Author: Chris sidhe_woman
Summary: She had waited a long time for the final prophecy to play out...
Spoilers: for 4/22
Title of original story: Requiem by musesfool
Beta: The Cypriot, who doesn't have an LJ
They are here! I feel their approach before I hear them, then their voices reach me, though they are talking quietly. My heart stutters and I clench my fists in my shawl to will the pain away.
The waiting has been hard. I was a child when my mother first took me to Delphi, to that sacred place high up the mountainside, overlooking the valleys and distant sea. So long ago now, and there's so much I can't recall. But I remember the sweet scent in the small chamber, I remember feeling strange--dizzy--as if the world I knew was far away, and it wasn't my mother's hand holding mine, but another, larger hand. And I remember them, bright and dark, and shades of gray as luminous as pearls in moonlight... And so alive they made my heart sing. But I was very young then.
They were the first of my prophecies, and the only one still waiting to be fulfilled. If I had known how long it would take, I might have refused the God's Gift. Or tried, at least. If anyone can say no to a god. Apollo is not easy to serve, and this last task of mine has kept me here long past my allotted span.
I want to rest, but when did an Olympian ever pay heed to the frailties of a mere mortal when it came to such perilous times.
Oh, my bright Lord, the things I have seen in my dreams! Such darkness and horror, such grief, despair--the wounds they have taken and the ones yet to come--you would think the gods would care more for their weapons, but, no. It's called forging and tempering, as if Hephaestos himself was hammering away at them. But if you test a blade to destruction, all you have left are shards of broken metal. So far, they are holding true, but the bonds between them are wearing thin, and that's what I have to address. It will not be easy. I wish I was not constrained to speak in riddles, but that is the Pythia's curse and I can no more speak plainly than I can change the paths that lay before them. Only they can do that, but that is another Mystery I cannot explain.
I try not to be impatient. These things play out as the gods will, and there will be time enough for me to say all that has to be said. I can only hope they will listen and hear the truth between the twisting words Apollo will put into my mouth. Angels and demons are playing a dangerous game that threatens the delicate balance between the Spheres and more than mankind is suffering. The world is become a darkling place, and the things that writhe in the Shadows seek destruction for the sake of destroying, without a thought to what might come after. For all that he can be capricious, Apollo has long loved the human race. I am certain he would not stand by and see them brought to ruin.
No one but the angels and demons want this Apocalypse.
There is another sudden lurch in my breast and I know they are coming closer. Soon I'll see them in life for the first and last time. I start to climb to my feet, and the pain in my joints force a keening from me. Oh, well, it'll add to the atmosphere--rising mist, dank hovel of a cave--it isn't Delphi but it's as close to my God's temple as it needs to be, here in this northern land.
They come with flashlights, the beams dazzling in the gloom, and the width and height of them fill the narrow way. The Dioskouroi for these latter times, Polydeukes as ever at the forefront, Kastor shielding his back. I know the names they wear now, but they've worn those earlier names for so long in my memories it's hard to think of them as anything else. Touched by angel and by demon, they burn brighter than the sun, and their darknesses are born of the blackest pit in Hades. Yet the dark and light are almost insignificant against all those wondrous shades of gray that make them human. I am so glad--and relieved--to see it that my eyes burn with tears.
But there has to be a certain amount of ritual to these matters. I gather my strength and trust that it is enough.
"Have you brought a sacrifice?" I ask. I'm not sure what or who they were expecting to find, but that made them pause.
"Was I supposed to?" Dean answers warily. He's wearing mirrored sunglasses, incongruous in the dimness of my home, but perhaps they're meant to protect him from more than sunlight.
"Those who come to the Pythia generally do," I say, and I don't bother keeping the sardonic edge from the words. "Though it's been many years since anyone has."
"The Pythia?" He's taken aback. "Like on Battlestar Galactica?"
"I think she means like the Oracle at Delphi." Sam looms behind him, blocking out what little light creeps in from outside. Oh, my poor Kastor. There are more bitter burdens for you to bear, and it's as well you have shoulders like Atlas to carry them. And Polydeukes has as great a weight to carry--my heart breaks for them both and I try to keep it from my voice.
"Yes. Though it's been many years since I last saw Mount Parnassus."
Dean takes off his sunglasses, and raises an eyebrow. "You emigrated?" he says. What did he think I would do? Stay in a ruined temple where only tourists come to stare? Many of the Greeks who sailed to the New World congregated in Astoria, and it wouldn't be the first time immigrants had brought their gods and monsters with them. Or their Prophetesses.
"Though my gods have not been worshipped for ages, their stories are still potent, and carry within them the seeds of belief." I incline my head and ignore the twinge of pain. "When my people came, I traveled with them."
"And this is where they set you up? 'Cause I gotta say, it doesn't look like the bellybutton of the world to me."
"Dean," Sam mutters, and there is exasperation in the single word.
Dean rolls his eyes at his brother, and I laugh. The bond between them may be weakened by mistrust, doubt and fear, but it is still there, warm and with a hearth-fire glow. So is their compassion, though Sam's is cool, like a surgeon who must cut into living flesh to excise the disease. Dean's is the unconditional caring that needs to protect and soothe, for all that he has difficulty putting it into words sometimes. Saving people, hunting things... The phrase drifts into my mind, a multiple echo ranging from a child's treble to the adult baritone. Dean's code.
