Discord found Milos sitting forlornly outside one of Zeus' temples. Head supported in two tight clenched fists and his face screwed so tight in a determined effort not to cry. Compassion for mortals was not normally her strong suit, but this boy, with his grubby pale face, mop of unruly dark curls and greener than green eyes reminded her so strongly of her own son. Her dead son. Not certain she could explain why she did so, she sat beside the child and placed her own head in her clenched fists.
"Why are we so sad, child?" She asked. Not looking at the boy, and so very aware that he was grateful that an adult could finally understand his need for anger and grief.
"Someone killed my God and I've prayed and prayed to the dark one to send him back, but he ignores me, because I'm a child!" The boy sounded so lost, so deep in uncomforted mourning, and Discord knew how he felt.
"Who was your God?" She asked, not daring to breath, certain she knew what his answer would be.
"Strife, God of Mischief. Oh, Lady, why did he die?" The child looked at her, seeing a fellow sufferer. "Why are you so sad?" He asked in the open, unashamed way of mortal children.
"My son is dead, and Hades will not give him back to me." She told him, quite truthfully.
"Was he a good boy?" The child asked.
"Well, I thought he was. He would do as I asked him too, as my brother, his uncle told him to do." Discord found her eyes filling with tears.
"What was his name?" The young, green eyed disciple of Strife asked.
"Strife, God of Mischief." Discord told him, simply and honestly.
The boy looked at her, knowing she spoke the truth, knowing who she was. Knowing too that they shared a deep grief.
"All the children I know miss him, without him there's no fun anymore!" He saw that his words surprised her, he rushed on to explain himself. "When he died, the mischief died too. There are no more tricks to play on each other, on our parents, on our teachers... no one, no tricks, no games, no mischief. Why won't the other Gods let him come back?" He pleaded that she could let him understand that which to a child was almost incomprehensible, death.
"Because they don't understand him, what he did, how much he was actually loved by the worlds children. And, I think, they know how much I loved him, how much his uncle loved him and his death is a way to hurt us. I'm sorry that your Gods are not the perfect beings your teachers talk of, truly sorry." They fell silent and watched the world go by, and listened to the silence. No squeals of delight from children playing in the streets. No women, laughing and scolding those same silent children. No voices laughing and sharing funny stories. For humour was mostly at another's misfortune, for some Mischief of Fate playing games with another's life and a way to share in your delight that it was not you Fate played games with.
They sat there, silently, supportively, all afternoon. Until the air moved at the otherside of the child and another God appeared. All clad in black leather and he just stood there, looking at his grieving sister. Marvelling that she could finally admit her loss and mourn her dead son. "What goes on here, Discord?" He asked, softly, much softer than the child ever thought he could talk, softer than his teachers said.
"Sit and listen to the streets, tell me what you hear?" She looked up at her twin brother and gave him a watery, sad smile. That this was important to her and the child, whom he now really looked at. And realised why she was sitting with this sad, grieving mortal child. Realised who he reminded her of.
Ares sat, and listened, and heard nothing.
"I hear nothing, the street is remarkably quiet for a mortal city. What am I supposed to be hearing anyway?" Ares looked at the pair of mismatched mourners, and it was the boy who answered.
"All the games and mischief died when our God died, and the Dark One won't give him back. We asked and prayed and he's said nothing to us!" The tears welled up in the child's eyes again and Ares reached out with one gentle finger and captured one of the boys tears. He locked it in a crystal and smiled warmly at him.
"What is your name child?" His voice was so quiet, and gentle and still a low rumble like far off thunder. Yet the boy was not frightened by the dark War God.
"My name is Milos, Lord Ares." Milos looked at Ares' face and surprised a smile there, as if frozen in shock the smile remained, infact it grew wider.
"Well, Milos you might get your God back after all." Ares whispered, even Discord looked up at that.
"How?" She asked, not daring to hope.
"Because, Eris, Milos here has given me a prayer even Hades and father can't ignore." Ares waived the crystal and left.
"What did he mean?" Milos asked his new friend.
"I think he means he has an idea how to get Strife back." Eris smiled, her first hopeful smile she had shared with anyone, mortal or God, since her son had been murdered by Callisto.
"Is he cleverer than Hades and your father then?" Milos asked, full of renewed hope.
"Not really, just sneakier." Discord laughed, a high pitched giggle, that sounded more childlike than adult. Milos laughed with her. Surprised that there was a single laugh left in his heart.
Surprising herself, Discord found herself hugging the boy, Milos, to her side. Then, even more surprising, she felt Milos hug her right back.
"I like you, you understand." Milos said, not actually looking her in the face, let alone the eye.
"I like you too, you also understand." Discord didn't embarrass her new friend by looking at him either.
They sat there, listening to the oppressively silent city streets and watching the world grow older, second by second for some considerable time. It was as if all life had been sucked out of the city, no one haggled over prices, no one pushed their luck to save or earn a few more copper coins, just out of a sense of mischief if nought else.
"Is this a private wake or can any one join in?" A voice so dear to Eris' heart and Milos' too, if he but knew it, spoke from directly behind them. "Unc said I was due someone called Milos a big thank you and a wish come true. I take it you are Milos? Well I am .." His mother was on her feet and had him in her arms before he could introduce himself, overjoyed and over her shock.
"Strife!" She shouted. Drawing her son close to her. "My Strife. Why did they let you come back, after all their refusals?" Eris cried for joy. Milos was on his feet, crying and not sure why. His God was back but still he was crying?
"Mother, a moment here." Strife kissed the top of his mother's head and eased her back from him, gently. He turned to the boy, Milos, and crouched down to the level of a nine year old mortal child. "Milos, I owe you my life, you gave up the most precious gift a mortal can give a dead God. You cried for me, it was your tears that the other Gods couldn't argue against. For that I have to thank you." Strife kissed the startled child's cheek. "For what it's worth, my blessing on you!" And as Strife rocked back onto his heals a really good, bad idea came to Milos and for the first time in weeks he smiled a true little boys smile.
"I gotta go, I just had a really wicked idea!" Milos grinned, that too reminded Discord of her son, could this mortal boy be one of his? Did she care if it was or wasn't? Not really, she just laughed, hearing a scream of outrage in the distance, and a shouted command to come back there right now.
"Then go with my blessing too." And Discord kissed the boy's other cheek. Milos brought his hands up to his face and thought about his prank and suddenly saw how to make it even better. He grinned even wider, if possible.
"Great, thanks, I mean it. You're my favourite Gods, you know?" And off he ran, looking for his victim.
"Mom?" Strife quizzed his mother and got her undivided attention.
"Hmm?" She queried, wordlessly.
"I gotta say thanks to you too. If you hadn't taken that young Milos' grief seriously then I'd still be dead. Thanks mom." Strife grinned, lopsidedly at his mother.
"What you want to do now?" Discord asked.
"Watch Milos' plan unfold, then go home with my mom?" Strife asked, almost shyly.
"Sounds good to me!" Discord linked her arm through that of her returned to her son and grinned. She made a silent promise that she would always watch out for Milos' plans and schemes, after all she was due him her son. "Come on then, I think he's just about to begin!"
And the two Gods vanished, leaving behind the echo of laughter and joy.
It was as if the world came back to life again, as if the whole world had been mourning a loss it had never known it felt. Especially the children.
Milos' plan worked beautifully too!