Artemis Chronicles: A Gathering of Gods
March 16, 2017
Artemis Chronicles: A Gathering of Gods
The sky above the forest canopy was a dark, rich blue with nary a cloud in sight as the sun slowly set on the cool spring day. Of course, Zeus would not allow it to rain during Artemis’ annual dinner party—even if he said he was simply too busy to attend this year. He claimed pressing Olympus business, but every one of them knew the real reason was the beautiful nubile human who had caught his eye last week in some unassuming little village. Artemis sighed, knowing Hera would be in rare form tonight. The Goddess of Marriage was never happy about her husband breaking the rules of his own union.
And this was one of the reasons she had created her special menu for tonight. Gathering so many powerful beings at one table had a tendency of creating chaos. She hoped her combination of tantalizing flavours and healing herbs would keep everyone in fair spirits. Artemis placed the final plate onto her magnificent carved wooden table, giving everything from the place settings to the lush, green centerpieces an appraising eye. She rearranged a cluster of green grapes nestled against the fragrant, flowering herbs.
Artemis heard footsteps and turned to see Demeter enter the meadow. The two friends embraced, a human habit not usually expressed by Gods. But that’s probably because Olympus was routinely awash in an uproar of vengeance and betrayal. Responsible for the rich soil that fed her forests and gardens, Artemis owed so much to her loyal and generous friend.
“You sent over too much food again Demeter,” Artemis said, as the two walked toward the outdoor kitchen.
“With Hephaestus, Hermes and Ares attending?” laughed Demeter, “I think not.”
As if on cue, the three Gods ambled into the meadow, already attempting to out boast each other with their latest conquests. As the sun finally set, Apollo appeared out of the sky in his horse-drawn carriage.
“Pulling that horrid sun around all day and all I could think about was your wonderful cooking sister,” he said to Artemis. “Need help with the lights?”
In the blink of an eye, the clearing was filled with twinkling lights and Artemis’ table set aglow with tall candelabras.
“Much better,” Apollo said as he walked over to take a seat at the table. “I can’t abide darkness anymore.”
Moments later Aphrodite, Athena, Hera and Dionysus arrived, followed shortly by Poseidon, his long hair still wet from the sea. The group sat down as Artemis passed out her first course.
“Shouldn’t we wait for Hades?” Demeter quietly asked.
“Who knows when that dour soul will show up,” Hermes replied, already eying the fragrant bowl of soup sitting in front of him.
Artemis sat in her place at the head of the table and the group began sipping their aromatic herb and squash soup. Tension had erupted between Ares and Hephaestus, over the God of War’s latest purchase from the giant blacksmith, Ares violently ripping apart his bread to illustrate his point. Hermes was complaining about his latest injury… a regular occurrence with him. Athena was lecturing Aphrodite on brains over beauty, stopping to wince because the Goddess of Wisdom was often plagued with headaches. Meanwhile, at the other end of the table, Hera just glared at everyone, audibly scraping her spoon across the bottom of the empty bowl.
Artemis leaped up, refilling Hera’s bowl before she could say a word. She knew the calming herbs would help ease the complex emotions raging in her head. Then she stepped away from the table to finish the final preparations for her main course—olive oil braised tuna covered in her special herb sauce over a bed of barley cooked in herb oil. After heaping the food onto the massive platters, Artemis walked back over to the table, quietly observing her fellow Gods.
The soup was already working on her companions, as the tension was slowly easing and the group already seemed happier. Her second course was sure help even more. She glanced at the empty place, knowing that Hades probably wouldn’t show up at all. His presence was rarely welcomed. Artemis sighed, knowing she could only do so much as she placed the platters on the table. Before she could even let go, Ares had speared a chunk of fish with his knife, grinning like a boy.
“It’s no wonder your meals are legendary Artemis,” he proclaimed, as the savory scent wafted to every God at the table.
“If you would be so kind as to pass the main course around like the gentleman I know you can be, we would all appreciate it.” Aphrodite sensually murmured to Ares, placing her hand over his.
He winked at her in response, causing Hephaestus to grit his teeth in frustration.
Artemis whispered in his ear, “Your sweet wife flirts with everyone, but it means nothing,” she consoled.
“Not yet it doesn’t,” Hephaestus growled, skewering a piece of fish for himself.
“Take a deep breath. Then simply enjoy your meal,” Artemis advised, smiling.
Hephaestus nodded in agreement, filling his mouth with more fish than seemed appropriate. His eyes widened as the symphony of herb-infused flavours worked their magic.
As the group of Gods dined on their main course, the air grew even more jovial. Athena had stopped rubbing her temple and was actually giggling at the inappropriate jokes Poseidon was making. The God of the Sea had emotions that crashed like waves and changed with the tides. For now, her herbs had guaranteed his mood to be tranquil and cheerful. Hermes proclaimed that he needed to eat Artemis’ food every time he was injured, as he had forgotten about the pain. Artemis smiled and said not to give thanks to her, but the herbs she used in preparing the meal.
Ares and Hephaestus had gone from bickering like juvenile boys to singing bawdy songs together, each trying to outdo the other. But this time it was all in good fun. There would be no sword battles tonight. Demeter rounded the table, refilling everyone’s chalices.
She leaned over to Artemis and whispered, “You always know exactly what everyone needs.”
“Not everyone,” Artemis countered. “Hades didn’t come.”
“Think again,” Demeter said, her eyes widening.
And she was right, for every head had quickly turned to the entrance of the clearing to see Hades standing there, watching them all. And all of them watched him. The moment dragged on and no one moved. No one said anything. Artemis couldn’t take it anymore. She was just about to stand up to greet Hades when, at the other end of the table, Hera slowly pushed her chair back, stood and walked over to Hades.
“Welcome Hades,” she said. “As Queen of the Gods I declare that your presence is most appreciated.”
“Hera sure changed her tune,” Artemis whispered to Demeter. “She was fuming just a bit ago, ready to stab just about every male at the table. Plus, you know she’s never been fond of Hades.”
“Now she’s found her benevolent spirit,” Demeter replied. “Thanks to your food.”
Ares’ mouth was hanging open, Aphrodite looked stunned and Poseidon had instinctively reached for his trident. But no one objected. Artemis now stood, and ushered Hades to his seat, filling his plate with barley and fish.
“I’m so happy you decided to join us,” she pronounced loudly. In a softer voice, she finished, “I expect you only brought your very best manners with you Hades.”
“Only few things can bring me to the Upperworld Artemis,” Hades said in his deep, gravelly voice. “And your cooking happens to be one of them.”
Artemis laughed as her cheeks bloomed with color. A compliment from Hades was a rare gift.
While the diners finished their main course, Artemis plated her sweet herb-flecked semolina cake covered in yogurt and honey. As she stood, slowly drizzling the golden honey over every square inch, she glanced up and watched her fellow Gods at the table. Laughter filled the meadow and, even if it was for one night only, their world was full of happiness, healing and peace.
To Be Continued…