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The Labours of Icarus

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Icarus isn’t quite certain why one day he looks at the sun and pictures it being a giant fiery god that could snuff him out in an instant and thinks “I’m into that”, but he does.  And Icarus is nothing if not dedicated to an unreasonable degree.

“I’m going to fly to the sun and get that godly dick,” Icarus tells his father, who has begged him countless times to please, please not tell him everything that goes through his head.

“Icarus, no.”

“Icarus, yes.”

Daedalus sighs, lets the tool he had in his hand fall to the work table, and cradles his head in his hands, “Do you think before you speak?”

“Sure, lots of times,” the son smiles and forces a piece of paper into his sight, “I even have a plan!”

Daedalus unwillingly reads his son’s plan.  It goes as follows:

  1. Build some wings
  2. Fly to the sun
  3. Get some godly dick

His eyes trace back up to Icarus, the boy’s grin beaming against his dark skin.  The man’s eyes look further up to the heavens, asking the gods why his son is like this.

“And how will you build these wings, Icarus?”

“Don’t worry.  I’ve got it all figured out,” he reaches behind him, “Ta-dah!”

In front of his very own eyes, Daedalus, the master craftsman, sees his son pull out some wax and feathers. 

“I swear I didn’t raise you this way.”

“Well,” he ignores his poor father, “we were planning on escaping anyway, right?”

“I am inventing a boat that uses something I call sails to outstrip any fleets that Minos, the old bastard, may send after us.  Not make some wings out of arts and crafts supplies.”

Icarus sighs and places his hand on Daedalus’ shoulder, “I am a man now father – I must make my own way sometime.”

“I’ve sired an idiot.”

Icarus is 19 and much smarter than his father.  He pities the older man his narrow view.

“So, you plan to leave your father in this be-damned labyrinth and go flutter over the walls on your own?”

“Of course not!  I talked to Ariadne while you were giving her that ball of string and I told her to use Theseus to get off of Crete then kick him to the curve after robbing him blind so she could make her way.  Hero-types never treat women well.  I blame Zeus.  Anyway turns out I was right and he was a giant douche so I saved her some trouble and she said she’d come get us out of the labyrinth now that you’ve got a plan to escape Crete.”

“What.  How could you possibly even be talking to her?”

Icarus smiles and a giant eagle lands on his shoulders, glowering ominously down at Daedalus.  It holds out a leg that the man sees has a piece of papyrus tied onto it.  The boy happily plucks it off and says, “Oh!  She said she’ll be here within a few weeks.  I hope you’ll have your boat linens done by then.”

Daedalus gives up.

Weeks later sees them standing at a small, barely used dock.  It is built near the labyrinth, which is likely why it is rarely used, as few had wanted to be near the structure when it housed a half-bull-half-man sized problem.  For the first time in nearly a decade Daedalus sees his (technically self-made) prison from the outside.  Its towering stone walls block any view of the castle or city, stretching for miles in every direction.  Daedalus would happily blow it up if he could, but decides to prioritize escape.  Speaking of.

“Take off those things you look ridiculous.”

Icarus stands proud as a peacock, wax and feather wings spreading from his back to along his arms.  He is flapping them enthusiastically for Ariadne, who is doing her level best to look supportive and not at all like she is going to burst out laughing.  Her mouth quivers as she tries to keep her brown face serious, dark hair swaying in the breeze. 

“I am going to fly to the sun and get some godly dick, father!”

“Wax melts, you idiot!  And why have you gotten such a fixation on the sun god?”

“He is the only one for me!”

“The sun?  The only humans you have seen since you were ten are Ariadne and I.  How could you possibly know if you like anyone else more than… the sun.”

“One of my grandfathers is Helios, personification of the sun,” Ariadne unhelpfully offers.

Icarus grins at her, “I’m gonna dick down your grandfather!”

Ariadne grins back, “go for it!” and they high-five.

The father considers his son.  Dark skin, a fluff of brown hair, and amber eyes.  His stupid grin and absolutely irredeemable lack of self reflection.  The feathers of his wax wings are already drooping from the heat of the day. 

Daedalus throws his hands in the air, “I give up.  I hope the gods get a good laugh as your wax wings melt from getting too hot, as wax does, and you fall.  I’ll build another son and he won’t be nearly as stupid.” 

Saying so, Daedalus stomps onto his boat in a huff.  Ariadne gives Icarus a thumbs up as she follows the old man, having demanded a ride for coming back to Crete despite her father’s wrath. 

Icarus waves and yells, “I’ll come visit you and my future brother for holidays!”

The boat casts off as Icarus waves the only two people in his life (one of whom he has only communicated with via occasional letters for nine years) away.  Once they’re out of sight, a fleet of the king’s boats in comparatively slow pursuit, Icarus turns his sights to the sun.  He then has to look slightly to the side of the sun as his eyes burn and spots dot his vision.

He points determinedly in the direction of the great flaming ball in the sky, “I’m gonna fuck the sun.”

He launches himself into the sky and starts flapping.  Nothing can go wrong.

…..

Okay, so maybe some things can go wrong.

Also, maybe his father, one of the best craftsmen in the world, might know a thing or two about making things.  Maybe.

Icarus considers these things as he hurls towards the sea, the melting wax of his wings burning his skin.  Feathers fly around him and as he desperately looks towards the sky; he sees those not clogged down with wax floating gently in his wake.

The sky is blue, much lighter and more welcoming than the darkness of the sea, even as the light of the sun winks cheekily at him from its churning surface.  He had gotten hundreds of meters in the air before his wings failed him.  The water is much closer than that, and closer still every passing second.

The sun burns brightly and Icarus reaches desperately towards it as the water grows ever closer.

I just wanted… to suck your dick

And he hits the water.

 


 

Now, Icarus may not be quite as smart as his father would’ve liked, but he is fairly sure he should be dead.

Icarus is in the middle of the ocean.  Looking up, he can vaguely see light reaching its fingers towards him from dozens of meters above his head.  Below only yields the dim water around him fading to darkness.  He floats suspended in the water, neither rising nor sinking.

Oh, and not drowning either despite the fact he isn’t holding his breath.

“This is hilarious.  Best thing that has happened in years.”

Icarus’ head jolts to the side and there is suddenly a man in the water with him.  He is older than Icarus but certainly younger than his father.  The man has browned skin that makes his sea-green eyes pop.  A pearly grin leers at him within a strong jaw lined with dark scruff.  The man’s black hair lays as if they were above water in contrast to Icarus’ hair that floats listlessly around him.  A blue sash is tied idly around the man’s waste, large enough to cover a rather sensitive area, and accentuates admittedly fantastic thighs.  Dude has some nice arms too.

“The bets alone are worth it; you’ve become one of Hermes’ favorite humans overnight. Athena’s face is just a bonus.  Who am I kidding?  These are the best reactions I’ve gotten out of anybody in a while.”

“Huh?”

The man with nice thighs and arms laughs, “Oh yeah, you’re not the smartest fish in the sea, but not all of us want clever brainiacs like Athena.  Let a Nobody stay a nobody, right?  I’m just here for the laughs.  Being the Almighty Tide-Changer and Earth-Shaker only brings so much amusement.  I’m only in the mood for carnage for a decade at a time.  It’s an off year, you know?”

And Icarus, despite what his father likes to claim, can put context clues together if so prompted, “You’re Poseidon?  Whoa.  I guess that makes sense with the whole, you know, not drowning thing.”  He blows some bubbles as if to demonstrate the air in his lungs.  The teenager is subsequently delighted by the action and continues to blow bubbles, looking at the sea god expectantly.

Poseidon is equally delighted by the boy’s actions.  Is his brain damaged?  The god honestly doesn’t know and doesn’t care either way.  This is gold.

“So I hear you want to, ah, fuck the sun.”

Icarus stops blowing bubbles to grin, “Yeah, Helios!”

Eyebrows raise, “You want to fuck Helios?”

“Yeah, the sun god!”

Poseidon’s dark lips twitch, “Ah yes, the sun god… Helios.  The god whom everyone thinks of when they think of the sun.  Helios.  That god of the sun.”

Icarus nods eagerly.

Poseidon’s twitching lips pull into a sharkish grin with much too many teeth, if Icarus had to judge.  Which, considering he can only remember two other people with any particular clarity, he may not be the best person to judge.  But teeth aren’t supposed to be that sharp, right?

This just got even better,” the god clears his throat and reigns in his vaguely inhuman smile, “So, Icarus, my boy.  Me and some of my fellow Olympians have found your…ambition…worthy.  I have saved your life from your frankly hilarious attempt to fly to the sun with some wax and feathers for this purpose.  We have decided to offer you a quest to fulfill your goal.  You will complete a journey that will allow you to build wings that can reach your sun god.”

Well

Icarus did not anticipate this.

While he certainly finds his ambition to get some godly sun dick a most worthy aspiration, he did not anticipate for the gods to support him.  Did the sun have a hard time getting laid?  How sad!  But also convenient, since Icarus is here and most eager for the job!

The teenager is also a bit wary since quests = heroes and, like he has said, heroes are kinda jerks.  But, he reconsiders, he’s doing a quest of love, so it’s a bit different.  He’ll be more like Psyche than Theseus.  Psyche is cool – and she got her godly dick!  Now Icarus will get his! 

“I’ll do it!”

Poseidon laughs, “I thought so!  I would have drowned you otherwise.  Now, here is a list of people you will need to find to make your new set of wings.”

A piece of papyrus appears in the god’s hand, seemingly impervious to the water.  Icarus eagerly takes it from him and is surprised to see that it is the same paper that he had written his plan on. It now looks like this:

  1. Build some wings
  2. Fly to the sun
  3. Get some godly dick

~

The feathers of the swans of Aphrodite

The binding vines of the Underworld Royal Gardens

The coolness of the Moon beloved of Artemis

The engineering of Hephaestus

“After you gather these items and earn your wings, you must climb up Mount Olympus and jump towards your goal.  Oh, and make sure to stop and say hello to whoever is in the throne room.  They are sure to be thrilled for your success.”

Icarus nods, clutching determinedly at his papyrus.

Poseidon smiles and there is suddenly a bag in his hand.  He also hands this to Icarus, “Keep everything you collect in this and you shall never lose nor damage them.  Now I shall send you on your way towards Aphrodite.  She is so going to owe me.”

Before he can so much as thank the god, Icarus finds himself swept up in a sudden riptide and pulled from where he had been floating.  As he is swept through the sea at a blinding pace he can’t help but grin.

I am going to get the D.  The gods will it.

 


 

Icarus blinks rapidly as he chokes a bit on air. He had been rather abruptly ejected from the ocean and the tide swept him neatly onto the seashore.  The boy sits up, attempting to even his breath after not having been above water for who knows how long.  His legs still lay in the water, now wet after whatever magic had been covering him dissipated. 

He lifts his dark leg and looks at the clinging minuscule granules of sand glinting in the sun like little stars.  Huh.  He had forgotten how sand will stick to you when you’re wet.  He kind of likes it; it is like hundreds of tiny jewels are adorning his body.

Icarus stands up, satisfied to find that his upper body is still dry.  He happily pats the bandages wrapped around his chest under his chiton.  The white fabric of his tunic falls only to his knees, wraps around his waste in a belt, and with a sash that runs from the left side of his waste over his right shoulder and diagonals back down to his waste.  His bindings wrap securely around his upper chest, also bright white.  Icarus thinks that the color contrasts quite nicely with the color of his skin. 

With glittering legs, the boy sets off walking down the beach, newly acquired bag slung over his shoulder and papyrus tucked safely inside. 

