As has been mentioned before, Hera is the Goddess of Marriage. She loves mortal weddings because she’s always invoked and praised at them. And divine weddings – well, according to her, they can’t come along often enough. Eros and Psyche’s wedding was the best thing to happen to her in decades. It was great for Psyche, too. She and Hera really bonded while they were planning the wedding together. Unfortunately, the same couldn’t be said for Psyche and her new mother-in-law. Aphrodite usually loves weddings, but she limited her involvement in this one to showing up.
Eros, on the other hand, was as much a part of the wedding planning committee as Hera and Psyche would permit. He’s too much of a romantic and a show-off to miss out on something like that. The end result was an insanely overblown wedding full of magnificence, opulence, pomp, splendor, glitter, and fire. I thought it was awesome. Maybe because, at the heart of it, it was all about a pair of crazy kids who were crazy about each other.
Nah. It was the fireworks. The pretty, pretty fireworks.
In spite of Hera’s proclamation at the Pythian Games that the wedding would be held within a month, she got so caught up in pre-production it that it was actually closer to three months. Can’t have an Olympian wedding without tons of music and theatrics, so my sisters and Apollo and I were insanely busy for awhile. We didn’t even have a chance to recover from the Pythian Games before the wedding planning got underway. As soon as the week-long wedding feast was over, we totally crashed. Apollo even cancelled our regular practice sessions so we could catch up on our rest. Believe it or not, we did in fact use the extra free time to do that. I went an entire month without doing anything creative or productive. I spent most of my time lounging and napping in my hollow. Eros and Psyche had kept their word not to reveal its location to anyone. Over the course of my vacation, it occurred to me that they hadn’t said anything about avoiding the hollow themselves in the future, but I knew they wouldn’t be coming back from their honeymoon any time soon, so I didn’t worry about it.
I’d thought Urania would be spending a substantial amount of her free time with Hermes, but they broke up somewhere between the Pythian Games and the wedding. Urania said they decided they had enough in common that they wanted to be better friends, but not enough that they wanted to be a couple. The former made sense, considering they’re both astronomy/astrology deities. The latter made sense, too, considering Urania has scruples and Hermes has doesn’t. Notably, Urania also said Aphrodite’s change in marital status had nothing to do with the decision on either of their parts. Since I’m a good sister, I decided not to make note of it.
Oh, and speaking of my sisters’ breakups, after Eros’ strike was over, he grilled Apollo on the effects of the strike. You know, for scientific purposes. In the course of the conversation, Apollo discovered that Eros had tested a rose arrow on Ares, but had done nothing to Calliope. Go figure. As for Zeus and Hera, Hera forbade Eros to use the new arrows on either of them again.
But during my much-needed vacation, I shoved any and all thoughts of court gossip and my sisters’ guy drama out of my mind. By the time the month was winding down, I was rested, replenished, and thoroughly bored. Apollo noticed this. He declared that a Muse in such a state of mind is trouble waiting to happen. I agreed with him before I realized he considered that a bad thing. He immediately re-instituted mornings full of dance and chorale practice. He also decided I needed more supervision in my free time. Yeah. He was bored, too.
“Look at this,” I said as we stood in Pegasus’ stable. “We have this perfectly good flying horse here, and all we use him for is a beast of burden and a mute confidant.”
“I’m sure I’ll regret asking, but what did you have in mind?” Apollo inquired.
“Athena said he was an expert military tactician,” I reminded him. “Maybe those skills have non-military applications.” Apollo mounted Pegasus before I could. I quickly jumped up behind him before he could fly off without me, which he had done before. “Spying, for example,” I suggested. “Who do you want to spy on? Take your pick.”
“This is quite a quandary,” he contemplated. “Everyone I can think of either would deliver severe consequences if he or she discovered us, or just isn’t that interesting.”
Hello? Why did he think I was leaving it up to him? Did I have to do all the work around here? “Do you ever wonder what your sister’s up to, all alone and unsupervised on Olympus?” I randomly commented in a way that was not at all meant to be taken as a suggestion.
“Come on, boy,” Apollo patted the horse. “Let’s gather some intelligence on Artemis.”
