Hana leaned back against Frey’s shoulder as they sat outside the school building, waiting for the after school traffic to thin out. “That guy and lunch, Ishmael, I don’t like him. There was something weird about him.”
“What did you n-notice?” Frey asked.
Hana shrugged. “I don’t know, just something about him was… off, I guess.”
“You’re g-getting better at sensing S-Soren.” Hana made a shocked sound and Frey chuckled. “He called m-me a dog, remember.” Hana nodded. “Th-that means he knew what I uh-am. I can’t t-t-tell too well for h-him, but he smells like a c-cat of s-some kind.”
“Is he dangerous you think?”
Frey shook his head. “Nah, he’s p-pretty minor on the power sc-scale.”
Hana hummed to herself and started playing with her necklace. After a few minutes, she felt Frey stiffen behind her and heard him growl softly. “Hey, what’s wrong?” She sat up and looked in the same direction as Frey. Ish was walking towards them. “What do you want, jerk-face?!” Hana snapped, glaring at him.
“Whoa, calm down sweetheart.” Ish held up his hands. “I just wanted to say sorry about earlier. I didn’t mean to hurt your dog. I was just in a bad mood.”
“I don’t care, you’re still a jerk!”
“Whatever, anyway, just keep him reeled in at school. You’ve obviously never had a dog before.”
“Frey’s not my dog!” Hana snapped.
“Then what are you to each other?” Ish frowned, confused. He pulled at the collar of his shirt. “I’ve never seen a human and a wolf-changeling going around together like you two unless the wolf was tamed.” He pointed at the bandages around Frey’s neck. “You do use those to hide your collar, don’t you?”
“I’m a g-guard, a warrior, not a huh-house pet, feline.” Frey barred his teeth at Ish. “No collar,” he said, pulling apart the bindings to show the scaring over his throat.
“Oh, but I feel a link. Where’s it coming from?”
“I’m the one with the chain.” Hana held up her pendant. “It’s a good thing Frey grabbed you earlier. My owner doesn’t like people touching his things without permission.”
Ish pointed at her. “You belong to someone? Who?”
“A Reaper called Grimm, Greek Pantheon.” She saw Frey grin wildly in her peripheral vision as Ish took a step back.
“You’re Elder Grimm’s soul? He’s the one that caused the black plague. Father told me about him.”
“Then it w-would be smart of y-you to leave us alone.” Frey warned. “You d-don’t want to make him m-mad, he’d t-take it out of your h-h-hide.”
Hana stood and brushed off her skirt. “Come on Frey, I think it’s about time we go home.” Frey stood with a last snarl at Ish and followed Hana to the truck.
At the house, Shin was on the front porch, washing the siding with a power washer. He looked angry as the water rinsed away a sticky, milky yellow substance.
“Shin,” Hana called when she opened the truck door. He turned to her. “What happened?”
“Stupid kids, that’s what happened!” Shin snapped and went back to washing the house.
Frey helped Hana down and then jogged up the porch steps. “What’s this?”
“Egg,” Shin sighed. “Some stupid kinds actually walked up t’ the house, threw eggs, n’ ran off inta the woods.” He stamped his foot on the boards of the porch. “Stupid little shitheads. Its freezing and they come here an’ throw eggs at our house. Pisses me off.”
“What? In winter?” Hana asked, sounding shocked. “Who the hell does that?”
“I have no idea. You two go on inside, I’ll be in inna bit.” He waved a hand at them before going back to cleaning the siding. “Oh,” he stopped, “we got some company. Hermes n’ his brother are here.”
“Really, which one?” Hana asked. Shin just nodded to the door. Hana went inside and called, “Hermes, where are you?”
“Hana!” Hermes shouted and came running down the hall from the kitchen. “How was your first day of school?” He asked as he hugged her.
“It was fine. Frey and I met a Soren named Ishmael. Frey said he was a cat of some sort.”
“Seriously, wow,” Hermes glanced behind Hana at Frey. “How could you tell what he was?”
“He just s-smelled like a cat. I d-don’t like felines.” Frey’s nose turned up at the thought. “I can tell y-you’re a messenger t-t-too. You smell like wind and c-clouds and paper.”
“You can smell that?” Hermes asked, eyes going wide. Frey nodded. “Would you try to find out what my brother is? Do you think you could guess?”
“Probably,” Frey nodded. “I’d like to ch-change out of m-my uniform first.” He went upstairs after Hermes nodded.