He’s not sure where he is meant to go, but thinks he remembers that the goddess Aphrodite may have a connection with the sea in some of the legends he has heard.  So he figures he’ll walk down the length of the beach for a while before he decides to move inland and wander around aimlessly there.

He walks for a few hours before he sees a shape in the distance.  As he comes closer the shape coalesces into a giant clam shell.  The shell stands open, the outside of the top half painted vibrant red and pink against stark white.  The inside is beautiful mother of pearl, gleaming sliver-white.  The inside of the bottom shell is filled with a giant plush pillow the same ecstatic pink as the outside of the top shell.  Upon this pillow sits a figure with their back to Icarus, shining brown hair tumbling over a resplendent gauzy magenta dress.  He assumes that this must be the goddess Aphrodite. 

He approaches closer and hails, “Hello, probably-lady-goddess-Aphrodite!  Would you be willing to donate some swan feathers towards my quest to fuck the sun?”

The woman is light skinned with slanting almond eyes, but as her face turns her skin is caramel and hair a striking yellow.  She stands and her body is long and elegant and steps and is voluptuous as a queen.  She turns a wrist to him and her tapering fingers are black as obsidian, then curls them and are stark as bone.  Her smile is always enticing and eyes invite you to be as intimate as a lover; blue, green, brown, grey, hazel, black, or violet. 

She is the most beautiful being he will ever see.

Icarus.  I do adore a good love story.  Would it not be interesting if this one did not end in a tragedy?”

“Well, I do like when my life isn’t tragic.  I’m quite happy with happiness.”

Her smile gleams and her hair is long and dark and skin a red-brown he hadn’t seen before, “you are a treasure.  And you are the leading man of one of my dramas.  How could I not support you, dear heart?”

The goddess steps off of her pillow and reality seems to meld around her.  Despite the fact she does not seem tall enough to have touched the beach from her lofty perch, she is standing on the sand without so much as reaching her foot down.  She sashays confidently towards him, the grains of sand neither disturbed by her golden then almost-grey feet nor the trailing gauzy train of her dress.  Icarus has a moment to notice that she also leaves behind no footprints before his entire attention is arrested by her.

Aphrodite smiles coyly and asks, “Are you tempted by me, Icarus?”

Her features seem to settle a bit as he stares into vibrant blue slanting eyes set in a golden brown face with a wide nose and a strong jaw.  Her wavy light brown hair sways in an imaginary breeze and one of her dog teeth is crooked.

Icarus says, “Well, I think you’re everybody’s type, honestly.  But you’re also no giant flaming ball in the sky.”

Her laugh is the delighted chime of your favorite sound as she says, “I am indeed not!  Oh yes, Poseidon was quite right; this shall be fantastic.  Things have been rather dull lately – not a passionate lover in sight.  I have not had such an earnest lover in forever, and Apollo is always an enthusiastic partner in these types of things.”

“Wait, what about Apollo?” Icarus frowns.

Aphrodite’s smile drops confusedly and she raises a strong brow, “The sun god?”

“Yeah, the sun god, Helios!  That’s who I wanna get it on with!”

The goddess’ eyes are dark and stunned.  The straight pink line of her mouth wavers, amusement arising from the ashes of her bewilderment, before she positively cackles.

Oh, oooooh, he is gonna be pissed.  Or more upset in that little puppyish way he sometimes has.  This is betterSo much better.  A dedicated lover for Helios, not Apollo, you say?  The DramaOooooh I have not had such delicious drama in eons!” 

One tear of joy slides artfully down a porcelain cheek.  It glistens in the sun’s rays and falls gently to the ground, where a single rose the bright color of the sun blooms. 

It is the loveliest scene Icarus has ever seen. 

Aphrodite’s mirth is slow to die, but she eventually delicately claps her hands twice and says, “You shall get your swan feathers Icarus, Lover of the Sun.  I shall call them now.”

The goddess rolls a nimble bronze wrist and gestures behind her.  The teenager’s eyes follow the movement and is redirected back to the giant clamshell. 

Icarus isn’t quite sure how to tell a goddess that a clam and a swan are not the same thing.  Before he can make that particular mistake, the gods (other than the one standing before him) must smile upon him for movement catches his eye.

The mother-of-pearl coating of the inside of the top shell swirls and glimmers in a way that cannot be a trick of the light.  The pearlescent nacre shimmers as it seems to bubble up at several different points.  The silvery bubbles push out until they become elegant necks.  The area around the bubbles also begin to ripple like a disturbed pond and wings burst into being.

Five beautiful shimmering swans spring into life to glide genteelly in front of the goddess and mortal.  Their necks arch gracefully into their heads with delicately rounded beaks.  Their eyes are a polished black.  The beaks are the color of the blush of dawn that grays to a dark mask about their eyes. The swans’ feathers somehow look both like they are carved from the solid mother-of-pearl they sprung from and soft as a dove’s wing.  The contradicting natures of the two confuse Icarus’ eyes and he can’t look at them too closely. 

Aphrodite runs an olive hand fondly over one of the bird’s necks, the lines around her mouth deepening in a smile as her crow’s feet crinkles.

“They are beautiful, are they not, darling?”

“Yes!  They’re also a little hard to look at.  My brain hurts.”

Her smile turns mischievous and she swishes her mane of silver-white hair, “Mortals do rather poorly with contradictions.  No matter, your brain will pick a side once you touch one of their feathers.”

Saying so, she plucks one of the feathers from the swan she had been caressing and presses it into one of Icarus’ callused hands.  The feather registers a silky softness to his sense of touch and he can no longer imagine the swans as being made of shell.  Looking up, he is now able to gaze at the swans without difficulty. 

The goddess flicks her hand and the swans suddenly fly up, startling the hades out of the boy.  There is a flurry of movement above their heads before five small statues fall softly onto the sand in front of him.  They appear to be incredibly lifelike renderings of the swans.  They are also hard and smooth as stone.

Icarus’ head hurts again.

Aphrodite claps her hands with a smirk on her peachy face, “Place those in your bag and the feathers will be available to you when the time comes to forge your wings.  I shall be following your progress eagerly.  Do not disappoint me, Lover-Icarus!”

The goddess turns on her heel, magenta robes flaring dramatically, and is suddenly once again lounging on her giant pink pillow.  She flicks her dark fingers, a tone nearly identical to his own skin, in a coy farewell before the top of the shell begins to lower.  Only a white grin is visible in the shadow of the shell before it completely closes.

The giant clam shell is gone.  There is only a patch of sunny roses similar to the one that had grown from the goddess’ tear left to indicate the area’s previous deific occupant.

“What style,” Icarus says admiringly. 

He is absolutely thrilled that the first stop on his quest went so well.  He is one step closer to getting laid by the hottest being in the universe!  Now, to his next task, the Underworld!

Icarus steps determinedly forward.

.

.

.

Where’s the Underworld again?

The fluttering of wings fills his ears as something small lands on his shoulder.  Icarus looks to the side and sees a dove resting there.  It opens its beak and he hears:

“Ah, sorry ‘bout that.  Forgot to give you directions to your next task.  Normally we don’t give heroes any extra information during their tasks, but none of us expect you to figure out these things by yourself. Walk three days to the east and you should encounter a temporary opening to the Underworld that will not close for a week.  You will pass through a town along the way, so you should probably eat, sleep, and bathe, given the chance.  Also, do not be afraid to accessorize your look a bit.  You want to dazzle your sunny love, do you not?”

The bird twists in on itself and a gentle weight appears on Icarus’ head.  He scuttles eagerly over to the ocean.  His reflection shows that Icarus, who had lived in a rock maze for the past nine years, is now the owner of a set of pearlescent laurels.  The jewelry crowns his head and he thinks it looks rather nice.

Overall, Aphrodite is definitely a MVP among the gods. 

Spinning giddily on his heel and just catching himself from faceplanting, Icarus spreads his hands towards the sun, “I’m coming, and I’m gonna look fabulous!  The love goddess declares it so!”

 


 

Five days later finds Icarus standing in front of a rather ominous hole in the ground.  He thinks it may be the technical definition of an abyss. 

He gazes into the abyss.

The abyss gazes back.

He waves.

It blinks.

Icarus will take that as a hearty welcome.  He smiles and adjusts the gauzy golden shawl around his shoulders. 

While he was walking through the wilderness on the way to town, the beach nearly a day behind him, Icarus had happened upon a broken down trading carriage.  He had only recently found the hard packed dirt road and had been thinking about how excited he was to see civilization again.  So excited!  Also kind of nervous.  A little queasy.  But excited!  The only two beings he had talked to since he had separated from his father and Ariadne (jeez, that seems so long ago!) were gods, so he hadn’t really talked to new people in, like, nearly a decade.  His people skills might be a liiiiiittle rusty.

While he was comfortingly patting his stomach to appease the nervous butterflies - or possibly hunger pains, those can feel trickily similar – Icarus heard people. 

People!

Unfortunately, the people didn’t sound very happy.  Rather distressed, honestly. 

Oh no, what if they were besieged by monsters?  That’s the kind of thing people on quests normally have to deal with, right?  But he can’t fight monsters!  He has never thrown a punch in his life!

He has shouted at his father and the seagulls that shat on him as they flew overhead to fight him plenty of times, but had never actually been in a fight.  If his father sounded too mean when he yelled at him he’d even tear up.  Could you imagine someone looking really mean at him and trying to hurt him?  That sounds awful!  He just wants people to be happy and be nice to him.  Maybe he could tell the monster a really funny joke and it’d be happy and stop trying to kill people?  He couldn’t just let the people he found die, they could be his new friends; he had to do something!

He quickly turned the corner, frantically thinking of funny jokes and coming up with exactly none, and prepared to cry furiously at a monster.

Happily, it turned out Icarus had spun up an entirely fictional situation from nothing and a cart had damaged its wheel from getting stuck in a divot in the road.

This he could deal with.  The boy grinned and tried to dab nervous sweat away, wanting to make a good impression.

“Hail and well met fellow humans!  I am not useless at craftsmanship and can help you at the low, low cost of friendship!”

While the father of the family appeared a bit weirded out by him, the mother, two daughters, and little son only seemed relieved.

The teenager was able to aid the family in pushing the cart out of the hole.  While he was no warrior, Icarus hadn’t had much else to do besides run around the labyrinth while acting out imaginary tales and help his father by lugging heavy materials around.  He wasn’t no skinny lad. 

He was also able to aid them in fixing their wheel.  He was no master craftsman like his father, but still a rather dab hand.  He may have built wax and feather wings to fly to the sun, but, well, he built working wax wings to fly to the sun.  That must count for something. 

At least, that’s what he figures as the second daughter, a couple years younger than himself, exclaimed in surprise that such a creation could fly. 

The family took to Icarus rather well and he was happy to know all his years thinking himself a people person were true.  He laughed and joked with the two girls and happily played pretend with the little boy, joining them on their way to town.  They were a merchant family looking to sell their wares.  They gratefully shared their food for his help and exclaimed enviously over his laurels, claiming that he must be a noble.

He was unsure if they believed him when he informed them they were gifted from Aphrodite, but he thought in retrospect that may have been for the best.  People tend to either flock around those that encountered the gods or avoid them like the plague.  He accordingly told them that he was on a quest to find his love, but not that his love was the sun. 

When Icarus separated from the family after spending a day in the city, they let him go reluctantly.  A few days rations sat within his bag along with two flasks of water.  The girls also insisted on him taking a few of their trinkets after hearing him say he wished to adorn himself before meeting his lover.  They gave him a turquoise bracelet he slipped over his wrist, a pretty bronze sunflower brooch that he pinned to his tunic, and a gorgeous red flower hairpin that he stored in his bag.

