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The Lines of Courage
LOVE was a beautiful woman; she exuded kindness and maturity. She was intelligent beyond her years, and well-liked throughout Mount Olympus. She was introduced to her now husband, Desire, when they were both very young. It was an arranged marriage. Love had never liked Desire; he wanted everything and never seemed satisfied with what was given to him. However, she had no choice and married him with a smile on her face once they were of legal age. On their wedding night, though, she sternly told him that she would never have children with him. Desire was saddened because he had desperately wanted children, especially with such a beautiful woman, but he had been told by his father that it's a wiser decision to obey his wife.
Over the years, she learned to tolerate her husband, and found subtle qualities about him that she valued. He would always do anything she asked because he wanted to make her happy, and he would protect her when they were in public because he wanted her to be kept safe. After five years of marriage, Love decided that she would like to have children after all. The next year, they were blessed with fraternal twins. They named their son Fear because of his wide, worrisome blue eyes, and their daughter, Strength because of her unnaturally powerful grip on his father's hand.
Growing up, Fear and Strength always fought. Everyone in the city would hear them coming a good ten minutes before they got there because of their incessant bickering. Strength would hound and hound her brother, while Fear would tremble and reason. However, once they were grown, they became quite good friends. They moved past their differences and found the wonderful qualities, just as their mother and father had done.
On their twenty-first birthday, they realized that they were in love. They knew that they would never be allowed to marry as brother and sister. They could not tell their parents, so they decided to visit Athena on Mount Olympus, the goddess of wisdom. A brown and white speckled owl hooted at them as they passed an olive tree up the marble steps to Athena's quarters. Her black hair rested loosely behind her ears, and her blistering grey eyes seared through the two young people entering her temple.
"What do I owe this visit?" She sternly asked of the siblings. Fear hid behind his confident sister, whom answered, "Goddess Athena, my brother and I are in love, but we cannot be married if we are related. What must we do?"
Athena brought her delicately aged hands up her mouth and furrowed her brow. "Well, I suggest falling out of love: 'tis a useless emotion, anyhow." Her words jabbed the last sentence like a spear in the the two people. Fear piped up into the conversation, "Your Greatness, I love my sister very much and wish to marry her. I would never wish to forget my feelings." Strength was appalled that the wonderful Athena would insult the emotion that her very mother was named after, and stayed quiet. Athena spoke gingerly, as if tasting each word before it escaped her lips, "There's always the goddess of love, Aphrodite. She may know what to do." With many thanks, the couple hurriedly left to find Aphrodite.
A beach like setting reached their eyes as they entered the sanctuary of Aphrodite. A large ocean stretched to their right, filled with happily canting dolphins and delicate swans. Mirrors covered every wall space and doves reflected in every mirror. Scallop shells lay open about, all holding a fragile red rose bud. In the middle of the room, resting high up on a pink feather bed, lay Aphrodite. Her long red hair billowed around her shoulders and down her back. Her eyes were filled with warmth, and compassion. Such a contradiction from the coldness of Athena, Fear thought. She smiled sweetly upon them being acknowledged. Strength powerfully strode a couple steps ahead, while Fear demurely ambled behind, his hand fidgeting behind his back. Strength's commanding voice brought Fear's attention to the front. Back straight, and eyes set, she spoke with assurance, "Aphrodite, we have been sent by goddess Athena. My brother and I are in love and she believes you can help us." Aphrodite softly ran her hand along the pillow below her, then gracefully floated to the side of them and retrieved a delicate pearl. She stood close to the couple, making Fear shrink back, but Strength stand taller. Her voice was silky and seemed to echo through the bright room, "If you truly wish to be together, I will break your kinship. However, should you have children; they will be in debt to me. Inside this pearl, is a riddle. The pearl will only open for a chosen child of yours. If the child can come to me and answer the riddle, they will be granted eternal life on Mount Olympus. If not…cause for Hades' presence may be in order." Her voice wavered on the last words, as if it was not her own decree, but one of a person above her in authority. Fear and Strength gratefully took the pearl home and kept it safely tucked in a blue velvet pouch.
Throughout the next three years, Fear and Strength had had five children, none of which could open the pearl with the touch of their hand. Finally, in the fourth year, a striking baby girl was born, and she was named Courage because courage is being strong enough to do something even if you are afraid. Courage's parents had given up on Aphrodite's retired words, and did not try handing her the pearl.
Courage grew to be a risky young girl. She was constantly getting into trouble and causing mischief. Residents on Mount Olympus everywhere would scurry to get out of her way when they would see her flowing blonde hair flouncing up the dirt roads. One day, while playing around her home, Courage discovered an unfamiliar blue bag. Carefully opening it, she slid out a small pearl. Upon the ball touching her skin, it cracked open, and she dropped it to the ground. Fearing she was going to be in trouble for breaking something of her parents, she ran off into the fields behind her house.
