Out of Olympus #4
After a devastating heartbreak, Eros, the God of Love, is disillusioned with love and refuses to shoot his arrows. As a result, people on earth aren’t falling in love anymore. When Zeus gets wind of it, he’s furious and seeks help from Eros’s best friends and fellow gods Triton, Dionysus, and Hermes. They are tasked with making Eros believe in love again. And what better way than to make him fall in love with the enticing human florist Psyche who’s just as cynical about love as Eros?
Love. The biggest con of all time!
Eros huffed and strolled aimlessly along sleepy King Street in the center of Charleston. A canopy of sparkling stars blanketed the night sky, providing a romantic backdrop for the cozy restaurants lining the street, many of which had thrown open their windows and French doors to provide al fresco dining on this unusually warm Valentine’s Day. But there was no romance in the air.
Despite the tempting offers of half-price prix-fixe dinners for couples, there were few takers. No young lovers walked hand-in-hand to celebrate their new relationship, no marriage proposals were being made tonight. All because of Eros.
It was ironic. He’d always loved Valentine’s Day, because it was the day on which he could see the fruits of his labor in all their glory. First love, engagements, happy couples. It was what he’d lived for ever since he could remember. Being the god of love had seemed like the best job in the world. Shooting his arrows and making mortals fall in love had never been a chore. He’d taken pride in it, and his heart had warmed every time he watched another couple fall in love and start a life together.
But he hadn’t had the same luck he’d bestowed on so many mortals. No, he, the god of love, had experienced heartbreak so painful that it had obliterated his belief in love altogether. He now knew that love was only an illusion. It wasn’t real. Never had been. So how could he in good conscience make mortals fall in love, when he knew that it was all a lie? Why do it when it would all end in pain and sorrow, in tears and broken hearts? No, he couldn’t be that cruel.
So he’d done the only thing he could to save the mortals from what he’d been through: he stopped shooting his arrows. While some mortals still fell in love for some inconceivable reason, they made up only a tiny percentage of the world’s population. The rest needed that little push that his arrows provided. And which he was now withholding.
As he continued walking, restaurant owners tried to entice him to enter their establishments, but he declined and continued on his aimless path. He passed a shop called In Vino Veritas, a wine store, which belonged to the wife of his fellow god Dionysus. Dio had found love with a mortal several years earlier. But how long would it last? What if Ariadne were to leave Dionysus too, despite having given him a son in their first year of marriage? How could anybody ever be sure that their love would last? How could they live their lives with such uncertainty hanging over them, knowing it could end in a flash?
A lightning bolt suddenly split the sky, followed by deafening thunder. Eros glanced up at the cloudless canopy and lifted his right hand, middle finger extended.
“Screw you, Zeus!” he hissed under his breath.
Eros knew all too well that he was being summoned, but he had no intention of accepting Zeus’s invitation to join him on Mount Olympus. Apparently Zeus didn’t appreciate that, because a few moments later, more lightning lit up the night, and the rumbling thunder grew more threatening.
“I heard you the first time, old man,” Eros grunted. “Can’t you take a hint?”
All of a sudden, he felt a surge go through his body, and realized he was being teleported away.
“No, and apparently you can’t either,” Eros heard Zeus say the moment he felt solid ground under his feet again.
He didn’t have to glance around to know where he was. This was Zeus’s study in his palace on Mount Olympus. It was early morning here. Large French doors led out to a terrace overlooking the mortal world of Greece, while a large, round, mirror-like inlay in the floor provided Zeus with a view to anywhere in the world: his all-seeing eye. The room was as opulent as the mortals would imagine the god of the gods’ palace to be: white marble everywhere, columns galore, murals on the walls, and skylights in the ceiling. But Eros didn’t take even a second to appreciate the beauty in front of him. Nor to greet his grandfather, who looked like a handsome man in his prime, impeccably dressed, as always, in designer clothes that made him look like he’d just come back from a fashion shoot for a men’s magazine.
“What do you want?” Eros barked.
“A little respect would go a long way, boy.”
“I’m not your boy!”
“Then why are you behaving like one? You’ve been neglecting your duties.”
Eros narrowed his eyes. “Leave me be.” He tried to turn and teleport away, but felt a strange force rooting his feet to the ground, rendering him immobile.
“Obviously you’re not going anywhere. So you might as well listen to what I’ve got to say.”
“A whole lot of good that’ll do,” Eros grunted under his breath.
“In light of the fact that you’d rather be somewhere else, I’ll make this quick,” Zeus said pleasantly.
But Eros knew his grandfather well enough to know what was brewing under the other’s seemingly calm exterior. He’d been at the receiving end of one of Zeus’s rants before and knew what was coming. He wasn’t afraid. There was nothing the old man could do or say to sway him. His mind was made up: there would be no more romantic love in the mortal world.
“Do you have any idea of the problems your inaction has caused?” Zeus thundered, his face suddenly only inches from Eros’s though he hadn’t seen the god of gods move.