Let the record show that it was his idea, not mine.
Apollo and Artemis have literally looked out for each other from day one. Before they were born, Hera saw in a vision that Leto was carrying twins by Zeus, and that those twins would become two of the most powerful deities in the Pantheon. Hera’s own twins, Ares and Eris, had grown up to be an incredible disappointment to her. She knew Leto’s twins would easily eclipse them, so she made it her mission to destroy both mother and children. Zeus, on the other hand, didn’t care that Leto’s children were bastards. If they truly had the potential that Hera had prophesied, he wanted to claim them for his collection.
Leto quickly went into hiding in hopes of protecting her unborn children from both Zeus and Hera. She went into labor in the middle of nowhere. The Goddess of Childbirth, Hera’s loyal daughter Ilithyia, withheld her blessing, resulting in a difficult birth. Artemis was born first. By the time Leto was ready to deliver the second twin hours later, Artemis had already grown to the size of a four-year-old human. That’s still insanely young to help deliver her baby brother, which is exactly what Artemis did. By the end of the first day, Apollo had caught up with her in relative age. They aged in unison for the next five years, until they were fully grown.
By the end of the first year, Zeus and Hera’s scouts found the trio. Apollo and Artemis, by now nearing pre-adolescence, allowed themselves to be captured to save Leto. Leto’s stayed in hiding ever since.
Apollo and Artemis pretty much raised each other while they were growing up in Zeus’ court. They did their best to protect each other from Hera, Zeus, or anyone else who might not have their best interests in mind. Once they were old enough to have suitors, any actual or potential lover who scorned, betrayed, or emotionally wounded either twin in any way was doomed.
All of Artemis’ suitors have fallen into the “potential” category. When she had barely entered puberty, she made Zeus swear to her that she could stay a virgin forever. Apollo was and continues to be an avid supporter of this policy. The rest of us thought it was just a phase she’d eventually grow out of, but she never has. Some men find it particularly hard to believe that such a powerful, nubile goddess truly has no interest in sex, specifically sex with them. Apollo always tries to take care of these types right away, saving Artemis the trouble of killing them herself.
So, as you can see, it was only out of brotherly love that Pegasus, Apollo, and I were hovering in the air around Olympus just under Artemis’ window. If we held a little mirror at a certain angle, we could see the reflection from Athena’s shield, which was on the couch next to Athena, who was on the couch next to Artemis.
“This night worker, day sleeper thing is getting so old,” we heard Artemis yawn. “I’ve got to talk to Selene about working out a rotation.”
“I know,” Athena sympathized. “I missed you at breakfast this morning. You should have heard what Aphrodite said about my new helmet,” she complained. “Hera laughed, so of course all those kiss-ups laughed with her. This helmet is both functional and aesthetically pleasing, and it does not look like a rooster died on my head. Does it?” she added with a hint of doubt.
“Oh, quit being so sensitive, you big baby,” Artemis affectionately taunted as she knocked Athena’s helmet off and vigorously mussed her perfect hair in one fell swoop. She concluded this indignity by kissing the top of Athena’s head. It took all my willpower not to fall off the horse laughing. I could only recall one time I’d ever seen Athena looking less than impeccable. I knew from that incident that she didn’t appreciate being the object of laughter. I half expected her to sock Artemis, but she didn’t seem terribly upset. “I’m sure you looked lovely this morning, just like you always do,” Artemis assured her.
Athena slapped a silver comb into Artemis’ hand. “You broke it, you fix it,” she ordered.
Artemis dutifully set about combing the tangles out of Athena’s thick, dark hair. “It really is a nice helmet,” she observed. “That owl etching is a work of art. Did Hephaestus make it?”
“That he did. He’s been going at it nonstop since the divorce. Been leaving his customers more satisfied than ever.” There was a pause in which I bit down hard on my lips and Pegasus tried to knock the mirror out of Apollo’s hand. Apollo smacked him on the nose. “Come on,” Athena said with a wickedly enticing smile. “You want to say it.”
“I want no such thing,” Artemis replied with that annoying air of moral superiority that runs in the family. “I hate that kind of catty backstabbing in other women, and I refuse to participate.”
