2.10 The Tenth Muse

“Don’t you dare say that!” Artemis protested. “There is no one I respect more than Athena. What we have together is above that. She’s above that.”

“Artemis,” Psyche remonstrated, “we’ve talked about this. A lot. It’s not the same thing.” I wondered what Psyche meant by the same thing, but revealing myself to ask was out of the question.

“I know, and what you’ve told me makes sense, but I just can’t think of it as anything but degrading,” said Artemis.

“Think of exactly what you felt when you were with Athena yesterday,” said Psyche. “Do you have that in your mind now?”

“Yes,” Artemis sighed. She closed her eyes. I could still tell she was rolling them. I got the idea that she and Psyche had been doing such exercises more frequently than Artemis preferred.

“Not just this new feeling, but that plus everything you’ve told me about Athena. How much you admire and respect her, and how much happier you are when you’re with her than when you aren’t.”

“Got it,” Artemis nodded. She leaned against a shelf in an indifferent stance, with both her arms and legs crossed.

“Now imagine Athena feeling all of those things about you,” Psyche directed. “Does that feel degrading?”

Artemis broke her concentration. She turned her back on Psyche to hide her obvious discomposure. “Why?” her voice broke. “What we had was perfect. Why would she let something like this screw it up?”

“If you both want this and you’re both available,” Psyche asked, “how is it screwing anything up?”

“I don’t want to have sex,” said Artemis.

“Forget about sex for now,” said Psyche. “What about love?”

“I already loved her. The way I loved her before was better.”

“Why?”

“Because I loved her soul. That’s a much higher, purer form of love than wanting someone’s body.”

“Those things aren’t mutually exclusive,” said Psyche. “Can you honestly tell me that you don’t love her soul anymore, or that you’d want her body if there were a different soul inside it?”

“I don’t want to sleep with Athena!” Artemis snapped. “Will you quit saying that?

“Actually, you’re the one who keeps saying that,” Psyche calmly replied.

“Athena deserves to be honored and revered,” said Artemis. “She’s a goddess of immeasurable power and beauty. She’s indomitable. She’s above being possessed.”

“There you go again,” said Psyche, whose calm was starting to erode ever so slightly. “Dominion. Possession. We’ve talked about this so many times. And what about what Athena wants? Have you ever given that any thought? Why do you get to decide how she should be loved? Doesn’t this indomitable goddess of immeasurable power have any agency? What if what she wants more than anything is for an equally indomitable goddess of equal power to – in a spirit of mutual love and respect – work her over like a fallow field in planting season?”

Don’t you ever talk about her like that again!” Artemis roared. “I would shred your wings right now if I didn’t know it would mean more weeks of this torture.”

“Alright, let’s forget about Athena. Let’s get back to you. What do you want?”

“I want to not have to deal with any of this,” said Artemis. “It’s all more trouble than it’s worth.”

“Whether or not you deal with it is your choice,” said Psyche. “You can work through this and live a well-rounded, functional, healthy adult life, or you can stay stuck at the edge of puberty forever.”

“Said the eternal seventeen-year-old,” Artemis replied, unimpressed.

“You know, I hear how people talk about me,” said Psyche. “I know everyone says only a teenager would be stupid enough to say the things I say to the gods and goddesses. Well, maybe that’s why the Fates turned me into a goddess when they did instead of waiting five or ten years. Maybe you need someone stupid enough to say the things that I know need to be said.”

“And you think I need to be told to grow up? Have you listened to a single thing I’ve told you about my life? I had to grow up the second I was born. I was my mother’s midwife at my twin brother’s birth. I spent most of my childhood months on the run in the most desolate parts of our world, places you don’t even know exist. I was the size of a six-year-old human when I killed my first monster. And when we came to the Olympian Court, you think Zeus was any kind of parent? Or Hera? Do you think Eris babysat us and Ares helped us with our homework? As soon as Apollo and I were taken from our mother, I became both of our mothers. And you’re telling me to grow up because the thought of sleeping with my best friend is repulsive to me?”