"My time is long past, and my people no longer honor me the way they once did." I shift slowly to a sitting position, and the soft creak of my old joints make Dean wince in sympathy. His complicated humanity is a balm to me and I shake back my veil to show them my face. There can be nothing between the Dioskouroi and my words. I know what they see--pale features lined with wrinkles, surrounded by dirty gray hair, eyes dark and sunk deep into their sockets. I hope they can also see the touch of the God on me. "I will die here, and my journey will be at an end."
"The least they could do is set you up in a nice hotel, get you room service and cable." There is concern in his voice and eyes, and it is warming.
"They have forgotten me, and I have long since resigned myself to my fate. The thread will be cut soon." And I'll be glad of it. My part in this is almost done. I have already seen in visions what must come after and I have no wish to live through it.
Dean reaches into his pocket, pulls out a garish plastic packet and crouches beside me. A supplicant whether he knows it or not. I look up and up at Sam, towering over the both of us, and there is something solemn in his eyes. He knows.
"Here," Dean says. He opens the packet and pours a few pieces of candy into my hand. An offering for Apollo. As his Pythia, I accept it, tasting the richness of the chocolate and the crunch of the peanuts, grateful I have enough teeth for it.
"Thank you," I murmur. I cup his cheek in my hand and I can see more clearly the strength in him. No, he isn't close to breaking, but the lesions are there. So are the scars. I curl my fingers around his forearm, feeling the solid power in the tense muscles. He will not be easily shattered, either physically or mentally. The angels chose well. He glances at his brother and so do I. Sam's face is set in determined lines and his gun is still in his hand. I don't doubt he would use it on me if he thought I was a threat to Dean.
So. It is time. "Help me to my tripod, young sir," I say, nodding at the three-legged stool in its corner.
He does more than that. He scoops me into his arms and carries me as if I'm a bride to be lifted over a threshold. Well, that's not so far from the truth.
He sets me down gently on the stool and I smile, hold out my hand for more candy. He gifts them to me along with a smile of his own.
"Your gods are not my gods," I tell them. "My gods are long dead." It would not do for them to know all the reality, after all. "But whispers and hints of the future still swirl in the mist." The power moves through me and I straighten my shoulders, raise my chin, and gaze deep into their eyes. "You have questions. Ask, and they may be answered."
Sam bows his head. Oh, yes, he knows, right enough. But Dean, ever suspicious of the unseen, keeps his eyes open and watches me.
And I, I See so much more of them now. Their surface questions are insignificant. A Gorgon? Is that what they thought I was? Distantly, I'm amused, but it lasts only a moment. Beneath the trivia are darker concerns, rank with self-doubt and that corrosive mistrust.
Then Apollo comes to me in his glittering rush and the words are there.
"Your gods are not my gods, Sam Winchester," we say, and they both start, wall-eyed in the shadows. "But your war is my war. You cannot let darkness escape its bounds to cover the earth. You must fight fire with fire." And the God is gone as suddenly as he had come, leaving me fragile in his wake, blinking and shaking but myself again. My trembling is not only the frailty of age. I have never known my God speak so plainly, and that cannot be a good omen. I have seen what awaits the brothers, and Apollo’s words do nothing to help avert it.
So, then. I have things to say. I capture Dean's gaze and reach out again to cup his cheek. "You have been touched by your gods, Dean. You have been broken and made whole again to be their instrument, but you are wise to mistrust their regard. Gods are fickle and cruel, and their ends are not always clear to us. But to survive, to win, you must regain your faith."
"I never had any faith to begin with," he says.
"Not in the gods," I tell him, willing him to understand. I want to say more, but Apollo locks the words in my throat. Somehow I find the strength to push them past the barrier. "Believe, so that he may believe." Then Apollo's touch is on me once again, and I cannot. There is a judder in my heartbeat, a stabbing pain, and my limbs are leaden. I gasp for breath and Dean catches me before I topple from my tripod.
"What?" he asks urgently. "Who?"
"You know who," I whisper. I try to speak his brother's name, but Apollo takes my hand in his. I resist for as long as I can and reach out to Dean with all that is in me, but still I can only form riddles.
At the darkest time the light will be so bright it will blind you, I try to tell him, willing the words into his mind if not his ears, but you must see past it to the fallen and reach out-- Do not betray the betrayed. I do not know if he hears me.
I am on that final threshold now, and for a fleeting instant I see Apollo’s intent. Let the angels and the demons fight their war. Neither can win outright and both will be weakened. It is time for the children of Adam to exercise their free will and take a stand for their own values. For love and family, for loyalty and truth. Whether these two champions of humankind know it or not, they have allies. The gods of Earth and Air, of Fire and Water, beings born from the fabric of the world, will defend and strengthen where they can.
Apollo's hand tightens on mine and leads me away.
I look back just the once.
They are standing together, my Dioskouroi, shoulder to shoulder.