“You know what I hate?” said Athena. “When people see me with my hair messed up.” Pegasus started getting restless. Apollo tried to calm him while I tried to hang on to Apollo.
“I know you do, silly girl.” Artemis smoothed Athena’s hair and put her grand, flamboyant helmet back on, leaving a very deliberate fingerprint on the polished metal. “You know what I hate?”
“Idiot brothers.” The two goddesses snapped their fingers in unison. Everything went dark.
“Artemis, what the-?” Apollo exclaimed.
“Try spying on me now,” she triumphed. She sounded close now. She and Athena were probably at the window.
“Thalia, using my own creation against me? I’m disappointed. Very disappointed indeed,” said Athena. “And, Apollo, you’re familiar with the fundamentals of physical science, I believe. It really didn’t occur to you that if you could see our reflection, we could see yours?”
“He was probably showing off,” said Artemis. “You know how he completely loses his head when he’s-”
“Okay, joke’s over,” Apollo declared. “Lift the curse already.”
“Physician, heal thyself,” Artemis replied. We could hear her smirking.
“Pegasus,” Athena commanded, “take them home the long way.”
I felt Pegasus make a rapid, slopeless charge, my stomach following closely while the rest of me was dragged behind. I hung on to Apollo through the dips and twists, at first noting when I was upside down or sideways but eventually losing all sense of perspective. But just as I felt a rocket-like plunge (whether it was up, down, sideways, or diagonal, I still have no idea), I also felt Apollo slip through my arms. Having neither the orientation nor the coordination to regain my balance or grip, I slipped off after him. On the bright side, I landed on grass. On the not-so-bright side, the grass was at the base of a tree.
“Thalia?” I heard Apollo call out from a little ways away.
“I’m he- ohhhhh,” I groaned, the effort of speaking causing an unexpected pain.
“Try not to move,” he strained. “But keep talking so I can follow your voice.”
“Ow, ow, ow, ow,” I faintly repeated. “I can’t believe how much this hurts,” I gasped. “I might have actually broken something.” I finally felt Apollo’s hand on my foot. “Everything, in fact.”
“Combination of Artemis’ curse and Athena’s war horse, I guess,” he reasoned. “I’ll bet they threw in a vulnerability hex, too. Here, take my arms,” he squeezed my ankle to remind me where they were.
I groped around for them. “Are these them?”
“Yes. Put them around yourself. I’m going to teleport us to the Museum. Pegasus should already be waiting in his stall.”
“Apollo?” I queried as I awkwardly repositioned us and arranged his arms around my upper body. “Why didn’t we just teleport to the Museum as soon as Athena said, ‘Pegasus, take them home the long way’?”
“That’s an excellent question; one we don’t need to waste time or effort attempting to answer just now.”
The warm grass beneath me was soon replaced by cool marble. We fell backward now that the tree was no longer supporting us. The silence implied that my sisters were either outside or in their rooms. “Stay here,” Apollo told me as he tried to get up. “I’m going to get some medical supplies.”
“Is your sight back?”
“No, but I have a very well-organized storeroom.”
“Don’t even think about it.” I shifted my weight to pin him in place. “Even if you could make it there and back with the right supplies and without breaking anything, I can’t imagine you survived that landing completely unscathed. Call one of my sisters,” I suggested.
“They’re all useless at medicine. They wouldn’t know what I was asking them for.”
“Fine,” I said. “Summon Asclepius, or one of your grandkids.”
“I don’t want to bother them. They have jobs, lives…”
“And you don’t want them to think you can’t take care of everything yourself,” I finished for him. “You’ve never been able to see your descendents for what they truly are: potential minions. Observe as I cheerfully exploit my beloved godchild. Aglaea!”
“You summoned?” I heard Aglaea’s curious voice in the throne room.
“Yeah,” I said. “We were blinded and thrown from a magic flying war horse. We’ve probably broken everything. You’ll find a very well-organized storeroom in Apollo’s quarters just off his bedroom. Do your stuff.”
“Done,” she said solemnly. A minute later, we could hear derisive laughter echoing through the corridor.