Just as he began to walk away from the wagon with a tearful wave, a swath of fabric slumped over his head.  He lifted it from his eyes to see the wary father smiling smally at him as he said, “Your lover will be lucky to have you.  Stay safe out there.”

Icarus removed the cloth from his head, the fabric diaphanous against his fingertips, and was thrilled to find a golden-yellow shawl in his hands.  He gave the larger man an excited hug, slung the shawl over his shoulders, and dashed forward with vigorous waves backwards and crows of thanks. 

Presently, over a day later, Icarus finds himself standing in front of a chasm to hades.  He is in a superb mood and honestly can’t find any caution in his heart, if it existed in the first place.

With a polite, “coming through!” Icarus leaps down into the darkness.

 


 

The Underworld is rather gray.  And dark.  Considering that there is no sun or visible light source, it should technically be pitch black, so Icarus takes what he can get.

He is stumbling along a barren, rocky landscape.  There is a certain sameness to his surroundings that reminds him vaguely of the labyrinth.  Something clenches in his chest at the feeling, but he quickly shakes it off with the knowledge that he is only passing through on an adventure.  And what the endgame of his quest is exactly.

(he never takes into consideration the fact that most people don’t exit the Underworld once they enter it.  Consequences for his actions aren’t precisely the first, or even last, thing on Icarus’ mind typically.)

He knows well enough to leave any rivers of the Underworld alone.  He also knows to duck and cover if there are any flying bat-women trolling about to release their fury upon the unwary soul.  Icarus and his father had also previously had a drag-out fight about whether or not it was appropriate to pet Cerberus, and while he is still firmly of the mind that any dog is a Good Dog, he thinks he should maybe exercise a bit of self-restraint in the name of Godly Dick.

So he spends the next few hours of his life stumbling blindly through the dreary reaches of the land of the dead, valiantly imagining that the faint noises he hears trembling through the air are a kind of Underworld bird

(they were the screams of the damned)

and attempting to play I Spy with himself.  He has a keen eye, if he does say so himself.

While nibbling on a piece of artos, Icarus finally sees in the distance what can only be the spires of the castle of the god and goddess of the land.

The boy gives a jubilant hum before packing away his food and making his way enthusiastically towards the castle that holds his target (and the God of the Dead). 

As the structure looms closer, Icarus admires just how On Brand™ it is.  The castle exudes the formidability of a fortress.  It is built of a smooth dark stone he has not seen before, with parapets, spires, and doors made from what he suspects is Stygian iron, considering where it’s located.  His father would be drooling at the chance to examine a material that could only be found in the depths of the Underworld.

Despite its imposing nature, the castle offers no moats or other means to deter the unwary from entering.  After all, its occupants are more a deterrent than anything else could ever be.

Icarus find this convenient. 

He skips up the expansive stone steps to stand before the giant metal doors.  There is no visible knocker and the thought of banging his hand against such a hard looking surface makes him clutch at it in imagined pain. He thusly gives the doors a great push, calves straining as his feet push against the floor and back muscles pulling tight.

It is only as the doors swing silently open that Icarus considers that barging into anybody’s home is in bad taste, and barging into a god’s home is nothing less than hilariously foolish. 

(But when has he ever been anything less than hilariously foolish?)

But by then the hush that permeates the castle steals his voice and the thought of yelling out a general apology seems impossible.

The inside of the castle is somehow both darker and lighter than the dim land of the Underworld.  Sconces of blue fire cast an eerie twirling and pulsing light from where they’re attached to the walls.  Despite this, there is a miasma of darkness that blankets the hall.  As he steps in, Icarus can’t help but think the airy darkness feels cool and silky, almost rich to the touch.  Still, he can’t say that it is oppressive, the way that the air could sometimes be when burdened with undue amounts of moisture.

On the scale of things, Icarus would say it’s actually kind of nice.  Honestly, after so many years of sameness, new experiences have an automatic pleasantness for him that they may not have for others.

So while the still darkness may successfully steal his voice, Icarus creeps into the castle of the Lord of the Dead not with the typical caution or fear of mortals, but with curiosity. 

The inside is not as opulent as one might expect from the god of riches.  It is rather bare to Icarus’ eye, who expects those with riches to decorate their homes with gold, jewels, silks, and any other manner of luxurious goods.  He imagines that Aphrodite’s home must be resplendent in beautiful adornments but, he supposes, Aphrodite is likely a bit different than Hades.

The carpet leading down the hallway is very nice, though.  It is made of a thick and plush fabric that cradles the bottoms of his feet.  It initially looks black, but upon closer observation may be the darkest of reds.  He can’t tell for certain and only the threat of a god appearing in front of him only to find Icarus on his knees closely inspecting his carpet stops the boy from doing so.  Not the best first impression.

As Icarus walks, it is quite apparent that there are more otherworldly attributes to the castle than just the blue fire. 

The hallways always fade to darkness ahead of him.  As he grows closer to the edge of the darkness it is as if more hallway springs into life, blue fire that should have been previously visible suddenly prominently gleaming.  He turns his head and the darkness has shored up into a wall behind him too. 

This goes on and on, no doors or turns appearing to him.  Like a one-way maze.

(Like a labyrinth) 

The only thing that stops the panicked tingle from beginning to buzz at his fingers and tangle his lungs is that the hallways begin to change. 

Tapestries appear.  A vase here or there, or some other minimalistic ornamentation.  The darkness even seems to be lightening bit by bit, though that could just be his imagination.  While Icarus isn’t necessarily opposed to the darkness, he can’t help but think of increasing light as a good sign.

Just as he starts to consider that he may have to sleep in the hallway that night (whenever that would be), and that at least the carpet is much plusher than anything he had slept on in the labyrinth, the stretch of darkness ahead of him materializes into a room suffuse with light.  He would have almost taken it for sunlight, as strong as it was, if not for the bluish tint to it.

The room is octagonal and made almost entirely of windows, delicately wrought black iron twisting around them in the shapes of vines and flowers.  Its roof it domed and also made of glass, although these panels are slightly cloudy.   The carpet is decidedly red, the color visible in the light.  Across from him, a fair distance as the room is rather large, another hallway shrouded in darkness continues.  More interestingly, to his right he sees that one of the windows is in fact a door.

Icarus hurries across the room to once again thoughtlessly open a door.

He is greeted with the sight of a path that cuts through a madly blooming garden.

Only, the boy quickly realizes, it is unlike any garden he has ever seen. 

There is a tangle of riotous flowers blossoming in the distance.  There are many that look similar to flowers he may have seen once, though none that he recognizes.  He certainly doesn’t have the name for them.

(Night phlox, brahma kamal, evening primrose, Casablanca lily, evening gladiolus, angels trumpet, moonflower, Nottingham catchfly, dutchman’s pipe cactus, lotus, night rose, polianthes tuberose, dragon’s fruit flower, and more; anything and everything that will bloom in the dark)

These foreign blossoms flourish in a tangle of wild vibrancy further down the path, eventually appearing to swallow it whole.  It is chaotic and unrestrained, as wild as a life well-lived. 

This is in stark contrast to the formulaic flowerbeds closer to him.  They are cut in strict lines with no flowers mixing over others, seeming to have been pruned and preened into order.  Some of these flowers are even recognizable to him.  They almost seem to sparkle in their perfection.

Then Icarus realizes they are sparkling.  Because these are not plants of the earth, but stone.

The petals of roses are carved from ruby and garnet.  Violets made of varying shade of amethyst. Lovely daisies composed of diamonds delicately connected to a bright gold center.  Towering squares of sunflowers beam with amber and topaz dotted with dark spots of obsidian.  Azaleas gleam with morganite and bluebells hang with bell shaped sapphires.  All manner of gemstones – quartz, lapis lazuli, peridot, emeralds, opal, jade, alexandrite, tiger’s eye, labradorite – are rendered into multitudinous flowers with such skill that it would take a master artisan a lifetime to create just one.  He can’t even begin to count how many different renditions of flowers there are.

(Any and every that won’t grow in the dark)

Icarus knows where the wealth of Hades lies.

He even knows where the God of the Dead himself is, seeing as he is staring at the mortal boy from where he appears to be somehow pruning a gleaming red coral amaryllis. 

He does not look amused.

The god is tall.  Icarus can’t say whether or not he is taller than Poseidon, but he also figures gods can probably be as tall as they want, so.

His skin is bone white with a grey undertone and his face seems gaunt even though Icarus is sure that the god’s body looks perfectly healthy beneath his dark robe.  He has a stern mouth above a rounded chin and a straight nose.  High cheek bones cut lines across his face with the sharpness of a blade.  His eyes are unsmiling and, perhaps more importantly, filled with an inky blackness interrupted only by glowing circles of blue fire.  The pupils of fire burn cold.  His hair is short and the blue-black of a raven’s wing.  When he moves his hand from the stone flower Icarus swears he can see the aged bone underneath, though the illusion disappears as soon as the motion stops.

With his stern countenance and the tinge of longsuffering Icarus can sense in the god’s demeanor as he looks at him, Hades reminds Icarus of his father.

Icarus bursts into tears.

Through his blurring vision Icarus can see the god’s startled expression.  The image is quickly blocked as Icarus scrubs at his eyes in an attempt to stop the water from flowing from them.  He tries to keep his mouth closed but sobs keep bursting through it.  He really hopes nothing is leaking from his nose, because bursting into tears in front of the God of the Dead because he misses his dad is embarrassing enough. 

Even if he spontaneously died from embarrassment he couldn’t get away from this clusterfuck of a social situation.  Truly, Icarus now knows why land of the dead is somewhere to be feared.

A throat is cleared, “This is hardly the first time a mortal has cried from fear upon seeing my visage.  Although I had thought you may fair better considering you had weathered my domain rather well thus far.”

“I’m,” he hiccups, “I’m not cryin’ because I’m scared of you.”

“No?”

“You remind me- remind me of my dad.”

“Your… father?  I remind you… of your father?”

(???)

“Yeah.  I’ve lived with him my whole life and,” he sucks in an unsteady breath “and I’m a man now and I’m gonna get Godly Dick so I had to make my own way but also I kinda reeeeally miss him because I’ve never not had him and even though he can be grumpy and looks mean and thinks I’m stupid I know he cares about me and is actually kinda soft and fluffy on the inside,” he sucks in a bigger breath from lack of air and uncovers his eyes to peer up at the god, “And you remind me of him and I hadn’t realized I missed him until I saw you.”

Hades stares back of him looking nothing short of bewildered.  His eyes are wide open and the flames in them seem banked in muted shock.  He is stock still and his body posture can only be labeled as awkward.  As reluctant as Icarus is to call a god something so mundane, especially when the only other two he has met are Poseidon and Aphrodite (however brief those meetings were) and he could never imagine either individual as something even approaching awkward.

The two stare at each other, neither knowing how to continue the conversation.  Only Icarus’ occasional sniffs break the silence of death’s garden. 

“My, this is quite a scene.”

Icarus looks passed Hades’ still form and sees a figure materialize from where the garden path is overtaken by the forest of living flowers.

The woman has a full body with skin the color of freshly turned earth.  Her face is soft with something austere about her eyes.  The eyes themselves are the green of newly grown things.  They have an inner glow to them, almost as if the sun is peaking out between the leaves of a flourishing tree.  Her lips are a plush deep red that matches the vibrancy of her wildly curling hair, a spark of lively flame and lifeblood to nurture the uncharacteristic vibrancy of the garden.  Flowers bloom from her hair and vines restrain it into a loose braid that appears a moment from springing free.  She stands straight and proud and looks benevolent and terrible in equal measure. 

“Speak, Lover of the Sun, and tell me how you have stunned my husband so.”

