"All my life I've wanted a father and now I've found him and... why can't I just believe him and be happy?" Evander asked distantly.
"Fear." Phobos responded, as if the answer were obvious.
Evander thought about the single word response for a moment, then reluctantly nodded.
"If you wasn't wearing that bracelet I could probably help you with it. I'm not really good at taking fear away, yet. But even if I couldn't fix you completely, I bet I could help." Phobos said cautiously.
"You're helping a lot, just by talking to me." Evander said honestly.
Phobos thought about that for a moment, then smiled as he said, "Then I think you just helped me learn something new about my godhood."
"Really?" Evander asked with surprise.
"Yeah." Phobos said introspectively, "Poppa Joxer told me and my brother that we could use our god powers for good and that was pretty kewl and stuff. But what you just showed me is that I don't need to use god powers all the time. Talking and listening can work as good."
"I taught you that?" Evander asked incredulously.
"Yeah." Phobos said with a grin, then continued, "We're here."
* * * * *
Dorin looked around in wonder at his new surroundings.
"Let's sit down and talk for a minute so I can tell you how to help Ganymede." Apollo said as he led Dorin by the hand.
Dorin seemed nervous, but went along with Apollo willingly.
With a little coaxing, Apollo guided Dorin to sit on his knee.
"Ganymede and Asclepius have both been ordered to stay in bed for the next three days." Apollo said gently and put an arm around the boy.
"Are they sick?" Dorin asked with concern for his god.
"No." Apollo said immediately, then continued more gently, "Both Ganymede and Asclepius are pregnant. They're going to have babies."
Dorin looked at Apollo dubiously, then cautiously said, "I thought only girls could have babies."
Apollo smiled at the fact that Dorin was comfortable enough with him to question what he was being told.
"Yes Dorin. That's true of mortal people like you. But the gods are a little bit different." Apollo said carefully, trying to find the right words to explain it so Dorin could understand.
"You know that the gods can do things that mortal people can't, right?" Apollo asked gently.
"Yeah. Like disappear and answer prayers." Dorin said seriously.
"Yes. That's right." Apollo said with a smile.
"Well, this is another thing that gods can do that mortal people can't." Apollo said carefully, then waited to see that Dorin understood what he was being told.
After a moment, Dorin seemed to be at peace with the statement.
"Well, when a god becomes pregnant, it makes that god weak for a few days and they need someone to take care of them until their bodies adjust to carrying a baby." Apollo said slowly.
"But I don't know how to take care of someone who's sick." Dorin said with concern.
Apollo smiled at Dorin's words and said, "That's why I'm talking to you now. I'm going to tell you what you need to know."
Dorin turned slightly so he could look into Apollo's eyes and devoted his full attention.
"Have you ever been sick and needed someone to take care of you?" Apollo asked quietly.
"Yeah. I was really sick with a fever and my sister stayed with me and talked to me and told me that I was going to be okay." Dorin rambled.
Apollo smiled and said, "That's all I'm asking you to do for Ganymede and Asclepius. Stay with them. Talk to them. Make them comfortable and help them to do the things that they're not well enough to do for themselves."
Dorin thought about the words for a moment, then quietly said, "I won't know where to find things. Like if they need food or a drink."
"There will be priests available to provide anything that Ganymede or Asclepius might need." Apollo said with a smile, then added, "But what they can't provide is companionship. That's why you're so important."
"I am?" Dorin asked with surprise.
"Yes you are." Apollo said assuringly. "When you were sick, how did it make you feel to have your sister there, knowing that she was watching out for you and concerned for you?"
"It made me feel safe. Like I knew that I was going to be okay." Dorin said distantly.
"That's why you're important. My priests would attend to their needs, but I doubt that they would be very good company." Apollo said with a smile.
After a moment, Dorin nodded that he understood.
"Good." Apollo said with satisfaction. "Now that you know why you're here, let's go so you can get to work."
"Thank you, Lord Apollo." Dorin said sincerely as he stood.
Apollo put out his hand and waited until Dorin accepted it before saying, "Just remember that Ganymede chose you because you're you. Don't make the mistake that Cleptus did."