“Growing up is a linear process,” said Psyche, steady again, but forceful now. “You start as an infant, from there you become a child, then an adolescent, and then an adult. Your process was accelerated, interrupted, and convoluted in so many ways that, yes, I’m saying you never had a chance to grow up. You never got to be a baby who needed her mom to hold her and make everything okay. Or a little girl sitting on her daddy’s lap, knowing he would always love her and protect her. Or a teenage girl looking at that special person, not quite sure where this crazy new feeling was coming from, but just knowing that all she wants is to hold that person in her arms forever.”

“So?” said Artemis. “You only get one shot at childhood. It’s too late for all that. My mother’s gone, my father’s a sociopath, end of story.”

“You have Athena,” Psyche quietly reminded her.

“Athena deserves better than to get sucked into this screwed-up mess.”

“Whatever she deserves, I’m pretty sure she wants you.”

“She doesn’t know everything about me.”

“If there’s something you think she needs to know, why don’t you tell her?” Psyche urged. “If nothing else, she is your best friend. She’ll listen. She won’t judge.”

“I know,” Artemis sighed. “She’ll just care. I don’t want to burden her.”

“Still the protector,” said Psyche. “If a monster were charging at Athena, you’d be right to shoot it, but you can’t make yourself responsible for protecting her emotions. Her emotional well-being isn’t your responsibility. But yours is, and it’s the one thing you’re refusing to take care of.”

“I guess something has to give,” said Artemis.

“You feel tired,” Psyche observed.

“No kidding,” said Artemis.

“Why don’t you spend the rest of the day at home?” Psyche suggested. “Or, you know what, if you want to, why don’t you go for a walk in your forest? No one should bother you. Your hunters are all at the Games.”

“I might do that later,” Artemis agreed. “For now, I just want to lie down.”

“We’ll talk more tomorrow,” Psyche promised.

“Of course we will.”

Artemis disappeared.

As soon as Psyche was facing the opposite direction, I rolled under the tent flap. I walked around the grounds in my helmet for awhile, taking in the atmosphere and ignoring it at the same time. As much as I tried to convince myself otherwise, I couldn’t escape the obvious: Artemis wasn’t happy. Not only was she unhappy, she was deliberately resisting happiness. Was my revocation the cause? I didn’t see how it could be. Nothing Artemis and Psyche were talking about had anything to do with killing Adonis or not. And Adonis most definitely deserved to die. Apollo was about to get his heart broken whether or not Adonis lived. Adonis might as well pay for it.

Well, enough self-indulgent contemplation. It was time to judge another round of theater competitions.

Apollo was there to judge the lyric poetry competition, too. His date was with him. That was no surprise. But Artemis’ presence was.

“Hi,” I greeted her, ignoring Apollo and Adonis. “Here to watch the show?”

“Here to ditch my therapist and remind Apollo he has a sister,” she half-smiled. “If the music is any good, that’ll be a bonus.”

“I’m glad you decided to come,” Apollo said to her. “It’d be nice if you and Adonis got to know each other.”

“You know I’m terrible at small talk,” Artemis replied with a terse smile at her brother’s inamorato. “Is comparing body counts a good ice breaker?”

“My body count is one,” Adonis smiled back. “What’s yours?”

“You’ve killed someone already?” Apollo said with disturbed incredulity.

“Oh, is that what she meant?” Adonis giggled.

“Let’s please not go there,” Apollo gently warned as he placed a pacifying hand on Artemis’ stiff arm.

“I’m sorry,” said the penitent young demigod. “And, Artemis, as long as you’re happy, I think it’s fine that you’re still a virgin. I mean, I couldn’t do it, but I admire your self-discipline.”

“I am happy,” was Artemis’ adamant reply. “Thank you.” You condescending, self-important little prick, her eyes silently added.

I truly could not see how getting to kill this guy would result in anything but happiness for Artemis.

“I don’t know much about lyric poetry,” Adonis said to Apollo. Of course he didn’t, the mindless ignorant himbo. “What makes it different from other kinds?”

“It’s really more a form of music since it’s written to be self-accompanied on a lyre or a kithara,” Apollo explained. “Lyric; lyre. We call it poetry to emphasize the words, though. While epic poetry tells a story and focuses on actions and events, lyric poetry is all about the feelings of the poet.”

“So it’s love songs?” Adonis summarized.

“There are plenty of other feelings to write about, but love tends to be the most common,” Apollo acknowledged. “New love, requited love, heartbreak, the whole spectrum. Looks like the show’s about to start.”