“Oh, um, he reminds me of my dad and it made me sad so I started crying.”

Persephone’s face remains neutral, “is your father dead and he reminds you of your loss?”

“No.  He’s fine – he invented a new kind of ship to escape so that jerk Minos couldn’t catch him.  I had to leave him because I want,” somehow he can’t bring himself to say ‘godly dick’ or ‘fuck the sun’ as he usually does in the face of her impassive eyes, “to, um, reach the sun god.  And he doesn’t approve of what I want so we had to go different ways.  I don’t regret doing it, but I’m not used to living without him.”

There is quiet for a moment before the goddess’ green eyes soften, “I know it can be hard to detach oneself from their parent for the first time and even defy their wishes.  I’m certain your father wished you take a safer path, but we must ultimately choose what is best for ourselves.”

Her words settle something in Icarus and he is able to breathe easy.  He wipes the tears from his eyes and feels that they won’t return this time.  With one last shuttering breath his lips turn into a smile and he beams at the goddess.  He then turns to the death god who is still standing stalk still on the path about halfway between Icarus and the spring goddess.  Hades’ shoulders are visibly looser with the appearance of his wife and Icarus smiles at him.

“Wow, she’s really neat.  You’re super lucky she’s here with you!”

The god’s eyes flicker to his wife and Persephone smiles back at him, “Yes.”

Then Icarus is bouncing towards the God of the Underworld, bag swaying at his hip, and the dark haired god once again begins to look bewildered.  When he reaches the space next to the deity he smiles up at the much taller male, trying to make up for his outbreak of Emotion with friendliness.

A thought suddenly occurs to him, and his newfound loyalty towards Persephone causes Icarus to point a warning finger at the god, “Oh, but the story!  The legend says that you stole Persephone and tricked her into staying here by offering her food!  Is that true?  You can’t just make girls – or goddess girls – stay with you or do what you want!  It’s real dickish!  I made sure Ariadne kicked Jason to the curb before anything bad could happen to her, but it could have!  It’s a big problem in our society!”

Hades is singularly unsure what to do in this situation. 

Persephone has a small, vaguely amused smile on her face as she walks to where her husband and the babbling mortal boy are standing.  She gently but firmly pushes the boy’s hand away from the god and says, “You will do well not to believe everything they say in stories.  Legends are rarely accurate, and even more rarely encompass anything pertinent of the situation.”

“Oh, so he didn’t kidnap you and trap you with, um, pomegranate seeds?”

She hums, looking at him through lidded eyes, “I shall not tell that story this day, but rest assured young Icarus, I am only and ever where I want to be.  I was once Kore and now I am Persephone.  None would dare challenge Persephone, female or not, and so they must make her genesis something laughable.  Mortals often laugh at and downgrade what they fear.  Not that it helps them when they fear me.  Ours is the inevitable land, mine a throne everyone shall bow to.”

Wow, she is kinda scary, isn’t she?

“You’re kinda scary, huh?”

She smiles benignly, “Yes.  I am the Queen of the Dead.”

Can’t argue with that.

Icarus is suddenly struck with why he came to the Underworld in the first place, “Oh!” 

He quickly reaches into his bag and retrieves his piece of papyrus.  He reads out, “The binding vines of the Underworld Royal Gardens,” and looks beseechingly at the god and goddess before him, “Poseidon says that’s one of the things I need to fly to Helios.  Would you be willing to give me some?”

“Helios, you say?” Hades speaks up.

“Yeah!”

For the first time Hades has something of a smile about his mouth when he looks at Icarus.  The cold fires of his eyes dance merrily. 

“I heard that you tried to fly to the sun before, with feathers and wax wings?  After telling you not to trust what you hear, I think it best to confirm with you myself,” Persephone says.

“Oh yeah.” Icarus removes the gold shawl from his shoulders and turns around to reveal his back.  Whatever Poseidon did to salvage Icarus’ bindings and toga and close his wounds - and he must have done something for the burning wax had damaged them all - it did not perfectly heal the aftermath of his decisions. 

Shiny burn scars etch into the dark skin of his upper and middle back, some trailing onto the underside of his arms.  The two masses on his back are equidistance from each other starting at his shoulder blades; the feathers had even impressed some texture so that the scars resemble the wings that had left them. 

Icarus had not even realized he had them at first, as while they could pull oddly at times the burns did not hurt.  It was the merchant family that pointed out their existence to him.  The scars are also likely what convinced them of the truth to his claim of attempting to fly to the sun.  And perhaps why the father chose to gift Icarus his shawl, now that he thinks about it.

They had exclaimed over them, but Icarus finds he doesn’t much care.  He never had the environment to develop vanity.  The scars could be seen as a testament to his folly, but as Icarus literally couldn’t see them and he was never one to look back when there is so much to look forward to, they don’t present any emotional burden to him either.  They’re just kind of there; a part of his body and life and past. 

Anyway, that particular venture could have ended much worse than it did.

Icarus turns back around and sees the two immortal beings looking contemplatively at him.  Hades says, faintly bewildered, “By all accounts you should be one of mine by now.”

“But isn’t it amazing that I’m not?”

Hades has started to look bemused again, “Many would have taken that statement as a threat, coming from me.”

“But you weren’t threatening me, were you?”

Hades stares.

Persephone’s smile takes an earnest tilt.

“Little Icarus,” she says, “you have been traveling for a while, have you not?  Would you like something to sate your hunger?” 

She turns her wrist and presents him with a fruit.  It could be a peach or an apple.  Maybe a very large strawberry?  Probably, it could be anything you want.

Vague memories from early childhood of his father batting at him to be polite briefly shine through the clouds of his natural exuberance and he replies, “No thank you, my lady.  Would you like any of the food I have with me?  I don’t know if the food from above tastes any different and I don’t think it’s time for you to leave for a while so maybe you’d like some of it…” he begins to rustle around his bag for something he hasn’t gnawed on.

“That is quite alright.  Save your food for the rest of your journey.”  Icarus pauses in bringing out a piece of dried meat, nods absently, and lowers his head as he goes to place it back.

A mischievous smile and a quelling look are shared between wife and husband.

When he turns his eyes back to her, Persephone seems to look more favorably upon him and he can’t help but be invigorated by it.  She says, “Neither of us are much swayed by the other Olympians’ games or pouting, but we find that we rather like you, for all that you could use a few lessons in vigilance and basic common sense.  I do not know if you will find what you truly want where you are going, but far be it from me to prevent someone from treading where others believe they may not go.  Also, my husband and I will find the inevitable fallout of you going to Helios incredibly amusing.”

Icarus looks at her with hopeful shining eyes and Persephone smiles indulgently, “I shall go get those vines of yours.”

The goddess turns on her heel and strides regally towards the wild garden.  She is quickly swallowed from sight between the blooms and stems.  Then there is once again just the deathly god Hades and mortal boy Icarus standing amongst the gem flowers. 

Only this time Icarus is rather closer to the god and considerably more comfortable.  He turns his big warm eyes back to Hades.  Hades silently curses his wife’s mischievous (/sadistic) streak.  She had never had the opportunity to trap him with a human child curiously devoid of fear of him and more peculiarly (or alarmingly) of the opinion that the God of the Dead reminds him of his father.  Somehow he cannot help but believe that she was just waiting for something like this to happen, even if she could not have possibly known something like this could happen.  Since coming to the Underworld and becoming its queen, she has achieved a façade of omniscience in her kingdom that makes even Zeus sweat when he must come down for one (wretched) reason or another.

Hades loves her.

“So, did you make this garden for Lady Persephone?” the boy speaks up.

The god turns his eyes to him and wonders at how the mortal doesn’t flinch away.  There are precious few individuals, mortal or immortal, who do not turn away from him for one reason or another.

He realizes that the pause of silence caused by his contemplation has likely turned awkward and replies.

“Yes.”

“Oh, that’s super cool!  It’s really pretty and the craftsmanship is amazing.  Almost godly, ha ha,” he coughs.

They’re silent.

Icarus swears he had just proven he’s a people person, like, two days ago.

“Well, it must be nice to have all of the flowers here when she’s up on earth.”

“I do not much go into the gardens when she is away.”

The god is stoic as he says this, but for all that his eyes are composed of pitch blackness and cold fire, Icarus thinks he sees a deep sadness in them.  Maybe it’s in how the fire dims to pinpricks just at the thought of Persephone’s absence. 

It occurs to him that most beings have a deep fear of death, and thus a fear of Hades.  Icarus wracks his brain but he cannot remember any stories with Hades having positive interactions with other gods or humans (for a given value of a “positive” human-god interaction). 

Gosh, the god must have been lonely before he met Persephone.  And he must be lonely when she’s gone.  Icarus thinks that if his father had left him in the labyrinth (willingly or unwillingly) he’d eventually never be able to return to Daedalus’ workshop.  The sting of loneliness would be too great to bear.

Thinking of this, but thinking also that it would be good for Hades to keep the memory of his wife close to his heart when she is away, the teen reaches into his bag.

Icarus smiles kindly, “you must miss her when she’s gone, right?  Here, I have this pretty flower hairpin.  You can wear it during the half of the year when she’s not here so you can remember her and know that she’s coming back.”

There is a momentary pause as the god stares dumbfounded at the offered hairpin. 

Despite the way he awkwardly states, “This is hardly necessary,” Hades takes the jewelry with suspiciously shiny eyes (considering Icarus isn’t sure they can produce tears in the first place).

The craftsmanship and materials of the hairpin pales obviously in a garden of splendidly rendered precious jewels, but the god doesn’t seem to mind.

They spend the rest of the time waiting for Persephone in relative silence, with Icarus humming contentedly to himself and Hades clutching the red flowered jewelry.

Persephone comes striding back into the tamed gardens a short while later.  The goddess has vines draped about her shoulders and twining up and down her arms.  The vines are a deep red with shots of gold snaking through them like veins.  She takes in the scene before her and Icarus thinks that her smile is the most genuine one yet.

“What is that which you hold, husband?”

“Just something the boy gave me,” He says and slips the hairpin somewhere in the folds of his robe.  Icarus thinks he looks the slightest bit embarrassed.

She smiles, “I believe that Little Icarus should rest here for a day before he continues his journey.  Would you decide on a room that would be suitable for one such as him?”

Hades nods and quickly steps towards the glass room Icarus had originally come from.  Looking around, Icarus notices that the bluish light bathing the garden is not from fire like the inside sconces, but from what looks to be some sort of luminescent moss growing all along the walls that encompass the massive garden.  He can see the dark stone walls that outline the jewel flower garden, but as they reach the real flowers they are also swallowed up in the cacophony.  He has no concept of how far back death’s garden reaches.

Persephone steps towards him and he turns his attention to her.  She gestures for him to open his bag.  He compliantly does so and happily watches as she unwinds the vines from around her and deposits its length carefully into the bag.  He cheerfully does not think about how there is no feasible way for the vine to fit or for him to feel no change in weight with its addition.

Icarus cheerfully doesn’t think about a lot of things.

Then the goddess speaks.

“My husband is a soft man.  You have made him quite happy with your gesture and have pleased him where few others have.  We expect you to visit us periodically throughout the seasons.  You will grow tired of being in the bright sky so often; you can take rest under the dark earth.”

And, well, he hardly thinks he will grow tired of the Hottest Being in the Universe, but he’s not about to argue with the Queen of the Dead.  Plus, he likes Persephone and Hades.  It’d be nice to see them again.  It’s nice to have people who like him and want to see him again.  He’s certain he would not be this happy, been able to see so many cool things and meet so many cool people while working towards something great, if he had stayed with his father.

Clearly, deciding to fuck the sun is the best possible life decision he could have made.

