I was just drying off from a quick shower when the phone trilled harshly at me. I answered to a thin but overly cheery voice. “Geia sas, mega kyrie! You have a visitor by the name of Adrestia waiting for you here at reception. She says she’s family. Are you available, or should I reschedule?”
“Adrestia, you say? Interesting. No reschedules, just schedules. I will be there shortly.”
I did not expect this visit, and my interest was piqued. I put on a pair of sweatpants and hurried out to the reception area, drying myself with my towel as I went. I got to the door, opened it a bit, and whistled at the receptionist. I had gotten a lot of flack from the crew about walking around in improper attire, whatever that meant. So I wanted to make sure the coast was clear. When I got the nod from her, I walked through.
I saw Adrestia pop from her seat like a spring, walking toward me with a curt nod and a greeting, “Hi, Uncle Dion.”
“Adrestia! So good of you to visit!”
Apparently, my excitement was a bit too much for her as she looked around embarrassedly. “Sorry for the surprise visit. Is it a bad time?”
“It is never a bad time. Unless the timing is bad, but even then, your time would be perfect. Even in badness.” Excitement made me ramble at times. So I sighed, looking up for a few seconds to settle myself down.
My outburst and reaction must have confused Adrestia because her eyebrows arched, and she stammered a bit. “Um. So…is that a yes or a no?”
“Yes. That is exactly what I meant to say.”
“Okay. Um, can we talk?”
“Sure. Do you want to come sit with me for a little while?”
“That would be really nice if it’s no imposition.”
“Well, I was going to do yoga with the Queen of England. But family comes first.”
Holding the door open, I moved an arm out, offering her entry. Adrestia gave me a quizzical look but stepped through the door with a quick, “Thank you.” I closed the door behind us as I dabbed my face with the towel. I had almost forgotten about Mourgo lurking about, so I gave her a quick warning.
“If you hear a growl, ignore it.”
“Oh, do you have a dog?”
“Not exactly, no.”
She quirked an eyebrow at that, but did not ask any questions. As I led her up the steps and onto the trail, I added, “Just a panther.”
Her voice rose a bit, for the first time, as she followed behind, taking in the sights. “Oh! Very…exotic.”
“Very lazy is more like it! But I spoil him, so I am the one to blame.”
“How is business?”
“Business is going really well, but business is also behind the other door.” I stopped short and blinked a few times, chastising myself for not asking ahead of time. “Are you here for business?”
“Um, not really. I wouldn’t be a good customer or business partner, anyway. At least not with the vineyards.”
I clapped my hands together excitedly and laughed at that. “Good! I am not in a business mood.”
“Fair enough. I actually wanted to ask you a favor.”
I guided Adrestia down the fork in the path, past the waterfall, through the small thicket of trees, and back to the main path that led into my private chambers, disguised as a log cabin.
Adrestia took it all in with wonder. “Wow…this place is…really beautiful.”
I nodded, a big smile on my face as I opened the door to the cabin. “Thank you, Adrestia. I had almost nothing to do with it!” Inside, the décor was rustic, featuring an open living area like most cabins do, save the latest technology in electronics and appliances.
Adrestia’s eyes flitted everywhere as she walked past the door, taking in the sight. “Man, I could see vacationing here.”
“If you need the space to stay, you are welcome to it.”
“Thank you. I will let you know. Everyone tells me I need to take a break.”
“Life. The Revolt House. Work. The usual.”
I crossed my arms, mulling the sentence over before replying. “Interesting. People tell me that I need to take a break from life and get some work done.”
“Why do people think it’s their business to tell us when we need a break?”
“People are nosy. People also know your interests better than you do. That is their claim anyway.”
“It’s so annoying!”
“Yes, and no. Those that try to steer you right care for you. That is a great gift to receive from someone.”
“Yeah, I guess.”
“Not a bad thing.”
“No. But sometimes, when you don’t ask for their opinions, you wish they would mind their own business.”
I dropped down onto my couch, the one item that seemed totally out of place yet so familiar to me by then. “Come and sit.”
Adrestia sat down next to me, her back stiff and looking awkward. She was so wound up, I could almost taste it. “For goodness’ sakes, Adrestia, try to relax a bit.”
The outburst finally got her to sigh and sit back as she looked at me. “Sorry.”
“It is a comfy couch.”
“Yeah, it is. Like the one in the…reception…room.”
I looked away quickly, knowing I was just outed but deciding to let it go. “So, tell me more about that favor.”
“Right. Um. First of all, I want to thank you. For your actions at the gala with Erebus.”
“Ah, that. You are most welcome. Some of us have made brooding into an art. But I think that when it comes to the important things in life, his heart is in the right place.”
“I can’t get a bead on him, but there was a lot of fuss over him.”
I looked to the left, then to the right, conspiratorially, before I murmured, “Not sure he expresses it in the healthiest of ways.”
She scoffed at that, adding, “Not like his date is any better.” That made me chuckle. “But I haven’t had many people on my side since I got here…not even Eros. And I’m supposedly his favorite sibling.”
“Do not look at things in terms of sides. There are none, really. There are layers. Lots and lots of layers.”
Looking at me, she deadpanned, “Daughter of War. It’s hard not to see it that way.”
