintain a cool composure. Now that Iris got a good look at his face, she had to admit that he was very handsome. He had tanned skin with spiky black hair and thin curly sideburns that were quite attractive. His dark hazel eyes, a surprisingly pleasant color, were sharp yet betrayed nothing. 

Reborn spared his time accordingly, heading straight to what Iris assumed was his home. It was a nice, quaint apartment, but her eyes widened when she saw a large crowd marshalled outside. Militiamen dragged screaming tenants from the building, shoving them to the ground with the butt of their guns and yelling Italian atrocities. Many residents wailed and clung onto the militiamen’s legs, but they were kicked away viciously. Several were shoved inside police cars and shouting in protest before they were whisked away to gods know where.

Iris glanced at Reborn when he cursed under his breath. He immediately turned away when a voice shouted, “Captain, there! That’s him!” 

Reborn immediately sprinted, disappearing quickly around the corner. It took Iris a few seconds to process what just happened before she easily caught up with him. She peered over her shoulder as sirens wailed behind them. Several police cars skidded onto the road on their trail. 

Pushing through startled crowds, Reborn snuck inside a nearby store. The clerk yelled at him as he made his way to the back and slipped through the rear exit. Iris breathed a sigh of relief. The sirens were becoming distant now. She stiffened when something dashed by at the corner of her eye. 

The man who shouted before whipped out his gun and pointed it at Reborn’s face. A smug smirk painted his scarred lips. 

“Athos,” Reborn said.

“Your time’s up, Reborn,” Athos said, cocking his gun. “You can turn yourself in, but I’m for the other option.” 

Reborn merely raised a brow. “Who else did you out?” 

Athos glared. “I’m the one with the fucking upper-hand here, bastard!” 

Reborn smirked. “Then why won’t you shoot?” 

Athos snarled. “What? I w—” 

Reborn swiftly moved away from the gun’s line of fire and twisted Athos’ arm toward himself. Iris flinched when a sharp bang rang in the air before Athos screamed. Out of panic, he had pulled the trigger and consequently shot himself in the face. Kneeing Athos’ stomach, Reborn let the howling man crumple to the ground. 

“You—You bas—” 

Reborn dug his heel on Athos’ face, grinding his wound. The man screamed and hopelessly flailed under the hitman’s dress shoe. Reborn looked down coolly. “I thought we went through this already, Athos.” He picked up Athos’ gun and leaned down. “No matter what you do, you will always be beneath me.” 

A loud crack then shattered the silence. Blood and brain matter splattered across the pavement. Iris turned away from the gruesome sight. The sound of police sirens suddenly drew closer in the distance. Iris chewed her lip. Even now wasn’t the best time to reveal herself. She soared in the air to get a better view of the town. The police cars drove in from the east and south. Reborn headed west. 

Iris flew across the town in one swoop, not straying too far from Reborn. She doubted Themis would appreciate her bringing back a dead hitman.

A rundown apartment soon caught her eye. She found an empty room and made her choice. Flying towards the police cars, Iris waved her hand and manipulated the light to affect their vision. 

The policemen shouted and pointed towards their left, immediately changing their route to follow the hitman’s phantom, driving further and further away from the real one. That should keep them going for a few hours, Iris thought, flying back to the rundown apartment. 

She smiled when Reborn had already entered the building without any subtle encouragement on her part. This must truly be fate running its course. Her form shimmering, Iris entered the bare room and filled it with typical Italian furniture. Nothing too fancy or too plain. 

She glanced in the mirror to make sure nothing in her appearance was out of place. She looked vaguely like Sepira: short dark teal hair, blue eyes, and a white one-piece dress. 

The door faintly creaked. She spun around, wide-eyed. Reborn looked just as surprised as she was, though his fedora quickly masked his face. 

He nodded politely. “Please excuse my intrusion, miss.”

Iris took a closer look at Reborn. He seemed a little pale under the light. Her eyes trailed down his pristine suit before a dark blotch caught her attention. She gasped, immediately reaching out to him. “You’re bleeding.”

How did she miss it? He seemed fine before. Had he been holding in the pain this whole time? 

A gun appeared in front of her face before Iris could take another step. She froze. In all her immortal life, she never had a weapon turned against her. She was never the subject of any god’s ire and rarely got involved in fights. She couldn’t help but feel very offended by Reborn’s action, even if it was somewhat justified (okay, no, it wasn’t). 

“I won’t repeat myself,” Reborn said lowly. 

Iris pursed her lips. She was a goddess—she handled Zeus’ horrible temper and his unrelenting storms—and here she was, questioning her mortality in the hands of a mere human. She may not be as adept in combat like Ares or Athena, but she could easily burn this man into ashes. What was there to be afraid of again? 

“Do you really want to draw attention to yourself again?” she said quietly. 

Reborn narrowed his eyes. Iris would have smiled if she weren’t such a kind person at heart. She then gripped his arm with just enough strength to surprise him and dragged him inside. 

“Sit. I will treat your wound.” 

“Who are you?” Reborn said instead. He didn’t put his gun away but didn’t point it at her either.

Iris sat down on the couch and patted the spot next to her. “My name is Luce.” She smiled pleasantly. “I live here.” 

Reborn didn’t move. He studied Iris with such intensity that it unnerved her. Still, she kept her back straight.

“I don’t want you to bleed on my carpet.”. 

“It’s nothing,” Reborn said. 

Iris restrained a sigh. “Is this how you treat someone who just saved your life?” 

Reborn glanced around the apartment. “I’ve never seen you before.” 

Iris smiled. “I know. We can do this all day if we have to.” 

They stared at each, neither of them backing down in the slightest. Iris just smiled, knowing that fate would curry in her favor. Of course, Reborn didn’t know that but it was nice to have the upper hand over someone like him. He finally relented by sitting beside her with some distance.

If Reborn was a demigod, Iris would have given him some ambrosia if it didn’t turn his blood to fire and bones to sand. She had thought against revealing herself to the hitman but she couldn’t deceive so easily like Hermes. Maybe little bits of information here and there just to keep Reborn curious enough to stay. He didn’t have to trust her right away—all she needed to do was getting him to Thessaly when the time called for it. 

If not… well, hopefully Themis had some replacements in mind. 

“I will place my hand over your wound,” Iris said, as if talking to a child. “Please don’t panic.” 

“You won’t touch me,” Reborn said. “Give me a kit and I’ll do it myself.”

“I won’t harm you.” 

“I don’t know who you are.” 

Iris pursed her lips. “My name is Luce and I’m the only who can help you. The militiamen won’t stop hunting you down, Reborn.” 

Reborn aimed his gun at her again. “Who are you?” 

Iris’ eyes hardened. “I am Luce and I’m here to help you. Have you heard of the Giglio Nero Famiglia?” 

Recognition briefly lit up in Reborn’s eyes. Iris resisted the urge to smile. A little white lie wouldn’t hurt, would it?

“I am a descendant of Sepira,” Iris said. “I am being sincere with you, Reborn. I do not wish to harm you. Have you heard of Dying Will Flames?” 

Reborn slightly nodded, though he looked slightly skeptical. 