Several hours past before Courage's parents arrived home. Courage was prancing in the meadows when they arrived, so she did not hear the scream of bliss and shock that escaped her mother's lips when she found the sacred pearl that could save her child's life open. She immediately called all six of her children into her bedroom and demanded to know which one had touched the pearl. They were all confused and denied the accusation, while Strength took a head count; she only counted five children. Noticing it was Courage who was gone, she knew it was she that had opened the pearl. Wanting to preserve the moment for her chosen child, she sent her oldest son to fetch Courage, and called her husband into the room.
Courage was afraid when she entered her mother's room, but would not show it on her face. Her mother cautiously picked up the treasure and placed it in her daughter's hand. "What does it say?" Fear whispered. Courage hadn't noticed before, but inside the pearl lay a neatly folded scrap of parchment. Carefully pulling it out, she spread out the side between her index finger and thumb. Squinting her eyes at the tiny aged print, she said, "'If I say 'Everything I tell you is a lie,' am I telling you the truth or a lie.' What does that mean, mother?" Fear and Strength sat down their daughter and recounted their experience with the goddess of love, and the next day Courage was on her way to Aphrodite's temple. She feared death, but she had to try. Courage had tried to think of the answer to what she had been asked, but nothing came to mind. Her parents had tears in her eyes as she left for they had taught her to live an honest life. They knew this would be the last time they would see their daughter.
Courage's heart was filled with dread, but her eyes revealed a look of poise and buoyancy. Aphrodite showed her perfect white teeth in a beautiful smile. Calling to the girl from across the room, she spoke, "You take after your mother, young child. I thought they had given up on my ways. Come, now." Courage quickly scuttled to the goddess, so as not to upset her. Running a lock of hair through her fingers, Aphrodite engaged Courage with a look of pure depth and consideration, "I hear you have a question to answer for me." Courage's soul panged as she knew the fate that awaited her, but she whispered, "I cannot answer your riddle." Casting her eyes down in shame, Aphrodite turned and began walking away from Courage, towards her throne. Without a second thought, Courage devised a rather roguish plan. She called after the goddess, "But I must say, miss, that I have never seen a more beautiful goddess. My mother has told me about the other goddesses that she has encountered and none of them can compare to your loveliness and grace." Aphrodite peeked from around her shoulder, and Courage caught a flush of flattery on her cheeks. Turning around, Aphrodite raised her eyebrows, "Oh really?" Courage jumped at the fact that her scheme was playing out wonderfully, "Oh yes. You're so much wiser and magnificent. You radiate elegance." Aphrodite smiled and placed a hand on Courage's shoulder. "Maybe I shall grant you your reward, anyway. We could use such a charming young lady on the Mount." Courage left with a smile plastered to her face as she made her way home. Her parents almost thought she was a ghost when she pompously strode in the next morning. They danced and cried when Courage told of the goddesses kind words.
The next day, Courage packed a few small belongings that would be of use to a person who would live forever. Kissing her parents goodbye, she was led by a funny god named Hermes up to Mount Olympus. The clouds held her upright above the earth, and townspeople greeted her everywhere she went, having heard her accolades from the lovely Aphrodite.
A couple of days passed before she received a visit from Aphrodite, but a new look was in her eyes: one of anger. It was an unfamiliar expression on the face of such a delicate beauty. She strode over to Courage and her words burned through her skin, "I found out what you did. You took me for a fool. I'll show how punishing I can be." Courage found herself wide-eyed and her mouth gaped, "What do you mean!?" she practically shrieked. Aphrodite stomped to the doorway of Courage's homey palace, "You tricked me into giving you eternal life even though you did not fulfill your debt to me." Courage tried to stop herself, but her tongue accidently transformed into one of a serpent dripping with poison as she spoke, "It's not like you can kill me." Aphrodite's eyes flamed even more, if that was possible, as she yelled, "I'll make you wish you were dead."
From that day forth, Aphrodite had decreed that every time a baby was born, a piece of Courage was to be yanked away from her and put into the child. It was an excruciatingly consistent pain, for every time they took a part of her, Ares would bring a venomous snake to her arm until it tore a chunk of flesh from her arm. The snake was most inconsistent, so some pieces would be larger than others. She may have had eternal life, but she could still feel pain. Since Courage lived forever, she could never truly die, and would reincarnate into a new form every time she ran out of flesh, and the cycle would begin again.
From that day forward, Courage was sprinkled into every newborn. That is why every human has at least a little bit of Courage in them.