Apollo didn’t get to see Artemis. Zeus ruled that Apollo wasn’t allowed to visit her because it would just “agitate her delicate condition” or some crap like that. The forced separation was certainly agitating Apollo. Aglaea may or may not have pacified him with a report from treating Artemis’ physical injuries. She probably didn’t. Aglaea, as we all know, never breaks protocol or does under-the-table favors for family.
Speaking of Aglaea, Artemis was lucky her lightning bolt attack didn’t happen a day or two later. It would have been pretty hard for Aglaea to pull off an exam and treatment while in labor. As predicted, Aglaea gave birth to a healthy baby girl. Euphrosyne looked as much like Hephaestus as Apollo had prophesied she would. Hephaestus wouldn’t let Hera near her in any rooms with windows.
Eros was gleefully occupied with his role as go-to babysitter. Psyche had wanted the job herself, but Artemis was taking all of her time. That disappointed me. I’d hoped Psyche would make a nominal acquiescence to Zeus’ orders and leave Artemis alone for the most part. What a fool I was. The actual outcome shouldn’t have taken an oracle to predict: Psyche was overjoyed to finally have a real patient.
Psyche regarded her care of Artemis with the utmost gravity. She was even more serious in her regard for confidentiality, which meant none of us got to find out a damn thing. The hunters and Echo were encouraged to visit once or twice a week. Athena tried, but Psyche refused her. Psyche wouldn’t say whether the refusal was Artemis’ decision or her own.
Athena’s armies were very busy for the next few weeks.
Which meant Ares was sufficiently distracted from Aphrodite’s increasingly public love affair with Adonis. Adonis still didn’t hang around Olympus much, but Aphrodite was usually with him in Artemis’ or Dionysus’ forests, in Hermes’ pastures, or in any of her own temples. As Aphrodite’s attentions to Adonis became more and more exclusive, jealous talk from Hermes and Dionysus made her nervous, so she and Adonis spent most of their time together in Artemis’ forests. I hoped Artemis wasn’t getting word of it. That would be the last nail in her sanity’s coffin.
Despite what I’d told the Fates, though, I wasn’t giving much thought to Artemis or Adonis. I was focusing on getting my competitors ready for the Pythian Games. This would be the year of black comedy. My minions were bringing the art of comedic violence – comedic death, even – to new heights. There were still happy endings. Sometimes, I observed as my playwrights presented their practice skits, the death of one character is the best way to effect happiness for the others. Maybe the only way.
The day before the Games, I had my mortal minions seated on the lawn of the Corycian Cave in a perfect parabola. I paced before the vertex as I delivered my last orders through a megaphone. To inspire a healthy fear of goddess, I wore a comedic mask made of black leather and brandished a menacing whip that had been lying unused in my prop collection.
My monologue was interrupted when Apollo materialized inside the parabola at an equal distance from the vertex as me. Well, it would’ve been an interruption if I had stopped talking, which I didn’t. I was working. Apollo could talk to me later, unless he was too busy waiting for Adonis to come to his senses. Assuming the bitch had any senses to come to.
“Stay seated until I tell you otherwise,” I ordered the comedians when I’d finished. I reverted to my natural Invisible To Mortals mode. I figured Apollo was invisible to them, too, since none of my disciples had shown any kind of reaction to his presence. “What do you want?” I asked Apollo, still wearing my mask and speaking through my megaphone.
“I was on my way home from Helicon, and I just wanted to see how you were doing, make sure you were ready for the Games tomorrow.” He managed to convey nonchalance and awkwardness simultaneously.
“We’re ready,” I said. “That trophy is mine this year. It’ll be the best thing for all of us. Urania can’t handle success.”
“Good. That’s good. Uh, did you need anything?”
“I don’t know. I just thought I should see.”
I need you to quit hanging around Helicon, I thought. What I said was, “Thanks, but I’m good. Can you move now? This is my thing. You’re not supposed to be the focus.”
Apollo looked apologetic for a moment, then perused his surroundings with a new awareness. He groaned with realization. “Please tell me you’re not –
“Yes, I am.”
