Chapter 2: The Twins

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The island was beaten by the waves and blown by the wind and didn't even have a fixed position in the sea, yet it was willing to accept the pregnant Leto. When the nymph settled on its shore, it became firm on the belly of the ocean.

Leaning against a great rock of the isle, Leto unfastened her belt and lay down with a piercing cry. She wouldn't have been in such a bitter pain if Eileithyia, daughter of all-powerful Hera and goddess of childbirth and midwifery weren't in trouble in heaven.

The goddess of childbirth alone could not give relief when Leto was racked with labor pangs, and sore distressed her being. Hera made sure to restrain her daughter from assisting Leto in her labor.

Back in Olympus, an argument could be heard in the palace of Hera.

"Mother, it is my duty to aid all women who suffer in childbirth," Eileithyia pleaded to the Queen of Gods, but her envious mother would hear none of it.

Hera grabbed her daughter by the waist and dragged her down the halls of the Olympian palace, deep down into the inner bowels of the mountain tunnels.

"Mother, release your dear daughter! You're hurting me, and you're causing the suffering of all the mothers in labor at this very moment!" Eileithyia cried as she tried to fight back.

Her mother was the Queen of the Gods for a reason. Her might couldn't be equal. Even the land and all of nature was under Hera's governance. Despite all of Eileithyia's efforts, her protests were in vain.

"All of the humanity can burn in the realm of Hades if it comes to it!" Hera shouted back. "Leto may have escaped my wrath, but I shall make sure she suffers in the pain that can claim her life!"

It was the most the Queen could do for the treachery that Leto spurred upon her house the day she had lain with her husband, Zeus.

Eileithyia slapped at her mother's hand in desperation.

"Even if you lock me down in the dungeon for all eternity there is no denying that they are Father Zeus's children," she said. "No matter what you do, O Mother of the gods, he will love Leto's children too, and he shall want them here in his royal house."

"Never! I will not allow them on Olympus! Therefore I am preventing it by keeping you from helping them!"

Hera knew what her daughter said was the truth. Despite this, she was adamant on making Leto writhe in pain for as long as she could before Zeus would step in. Disgusted, she threw Eileithyia down into the palace dungeon and locked her daughter for thirty days, all while Leto faced the challenge of childbirth alone.

For nine days and nine nights, Leto was suffering from strong pains, until on the tenth day, the goddess Rhea and Dione helped Leto into the cave. Inside the land was dry and comfortable and they could hear the soft gurgle of a stream passing through the darkness.

Ahead of them were Ichnaea, Themis, and Amphitrite, the only immortals who came to aid the maiden. Themis held high a torch to light the way and the five deities guided Leto to a proper resting place within the cavern. This was the safest place they could find, in the center of Delos and far from the prying eyes of Hera and her vengeance.

Rhea, the mother of Zeus and wife to the Titan Cronus, held Leto in her arms and soothed the young nymph as she began her labor.

Leto screamed when the first child began to burrow through her flesh. From her sex emerged a golden-haired baby out into the world. Yet, the ordeal wasn't over. The child remained stuck. Dione gripped Leto's hand and began to sing a soothing hymn, but even then the echoes of Leto's agony bellowed through the island.

All of Delos could hear the suffering that the pregnant nymph endured and this, to the knowledge of many, is what pleased Hera the most.

"Just a little more," Rhea told her. The elder woman, an immortal Titaness much as Leto herself, used all her tender words and strength to calm her. They each tried to ease her pains. Yet their powers were just an inkling to the pure agony of childbirth for this was no ordinary birth.

"A little more, my child, and remember that this pain is what will hold you and your godly children together for all the glory. It will be the basis of your love - you suffered to bring them into this world and they will not forget your pain. They shall punish those who rejected you. They shall avenge your enemy for what they put you through."

Her words dug deep into Leto's heart even her mind was on the pain. She did not want to lose this fight.

"Push!" Dione shouted.

Leto pushed and out came a female baby, a godling with bright hair and skin. In the first moment in which she was born, she was an infant but like all the gods, she grew into the size and age of a mature child after a mere few moments. When she was aware of her surroundings and saw her mother in great soreness, she immediately rushed to her side and clasped Leto's hand.

"Mother! Mother! I am here!" the child exclaimed. "Are you in pain?"

"You, my first born, my darling girl," Leto lovingly said as she cupped her daughter's cheek. "You shall be named Artemis. You are so beautiful, my beloved child, and many will hunt for your attention and love. In return, I must guide you into becoming a huntress of the wild, a free spirit that no man or gods alike can tame."

Artemis nodded and turned her attention to her mother's womanhood. She saw there was another child that was yet to be born. She came in between her mother's spread legs and served as a new midwife given how Eileithyia was absent. All the gods and goddesses would not argue when the little girl would grow up to claim her role as a goddess of childbirth.

"Push, mother! A little more so," Artemis instructed and Leto, touched by her beautiful baby's words, gave her all. Through her struggles and tears was born a male baby.

At last, the pains disappeared. Leto gave birth to the most beautiful twins on the face of the earth. The House of Zeus and Hera would later be in awe of their presence.

"You shall be called Apollo," Leto said tiredly as she looked at her radiant son.

Rhea, Dione, Themis, Amphitrite and Ichnaea bore witness to the birth of the two godly children. It was through their testament that all of Olympus soon came to learn of Leto and her offsprings.

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