Chapter Two — Better than a Dream

7 March 2010 at 20:54 (Artwork, Dreamsong, Kid Icarus, Kid Liquorice, Random Randomness)

I am very lucky, thought Callimachus as he watched Asteria at her spinning wheel. I have a beautiful wife, a whole island to myself and a flock of sheep that keeps growing and growing. I have everything I need, and no troubles at all.

Except maybe for Asteria’s fiery temper. Sometimes it took only the smallest thing to rile her — but that was a small price to pay for her companionship.

He’d heard in Skyworld that happiness was often hard to find for Overworlders, but he knew, and they were wrong. I am very happy, he thought. Very happy.

Asteria gave Callimachus’s foot a playful kick. ‘I wish you wouldn’t stare at me so,’ she muttered. ‘It’s hard to concentrate when you do that.’

Callimachus laughed. ‘I can’t help it. I’ve never seen anyone spin moonlight into thread. It’s amazing, how do you do it?’

‘I’ve already told you — it’s pointless trying to explain it to you, because you can never understand.’


Asteria sighed. That was the only thing that annoyed her about Callimachus. He conceded to whatever she said so easily, there was never any opportunity to bicker. She’d confronted him about this once before.

‘You never disagree with me,’ she had complained.

Callimachus was apologetic. ‘I’m sorry.’

‘Don’t you care about me enough to argue with me?’

‘But why do you want me to argue with you?’

She’d been wasting her time back then, too. All in all though, it was a minor complaint. I have a good husband, she thought. He takes care of me and makes me happy. She glanced over at Callimachus who was hiding a smile and pretending not to look at her. She began to sing, as she knew he liked it. There was Zeus’s curse, of course, but — no. That wouldn’t happen, it couldn’t happen, and there was no point in worrying Callimachus about it. He was so happy, she wouldn’t spoil it. In fact, he’d told her the other day that there was hardly anything left to daydream about anymore, because why try to improve on perfection?

Or near perfection, Callimachus had thought to himself. There was one thing that would make life complete and that was something he could never give to Asteria — a child. That was the one thing he dreamed a lot about. Just imagine! A little angel, a child of their own running about with the sweet and innocent laughter that only a child could have. A little thing to bring warmth to their hearts, his redeeming feature, a child who could make up for everywhere he’d gone wrong, all the mistakes he’d made, a little child who would make Skyworld proud.

He turned now to Asteria. ‘Asteria, don’t you regret that we can never have children?’


‘Not even a little bit?’


Callimachus was silent a while. So she didn’t share his dream. He supposed it didn’t matter, it couldn’t happen anyway, but it was the old story wasn’t it? The more you were told you couldn’t have something, the more you wanted it.

There he goes again, thought Asteria ruefully. Refusing to contradict anything I say.

‘I hear Pit’s made Melanion his deputy.’ Asteria was sitting with Callimachus that morning, mending a torn chiton of his — it was amazing just how torn — while Callimachus watched over the flock. Callimachus made no response.

‘I wouldn’t have thought you’d approve..?’ she prompted.

Callimachus just nodded.

Asteria flushed. ‘Are you even listening to me?’

Her tone was a warning. Callimachus smiled and put his arms around her. He knew she was close to throwing a tantrum. ‘Sorry, sweetheart, I was thinking of something else.’

‘What?’ she snapped.

‘Wouldn’t it be nice to have a kid about the place?’ Callimachus was thoughtful. ‘You know, back when I was living in Skyworld, I used to give archery lessons to the kids in the Children’s House. I miss that.’

Asteria was wary. ‘Why this desire to have a family all of a sudden? I didn’t think angels cared for such things?’

‘I never used to,’ he floundered. ‘It’s just — you — and I mean — I dreamed we did, a little girl, with pink hair like you — and — well — it just makes me sad, that’s all.’

‘I’m sorry, Cal.’ Asteria was silent for a few moments before she spoke again. ‘But we always have the sheep and anyway, life isn’t so bad, is it?’

It was a mistake to mention it, and Callimachus didn’t broach the subject again. But he continued to dream, just like Asteria’s father Endymion had dreamed all those years ago, and just like Endymion’s, his dream became a reality.

Asteria couldn’t understand how it had happened.

But there was no doubt about it, she realised. There was a little angel inside her. How it got there, she had no idea. A child…

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She cursed her stupidity. How naive was she not to have seen it! She herself was borne through a dream — and Callimachus was the biggest dreamer Angel Land had ever known. Oh what a fool she was! Why did she think it would never happen to her?

So Callimachus would get his child, she reflected, and she — she would pay with her life. Tears streamed down her face, hot tears of anger, anger at Callimachus, at Zeus and his stupid curse, at her mother for not spelling it out.

So this was how it would all end.

But when she told Callimachus, all thoughts for herself left. She watched the delight on his face and thought, If I cannot make this sacrifice for the man who has made my life so happy, then I am not worthy of life anyway. As she listened to Callimachus chattering excitedly, she couldn’t bring herself to tell him what it meant. If it was going to happen it was going to happen — maybe it wouldn’t be so bad, Zeus never said that she would die straightaway, it might be years and besides, Zeus loved her, she knew that, he’d let his great-grandchild have its mother for a while.