Dorin remembered the annoying servile priest that they had encountered and said, "I'll remember."
* * * * *
The sound of whimpering woke Joxer from his light sleep.
It took him a moment to come awake enough to realize the source.
//Anteros, could you help me for a minute?// Joxer called in his mind.
"What can I do for you Poppa Joxer?" Anteros asked immediately as he appeared at Joxer's side.
"I think Pan is having a bad dream. Do you think you can help him. I would but I'm confined to this couch." Joxer asked hopefully.
"Sure thing, Poppa Joxer." Anteros said fondly, then moved to kneel beside Pan who was whimpering and twitching in his sleep by the fire.
Anteros gently placed a hand on Pan's shoulder and whispered, "Don't worry, Pan. You're in the halls of war, and you're safe."
"Where's Apollo?" Pan whispered in a trembling voice.
"He's just gone to take care of some things for a few minutes. Would you like for me to call him for you?" Anteros asked gently.
"I don't know what I'm... he said I'm going to have a baby..." Pan said as tears filled his frightened eyes.
"Shhh. You don't need to worry about it, Pan. My Poppa Joxer and my brother Deimos are going to have babies too. You're not the only male god who's going through this." Anteros said assuringly.
"But what if... I mean, how can I do this? I'm the god of wild animals. Males don't nurture their young, that's for the females to do." Pan said desperately.
"I think there are people who would disagree with you about that." Anteros said gently.
"But I'm not talking about people. I'm from the house of nature. My essence is tied directly into the creatures I protect." Pan said imploringly, trying to make Anteros understand. "In the wild, the male mates, then moves on. That's his role. A successful male will father as many young on as many females as possible to spread his seed far and wide. Other males try to do the same, so only the strongest, healthiest and smartest produce many young."
"Okay, I think I understand what you're saying." Anteros said slowly.
"When this baby is born... what am I supposed to do?" Pan asked in a trembling voice.
"Pan." Joxer said quietly from the couch.
After a moment, Pan lifted his head and turned slightly to look at Joxer.
"I'm not telling you what to do, but maybe you should consider that you're not an animal. You're a god. Don't let their instincts rule your godhood. Let your godhood show your animals how a father can behave. Think of how much better it will be for your creatures if the father will protect and defend his young." Joxer said gently.
"I've never tried to do something like that, I don't know if I could." Pan said quietly.
"It sounds as if it would be worth the effort." Anteros said quietly.
"I don't think I'm strong enough to change them all." Pan said in a considering voice.
"Well, maybe that's a good thing." Joxer said absently. "Rather than have all your creatures behave in exactly the same way, it might be good if you had some species that behaved differently."
After a moment of contemplation, Pan looked at Joxer and gave a hesitant smile.
"Are you comfortable, Pan? Can I get you anything?" Anteros asked gently.
Pan thought for a moment, then smiled at Anteros and said, "No. This is nice."
"Good. Just let one of us know if there's anything at all that you need. Everyone here will be happy to help you." Anteros said as he absently petted Pan's wild hair.
"Just need Apollo." Pan mumbled as he drifted back to sleep.
* * * * *
Evander looked up and up and up at the huge temple before them.
Nothing in his life had prepared Evander for what he saw.
The enormous structure was breathtaking in it's construction.
The scale of the archetecture was far beyond the ability of mortal men to create.
Evander froze in place and stared at the huge marble statues and tinkling fountains.
"Daddy Heph should be over here." Phobos said quietly, urging Evander to follow.
"I'm on Olympus." Evander gasped in awe.
Phobos stopped to look around at the great hall, trying to see it from Evander's 'mortal' point of view.
"Yeah. It's pretty. Ain't it?" Phobos chuckled.
Evander reluctantly tore his gaze from his surroundings and looked at his newly discovered half-brother with question.
"I'm used to it, but I guess it is nice." Phobos said with a smile, then continued, "Let's go see if we can get that bracelet off of you."
Evander slowly blinked as the words worked their way past his shock and he finally nodded his agreement.
