Hera accomplished the challenge. The Olympus’ gardens, where visitors from the North would have being welcomed, represented a breathtaking view. Everything was literally dripping with gold, sparkling in the rays of the setting sun. For this occasion Midas was brought in and told to touch everything. The tables groaned with the food. Odin sent Hera his Valkyries for help after the lady of the Olympus had had a panic attack after the news that at the last party, where Thor was impersonating Freya and although he was being careful, he ate: the whole bullock, eight salmons and drank three vats of mead. Orpheus, supported by a heavy metal band from Valhalla, was responsible for party music.
The guests were to be seated at large, round tables, and each place was described by a piece of paper with a name written in gold letters. Zeus, Odin and their spouses were to sit at the main table. Aphrodite and Hephaestus, siblings of Frey and Demeter were placed at the second table, followed by Thor, Tyr, Poseidon, their wives and Ares. Hades asked to be seated on the prettier side of the goddess Hel and Persephone placed on the ugly one. Hades's wife was regretful that she had been brought to the table with the "stiffs”, while she would have preferred to enjoy with her mother the company of Freya and Freyr. She decided to simply change over as the party progressed. Athena was to be seated next to Loki and his wife. Apollo, his sister Artemis, Hermes, Dionysus and Bragi (the Nordic god of poetry) were also to feast at the same table. This meant that the table would be one of the most entertaining.
Soon Mount Olympus seethed with various means of transport. The servants parked bespangled chariots, watered and fed pegasuses, hippocampus, horses, goats, wolves and all other living means of transport. Heracles, who had experience in cleaning a very sleazy stable of a certain Augean, was asked for help. The gods began to take their designated places, the servants bustled delivering golden glasses with an aperitif. There was an atmosphere of “artificial relaxation”. Everyone was watching each other. Finally, the enormous gates of the Zeus’s palace opened and the Thunderer came, dignifiedly leading Frigg - Odin's wife. The lord of Asgard and Hera followed behind them. They walked over to their table. Zeus greeted all the arrivals in a solemn tone, happily not tortured them with long speeches, and invited all guests to a feast.
"You have a wonderful horse," said Zeus to Odin, pointing to Sleipnir eight-legged horse that was feeding from a golden bowl.
"Yes, Loki bore him to me," Odin said calmly.
Hearing that, Hera gagged on the tasted nectar. Seeing this manifestation of surprise, the Asgard’s lord explained.
“I had to get home faster than one guy but he had an incredible fast stallion. Loki helped me distract this horse’s attention by turning into a beautiful mare. As you may see, he was a complete success,” Odin said proudly, reaching for a cup of mead. The nectar didn’t suit him because was too watery.
"This is my son Balder," Frigg proudly pointed Hera in the direction of one of the tables, at which sat a charming young man, additionally looking flawless and polite. “And where is your son?”.
Hera gave a covert glance at the table where Hephaestus was feasting. Her ugly son sat carelessly propped at his arms and, completely ignoring his wife's twitter, stared with little subtlety at Freya. A trickle of nectar or saliva ran down his chin… Hera preferred not to inquire.
"Um, I don't see him in this crowd now. I'll show you later... He's a very talented blacksmith and will forge you everything you want,” she added hurriedly. “He once made a throne for me, so chic that I literally couldn't get off from it.” Hera shuddered slightly at the memory of her imprisonment for several days, when she was chained to the magnificent chair that her son had given her as a token of gratitude for being knocked down from the Olympus.
* * *
"I am pleased to meet my dear colleague," Hades said to a glumly Hel.
"I guess that's why the wonderful Asgardians invited me here, so that you would have someone to talk to," she grunted unpleasantly in response.
“Are they treating you badly? Me too.” Hades cheered up, not impressed by his new friend's moods. “You know, they bombarded me with the dead, those from Tartarus are constantly on strike because they feel hot and because they are disturbed by entertainment such as cooking in a caldron, stretching on a wheel, or spa in hot sulphur. I also have problems with my employees...”