Iris smiled. Of course, not many in the underworld knew about the flames. The Giglio Nero Famiglia only used them when absolutely necessary. The flames were also exclusive to the family, except for a handful. She mentally winced when she remembered the past atrocities of the Estraneo Famiglia. 

Guided by a few children of Athena, their scientists had somehow replicated the flames. The mortal subjects instantly disintegrated. Only the demigods could harness them since they had some godly blood. Before the scientists could continue any further, the Giglio Nero Famiglia quickly intervened and destroyed them, leaving nothing behind. To Iris’ relief, the survivors were taken in and cared for; however, she couldn’t help but feel terrible that her blessing unintentionally led them to such a cruel fate. 

“I never heard of you,” Reborn said.

“Ah, well, quirks of being an illegitimate child,” Iris said, smiling. This was quite fun. No wonder Hermes liked this so much. “I have a few contacts in the famiglia who keep me informed. You’re quite infamous, Reborn.” 

“You said that you saved my life.” 

“I managed to throw the militiamen off your track. It’ll be some time until they notice it was a fluke.” 

“How did you know I would be here?” 

Iris smiled. “I believe in fate, Reborn. If fate says that our paths will cross now or later, then so be it.” She gestured at Reborn’s wound. “Now, will you let me heal you?”

Reborn studied her for a moment or two more before nodding, though he still held his gun. Iris slowly edged closer to him as if he was terrified prey. Reborn lightly huffed, making Iris smile. She might have to ask Hermes for some more pointers later. 

“I’m going to use what are called Sun Flames,” she said, drawing the light’s power to her hands. “Its ability is Activation and will help improve the efficiency of your body’s typical healing rate. Don’t worry. It won’t be painful.” 

Reborn’s eyes slightly widened when a yellow glow enveloped Iris’ palms. His wound gradually closed, the muscles and torn tissues quickly reknitting themselves together. Iris smiled when the hitman faintly relaxed under her light’s warm touch. There was no scar or mark left behind. 

“There. That wasn’t so bad.” 

The hitman mulled over the strange phenomenon for a few seconds before saying, “I am not affiliated with any famiglia or even the Giglio Nero. Do you expect something out of this?” 

“Well, in a way,” Iris said. “I cannot fully say what it is but I can spare you some details.”

Reborn stayed quiet, silently urging her to continue. 

“There is so much more in this world than you could ever imagine. Of course, as there is the possible, there is also the impossible. Think of it as a balance scale. One cannot outweigh the other.” She shuddered when the Titan War came to mind. If Reborn noticed it, he didn’t comment. “The balance of this world is essential in keeping everything in order. I am finding those who can help me maintain it.” 

Reborn merely raised a brow. “How will you maintain this balance?” 

Iris smiled. “I’m afraid I won’t be able to tell you much more than that.” 

She left out the fact that once he arrived at Thessaly, his fate would be sealed. Her heart felt heavier at the thought, but she was doing this for the greater good, as Janus had so kindly pointed out several times. If anything, she believed in fate and trusted that it was moving on the best course.

“I don’t have to accept,” Reborn said. 

Iris nodded. “Of course. I’m sorry that I can’t say anymore and for appearing so suddenly, but it is a duty I must carry out. I’m sure you understand, Reborn.” 

The hitman frowned. “Why me?” 

Iris grinned. “You are the Strongest Hitman in the world, correct? I am only seeking the strongest to help me and you happened to be one of them.” She glanced out the window, then closed her eyes to bask under the sunlight. A sense of calm washed over her like gentle spring rain. “You could do incredible things, Reborn. I believe fate has many good things in store for you. But, it is your choice. I will not force it on you.” 

The clock chimed on the wall, signaling late afternoon. Iris’ mind tingled with a request from afar. 

Arco’s voice, her other serpent, whispered in her ears, “It’s Lady Hera. She requests your presence.” 

Iris nodded to herself. She stood up then, Reborn following suit. “I have a guest coming. I’m sure you wouldn’t want to be seen.” 

Reborn simply headed towards the door. He paused momentarily, tipping his fedora. “I won’t say yes.”

Iris smiled. “I understand.” She opened the door for him. “The offer still stands. Meet me in Thessaly if you ever change your mind. You’ll know when and where.  And don’t worry about the militiamen. They’ll be out there for a while. Take as much time as you need. Take care, Reborn.” 

With that cryptic note, she gently ushered the man out the door before closing it. She waited until Reborn left, his quiet footsteps eventually fading down the staircase. She let out a breath she didn’t know she was holding. Gods, she actually did it. Lying was nerve-wracking but she thought she did alright—all she really had to do was pique Reborn’s curiosity and let fate run its course. 

Her form flickered as her golden wings unfurled and her caduceus reappeared in her hand. Within seconds, Iris soared to Olympus to heed Hera’s call. The Queen of Olympus sat on her bed as beautiful as ever, with her long licorice-black hair tumbling over her shoulders and a loose-fitting gown that billowed across her silver sheets.

“Iris,” Hera said, raising a perfect brow, “you took some time. Is something the matter?” 

Iris smiled, feeling a bit lighter on her feet. “I apologize, my lady. There was some business to attend to.” 

The queen patted the spot next to her. “What kind of business?” 

Iris sat down and immediately started braiding Hera’s smooth hair. “You know, my lady, the usual.” 

Hera scoffed. “Has Zeus been overworking you again?” 

“Oh, no! Lord Zeus hasn’t done that. I was just helping Lord Hermes lighten his workload, that’s all. He seemed quite stressed lately and I offered some help.” 

Hera’s brown eyes softened. “Iris, you are too kind. Don’t ever forget you have a place here in Olympus. You are my most cherished friend.” 

Iris beamed. “Thank you, my lady. I am happy to be that person to you.”

“Of course. You’ve always been there for me.”

“You flatter me.” Iris finally finished the braid and clapped her hands. “Finished! You look beautiful as always, my lady!” 

Hera smiled proudly in her mirror, admiring the elegant work. “You did fine work as usual. What would I do without you?” 

Iris smiled teasingly. “Probably not much.” 

Hera rolled her eyes. “You must be hanging out with Hermes too much lately. That sass of yours has reached a new level.” 

“You wound me, my lady.” 

Though Iris was enjoying her time with Hera, she couldn’t help but anticipate meeting the next guardian. She would have to return to Italy, but instead of Sicily, it would be Rome. 

Smiling to herself, Iris thought of Reborn scavenging for information on “Luce” until realizing that there was nothing about her. 

Perhaps Hermes was rubbing off on her after all.

Chapter Text

“The best thing one can do when it’s raining is to let it rain.” – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow


After Hera let her return to her chambers, Iris immediately re-directed her route to Rome. 

It was already nightfall when she flew down from Olympus. White stars dotted the evening sky, and the moon was full, casting a soft glow on the world below. The night was just as beautiful as the day. No matter what state the sky was in, it was still mesmerizing. 

The Rain Guardian, like Reborn, lived in Italy, but in Rome. Iris frowned. The Black Shirts were more prominent in the area she was arriving at. It’d be best to avoid them. She altered her appearance to Luce again, then conjured a wool cloak for the cold. 

