16 The Banquet (1)

Hope lies in dreams, in imagination, and in the courage of those who dare to make their dreams into reality.

– Jonas Salk


Meanwhile, on Mount Olympus, the melodious music thrashed through the vehement gods, permeating the divine mountain with zeal.

The night was alive. The fervour and intensity of the music and dance filled the air, almost stifling it. The immortals danced to their hearts, forgetting their worries and enjoying this brief respite.

This was a banquet in honour of Hypnos, the Primordial of Sleep. And the said Primordial in honour walked out of the whirlwind of passion and delight towards a large balcony, finally finding some alone time away from the bustling and teeming immortals.

They were absolutely showering him with introductions to themselves, their family, and even their ancestors, as if they were hoping to impress him and get in his good graces. Even Rhea gathered her children and proudly presented them to him, despite the absence of Hera and Hades. And, like everyone else, the Olympians instinctively avoided him after their introductions.

Hypnos, on the other hand, was indifferent. He delivered a short speech similar to the one delivered at the previous meeting, officially kicking off the chaotic celebration that was soon filled with music, dance, and, last but not least, debauchery.

And, as the immortals engaged in various worldly activities, Hypnos took only a cup of nectar from all the various foods and drinks presented enthusiastically by Rhea and excused himself to the balcony connected to the hall, much to the disappointment of the Mother of Gods, who had hoped he would stay and enjoy the banquet she had thrown for him. But he never liked parties that much in his previous human life, and that feeling hasn't changed.

Under a night sky brimming with millions of stars, he entered the balcony, drinking his wine in serenity. His mind drifted back to his last meeting with Gaea, especially her final words, which kept resonating in his mind.

'I am the Mother of All, Hypnos,'

'That title is both a blessing and a curse.'

What exactly does she mean? Given that Gaea was the embodiment of Nature and Earth, she could indeed be considered the Mother of All. But how does that relate to his questions for her?

Gaea knew how this war would end—with most of her precious offspring banished—and yet she continued to back the gods, who would betray her in time. She's probably well aware of that as well.

Hypnos had an instinctual feeling that something really cosmic and distrusting was going on with the case of Gaea....

A dark god drew him from his ruminations. He turned to see Rhea's eldest son approaching him through the deserted corridor.

"Lord Hypnos." Hades greeted him.

"Hades." Hypnos raised his brow. "What are you doing here? The banquet is that way."

"I could ask you the same question." Hades countered.

"Well…" Hypnos spun his glass. "Never liked them."

Hades looked surprised at his admission. "Likewise," he immediately concurred.

"I figured." Hypnos laughed, embarrassing the God of Fear. After that, he raised his glass to him. "Hades, this is nothing to be embarrassed of."

Hades smiled ever so lightly as his embarrassment waned slightly. Then he raised his glass, clinging to it with his own, and the two of them drank the nectar together.

"So," Hypnos queried, his glass half-empty. "Tell me, why are you really here?"

"I'd want to apologise on behalf of my sister, Lord Hypnos." Hades began prudently. "She can be a bit temperamental, but..."

To silence him, Hypnos raised his hand. "Hades," he said emphatically. "Everyone is accountable for their own actions and behaviours. You need not apologise for others, even if they are your own family."

Hades nodded dazedly, his eyes distant.

Hypnos gulped the wine and gazed out across the huge fields and meadows that encircled Mount Olympus.

Hades joined him, gazing at the boundless earth blanketed by the argent light of Selene. He sipped his wine for a few moments before abruptly turning towards the hall where the banquet was in full swing, noticing something odd in his perception.

"They fear you." The God of Fear frowned deeply.

Hypnos followed his gaze. "Fear is a big word," he said nonchalantly. "I'd rather say they're apprehensive of my existence."

Hades was struck by something in his tone. "Lord Hypnos?" he inquired. "You don't seem to really care about that."

"If I cared what every living being thought of me," Hypnos said, raising his brows. "I won't be able to live my life."

"Even if they hate you?" Hades found himself saying. His pupils immediately dilated. "I-I.."

"We aren't really talking about me, are we?" Hypnos abruptly interrupted, his gaze sharpening on Hades.

Hades fell silent in conflict, not meeting his gaze.

Seeing his heavy silence, Hypnos sighed. "Hades," he peered at the God of Darkness. "Immortals will talk. They have always done so. And they will always do so. Others will always scrutinise what you do or say, how you behave, how you walk or dress, how you act, or the decisions you make. It's the way the masses are. They prey on the vulnerable, like a herd of lions swooping in for the kill, looking for those they can taunt and torment to satisfy their vanity."

Hades snapped his gaze back towards Hypnos.

"And it gets to us. We allow the opinions of others to not only hurt us but also to define us. But it doesn't matter what other people think of you. It doesn't matter what other people say about you behind closed doors or even right in front of your face. Their opinions have no bearing on who you are."

"This is your life; live it the way you want."

Hades looked at the Primordial of Sleep, his dark eyes churning with frenzy. His mind was zapping with gazillions of thoughts, but finally only two questions remained fixated to the end. "But what about the opinions of your family? How could they possibly not matter?" he voiced them.

Hypnos let out a deep sigh. "It does matter," he admitted. "Your family is a vital part of your life. They could very well be the foundation or anchor to your being, supporting you through the perilous divine path," he paused knowingly, sinking Hades' heart into the pits of Tartarus. "However, if your family refuses to accept you for who you are despite everything, you must learn to do the most difficult thing..."