"Come on." Phobos said, then started walking again.
Evander obediently followed as he continued to try to absorb every detail of his new surroundings.
* * * * *
"Ah don't think there's nothin cuter than a sleepin cherub." Strife said as he gently stroked Bliss' wings as he slept against Strife's chest.
"I love you, Strife." Cupid said in a voice of awe.
Strife looked at Cupid curiously, then quietly said, "I love ya too, Cupes."
"I mean... Gods, Strife. I loved you before. But this... it's like a level of love that I never even knew was there. I love you so much..." Cupid trailed off as tears streamed down his cheeks. "I don't have words."
"Well, if ya don't have tha words. Mebbe ya could climb on up here and show me." Strife said with a grin. "There's some room ovah here."
"What about Bliss?" Cupid asked with concern.
"Aww, get yer mind out of tha gutter, Cupes. Ah jes wan ya ta lay down with me an Bliss an hold us an be with us an... ya know?" Strife asked hopefully.
"That sounds perfect to me." Cupid said as he climbed into the bed beside Strife.
"Ah woulda thought that tha god'a romantic love would have alla tha answers bout stuff like this." Strife said with a smirk.
"I guess not." Cupid said as he cuddled up to Strife's side. "But what fun would that be?"
"Good point." Strife said, then turned his head to give Cupid a gentle kiss.
* * * * *
"Wait over there by the door. There's something I need to do. I'll tell you when to come in." Phobos whispered.
Evander looked at Phobos uncertainly, then walked to the edge of the doorway and waited as he was told.
"YEAAAAH!" A man's voice screamed from inside the room, and Evander couldn't resist the urge to look inside and see what had happened.
Hephaestus was sitting and panting slightly as Phobos was nearly doubled over with laughter.
"I don't understand it. My godhood makes me omniscient. Ares called and told me that you were coming. And somehow you still managed to surprise me." Hephaestus said as he tried to get his breathing back to normal.
Phobos giggled, then glanced at the doorway and motioned for Evander to join him.
"What's wrong, Hephy?" Aphrodite asked as she flashed into the room, then noticed Phobos by Hephaestus' side.
"Pho? Come over here and give your mama a hug." Aphrodite said joyfully.
"Hi mom." Phobos said hesitantly before he was engulfed in Aphrodite's hug.
Evander watched the scene and felt an ache in his heart, knowing that he was at odds with his own mother and wouldn't be received as joyfully.
"Mom, this is Evander... my brother." Phobos said, not sure of what her reaction was going to be.
"Hello Evander, it's wonderful to finally meet you." Aphrodite said in a gentle, motherly tone. "Come over here and give me a hug."
"You'll have to forgive Aphrodite. She's always exceptionally affectionate when she's pregnant." Hephaistos said at Evander's obvious surprise.
"Complaining?" Aphrodite asked as she glanced at Hephaistos.
"Hardly." Hephaistos said with an answering grin.
"Come on Honey. I won't bite." Aphrodite encouraged as she held out an arm to him.
Evander reluctantly began to walk toward the beautiful woman, and as soon as he was within reach, she scooped him into a firm hug.
After just a moment, Evander became comfortable in the hug and returned it with all his might.
Phobos noticed the contented look on Evander's face and whispered, "Thanks Mom."
* * * * *
"Tad?" Deimos asked as his eyes slowly opened.
"I'm right here, Demi." Tad said from the chair at Deimos' bedside.
"What're you doing all the way over there?" Deimos asked quietly, still sounding a little bit sleep fogged.
"I didn't want to take a chance of hurting you." Tad said timidly.
"I think as long as you don't, like, hit or punch me or anything like that, it should be okay." Deimos said frankly.
"Okay, Demi. I just wasn't sure and didn't want to take the chance." Tad said in a more relaxed tone of voice.
"Get in bed with me, Tad. I want to hold you." Deimos said imploringly.
Tad hurried to take off his shoes, then climbed into the bed beside Deimos.
"Ya know, I was thinkin about what I'd like to do when I'm aloud to get outta bed." Deimos said as he cuddled close to Tad.