“See?” I said to Apollo. “She’s delighted to make herself useful. What are you doing?” I asked, not at all minding what he was doing, but interested in hearing his answer.
“I’m trying to find your face so I can slap you.”
“And you think the fall moved my face to the side of my sternum?”
He slid his hand up to my face and patted my cheek. “In my defense, I’ve seen stranger injuries.”
I heard Aglaea’s footsteps behind the wheels of Apollo’s supply cart. I felt Aglaea’s hands carefully reposition me on the floor next to Apollo. “To make a salve for blindness, you need-” Apollo started.
“I know how to make one,” Aglaea cut him off, the sounds and smells in the room attesting to the fact that she’d already started. “Actually, I improved your formula. You should get your sight back within minutes of application.”
“But if the restoration process is over-accelerated-”
“I accounted for that,” she assured him. “Thalia, close your eyelids,” she directed me. I felt a large, soft brush coat my eyes with the salve. It had a soothing tingle to it. Aglaea bandaged my eyes to let the salve soak in. Once she’d done the same to Apollo, she examined our injuries. “You guys are going to be laid up for awhile,” she delivered her verdict. “You want me to stick around and take care of you?”
“We’ve got it under control,” Apollo assured her.
“He’s a pathological liar,” I said. “We’d love to have you stay.”
“Then it’s settled.” Aglaea took our eye bandages off and wiped the excess salve away.
“How often do you have to change the bandages?” Apollo disapproved. “My formula only requires a single application.”
“Open your eyes,” she answered.
It took a second for my eyes to focus again, but once they did, I was satisfied that they were as good as ever. “I’ll get some Muses in here to help me set your bones and dress your wounds,” Aglaea was saying, “and then I’ll move both of you to Apollo’s room, if that’s alright. It’ll be the most convenient spot since it’s right next to the medical supply room. And, yes, the supply room is very well organized.” We gave our affirmations. Aglaea summoned Calliope and Melpomene. After giving them their orders, she continued giving us ours. “Now, do not try to levitate until we’ve set all your fractures and sprains. If it turns out you can’t, we’ll move you on stretchers. Got it?”
“You have nothing to worry about,” I promised. “I’m a good patient.”
“Ha! Now who’s lying?” said Apollo. “You’ll want to place a guard on her,” he told Aglaea.
“I’m a good patient compared to him,” I specified.
“You are such a liar,” he maintained. “I’d turn you over my knee if it wasn’t in a brace.”
“Cheap slapstick,” I tsked.
“No, I’d just use my palm.”
“As entertaining as that would be,” said Aglaea, “both of you really need to stay as calm as possible.”
“So you’re confining them to the same room for a couple of weeks?” Calliope snickered.
“It does seem counterintuitive when you put it like that,” Aglaea admitted, “but it’ll be easier on me to have them in the same place. That’s good; you and Melpomene can go back to whatever you were doing.” They did. “Anyway, for at least the first day, I need you two to just stay in bed. After that, you’ll both need crutches for a little while. Apollo, where do you keep them?”
“They’re in the supply room with everything else. They should have been noticeable.”
“Those are the ones you actually use?” Aglaea stifled a laugh. “They’re so primitive! No thought whatsoever to the comfort of the patient.”
“They do their job,” Apollo defended.
“All of Mom and Dad’s are being used – the Amazons commissioned them as field medics in their latest battle – but they might be able to have a couple of new pairs made in three or four days,” Aglaea contemplated. “I could get your measurements to them right away.”
“No, I don’t want to take any more family away from their work,” Apollo declined. “Anyway, I get all my equipment from Hephaestus.”
“Yeah,” I said. “Summon Hermes, let him deliver your specifications, and Hephaestus should have the crutches ready by tomorrow. He always gets Apollo’s done overnight.” I liked the overnight part. Waiting around in bed any longer than I had to wasn’t an appealing prospect.
“Hephaestus?” she repeated uncertainly.
“He doesn’t bite,” Apollo laughed at the face she was making. “In fact, didn’t you meet him at the Games? You were sitting right next to them, weren’t you?”
“You have nothing to worry about,” I comforted her.