"Giving up..."

The way Hypnos changed his tone midway as though the Primordial could see through all of his conflict and troubles, Hades didn't like that revelation at all, and all of the suppressed chaotic emotions in his heart burst forth. "You. Do. Not. Know. Me." he seethed, gritting his teeth.

Hypnos merely waved his hand. A soothing aura erupted, submerging Hades. It immediately eased his raging emotions.

Hades inhaled deeply, cursing himself inwardly for his outburst. His heart was brimming with apprehension as he finally noticed something very hidden in those bright, argent eyes of the Primordial that stood before him. It was bone-chilling indifference.

Thankfully, Hypnos didn't seem offended by his words at all. "Hades, have you forgotten? I am the Lord of Dream," he muttered softly, letting Hades recall the dreadful declaration the Primordial made in the previous meeting in a whole new light, which only increased his apprehension towards the latter.

Noticing his worries, the Lord of Dream said airily. "I didn't pry into your secrets, Hades. For all those with the right eyes, your conflict with your path was pretty obvious. Some members of your family may have already noticed it as well. You're not hiding it as well as you thought."

As Hades' eyes widened, Hypnos continued. "And my previous words, Hades, were only advice. Make it what you will, as ultimately the divine path is yours only to walk."

The Primordial of Sleep finally patted his shoulders. "When you are finally ready, head to the underworld."

"Your Destiny awaits you there…."

With those ominous words, Hypnos left the balcony, leaving Hades in stunned silence. After a few moments, the God of Darkness recovered. To be honest, the existence of the Primordial of Sleep baffled him. Like Gaea, he had no idea what to make of the Lord of Dream. Are other primordials also so utterly mystifying?

Nonetheless, the advice of Hypnos kept resounding in his mind again and again.

In heavy silence, Hades looked up at the night sky. "Underworld," he finally whispered, his cloudy eyes gradually clearing and brightening.


Hypnos entered the empty hall near the balcony, where a goddess awaited him. She was dressed in a brown gown, and her eyes blazed with fire. Her mere presence made him feel a special warmth that he could only feel at home. And her dainty arms were carefully tending to the hearth.

She was Hestia, the Goddess of the Hearth, Fire, Home, and Family.

Hestia rose to her feet and bowed gratefully to him. "Thank you," she said, waving her hand and inviting him to sit with her.

In the midst of his conversation with Hades, Hypnos noticed her arrival. That didn't surprise him; rather, it was something he expected. Hestia was, after all, the Goddess of Family and Home. She must have always been aware of the troubles of Hades.

He simply nodded and strode forward to join her at the hearth. The Goddess of the Hearth took the empty glass from him and refilled it with nectar before returning it to him.

"Don't thank me," Hypnos said, sipping his wine. "For all I know, I could have just broken your family apart."

"No, Lord Hypnos." The Goddess of Family vehemently denied. "A family is not without its own difficulties and problems, but it should never become a burden on anyone," she paused. "And I know my family is far from perfect, but still, I don't intend to let them follow that cursed path."

"It is both my duty and my dream."

Hestia pressed her hand against her chest. "You know, I can sense it. My brother is reclusive. He enjoys his solitude and dislikes it when others, even members of his own family, intrude on his personal space. I often tried to assist him, but he always refused. I didn't press too hard since I was afraid he'd drift further away from us. But now, thanks to your guidance, I can somewhat sense a change happening within Hades."

"And I am deeply grateful for that, Lord Hypnos."

Hypnos listened to her emotional words silently. "That is a wonderful dream," he finally uttered, impressed by Hestia. "However, in order to make a dream a reality, one must have not only will and convention but also power," he said, cocking his head at Hestia. "Do you have power, Hestia?"

Hestia fell silent, stumped by his question into struggling contemplation. Though Hypnos already knew the answer to his own question, Hestia was actually very powerful; it was just that her power was not offensive in nature.

Relationship. Home. Family. All of those were essential parts of the lives of both the divine and mortal, regardless. Manipulation of such aspects of life was a truly frightening power in and of itself. Even whole civilizations were built upon the concept of home.


A marvellous idea sparked in his mind. And his eyes twinkled with zeal.

Hypnos turned toward her hearth. "It's beautiful."

"Um…" Hestia was stumped by his randomness. "Thank you..."

Hypnos reached into the hearth, surprising Hestia, but she didn't stop him, only looking at him curiously. He twirled his hand into bright embers of fire, drawing them all into his palm.

The Primordial of Sleep inquired, his fiery hand extended toward Hestia. "Do you know what I see in your fire, Hestia?" he paused, answering his own question in a mythical voice. "I see hope—hope for a peaceful home, a bright future, a magnificent civilization."

"Let it thrive until it burns brilliantly upon the whole world," Hypnos said as he passed the fire into her hands, "and with this fire of hope, you shall also grow stronger."

The Lord of Dream stood up and looked at the dazed Hestia. "Guard it with all your heart, Hestia." he finally instructed, exiting the room.

Hestia looked deeply at the fading figure of Hypnos until he completely disappeared between the pillars. Then she gently raised the burning fire in her hand to her face and gazed into its brilliant embers with her poignant eyes.

Immediately, she witnessed something she would never forget for the rest of her life: a faint and dim spark of light was born within the embers of her flame, emitting a gentle light that seemed to hold the dreams of the world within it.

"Hope…" The Goddess of Family whispered, tears streaming down her cheeks.


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