Mythology & Folklore & Legends!!
What Would Neil Gaiman Do?
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1st-Oct-2011 09:16 pm - The Box
Title: The Box
Character(s): Athena/Apollo/Artemis/Zeus/Thor
Special Guest Appearances By: Eros/Aphrodite/Hephaestus/Ares/Hera
Pantheon(s): Greek/Norse
Rating: PG
Summary: Athena receives a box from Thor, but doesn’t bother to open it to see what’s inside (despite the advice she is given by others). Then, later, she regrets it, when the Norse come to Olympus.



Athena stood stone still as she looked down at the parcel on the table in her war room, the kind of stillness that meant it was dangerous to be around her. That isn’t to say that it wasn’t normally dangerous to be around her, being as insanely fierce as she normally was. But this time was different; her stillness was colored by a healthy amount of anger, and was glazed over by bafflement.

Across the table from her stood Artemis, who had crossed her arms over her chest in annoyance. She wasn’t about to let Athena know just how annoyed she was by the whole ordeal, even if she was relatively certain that there would still be an edge of it in her voice.

“Is it from him?” Artemis asked, knowing that she wouldn’t need to say who the “him” in the scenario was.

“Yes,” Athena said after a few moments, her lips barely moving as she formed the word.

“Doesn’t he realize that he’s not endearing himself to you by doing all of those things?”

“No ... I do not think he realizes that it annoys me that he doesn’t seem to want to take the hint, even though I’ve been abundantly clear.”

“Why don’t you open it and see what it is?”

“That would assume that I wanted whatever was inside that box, or that I wanted him to continue to rain affections down upon me. I want neither, and would much prefer that he left me alone.”
“What are we talking about?” Apollo asked as he walked into the room. Going to his sister, he put an arm around her and pulled her into a tight hug, planting a kiss on her cheek. If any humans ever made it onto the mountain, Athena was sure that they would be amazed at just how

affectionate the twins were with each other.

“Oh,” Artemis said as Apollo pulled away, “Athena got another gift from Thor.”

“Really?” Apollo said, obviously surprised. “He really is rather thick, isn’t he?”

“The poor idiot is probably just lonely,” Artemis said, “after his wife died.”

“But that does not mean that he needs to continue to annoy me,” Athena said. “I don’t know how much clearer I can make it to him that I am not interested.”

“You’ve actually used those words?” Apollo asked. “You’ve told him that you aren’t interested? Because despite all of his good qualities, it does take him a bit to get acclimated to a new bit of information.”

“Yes,” Athena said, “I have used those words exactly, but perhaps since it’s him, I should use ones that are a bit smaller.”

“Oh, come on,” Apollo said, “he’s not all bad. As I said, he does have some good qualities.”

“Whose side are you on?” Artemis said.

“Athena’s, of course,” Apollo said. “I’m only saying that there is no reason to be cruel to the poor guy.”

“But how many times,” Athena said, “and in how many different ways can I say that I am not interested before he understands that I want him to go away?”

“Do you want me to go talk to him?” Apollo asked.

“What?” Athena said, “do you think I haven’t tried that? I have, several times, but the big idiot won’t listen to what I’m saying. I may have to get a bit more drastic this time so that he will listen to what’s going on.”

“You might as well open the box up,” Apollo said, “just to see what’s inside.”

“I have no interest in seeing what’s inside it,” Athena said. “And for all I know, there may be some sort of charm on it so that he will know when it’s open, and he will assume it is me.”

“I think,” Apollo said, “you are assuming a bit too much when it comes to him. It is unlikely that he had the forethought to put a charm on anything. He, more than likely, only wanted to do something nice for you. He probably will come check up on you later to see if you got it, and if you fancy whatever it is that he got you.”

“What if he got someone else to do the charmwork for him?” Athena asked. “He could have asked some love goddess or three to put something on there that would help his chances.”

“It’s not as though something like that would have any effect on you,” Artemis said.

“Not the point,” Athena said.

“That’s never been his style,” Apollo said. “He may have been able to get some dwarves to make you something, maybe by getting Loki to trick them into doing it for him, but going to a love goddess for a love charm ... I’ve never known him to be overly-friendly with any of them.”