“And you’re teaching these people about good comedic writing?”
“I’ll see you at the Games,” I dismissed him. He disappeared and I returned to the mortals’ vision.
“Sorry about that; got called away on conference,” I said to my audience. “Any last questions?”
Everyone was silent except for my minion Eustachys, who had been campaigning hard all summer for the position of teacher’s pet. “No questions, My Lady,” he bowed his head. “You may go ahead with your lesson on the Sad Clown archetype.”
WTF? “Did I say I was doing a lesson on sad clowns?”
“No,” he replied, pleased with himself, “but I see the tears dripping beneath your mask. Does one pierce bags of water beneath the mask, or are the tears left to the actors? I fear that not all mortal performers could produce such tears on demand.”
“You figured it out. Congratulations. You’re all dismissed; be sure to rest up and eat well for tomorrow.”
Psyche had decided, nay, insisted, that Artemis should attend the Games. She gave orders that Artemis was to stay invisible to mortals and not to do any judging or make any public appearances. She must simply take the opportunity to enjoy herself in the company of family and friends. Apollo planned to spend as much time with Artemis as he could. I planned to hang around and make sure he didn’t smother her.
But, alas, my plans were interrupted. Persephone summoned me to Dionysus’ Tent shortly after the opening ceremonies. She was seated in a quiet, intimate corner of the tent away from the loud revelry. I took a seat on the large velvet cushion next to hers. “I suppose you’ve noticed Adonis has a date,” she said.
“I haven’t been paying much attention,” I lied. Adonis had appeared alongside Persephone and Demeter in the opening ceremonies. Aphrodite had appeared solo, as had both Ares and Apollo. But as soon as the ceremonies were over, I’d noticed Aphrodite and Adonis leave the wings together.
“I hope Ares hasn’t been paying attention, either,” Persephone growled.
“Probably not,” I shrugged. As far as I’d seen, Ares didn’t notice Aphrodite and Adonis leave together because Athena was bitching him out about something. Athena had been acting weird all day. She hadn’t seen Artemis since their fight right before Artemis’ throne room confrontation. I didn’t know if Athena was planning to see Artemis today, nor did I know whether seeing Artemis would put Athena back to normal or just make her weirder.
“I was wondering if you’d do me a favor,” Persephone proposed. “Remember this?” She held up a light, ornate, feminine-looking helmet. At first I didn’t remember it. Then it came to me. The memory, not the helmet.
“Isn’t that my Helmet of Darkness?” I asked.
“No, it’s my Helmet of Darkness,” she corrected me. “If it were yours, that would mean Hephaestus had made a copy of Hades’ personal weapon technology for someone outside the Royal Family, which we both know he didn’t.”
Actually, Hephaestus had done that. The original Helmet of Darkness was Hades’ signature weapon, which he’d used in the battle against the Titans. Hephaestus had copied the helmet for me ages ago when I’d helped Persephone fake her abduction and elope with Hades. And in payment for my most excellent assistance, Hades had confiscated my helmet when the job was done and had never given it back. The ungrateful fiend.
“I forgot all about this thing,” I said as I reached out to touch it. “I used to wonder whether Hades destroyed it or kept it for you, but I’d never think to ask until you were gone for the winter.”
“You know what kinds of creatures we keep in Tartarus. Hades has all kinds of crap stockpiled for our protection in case of a prison break. Of course, we’ve never had one, but it would be a good idea not to be caught helpless and unprotected if we ever did.” I inferred from her brief half smile that, in the meantime, that was exactly what their his-and-hers helmets were being used for.
“You were going to ask me for a favor?” I reminded her.
She put the helmet in my lap. “I want you to keep an eye on Adonis,” she said.
I hesitated. “Why me?”
“Because you already know about the helmet,” she said. “Plus, you’re the only goddess I can think of who hates him enough not to fall for him yourself but isn’t powerful enough to kill him.”
“No, I mean, why don’t you just keep an eye on him rather than risk delegating?”