It would probably all be okay.

And the child was born — a little pink-haired girl, just as Callimachus had dreamed. It took him some time to clean both mother and child — the baby’s wings took a very long time to clean down — and just as he’d finished and handed the tiny little girl to Asteria, he noticed his wife was looking very pale.

‘Asteria are you okay? Can I get you something, do you need more water..?’

‘Callimachus, I am dying.’

He was going to smile at how dramatic she was being, to tell her not to be so silly — and stopped. It was in her eyes, he could see it.

‘Asteria, what’s the matter, what’s happened?’

Asteria tried to be brave, but found she couldn’t. Her eyes misted as she told him what Zeus had decreed.

Callimachus couldn’t believe it. Did that mean — he was killing his wife?

As if reading his mind, Asteria reached up to gently touch his face. ‘I was warned, Callimachus, I knew.’ She paused. ‘It’s no one’s fault, really.’

Callimachus felt faint. ‘Forgive me…’

‘There is nothing to forgive.’ Asteria gave a watery smile. ‘Do not be sad for me, Cal. I’ve lived a long time, but I was never truly happy until I found you. You have given me so much, you made my life complete, and I am glad to do this thing for you.’ She smiled up a him. ‘I am glad I got to make your dream come true.’

Callimachus was silent. This was no dream; this was a nightmare.

‘I’m just sorry I will not get to see her grow up.’ She gazed fondly at the child. ‘She is a precious treasure, Callimachus. Make sure you look after her well. Promise me.’

Callimachus nodded weakly. ‘I promise,’ he whispered. This wasn’t the way it was supposed to be.

Asteria’s grip on the child was weakening. ‘Take her, I don’t want to drop her.’ Callimachus took the child and placed her in the cradle. He turned back to Asteria.

‘Please — there must be something I can do, I can’t lose you — ‘

‘Make your dreams come true, Callimachus. Never lose hope in your dreams.’

‘Asteria —’

‘I love you, Callimachus.’

And she was gone.

Callimachus, overcome with grief, ran out into the lashing rain. He flew to the highest peak on the island.

‘A curse on you, Zeus!’ He roared. ‘A curse on your name forever!’

‘Insolent fool! A curse on my name indeed.’ Zeus reached for a thunderbolt. ‘I’ll show him.’

Selene grabbed his arm. ‘Zeus, you mustn’t,’ she implored tearfully. ‘Think of the child, your great grand-daughter. She has already lost her mother, would you have her orphaned before she is even a day old? Please spare him!’

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But Zeus was not one to take this lying down. ‘Child or no child, he must pay.’

‘He is overcome by grief, he doesn’t really know what he is saying! Please, Zeus, I beg of you, have mercy!’

Zeus silently contemplated her request. ‘Very well then, he shall have a stay of execution. But once that child is old enough to fend for herself, I tell you, someone had better start watching his back.’

Selene eyed him warily.

Zeus fingered his thunderbolt thoughtfully a while. ‘Have Hermes bring Asteria back to Olympus. I will not have her buried on their foul Overworld island.’

Callimachus slowly descended the mountain. Such an outburst was uncharacteristic of him. What had he been thinking? He shuddered. Sweet Palutena, he’d just cursed Zeus! Trembling, he made his way back to his home. His daughter! Good heavens, his daughter! As he neared the entrance to the cave, he was surprised to see Hermes carrying the limp form of his wife.

‘Where are you going with her?’ He cried plaintively. ‘Please don’t take her away, she’s all I have!’

‘Zeus’s orders.’ Hermes said shortly. He looked uncomfortable, but Callimachus was beyond noticing. Hermes paused, and looked at the angel pityingly. He liked Callimachus. ‘You may say goodbye…’

Callimachus brushed the hair off Asteria’s forehead and gazed at the face of his beloved, the face he loved more than any. He kissed her gently. ‘Goodbye, my love…’

Hermes nodded. ‘I must go now. Before he vanished from sight, he turned and called out, ‘I have left something for your daughter. A gift, from Apollo…’

Callimachus went inside and sadly surveyed the room. He looked at his daughter. She was fine: sleeping peacefully, dreaming baby dreams. Beside the cradle was a small silver amphora. He opened it: nectar. This must be Apollo’s gift. The child began to stir and Callimachus took her gently in his arms. ‘It’s just you and me now, sweetheart.’

As she drank the mixture of nectar and milk, he watched her, this little miracle, his little dream child, so innocent, so pure, so oblivious to the suffering around her. He gazed in wonder and her perfect, delicate features, and despite everything, he smiled.

Apollo watched Callimachus and chuckled softly to himself. Without a doubt he’d picked the right one. It could have gone wrong at any point, but he had nothing to worry about now; this angel’s mind was as pliable as dough.

It was sad about Asteria of course, but what could you do? He didn’t make the rules. Besides, some things were more important than life. It was only a shame that angels took so long to grow up, but he could bide his time.

Some things were worth waiting for.


1 Comment

  1. Anonymous said,

    Aw, I almost cried.

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