 


 

The next day (for a given value of day, considering there are no days nor nights here) Icarus heads out of the Underworld.  In style. 

Hades and Persephone see him off from the castle.  Hades bids him be cautious of his coming journey and of the other Olympians.  Icarus kindly doesn’t mention he has not been truly cautious once in his life.  Persephone looks at him knowingly. 

More importantly, Icarus had unsubtly been asking about Cerberus the night before.  This resulted in a more animated discussion than most would think the God of the Dead capable of.  Hades had even been appropriately appalled when Icarus informed him he had not seen a dog since he and his father had been trapped in the Labyrinth. 

This obviously had to be rectified. 

Icarus whoops as the wind rips through his hair, fingers woven tight through coarse dark fur as he struggles to keep himself on Cerberus’ back.  The three headed dog howls gaily in response as they race to the entrance of the overworld their masters had bid them take the small mortal to.  They reach a hole in the murky “sky” of the Underworld in what seems like no time and Cerberus somehow jumps up it.

For someone who has flown before, Icarus can admit that the only reason he didn’t screech loud enough to permanently deafen the great dog was a combination of pure terror and wind.

Icarus is relieved to see the sun, but not to see Cerberus go.  He spends a good additional hour attempting to give a thorough petting session to a creature taller than even the walls of the labyrinth.  By the end Icarus believes he has made an additional (possibly favorite) friend.

Then it is time to move.

He is in a clearing in different woods than he had journeyed through originally to reach the Underworld.  The trees are yellows, reds, and oranges of autumn and their leaves are shapes he hasn’t previously seen.  Icarus has no clue where in the world he is exactly and feels a thrill in his stomach at the thought of being in uncharted land.

He does know that Hades and Persephone had directed him to the entrance closest to where the goddess Artemis presently is.  She moves almost constantly, though usually within forests, but is apparently currently hunting a creature that is within the area.

It is only midmorning and Persephone told him to follow the progress of the sun in the sky as it sets in the west.  By the time to moon takes its place he should reach his next destination.

It is much vaguer directions than Icarus is necessarily comfortable with, but he has had great success with largely-aimless wandering in a general direction lately and is willing to go for it.

So Icarus spends the day mimicking the sun’s journey to the west, deciding to put the time to good use by practicing pick-up lines.

“You must be the sun, because you just brightened up my day!”

“Did the sun come out or did you just smile at me? (Probably both!)”

“You are the light of my life – without you I couldn’t see”

He thinks it is a productive day.

 


 

The sun eventually disappears as night covers the land.  Between the trees Icarus sees the warm red of a fire and he heads towards it until he enters a clearing.  It is large enough that the trees cannot form a canopy over it and the stars and moon shine coolly overhead.  A girl sits next to the small campfire, staring intently into it.

Her hair is a tuft of moonlight shorn near her ears, reflecting the light pouring from the celestial body overhead.  A set of bone white antlers spring proudly from it.  Her skin is dark as night, with freckles glowing pale as stars (clustered in what Icarus believes to be constellations) scattered across its expanse.  She is dressed in a dark cloak, its hood not drawn but her face downturned.  When she glances up, her eyes arrest him.  The whites of her eyes are dark, her iris and pupil a single circle of light.  Not a perfect circle, however, and with a quick look up he confirms that the portion cut off in darkness reflects the gibbous moon overhead.  She opens her mouth to speak and her teeth are sharp as any predator’s.

“So you have come, Icarus.”  Her voice is high and clear, her face round and girlish, eyes unapologetically wild and watchful; he hears the whistle of a joyful, raucous cry on the wind and tastes the sharp tang of blood on his tongue.  She looks like she cannot be more than fifteen winters and could not be possibly be any less ancient than the first creature to hunt prey. 

Icarus smiles and hopes it’s not the annoying type of smile that would make her want to shoot him full of arrows, “Hello lady Artemis, how are you this fine night?  Hunting going well?  Have any exciting new plans?”

She blinks slowly, “You have come to ask after my current activities?”

“Hah, well, no.  Um.  It seemed polite to do?  So you wouldn’t shoot me full of arrows?”

“My kill wouldn’t be so impersonal.”

Oh?”

Artemis sighs and says, “That was something like a joke.  No need to be so nervous.  You were under my protection, once.”

Icarus’ smile turns from nervous to sheepish, “Oh, well, people thought I was but I wasn’t, really.  Sorry about that.”

The goddess readily replies, “There is no need to apologize for your nature.  Although I can’t find masculinity attractive, personally.”

“But I thought you had a male lover once.  Wasn’t he called Orion?” Icarus does not consider the intelligence behind questioning the statements of a being more powerful than oneself, nor the intelligence of bringing up the goddess’ murdered lover who was turned into a constellation.

Luckily for the boy, Artemis seems more bittersweetly amused than angered, “Orion was similar to yourself.  She really was the finest mortal hunter I have ever met, but all the mortals who knew her couldn’t see her past the male body she was born in.”

“Well that’s dumb,” Icarus declares.  His father had never questioned him about his own nature, and why would he?  Feeling a sudden strong kinship to the hunter Orion, and now sad that she’s separated from her goddess love, he eagerly offers, “I could craft you a pair of wings to visit her!  The moon and its cover of night is cool compared to the glare of the day, so you wouldn’t have to worry about it melting!”

A small smile cracks Artemis’ begrudging lips, a bit charmed in the face of this dumb boy.  He reminds her of her hunting pups; her hounds have always held a soft spot in her heart. 

“I will remember your offer, artificer who does not consider basic design flaws.”

“Hey!”

Icarus somehow ends up sitting at the fire with the Goddess of the Hunt and sharing a bit of the game she had killed.  Artemis declines sharing any of the food he still had.  Icarus has absolutely no clue what exactly he is eating, but it tastes like chicken.  She doesn’t talk much, but doesn’t seem to mind that Icarus dreads awkward silences and fills the clearing with the story of his journey thus far.  Artemis seems particularly interested in his description of the Underworld - with a brief explanation of “I have never been there” - and even asks for details.

The fire is still burning strong (with no apparent fuel, now that he looks) when he finally manages to finish eating between describing his adventure.  She gestures for him to give her the piece of papyrus with the list on it and he obliges.

Artemis observes the paper and hums absentmindedly.  Her humming has a strange pitch to it, high and almost uncanny.  As she continues, eyes begin popping up in the dark forest to her back.  They eerily reflect the light of the fire, glowing like earth-bound stars.  More and more blink to life, all staring fixedly at him.  Then the goddess looks up and ceases to hum and the eyes blink out of existence.

He doesn’t mention it.

“You do all of this to seek my brother?”

Icarus has to clear his throat a few times to get his voice to work, “is Helios your brother?  I thought only Apollo was…”

Then the goddess’ eyes are staring fixedly at him and it is a million times more intimidating than the forest of eyes.  She stares and says nothing for several moments.  Icarus stays perfectly still, cold sweat beginning to bloom at his temples and the back of his neck.

A moment stutters passed.  

Artemis grins wolfishly with fangs to match.

“You are correct, Icarus, Helios is not my brother; I misunderstood.”

(gods do not claim to misunderstand)

She stands and gestures for him to do the same.  Icarus scrambles to his feet and follows her a few paces away from the fire.  She says, “I am glad to help you on your endeavor.”

The goddess raises her hand up to the moonlight and begins to spin it.  Although he really shouldn’t be at this point, Icarus is astonished to see that the moonlight begins to gather around her hand in a seemingly physical, if ethereal, form.  It is as gossamer as a spider’s web and thrice as diaphanous as Icarus’ golden shawl.  It is almost ghostly, although the more she spins the more tangible the strip of moonlight becomes.

Artemis speaks as she methodically winds beams of light around her fist, “For all that many of the Others only refer to you jokingly as such, you are a hero now Icarus, completing the labors that the gods have assigned you.  There will be legends and songs of you.  The heroes that have come before you have been great, but very few have been kind.  We do not see much use for kindness in this world.  I do not pretend to be different; although I do not act with cruelty, the Hunt is not kind, and it is not with kindness that I protect those in my purview.  However, this lack of kindness hurts the most those that I champion.  Heroes consider the young girl, the virginal woman, trifles to be played with and discarded as they please.  This is the attitude recorded in legend: the men that other men hold up.

 In every single girl there is a wolf ready to bare its teeth and run merry-wild through the woods.  But this world and its attitude blunts them before they even have a chance to grow sharp.  Kindness may create the opportunity for them to become all that they could be.  Do not be like other heroes, Icarus.  Do not consider others objects and prizes to do with what you will with no regard to their own wants.  I will not pretend that any of Us are likely to set the example that I want.  It is not in our nature; and our nature is much less flexible than that of mortals.

 But it is mortals who pray to us, who worship us, who drive us.  I do not wish to see the mortals that belong to me continually injured in ways that cut deeper than the physical, and I do not believe you desire this either. 

And so, will you do this for me, Icarus of the Fiery Wing?  Will you continue to be foolish and kind so that others may also be a little foolish and kind?”

She flicks her wrist and the moonbeam separates, leaving a shimmering gauze of light wrapped around her dark hand.  She offers it to Icarus and he gingerly takes it, feeling like he is gripping something similar water but more insubstantial. 

He is not sure what to say, precisely, but she is not asking him to be anything that he is not.  She is only asking him not to change.  If his father couldn’t get him to be any less dumb after 19 years – nine of which they were each other’s only companions – he doesn’t think much else has a chance. 

The moonlight is cool and almost slippery to the touch.  It is light as air and gives off a soft glow.  Icarus clutches it to his chest and gives the girl-shaped being across from him a nod.  She smiles in return.

Despite the fact that his quest to fuck the sun is ordained by the gods, it feels entirely different for one to give him a directive like this.  It feels heavy and nerve-wracking.  Icarus has never felt the weight of Responsibility before and he’s rather certain he doesn’t like it.  Artemis’ goal, however, is something he himself believes in.  And he thinks it’s rather a life goal to Not Be Like Theseus (or Jason, etc.).  There’s nothing wrong with aiming to be nice to people and not to become a giant asshole.  Having decided this, Icarus tucks the swath of moonlight securely into his bag.

“Come, Hephaestus’ workshop is adjacent to Olympus.  I will take you there directly.”

The moonlight next to Artemis coalesces into a silver chariot drawn by four pure white horses.  Icarus is getting so used to this kind of shit that his brain only twinges a little at witnessing it.  He feels very proud.

Icarus follows the goddess onto the chariot where she takes up the reins. She pauses and turns her antler crowned head slightly to look back at him.  Her grin is once again full of teeth.

“Helios is a tall man with fiery hair.  If anyone else is there when you meet him, I expect you to utterly ignore them and give him your utmost attention.”

He barely gets the chance to nod earnestly before Artemis whips the reins and they’re in the air.  It’s not like when Cerberus jumped between worlds.  It’s more reminiscent of when Icarus flew with his wax and feather wings.  Not as exhilarating for not flying himself, but perhaps more fun for the same reason.

Icarus gives and joyful whoop that mingles with the high laugh of the goddess in front of him as they race through the night sky.

By the time they reach Hephaestus’ workshop, Icarus will have pulled out his list and taken some charcoal to it.  It now reads:

  1. Build some wings
  2. Fly to the sun
  3. Get some godly dick Ask politely for that godly dick

~

The feathers of the swans of Aphrodite

The binding vines of the Underworld Royal Gardens

The coolness of the Moon beloved of Artemis

The engineering of Hephaestus

 


 

Icarus actually knows a thing or two about Hephaestus considering he is, unsurprisingly, the god his father most reveres. This being said, he either never knew or forgot the fact that Hephaestus’ workshop is located under a volcano.

