“The great titan is dead!”
Hestia lifted her head from where it rested on the ground. She looked around her, marveling at the scene before her: a crisp blue sky, vibrant green grass, and a landscape farther than her eyes could possibly see. There were hills, mountains, a creek, tall trees—all things that she had never before seen while trapped inside Kronos’s stomach.
“Our little brother has saved us!” Hestia turned toward the voice of her brother Poseidon and saw him, the titan Kronos at their feet.
That must be my little brother, Zeus. Hestia cocked her head to study him. Though she had never met him, she had heard whispers of him from her prison. He does look like Poseidon and Hades.
Hestia stood, brushing dirt from her white chiffon, and made her way toward her two brothers.
“Hello, little brother. Thank you for saving us. It has been a dark many years.”
“Yes, it was quite a feat, brother, to take down our father.” Poseidon slapped Zeus on the back.
“It was, wasn’t it?” Zeus flashed a smile. “Defeating our father was no easy task. It took wit and strength. It’s a good thing I have both of those things in abundance.”
“And humility too, I see.” Hestia gave Zeus a tight smile. “Thank you for restoring us to our birthright. I have waited a long time to finally reign over the mortals.”
“You? Rule?” Zeus drew his eyebrows in so close they almost touched. “No offense, sister, but you are a woman.”
“Yes, and? I am also the firstborn, daughter of Kronos and Rhea. The throne is mine by birthright.”
“But I rescued you. Without me you would still be trapped!”
“He has a point, Hestia. He may be the youngest, but without him there would be no us.”
“So we just ignore the fact that this is my kingdom, and we give it to . . . to a child?” Hestia jabbed a pointed finger at Zeus’s face. “Don’t tell me that you can’t see how unfair this is.”
“A child?” Zeus’s voice boomed across the valley, so loud it touched the ears of the wood sprites that lived at the foot of the mountains on the edge of Hestia’s sight. “A child defeated a titan?”
“No, a king defeated a titan.” Poseidon put a hand on Hestia’s shoulder, but she shook it off. “I’m sorry, but I agree with Zeus. He deserves to rule. And you are but a woman.”
“But a woman. But a woman?” Hestia scoffed and shook her head. “It was a woman who brought you into this world; don’t you dare forget that.” Her throat burned with the force of keeping hot, angry tears at bay. But she would not give her brothers the chance to call her an emotional woman.
“Birth is a woman’s purpose. Not ruling.” Hestia jerked her head to the right at the voice of her brother, Hades. “I stand with Poseidon and Zeus.”
“Don’t worry, dear sister. You will still rule over something. Something important. Let me think.” Zeus tapped a finger against his cheek. “Ah! I will make you goddess of the hearth, an important instrument in every mortal home. The mortals shall worship you greatly.”
“Locking me away inside a home where a woman belongs. I see what game you’re playing.” Hestia turned her glare away from Zeus and looked to her other brothers, desperate for some help, but they nodded their heads in agreement with Zeus. Her anger turned from a simmer to a boil, and she swung her head back to Zeus.
“I hate all of you. I hope you crash and burn while you are in charge. And when that happens, only when you come crawling among the dirt, groveling and in tears, will I dare to help you.” She clapped her hands together once and blipped out of the valley and out of the sight of her three brothers.
Hestia spent many months wandering the mortal realm, taking in the beauty of everything she had not been able to see while imprisoned by her father. Her enjoyment of the realm’s beauty, though, was always tinged by her anger at her brother’s betrayal and theft of her throne.
She halted her wanderings when she stumbled upon the Amazons, a fierce group of women warriors. The distinct lack of male leadership felt refreshing to Hestia, and she even indulged in frequent visits from her cousin, Artemis.
“Why do you visit the Amazons so much?” Hestia asked her one day when she stopped by for a dip in the Black Sea.
“Olympus can be so draining on a goddess, as I’m sure you know.” Artemis stretched out her legs on the sand and wiggled her toes in the water that rushed up to meet them. “There are too many men. They’re extremely pig-headed and chase after anything vaguely feminine that moves.” Artemis rolled her eyes, and Hestia chuckled.
“How do you deal with them, then? When they come for you, slobbering like they’ve found a succulent piece of meat?”
“Easy.” Hestia’s head snapped up. “I’m a maiden goddess, and therefore no god shall ever dare to touch me. Lest they wish to join the titans in Tartarus.”
