Under the cover of darkness, discord approached the lively, bustling wedding, swooping into the palace.
The grand golden doors leading to the wedding hall slammed open, and Eris, goddess of Discord entered, her mouth arranged in a sinister smile.
The room fell silent, hushed guests turning to stare at the masked intruder.
Ares smirked over his goblet, satisfied at being proven right. Poseidon grumbled, pushing gold coins into Ares' outstretched hand. To be honest, Ares pitied the couple, knowing Eris never ignored an insult.
Aphrodite tittered next to him, downing her wine. "Well this is awkward," She leaned towards Artemis, whispering conspiratorially. "You think she's going to curse their child? Or is that from another mythology?" Artemis scoffed, pulling away from her.
King Peleus and the lovely nymph Thetis had gone pale, nervously staring at the gold-masked wedding crasher.
Eris giggled, long dark hair spilling over her armoured dress. "Now, now, I would never do something so juvenile and obvious. Surely, the couple had good reason not to invite me."
"We meant no disrespect," Thetis mumbled suddenly, looking around the glittering hall for some kind of support. "We-we just wanted a wedding with a little less..uh, chaos."
Eris almost laughed right there. The chaos she was about to unleash on these two...they really should've just invited her to their wedding.
"Isn't it rude to come to a wedding without gifts?" Zeus imperiously stared down Eris, certain she would not dare outright curse the mortals in his presence. But he was less sure of what he could do if she did.
Unlike the other gods present here, Zeus had almost no control over Eris. Eris was the daughter of Nyx, the personification of night.
"Isn't it rude not to invite one goddess when you're inviting the whole pantheon?" Eris asked, smiling her twisted, cruel smile. Zeus smiled tolerantly for now, but Eris knew she was running out of time to set her trap.
There was some scattered laughter at that, and Ares spat wine all over two dryads in his amusement.
"No matter," Eris waved a gloved hand. "I forgive you. Oh, don't look at me like that Athena, I honestly mean it. I even brought a present." Eris's eyelashes fluttered in wicked amusement, and she reached into her cloak.
In her hand was a perfect, golden apple.
"Apollo, remind me, is the lovely couple due for children?" Eris hissed, raising her hand so the room could see it.
Apollo smiled genially, looking around the room. "My Oracle has predicted the birth of a hero."
There were some cheers, and Eris' grin broadened. "Many congratulations! And on behalf of our darling hosts, I present this golden apple to the most beautiful goddess here." With that, she threw the apple, letting it fall into the crowd.
It landed with a gentle clink, rolling to a stop at the feet of the Queen goddess. The bride Thetis started to clap, looking around for permission.
Hera smiled her vicious, gentle smile. "Why, thank you, Eris, for this delightful-"
A voice interrupted. "Not so fast, stepmother. That apple is meant for the most beautiful of goddesses, but perhaps in your old age, you're getting confused," Athena stepped forward coolly, grey eyes roving over the golden apple.
Thetis stopped clapping, suddenly worried.
Hera quirked an eyebrow, smiling maliciously at the goddess of Wisdom.
Aphrodite smacked Ares with her purse. "No, no, no! Soccer mom has all the apples she could want! And brainy over there is no looker! It's mine!"
When her inebriated husband merely shrugged, the goddess of Love and Beauty scoffed, shoving him aside to march over. "Hands off, please! Clearly, Eris meant that for me!"
Apollo snickered, elbowing Artemis. "Did I mention how radiant you looked tonight? I could swear that apple was meant for you, sister."
Artemis snarled, "Apollo, I'll stick that apple where the sun don't-"
"Well, Eris?" Aphrodite asked, fastening her hands on her hips. She couldn't resist the smile twisting her perfect lips, enjoying the strife just as much as the goddess of Discord did.
Eris widened her dark eyes innocently, placing a gloved hand over her heart. "My ladies, I must confess, I intended that apple simply for the most beautiful of goddesses, not any specific-"
"Zeus!" Hera snapped her fingers. "Who amongst us is the most beautiful?"
Wedding guests trampled each other to move away from the God of the skies.
Zeus looked completely thrown, staring at his wife, his daughter-in-law, and his actual daughter. He contemplated his options:
Choosing Hera was safe, and it meant that his mistresses might actually be overlooked, at least for a few centuries. Okay, maybe only a few days. But if he didn't, then all hell would literally break loose. That was the nuclear option! Not backing his wife would also make him look like a colossal piece of godly shit.