“I think I want to get out of this thing too,” Hana said. “I’ll be back down in a little bit.” She turned to go upstairs.
“Ok, the uniform looks good on you.” Hermes smiled then went back to the kitchen.
Upstairs, Hana looked into Grimm’s room, to see if he’d gotten home yet. Seeing it was empty, she sighed and went to change then went back downstairs. She went to the kitchen, where Hermes was sitting at the dinette with a dark haired man. He glanced up at her with light brown eyes, almost golden in color. His shoulders were broad, and his curly hair fell into his eyes. He sat in a strange position, with his legs tucked under the bench, out of sight. Hana though he didn’t look like much, not compared to the other Olympians she’d met so far. He didn’t resemble Hermes at all, they looked absolutely nothing alike. She wondered if he really was Hermes’ brother.
“Hello,” she said with a smile. “I’m Hana.”
“I know, it’s nice to meet you,” the man smiled. His voice was a deep rumble, but surprisingly quiet. “Hermes asked me to not tell you my name yet. He said he wants to,” the man glanced at Hermes, “test one of your housemates.” He sighed. “I’d rather not be rude but he insisted.”
“That’s alright. I don’t mind.” Hana went to the fridge. “Would you like anything, a drink or something?”
“No, thank you though.”
Hana made herself a cup of tea, to chase away the chilled feeling from the cold weather. Then she leaned against the counter, hands wrapped around the mug. Hermes’ brother shifted back, pulling his hands off the tabletop to rest on his lap. After a while, Frey walked into the kitchen, rubbing a spot on his side.
“What’s that?” Hana asked pointing with her spoon. Frey froze then shook his head, dropping his arm. Hana glared at him. “Don’t lie to me Frey. What’s with your side?”
“J-j-just a little sore ih-is all.” He sniffed lightly. “It smells l-like ash.” He glanced at Hermes’ brother. “You smell like coal, a-and metal. You’re a-a smith?”
Hana gasped, “Hephaestus right?” Hermes brother, Hephaestus, nodded with a small laugh. Hana threw her arms up into the air in victory. “Yes! You’re the god of work fire and smithing.”
Hephaestus chuckled. “Hermes said you were energetic. He talks about you a lot. Not even Zeus can get him to stop talking about you.”
“Not true, not true,” Hermes shouted. “He’s totally lying! I do not!” Hephaestus laughed at Hermes. “You’re so mean Heph! I’m telling Hera!”
“There’s no point in that.” Hephaestus’ smile fell. “It’s not like she cares.”
“Oh, sorry, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to.” Hermes grabbed Hephaestus’ shoulder and tried to shake him. He rocked side to side slightly at Hermes’ pushing and pulling. “Please forgive me! Would you feel better if I said I’ll tell Aunt Hestia instead? Don’t be upset please.” Hermes looked on the verge of tears. “I didn’t mean to make you upset, I swear.”
“It’s alright Hermes.” Hephaestus lifted a hand and ruffled Hermes’ hair affectionately. “I understand. I’m not upset, promise.” Hermes sighed miserably and rested his forehead on Hephaestus’ arm.
Hana felt awkward and looked at Frey, who shrugged his shoulders. “Um, I thought everything was ok in the Greek Pantheon.” She murmured.
“No, not really,” Hephaestus shook his head. “Most of us get along alright, and Uncle Hades and Zeus cleared up their issues. Just Mother never has gotten over Zeus having Athena, or my… disability. And there’s the time I trapped her with the chair. She’s never forgiven me for that.”
“Hera’s always been like that.” Hermes said. “But that’s ok, because the rest of us love you. Except maybe Ares, but of course, he doesn’t love anyone besides Eris.”
“Tch, and my wife.” Hephaestus crossed his arms. Hermes gasped. “I’ve always known Herm, don’t act so shocked. She’s been cheating on me with him for, what... 3 thousand years? Nothing’s changed since it started. I don’t care that much anymore; at least she’s happy with him.”
“But, she’s your wife,” Hana said, shocked. “How can you be ok with her cheating on you, and with your brother of all people? That’s just wrong!”
“Hana,” Frey murmured, “c-calm down.”
Hephaestus laughed, “Its fine, both of you.” He pointed at Hana with a smile. “You’re a fiery one. I can see why you’re well liked.” He shifted, and looked past them. “Is everything alright?”
“Fine,” Shin said from behind Hana and Frey. “I finally finished washin’ the egg off the house. Stupid kids, who eggs a house in winter?” He went and washed his hands in the sink. “Are you two stayin’ fer dinner?”