“I hope not,” she said doubtfully, “because I’d probably better summon him directly. The specs are pretty complicated. Can one of you…?” I silently carried out the summoning. In a second, Hephaestus was standing next to her and observing the two of us.
“What happened to you two?” he stared at our bruised, bandaged corpses. “Do I even want to know?” he asked warily.
“Just a little healthy sibling rivalry,” Apollo waved him off with his good hand.
“So healthy he had to call in a physician,” said Aglaea, taking command of the situation and of herself. “Hi, let’s say we’re meeting for the first time. I’m Aglaea, daughter of Asclepius and Epione, and I need you to make me two sets of these crutches.” She whipped out a blueprint.
“Hephaestus, son of Hera. Nice to meet you,” he played along, looking at the blueprint rather than the demigoddess holding it. “This part looks like it’ll need to be custom measured?”
“Yeah, and these parts here,” she pointed. “And this alloy also acts as pain reliever, so it’s vital to get the exact proportions.”
“It never occurred to me to build that into the instrument,” he commented as he studied the page. “I’ve been making my own crutches and canes since I could reach a forge,” he added.
“Well, you’re an engineer, not a physician,” Aglaea replied. “Infusing muscular regeneration properties was my dad’s idea, and my mom modified his design to include pain relief. This part was my idea – see how it increases the stability of the user-”
“While decreasing the user’s effort,” he finished. “Two sets?” he confirmed.
“No problem. I’ll have these finished by morning.”
“Now, you know the etchings are part of the design, too?”
“I have read a few blueprints in my time,” he said dryly.
“Sorry, I’m kind of a control freak about this stuff. Runs in the family.”
“On her mother’s side,” Apollo added.
“Anyway,” she ignored him, “these etchings here are part of the magical properties – see the runes? – and these ones are purely decorative, but I think people heal faster when they’re in aesthetically pleasant surroundings. I know, it sounds like a crazy theory, but I’ve been getting really good results with my test subjects.”
“Yeah,” I interjected. “That’s why Apollo gets to room with me.”
“And if you could not mention that on Olympus, we’d appreciate it,” said Apollo. “Enough people already think the Muses are my harem. If word gets out that Thalia and I are sharing a room, gossip will give us seven kids by the end of the week.”
“Of course,” Hephaestus agreed. “And if I accidentally let it slip, I’ll be sure to exaggerate the extent of your injuries,” he directed a mild smirk at Apollo.
“Or,” Apollo replied, “just tell them you and I are an item now that you’re on the rebound. Be fun to let Aphrodite think you’ve got someone prettier than her, wouldn’t it?”
“I do have a thing for blonds,” he acknowledged.
“Do you have a thing for swarthy brunettes?” I asked Apollo.
“Yeah, yeah, you guys are hilarious,” said Aglaea. “Now, if you’ll let me measure you.” She got a measuring tape and took measurements for what felt like a thousand different dimensions. I was impressed with how carefully and how efficiently she worked. “Here you go,” she scribbled the data on the blueprint. “These are Apollo’s, and these are Thalia’s.”
“In this column, the wider one is Thalia?” he confirmed.
“You both suck,” I informed them.
“Don’t you talk to my grandbaby like that,” said Apollo.
“Why not? She’s my godbaby.”
“You’d make such a wonderful mother,” Apollo shook his head as much as his neck brace would let him.
“Can you two levitate?” asked Aglaea. “On your backs?” We gave it a try. We were able to lift ourselves a few feet off the ground while staying flat on our backs. “Perfect,” she approved. “Let’s get you two into bed.”
“Anything I can do?” Hephaestus offered.
“We still need to get Thalia’s bed into Apollo’s room, but…you don’t need to help with that,” Aglaea politely replied.
“Do you know what a blacksmith-slash-carpenter does?” he asked. At first Aglaea blushed like crazy, but then she realized he was teasing her. It is kind of hard to tell with Hephaestus sometimes.
“Of course, if you want to help, I’d appreciate it,” she accepted. “Thalia’s room is the second one down. You two, up and out,” she directed us. We floated down the corridor after her. Hephaestus broke away when he got to my room. He stopped at my doorway and, with a casual, unassuming, and so very masculine wave of his blacksmith’s arm, he telekinetically moved my bed into the corridor and under me. I relaxed while he floated my bed into the room. He let it down once it was in the general spot it needed to be. His telekinesis isn’t very precise, so he got on his knees and, with one hand, pushed my bed the rest of the way until it was perfectly positioned about an arm’s length away from Apollo’s bed.