“Even in war, there are more than just sides, Adrestia. Strategy, espionage, knowledge, supplies. And those are just a few of the factors involved.” I looked away for a few seconds, closing my eyes for a breath to calm the assault of the voices before turning back. “Sorry. Some voices wanted to volunteer even more factors.”
“…. Right. Well, it was just nice for someone to not be a dick to me.”
That made my brow furrow a bit as I whispered, “I despise bullies. The weak trying to empower themselves on another’s weakness. Not that you are weak, mind you. But the attitude of it all bothers me.”
“Me too. I know what you meant. They know I can’t act on instinct without losing Eros and Clio…and sometimes I don’t even like those two very much.”
“You will get your footing, eventually. It takes time. Something we have plenty of.”
“Yeah…I’m just not used to this, I guess.”
“Have a little faith, Adrestia.”
“I will. I have to, given my line of work.”
“Perfect. Is that the favor, then? You need an investor?”
“Oh, um, no. That’s not why I came here. I realized that I’m a little rusty in my fighting. I mean, I’m good against people who don’t have the experience I do with war, but I haven’t trained properly in a while.”
“And you want help with training?”
“Yeah. I need a good sparring partner. Someone who knows more than I do and can loosen up some of the rust.”
The idea that the Goddess of Revolt was asking me to help her train tickled me to no end, and I laughed heartily for it. “And you chose to ask the weird uncle that is drunk all the time?”
Adrestia giggled at that. “Let’s not pretend that you don’t have experience with fisticuffs.”
“I know. I just thought it funny.”
Another laugh escaped her. “I think you would be a great teacher. You’re a little unpredictable. And I need to learn to read unpredictable people.”
“I also fight dirty when I need to.”
“Which is another thing I need to learn how to do. I’m an honorable fighter by nature and training.”
I smiled broadly and stroked my beard. “People say there is no honor in fighting dirty. I say there is less honor in being dead.”
“I’d say it depends on the situation. But, at the very least, I need to know how to deal with the local tricksters. Brother included.”
“I do not mind granting you this favor. It sounds fun, actually.”
“Great. Um, when can we start?”
“Let me know a few days ahead of time when you are free. It is all I need.”
“Alright. I’ll keep you posted. Thank you, Uncle Dion. I really appreciate it.”
I nodded a few times and smiled. “No worries, Adrestia. Anything else I can do for you?”
“No, I won’t take up any more of your time. Thank you for seeing me on such short notice.”
“Family is family. Anything you need, if I can help, I will.”
“Thanks, Uncle Dion. I’ll talk to you within a week.”
I sighed softly, knowing Adrestia would switch back to her serious, straight-backed self at any minute, and stood. “Let me walk you out.”
“Thank you. I’d like to meet this…panther of yours.”
“I am surprised he is hiding. He usually lays around by the waterfall.”
“What’s his name?”
“I like it.”
I opened the door, leading her back out toward the trail. “If you want, we can spar out here. Unless you have a better place in mind?”
“I like it here. I think it would be a great place to spar.”
I walked with her back toward the waterfall. This time, the massive black panther lay off to the side of the falling water. Mourgo was perched up on his favorite spot, a heavy tree branch sticking out through the rocks. Adrestia stopped in her tracks, her muscles tensing instinctively.
The panther raised his head slightly, tilting it as his ears twitched. He knew, from my calmness, the stranger was not a threat.
“Is he friendly?”
I nodded and whispered dramatically as if the panther could not hear me. “Not to me. He is more like a pest. A big furry pest that likes to test my blind side and knock me in the water! So beware.”
Mourgo, fully understanding, licked his maw and let out a sound that sounded very much like a snort of derision. Adrestia, her tension subsided, walked closer to the pond, kneeling by the water’s edge. I decided to give her the moment alone and stayed back a few feet as the panther jumped down next to her, his emerald eyes blinking. I already knew what coming face-to-face with such a majestic creature for the first time felt like.
I also knew Mourgo would not let another chance to dunk me in the water pass him by. “You already dunked me twice today. Not letting it happen again.”
Adrestia held her hand out for Mourgo to smell, but he already had the scent from her first step onto the trail. Instead, Mourgo leaned in and headbutted her on the cheek lightly. That made her giggle and give him scratches. What a charmer.
Mourgo sniffed her face a few times and shoved her shoulder with a bit more force this time, almost knocking her off balance. I blew a raspberry at that and said through clenched teeth, “That is how it starts. Fun and playful. And the next moment, you are in the pond, soaking wet. Do not say I did not warn you.”
That made her giggle again. “Oh, he’s just playing.” She scratched his ears some more before standing and walking back over toward me.
I nodded faintly and sniffed the air. “You just make sure you bring a few extra sets of clothes for next time.”
She chuckled and nodded. “Duly noted.”
Introduction over with, I led Adrestia back toward the door leading to the reception room.
“Thank you again, Uncle Dion. I’ll see you next week, maybe?”
“I will say my goodbyes here. Some of the staff do not like it when I walk around semi-naked in the work areas. And yes, Just let me know. Anna, at the desk, will give you my number, or numbers, or whatever they use to track me down.”
“Perfect. Thank you. Have a good day.”
I turned and walked back toward the stairs while calling back. “You too, Adrestia. Enjoy your days!”
I had just gotten an invitation to spar with one of the children of Ares. I shook my head as I let the thought rattle around in my brain. This was going to be fun. I was also sure it was going to hurt. Who did not like a little bit of pain from time to time?
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