I would’ve had to walk past several people to get to my assigned seat, so I just sat down next to Artemis to avoid creating a disturbance. Thankfully, Artemis didn’t seem to mind.

My sister Erato opened the event and introduced the first contestant. The mortal poetess took center stage with her lyre and began her song.

“Peer of the gods he seems,
Who in thy presence
Sits and hears close to him
Thy silver speech-tones
And lovely laughter.

Ah, but the heart flutters
Under my bosom,
When I behold thee
Even a moment;
Utterance leaves me.”

Adonis leaned into Apollo. Apollo put an arm around him and kissed him on the cheek. I deliberately looked away from them and focused on the performer.

“My tongue is useless;
A subtle fire
Runs through my body;
My eyes are sightless,
And my ears ringing.”

Sometimes I really hate lyric poetry.

“I flush with fever,
And a strong trembling
Lays hold upon me;
Paler than grass am I,
Half dead for madness.”

A small, sharp sound caught my ear. It was Artemis, valiantly choking back sobs, and vainly trying to blink back the tears that were dropping down her cheeks. And I realized that, like pretty much everyone else does within their first couple decades of existence, Artemis was getting lyric poetry for the first time.

“Yet must I, greatly
Daring, adore thee,
As the adventurous
Sailor makes seaward
For the lost sky-line

And undiscovered
Fabulous islands,
Drawn by the lure of
Beauty and summer
And the sea’s secret.”[1]

I do not get lyric poetry.

“Excellent lyrics,” Erato praised the poetess. “Good form, good expression. You are definitely going on to the next round. Apollo, anything you want to add?”

“Your self-accompaniment was superb,” said Apollo. “The music was a strong, but not overpowering, support for the lyrics. If anyone doesn’t know what falling in love feels like, they will after they hear your song. Brava.”

“Thank you, my Lord and Lady,” the poetess bowed to the judges.

Artemis whispered something to Apollo. Apollo nodded, though he looked surprised. He announced to the contestant, “My sister, the Lady Artemis, would like to commend your poem. Artemis?”

Artemis stood. “That was incredible,” she said to the poetess. “That was the most beautiful, perfect thing I’ve ever heard in my life. How did you do it?”

“With the blessing of my Muse, of course,” the poetess acknowledged my sister Erato with proper humility.

“But the things you wrote about,” Artemis persisted. “You’ve felt all those things?”

“Yes, My Lady, as have all who have been touched by the Seafoam Goddess.”

“Thank you.”

As the judging continued, I heard Artemis say quietly to Apollo, “Does everyone really feel that? Did you feel that every time?”

“Every time,” Apollo confirmed. “I’ve always sort of envied your immunity to those feelings.”

“What does it feel like when you follow them?” she asked. “Like, when the other person feels the same way about you and it works?”

“When I find out, I’ll let you know.”

“And what about when it doesn’t work?”

“Be grateful you’ll never have to find out.”

“Is that poem how you feel about Adonis?”

“What’s with the sudden interest in feelings?” Apollo laughed. “Is Psyche getting to you?”

“Is it?” she persisted.

“Yes, it is,” Apollo said, with a confidence and conviction that made me hate that poem way more than I already did.

Artemis came back the next day because she liked spending time with her brother and totally not to hear the poetess again. The poetess didn’t disappoint.

“Softer than the hill-fog to the forest
Are the loving hands of my dear lover,
When she sleeps beside me in the starlight
And her beauty drenches me with rest.

As the quiet mist enfolds the beech-trees,
Even as she dreams her arms enfold me,
Half awakening with a hundred kisses
On the scarlet lily of her mouth.”[2]

Or the day after that:

“I shall be ever maiden
If thou be not my lover,
And no man shall possess me
Henceforth and forever.

But thou alone shalt gather
This fragile flower of beauty,—
To crush and keep the fragrance
Like a holy incense.

Thou only shalt remember
This love of mine, or hallow
The coming year with gladness,
Calm and pride and passion.”[3]

Artemis was enthralled by this woman’s poetry. She’d listen with undivided attention, sometimes in tears, sometimes nodding, like, Yes! That’s it, exactly! How did you know? On the seventh day of the Games, Artemis was there waiting for the last round of the lyric poetry tournament. Maybe, I snarked to myself, Athena should’ve gone to Erato in the first place and spared me this whole damned summer.