“Anything else I can do for you?” he asked as Aglaea made sure we were both comfortable.
“Just get me those crutches,” she said. “Can you go ahead and bring them yourself? You know, just to check everything out, make sure it’s all in working order, and all that.”
“Yeah. Definitely. And if there’s any other equipment you need, just let me know.”
“I’ll do that. Thanks.”
Then he was gone and it was just the three of us. Aglaea arranged our medicines on the cart, which was now between our beds.
“What’s in the red bottle?” asked Apollo. Aglaea showed him the label. “Why do you have that on the cart?” he asked. “That’s for insomnia.”
“I might need to put you to sleep for your own safety and my sanity at some point,” she replied.
“And why do you have that green potion out?” he persisted. “I don’t see what it has to do with-”
“You know, I’m pretty sure there’s something in your store room that will take away your ability to speak,” she threatened.
“That’s my girl,” I praised.
“I’ll use it on you, too,” she warned. We were both quiet. “That sure was nice of Hephaestus to come over and take care of all that on such short notice,” she commented.
“It’s his job,” I said.
“Helping me set up in here wasn’t,” she countered. A thoughtful, slightly guilty smile played at the corners of her lips. “Did his ex-wife ever watch him work?”
“Sometimes,” I said. When she was bored and every other man on Olympus was exhausted, I mentally added.
“She is his ex-wife now, isn’t she? Officially?” Aglaea asked.
“Officially and most definitely,” I confirmed. “Persephone took their marriage contract back to Hades with her when she left. They had the proceedings finished in less than a week – not soon enough as far as Aphrodite was concerned.”
“She even contributed a lot of her own assets to match the dowry,” Apollo said. “Mostly jewels, until Hera said that if she threw in her girdle, they’d call it even. Zeus protested until Hera put on the girdle.”
“Hera has the girdle?” I exclaimed. “How did I miss that?”
“You’re not attracted to women,” Apollo laughed, blushing a little.
“I thought the girdle was just a rumor,” said Aglaea.
“Nope, it’s real,” I said.
“And it works,” Apollo affirmed.
“Hephaestus was always a little clueless about women,” I genially rolled my eyes. “I hate to mock my friends, but-”
“You love to mock your friends,” said Apollo.
“But giving Aphrodite a magic girdle that makes the wearer irresistibly tempting is…him. Just, him,” I finished.
“Not completely irresistible,” Apollo added, “but pretty damn hard to resist.”
“He had enough of a clue for you to date him,” Aglaea reminded me.
“Not really,” I reminisced. “I thought the cluelessness was cute. Plus, in matters not related to interpersonal interactions, he was the smartest god I knew.”
“Hello?” said Apollo.
“You were just a kid,” I reminded him. “A boy. A lad. A youth. At the time I didn’t even think of you as a guy.”
“I’m older than you.”
“Yeah, but it took you years to look like it.”
“I would have been worth the wait,” he glibly persisted.
“What did you give him?” I asked Aglaea.
“Nothing mind-altering,” she laughed, “but the fall may have messed with his head. Anyway, how did all of you meet?” She sat down on my bed awaiting a story.
“My sisters and I met Hephaestus not too long after we moved to the Springs of Helicon,” I began. Talking was still a little difficult, but a theater goddess can’t pass up an opportunity to tell a story. “This was a few years before Hera took him back. He was still living and working on the coast near the old sea nymph who raised him.” I stopped talking and giggled at a memory.
“What?” Aglaea coaxed.
“Just remembering his assistants,” I said. “He had these solid gold, fully automated, mechanical assistants that he had built himself. Naturally, they were constructed in the form of very attractive women. Mel thought it was tragic; I thought it was hilarious. Anyway, I think he was just lonely. He dismantled them not too long after my sisters and I started hanging around his shop. He always let us use his stuff to work on our arts and crafts. We invented a lot of major musical instruments in those days.”