Athena would definitely find a way to completely and utterly destroy him if she wasn't chosen. And let's face it, she wasn't the prettiest, but he owed her after that whole Pallas incident, and she was the most useful out of all his children. Could he really do that to his baby girl?
Aphrodite was the clear winner of this silly contest, both gorgeous and dreamy. Aphrodite would also make him fall in love with some ugly mountain troll or deformed creature if he didn't pick her; he'd seen the levels she would stoop to. In the name of Tartarus, she'd been ready to throw her son's lover into the pits of hell for daring to upstage her!
Zeus looked helplessly between the three, increasingly impatient, relatively good-looking goddesses in front of him. "Uh, well..." He glared over at the positively beaming Eris, knowing exactly whose fault this embarrassing nonsense was.
Zeus let out a terrified laugh, unable to overcome this test of his leadership. "Ladies, you are all beautiful, empowered women. Let's set aside this pettiness about who looks the prettiest, and whatnot, I mean, aren't we all just-"
Poseidon doubled over in laughter, knowing that his brother was utterly screwed.
"Zeus!" Hera growled, shooting her husband a look of unfathomable disgust.
Zeus looked around with slight desperation, and his eyes landed on Paris, the Trojan Prince. Was his plan cruel? It is a good thing that gods don't have to worry about judgment after death. "Paris! You know all about lovely ladies, you decide!"
The bewildered prince smiled uncertainly at the three goddesses before him, nodding in a wine-fuelled haze. Somebody handed him the heavy apple, and the prince almost dropped it.
"Paris, Asia will be yours if you give that apple to me," Hera offered immediately, her voice brisk.
"You will never again lose in battle," Athena declared, and Ares rolled his eyes. Busting out the big guns, all to win a beauty contest?
The prince couldn't believe his good fortune! Paris nodded happily and turned expectantly to Aphrodite.
The goddess of beauty smiled and shared a look with Eris, whose intrusion had been forgotten. "I offer you the humblest of prizes," She cooed in what Ares knew was her most powerful voice. "Helen, the most beautiful mortal in the world."
There was a collective gasp in the room.
King Peleus laughed anxiously, sure that he had misheard. "My lady, Helen is already married to King Menelaus-"
"Ooh, I sense drama! I love a forbidden romance!" Apollo gushed, eagerly accepting a drink from Dionysus.
"There is no way Paris accepts her terms," Athena announced, crossing her arms dismissively. "It is completely irrational!"
Paris stepped forward as if in a trance.
And placed the apple gently into Aphrodite's hands. "Not half as beautiful as you, my lady, I humbly accept the love of Helen," He brushed his lips across her hand, and Aphrodite giggled.
Athena looked aghast, and her eyes darkened with the promise of revenge.
The glass in Hera's hand shattered, and the Queen smirked ruthlessly. But she played the role of gracious Queen and smiled at Paris. "I wish you the best with Helen," Inwardly she seethed, seeing the instant connection between her cheating husband and this despicable affair.
Aphrodite spun away, cradling her apple victoriously. She joined Eris in looking down at the battlefield, one of her favourite moments before any war.
Eris grinned, "I'm glad my gift made its way to you."
"Well, I was the obvious choice!" Aphrodite smiled, basking in the compliment. "I still don't understand how you get your revenge from this."
Eris tilted her chin in the direction of the poor King Peleus and his bride Thetis, whose wedding had quickly devolved into the tense calm before the storm.
Already Paris made arrangements to take Helen from her husband. The gods divided, in support of the Greeks, or siding with Paris and the Trojans.
"Their son, a great hero, will have to fight, and die in this war," Eris smiled when Apollo waved at her mischievously.
"I was right! You were going to curse their kid! Ooh, Ares is going to realize that I'm smarter than I look," Aphrodite hummed excitedly. "Oh, my, and the dreamy, star crossed lovers! It's going to be a real pity about Paris' home, but all's fair in love and-"
"War." Eris finished, donning her helmet. Satisfied with her revenge, she bowed to the frightened couple, Peleus and Thetis, and left the hall.
Something told her that she would be invited to all the events to come.