Hmm…

“Erato,” I grabbed my sister as soon as the event was at a break. “Can we go home for a minute? I need to ask you for a favor. In private.”

“Can it wait ’til the poetry tournament’s over?”

“No, it really can’t. Please? Just a couple minutes?”

“Alright,” she conceded, knowing I’d keep badgering her until she gave up anyway.

We teleported to our empty throne room. “What’s so important?” she asked.

“You know that poetess that everyone’s in love with?”

“She’s wonderful, isn’t she? People are going to remember her poems for thousands of years.”

“I want you to give her a new one for the next round.”

“But I haven’t directly inspired any of her poems, or any of the other contestants’. You know how I feel about that.”

“Just hear me out. Let’s say this woman, this really powerful woman who could do horrible things to me if she wanted to, was in love with this other woman who could also do horrible things to me, but she couldn’t tell her. So she chokes down her pride and beseeches Aphrodite to get the two of them together. And Aphrodite wants nothing more than to make that happen. Wouldn’t that make a great poem?”

“Thalia, are you in trouble?” Erato suspected.

“In trouble? Me? Why would you think that, silly person?”

Erato appeared unconvinced. “That does sound like a good story, but why don’t you just get one of your playwrights to turn it into a romantic comedy?”

“Maybe I wasn’t clear about the part where all the characters involved could do horrible things to me if they wanted to.”

Erato shook her head. “I don’t know what’s going on, and I do not want to, but it does sound like a great premise. I’ll see what I can do.”

We went back to the pavilion for the final round of the lyric poetry tournament. The poetess in question was up last.

“O Aphrodite,
God-born and deathless,
Break not my spirit
With bitter anguish;
Thou wilful empress,
I pray thee, hither!

As once aforetime
Well thou didst hearken
To my voice far off,—
Listen, and leaving
Thy guardian’s golden
House in yoked chariot,

Come, thy fleet sparrows
Beating the mid-air
Over the dark earth.
Suddenly near me,
Smiling, immortal,
Thy bright regard asked

What had befallen,—
Why I had called thee,—
What my mad heart then
Most was desiring.
‘What fair thing wouldst thou
Lure now to love thee?

Who wrongs thee, Lady?
If now she flies thee,
Soon shall she follow;—
Scorning thy gifts now,
Soon be the giver;—
And a loth loved one

Soon be the lover.’
So even now, too,
Come and release me
From mordant love pain
And all my heart’s will
Help me accomplish!”[4]

The crowd loved it. Artemis loved it. Erato was immensely pleased with herself. Adonis looked upset at the mention of Aphrodite. Apollo was comforting the duplicitous backstabber. The sight made me physically ill. I told myself that it would be over soon enough. I’d show the Fates. If all went according to plan, Erato’s unwitting blessing would wrap things up for Athena and Artemis, and I wouldn’t have to re-invoke mine. I’d have my happy ending and eat it, too.

As a good experimenter, I had to observe the subject of my experiment. So when the event was over, I donned my helmet and followed Artemis. She walked around until she found Athena near a textile merchant’s stall. Both goddesses were invisible to mortals.

“What have you been up to?” Athena asked, barely looking up from the fabric she was perusing.

“Not much,” said Artemis. “Getting tortured by Psyche, spending time with my brother, watching the Games. I found out I like lyric poetry. I mean, I’ve heard it before, of course, but I never really noticed it until now. It’s weird, isn’t it, how something can be there all the time, and one day it hits you all of a sudden that you lo- like it, a lot, and you’ve always liked it a lot, you just couldn’t see your own feelings?”

“I’ve never paid much attention to lyric poetry,” said Athena. “I prefer the epic stuff.”

“Because half the time it’s about you?” Artemis laughed.

“That’s possible.”

“You want to go for a walk?” Artemis invited. “My forest should be empty. All my hunters are here.”

“Sure,” Athena accepted. They teleported away. I teleported to Artemis’ camp, hoping that was their landing point. It was.

Artemis glanced down at Athena’s left hand like it was a fascinating, volatile curiosity. She timidly approached it with her right. Athena took Artemis’ hand. They headed down a path through the forest together. I floated along behind them, careful not to brush against any branches, brambles, or tall grasses.

After a few minutes of semi-awkward silence, Athena said, “So. Lyric poetry?”