Again, she followed the directions Themis had given her. Colonello was the one she was supposed to find. Iris smiled. It meant “colonel” in Italian—cute. Following the street signs, she found the place she was looking for. Some civilians walked about, all bundled up for the chilly weather. It was already past midnight. 

Colonello was a walking paradox. In the day, he was a university student who participated in fascist youth groups; at night, he was a secret rebel against the growing Mussolini regime. Iris had seen her fair share of double-spies in history and couldn’t help but admire their passion and loyalty to their cause (even if some were questionable). 

With that little information, Iris hoped he wasn’t as difficult as Reborn. Colonello seemed like a noble man. Maybe he would be more accepting? Less trouble on Iris’ part, but she braced herself in case.

A small, vacant school building soon came into view. The streetlights were dim, and Iris was tempted to cast her own light. She restrained herself, carefully treading towards the building. Her eyes darted around the less crowded area. If anything, she could always erase the mortals’ memories. She pursed her lips. Still, that sounded unappealing. 

Signorina, are you lost?” 

Gasping, Iris whirled around with wide eyes. Her caduceus nearly materialized in her hand before she managed to stop herself. The young man behind her raised his hands with a nervous chuckle. “Sorry, sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you.” 

Iris tightened her cloak, stepping back. “Who are you?” 

Before the young man could speak, an angry female voice shouted, “Colonello, where the hell did you go?” 

The man tensed but quickly put on an easy smile as a small group of people walked towards them. He waved. “Hey, uh, Lal. Just being a good Samaritan. You know, the usual.” 

Blinking, Iris couldn’t help but stare at the odd group. The woman who spoke had shoulder-length blue hair, most likely dyed, and reminded Iris of Athena with her steadfast gaze that could frighten men and monsters alike. There were three other people with her—two men and another woman. One of the men looked quite young, with dirty blond hair and blue eyes. The other man was tall, looking older than he seemed with narrowed eyes and brown hair. The second woman had light brown hair partially worn in a bun and pretty purple eyes behind her glasses. Iris glanced at Colonello to get a better look at the young man. He had spiky blond hair and light blue eyes with a strong jawline.  

Why are all the guardians attractive? Iris thought dryly. 

No wonder the Fates were obsessed with them. If anything, physical beauty could make any god throw their rationale in the wind. No, she wasn’t only talking about Zeus. Maybe… 

“Was he harassing you?” the blue-haired woman said, glancing between the two of them. 

“Lal—” 

“No,” Iris said, smiling reassuringly. “He just startled me, that’s all.” 

“You shouldn’t be walking around alone at night, signorina,” the narrow-eyed man said. “It’s dangerous.” 

“I was supposed to meet a friend,” Iris said. “But I’m new to the area and I seem to be lost.” 

“Do you know where you were supposed to meet?” the purple-eyed woman said. “Maybe we can help you. Turmeric is right. It’s dangerous to walk alone at this time.” She lowered her voice, even though they were the only ones around. “The Black Shirts are everywhere.” 

“My friend wanted to meet me in a bar,” Iris said, her smile tight. “I can’t recall its name though.” She put on a sheepish smile. Hermes was a good teacher when you asked politely. “It was senseless of me to wander around. Thank you for your concern. I’m Luce.” 

“I’m Colonello!” the blond man said. He ignored the blue-haired woman’s glare and continued introducing them all anyways. “She’s Lal Mirch! That’s Basil, Turmeric, and Oregano. We were heading to a bar, too. Maybe your friend will be there. There’s not a lot around here so maybe you can find her easier that way.” 

“It’s a he,” Iris said, stifling a giggle. 

Colonello flushed. “Oh, uh, sorry. I didn’t know.” 

Lal Mirch just sighed before walking away. Iris didn’t miss the wariness in her eyes. “Fine. Let’s go.” 

“Thank you,” Iris said, quickly falling into step. 

Colonello nodded. “No problem!” He lowered his voice. “Don’t mind Lal. She’s actually really nice. It’s just been pretty dangerous nowadays so it can’t help to be more careful, you know?”

Iris smiled. “Of course. I don’t blame her for being cautious. I would be, too. You don’t seem to be dangerous people.” She tilted her head. “Though I think it’s quite sudden for you to trust me. I could be an enemy.” 

“Are you?” 

“No.” 

Colonello grinned. “That’s fine by me then!” 

Iris couldn’t help but smile. He was certainly friendlier than Reborn. Now, to think of a way to explain why she was here in the first place. 

She didn’t notice that she and Colonello were several steps behind his group until they reached the second bar.


Piccoli Piaceri was a large bar filled with several patrons. 

Several men played cards in the booths over some beer; the more sophisticated clients drank wine farther away. Some wore black uniforms. Cigarette smoke curled in the air, creating a light fog, and the scent of coffee and wine mingled joined it, but Iris didn’t mind. This gathering was nothing compared to Dionysus’ wild parties. 

She pretended to look around for her “friend” while Colonello guided her to a table further back. 

“Do you see him?” he said. 

Iris shook her head. “No.” 

Colonello frowned. “Huh, what an asshole. We pretty much passed every bar in the area.” 

Iris shrugged. “Well, he’s very skilled with women. I’m not surprised if he left with one.” 

Colonello raised a brow. “But he called you out here to meet.” 

“It’s the thought that counts, I suppose.” Iris smiled at the strange look Colonello gave her. “Don’t worry. He’s actually a kind man, just eccentric.” 

And nonexistent, she mentally added. 

Colonello snorted, gesturing at his friends a few tables over. “You should see how they are. Basil talks in this weird Shakespearean way, even though we’re all living in the 20th-century. It takes me forever to get what he’s saying. You should also see Oregano’s doll collection. It’s pretty cool, but I’ve seen her talk to them way too much.”

Iris laughed. Despite Colonello’s disbelief, he was tactful enough to make the conversation more comfortable. What a clever tongue, she thought. Again, she wondered how these guardians were not demigods. Perhaps mortals were capable of more without any godly blood and intervention. 

“They seem like wonderful people,” Iris said, sipping some water. She wasn’t a drinker, but she’d take Dionysus’ wine over anything. She frowned. “There’s no need to keep me company. You can go back to them.” 

Colonello winked. “And it’d be rude of me to just leave you here all alone. Besides, this is normal for us.” 

Iris cocked her head. “This…?” 

Taking a quick swig of his beer, Colonello marginally relaxed. “I’m not supposed to be around them to be honest.” 

“Is that why we kept a distance walking here?” 

Colonello’s lips quirked up into a smile. “Yeah.”

Iris nodded. Since Colonello was also a secret rebel, that must mean his friends were too. Possibly a group. But that didn’t explain why they’d keep their distance. Maybe social status? Colonello did seem more refined than his friends, who wore cheap and convenient clothing. He wore a pair of sleek black trousers and a silk, white button-up blouse; his coat, which was slung over his chair, was thick and made from fine material.

“My father,” Colonello said, “was a military officer. Fought the Germans in the Great War. He’s using his skills pretty well as a Black Shirt now.” 