“Call me crazy, but I really don’t want to see my son bone the Whore of Olympus.”
“And you think I want to see that?”
“Well, I’m not telling you to watch,” said Persephone. “Just keep an eye on him and summon me if it looks like someone’s trying to kill him.”
“You understand that I’m a host and a judge at these Games, so I will occasionally have duties that take precedence over surveillance and reconnaissance?” I stipulated.
“And I get to keep the helmet? I mean, I get to have stewardship of your helmet which belongs to you?” I corrected myself with an innocent grin as I clutched the precious in my greedy little hands.
“Go ahead. I’ll have Hephaestus make me another one before the Equinox.”
“If anything happens to Adonis in spite of my best efforts, you will not in any way hold me or my family responsible?”
“Nah, I’m pretty sure if anything happens to my stupid kid, he’ll be the one responsible.”
“Alright, then,” I consented. “I will do you this favor.”
The archery games were about to start. That seemed like a logical place to find Artemis, so I put the helmet on and teleported there. I wanted to see if Athena had met up with Artemis yet, and if Psyche had pushed her supervision too far.
Artemis and Psyche had front row seats to the event. I knew Apollo and Eros had invited them to sit in the judges’ box, but apparently they’d declined. Psyche had Euphrosyne on her lap. I guessed this distraction was partly responsible for Artemis’ complacent acceptance of Psyche’s presence. Either that or Psyche had gotten a lot better at psychic sedation. I sat cross-legged on the ground in front of them in the perfect spot between the kicking zone and the line of fire. The mortals couldn’t see the goddesses, and the goddesses couldn’t see me. This amused me.
“Who’s a cute little girl?” Psyche was babbling to Euphrosyne. “Who loves her Auntie Psyche?”
“You’re her sister-in-law,” Artemis reminded her.
“Whatever,” Psyche continued to address the giggling baby on her lap. “We doesn’t care, does we?”
“She’ll be talking soon,” Artemis said with a bit of a smile. No one could resist smiling at Euphrosyne. “If her grammar sucks, I’ll tell her parents who to blame.”
“Gamma sucks!” Euphrosyne declared with exuberance and jubilation.
Athena had come after all. The bold, magnificent, fully-armored Goddess of Battle now appeared as shy as the most girlish nymph in all the forests of Greece.
“Athena,” Artemis greeted her, attempting to mask her awkwardness and not succeeding well.
“I was just here for…”
“Archery,” Artemis nodded. “Yeah. Yep, me too.”
“Have a seat,” Psyche offered.
“Gamma sucks,” Euphrosyne grinned.
Athena sat down on the other side of Artemis. “Missed you in the opening ceremonies,” she said after a tense silence.
“At least I didn’t have to dress up,” Artemis laughed. She was wearing a plain, sturdy hunting chiton that had seen better days.
“You look great,” said Athena, still channeling her inner nymph. “You always look great.”
Artemis tensed and blushed. She looked a little panicked. Psyche closed her eyes for a moment. Artemis relaxed enough to reply, “Thank you.” After a bit of hesitation, she added, “You look great, too.”
Artemis and Athena spent the archery event in stilted conversation while Psyche kept her attention turned to Euphrosyne. After the first round, Psyche said, “I’m going to take Phrossie back to her parents. You two, go ahead, stay here and visit.”
“So, what are they saying about me?” Artemis asked Athena as soon as Psyche had flown away.
“I don’t know,” said Athena. “I haven’t been socializing much lately. My-” her voice caught. “My best friend,” she exhaled the phrase, “hasn’t been around.” She squeezed Artemis’ hand.
Artemis smiled a little. Her neck flushed. I could hear her heartbeat speed up and her breaths become shallow. That was weird. Psyche’s “treatment”, it seemed, was just making Artemis crazier. I wondered whether I should summon Psyche, or maybe Aglaea, if Artemis had a full-blown panic attack.
Artemis took a deep, cleansing breath. She gave Athena another unsure little smile. Then she intertwined her fingers with Athena’s and went back to watching the next round of archers. Both goddesses looked happy and comfortable. Neither said another word.