“I don’t think I’ll ever go to Olympus.” Hestia clenched her fists in the sand. “Not while Zeus still sits on my throne. Especially not after the picture you’ve painted.”
A beat of silence passed through them before Artemis placed a hand on Hestia’s shoulder.
“There is a whole world out there, cousin. I love the Amazons as much as you do, but it’s been years already. Zeus has tainted Olympus for you, but don’t let him ruin everything that can be good.”
Hestia met Artemis’s eyes but quickly looked away, for her gaze was heavy with pity.
“Where else would I go?”
Artemis smiled then stood. “Might I suggest Greece? I do believe you’ll love it there.” Artemis blipped away, leaving Hestia alone on the beach with her thoughts.
She deliberated for quite a few days before saying goodbye to the Amazons and heading for Greece. She found herself drawn to the small city of Ermioni, wandering the edge of the island, splashing her feet in the gentle yet crisp water, and observing the mortals as they brought their boats in from a day of fishing.
She spied a small stone building and, curious, walked a few steps further into the water to capture the attention of a nearby fisherman.
“What is that building over there?”
The man halted in his work for a few seconds, his attention very much caught, then finally answered her.
“That? Why, that’s the temple of Hestia. Surely you must know that.” Hestia’s eyes widened, and she halted her movement from where she had reached down to wring the sea water from the hem of her chiffon. I have a temple?
“I’m quite new here. I didn’t realize that Hestia had a temple here. Is it open to everyone?”
“Well, of course Hestia has a temple. She’s the most important goddess in my opinion. In a lot of people’s opinions, I would imagine.”
“Whatever for?” Hestia let her hem plop back down. It sagged, once more heavy with water.
“Without her fire we would all freeze and starve. Honestly, how do you not know this?”
Hestia flapped her hand at him, already making her way out of the water and toward the rocky cliff that housed the temple. Long green vines hung over the cliff and swung in the sea breeze.
“I’m sorry, but I seem to be terribly ignorant,” she mumbled. “I must go and educate myself.” She sloshed out onto the dry sand.
“Wait! Perhaps I can help educate you!” Hestia didn’t even look back to acknowledge the enamored mortal.
Sand clung to Hestia’s chiffon almost as high as her knees, and dirt joined her soggy hem as she paced the edge of the cliff, looking for a way up to the temple. She located a set of rough stone steps carved into the cliffside, and she began her climb. When she reached the top, the setting sun touched the edges of the temple, looking rather like the dying flame of a once raging fire.
The temple itself was nothing too grand: a few columns sitting on a marble floor and topped by a marble roof. A large fire burned in the center, and wisps of smoke drifted up toward a hole in the roof. To Hestia’s surprise, quite a few mortals lingered around the large flame despite the time of day.
Some kneeled in prayer while others tossed small items into the fire: grapes, nuts, olives, bread. Hestia inhaled the delectable aroma and felt her senses relax. Home. This feels like home. More mortals came and went as Hestia watched, giving more offerings and sending up whispered requests that made their way to Hestia’s ears.
“Bless my family.”
“Keep us warm in the cold.”
“Feed us well.”
The mortals, Hestia thought. They love me. They worship me. And some of them even love me more than Zeus. Perhaps I don’t need to rule to be happy?
“I knew you would eventually find your way here.”
Hestia whipped her head around and locked eyes with Poseidon.
“Brother. How did you know I would come?” She fiddled with a lock of hair hanging over her shoulder.
“Because all the gods are drawn to their places of worship. You can’t help but hear the mortals’ pleas.”
“I . . . I enjoy their adoration.”
“We all do. How are you? It’s been too long since any of us have heard from you.”
“I’ve been around. I was still angry with Zeus. Don’t you find it odd, answering to our younger brother?”
“Yes, but he earned that place.”
Hestia’s skin prickled a little at Poseidon’s words. It was my place to begin with.
“I admit, though, that you might have made a more capable ruler. Zeus is a little lost, it seems. Doesn’t quite have the hang of it. He’s also much less pretty than you are.”
Wait, what? Distracted by her anger, Hestia hadn’t noticed Poseidon creeping closer. He reached out a hand, meaning to brush it down the length of Hestia’s hair, but she jerked her left shoulder behind her. Poseidon’s hand whisked over the air her form had vacated, and he closed his fingers around empty space.
“What are you doing?” Hestia’s hands hovered near her chest, ready to defend herself.
