Like I said, for the next year, there just wasn’t anything exciting going on. No epic romances, no major conflict aside from the usual stuff, and best of all, no Fates. The Fates seemed to have forgotten about me as much as Athena seemed to have forgotten about her vow to strike against Zeus. Persephone came at the Spring Equinox and immediately announced plans to stay until the Autumnal Equinox. She didn’t make any effort to meet her granddaughter, who was still living at the Helicon Museum with Artemis and Athena. Aphrodite, who moved back to Olympus about a month after Persephone came, never made any effort to introduce them. I imagined a meeting at the Pythian Games would be inevitable.
Instead, the Pythian Games came and went completely without incident. Beroe didn’t attend at all, despite being crazy about sports. Polyhymnia won the Muse trophy, beating out a great showing by Eustachys & Co. in the comedy division. This year all the performances were actually composed without direct intervention from any of the gods or goddesses.
The closing ceremonies had a surprise guest appearance from Poseidon and Amphitrite. They had never come to the Games before. We all suspected this appearance had something to do with Zeus’ monologue at the last Games two years earlier. But Poseidon and Amphitrite were all smiles and congeniality with Zeus, Hera, and the rest of the Olympians. We made a last-minute adjustment to the ceremonies so they could appear to the mortals along with the Twelve. It went off without a hitch. The mortals were thrilled, the gods were satisfied, and none of us could wait to get the after-party started in Dionysus’ Tent.
I entered with Apollo and Calliope. The tent was filled with gods, goddesses, satyrs, nymphs, centaurs, and dozens of other inhuman creatures. Some were on the spacious dance floor reveling in the driving music and the flashing, colorful lights. Others were helping themselves at a fountain of wine, and still more were feasting from the buffet table. Here and there, circles of cushions were veiled by velvet curtains that hung from the ceiling. I noticed Artemis and Athena, who had been quietly celebrating their second anniversary all week, betake themselves to one of these secluded spots. I gave myself a mental high-five.
But no such hiding away for me tonight. I was here for the party.
Apollo, who must’ve read my mind, said, “Now, please remember that as the hosts of the Pythian Games, we have a certain-”
“No,” I cut him off. “We may be the hosts of the Games, but the Games are over. And for the first time in over four years, we got through the whole damn thing without a catastrophe of any kind. So I don’t know about you guys, but tonight Imma get my Dionysian on. The first person who says ‘Nothing in excess’ gets smacked upside his blond, laurel-crowned head.”
Apollo looked over at Calliope. “Nothing in excess,” Calliope said.
“Nothing in excess,” he repeated.
I smacked them both simultaneously.
Dionysus came to greet us with a Maenad at each arm. He was dressed in full drag – a slinky golden gown, a waist-length brunette hairdo that was making me envious, and bold, glittery makeup that amped his androgynous hawtness up to eleven. The two Maenads looked typical of their ranks. Their long hair, wild and bushy from the wind and sun in Dionysus’ woods, was strewn with bits of bracken. Tiny haphazard patches of leaves and leather blurred the lines of technical nudity. A primal, manic look in their eyes promised a contact high to anyone who accepted their embrace.
“Nothing in excess,” I said to Apollo in a teasing whisper. His secret Maenad fantasies were no secret to me. And why should I be bothered by these fantasies? Petty jealousy and angst over Apollo’s crushes were a thing of the past. Apollo was my friend. That was all he was and all he was ever going to be. If he was determined to live his life chasing one heartbreak after another for all eternity, why should I let that affect our friendship?
“It could be argued that complete abstinence is a form of excess,” Apollo whispered back, a little guilty and embarrassed but far from repulsed.
Dionysus addressed Apollo. “I see you’re letting the Muses out to play for once. Care for a trade?”
My indignation at basically being called Apollo’s property could not be overstated. However, as far as I’m concerned, indignation can always be overridden with lulz. So I said, “Of course he does. Apollo, don’t you want to play with the nice ladies?” One of the Maenads bared her pointed teeth and licked her lips. The other curled a sharp fingernail in a beckoning motion. Apollo’s face told me I wasn’t helping anything, which meant my mission was accomplished.
“Actually, we were just leaving,” Calliope said in her best Big Sister voice. She put an arm around Apollo and hurried him away toward the buffet table. I stood and laughed, still undecided as to what I wanted to do first.
Dionysus caught my hand. The Maenads were already gone in search of new prey. “Looks like we’ve both been deserted,” he mourned. “We’d best stick together. There’s nothing sadder than being alone at a party.”
“Sometimes it’s fun,” I said. “I do it on purpose.”
“And they say I’m crazy,” he laughed, the smell of alcohol already wafting from his breath. “Can I tell you a secret, darling? You were always my favorite Muse.”
“What’s my name?” I asked him, more amused than irritated since my new escort seemed harmless enough for the moment.
“Polyhymnia?” he guessed.
“Wait, never mind.” He dropped my hand. I was a bit insulted. Not at all surprised, though. Who stood a chance at being noticed once Aphrodite had entered the room?
I followed Dionysus. Ordinarily, an encounter between him and Aphrodite wouldn’t hold much interest to me. But, unexpectedly, Beroe had accompanied her. Yay! Keeping a headstrong demigoddess safe and alive was exactly how I’d planned to spend the night!
There was no opportunity to hope Beroe wouldn’t make a scene. She and Aphrodite were already fighting over her appearance. Beroe’s acetic, utilitarian hunter’s chiton revealed her muscular legs, which were flocked with downy golden hair. Aphrodite kept snapping her fingers to render Beroe’s legs smooth, and Beroe kept snapping hers to put the hair back. Aphrodite tried distracting Beroe by snapping her cropped, unkempt, platinum hair into a long, elaborate updo. Beroe snapped it back even shorter and messier. Beroe’s preferred aesthetic wasn’t my style, but it was definitely hers, and I had to love her insistence on rocking it.