As I watched them together, I questioned what exactly I was watching. Artemis’ awkwardness had to be a leftover from Athena’s insinuation that they were more than friends. But was it awkward because Athena was right and Artemis really did have feelings for her, or because Athena was wrong and Artemis really didn’t? The latter seemed possible. It would explain the blushes and panic attacks. Artemis cared for Athena. That much was certain. But if she wasn’t in love with Athena, the knowledge that she’d have to break her best friend’s heart and possibly lose that friend in the process would be sufficiently panic-inducing. Maybe Athena was coming to terms with this possibility. Maybe the tentative peace in her countenance was a growing contentedness with the idea of Artemis as, truly, her best friend and only that. Maybe she’d even be able to move on and find another love. Plenty of women, immortal and otherwise, had to be waiting in line.
Maybe they didn’t need my blessing after all.
Spy duty was delayed further by judging duties in the theatrical division. My favorite comedic performance was a particularly ingenious sketch about an insufferable antagonist who kept dying, resurrecting, and dying all over again, each death more hilariously horrific than the last. The character absolutely was not based on any demigods in my acquaintance. How could it be? Adonis was so new to the Pantheon that hardly any of the mortals had known he existed before that morning’s opening ceremonies. And I was prepared to tell Apollo that if he asked.
He didn’t, though. I doubt he even considered the idea or paid attention to the play. Even though he knew Adonis wasn’t giving up Aphrodite, all Apollo could think about when he was away from Adonis was seeing him again.
Poor guy would have to wait. We had to judge tragic theater after comedic. I hate watching tragedies. I always know everything’s going to suck for everyone in the end, so I don’t see the point in investing myself in the characters, who are going to remind me how much people suck, or the story, which will remind me how much the world sucks. But I was a judge, so I resolved to pay as much attention as my sanity would allow.
The Tale of Medusa? Now I knew I was going to hate this play. Oh, great staging, people. Why did they have to show Poseidon raping Medusa? Everyone knows rape is traumatic, and if some idiot doesn’t, watching a dramatization isn’t going to change that. It’s just going to get the pervs off.
The chorus provided a segue.
“Virginity once pledged was now destroyed
Before the altar of the Maid Divine.
Athena was beyond Poseidon’s reach,
But her mere acolyte, a nymph, was not.
No more a virgin, fair Medusa must
Now leave the service of the Maid Athene.”
The actress playing Athena took center stage. I cringed, awaiting the inevitable travesty. Playwrights and poets always got the next part wrong.
“What must become now of Medusa?” Stage Athena asked herself in the austere, grandiose manner that high theater always gives the gods and goddesses. “I have offered to provide for her now that she must leave my service. Though it is not within my rights to punish Poseidon for his crime, I have offered to hide Medusa from him. She would be safe from his gaze, his touch, his knowledge, for as long as she lives. In time he will forget her. It is likely that he has already.
“But this is not enough for her. She cries to me, begs me, to take her beauty from her. Her prayer is that I make her the ugliest creature alive that no man may lust after her again.”
Huh. This troupe actually got it right.
Stage Athena was joined by a second actress. Her bow and hunter’s chiton identified her as Artemis. That was strange. As far as I knew, Artemis didn’t have anything to do with this story. “Why, my sister,” asked Artemis, “do you not give your servant what she asks of you?”
“Because, Blessed Huntress, child of my creator,” Athena answered her, “what she asks is futile. Her beauty was not to blame. Poseidon’s wickedness was.”
The chorus interrupted:
“So spake the goddess of her nemesis,
The god who would wrest Athens from her charge,
The god who, once, her maidenhead pursued.
We speak Athena’s heart, and not our own.”
“Many times my maiden huntresses,” said Stage Artemis, “forced so by gods, by satyrs, even by mortal men, have beseeched me for death. Always have I granted their prayers.” Truth.
“Never have I done this for my priestesses,” said Stage Athena. “I visit upon their assailants punishments that will haunt them all their long lives. But I will not punish one who has committed no crime.”