“What? I can’t compliment a beautiful woman?”
“Not your sister! Not like this.”
“Oh, come on, Hestia. Don’t be like this.” Poseidon reached his hand out to her again.
“No.” She smacked his hand away. “Don’t touch me.” Hestia stayed just long enough to see Poseidon’s shocked face before she blipped away from her temple. Her temple that no longer felt like home.
She reappeared again further up the cliff, her temple a small dot below her. She stumbled then crashed to her knees, hands splayed in the dirt. Her limbs felt like they were buzzing, and her breath sliced in and out of her lungs.
Her thoughts spun round and round in her head, too fast for any one thought to take hold, and her head felt so, so fuzzy. Before Hestia could begin to comprehend what Poseidon had tried to do, Apollo appeared before her.
“Hey—woah, what happened to you?” Apollo gripped his bow but quickly slung it across his back alongside his arrows before crouching in front of Hestia.
“I don’t even know. Poseidon just . . . well he just—”
“Poseidon is here. Oh, man.” Apollo stood and shoved a hand through his springy golden curls. “He beat me to it.”
Hestia tore her gaze from the dirt and cocked her head at Apollo.
“Beat you to what?”
“Ah, well. I was hoping to do something a little more significant than this. Perhaps a sunset stroll or a trip on one of the boats. You are, after all, a very special goddess.” Hestia clenched her hands into fists, digging them into the crumbly dirt. “You deserve some very special gestures.” A sly grin crossed Apollo’s lips.
“I don’t think—”
“We would make an excellent pairing, don’t you think?”
“No. No, no, no. Absolutely not. This is not happening.” Hestia wagged both of her pointer fingers in front of her shaking head.
“Excuse me? Why not?” Apollo crossed his arms.
“Because my brother just tried to woo me and now you, my cousin, are going to try something too? I don’t think so!”
“Yes, but I’m your cousin.”
“And how is that any better?” Hestia balled her fists into her chiffon.
“He’s directly related to you. I’m next to directly related to you. Degrees of separation, babes.”
“I . . . I just . . . wow . . . I am just so baffled by your severe lack of intelligence.” Hestia let go of her chiffon and threw her hands up, leaving dirty streaks in their absence.
“You don’t have to be smart with a face like this.”
“Clearly.” Hestia once again blipped from the cliffside.
Hestia’s sandals softly tap-tapped against the marble floors of the long hallway. She kept her head tall and her neck straight, refusing to gawk at the grandeur she had been unable to enjoy while being angry with Zeus. Olympus was even more impressive than she could have thought. Ten times, no, twenty times as opulent as her meager temple.
She stopped in front of two thick wooden doors and shoved hard. They glided open on silent hinges but slammed into the walls next to them, drawing every eye in the room to Hestia. She couldn’t help the small smile that jumped to her lips at their shocked expressions. She tap-tap-tapped her way right up to the foot of Zeus’s throne, where she kneeled, eliciting a gasp from a throne a few seats away.
“Zeus, my king.”
“Well, this is interesting.” Zeus chuckled and turned his head toward a very tense Poseidon, bringing a hand up to his lips. Hestia stayed silent, and Zeus waved a hand at her. “Well, go on. Don’t let me stop you.”
“I have come to beg a favor of you.” Hestia continued to kneel, her eyes downcast even though it hurt her pride.
“You want to ask a favor? Well,” he scoffed, “I don’t really think you deserve a—”
“And in return”—Hestia lifted her head and locked eyes with Zeus—“I will renounce all claims that I might have on your throne. I will pledge my loyalty to you, and never again shall I question your right to rule.”
“Hmm. Intriguing. Well, I do love the idea of irrefutable power. What is your request?”
“I wish to be granted eternal maidenhood.”
“What?” Poseidon jumped to his feet. “This is the most ridiculous—”
“Granted.” Poseidon’s jaw hung open as he stared at Zeus. “Now go and never speak of your so-called birthright again.”
Hestia bowed again to Zeus and turned to glare at Poseidon, then Apollo. “You are truly and wholly despicable. If I ever see you at my temple or anywhere near it again, I will chop off your head and throw it into the fire I am tasked with tending.” Apollo brought a hand up to his throat, and Poseidon’s openmouthed expression turned from shocked to horrified as Hestia spun on her heel and tap-tap-tapped her way out of the throne room.