Hephaestus looked at Hermes, who instantly became flustered. “Why are you looking at me? You’re the one here to work.” Hephaestus shrugged. “Well, how long do you think it’ll take?” Hephaestus shrugged again. “Come on, how do you not know? You have the time plan and everything.”
“It’s called a schedule Herm. And I kept the evening open, just in case.” Hephaestus ruffled Hermes’ hair again. “Mostly because I know you like being here, and Di isn’t at home tonight anyway. She went to meet with Eros.”
Hermes pouted, “Again? I’m gonna tell dad if she keep doing this to you. Why do you put up with it?”
“If you do that you’ll condemn yourself.” Hephaestus poked Hermes’ cheek. “If I remember correctly, you had a child with her too, remember.” Hermes blushed bright red then covered his face with his hands. “I think I may be the only man in our family to never sleep with her.”
Hermes threw his hands down, face red with anger instead of embarrassment. “That’s not true and you know it! And it’s not like you didn’t have kids without her.” Hephaestus face darkened in anger. Hana automatically back away, going closer to Shin who’d stopped to watch.
“You’re really bringing this up? What would you suggest I’d done, Hermes? I had no option but to have children with other women. My wife, who your father told to marry me, hates my face and the broken leg I got when he cast me out of Olympus! What else was I supposed to do, when the woman I’m married to won’t look at me, let alone be with me? She ridicules me, laughs at me, it’s humiliating! And it’s all because I’m not pretty enough for her! So tell me Hermes, what should I have done?!”
Hephaestus was shouting by the end, on the verge of tears. He put a hand over his eyes, taking a shuttering breath. Hermes was crying, covering his face with his hands. Frey looked like he was trying to disappear into his chair. And Shin was stiff with apprehension behind Hana. The room was tense and quiet, besides Hermes quiet crying. Frey eventually got up and left.
Hephaestus swiped his hand down his face and let out a breath. “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have shouted,” he said quietly before he slid out of the bench and stood slowly. Something creaked as his legs straightened, and Hana saw that he had a complicated brace, made of black metal, on his left leg. “I’m going to set up the workshop before Grimm gets here.” He went out the back door, limping slightly as he swung his leg to walk.
Hana looked back and forth between the back door and Hermes. Then she turned to Shin. He made a motion to the door. “I’ll take care of Hermes. Are you ok with talking to Hephaestus?” Hana nodded. “Good, go on then. He’ll be setting up in the back yard.”
Hana nodded again and left through the back door. Hephaestus was standing in the yard, holding something in his hand. “Um, Mr. Hephaestus, are you ok?” Hana asked, crossing her arms over her middle.
He turned to her. “Yes, I’m fine.” He sighed loudly. “I’m sorry. I don’t usually yell like that. I don’t like it.” He glanced around the yard. “This spot should be big enough. Step back for a second please.” Hana backed away and Hephaestus held out his hand. Two tiny forms leapt out of his palm and grew into two statues of tall golden women. “Set up the forge there, and I want the anvil over here…” Hephaestus gave the statues instruction of what went where. Then they moved about pulling things from small pouches, the items expanded to their real size upon being set down. This way they set up a work shop in the middle of the back yard, including the walls and roof.
“That’s amazing.” Hana murmured. She shivered in the cold air, missing the coat she’d left inside. “How are they doing it?”
“I gave them the power of motion when I made them. They help out a lot. When I-” Hephaestus looked at Hana and frowned. “Are you cold?”
“It’s a little chilly out here.”
“Oh right, I didn’t notice.” He glanced around with a huff. “Um, you can come closer if you want. Being around a god of fire can have its perks in winter.” He made a motion toward himself. Hana slid closer, until she felt the heat rolling off him. “The workshop should be finished soon. When the fire is stoked well, it gets pretty toasty in there.” He smiled kindly at Hana. Within a few minutes the statues had set up an out building that served as the forge. “Did you want to come in? I don’t mind if you do.”
“Um, yes, since you’re ok with it.” Hana walked up and stepped in behind Hephaestus. The statues were still working inside, setting up the tools and lighting the fire. “Wow, this is so cool.”
Hephaestus chuckled as he switched out his shirt for an apron. “And I haven’t even started working yet. I take it you’re easy to please.” He snapped his fingers at one of the statues. “Can we get her something to sit on please? And I don’t mean a single stool, ladies.” The statue set up a bench and table for Hana. “Thank you.” Hephaestus started preparing to work as Hana settled at the bench.