“She prays not for judgment but for mercy,” said Artemis. “Why do you not see that her beauty was a curse that brought this doom upon her? Why will you not take this curse from her?”
“Poseidon and others like him lust not after their victims’ beauty, but after power over those victims,” said Athena.
“Most beloved of my sisters,” said Artemis as she knelt before Athena, “as the Protector of Virgins, I intercede to you for your servant Medusa. Grant her petitions. Give her the peace she so desperately needs. Take her cursed beauty from her and let her find refuge in its loss. Grant her the relief of knowing that none will look on her with lust again.”
Athena took Artemis’ clasped hands and knelt, too. “Your pleas have softened my heart,” she relented. “I grant this petition not for Medusa, but for you.”
Artemis exited the stage. Medusa returned. With an impressive use of props and effects, Athena and Medusa mimed the end of the story as the chorus narrated.
“Athena to Medusa gave a choice
Of any form in earth or heav’n desired.
Medusa thought on forms devoid of charm,
Forms of allure and elegance bereft.
No softness sought she for her visage. No,
Repelling all who saw her was her goal.
So great was now her terror and her shame
That no more could she stand the gentlest gaze
Nor loving looks, nor innocent desire.
From all the monsters kept in Hades’ hall
The very foulest of Echidna’s brood,
The visage feared and loathed above all
Medusa claimed as her self-chosen form.
The Gorgon. Tremble as you hear its name.
And know what doom awaits you if you dare
To look into its monstrous tortured eyes
That under hair of living serpents dwell.
A severed Gorgon head Athena keeps
Among her aegis, shield, and sword to wield
Against her enemies, who at one look
Will turn forever to a lifeless stone.
Stone, never moving forward, never back.
Stone, never growing, never changing, still.
So all who look upon Medusa fare,
As fare all hearts that, when they suffer ill,
Are hardened, never healing from their hurt
A monument upon the very spot
Where first a monster’s visage they beheld.”
The actors took their bows and awaited our judgment. Melpomene rose and addressed them. “That was incredible,” she praised. “This is the most accurate rendition of the tale of Medusa that I have ever seen. You captured the true essence of her tragedy. And may the Lady Athena bless you for understanding her wisdom and mercy. I give you a perfect ten. Thalia?” she turned it over to me.
“Question for the playwright,” I said.
“Yes, My Lady?” she stepped downstage.
“Like my sister, I was impressed with your unique presentation of this story. Athena showing mercy was in character, but I’m curious about your inclusion of Artemis. What gave you the idea?” I asked.
“It was last-minute inspiration,” she replied. “Surely a gift from my Lady, your sister Melpomene. I had been struggling over the ending for weeks, when suddenly it came to me.”
“Thank you,” I said. “Eight out of ten.”
Once the judging was over, we were all free to go our separate ways. I fully intended to do some sanctioned stalking. But before I could, Mel pulled me aside. I repositioned the helmet under my arm so that my mask hid it from her view. I knew she’d tattle to Calliope if she figured out what I was up to.
“Thalia,” she began.
“I’m not up to anything,” I protested.
“Of course not,” she smiled with relief. “You know I’m not, either, don’t you?”
I blanked out for a second before replying, “Oh, the skit! Hey, it’s no big deal. We’re Muses. It’s what we do. Personally, I think my contestants are good enough that none of them need special help, but if yours don’t have what it takes, do what you got to do.”
“Well, that’s just it,” Mel said. “I’m not giving any of my contestants special inspiration, either, including that last playwright. I don’t know where her inspiration came from, or if it was divine at all. You understand that I’m not cheating or playing games or doing anything that warrants some kind of bizarre, disastrous, escalating game of revenge, right?”
“Absolutely,” I said. I did understand.
But now I was curious.
Once I got away from the crowd, I put my helmet back on and set out to find Artemis. She was watching the women’s footraces with Athena, invisible to mortals, away from the other immortals. I took off my helmet, shoved it in the bag I’d finally thought to snap up, and approached the two goddesses.