“That doesn’t mean he couldn’t have tired this time,” Athena said.

“It sounds,” Artemis said, “almost as if you are thinking rashly because you are annoyed with him.”

“For someone who takes so much joy in being single,” Athena said to Artemis, “you seem to be awfully keen on me being with Thor.”

“All I said was that it sounds like you aren’t thinking clearly. Is there a reason for that? Perhaps what is bothering you is that you fancy him, and you are worried how that looks since he’s a bit of a meat-head, and you’re all about wisdom in the battlefield.”

“What would I care what other people think of me?” Athena demanded.

“If I wasn’t getting close to the mark somewhat,” Artemis said, “then, why would you be getting so upset?”

Athena’s mouth opened, but no sound came out. Artemis had a point, and she knew it. Turning, she took a few steps away, closed her eyes and took a breath. Perhaps they were right; perhaps she really wasn’t thinking clearly because of her desire to have Thor leave her alone. Even if she never admitted it to anyone else, there was a tiny part of her that thought the attention was flattering; everyone wanted a bit of attention, didn’t they? Everyone wanted to feel a bit like they were special. But when that attention started crossing bounds, started to be something unwanted, that’s when there were issues.

“So,” Apollo said, “what are you going to do? Are we going to declare war on the Norse? They’ve always had far too high an opinion of themselves, and a good war would probably do them some good. If we’re feeling really good about it, we might even be able to talk the Hindu gods into joining us. They’ve always been good in a fight, and they seem to have been itching for one for a while now. We will have to be careful, since it is likely that they’ll switch sides, or just stop being on our side, and that would be highly inconvenient.”

Athena turned back toward him with every intention of punching holes in his logic, and explain to him just what an idiot he was for thinking there wouldn’t be a hoard of political ramifications with going to war and dragging others along with them. Perhaps, if he hadn’t been so wrapped up in his own affairs, he would have been able to pay a little more attention to human history, especially where the early 20th century was concerned. But then she saw his face (the broad grin and the twinkle in his eye) and knew that he was mocking her.

“This isn’t funny,” Athena said.

“Of course not,” Apollo said shaking his head, but not seeming to be able to get rid of the twinkle in his eye.

“Maybe you should just leave if this is nothing more than a joke to you.”

“Yes,” he said sighing, “because you are taking this far too seriously.” He gave his sister a kiss on the cheek. “I’ll see you later.”

“Yes, you will,” Artemis said, “and I’ll even give you a head start.”

“I won’t need it, dear sister.”

“Of course, you won’t,” Artemis said after him as he walked out of the room.

“What was that about?” Athena asked.

“Oh, he thinks that he’s going to be able to best me in a hunt, but he’s never done it before, so I don’t know why this time would be any different.”

“Doesn’t it seem a bit cruel to keep letting him try? He might start thinking that he has a chance.”

“We’re twins,” Artemis said with a shrug, as though that explained everything. “I should probably go, too. Wouldn’t want to let him get prepared enough that he could beat me. Wouldn’t that be embarrassing?”

Artemis turned without saying goodbye, but Athena wasn’t surprised; some of the social niceties had always been a bit baffling to Artemis, so she ignored them entirely. She had thought that Artemis might make one last passing reference to the box on the table (maybe to ask that she be told what Athena eventually decided to do about it, or what was inside if it were opened), but there wasn’t even that. But Athena was so used to Artemis’ ways by now that as soon as her half-sister turned, she went back to being caught up entirely in her own thoughts.

She wondered if it would need to come down to a fight between herself and Thor. It was entirely possible that was the only thing that could get through to him, but she was reluctant to start a fight that she did not know for certain she could finish. The big idiot had lightening at his disposal and that was not something that should be taken lightly; after all, her own father had succeeded in executing a coupe because he had obtained the ability to command lightening.

The only thing that she was entirely sure of was that she did not want to open the box. It didn’t even matter so much what was inside the thing; the point was that she didn’t want him to think that she was fond of him, or that she wanted him to continue. But she had no idea of what to do with it at that moment. She could always send it back to him, but what to say to him that would stop him from coming to see her to insist that she look inside?