He’s rather certain Mount Olympus isn’t a volcano and that there are no volcanos, generally, in the area.  That seems like the type of thing one would hear about.  And since Mount Olympus is the entrance to the Olympus that the gods live in, it seems like a volcano would be noticeable.  Maybe? 

Either way Icarus is standing in front of a bronze door at the base of a volcano (that doesn’t seem entirely inactive) somewhere “Olympus adjacent”.  Artemis had given him a push off of the chariot before it had stopped and then laughed in what seemed a good-natured way.  Icarus may have screamed a bit, but he only has a few scratches to show for it and thusly waves away the chariot with a smile as it disappeared into the distance.

With a mental shrug, Icarus pushes at the door.  It opens easily and he obligingly steps through.

His amber eyes are immediately stuffed with wonder.

Icarus has seen what workshops look like, inventions in various stages.  He grew up with the finest mortal craftsman to have ever existed.  Everyone acknowledges his father’s brilliance – it is why Minos locked them up when his father betrayed him rather than simply executing them.  Hephaestus’ workshop makes Daedalus’ look like a child playing at imitation.  

Everything is slick and shimmering metal.  Forges blow and hiss steam that create artificial clouds.  He thinks that some of them hold lava rather than simple fire. The heat is immense and forces Icarus to remove his shawl and tie it around his waist.  The room is bright with the light of the fires reflecting off of gleaming metal and the boy blinks rapidly as he tries to take everything in.

 There are tools scattered about everywhere, many still stuck in projects that look abandoned partway through their construction.  Icarus cannot even begin to guess at the purpose of some of the things the god seems to be creating.  Strange shapes, sharp or smooth, large and small, take up the space of the sprawling workshop.  Some of the inventions move, a lever bobbing or an entire giant circular structure whirling fast enough to create a constant hum.

It is a wonderland of sorts.  He thinks his father would faint from sheer awe if he ever saw it.  Icarus himself is feeling a bit like someone hit him over the head.  He may not measure up to his father in skill, and may not have the ambition to, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have his own love of artificing and invention.  The creator of these things can be nothing short of incredible.

There are visionaries, and then there are those who are able to peel back the veil of the universe and peer at its very inner workings.  Simply, Icarus is certain there is no one who currently exists, mortal or immortal, who could begin to ponder the apparatuses Hephaestus is crafting within this small pocket of space.

When Icarus spots the god bent over a worktable, he approaches without being quite certain what he could possibly say to him.  For the first time since he started his quest, his goal is absent from his mind.  It is filled with fascinations that remind him both of home and a wonder he hadn’t felt since he was very small and sitting under his father’s workstation as the man crafted a little golden bird.  Daedalus had peeked down at him and smiled secretly as he twisted a knob on its rounded back.  He tossed the bird gently towards Icarus, and instead of falling into his small waiting hands, it had spread its wings and flown.  It was a result utterly incomprehensible to his child mind.  He froze as the bird fluttered passed him, but after it left his sight, he could do nothing but turn and follow.  He spent the day running delightedly after the golden bird, falling in love with it, falling in love with the way it fluttered and soared, falling in love with the simple happiness he felt, falling in love with impossibility. 

Hephaestus, Icarus realizes, is not just the god of blacksmiths or metalworking; he is the God of Impossibilities. 

(Different than the impossibilities that the other gods can so easily rend from the universe – the type of impossibilities that take imagination, and passion, and a belief that there is yet ever more to discover)

And Icarus thinks that is so, so cool.

The god gives a grunt and looks up at him, his iris a sluggishly moving mix of dark and red like lava.  His face has a squashed appearance to it and lacks the almost eerily perfect symmetry that the other Olympians had worn.  His skin is tanned, but only from standing in front of forges.  Icarus realizes this because the skin on the back of his neck not covered by his somewhat limp, sooty hair is rather paler.  The god’s back is hunched over his broad shoulders and even when he straightens up to address Icarus there is a slight curve to it.

“Aphrodite already told me you were coming.  She does not often ask much of me.  Give me the items in your bag.”

Icarus immediately pulls out the small statues of Aphrodite’s swans, the dark vines of the Underworld’s garden, and the swath of moonlight Artemis had spun for him.  Hephaestus takes these and places them on his bench.  His crooked fingers glide softly over the swans before he does something incomprehensible with his hands that reduces them to life sized pearlescent feathers. 

The god grunts, “at least the materials are interesting,” and begins to work.

What he’s doing specifically, Icarus isn’t quite sure, as he’s trying to think of opening statements to say to the most awesome being ever.

(Not the hottest though his mind loyally reminds him)

“So, my dad, Daedalus, you may have heard of him.  He will be super jealous when I tell him I was here.”

“Yes.  I have heard of the master craftsman Daedalus.  He is the finest mortal mind that I have seen in quite some time.” His tone is a bit disinterested, but Icarus ignores this for the words themselves. 

Score!  Hephaestus thinks Icarus’ dad is cool!  And Icarus didn’t even need to convince him to build his wings.  Making the god think that he’s cool is sure to be easy!

Or maybe not quite so easy considering Hephaestus seems even less talkative than Artemis or Hades (who could actually really get into a conversation if you choose the right topic).  He seems completely absorbed in his work and never notices how Icarus opens and closes his mouth several times, hands fiddling madly with his turquoise bracelet.  He searches in vain for something impressive to say.  He comes to the conclusion that he’s good at talking to people once the conversation gets going, but not so much at breaking the ice. 

This goes on for an interminable amount of time.  Icarus begins sweating not only because the workshop is way hotter than even Crete midsummer, but from mild anxiety and panic.  He is going to miss his chance to impress Hephaestus if he doesn’t say something soon!  But if he says the wrong thing, that could be even worse than not saying anything at all!

Eventually, he decides to take heart and just go for it.  Poseidon and Aphrodite think he’s funny.  The merchant family like him enough to give him gifts and wish him heartfelt luck.  Persephone and Hades invited him back to the Underworld to visit.  Artemis even told him she likes him just the way he is (kinda) and to not change!

And so Icarus crosses his arms and leans – casually! – against the workbench, opens his mouth, and lets go of any brain-to-mouth filter he may have spontaneously obtained in the face of being starstruck.

“So you know how you’re the coolest god ever,” Icarus misses Hephaestus’ considerably skeptical look since the mortal is staring determinedly away from his direction, “–which is funny since you’re the god of fire!  Anyway, so, you’re the coolest god ever, right?  And I am the son of the greatest mortal inventor, right?  And I made wings to fly to the sun - that had some design flaws, admittedly, but they worked!  That’s apparently not really a thing that should have happened!  So, like, I can do some things, and if Helios likes me, I’ll be around – relatively?  I don’t actually know how far the sun is from Olympus, or Olympus-adjacent… but, I’ll be around!  And you’re super cool and awesome and this is the most spectacular place, like, ever, so.  I could come around sometimes?  If you don’t hate me?”

Despite the fact he should probably be gasping for breath, Icarus instead holds his and looks at the God of Forges from the corner of his eyes.

The god is looking back.  He looks about as bewildered as Hades had when Icarus had word vomited on him.  Hephaestus’ eyes are squinted, staring at him like he’s a puzzle.

(or trying to discern the truth of his words)

His face settles and he seems to have decided upon something.  Although he looks, if possible, more bewildered at Icarus.  Icarus seems to have that effect on people. 

The god gives a harrumph and sweeps what he had been working on into his arms and heads towards an anvil next to a forge that has an open flow of lava running the length of the wall.  He has a noticeable limp as he walks, although it does not appear to truly impede him.

Icarus would have followed to see if he could push his luck and get a clearer answer, now that he has already decided to just go for it, but he genuinely thinks he may pass out from heat exhaustion if he goes within fifteen feet of that area.

He finds what seems to be a mostly finished giant dog made of a dark metal and scales up its side.  He glowers (pouts) in the direction of the anvil Hephaestus has already began to work on.  Icarus intended to keep this up for the duration, but he eventually falls asleep between one blink and the next.  It probably shouldn’t have surprised him, considering he spent the night flying madcap with the Goddess of the Moon.

Drool slides down the side of the metal dog when Icarus blinks awake.  He hurriedly uses the bottom of his toga to wipe it off and glances surreptitiously around him to see if the other occupant of the workshop had noticed.

His is arrested by the sight of wings.

The wings are supported with an upper arch of the dark red vines shot through with gold that Persephone had given him.  From them, feathers burst forth in a flurry of beauty that must stretch 20 feet each way.  The fluffy feathers maintain their mother-of-pearl appearance, but instead of silvery-white, they are a rainbow of sun-soaked yellow, warm golden, amber, and fiery tones.  An aura drifts about the wings; a floating, shimmering thing that makes them appear like something dreamed to life. It is a bit of a startling contrast against the vibrancy that colors it.  They are the most captivating things Icarus has ever seen.

(and he has seen the Goddess of Beauty)

Icarus is standing next to the wings, hardly remembering scrambling down and through the workshop. His hand is raised, but he can’t bring himself to quite touch them.  Even with his hand just hovering near them, Icarus can feel that the air around the wings is several times cooler than the sweltering temperature of the room beneath a volcano. 

A grumbling voice speaks from behind him, “Considering your quest, I thought that you would appreciate the color change.”

Icarus manages to turn his head away from the impossible creation in front of him to look at the god who made it.  There are tears in his eyes as he croaks, “They’re wonderful.”

Hephaestus harrumphs, but he looks pleased.  Icarus begins to suspect that harrumphing is his general reaction and the boy will have to begin discerning between them to determine the god’s feelings.

“Well, do not just stand there.  Turn around so that I might fit them on you.  You will not be able to don them yourself.”

He is turned around with the inventor-god behind him.  He feels the coolness of the wings approach his back and jumps a bit when he feels something slide along him.  Then there is a sense of weight.  Then one of weightlessness.

Before Icarus can say anything, mirrors appear in front of him.  He sees the wings, open and resplendent, arching from behind him.  He waves his arms and realizes that his wings are attached directly to his back, as some images have portrayed Cupid, and his arms remain unimpeded.  The next mirror shows his back.  Despite the fact that his bindings and toga obscure much of it, he can see what he thinks made the slithering feeling.

The vines attach to his shoulder blades.  From where they make contact with his skin, they seem to turn into some kind of painting.  The two-dimensional vines trail sideways to meet in the middle of his back, then trail down his spine in a winding design (although he cannot see where it ends).  The dark red and shots of gold contrast prettily with his dark skin.  The intricate beauty of the image also contrasts interestingly with the burn scars that still mar his skin down to the undersides of his arms.  Some of the scarring is covered where his new wings attach, but much of it is still prominent.  Icarus doesn’t dislike the overall effect.

With the inhumanly beautiful wings on his back, the pearlescent laurels crowing his brown hair, the turquoise bracelet circling his wrist and the bronze sunflower brooch blossoming on his tunic – all gifts given to him by people that he met on his journey and that believed in him, or looked kindly upon him, or found simple enjoyment in his existence – he can’t help but believe in the corner of his heart that Helios may look upon him and think someone truly wonderful had come to find him. 

Icarus takes a hesitant step forward and unconsciously goes to the balls of his feet, feeling like he could take to the air as his wings flair wildly behind him.  He drops down to flat footed and flings his arms out in an attempt to steady himself.

“Your center of balance will be different, but it is nothing you cannot handle.  Your wings are forged by a god and made of gods’ gifts.  If you do not think of them in such a way, they will not feel like something new or foreign to your body; they will feel as if you are a bird born with them.  Natural as your arms and legs.  They have already acclimated your body to them.  Simply go with purpose and they will follow.”