"What were you thinking?" Tad asked curiously.
"Well, you know, about what we was talking to Poppa Joxer about." Deimos said shyly.
"About us getting married?" Tad asked hesitantly.
Deimos pulled back to looked Tad in the eyes and asked, "You still want to, don't you?"
"Yes!" Tad answered immediately.
"Good." Deimos said with a relieved smile.
"So what were you thinking about?" Tad asked curiously.
"I was just thinking that, you know, after we go and talk to my mom and she says that it's a great idea, that you and me... I mean, after the wedding, you and me will be married and... I was just thinkin that it would be nice if we had our own place. A place just for you and me and our baby." Deimos said quietly.
"A home." Tad said quietly.
"Yeah. OUR home. That belongs to us." Deimos confirmed. "What do ya think?"
"That sounds nice. But how would we do that? I mean, I don't know all the stuff that gods can do. Can you just 'make' a home?" Tad asked curiously.
"It takes a little work, but yeah. I can make a house." Deimos said confidently, then looked deeply into Tad's eyes and quietly added, "But I'm gonna need your help to make a home."
Tad broke into a loving smile at the words.
* * * * *
After a long hug with Aphrodite, Evander finally released her.
"Ares said that you have a bracelet for me to look at." Hephaistos said frankly.
"Yeah. Evander, this is my Daddy Heph. He's tha king of tha gods and the blacksmith of tha gods." Phobos said quickly.
"I thought Zeus was the King of the Gods." Evander said carefully.
"He was but..." Hephaistos began to say, but was interrupted.
"Things change." Phobos said quickly.
Hephaistos considered the words, then nodded his agreement.
"Dad said you should be able to take this off of Evander." Phobos said as he lifted Evander's left arm to show the bracelet.
"Yes. It's one of mine." Hephaistos said with a nod.
"One of yours?" Evander asked curiously.
"Daddy Heph is a blacksmith. He's tha one who made tha bracelet." Phobos said seriously.
"Here, let me get that off of you." Hephaistos said as he touched the clasp of the bracelet with one finger.
As soon as Hephaistos made contact with the metal, the bracelet opened and fell off Evander's wrist.
Hephaistos caught the bracelet, then watched Evander carefully.
A red glow started to flare out from Evander, causing Phobos to reflexively take a step back.
Hephaistos stayed where he was and watched the expression on Evander's face curiously.
A look of anger came into Evander's expression, then it turned into fury.
"YOU LIED TO ME!" Evander screamed in a godly voice that could be heard all over Olympus.
There was a burst of red power in front of him and his mother, Nemesis, fell out of mid air to land in a heap on the floor.
The fury in Evander's eyes deepened to absolute hatred as his red power began to crackle and sizzle in the air around him.
Nemesis looked up in fear at her son's rage.
Evander suddenly turned as he felt something on his arm.
Confusion filled his eyes as he realized that Hephaistos had just put the bracelet back on him.
"I... What did I...." Evander muttered as his eyes went wide in horror.
Before Hephaistos could answer, there were multiple flashes of light, heralding the arrival of a group of gods.
"Heph. There was just an eruption of power." Ares said cautiously.
"It felt horrible. It was like 'total war'." Enyo said from her father's side.
Hephaistos looked around the group and noticed that Ares, Eris, Enyo, Phonos and Mania had all come to investigate the eruption in the essence of war.
"Phobos, would you do something for me?" Hephaistos asked quietly.
"Yeah. What can I do, Daddy Heph?" Phobos asked with surprise. He couldn't remember Hephaistos, or any god for that matter, asking for his help before.
"Could you dampen their fears for a few minutes while I help Evander?" Hephaistos asked hopefully.
"Sure thing, Daddy Heph." Phobos said with a grin, then drew upon the essence of fear to gently calm everyone in the room.
"Ares. Come over here." Hephaistos said, not so much as a command as a request from one brother to another.
"Would you summon your Sword of War?" Hephaistos asked hopefully.
Ares looked at Hephaistos with surprise at the unusual request, but held out his hand and his large broadsword appeared.