"They send me only some waste because the better ones, who fell in the fight and, according to mean Asgardians, are virtuous, are taken by Odin or Freya," Hel woke up finally. “They don't respect me nor my employees. The virgin, who guards access to my seat, has regularly made unambiguous offers. They imprisoned my dog Garm because, according to them, it was misbehaving...”
“Do you have a dog? Me too, it's called Cerberus. Maybe we will introduce them to each other?” Hades rejoiced.
"If those mean Asgardians set him free. Imagine, if they were bothered that my dog sometimes bit or ate someone? After all, the underworld cannot be guarded by some apricot poodle nourished kibble! The Asgardians are sensitive to this biting business. My brother Fenrir was fettered because he had bit off Tyr's hand. Not a big deal, right?! Tyr has the other hand, and besides, he pushed it in the mouth of my brother himself.
“Brother is a doggy, too?” Asked Hades, who had not fully absorbed his knowledge of the visitors from the North.
“No, a wolf but he grew very much… and now is almost the size of this mountain of yours.
“Interesting. Do you have any other siblings?”
“Yes, one more brother - a snake. This one is so long that it covers the entire globe.”
“I guess the boys ate too much steroids in their childhood? But you grew up to be a nice, pretty girl… ”. Hel turned her head sharply in her interlocutor’s direction. "I mean, at least from one side,” Hades stammered at the sight of the other half of the goddess's face resembling a passing drowned man. “Since we are having such a nice conversation, perhaps we may exchange e-mails as there is sometimes a problem with mobile coverage, underground?”
* * *
Meanwhile, at the entertainment table.
"Dear lady Athena, I can see that your wit is very sharp... I like it. I invite you to a charming cruise on my exclusive yacht made of nails...”. Loki plays up to Zeus’s daughter, completely ignoring the presence of his wife.
“Oh, it's probably not a reliable means of transport, nails may be fragile. Besides, is that your ship not supposed to move to bring the world to an end?”
“Oh, who would care about such bollocks. I offer an unforgettable impressions in the land of ice, admiring the northern lights with a cup of tea with some rum...”
“If you did not notice, I preferer hot climat...”
“Oh, I will create for you such conditions. Everybody who gets closer to me, says I’m good fellow” he stopped in mid-sentence in when his spouse Sigyn put her hand on his.
“My dear, brindle your temper. Your hot climate with the giantess Angrybod has already caused the world 3 troublesome monsters.”
“Oh, don’t say that, the boys have grown too much but Hel...”
“She is terrifying.”
“But only in half.”
“Ladies and gentlemen, let's not argue, let's drink. I offer a fine wine from my vineyards,” Dionysus interrupted hurriedly, sloshing richly into the glasses.
"My love, why you don’t order some barrels for me from the respectable Mr. Dionysus. After the mead my stomach burns,” said Sign.
"You know that I buy only at discounted prices and that one here, seeing your interest, is about to rip us off," Loki puffed up.
"That one offers big promotions and discounts as soon as you join the loyalty program..." Dionysus quickly interrupted.
"Dear sir, are you trying to trick the god of frauds?"
“It's not cheating, it's just marketing.”
“Marketing is synonym for fraud.”
“So, I propose a joint-venture, I produce wine and you take care of its marketing.”
Loki didn’t have time to answer because suddenly a mighty thunder rolled across the banquet hall, followed by the rumble of a subside body.
“It's Poseidon, is there a doctor in the room?!” His wife Amfitrite shouted.
"Asclepius was not invited because effectively heals people and upsets Hades," Apollo replied in an offended tone.
“He does not heal them but resurrects them, so I will be unemployed soon!” Hades shouted back.
"No, I'd rather ask for help Zephyr and his brothers - winds, especially that one from tornadoes," groaned Poseidon, slowly rising from the floor.
"Sorry about my husband," Sif, Thor's wife, said shyly. “He cannot control it. He suffers from belatedness, especially when he eats out, his digestive system is used only to the goat meat.”.