“I always thought it was kind of stupid,” said Artemis, “but some of it is really amazing.”

“Like?”

Artemis cleared her throat and quietly sang part of the poetess’ last entry.

“What fair thing wouldst thou
Lure now to love thee?
Who wrongs thee, Lady?
If now she flies thee,
Soon shall she follow;—
Scorning thy gifts now,
Soon be the giver;—
And a loth loved one
Soon be the lover.”[5]

Wow. Artemis could sing.

“I like that,” said Athena. “You know, I always thought you had the talent to be a theater goddess.”

“It just never interested me,” said Artemis. “Besides, I had to give Apollo something,” she laughed.

“I’ll bet he’s missed you lately,” said Athena.

“I don’t know,” said Artemis. “He’s been so obsessed with Persephone’s son, I don’t know if he even noticed I was gone. I guess he really was sleeping with Aphrodite?”

“Adonis? I don’t know,” Athena shrugged. “Probably. I honestly don’t get the big deal about him. In fact, I’ve been wondering if the rest of the Court’s obsession with him is supernaturally induced, because I don’t see any natural cause for it.” Now, there was an interesting thought. But if it were true, I must be immune, too. I certainly hadn’t been obsessed with the little skank. I barely acknowledged his existence. I was, in fact, happy to end his existence.

“Well, if that is his power,” said Artemis, “I must be immune, too. Unfortunately, my brother has proven pretty susceptible. Did you know they’re semi-official now?”

“No. When did that happen?”

“The last few days. He says Aphrodite dumped him. Are you as shocked as I was?”

“Stunned,” Athena laughed.

“Apollo’s head over heels for him,” said Artemis. “You know how he gets. All tender and protective and gallant.” She was quiet for a minute. “Athena,” she came to an abrupt stop as she broke the silence, “there’s something I need to tell you.”

“What is it?” Athena said, her breath catching in her throat.

“You were right about Callisto.” Um, maybe not the direction she should have taken the conversation.

“What about her?”

“Before I set her in the sky, she told me she was in love with me. You kept trying to tell me she was, and I wouldn’t listen. I’m sorry.”

“You’re forgiven,” said Athena, relieved. “We all have our blind spots.”

“And I think you were right about me having feelings for her, too,” said Artemis. Yeah, definitely the wrong direction.

“I’m so glad you decided to tell me,” said Athena. Methinks hidden in the night sky was a good place for Callisto to be right about then.

“I felt like I should,” said Artemis, oblivious to the scathing sarcasm dripping from Athena’s words like blood from a Maenad’s chin. “It was stupid and inappropriate and unprofessional, and if I’d seen it from the start, maybe things would have turned out differently, but I didn’t. I…I think maybe you’ve always known my feelings better than I’ve known them myself.”

“I don’t know how you feel about continuing this conversation,” said Athena, “but I’d rather not.”

“Athena, please.”

“I can’t take this anymore!” Athena protested. “You’re the best friend I could possibly ask for, and I must be the most selfish person alive to want even more from you, but I do. I want so much more. I’ve always comforted myself with the thought that you were giving me everything you could possibly give anyone, but I guess that wasn’t true.”

“I have been giving you everything I could give.”

“Everything except your feelings for Callisto, feelings you’ve never been able to muster up for me,” said Athena. “What was it about her? Is it because she’s shorter than me? Smaller? Less powerful? Did her minuscule cleavage let you imagine she was a boy?”

“Athena!”

“Was it the way she adored you, and couldn’t keep her eyes off you, and lavished you with attention whenever you were around her? I wish I’d known that’s what you wanted. You have no idea how much I’ve always held back. Artemis, you are the most beautiful creature I’ve ever seen. More beautiful than Aphrodite, than Hera, even than me. And you’re so much more than beautiful. You’re strong, brave, compassionate. You just do what you feel is right no matter how anyone else might react or how much you might get hurt. Knowing you exist makes me happier. So many times, when I’m with you I feel like my breastplate is the only thing keeping my heart inside my chest. I’ve wanted to tell you these things all my life, but I never did because I didn’t want to scare you.”

“You are kind of scaring me now,” Artemis said.

“But Callisto didn’t.”

“You know what? Forget it. Maybe you’re right. Maybe we never should have had this conversation.”