So, for the time being, she did the only thing she could think of: she put it far back on a high shelf, where she wasn’t likely to see it.

****


Days later, she was lying in bed, groggy but still awake despite the hour. The box was still on her mind, eating away at it and making it increasingly difficult to concentrate on anything else. She had still not figured out what she wanted to do about it. She was sure that not doing anything about it was going to bite her in the ass at a later date, but there was nothing more to do.

But then, something startled her into wakefulness. She was unsure of what it was that she had actually heard, but she did not wait around to hear it again.

She jumped out of bed and put on her battle gear with a speed that only could have been bested by Ares. And as the thought of her brother flittered through her mind, she vowed to herself that if he had been the cause of her rest being interrupted, she would end him. The pity of that was that she could think of only a precious few who would mourn the passing of the god of war.

As she went out of her rooms and into the hallways of Mount Olympus, she got a better sense of which direction the noises were coming from. Moving quickly in that direction, she saw others moving away from it as quickly as they could; most of them were lesser gods, so it didn’t bother her, or even alarm her that they weren’t staying around to help. And when she made it outside the halls of the gods and onto the mountainside, the numbers of those who were trying to get away was even more paramount.

She was glad to see that whatever it was that was happening, there were those who she could count on to be there to try and stop it: Zeus, Hera, Hephaestus, Apollo, Artemis. But then, there were those she hadn’t expected to see, like Eros and Aphrodite. That wasn’t to say that they didn’t know how to fight, or that they couldn’t be fierce; they were just less likely to agree to be part of a battle. And it heartened her greatly to know that they had come; if there really was something going on, the more there were who were willing to help, the better.

And then, Athena noticed that Ares was standing next to Aphrodite. This took her aback for a moment. Whatever was happening, whatever they seemed to be preparing themselves for, Ares was not behind it. Knowing that he was not the cause of the noise that she was hearing made her rather nervous about finding out what was causing it; at least if it had been him, she would have known what to expect, known what to do about it, and could have been back in bed in no time flat. But he wasn’t the problem this time; it almost looked as though he were attempting to be part of the solution.

“Father,” she said as coolly as she could manage, and he nodded in return. “What’s going on?”

“It’s the Norse,” Zeus said. “They’re trying to breech our defenses.”

“Why would they want to do that?” Athena said. “We’ve always had a ... pleasant relationship with them.”


“Apollo told me about the box from Thor.”

“There is nothing to tell. He sent me a box. There is nothing significant about that.”

She wasn’t sure why she was doing it, but she felt a sudden urge to stick up for Thor. She was quite aware that she was telling her father a lie, but she had the sudden feeling that if she told him the truth, international relations might be strained. But that might not matter in a few moments anyway, if the Norse had come to their area for any other reason than for what was entirely honorable.

“Yes,” Zeus said dryly, “I’m sure there was nothing to tell. What was inside of it?”

“I ... don’t know. I never opened it.”

“But you still have it?”

“Yes.”

“Sometimes you are entirely frustrating,” Zeus said, the dryness having left his voce. “Well, there is no time to find out what it is now.”

He turned his attention from her and back toward the Norse. She would get nothing more from him about it at the moment, but she was sure that when he had time, she would hear about it at length (and probably more than once).

But her thoughts were interrupted then by a deafening crash, and the light that accompanied it was so bright that closing her eyes and covering them with her arm did nothing to help. After a moment, she was aware that it had stopped, but only because there was no longer any pain attached to the ringing in her ears or the darkness that had filled her eyes. But this didn’t last for long, as the thunder came back, seemingly nearer than before; but at that moment, she knew she wasn’t the best just of distance.

She started to take her sword from its scabbard, but she worried that the way things were right then, she might end up hurting someone without meaning to. So, she tried to back away from where she thought she remembered there had been others standing. She only hoped that there hadn’t been others who had moved as well; if they had, there might be some very bad things that might happen to people she loved ... or at least, people she was accustomed to.