Iris’ hands gripped her cup tightly. “I see.” 

Colonello smiled with a touch of bitterness. “You don’t like them.” 

How could she? The Black Shirts were armed squads of Italian Fascists, later becoming a national militia. They had targeted socialists before expanding to Catholics, republicans, trade unionists, and other radical and progressive groups. Though they claimed to be champions of law and order, their methods were more than questionable. 

“They are not the best people,” she finally said. 

Colonello snorted. “That’s an understatement.” 

“I take it you’re not fond of their ideals.” 

“Never. Doesn’t stand for anything I believe in.” Colonello sipped his beer and stared at his now empty cup. “It’s not right.”

Iris didn’t push further. While Colonello was gracious, there was more to him than she realized. He perused the room subtly, disguising it with such nonchalance that she wouldn’t have noticed it if she hadn’t seen the same behavior in Hermes. Iris had to remember that he was a son of a soldier. 

There was a reason these people were chosen to be the bearers of the Tri-Ni-Set, and Iris was in no position to question the Fates’ decision. 

“So, how do you like Rome?” Colonello said, snapping her out of her reverie. “You don’t look Italian, no offense.” 

Iris smiled. “I’m from Greece.”

“Huh, your Italian’s good. What are you doing all the way out here? To see your friend?” 

“I hoped to see some, but there are more pressing matters.” 

Colonello blinked, his eyes curious. “Are you here on some kind of business?” 

“Something like that. Actually…” 

Her words trailed off when a tall, portly man walked over to their table, his face flushed from the alcohol. He wore a black uniform. 

Signore Bruno,” Colonello said, moving to stand. 

Laughing, the older man motioned him to stay seated. “Sit down, Colonello! There’s no need. I just saw you while I was passing by and figured I’d say hello.” His gaze immediately shifted to Iris, who tried hard not to fidget. “And who’s this?” He grinned. “Another one you picked up? Pleased to make your acquaintance, signorina.” 

Iris opted a sweet smile rather than taking the man’s outstretched hand. “Likewise, signore.” 

Signore Bruno didn’t seem too bothered by it; instead, he laughed again, his loud voice booming in the bar. “How rude of me! I’m Macario Bruno.” 

“Luce.” 

“Ah, a beautiful name for a beautiful young lady.” 

I have several millennia on you, mortal, Iris thought dryly.

“What are you doing here, signore?” Colonello said, putting on an easygoing smile. “Is my dad here, too?” 

Macario laughed. “Goodness, no! Angelo never comes out to these things; faithful son of a bitch doesn’t know when to have fun.” He patted Colonello’s back heartily. “Not like you at all, Colonello. Father and son are miles apart.” He leaned in as if sharing a secret. “We managed to get some commies today. Tore those bastards apart.”

He glanced at Iris, who smiled. “I’m glad to hear that, signor. I think you’re doing Italy a great service.” 

Macario laughed. “I like her, Colonello! You’re getting better at picking the right ones.” Scowling, he peeked at Lal Mirch behind them. “Better than that bitch. I don’t know what you saw in her, boy. What she doin’ here anyway? Is she givin’ you trouble again? I swear, sometimes you just can’t get rid of these kinds of sluts.” 

Colonello grinned, though there was a dangerous gleam in his eyes that went unnoticed by Macario. “Nah, you know how she is. Better to leave her be than give her any attention. You know how they get. Besides”—he glanced at Iris with an apologetic look—“I got myself occupied right now.” 

Macario grinned back. “Smart, smart. You should give your father some tips.” 

“He loves Mom too much. Nothing I can do there.” 

Macario took a swig of his beer. “Yeah, but doesn’t hurt to have him come out and drink some time. He’s too uptight, you know? The only time he ever lets loose is on the field.” 

“Any plans for later tonight?” Colonello said. 

“Yeah, we’ve been planning this for a while. Actually, we were just about to leave.” 

Colonello raised a brow. “Really? This is pretty early.” 

Macario grinned almost maniacally. “Never too early to take out the commies.” He slipped some bills on their table. “Next drink’s on me. I’ll see you later, Colonello. Keep this one. She’s good.” 

They exchanged farewells before Macario left. Colonello looked at Iris with a tight smile. “Sorry about that. He’s an ass.” 

Iris shook her head. “It’s alright.” She noticed that the table Lal Mirch and her friends occupied was now empty. “Your friends left.” 

Colonello nodded. “Yeah. Wanna go for a walk? I’ll take you home if you need to.” 

Iris smiled. “A walk is fine.” 

Slipping on their coats, they left the bar. Iris sighed, watching her breath dissolve in the cold air. Stars glimmered in the dark evening sky and not a cloud passed by.

“They went to help the other towns evacuate,” Colonello said, his voice quiet. “My father’s going on another raid.” Iris widened her eyes but stayed quiet. “We don’t really do much. We’re small, but Lal’s been negotiating with other groups to get together soon. There’s more of them than us. No point in going in like a bunch of idiots when our asses are on the line.” 

“You won’t go with them?” 

Colonello chuckled bitterly. “Not that I don’t want to—I can’t. We don’t do evacuations because our groundwork’s limited, but since the towns are nearby and other groups are going, we thought why not. If I go, my father would probably do worse than kill me. Can’t die when I’m the group’s intel.” He shrugged. “That’s what Lal says, but still…it’s frustrating. I’m more of a hands-on guy, you know?” 

Iris smiled. “You’re very fond of her.” 

Colonello’s eyes softened. “Yeah, she’s the greatest. I don’t think I would’ve gotten involved without her. Being a bystander’s not my thing.” 

“You’re a brave man, Colonello. I don’t think many would do what you do.” 

“If no one else won’t do anything about it, I might as well.” 

“Thank you for telling me this.” 

Colonello grinned. “Don’t go stabbing me in the back now. My life’s in your hands.” 

And your fate, Iris thought sadly. 

“I won’t betray you,” she said. “Your secrets are safe with me.” Pausing, she turn to look him in the eye. “That’s why I’m here, in Rome. I had to find you.” 

Colonello blinked. “Me?” 

“There are some things in this world many can’t explain, Colonello.” Iris smiled slightly. “Even I’m part of the equation. Think of it as a balance scale. If one tips over the other, chaos will rule. I’m trying to find those that will help me keep that balance. After speaking with you, I believe you’re worthy enough to help me.” Colonello stared at her for a good few minutes. He looked lost but curious, and Iris silently hoped for the best. “I can’t say more than this, I’m afraid.” 

“I wouldn’t mind saying yes,” Colonello said suddenly. 

Iris couldn’t help but laugh. “You trust me too much. It might hurt you.” 

He shrugged. “I’m not paranoid like Lal. I think I can read people pretty well, and you seem like a good person, even if what you’re saying is definitely weird.” He frowned. “But why me? Lal’s much better. She has more balls than I do. If anything, you can talk to her. I can make that happen.”

“There’s always a reason, Colonello. You may see Lal Mirch above yourself, but you’re not looking at your own worth. Both of you are risking your lives to fight for what you believe in. That is already great in itself.” 