“Fine with me,” said Athena. She disappeared. Artemis collapsed onto a fallen log, propped her head in her hands, and cried like I’d never seen her cry before. I half expected her eyeballs to float out on the waterfalls of tears.

And I was struck by how freakin’ much she looked like her brother.

I thought of the image in the Fates’ tapestry of Apollo mourning over Adonis’ corpse. I remembered him crying for Coronis, Chione, and all the others. As much as their betrayals had hurt him, the pain of their deaths had been worse. Most of all, I thought of the one I knew Apollo would see and always had seen in Adonis: Hyacinthus. The enchanting young mortal prince who had captured Apollo’s heart and, unlike most who had come before and would come after him, came pretty close to deserving it. We had all mourned along with Apollo when another god murdered Hyacinthus out of jealousy. The one lover who had stayed adamantly faithful to Apollo, killed for his fidelity.

How, I wondered, could I have even considered causing Apollo that kind of pain? Or at least refusing to spare him when such a thing might be in my power? Fates, I called out in my mind, I still have absolutely no idea what one has to do with the other, but I can’t let Artemis kill Adonis. I offer my blessing again. By all the power I have, whatever that is, may Artemis and Athena live happily ever after.

I didn’t know whether the Fates would accept my revocation. They hadn’t said anything about a number of mind-changes allowed, only that I had to make my choice by the end of the Games. Tomorrow was the last day. All I could do now was hope for the best.

Maybe my blessing was starting to work already. Artemis’ cries were going from full-blown wailing to sharp, intermittent sobs. She wiped her face with her arm, stood up, and started walking further into the woods. Her stride was slow, steady, and contemplative.

I don’t know how long I followed her. Maybe an hour, maybe more. But eventually, we came to the edge of Persephone’s Doom.

Where, in the broad afternoon sun, sat Adonis and Aphrodite.

Artemis spotted them before I did. Her instant change in demeanor was what put me on alert. She crouched behind a tree, her eyes intent, her muscles tensed.

“Aren’t you finished with him yet?” we heard Aphrodite plead.

“You know what a gentleman he is,” Adonis lamented. “I thought for sure I’d have gotten him in bed by now, but he doesn’t want to take advantage of me. Tonight, if all goes well.”

“And if it doesn’t?” Aphrodite said with a marked lack of patience.

Adonis kissed her. “What does it matter?” he laughed. “We don’t have to really be apart in the meantime, I just have to keep him convinced we are.”

Laughter was followed by more kissing, which was soon accompanied by groping. Do I have to spell out where things were heading?

If Adonis survived two-timing Apollo and being found out by Artemis, he’d be the first. And for some idiotic reason, I was determined to help the bitch earn that distinction. I kept my mind on the image of Apollo’s anguish, forcing myself not to make yet another revocation. Artemis instinctively reached for her bow and arrow. Both were absent. She growled a curse under her breath. Zeus, I recalled, had confiscated her bow and quiver and was keeping them out of her reach. Was that my blessing at work?

A bow and a single arrow appeared in Artemis’ hands. This wasn’t her own golden bow. She had commandeered Apollo’s silver one, and one of his arrows. I imagined Apollo’s grief and horror at finding Adonis shot to death with his own bow and arrow. I couldn’t let that come to pass if there was any way for me to prevent it. As Artemis fitted the arrow’s shaft to the bowstring, I floated around to block her, ready to stop the arrow with my own body if I had to.

The Divine Huntress stalked her prey as she had so many others for the same crime. This was business as usual for her. Her fierce eyes bore into her target. Her supple arm drew back the bowstring. But then, just as I situated myself perfectly in her line of fire, something in her countenance changed. I panicked. Had she detected me somehow? What would she do if she found me out?

“My brother’s happiness,” Artemis whispered what had to be Psyche’s words, “is not my responsibility.” Carefully, contemplatively, she relaxed her bowstring. “My happiness is my responsibility.” She let the bow and the arrow fall to the ground.

She sprinted back the way she’d come. I did my best to keep up. I can’t float very fast, but I was at least able to keep her in my visual range. She stopped when she reached the place Athena had left her. Before long, Athena appeared beside her.