"Evander, please watch your father and see how he channels his godly power through his sword." Hephaistos instructed gently but firmly.
After an uncertain glance at Hephaistos, Ares called up the essence of war and directed the power to flow into his sword.
Slowly, the sword began to glow a dull red then to crimson which brightened orange. It continued to brighten to yellow and finally became nearly white. Crimson lightning crackled and hissed from the blade, as if it were burning the air itself.
Evander stared in wonder at the display of raw power.
"Thank you Ares." Hephaistos said with a smile at his brother.
Ares gave one nod, then the light around the sword began to dim. Within less than a minute, the sword was back to looking like any other mortal weapon.
"Evander, if I remove the bracelet from you again, do you think you can keep yourself from attacking your mother?" Hephaistos asked gently, drawing his attention away from Ares.
"I... I don't know." Evander responded in a trembling voice.
"Will you try?" Hephaistos asked hopefully.
"I'm afraid I won't be able to stop it." Evander said honestly
"I'll help you, Van." Phobos said as he walked to stand at Evander's side.
At Evander's uncertain look, Phobos continued, "I'm tha god of fear. I can help you not be afraid of your power. That should help you be able to control it."
After a moment to consider, Evander looked at Hephaistos and reluctantly nodded.
Hephaistos looked at the other gods in attendance and received unspoken assurance from all that if things went badly, they wouldn't let Evander get too far out of control.
After a look into Evander's eyes, Hephaistos released the bracelet again.
Evander started to glow a bright red as before but this time seemed to be struggling, fighting against it.
Phobos concentrated on his brother with all his might, trying to keep him calm.
Finally, Evander took a deep breath and the power that was surging around him seemed to calm somewhat and become stable.
"Very good." Hephaistos said with relief.
A glance was all that Evander could give as a response, lest he lose control of the almost overwhelming power.
"Evander, this will be your sword of power, like your father's." Heph said as he held out his hands and a two-handed broadsword appeared.
It seemed that Evander was struggling to figure out how to maintain control of his power and his body at the same time, but eventually Evander held out his hands to accept the sword.
Hephaistos placed the sword in Evander's waiting hands, and as he let it go, he noticed Evander nearly buckle under the sword's weight.
Evander managed to awkwardly lower the tip of the sword to the ground, then took hold of the hilt and stood it on end.
Ares and Hephaistos exchanged a look, both noticing that when the sword was standing upright, it was as tall as Evander.
"Don't worry, Evander. You'll grow into it." Heph said gently.
Evander was able to give a small smile at the assurance.
"Now, do you remember what your father did? That's what I need for you to do now. Imbue the sword with the essence of your godhood so it can help you to channel your power." Hephaistos said instructively.
"How?" Evander asked curiously.
"The sword was crafted to be a vessel. It is empty and waiting to be filled by you. Just will the power that is overwhelming you to fill the sword. You won't be giving up your power, you'll only be holding in reserve for when you need it." Hephaistos said seriously.
Evander nodded, then closed his eyes and concentrated on the sword that he was holding with both hands.
Everyone watched as Evander's bright red power began to encompass the sword.
"Good. You're doing it. Can you feel the power?" Hephaistos asked encouragingly.
"Yes.... It's not like it's leaving me, it's more like it's... I don't know.... flowing to the sword and back to me." Evander said with difficulty.
"That's exactly what's supposed to happen. This sword is your emblem now. It will help you manage your power during calm times and it will amplify your powers in the heat of battle." Hephaistos said in a voice that was somewhat triumphant.
Evander looked at Heph with surprise.
"All of Olympus, hear me. Rejoice with me in the awakening of a new god, Evander. Among mortals he shall henceforth be known as Mars. The Roman God of War."
Silence filled the great hall as everyone puzzled over what Heph had just declared.
Editor's Notes: OOOOOOOOO!!! a new God! That's cool! It is really great to get a close up view of the lives of these Gods. As is always the case with a story by MultiMapper, we get to know each of them very well. It doesn't take long for us to care deeply about them, does it?
I am already eagerly waiting for a new chapter.
Darryl AKA The Radio Rancher