Fuck! He hated it when Zeus did that. It involuntarily made his heart race, and he’d vowed never to let Zeus rattle him. Instinctively he balled his hands into fists. He’d never struck his grandfather, but there was a first time for everything.
“Not talking, are you, boy?”
He hated that, too, the way Zeus called him boy as if he were a servant, not a fellow god. But he’d be damned if he let the old man goad him into a response.
“Then let me lay it out for you, since you clearly can’t see your own mistakes.” He pointed to the eye in the floor. “Businesses are closing because of you: florists, wedding planners, hotels, wedding chapels, wedding dress designers. There’s a shortage of housing, because nobody’s moving in together anymore. Restaurants are empty. Nobody’s going on dates. Midwives are abandoning their profession. Do you get the picture?”
Eros tightened his shoulders. “Are you done?”
“No, I’m not done! I’ll be done when you start doing your job again! You’re the god of love, for fuck’s sake! You have a duty. And you’ve been slacking off for how long? A year? Eighteen months?”
Eros filled his lungs with air, unable to hold back the answer. “One year, two months, and thirteen days, since you’re asking.” As if he could ever forget the day he’d been betrayed.
“Pull yourself together. I’ve given you some time, boy. I’ve been lenient, but this has gotten out of control. Aphrodite is appalled at your behavior.”
“Let’s leave my mother out of this.”
“Let’s not.” One side of Zeus’s lip curled up slightly. He knew about Eros’s unconditional love for his mother and would exploit it if it suited him.
“Cheap shot, Zeus, even for you.”
“Would you rather we involve your father?”
Eros contemplated his grandfather’s words for a moment. Zeus was locked in a constant battle with Ares, the god of war, and had done everything to destroy the union between him and Aphrodite. Maybe because Zeus had wanted Aphrodite for himself—lecherous old fool. However, there was no way Zeus would admit to Ares that he couldn’t bring Eros back in line. So Eros called his bluff.
“Given that good old Dad loves a good war, I think he’ll be on my side in this little dispute.” He folded his arms over his chest, waiting.
Zeus poked his index finger into Eros’s pectorals. “You listen to me, boy. You get that magical bow and arrow of yours and start shooting twenty-four hours a day.”
Eros didn’t budge an inch. “Shoot ‘em yourself.”
Zeus raised his arms, and suddenly bolts of lightning shot from his fingers. The lightning bolts exited through the doors and rolled down the mountain. His anger was palpable now.
“You know as well as I do that you’re the only one who can shoot the arrows.”
Eros was fully aware of it. Should another god ever shoot one of his arrows and hit someone, it could have devastating consequences. He remembered all too well what had happened to Triton after Orion had shot him with one of Eros’s arrows. Triton, who’d temporarily lost his godly powers, fell in love, even though the arrows normally had no effect on a god. And even after gaining his powers back, Triton remained in love with his now-wife Sophia, although the effect should have vanished at that point. Eros could only speculate what would happen if another god shot mortals with the magical arrows. Quite possibly they could even have the opposite effect.
But he shrugged nevertheless, because he didn’t care anymore. He’d stopped caring a year, two months and thirteen days ago. “Too bad. Guess we’re done here.”
“I say when we’re done!” Zeus thundered even louder than before. “I will punish you! You hear me?”
“I hear you, and so does half of Greece.” Eros jerked his thumb over his shoulder indicating the mortal world below the mountain. “Go ahead. Punish me! See if I care.”
To his surprise, Zeus let out a heavy sigh. “Why, Eros?”
“True love is a lie. I should have seen it earlier.” He stared right at his grandfather, hoping that maybe now he would understand. “How can I do this to those mortals? Make them fall in love and then watch as they get their heart ripped out? Have some compassion!”
“We all get disappointed from time to time,” Zeus hedged.
“Disappointed? You think I’ve been disappointed? Try betrayed.” The thought of it still produced a bitter taste in his mouth.
“Nothing can have been so bad—”
Eros lifted his hand. “How would you know? You’ve never loved anybody but yourself.”
Zeus lifted an eyebrow in apparent surprise. Slowly he shook his head. “I’ve loved many women.”
“You mean you lusted after them,” Eros corrected him. Zeus was well known for his raging libido, his affairs, and his many illegitimate children, both in the world of the gods and the mortal world.
Zeus narrowed his eyes. “I know the difference between love and lust. But maybe you need a lesson.”
“Not interested.” Even lust had deserted him. He hadn’t touched a woman in over a year. He’d had no urge for sex, no appetite for chasing any woman, no interest in vigorous bed sport.
For a moment, there was silence in Zeus’s study, then the god of gods turned abruptly and walked to his desk. He sat down, then looked up at Eros. “My blood runs through your veins. Don’t think you’re so different from me. You need love just as much as the rest of us. And I’m going to prove it to you.”
“Yeah, good luck with that,” Eros scoffed. “Are we done?”
Eros turned on his heel.
“And Eros, I don’t think you know what love is. Not yet, anyway,” Zeus claimed.
“If that’s the case I’m sure not gonna learn it from you.” Choosing not to wait for Zeus’s retort, Eros teleported away.