The most beautiful woman Ilainus has ever seen appears in front of her. She knows she’s looking at a goddess, for while the woman is short, she radiates immense power, and Ilainus can’t tear her eyes away. She stares, knowing it’s rude but unable to do anything more intelligent. The goddess clears her throat. Ilainus blinks, then blushes. She tries to apologise but the words come out wrong, making her feel like a child.
The goddess laughs, the most beautiful sound to ever reach Ilainus’s ears. “It’s okay,” she says. “We’re used to being stared at. I am Athena.”
“Athena,” Ilainus repeats in a reverent sigh. She smiles. “Why have you come to me?”
“I like to keep an eye on mortals, especially those who might be able to help me. You’re good with a sword, Ilainus.”
Ilainus blinks at the knowledge that Athena, an Olympian, knows her name and has been watching her. “Yes, my lady,” she says. She doesn’t elaborate, for fear of under- or overselling her skills.
Ilainus sputters. “What? I can’t, you’re–”
“You can’t hurt me,” Athena promises. Her stunning blue eyes are serious, and she draws the sword at her side.
Ilainus looks at this perfect, immortal being and sighs, knowing she’s being tested. She reaches over her shoulder and grabs her own sword, unsheathing it, stepping forwards, and stabbing the man who’s materialised without a sound behind Athena. Ilainus twists her blade, then pulls it out of the man’s chest. No blood appears on her sword, and the man remains standing, though he looks offended.
“Bitch!” he yells, but to Ilainus’s surprise, it’s directed at Athena, who’s smirking.
“Well done, Ilainus,” she says. “You passed the test.”
The man disappears, leaving Ilainus to conclude she’s just stabbed a god. “Who was that?” she asks.
“That was my brother, Ares. You just gave him an important lesson from me.” Athena smiles, making Ilainus’s heart skip a beat. “Thank you. You may put away your sword.”
Ilainus obeys, and together they sheath their swords in perfect harmony.
“I need someone loyal to me,” says Athena. “Someone who’s not afraid to get rid of my enemies, but also someone who would never turn on me.” She strokes Ilainus’s cheek with the soft and magical touch only a goddess could have. “I think you could be that person. Do you?”
Ilainus nods. She doesn’t know this woman, but she does know she’d do anything to make Athena smile at her, and look at her, and touch her like that again. She kneels before Athena and swears her loyalty for the rest of her days.
When Athena helps her up and thanks her for her pledge of devotion, Ilainus knows she has made the right choice. She wants Athena to always be happy; she’ll do whatever it takes to ensure that. She’s given her soul to a goddess, trusting her to keep it safe. It’s the highest honour a mortal like Ilainus can receive in this world.