“Hi, Thalia,” Artemis greeted me with a peaceful, easy-going smile. “Want to watch the next heat with us?”
“Sure,” I accepted. I took the seat next to her.
“So then the right phalanx advanced, and-” Athena’s attempt to continue her war story was cut off by Artemis’ raised hand and pursed lips. Artemis turned her head in Athena’s direction. Gingerly, Athena raised timid fingers toward Artemis’ wrist. She quickly withdrew them as Artemis’ hand shot past her head like a striking cobra. A mortal man about ten yards from us dropped to the ground. Artemis snapped her fingers and his body disappeared. The other men in the audience began folding their hands and murmuring quiet prayers. Some left altogether.
“Sorry, he was a ‘sponsor’ for one of the contestants,” Artemis brushed it off. “I’ve had a bad feeling about him all afternoon. Go on. Something about your right flank?”
“Aren’t you going to get in trouble?” asked Athena.
“Zeus just said I can’t shoot anyone. If he didn’t want me to use my instant plague power, he wouldn’t have let me keep it,” Artemis shrugged.
“You should have let me do it just to be on the safe side,” said Athena.
“You wouldn’t have killed him,” Artemis laughed. “You would’ve just blinded him or made his dick fall off or something.”
“Killing isn’t always necessary,” said Athena.
“It’s easier,” said Artemis. “Shoot the arrow, burn the body, never deal with the bastard again.”
“Hey, speaking of stories,” I spoke up, “the last tragic play was pretty interesting. It was about Medusa.”
“Wonderful,” Athena sighed.
“How was it?” Artemis asked, showing way more interest than she usually did in our theater stuff. “Please tell me they told the story accurately and didn’t make Athena out to be a psychotic victim-blamer.”
“They did get it right, actually,” I said.
“Good,” Artemis smiled, more to herself than at me. “You know, Athena didn’t even want to change Medusa’s form like she asked. I was the one who talked her into it.” She paused, looked at Athena for a moment, and then back to me. “I wouldn’t have if I’d known everyone was going to blame Athena forever.”
“I don’t care about that,” said Athena. “I just wish she’d been able to heal.”
“I do, too,” Artemis said quietly. “You were right. Medusa might have been able to accept her beauty again in time.” Haltingly, she continued. “Maybe she would have figured out that not everyone would look at her the way Poseidon did. That maybe there’s a good way to look at someone and want them, and someday, someone might- I, I mean, she might want someone to- well, whatever, she’s dead now,” she finished in haste. “Let’s just watch the race. Actually, you know what? I need to go home, I’m really tired. I need to lie down.”
“You want me to come with you?” Athena offered in concern. “I can get you into bed. I mean-”
“No!” Artemis insisted. “I’ll be fine. I’ll summon Psyche. You enjoy the rest of the Games. See you tomorrow. Maybe.”
Artemis was gone, and I was left with her flustered companion. We watched the footrace for awhile before I commented, “Killing that guy seemed to cheer her up for a little bit.”
“It does put her in a good mood most of the time,” Athena acknowledged.
“You’re the Goddess of Wisdom,” I remarked. “You like hypothetical dilemmas, don’t you?”
“Not really,” said Athena. “They tend to be pointless. Sometimes the right choice in one situation turns out to be the wrong choice in a nearly identical one.”
“Good. You’ll love this one. How could preventing Artemis from killing someone possibly lead to her happiness?”
“Could the victim possibly bring her happiness in the future?”
“The victim is incapable of bringing happiness to anyone. The victim exists for the sole purpose of bringing misery to all who meet him. Or her. Or hir. Like I said, it’s hypothetical.”
Athena looked suspicious. “I’ll tell you what would lead to her unhappiness: if someone took advantage of her current state of anxiety and manipulated her into acting as their hit man. I’m pretty certain I’d be unhappy about that, too.”
“That is a wise and most excellent conclusion,” I conceded. “I’ll be going now.”