“Look, I’m sorry,” Artemis said to her. “I’m not great with words. You know that. And I’m so bad at understanding my own feelings, it’s no wonder I can’t make anyone else understand them. But I want you to understand,” she frantically explained. “You know me better than anyone else, even better than my brother, but there’s so much I’ve been keeping from you. I was just trying to protect you, but I can see now that I’ve just been hurting you, and I’ve been hurting myself. I want you to know everything. So please, please, promise you’ll stay and listen to everything, no matter how hard this is for you to hear or for me to say.”

Athena took a seat on the fallen log. Artemis sat next to her. Athena set her helmet on the ground by her feet and said, “I promise.”


[2] Sappho, tr. Bliss

[3] Sappho, tr. Bliss

[4] Sappho, tr. Bliss. Original reads “O Cytheria [a name for Aphrodite]…” for “O Aphrodite”, “Thy father’s golden House…” for “Thy guardian’s golden House…”, and “Who wrongs thee, Sappho…?” for “Who wrongs thee, Lady?”

[5] Sappho, tr. Bliss. See 4.

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6 thoughts on “2.10 The Tenth Muse

  1. Sappho is popularly known as the Tenth Muse, hence this chapter’s title. She is to lyric poetry as Homer is to epic poetry and Aristophanes is to comedic theater.

    I don’t want to give out any major spoilers, but I will say that next week’s chapter is a must-read for Artemis/Athena shippers!

  2. Is the poet in the story meant to actually be Sappho, or are you just using Sappho’s poems as a representation of good (and sapphic in the little-s sense) lyric poetry? I’ve long been fascinated by Sappho as a character and a historical figure, since she is one of the earliest known figures to be openly and famously homosexual.

    Of course, ancient Greek society had a very different concept of sexuality than modern American society. It was probably not as big a deal that she (or the poetic personas of her poems) liked women, or at least it was a different sort of deal. Nonetheless, from the standpoint of modern American society, she’s interesting to consider.

    Anyway, I’d be interested in seeing more of Sappho in the story. She’s cool.

    • The Poetess is the mythic idea of Sappho rather than the historic person of Sappho, if that makes any sense. Placing the historic Sappho in this story would set it much later than I imagine it. Thalia’s Musings takes place in the mythohistoric era that the classic poets and playwrights wrote about and already saw as their distant past rather than the era they actually lived in.

      And, yes, I picked Sappho’s poems because of her place in history as a lyric poet and as a woman who loved women.

      “The Poetess” will return later in this volume in a big way, but I’ll never name her in text. Unless the BBC will let me say that The Doctor brought Sappho to mythohistoric Delphi in the TARDIS.

  3. …For the record, I completely support the theory that the Doctor brought Sappho to mythohistoric Delphi in the TARDIS.

    Because that would be awesome.

    Just saying.

    ANYWAY. I was scared when Psyche suggested Artemis go for a walk–excellent foreshadowing, by the way, subtle but clear at the same time, built up the tension wonderfully–but, thank the gods (or at least one of the Muses), the worst did not happen. Crying Artemis makes my soul hurt and I’m not sure I can wait a whole week to see her talking to Athena. On that note, as much as I NEED to see that…good lord, Thalia! Give them some privacy! (I’m personally hoping that once they’ve talked everything out–and I swear to the gods, if you don’t give them a happy ending…!–Athena looks over at invisible!Thalia and asks her if she could, please, give them a moment now. She’s the goddess of wisdom, I think she could figure it out.)

    Your wording also makes me slightly nervous. A “must-read chapter for Artemis/Athena shippers” could mean either “all your dreams are going to come true”, or else “sorry, you’re all delusional and they’re going to remain simply the best of friends”, in which case I, in as kind a manner as possible in deference to your skills, will respectfully force-feed you Apollo’s lyre.

    …Well look at you. I’ve only been following you for about three weeks and you’ve already got me issuing death threats. You’re /good/. It usually takes at least a month. 😉

      • Hrm. You have a point. If I kill you we’ll /never/ find out what happens. Well-played, Amethyst. Well-played.

        (It occurs to me that you probably think I’m insane. I’m used to FFN, where everyone already KNOWS I’m insane and nobody bats an eye. I assure you I am only mostly crazy and do in fact harbor genuine respect for your talent, and worship the fact that you update so regularly. Everything I do is just my weird, twisted way of showing I care. Don’t take me too seriously.)

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