For Erika Lance. Though she did not technically start this particular story, she did start Jimmy and I owe her this story. I heart your face.
The cave at the top of Olympus was dark and somehow small despite being infinite. Teeth hung from the ceiling and grew out of the floor. Fluorescent smears painted glowing figures on the walls. The place was airless and deathless; time stood still, cradling the lair of the Moirai in a frozen moment while the rest of the worlds without marched forward.
The Moirai, or Fates, possessed the awesome power of deciding a man’s destiny, and most obviously how long he lives. The Fates number three: Clotho, who spins the thread of life; Lachesis, who determines a person’s allotment of misery and suffering and measures off how long life is to be; and finally Atropos, who cuts the thread of life with her silver shears, sending one to the arms of Death.
Jimmy reflected on this as he huddled in the darkness. His plan was almost at fruition. The Loom of the Fates, a golden treasure even the gods would pay dearly to possess, was finally within his reach, figuratively speaking. Mountains of gold were piling before his eyes. He just had to find its physical location in the labyrinth of caves.
Fortune smiled on him. Just an hour ago, the Fates had passed him in this very cave. Surely they must return this way. Even as he thought this, Jimmy heard voices down the tunnel. He ducked back, though they wouldn’t have been able to see him had he been standing in the middle of the cave in plain sight, courtesy of the cloak he wore, an unintentional present from Death himself.
Jimmy wasn’t sure which Fate was which – everything he had been able to find out was either vague or contradictory. The three women walked bathed in auras of diamond and starlight. One had hair of fine spun gold and dark eyes. The second had hair of the blackest night and sky-blue eyes. The third had hair of the essence of fire and green eyes. The Moirai wore matching dresses of white belted at the waist with links of turquoise, obsidian, and jade respectively.
They chattered happily in the tongue of the gods as they walked by, oblivious of Jimmy hiding in the shadows. Jimmy pulled Death’s cloak a little tighter around him and slipped out to follow the Fates. His feet made no sound as he walked close enough to reach out and tap any one of them on the shoulder. Once or twice, each of the three turned a head to search behind with a puzzled frown. Jimmy’s hubris made him smile.
The Loom sat in the center of a beautiful cave. Wolfskins lay over the stone floor. Gold veins glittered and gleamed through the walls. Incense smoldered, lacing the air with the scent of sweet and spicy wood.
The Loom itself was a simple, ancient contraption made of what looked like yellowed bone. The spindle was silver and the thread grew into an iridescent tapestry of shifting lives, emotions, and thoughts.
The Fates settled around it and finally Jimmy put who was who together. The blonde spinner Clotho sat before the Loom and began to spin the thread out of aether. Fiery-haired Lachesis measured the thread and dark Atropos held her sharp, silver shears at the ready, cutting when necessary. They worked with animated talk, though in the presence of the Loom, Jimmy now understood what they were saying.
At the moment Atropos was grilling Lachesis about a man she had been spending time with lately and Lachesis was being cagey. Jimmy was no more interested in it than he would be in any other women’s gossip, but when Lachesis attempted to change the subject, his ears pricked up.
“Yes, but what truly is love and how does that align with fate?” she said. Her sisters stared at her and she continued as she measured and pointed to where Atropos should cut. “I mean, we sit here for most of the day and spin the lots of man, choosing how long he will live and where he draws his final breath, yet it doesn’t occur to us that somewhere there are Moirai above us choosing our fates as we choose mankind’s?”
Atropos shivered. “Don’t say things like that, Lachesis. It’s bad luck.”
“I’m serious,” Lachesis said with a stubborn pout. “Who is to say someone doesn’t have greater plans for me?”
“Which you can always get out of,” Clotho said, her fingers blurring as she twisted and braided. “Even man can yet escape our spinning if he tries hard enough.”
“Most don’t have that imagination,” Atropos said, snipping off a bright green thread.
The sound made ripples in the air and cold fingers crawled over Jimmy’s skin. The concept was too big for him to grasp comfortably, and he turned his mind to something more palatable, such as the mountains of gold that would be awaiting him when he retrieved his prize.
“Well, in any case, I wasn’t asking about True Love or Eternal Fate,” Atropos said. “I just wanted to know about the Guardian…what’s his name…Asariel?”
“Shh. He’s just outside, you twit!”
“Well, isn’t it time for lunch?”
Jimmy turned around and saw two men at the door, standing at attention. A shiver ran down his spine. He had a sneaking suspicion that the only reason he could see them was the fact that he wore Death’s own cloak. His heart jumped into his throat for a moment as he wondered if they could see him, but their eyes passed over him just as the Fates’ did.
Jimmy breathed a sigh and turned back to the Fates to see them rising and walking towards the door. They disappeared and the Guards followed. Jimmy couldn’t believe it; here was his chance on a silver platter. With several glances behind him to make sure no silent, invisible people were with him, Jimmy went to the Loom.
With one final glance, Jimmy took off the cloak, lifted the Loom onto his back and threw the cloak over both of them. The Loom was terribly heavy. As he walked out the door, he ran into one of the two men that had been guarding the door. He was fair of form and face, with pale hair and dark eyes and carried a single white rose in his hand.