Colonello flushed, averting his gaze. “Thanks, I guess.” 

“You don’t have to say anything now,” Iris said gently. “Take as much time as you need. If you’re still interested, meet me in Thessaly. You’ll know when and where.” 

Arco suddenly whispered in her mind, “Lord Zeus requests your presence immediately.” 

Iris tensed, which didn’t go unnoticed by Colonello. He furrowed his brows. “Everything alright?” 

Iris nodded. “I must go. There are other duties I must finish.” 

Colonello looked unconvinced, but didn’t press the issue. He shoved his hands into his pockets. “So, this is goodbye?” 

“I do believe we’ll see each other again.” 

Colonello laughed. “You know, this is probably the strangest meeting of my life.” 

Iris smiled. “And possibly not the last. Take care, Colonello. Be safe.” 

“Thanks. I guess, I’ll see you around, Luce.” 

Iris nodded. “Until next time, Colonello.” 

She turned around to walk the way they came. That had gone much better than she expected—well, better than with Reborn. She couldn’t really blame the hitman though, and hoped he was safe too. Her lips curled into a small smile. He was the strongest hitman in the world—there was nothing to worry about. 

After hiding behind a tall building, her form shimmered. Iris sighed in relief when her golden wings unfurled from her back. Her caduceus reappeared in her hand before she quickly took flight. Down below, she saw Colonello sprinting down the streets. An unsettling feeling churned in her stomach, but she had other things to focus on. 

She braced herself as she returned to Olympus.


“My lord,” Iris said, bowing her head, “you called for me?” 

A tall and imposing figure, Zeus was very muscular with shoulder-length black hair and a beard. He was also handsome with electric blue eyes that seemed to bore into Iris’ very being. His black suit was impeccable like always.

When he spoke, his deep voice rumbled like the thunder he yielded. “Iris, what are you up to?” 

“I don’t know what you mean, my lord.” It was easy for Iris to keep her voice calm when she handled Zeus, but like the other gods, was still terrified of his infamous temper. She had to tread lightly. 

“You were in Italy today—twice. Who were those mortals?” 

“I was only carrying out some duties.” 

“For who?” 

“I am not obliged to answer, my lord.” 

Before Zeus could force the answers out of her, the doors to his chambers burst open. Hera stormed into the room, her gown fluttering behind her furious trail. 

“Hera,” Zeus said, pinching the bridge of his nose, “what is it now?” 

Hera scowled. “Who is it?” 

“Who is what?” 

“Don’t be a fool, Zeus. Where are you hiding her? Who is the wench this time?” 

Paling, Zeus looked anywhere but his enraged wife and cleared his throat. “Ah, Iris, where were we again?” 

“Don’t take me for an idiot, Zeus,” Hera said. “Iris, leave us be.” 

Iris watched them with wide eyes before bowing and leaving quickly. She pretended not to notice Zeus’ pleading look. Like Zeus, Hera had a terrible temper but it was far worse. Closing the doors behind her, Iris breathed a sigh of relief. If anything, the couple’s voices rose even higher. 

“Hey there, Iris!” a cheery voice said. 

Smiling, Iris looked up then. “Lord Apollo, what brings you here?” 

The handsome sun god grinned, his golden eyes twinkling. “Just passing by. Care for a walk?” 

“It seems like I’ve just been walking all day,” Iris muttered to herself. 

Before realizing she said it out loud, Apollo smiled and gestured at the other hall. “Yeah. Come on. Leave them to it. They’re going to go on for weeks.”

Iris quickly trailed behind him. “You told Lady Hera about Lord Zeus’ lover.”

Apollo looked at her innocently. “Say what now? Lovers? What lovers?” 

Iris laughed behind her hand. “Thank you.” 

Apollo wriggled his brows. “Can’t let him snoop around you. It’ll make your work more difficult.” 

Ah, how could she forget? Apollo, like Themis, could see into the future. Iris wondered how much he knew, but he was unable to tell anyone about his visions and probably did not know what they fully meant. 

“I hope I’m doing the right thing,” Iris said quietly, looking down at her hands. 

“You’re doing good so far. Let fate run its course—or let the Fates do their thing, whichever works for you.” 

Iris chuckled, peering at the god from under her lashes. “Thank you. I’d try to be more discrete, but it’s impossible with Lord Zeus’ sight.” 

“Fear no more, Iris,” Apollo said, raising his hand in the air. Iris restrained a sigh. “For I shall be your great shield. Continue what you must.” 

“I believe that was six syllables at the end, not five.” 

“Huh, really?” 

Muttering under his breath, Apollo counted the syllables on his fingers then cursed. “It is. Hmm, well, you get the point. Man, these constraints are annoying.” He grinned. “But that’s what makes it beautiful, eh?” 

Somehow Apollo became obsessed with haikus ever since he explored Japan more thoroughly on one of his morning runs. He was one of the few Olympians to interact with the more eastern deities. His fleeting obsessions endlessly annoyed the other gods to no end. First, couplets, then limericks, now haikus. Even though it exasperated Iris as well—he was also terrible at it—it was somewhat endearing. 

“Won’t Lord Zeus suspect you? There’s no need for you to go this far, Lord Apollo, but I do appreciate it.” 

Apollo waved her off. “I got it. Don’t worry. I am his strongest, handsomest, and most talented child after all. I can manage. Just continue to do your thing.” 

“A spirit awaits, my lady,” Cosmo suddenly hissed from her caduceus. 

Iris’ smile slipped from her face. “Alright.” 

“I’ll leave you to it then,” Apollo said, nodding. “I’ll catch you later, Iris. Be careful. It’s getting dangerous out there.”

“I will. Thank you.” 

Apollo gave her a cheeky two-finger salute before disappearing in a flash of bright light. Laughing, Iris spread her wings and flew down to the waiting spirit. Usually Hermes guided them to the Underworld, but she took on the female spirits that were buried with irises, her flowers. She braced herself as she revealed herself to the spirit. 

“Don’t fret, please,” Iris said gently, placing her hand on the other’s naked shoulder. “I’m here to help you.” 

She winced when she took a closer look at the woman’s nude body. Terrible bruises and cuts littered her dirty skin, and blood streamed down her pale legs. Iris pursed her lips. Spirits’ appearance reflected their earthly bodies after death. They’d only return to their original physicality once they managed to get through the Underworld’s trials. 

Iris flinched when she noticed the spirit’s blue hair. Oh gods, no… 

The spirit turned around then. Her face was beaten and burnt; a prominent scar ran across her right cheek. Recoiling, she curled herself in even more, trying her best to cover herself. 

Iris gasped. “Lal Mirch…?” 

The woman widened her eyes. “W—Who are you? How do you know my name?” 

Not knowing what to say, Iris glanced at Lal Mirch’s grave. There was no tombstone but some irises were laid on top of it. It overlooked a scorched town from a small hill. Iris’ heart sank. 

“I need to find Colonello,” Lal Mirch said, her eyes wide. “They didn’t go to the other towns. It was a trap. They captured all of us. I need to find him.” 

A cloak materialized in Iris’ hands and she passed it onto the panicking woman. “Here. Wear this. I will bring you to him.” 