As I pondered the best way to locate Aphrodite and Adonis without summoning either one of them, I also pondered Athena’s words. And I acknowledged that she was right. However I wanted to dress it up, I would be taking advantage of Artemis and I would be using her for my hit man. Actually, forget the prepositional phrase. I’d be using her. Period. Artemis and I had never been all that close, but I did care about her. And regardless of my relation to her, she meant the world to Apollo. He was the last person I’d want to hurt.
At that point, I’d have been happy to forget about Adonis altogether. But I’d promised Persephone. So I put on my helmet and began searching in earnest.
I teleported to Artemis’ camp. I was quiet in case any of the tents around me contained sleeping huntresses. They girls were probably all at the Games, though. I thought about borrowing a hound to track Adonis, but their kennel was on Olympus, and I didn’t want to risk a trip there. I’d have to rely on my own nearly non-existent tracking skills.
I walked a little way into the forest, then sat down to meditate. If I were to bring a secret lover to this forest, I asked myself, where would I bring him? I thought of places that would be the most secluded, the least likely for hunters to find me, the most well-lit, the least lit, the safest from monsters and predators. Then I remembered that I was looking for Aphrodite. She would choose romance and sensuality over safety and practicality.
I pictured myself with an imaginary lover who totally did not resemble anyone I knew in real life. I imagined warm sunlight, a gentle breeze, a rainbow of wildflowers, a lush carpet of cool grasses cushioning my back. There was only one place they could be. I felt stupid for not teleporting there in the first place.
When Persephone faked her abduction and eloped with Hades all those centuries ago, she enlisted the help of her appointed chaperones, Artemis and Athena. She knew she had to let the two goddesses in on it. Artemis would have done something stupid if she thought Hades really was taking Persephone against her will, and Athena would have figured out the whole plot anyway. Though both Artemis and Athena turned out to be rather pathetic at acting, they were a big help in other ways. Artemis, for instance, lent us a perfect meadow in her hunting grounds on which to stage the show. It was open enough for Hades to break through the ground, chariot and all. A rainbow of wildflowers made it just the kind of place one would expect an earth goddess’ flower-child daughter to spend a lazy afternoon with a couple of girlfriends. The elopement went as planned, and the meadow became a sacred place in its own right, known as Persephone’s Doom. Calliope named it. Hard to tell, isn’t it?
So I teleported my invisible self to Persephone’s Doom.
The grass was thick and green, and the flowers were in full bloom, as they always are when Persephone is in the realm of the living. Every year on the exact day that she goes home, the grass begins to wither and the flowers drop their seeds. Not that Persephone cares about these flowers. She prefers the Asphodel Meadows of Hades, a drowsy plain of eternal twilight.
The Land of the Dead is divided into three parts. Tartarus is the high-security prison. The Titans are bound there, as well as any slain monsters, or any creatures who particularly angered the gods or harmed their fellow creatures in life. They spend eternity paying for their sins. Let’s just say Hades and Persephone can get rather creative in coming up with punishments to fit their prisoners’ crimes.
The Elysian Fields is the Home of the Blessed. People who particularly please the gods in life are rewarded with endless bliss in the afterlife. Light as bright as the fullest moon illuminates the land. Its people spend eternity in music, dances, feasts, discourse, lovemaking, and rest, when they want it and how they want it. No memories of their earthly life and the people they left behind haunt them. The essence of who they are remains, but they’re better, more complete, more fulfilled versions of themselves.
But most people go through life neither particularly pleasing nor angering the gods. This majority goes to the Asphodel Meadows. The sky is eternal dusk. A purple sunset streaks across the horizon in every direction. In the light, the white asphodels look violet grey. People don’t do much of anything because they don’t care to. This land is a place of passive peace where its people rest from their labors on Earth. Like the people of the Elysian Fields, they don’t remember their old lives. They don’t have much awareness of their new lives, either. But they know they’re free to take the rest they crave, safe under the eternal care of their King and Queen.
It was a good thing I was the one to visit Persephone’s Doom that day. If Persephone had gone herself, I guarantee that Adonis wouldn’t even have made it to the Asphodel Meadows. He’d have been grounded in Tartarus forever.