So saying, Icarus strides with purpose around the workshop, and though he feels more buoyant than ever before, he walks normally.  His wings naturally retract around obstacles, folding neatly to his back if he goes through a space with no room for them at all.  Icarus marvels at how he both feels and doesn’t feel them.  He feels it when he strums his fingers gently along the soft feathers.  He doesn’t register the immense weight they must carry nor any of awkward newness one would expect when obtaining new limbs.

He takes several circuits around the workshop, noticing he is suddenly much more tolerant to the heat.  Fascination captures his mind as he observes every new and curious thing about his wings.  Icarus would have taken several more laps if he wasn’t stopped by Hephaestus. 

The god steps in front of him, “Enough. There is no point in walking around here when the end of your quest is in sight.  Head to the west and you will find yourself in Olympus.”

Icarus is unceremoniously ushered to the door, too startled to make even a peep in protest.  Even his elation in his wings may have been dented at Hephaestus’ sudden dismissal, if not for what he says before he completely throws the boy out.

The God of Fire’s lava eyes aren’t gentle, exactly, but his voice perhaps has a hopeful undertone when he grunts, “If you do not meet a true fiery death nor get lost in epic romance, you would not be unwelcomed in my workshop.”

Then the door is closed and Icarus is standing at the base of a volcano.  He had been in Hephaestus’ workshop longer than he had thought; twilight would soon be upon him.  It would be best to begin walking now, no matter that he wants to bang on the door and demand the god let him make them friendship bracelets.

When he begins to walk to the west, the hop in his step is not merely caused by his wings.

 


 

Icarus once again follows the sun to his next destination.  The celestial body hangs closer than he has ever previously seen – as large as the harvest moon.  It radiates warmth that clings to his skin like a hug.  His muscles relax and he feels almost languid.

At some point the terrain beneath him turns into what he can only assume is clouds.  They are soft and almost fluffy against his feet, though they also feel as solid as the earth.  The white color of the cloud road is dyed a brilliant red-orange-gold by the setting sun.  The feathers of his wings reflect the sun even more brilliantly; the light appearing to set the already vibrant colors aflame.

Icarus of the Fiery Wing” Artemis had called him, and it seems to be true for both his human-made and god-forged wings.  It is fitting, since they were both made to fly him to the greatest source of heat and flame in the mortal and godly realms.  Icarus likes the thought, bouncing happily as he goes.

He talks to Helios as he walks, “What do you think of my wings?  Aren’t they beautiful?  Hephaestus is amazing – I can’t imagine anyone else could craft them!  And everyone else that helped make them: Aphrodite, Hades, Persephone, and Artemis, I owe them so much!  And Poseidon!  I’d be super dead without him.  Ariadne and the merchant family too…

I’ll be there pretty soon!  Are you excited to meet me?  I hope you at least find me interesting!  Should I tell you about my journey?  You probably saw me with Aphrodite, but when I met the other Olympians the sun wasn’t overhead, was it?  I guess I’ll start from the beginning.  So, I woke up one day and realized ‘whoa, you’re really hot!’ – as in you, the sun, you, not like I was talking to myself – anyway, I made some wings so I could come meet you!  My dad said they’d melt and I didn’t listen, but it turned out he knew what he was talking about.  It won’t be the last stupid thing I do!  Then I’m falling to the ocean…”

 


 

Olympus is really hard to look at. 

Not as in it’s ugly or anything, but like Icarus’ eyes want to jump out of their sockets.  It’s more confusing than Aphrodite’s swans.  He can’t even tell what shapes some things are.  If they have a shape.

(Is that even a thing??)

But Icarus is somehow standing in front of this impressive looking building despite the fact that trying to recall the walk there is like discerning the image of a painting that has been distorted by rain.  He’s not in the business of trying to make his brain melt so he stops trying to remember.  He does vaguely recall promising Poseidon to stop by the throne room, so he hopes this building is that.

He also needs someone to tell him where exactly he’s supposed to fling himself from to get to the sun, so.  Here’s hoping someone will be here to tell him.

It’s a pretty impressive structure, made of what he thinks is something like white marble.  The flat roof is etched with intricate designs painted in gold and built upon enormous columns.  There are three in front of him, and despite not being able to see past the front of the building, he’d take a wild guess there are twelve columns total.  Coming closer, he sees there are also images impressed into the white stone of all three.  The middle, he realizes, depicts images of Zeus (boo).  The two columns flanking it are quickly identified as having murals of Hera and Poseidon, respectively. 

Icarus thinks the building is technically open air.  However, despite the lack of true walls there is some kind of distortion that makes it so he can’t actually perceive anything besides the outer façade.  The distortion, cheeringly, does not hurt his brain, so he figures he’s good to go inside.  Supposing he isn’t immediately smote for daring to step into the seat of the gods.

He’ll blame Poseidon if it comes down to it.

He’s about step beyond the distortion field when a bolt of dread goes through him. Oh.  Oh no.  This is not good.  Icarus feels his goal threatened, everything done on this journey until now turn to ash.  The ultimate challenge in his journey.  The final monster that could slay him right as he tastes victory.  It all coming down to this:

What…what if… Zeus is in there

He has absolutely nothing nice to say about the king of the gods!  The titanic douche-bag!  Or maybe, given “titanic”, that would be Cronus?  Either way, Icarus is very poor at controlling his mouth, and Zeus very poor at not being awful.  He’d probably strike Icarus down immediately should he tell the god precisely what he thinks of him.  Will Icarus be able to hold his tongue?  Hm…maybe he physically could actually hold his tongue.  No trash-talking a god to their face then.

Icarus had come this far; he wouldn’t let Zeus ruin this (like he does everything else).

Taking a bracing breath, Icarus steps through the distortion field, feeling how he imagines warriors do in the face of an unwinnable fight.  For Icarus, this is the fight between his impulse control, or lack thereof, and better sense.

You’ve almost never won before, but I believe in you, good sense.  We can do this!

There’s a sensation of stretching something until it bursts, then Icarus is inside the throne room of the Olympians. 

The room is large, but not as gigantic as the outside.  There are no visible doors so it’s hard to discern if there are more rooms in the building or if the outside is merely misleading.  The layout is open with light generously spilling in, giving it an airy feeling.  Mosaic tiles sprawl the ceiling and walls, richly colored and depicting many creatures and scenes he knows from legend and even more that he does not.  The floor is the same gleaming white marble as the outside.  A golden tapestry-like carpet sprawls the middle.  The image weaved into it depicts twelve splendid figures, their forms creating a semi-circle.  The placement of the figures corresponds to the thrones arrayed around the room.  The image of Zeus is directly across from Icarus.  He is alone, the rest of the gods on either side of him.  Accordingly, one of the thrones is on a slightly raised dais on the opposite side of the hall from where he entered.  It is solid burnished gold with a high back that is circled in a glowing crown of what appears to be stars.

The throne is empty.

A throne two seats to the right, however, is occupied.

The throne is wooden, carved with intricate detail.  There are depictions of warriors armed with spears and shields.  On either end of the arms of the throne is the snarling visage of who Icarus can only assume is Medusa.  An owl sits perched on the back of the chair, brown and speckled white with large yellow eyes.  It seems utterly disinterested in his presence, though not as exasperated by it as the owner of the throne.

The woman’s spine is ramrod straight, leaning her proud shoulders against the back of her throne.  Her face is stern with a long, straight nose.  Thin lips are pursed above a strong chin.  Her eyes are a narrow flinty grey that never seem to blink.  Another shimmering grey eye is painted in the middle of her forehead.  At one instant it looks like a stylistic design and at another seems to be staring right at him.  Curled dark brown hair is pulled back into a strict braid that snakes around her head.  Muscles ripple under the golden tan of her skin, adding to the image of a warrior that the gleaming silver of her armor already presents.  She would look perfectly regal, if one of her hands wasn’t already cradling her brow.

“This is how it will go: the official legend will say that you died when you were supposed to.  We cannot allow mortals to believe that they can perform impossibly foolish tasks with no repercussion – especially doing so with not a bit of cleverness nor forethought.  I cannot abide by intellectual laziness and will not stand for it to spread.  Any being that possesses a shred of wisdom would not have tried something so foolhardy, nonetheless had the heart to do so twice when they had experienced falling to their death the first.

I shall not endure the headache of going against so many of the Others’ whims, however I will not allow for this insanity to spread.  Your story will become one of hubris and foolhardy recklessness; humans shall hold the act of flying to the sun synonymous with one who overstretches his means and pays dearly for it.  This is the ‘Tale of Icarus’.”

(Of course, for all her insight, Athena did not take into account that her prowess in spreading a narrative has nothing on that of Aphrodite’s.  Or Poseidon’s for that matter; every sailor will have his story on their lips, and that will thusly be the one that reaches the four corners of the world.  In another reality, perhaps, Athena’s mandate would come true.  But not in this one.

In this one, Icarus falls. 

Then he rises.)

The goddess gives something approximating a sigh before standing up, “this being said, as my father has left this to me (USELESS MOROSOPH resounds in the back of Icarus’ head), I am to show you from whence you shall fly.  Come.”

She is statuesque and her strides quicksilver, covering so much ground that she reaches an exit that spontaneously appears in the back right of the room before Icarus can take more than two steps.

He shouts “Many thanks, Lady Athena Ma’am!” as he runs to catch up. 

Icarus follows the Goddess of Wisdom outside the hall and the world immediately warps around him.  He has to concentrate fiercely on her armored back to not get lost in the jumble of colors and shapes around them.  His legs also have to work double time to keep up with her brisk pace and long strides, although the buoyancy he has gained from his wings allows him to accomplish this without too much effort.

Eventually Athena stops and Icarus realizes that he can recognize his surroundings for what they are and not something out of a substance induced nightmare.  They stand on the edge of the cliff, the ground paved in an amber stone with a dark golden railing lining the edge.  There is a gap in the railing at the farthest point, large enough that several Icaruses could stand side by side. 

Despite the fact that night should be heavy upon the land, the sun is bright and close, shining warmly down on them.

Expecting that Athena is likely to follow the trend of not being an immortal of many words, Icarus begins to stride towards the edge.  He is surprised when she hears her stern voice cut through the air.

“You intend to romance Helios?”

He nods.

“The universe deigns to grant me some measure of joy.”

“Don’t worry, I’ll make sure to seduce him extra good for you,” Icarus comfortingly informs her.  He should probably stay and see her reaction or make sure she’s done with the conversation, but excitement is buzzing through his limbs and anticipation playing his heart like a drum.  He is so, so close and his legs run without Icarus telling them to and he can feel his wings flare.

He is suddenly at the edge and—

He jumps—

(Falling, falling to the ocean feathers floating around him wax burning his arms into his skin further and further from the sun from warmth from hope from a life worth living—)

And flies

It is nothing like flying with his crafted wings, fighting against gravity and nature with pure belief and determination.   This, this feels like something he is made to do.

(It feels like nothing could trap him ever again.)

His god-made wings ride the wind with ease, lifting him higher and higher.  His arms are raised, reaching towards the sun.  He can feel a grin straining his cheeks, so intense that his eyes squint from the joy of it. 

Athena believes that it is only right for him to fall, but why is that so?  Why shouldn’t heroes be kind?  Why shouldn’t girls have sharp teeth and run merry-wild through the woods?  Why shouldn’t death be kind, and spring imposing?  Why shouldn’t a person be able to say what they are without others doubting them?  Why shouldn’t people be able to dream impossible things?  Why shouldn’t people wonder about the world and want things that those around them don’t understand?  Why shouldn’t he fly?