Lal Mirch eyed the cloak warily. “Who are you?” 

“I am Iris…but you know me as Luce.”

Chapter Text

“Nothing makes us more vulnerable than loneliness, except greed.” – Thomas Harris


Iris laid in bed for the rest of the day. Any requests that filtered through her caduceus were redirected to Hermes. 

Lal Mirch. 

Her breath hitched, and she burrowed deeper under her thick blankets. The poor woman. Themis had prevented Iris from bringing her to Colonello. She had said something about not messing with the delicate balance of life and death, that it would lead Colonello down a much darker path. Iris stopped listening to her then and just guided Lal Mirch to the Underworld, gave her condolences, and left her to be judged, not looking back once. 

Iris couldn’t explain the whirlwind of emotions that plagued her mind. They made her feel weak, vulnerable, human. She was a goddess, a higher divinity, someone who could tame Zeus’ monstrous storms with a wave of her hand. Now here she was, hiding from the rest of the world in her dark chambers. 

Iris could only imagine what Colonello was going through. She didn’t go back to Italy. No, she wouldn’t. She wouldn’t be able to face the young man who was most likely drowning in grief or seeking vengeance. She didn’t know why the thought disheartened her. Perhaps she thought that Colonello might be different, with his soft heart and kind eyes; but again, she didn’t know why she thought that way. 

All mortals were the same—it was in their nature to take and take until nothing was left of their enemies.

She had only met him once and thought she knew him like the back of her hand. She supposed that that was her fatal flaw. A knock at her door made her curl in on herself even more.

“Iris, dear, I know you’re in there.” Hestia’s warm voice spoke through the doors. “Will you please let me in?”

Gods, did it have to be Hestia? Iris sighed deeply before reluctantly letting her doors open for the goddess to enter. The delicious scent of wood smoke, and oddly enough, roasted marshmallows pervaded her nose, making her relax. Hestia was too powerful for her own good, despite what she said about herself. No one could soothe the gods like she did. The bed sank a little underneath Hestia’s weight, and Iris hummed in delight when her warm hand carded through her hair.

“Oh, Iris,” Hestia said softly. “Is there anything I can do for you?”

Iris stayed silent, seething about Hestia of all people coming to console her. Soon, she sighed. No one could ever get angry at the sweet goddess; it was almost taboo. Hestia was just too nice. Anyone who dared cross her would first face the wrath of Olympus itself.

Rolling over, Iris shyly reached out to hold Hestia’s calloused hand rather than look up at her. “Has Lady Hera put you up to this?” she asked quietly.

Hestia chuckled. “I came here of my own accord, dear. Although, Hera is worried about you. Are you alright?”

“Just…” Iris’ grip tightened around Hestia’s hand. “I’m…lost.” She laughed bitterly. “It must be ridiculous coming from me of all people.”

“No, it isn’t. Sometimes, our minds are our worst enemies. Tell me, Iris. I am here to listen.”

“There’s not much I can say, and those are the things that are plaguing my mind.”

Hestia stayed quiet, letting Iris continue with sorting through her raging thoughts. The goddess’ comfortable aura eased her nerves as she tried to phrase what was on her mind.

“I suppose that I think too much of myself, or rather I think I am better than I am. Mortals are frustrating. I thought I knew everything about them, but maybe I’m wrong. I can’t stop thinking that I’m wrong. Perhaps it was inappropriate of me to assume that I knew them as well as I did. I don’t know why this frustrates me.” Iris huffed, looking up at Hestia’s warm brown eyes. They held so much compassion and wisdom that they made Iris’ heart ache. “I’m confusing you, aren’t I, Lady Hestia?” She chuckled bitterly. “I’m even confusing myself the more I think about it. Nothing makes sense to me anymore.”

Iris widened her eyes. “Lady Themis has spoken to you?”

Hestia laughed. “Yes, though I don’t know everything about what you two are doing. I do know that it is essential for the world, yes? She is very worried about you, dear, and knows you are struggling. So, please consider her position as well. She is also a victim to whatever the Fates have in mind.”

Iris pursed her lips. Of course. She wasn’t the only one who was having difficulties. How selfish was it to think only about her own sufferings? Themis and even Janus were all struggling to carry out what the Fates have asked.

As if reading her thoughts, Hestia quickly said, “Oh, Iris, I’m not downplaying your own struggles nor am I telling you to ignore it in the favor of others. I am only asking you to consider Aunt Themis’ position, not push away your pain. You are not alone in this, dear. We are here to help you; however, I believe if you talk to Themis, it’d be easier considering that you are both aware of what is going on.”

No, she wanted to see the sun shine radiantly and illuminate the sky; the rain to gently kiss the earth and wash away its grief; the mist to veil the lands and appease their anguish with its fleeting touch; the lightning to flash brilliantly in the heavens and strike all that stands in its way; the cloud to scatter light on its wayward path and paint the sky in wonderful colors; the storm to blow everything away and bring people to see the light; and oh, the sky—the beautiful, infinite sky with its all-encompassing warmth and embrace. How could Iris ever forsake them? The elements were deeply ingrained in her very being. Like a mother, Iris loved them like her own children and could never stand the thought of losing them.

So, with a firmer resolve, Iris sat up and ran a hand through her short blue hair. Her lips quirked up in a small smile. She was growing fonder of this form, she realized. “Thank you, Lady Hestia,” she said. “For everything.”

Hestia smiled kindly. “Of course, dear. You always do look better with a smile.”

Iris blushed as Hestia laughed. She rose out of bed and quickly conjured her typical travel garb: a flowing white dress that shimmered with different colors under the light. With her caduceus in hand, Iris turned to Hestia and bowed. “I apologize, Lady Hestia, but I must take my leave now.”

Hestia nodded. “Of course, dear. I will tell the others not to worry and try to throw Zeus off your trail. He has been rather nosey lately.”

“Thank you.” 

“I wish you luck, Iris.” 

Iris nodded then disappeared in a flash of bright light; her white wings unfurled in the night sky and she mused on how beautiful the moon was.


Paris—the city of lights.

Iris had always marveled at what mortals could do with so little. Their cities and structures were certainly impressive, especially the Eiffel Tower. When her feet landed on the ground, she grimaced at the dirty sewage water that trickled through the cobblestone streets. She quickly assumed her disguise, a stiff brown dress under a long black cloak, and delved deeper in the alleyways.

Paris seemed to become even more alive at night. Civilians, beggars, prostitutes, and policemen filled the streets and every corner. The stench of cigarettes and sewage filled the air, overwhelming Iris’ nose. She tried hard not to stare at the hunched figures sitting near the back entrance of restaurants, hoping to get some leftovers that the chefs would throw away.

Her boots echoed in the dark alleys while faint whistles and catcalls rebounded against the close buildings. She just tugged her hood closer to her face. The streetlights did little to light the way, and her fingers twitched with the urge to strengthen them, but she kept her hands loose and rested them on her coarse dress.