Jimmy stifled a gasp and tried the most graceful feint he could with the weight of the world on his back. Luck had abandoned him; a corner of the cloak caught on Jimmy’s foot and was pulled away.
The Guard saw the disjointed man appear in front of him and his eyes widened in shock. Jimmy did the only thing he could think of. The Loom fell, the jar as it hit the ground like an avalanche of tortured screams. Jimmy pulled the knife from his belt and went at the Guard. The only reason he got close to the other was the demigod was still frozen in the clutches of surprise. The knife plunged into his gut before his wits told him to move. Jimmy inched back as the tall man fell to his knees, eyes blinking in surprise.
Jimmy pulled the still vibrating Loom onto his back and pulled the cloak over himself just as the Fates rushed into the room, hair awry, faces wild. The Guard gurgled something as he fell onto his face. Lachesis cried out and ran to him, kneeling beside him and pulling his head into her lap.
“Asariel! No! Asariel…”
Her fingers hovered above the knife. She did not notice the red stain on her white dress. The Guard lifted a sculpted hand to the Fate’s equally beautiful cheek. His lips moved, painfully slowly. Jimmy watched, holding his breath as sweat poured down the sides of his face, panic growing in his breast.
“What happened?” Atropos demanded.
“A man…” Asariel gasped. “In here.”
“Impossible!” Atropos said.
“…tried…to take…the Loom.” Asariel was spent, his face pale, breathing labored.
Three pairs of eyes went to where the Loom was. Or rather where it should be. Atropos went pale and Lachesis gasped.
“Where is it?!”
Jimmy was almost having a seizure. His muscles spasmed. The Loom grew heavier and heavier. It did not seem to want to leave this little cave or the Fates. Asariel wheezed something. Lachesis bent her face closer. Through the red hair obscuring both of them, Asariel’s words carried.
The demigod looked up into the face of his mystical lover, willing her to understand and then the light faded from his face. Grief flashed across the red-headed Fate’s face and then was swallowed by death in the form of thunder and ice.
“What did he mean?” she asked quietly, her voice teetering on the edge of a razor cliff.
“Death’s cloak,” Atropos expounded. “It makes one invisible to everyone.”
“That’s how the Guards did not find him,” Clotho said. “And he could be here now and we would never know.”
The Fates looked up, piercing eyes searching every corner of the room.
“Are you still here, thief?” Atropos called. “Show yourself, and we may show mercy.”
Lachesis’s stormy face said something entirely different, and Jimmy decided he had to leave now before anything else went wrong. He started to edge towards the door, along the wall. He had one foot out of the door when the red-headed fate looked directly at him.
“The door,” Lachesis snapped. “Clotho, close it now.”
Blonde hair flying as she leapt across the room in one magnificent bound, Clotho ran into the invisible yet still solid form of Jimmy and stumbled back in surprise. The cloak slipped off one of his shoulders.
“So,” Atropos appraised him from across the room. “Who are you?”
“My name is Jimmy,” he tried to sound nonchalant. “You should remember that because you’ll be hearing it all over the world soon.”
“And how did you manage to get all the way in here?”
“It was easy,” Jimmy bluffed as the cloak slipped a little further down, revealing the Loom on his back.
Atropos scoffed and Clotho raised an eyebrow. Lachesis just continued a red glare.
“You cannot do anything with the Loom,” Clotho said quietly. “Just give it back and leave.”
The Loom pressed down harder on Jimmy’s shoulders as the Fate spoke, and he grunted.
“I don’t think so,” he said, fatigue making his voice hoarse.
Lachesis stood and strode towards him. “It is too late for you, mortal. No more games…”
She pushed her sister out of the way and reached for him. Fear gripped Jimmy in a crushing embrace. He saw Death smile at him and his heart expended great effort with each beat. Jimmy closed his eyes and heaved the Loom from his back as hard as he could. It hit the Fate in the face, tearing a hole in her cheek, and crashed to the ground with the sound of falling skies. Lachesis screamed at him, blood spilling down her face and onto her white dress to join that of her lover’s. The sound carried her rage in tangible waves, ripping through the substance of the universes.
As the Fate spoke, her sisters knelt by the Loom and began to work, Clotho’s fingers dancing, the tapestry shimmering under her sure touch. Threads began to unravel and reform. Atropos snipped, silver shears a blur and the floor became littered with short and long pieces of red, green, gold and white.“I curse your life and I curse your name. Everything you touch will turn to ash, everything you do will falter and fail. There is nowhere you can run, nowhere you can hide. This curse will carry through the ages, follow you wherever you go.”
Jimmy watched in horror as the fabric of Life rippled and mutated. The sisters looked on with eyes dark with vengeance. Their wrath was titanic, looming across the room, overwhelming as a tidal wave that would swallow the world.
As Jimmy ran out of the cave with the words of the Fates echoing in his ears, Lachesis pointed to a deep red thread, and Atropos raised her silver shears.