(Perhaps it is foolish.  Perhaps it is naïve or stupid or idealistic.  But—)

Icarus is racing through the sky, further and faster.  His wings are aflame and gravity has no claim to him. 

He should be dead, but he’s not.  He shouldn’t have been able to fly at all the first time, but he did.  He should have been afraid of failure the second time, but he isn’t.

And he wouldn’t be here if he hadn’t jumped the first time, if he hadn’t fallen, and if he wasn’t willing to jump again. 

No matter what should or shouldn’t be, Icarus is flying to the sun, and nothing can stop him.

 


 

Icarus is standing is a large hall and he is not quite sure how he transitioned from flying to standing here, but it doesn’t matter.  He knows he is here.

The room is suffused in warmth and warm colors with gauzy hangings swaying in an imaginary breeze, resulting in a dreamlike quality.  He knows that there is furniture and other objects scattered about, but his brain considers the details of the room as arbitrary.

Because there is a man with fiery hair standing further in and nothing else is important.

Icarus vaguely registers that a buttery-golden haired boy steps towards him, saying something in a gleeful voice, but Icarus brushes passed him without a glance.  He remembers his promise to Artemis.  Besides this, how could he have eyes for any but the person he had travelled all this way for?

His mouth involuntarily says, “I am so, so happy to meet you, Helios.”

He walks forward, his eyes locked on Helios’.  The Sun God’s eyes are incandescent, a solar flare that is almost hard to look at.  His skin is a smooth, dark amber with dancing golden flourishes that arc under his eyes and extend like rays for about an inch below.  Another golden line starts from the upper bow of his full lips, extends down his chin, down his neck, to where it’s swallowed by the light fluttering amber yellow of his tunic.  His jaw is as strong as the rest of his body, his stature tall and broad.  His hair is red-orange-yellow fire braided into dreadlocks down his back, with two particularly large braids framing his face and trailing down his chest.

Helios is beautiful (gorgeous, mesmerizing, brilliant) to say the least.

He also looks surprised, which shouldn’t really be a thing at this point.  Unless he hasn’t been paying attention this entire time and didn’t hear when Icarus was talking to the sun.  Which is a bit (A Lot) embarrassing, but that’s okay.  Surprises can be nice too.  His beautiful wings, matching the brilliance of Helios’ hair and flaring grandly behind him, along with the gauzy golden shawl tied to his waste, his jewelry, and pearlescent laurels should produce the dazzling effect that Aphrodite (the Goddess of Love!) suggested he create.  Icarus can’t help but think that he is a nice surprise.

It’s okay, Icarus is here and has time to make his feelings clear.  So saying, it’s probably best to articulately let the god know why a mortal has appeared before him.  No pressure; he can totally be suave and seductive. 

“Hello, I’m Icarus, and I’m here to fuck the sun!  I’d also like to get to know you, and maybe woo you, if you’d like.  If you wouldn’t, just tell me what you want. I’d like to make you as happy as my journey to meet you has made me!”

Their eyes never once look away from each other, so Icarus sees how Helios’ face morphs from confusion to comprehension to as subtle blooming happiness.  He laughs and his smile is as bright as the sun (ha).

“Hello, Icarus.  I believe I would like that.  Would you come closer so we can meet properly?”

Well, it goes without saying:

Icarus unhesitatingly flies to the Sun.

 


 

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If anyone's interested, here's some notes on the gods:

 

Poseidon

Listen, Poseidon is just here for the laughs.  He’d definitely be the vodka aunt.  Of course, Poseidon is a temperamental as the seas and can be terrifying as fuck, even compared to other Olympians, but he’s also one of the most charismatic.  He can be magnetic and charming – the sea is pretty universally loved, innumerable poems written about it.  The sea has the duality of being both romanticized and theorized to hold eldritch abominations within its dark depths.  Luckily for Icarus, he met Poseidon in a non-carnage year.  He just wants to fuck with his family and cackle over some good ambrosia with Aphrodite.  He’d do it for the vine.

On an aesthetic note, Poseidon is incredibly vain and knows he looks damn good.  His too many/sharp teeth would be like a shark’s vs Artemis’ which are more like a land predator’s.  Also there are definitely design details inspired by PJO – I can’t help it.

 

Aphrodite

Her design was in my head as soon as I decided to write her.  Aphrodite is the epitome of beauty.  Beauty is subjective.  Aphrodite is beautiful in any culture or point of view. Her beauty is shifting and encompassing the beauty of youth and age.  She’s basically every woman there ever was or could be, and you weep and pound your chest in awe of her presence.

(Her hair is perfect and we all hate, and despair, and love that perfect hair in equal measure.)

Aphrodite is a vodka aunt that enjoys masquerading as a wine mom.  She is here for the love drama and wants you to give her every detail.  Yeah, it may have ruined your life and ended with someone being turned into a flower, but the Drama

She is also ready to take some fucking souls and ruin some goddamn lives.  If the mood strikes her.  She’ll also give you the best advise ever and bless your relationship, if she wants to shake things up. 

She thinks Icarus is dumb and adorable.  A fount of amusement and drama.  Literally her favorite kind of mortal.

 

Hades

I picture Hades as someone like an accountant or a tax collector.  He’s super organized and good with numbers – he has to be, to keep track of and organize all of the dead.  He’ll also come to collect (you best believe Greg Grimaldis) and won’t be deterred by shit.  He is someone who can make people feel intimidated and nervous because they don’t want to have to pay (their lives) and is easy to hate mindlessly. 

But he’s not really a bad person or anything.  He’s just doing his job??? He didn’t even want to be the god of the dead he just got the short end of the stick and Zeus and Poseidon got the glamorous domains.  He doesn’t really like people but simultaneously it’d be nice if he could have a few people not look upon him in terror when he hasn’t even done anything.  Not saying that he can’t be terrifying, all gods are terrifying, but he’s not by nature - more by reputation.  Being inherently Great and Terrible is Persephone’s job and he thinks it’s the greatest thing ever. 

I also can’t help but think of death as a mortal thing, which makes Hades closest to understanding humanity, even if he doesn’t know what to do with them if they’re not screaming in fear.  I think that also came out in how I characterized him, as he’s easily the most accessible god and Icarus is more able to understand and commiserate with him.

(The blue fire is inspired by Disney’s Hercules because that Hades is iconic, if not remotely similar personality wise to mine nor canonical)

 

Persephone

So first off, I know the tale of Hades and Persephone has been reinterpreted by our generation and there are arguments about whether or not there is proper support for it in primary sources, and I don’t care.  Like, this is not a realistic interpretation of probably anyone in this story, and I’m just here to fuck around and have a good time.

Anyways, I will say that Persephone being an absolutely terrifying Queen of the Underworld is entirely canon.  She struck terror into the hearts of man indiscriminately and was not afraid to cut down a bitch.  I find this interesting to contrast against the fact that she’s still, you know, the Goddess of Spring and nominally the reason that winter ends and humans don’t all die.

Persephone is thus a person that inspires instant respect.  She has a naturally motherly feeling to her (since at this point she isn’t Kore and doesn’t have a “young maiden” feel) – because spring implies life, growth, warmth, children, ect – and that itself deserves a certain amount of respect.  People listen to their mothers and also want their mothers to be proud of/approve of them.  Her other aspect is the co-ruler of where all souls ultimately congregate; she is a being of terror and reverence.  This creates a potent and almost contradictory combination of feelings that not even Zeus can match.  “Benevolent and Terrible in equal measure” (terrible in the “exciting terror, awe, or great fear” and “formidably great” sense) is generally the impression she gives off.

Also, Kore was definitely wildin’ pre-Persephone; spring is not a tame concept. 

 

Artemis

The definition of “I’d eat his heart in the marketplace”.

Artemis has some of the character designs I would have used for Selene, but since she wasn’t showing up, I decided to change some of Artemis’ design around to incorporate it.  I gave her antlers because I always think of bucks as “kings of the forest” (likely due to several media sources) and as a sign of hunting, since collecting big racks of antlers is a thing hunters do?  I think.  Maybe also as a power move since it could be a symbol of masculinity and she’s wearing a big ass rack as an accessory/prize.  Also it just looks cool.  Aesthetic. 

Fun fact the constellation Orion is over her heart.  It used to be Gemini in honor of her and Apollo’s relationship, but then he was a jealous ass and the catalyst to getting Orion killed and Gemini is now in her armpit.  She and Apollo being twins also has some physical manifestations, such as naturally appear the same age at any given point (if Artemis looks like a young teen then Apollo also does; if Apollo looks like a young adult then so does Artemis).

Compared to Persephone, rather than inspiring respect and the desire for approval, Artemis generates primal terror.  I mean, she’s the Goddess of the Hunt.  She’s basically the ultimate apex predator.  Seeing her would inspire the same amount of fear as seeing a bear, lion, and wolf all in front of you and staring you in the eye would. 

This is not necessarily the case for girls and maidens, though.  Since they are under Artemis’ protection, they don’t feel the same instinctual fear that others would.  Artemis takes her duties to them quite seriously.  This is seen in her appeal to Icarus.  In the myths I think she has a group of dryads (maybe?) that follow her around.  She’d deffos also have a Riordan-style Hunters of Artemis group eventually in this world too. 

As a side note, she’s definitely going to stage a coup on her father one of these days.

 

Hephaestus

Since I figure gods can look like whatever they want (with a sort of base appearance), Hephaestus’ “disfigurement” goes deeper than him looking uglier than the rest of the Olympians.  It means that there is something inherently wrong with his power.  Whatever allows the gods to take on any form is simply broken in Hephaestus, and it is this seeming disfiguration of his godly powers that leads his parents to reject him.

Hephaestus keeps to his workshop and generally doesn’t interact with the other gods much – unless they need him to forge something, of course.  He’s got zero social skills and is not much interested in mortals.  He has an appreciation for their ingenuity but doesn’t bother with interaction.  He’s a bit of a lonely soul despite being satisfied with mostly living in his head and working on his creations.  Icarus’ reaction to him is fucking bizarre, frankly.  And it is nowhere near to the extent of Daedalus’ potential fangirling.

Also, the internet told me his workshop is under a volcano and idk what myths that’s pulled from but it’s hella metal so.  Here we are.

 

Athena

She is surrounded by idiots.

Uhh Athena’s design is mostly “ripped as hell” and “Will cut a bitch”.  With a side of “done with my siblings’ (and parent’s) bullshit”.  While the third eye obviously isn’t a traditional Greek symbol, it can symbolize wisdom/higher knowledge/truth, and I thought it was appropriate for her.  She’s also hella aro/ace (one or the other or both – haven’t decided).

Her throne is carved from an olive tree.  I feel like she’d care about workmanship and handcrafted details over flamboyant gaudiness.  coughZeuscough.  And a lot of the other Olympians, to be fair.  It may even be the work of one of her favored mortals.

She’s not at all on board with Icraus, unsurprisingly, and this whole situation – seemingly rewarding a mortal for throwing themselves at the sun with wax and feather wings – hurts her very soul.  However, she is fully aware that she will be on the end of some very vicious “pranks” by an innumerable number of gods at this point if she tries to interfere, and she frankly has better shit to do.  Short term, this will at least get back at Apollo for the times he’s been a little reprobate.  Long term, this Icarus is definitely going to start some shit with Zeus and he’ll either get blasted or give her ungrateful father the headache he rightly deserves.  While she may be Zeus’ favorite for all intents and purposes, that mostly manifests in him fucking off and leaving her to deal with all the shit he doesn’t want to do (which is most things not involving sticking his dick in something). 

When Artemis gets around to overthrowing Zeus, Athena probably won’t fight against it as hard as she could.  It’s what she deserves.

 

 Bonus Zeus

Shapeshifting rapist.