Her mind wandered to the Mist guardian, Viper, who was better known as Avidita, Greed. He was fairly new—it had been only a few years since he took over and Iris wondered if a Sin could even be replaced—and had been a mortal before he was turned. His family was wealthy before they lost all their fortune in the Great Depression that currently plagued the world. Viper had always been a quiet child, but dabbled in cults and magic, making him one of the only guardians who had a connection to the mystical forces, which could make things easier for Iris if he had stayed mortal.

The Seven Deadly Sins had manifested into physical incarnations after escaping from Pandora’s pithos. They were vicious beings who manipulated mortals and even the gods for their own gain, instigating a majority of their conflicts in the past; however, they seemed to become less active in recent centuries. Nonetheless, no one wanted anything to do with them. They were dangerous and meant to be avoided.

So, the fact that one of the Strongest Seven was one of the sins was unnerving. Well, at least it wasn’t all of them, but that did nothing to make Iris feel better. She would have to approach him as cautiously as—

“Ushishishi.”

Iris jumped and was embarrassed when a cry slipped from her lips. She watched with wide eyes as a tall, lean figure walked out of the shadows. She stared at his large, eerie grin, and it took every ounce of willpower not to recoil at the sight.

“The prince has found an interesting prey tonight,” the man said.

Iris wished she didn’t know who he was, but the gods were too paranoid not to know. The twisted power that oozed from his lithe body was tantalizing, but did not reach out to her. She wasn’t sure if that was a good sign or not. “Accidia,” she said.

“The prince prefers Bel.”

Iris blinked, not sure how to go about this conversation. She had never been comfortable in the Sins’ presence or shared a word with any of them; however, she did recognize the essence of their power. They were easily distinguishable from one another. Bel’s was a slow, lethargic pulse, true to his nature as Sloth, which most considered as the deadliest sin. And he was here, right in front of her.

“Well, Bel then,” Iris said. “I did not come here for any trouble.”

Bel merely waved his bandaged hand towards another street. “The prince was sent to escort you, not fight you.”

Iris only guessed that it had something to do with Viper—she hoped it was. “Has Viper sent you?”

However, the man was already walking away and Iris had no choice but to follow.


They ended up in a more crowded place. A few people were lined up outside a small shop that had a sign reading, “The Truth for a Price”; astonishingly, they seemed like wealthy clientele with their furred coats and fashionable hats. Iris mumbled apologies as she walked past them, bumping a few shoulders here and there. The ominous aura might not be noticeable to the mortals, but it was like another stench in the air for the goddess.

“The snake won’t be taking in more peasants,” Bel said, spreading his arms in what was supposed to be an apologetic gesture.

“What? I waited three hours for him!”

“You wasted our time, you dirty bastard!”

“I have no time to come tomorrow!” 

“When will he re-open?”

The crowd immediately became quiet when Bel brandished a knife from his furred coat. Iris widened her eyes in horror as he twirled it idly in his hand. “The prince does not like repeating himself,” he said.

Slowly, the crowd dissipated. Their angry mumblings and whispers eventually faded when it was only Iris and Bel left.

“You weren’t actually thinking of killing them, were you?” Iris said slowly.

Bel just gave her the same insufferable grin and opened the door, letting himself in first. Iris followed him with careful steps; the small stairs were narrow and steep. When the door closed behind her, she took the time to look around the small shop. The scent of sage, thyme, and rosemary was surprisingly light on her nose. There was a long, worn curtain drawn to conceal a smaller corner; shelves on the wall were filled with jars of herbs and other questionable content. Iris looked away to quell her nerves.

“The prince brought her,” Bel said, drawing back the curtain.

He stuck out a hand, which was immediately filled with a thick pile of francs. Iris watched carefully while the quiet transaction took place. Bel walked past her and left, flipping through the money with his unique laugh. Watching the man leave, Iris blinked. This was all very strange, she thought.

“Are you just going to stand there?” a blank, androgynous voice said. “Stop wasting my time. I lost a lot of money because of you.”

Iris jumped. “Oh, apologies.”

She hesitantly pulled back the curtain and sat down on an empty chair she assumed was for her. When she finally got a good look at Viper, she was a bit disappointed that his face was covered by a hood. He had chin-length purple hair and fairly pale skin. Two purple upside-down triangles marked his cheeks, which were quite peculiar.

“What are you doing here, Iris?” Viper said.

Iris slightly winced. “I prefer Luce under these circumstances.”

“No one can see through my barriers. There is no need for formalities.”

“Ah…I see.” 

“Answer my question.”

“I don’t remember seeing you the last time I met…your lot.”

“If you are here for information, you will have to pay for it.”

Iris frowned. She supposed that she should’ve predicted it. Well, she might as well indulge him by appealing to his materialistic ways if she was going to get anywhere. “I don’t have francs,” she said. “But I have drachmas if that will suffice.”

Viper immediately reached out his hand. “They will do.”

Iris didn’t know how he’d be able to use them and for what, but if money was the way to get this man’s cooperation, then she’d have to go with it, no matter how unpleasant it was. Thankfully, she had a hefty amount from the Iris messages the demigods at Camp Half-Blood sent. “How much do I have to pay?” she said.

Viper’s lips twitched into a slight smile. “That depends on the information you want.”

Iris conjured a small pouch in her hand. It was heavy as she dropped it on the table. “There are many questions I want to ask.”

“Then you’ll have to pay more.”

“Won’t you give me an exact amount?”

“Ask the question and then I’ll tell you.” 

Iris pursed her lips. “What happened to the last Avidita?” 

“Fifty drachmas.”

Iris widened her eyes. “Fifty?”

“Yes.”

She glanced at her pouch before sighing and taking out the required amount. She was never too fond of money since she rarely used them, but it was still a bit disheartening to see them go for something so…trivial.

It’s for a good cause, she thought to reassure herself. For the Tri-ni-set. For Themis. For the balance of the universe.

Viper counted the drachmas silently, piling them up in four neat stacks. His voice was still a monotone and Iris continued having trouble convincing herself that he was a man. “Bel killed the last Avidita,” Viper said. “They were always at each other’s necks when Bel finally gained the upper-hand, so I was told.”

Iris tensed, remembering Bel’s knife and his unsettling grin. Still, she couldn’t help but be curious about this mysterious man, even if he was a Sin. He was chosen to be the Mist guardian, and if there was a reason for it, then it wasn’t in her place to defy the Fates their choice. Eventually, she’d have to be on good terms with him in the near future. Might as well start now and go from there. If Iris was good at one thing, it was establishing relationships.

“I didn’t think it was possible to kill a Sin.” Viper didn’t respond to that. Iris had to give it to him though—he was clever. “Then, how did you take the role?”

“200 drachmas.”

Iris wordlessly handed them over and watched him count again. His hands were surprisingly bigger than she expected, but his fingers were slender and almost effeminate. She wondered if he was as small as he seemed underneath his heavy black cloak.

“Bel found and offered the position to me.”

“What did he offer you? I doubt that it was money. They have no value to the Sins.”

“250 drachmas.”

Iris just handed her whole bag to Viper. “Take it. I will conjure the necessary amount for you.”

Viper took the pouch. “And you trust me with this?”

Iris smiled. “Yes.” 

