Let's see what's happening with the Fates back in the Cave...

______________

Scene 12: Proud

2020 B.C.

She wished she didn’t have to do this. Looking at her eldest sister, where she sat, intently tending to her task, Clotho truly wished she didn’t have to ask.

It wasn’t that the request would be unreasonable, or too much of an imposition—at least, Clotho hoped that it wouldn’t be. She trusted that Atropos would gladly agree to assist her in this. It was important; it was necessary. Surely her sister would understand.

Clotho knew that her reluctance now was due to her excessive sense of dignity and self-reliance. Her hesitance to ever ask others for help, with what she could—or should—accomplish by herself. She took pride in her work, claiming credit for it only when deserved.

But she would have to set such thoughts aside, so as to carry out the plan she’d set in place during her last visit to earth. She couldn’t bring it to fruition on her own. She reminded herself that fulfilling her fateful duties mattered infinitely more than her sense of self-worth.

And she reminded herself of the look she had seen in a wide pair of eyes, rimmed with red from having shed too many tears: the eyes of a mother. The first soul who had broken the silence, after Clotho had stood before the crowd to make her speech, offering the villagers a miracle as proof of the gods’ power and mercy. The tearful woman had stepped forward first. Her youngest son was terminally ill; she had promised that he was a child of pure heart, one who did not deserve to die. Fallen to her knees and pleaded for his life. Sworn to place her faith in Clotho’s word, if this miracle was performed.

Clotho wished she could have offered the townsfolk a different sort of miracle, one that she could execute on her own. If only she were able to write the Book of Fate, as Ananke had bade, then she could decree absolutely anything. Could have offered fulfillment of all sorts of wishes.

But alas, as it was, short of spinning new souls, there was nothing that Clotho could do. Promising miraculous conception to a barren wife, the priceless gift of newborn life—well within her power to provide—would have taken far too long to actually show; the people certainly would not have had the patience to await such proof. The circumstances had required an instantly observable miracle.

And Atropos, with her expeditious power over life and death, was perfectly capable of providing one. If she agreed to this—when she agreed to this—then Clotho could return to the same place on earth tomorrow, and the people would place credence in her message. At least some of them would, she was sure. Even if not all believed, even if only a few, Clotho would have succeeded. Not only in protecting her own body from violation, but much more importantly, in providing motivation for some souls to change their ways of life. To change for the better.

Changing people was a very tricky and difficult business, Clotho knew from her time on earth so far. This plan that she had set in place seemed like a sound approach. Or at least a promising start.

With this in mind, love for her mother weighing heavy in her heart, she crossed the Cave and walked up to her sister. “Atropos?”

The lethal Fate swiveled her sable-haired head. “Yes?”

Clotho bit her lip, slowly released it. “May I ask a favor of you?”

“Go on,” Atropos answered, evergreen gaze returning to her work.

Clotho followed her sister’s gaze toward the Loom, recognizing a certain thread poised near the shears, lined up in the queue of lives to be cut soon. She pointed at the poor doomed soul. “Would you mind… possibly not snipping this one thread, for at least a little while?”

Atropos paused, blinking up at her sister. “May I ask why?”

Clotho nodded and carefully explained the situation.

After another pause, Atropos shrugged and sighed. “If I must.”

“You seem troubled about it…”

“Can you blame me? I don’t much enjoy taking orders from my little sister on how to perform my own job.”

“Orders? I simply asked—”

“And how could you possibly expect me to deny you, given what’s at stake? What kind of monster would I have to be?”

Lachesis chimed in, from her station. “Is everything all right…?”

“Quite. Clotho is just confused as to whose role is whose.”

“Atropos…!” Clotho gasped.

The eldest Fate turned to regard her sister once again. “I said yes to your overstepping request. What, now—is there something else?”

Clotho shook her head, half in reply and half in sheer dismay. “But why are you being so cruel? Why are you so unhappy to help me?”

“Why should you need my help?” Atropos snapped. “Have I ever asked you to create a certain thread because it would be helpful toward my ends? Because I was audacious enough to make a promise down on earth that I couldn’t uphold on my own?”

“No, you haven’t. But if you did…”

“Well, I wouldn’t.”

“Lachesis has,” the youngest Fate rushed to point out. “And we told her we’d gladly oblige. She has asked for our aid in distinguishing the good threads from the bad, to better fulfill her own task…”

“Her own task. Not imposing on ours.”

Clotho stared at her sister, brown eyes wide with devastated disbelief. “Are we not all three working toward the same end? There is nothing that I would not do, would not gladly give, for the sake of my sisters. For our mother. I hope the same is true for both of you.”

“How dare you preach to us like that,” Atropos spat, suddenly rising to her feet. “You know—you know, for once, I was proud of myself. I’d found a way to do my job, to do it right. In a way that might have made our mother proud. And then you had to intrude, to tell me what to do, reminding me that she was only ever proud of you.”

The words cut straight through Clotho’s soul. “I hadn’t meant…”

“It doesn’t matter what you meant, Clotho. Whatever you do is the right thing. The good thing. It will always be that way. Here, I thought I was doing some good, in the midst of all my routine random snips, by focusing on finding dark hearts to slay—and then you walk on over and request mercy, for a pure-hearted soul to live another day. A soul that I was set to kill. Whether or not it was deserved, I would’ve snipped it. Because that is what I do. I kill. People will always die, the world will always be a darker place, because of me.”

Clotho shook her heavy head again. “Atropos, that’s not true…”

“You don’t get to tell me what’s true,” her sister sharply rebuked. “You’re already telling me what to do. Is that not enough for you?”

The air weighed too much, in the wake of her words, hot and thick as volcanic ash, unsettled dust left in the aftermath of an eruption.

Atropos sat to return to her task. “You asked why I’m being so cruel? You try living with this burden that I shoulder, every dark and damning day, and see what deathly breed of monster you turn into.”

All the while, and in the silence that ensued, Chaos wordlessly observed, the entire Cave encompassed in the shadow of her gaze.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

... Any thoughts on this sudden eruption of sisterly tension? o_O

Next scene, we'll check in with Ryder in modern-day Greece...

** And if you liked this one, please don't forget to vote! :) **

The Fates (Book II)Read this story for FREE!