“I invented the kithara,” Apollo contributed.
“Yeah, after you conned Hermes out of every other instrument you’re known for,” I acknowledged. “Of course,” I continued my story, “my sisters and I were also frequent visitors at Olympus. That’s where we met Apollo and Artemis. The first time I saw them, they looked like humans in their mid teens.”
“I was taller than you, though,” Apollo felt the need to mention.
“I remember. You took great pride in that fact,” I grinned. “You were so cute back then.”
“So, Thalia was dating Hephaestus,” Aglaea redirected the story.
“Yeah,” said Apollo. “I first met him when Artemis and I got some weapons from him. We heard Hera had sent some monster after Mom, so, naturally, we were plotting to kill it. Getting weapons from the Cyclops was out of the question since he’d tell Their Majesties. We confided in the Muses, and Thalia recommended her boyfriend. That was when I found out she had one.”
“I still didn’t know Hephaestus was Hera’s son,” I added. “He knew, but he kept it quiet for obvious reasons.”
“He did help us out,” said Apollo. “Not only did he give us the weapons free of charge, but he’s kept it a secret to this day.”
“How did he get back to Olympus?” Aglaea asked.
“One day when I was visiting Hera,” I recalled, “she noticed my earrings and asked me where I got them. Those were some nice earrings. I wish I could remember what happened to them. Anyway, I told her my boyfriend made them for me. She asked me more questions, and I was kind of bragging about him, and she figured out who he was. It wasn’t long before she invited him to take his rightful place on Olympus among her children, blah blah blah. When Zeus saw Hephaestus’ work, he gave him a seat among the eventual Twelve and appointed him as the new official smith of the gods, making the Cyclops his subordinate. The Cyclops wasn’t happy about it, even though Zeus kept him on as his personal smith.”
“But Hephaestus was better than the Cyclops,” Apollo said.
“Not too long after that, Zeus made Athena,” I noted, trying to get Apollo’s mind off the Cyclops.
“Artemis and I were grown by then,” said Apollo. “She and Athena were the best of friends from the beginning. Did you know Artemis is the one who inspired Athena to take a vow of chastity?”
“I think everyone knows that,” said Aglaea.
“Man, what happened to those earrings?” I pondered. “That’s going to drive me crazy now! Maybe I gave them back when we broke up. No, I remember he insisted I keep all his gifts.”
“Why did you two break up?” Aglaea asked.
“There wasn’t any one thing,” I reflected. “We just weren’t meant to be. We faced the fact that we were more like friends than lovers, and decided to make that official.”
“Not too long after that,” said Apollo, “Aphrodite entered the stage, and everyone knows the rest.”
“And that was while you were the God of Herding?” Aglaea recalled. I could see her mentally sorting everything into a timeline.
“Right,” said Apollo.
“That’s it!” I realized. “I wore those earrings to your pasture one time. At the end of the day, I wasn’t wearing them anymore. We figured I must have lost them somewhere. You said you’d look for them, but you never did find them. Man, I really liked those earrings.”
“Wasn’t my lucky day, I guess,” Apollo shrugged, or tried to before discovering that shrugging was a particularly painful action at the moment.
“I’m probably wearing you guys out,” Aglaea apologized. “And here I’m supposed to be making sure you get your rest. Why don’t you just close your eyes and give your bodies a chance to heal?”
“That does sound nice,” I agreed.
“You’ll make sure the others know to keep up their daily routine?” Apollo requested.
“I’m guessing Calliope’s already taken over, but if it’ll make you feel better, I’ll tell them,” Aglaea promised. She put a few drops of the sleeping potion on each of our tongues, and we drifted off to sleep.
You know how it is when you distinctly remember that you had a dream, but you don’t remember what happened in it? That was how I felt when I woke up for a moment or two that evening. I felt tired, like experiencing my dream had taken more strength than staying awake would have. But what had happened in the dream? I couldn’t recall a single image. I didn’t even know whether I had been a player or a mere observer. All I could remember was a deep, chilling, hollow voice intoning, These two threads have unraveled, and these two are merging. I stayed awake just long enough to wonder what on earth was in that sleeping potion.