“I can find ways to get through the magical charms on this and simply take all your money.”

“I know you’re a man of your word, Viper, so I trust that you won’t do that. Besides, I doubt that you can get through Lady Hecate’s magic very easily.”

“Then you are a fool.”

“I believe anyone is a fool to challenge Lady Hecate.”

A hush fell between them, but Viper made no move to do what he said. He placed the pouch to the side, careful not to knock over the drachma piles, and observed her from under his hood. Iris pulled away her own as a sign of truce and tucked a strand of blue hair behind her ear.

“But Viper is your—”

“I won’t repeat myself.”

Iris smiled. “If you really want me to call you Mammon then I require payment.”

Viper pursed his lips. “How much?”

“Does everything have to be exchanged with money for you?” Iris said, exasperated.

“That is how the world works—you give and you take.”

Iris frowned. “Not always.”

“Money speaks for itself. As long as there is money, there will be power, and with power comes greed. The world can only function that way.”

“Not everyone is greedy for those things.”

Viper’s lips twitched into a small smile. “You are even more uncultured than I thought. Greed isn’t exclusive to money and power, goddess. Love, sex, family—the list is infinite. Whatever the person wants, so shall greed be manifested.” He placed a hand on the table, palm up. “Even the gods are susceptible to such a thing.”

Iris scowled. “It’s because of you Sins we are always stuck in conflict! The humans are constantly fighting each other and scorching the earth! Your influence is even powerful enough to affect us!”

Viper was undeterred by her outburst. “Perhaps. I may not be aware of how the Sins worked in the past nor do I care, but we’re doing just fine without meddling in the gods’ business. The mortals are enough.” He smiled again, though it had a sharper edge. “From what I recall, the reason the Sins were made in Pandora’s pithos was so that Zeus himself would punish humanity. We are only functioning for our original purpose. Is that so wrong to the natural order you gods love?”

Iris didn’t know what to say; she couldn’t find anything to refute Viper. It just made her more frustrated that he was actually bringing up good points. The Sins and other calamities were created to punish mankind, so what good was it to condemn them for something they were made to do?

“You also influenced the gods a—”

“Tell me, goddess, is it really the Sins manipulating you or are you only responding to the very primitive nature of your being? Even the gods aren’t perfect. You are all just as flawed as the mortals. There is nothing redeemable about any of you. If we are such a trouble to you, why not destroy us? It has been centuries since Pandora opened the pithos and yet here we are.” A small balance scale materialized in a wisp on top of his hand. “Maybe it will threaten this balance you gods are so obsessed about?”

Iris suppressed the urge gulp. Any weakness she showed would only be Viper’s victory. Still, she found her resolve wavering. She should’ve never came here. Viper crushed the balance scale with his hand, making Iris cringe as it crumbled to dust and disappeared. “I have already foreseen you coming here, Iris,” he said. “I can only guess that something more troubling than it’s worth is happening in Olympus if you gods are desperate enough to seek us out.”

Iris quickly straightened herself. “I only came here for you, Viper.”

“I told you to call me Mammon.”

“Not unless I get some form of payment.”

“Then name your price.”

Iris let out a quiet sigh before straightening herself. She still had a chance. “You are correct that something happened, more like it has already happened. I do not know the extent of your powers or how much you know about our world. You already know how much we value balance. Simply put, I am looking for those that will help us maintain it in the unforeseeable future and you were chosen.”

“To guard the Tri-ni-set, if I recall correctly.”

Iris blinked. “You…know of the Tri-ni-set?” 

“1,000 drachmas.”

Iris pursed her lips. “I don’t want your answer. Either way, I don’t care how you know about it. I just wanted to let you know that you were chosen to be a part of the Strongest Seven.”

“And what will you pay me?”

Iris furrowed her brows. “Money is nothing compared to the long-lasting benefits of protecting and preserving the Tri-ni-set.”

“Then I refuse.”

Iris clenched her hands into fists. “Is money the only way to get you to do anything?”

“Is that a legitimate question?”

The blunt response sent Iris reeling. Still, she managed to keep her calm. She had braced herself through Zeus’ outrageous temper and Ares’ ridiculous rants. She could handle this; however, control was slowly slipping away from her hands. If she were like Hestia, she would be able to breeze through this conversation without much trouble. Nonetheless, she wasn’t sure if the patient goddess would be able to handle this infuriating Sin.

Viper slid a drachma on the table halfway and tapped on the pure gold coin with a slim finger. “This has value to me, just as much as it has value to you. Money is currency and currency elevates my reputation. Preserving the world’s balance is worthless to someone like me.”

“You are also part of that balance.”

Viper smiled slightly. “On the other side of the scale, yes. Why would I be involved with something so trivial? There is no monetary benefit for me.”

“But you will also be destroyed if it ever happens.”

“I live as long as there is greed in this world.”

The implications in that one sentence made Iris widen her eyes in horror. “You—You’re not serious, are you?”

“1,800 drachmas.”

Iris narrowed her eyes. “For once, won’t you leave money out of this?”

“2,500 drachmas.”

“Then what do you want?”

“3,600 drachmas.”

Iris resisted the urge to sigh; instead, she flexed her hands, ignoring the angry hum within her veins, then folded them again on her shaking lap. “What if I give you access instead?” she said slowly. “Surely you are limited from exploring the full extent of your powers, even as a Sin.” She took Viper’s silence as a cue to continue. “I am not saying you are weak—you’re anything but that—but if you were to protect the Tri-ni-set, you will be able to have the opportunity to expand them. We are only gathering the strongest for a reason. I could even get you an audience with Lady Hecate if you ask. I’m sure she’d be delighted to meet someone of your caliber.”

Viper mulled over what she said, retracting the drachma he put out silently and placing it back on the pile next to him. “That is interesting.”

Hope fluttered in Iris’ chest. “So, will you consider it?”

“5,000 drachmas.” 

With that, Iris slumped her shoulders. “You are a difficult man, Viper.” 

“You should have known what you were getting yourself into, goddess. That’s not my fault.” 

Iris sighed. “Then I will leave this for you to think about. If you are still interested, meet me in Thessaly. You’ll know when and where.”

Viper slid her pouch back to her as she stood up. “You best leave now. I am not in the mood to pay for any more damage costs.”

Iris blinked. “Damage costs…?”

“Unless you’d like to meet the others.”

Iris widened her eyes before she flipped her hood over her head and pulled back the curtain. Pausing, she looked back at Viper with a small, tentative smile. “Thank you for seeing me, Viper. It was…a pleasure to meet you. I hope to see you again.”

Not waiting for his response, Iris quickly left the small shop and ascended into the night skies, her wings expanding behind her back and carrying her back to Olympus. The lights below her were a pretty sight, but did nothing to assuage her aching chest. Viper’s words and the dark space he inhabited constantly assaulted her mind.

When her feet touched the cool marble floors of her chamber, Iris let herself change back to her original form. Her long white-blonde hair fell over her pale shoulders while a long white gown trailed the floor. She took one look in her mirror, noting her weary blue eyes, and decided that she needed to have a long conversation with Themis.