Getting to a distance she thought might be safe for everyone involved, she drew her sword and began chanting an incantation of her own making. She didn’t use them often, leaving them to Hecate and her followers, but there had been a time or two when they had proven themselves useful. And if she found something that helped her win a fight, damn if she wasn’t going to use it.

The ringing in her ears subsided slightly, and the darkness covering her eyes went from black to gray. It really wasn’t that much of an improvement; if one or more of the Norse broke through their defenses, she would be a sitting duck (as would anyone else who had been effected by what she assumed was Thor’s hammer). She tried one other charm that she thought might help get her back on her feet (so to speak), since the one she had already used wasn’t working nearly as well as she had hoped, and it did a fat wad of nothing. There was no other that she knew off the top of her head that would have helped her just then, and she knew that whatever was coming, she was out of commission. So, all she was essentially doing at the moment was making herself an easy target.

Trying to calm herself and steady her breathing enough that she was aware of what was around her (or as much as she could be), she held her sword out in front of her. Waiting for something to happen, she attempted to feel the movements in the air that surrounded her to get an idea if there was anyone near her, and if they might do her any danger. But this attempt at trying to compensate for her missing senses was short lived when the air around her exploded with electricity. The way things were, there was no way to tell if the electrical explosion come from her father, or from elsewhere. She wanted to believe that her father was performing a preemptive strike in an effort to back up their already existing defenses, but she feared that wasn’t the case.

Then, for a split second, her nose was over-whelmed with the smell of ozone and all of the hairs on her body began to stand up. That was her only warning that something was about to happen, and then, she wasn’t aware of anything anymore.

****


Hours later, she wasn’t sure how long it had been, Athena bolted awake. If there was someone unfriendly nearby, they would have noticed that she had jerked for a moment, even though she was trying to pretend as though she were still coconscious.

She realized that she was on her right side, but couldn’t remember getting onto her right side when she fell ... but that wasn’t saying much. Through lids that were scarcely open, she tried to get an idea of what was happening around her without getting any unwanted attention coming her way. What she saw disturbed her far more than she would have been willing to admit to anyone.

The bodies of her friends and family were strewn everywhere, blood and gore covered and spread all around them. A flutter filled her stomach when she realized that she could not find her father, but then, she realized that he probably moved to somewhere else during what had obviously been a battle, so there was no reason to panic yet. Even if she could see the remains of people she had known all around her, and know who they were from some bit of their body or clothing that still survived, it could be possible that he had not been killed in the attack. He had defeated the Titans before she was born, why would the Norse have caused him even the slightest bit of trouble? And maybe he hadn’t stayed because there were too many of them, and they could not be fought without help … help that he hadn’t had if everyone else had been killed.

She knew that she was trying to rationalize why he seemed to be nowhere around, while there was death and danger in a place that should have been save for her people, but she couldn’t help doing it at the moment (it seemed to be the only thing she could do). And she began to think of what she would do once her father had come back with others to help him (perhaps Hades and Poseidon), and how the Olympians would take back their home from the outsiders and usurpers. It was a nice little fantasy, to have, even if she knew that the likelihood of it actually happening was virtually nonexistent. She knew that Zeus was most likely just as dead as everyone else who had attempted to stop the Norse from gaining the mountain.

Then, the thought occurred to her: why was she still alive? All of the other Olympians were now piles of goo, and had become so while she had been lying unconscious on the ground. Why hadn’t she been stomped all over while the fighting had taken place? And why hadn’t she been run through while she lay there defenseless? Perhaps they had no fear of her or her abilities, but keeping her alive made no sense if they really wanted to take Olympus from the Olympians, and they must have known that she was still alive on the ground. Something as huge as whether someone was alive or dead could not be out of their grasp.

It was at this point that she realized that someone had walked up to her and was kneeling down behind her. She felt hands on her side and felt them pull her onto her back. For a moment, nothing more happened, and she began to think that nothing more would ... until she heard him begin to speak.

“I know you are awake, Athena. There is no more sense in pretending.”

She opened her eyes to Thor looking down at her, and her first thought was how much she had always hated that helmet that he seemed to favor.

“You should have opened the box,” he said, his eyes almost sorrowful.

Then, he raised his hammer, and she wondered what he had put inside that box after all.
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