Dionysus met them. I hoped Beroe would teleport out as soon as her mom was sufficiently distracted. Surely she wasn’t here of her own accord. Parties weren’t her thing.
“Hey,” Aphrodite briefly acknowledged Dionysus. “Ares is here somewhere, so you’ll have to get in line.”
“As it happens, dearest,” Dionysus said to Aphrodite, “you weren’t the list of my voyage. Won’t you introduce me to your lovely companion?” Yay! I could see now that he had that same stupid captivated look that everyone used to have around Adonis. Aphrodite tended to evoke the same thing, of course, but it wasn’t as noticeable since we were used to her. More to the point, Aphrodite was completely immortal, and Athena hadn’t tasked me with keeping her alive.
“Beroe,” said Aphrodite, “this is Dionysus. He’s really very handsome when he’s dressed as a man.”
“Hey, that’s the same thing the huntresses say about me,” said Beroe as she took Dionysus’ hand and gave it a firm shake. “We’ve probably met before, though, at Ixion’s feast?”
“Who?” said Dionysus.
“The mortal who’s been living at court for the last year?” Aphrodite reminded him. “He’s been at the Games all week.”
“There’s been a mortal at court?” said Dionysus.
“You were at the meeting where the Twelve decided what to do about him,” I said.
“Nope, not ringing a bell,” Dionysus said.
“Oh, there’s Ares,” said Aphrodite. “Keep an eye on Beroe, will you?” she said to me.
“Sure,” I said. Why not? I totally hadn’t come here to party. Why would I want to eat, dance, or get hammered when I could spend the whole night babysitting a fully-armed grown woman who could easily take me in a fight?
“I guess you don’t remember me, either, then,” Beroe was saying to Dionysus. “I was the baby who freaked everyone out.”
“Did you used to have wings?”
“That’d be my brother,” said Beroe. “Look, is there someplace we could talk?”
Wait, what? Dionysus was the last person I’d have expected Beroe to voluntarily interact with. Maybe she needed a babysitter after all.
“Of course, love,” said Dionysus. “If you’ll join me behind one of these curtains-”
“I get claustrophobic,” Beroe cut him off. “And I really meant ‘talk’.”
“I’m afraid the curtains are our best option for privacy here. Fancy a tryst in the woods?” Dionysus invited with a come-hither smolder.
“Do you understand that I don’t want to engage in sexual activity of any kind tonight, with you or anyone else?” said Beroe.
“Can’t say that I do,” said Dionysus. “Won’t you have a drink first?”
“Don’t take the drink,” I advised.
“Wasn’t planning on it,” Beroe sighed. “Forget it, you’re not lucid enough to have a serious conversation anyway.”
“I should hope not,” he laughed. “Serious conversations are the very worst kind.”
“Is he like this all the time?” Beroe asked me, thoroughly disgusted.
“You’ve caught him at one of his better moments,” I said.
A trumpet fanfare outside the tent interrupted our so-called conversation. We stepped aside and cleared the entrance. I guessed Zeus and Hera were coming.
The herald not only confirmed my guess, but announced Poseidon and Amphitrite as well. I moved to block Beroe from the two kings’ views. She was a little taller than me, so I snapped my hair a few inches higher just to be on the safe side. Zeus made it past us without noticing her. He was quickly distracted by a quartet of Maenads holding back a curtain and beckoning him thereunto.
But Beroe wasn’t one to stay hidden. “Will you cut it out?” she said as she shoved me aside. Have I mentioned Beroe was ridiculously strong? “I know what you’re doing, and I don’t need it. I’m not a goddamn kid anymore.”
“You certainly are not.”
Poseidon had noticed Beroe after all. There was That Look. That bizarre, unnatural obsession. And there was Amphitrite clinging to his arm, thinking how long it had been since he’d had the same obsession for her.
“Screw off,” said Beroe. “I don’t even know you.”
“I’d like to change that,” said Poseidon. He reached for Beroe’s hand. Then he cried out as Beroe quickly and cleanly broke his thumb.
“I said screw off,” she scowled.
“That’s going to be difficult now,” I said.
“What’s your name?” Poseidon asked.
“Sir,” said Dionysus, “The lady is with me. If you want her, you’ll have to take me, too.”
“Oh, go back to your wine cellar or your pole,” Poseidon dismissed him.
I ran through a mental list of people I could summon for help. Calliope? No, she was all brains and no brawn, and Poseidon wasn’t known for listening to reason. Athena? No, she and Poseidon were rivals from way back. He was convinced Athens should be his city-state since it was on the coast, and Athena had claimed it from its conception. He’d likely become even more determined in his advances just to spite her. Artemis? No, that’d turn into a full-blown fight in about half a second, and the last thing Artemis needed was another spectacle in which she might possibly be overpowered. Apollo? No. Just no. Beroe was practically his own daughter as far as he was concerned, and, no, no, no. Everyone I could think of was either not powerful enough or too likely to create a major inter-realm incident. I didn’t want to be indirectly responsible for a war between the Ocean Realm and Olympus.
Then I remembered. Someone at these Games, someone I hadn’t spent nearly enough time with this summer, wasn’t from Olympus.
Persephone appeared beside me in silent answer to my summons. Her chilling aura instantly created an arm’s-length circle of space all around her. “Well, how about that,” she said. “Rulers of the Three Realms all in the same place at the same time. Do you even remember the last time this happened?”
“Has Hades come with you this year, then?” Poseidon replied.
“Unfortunately, no,” said Persephone. “It must be nice to have so little work that both of you can leave your kingdom at the same time.”
“Our son Triton can handle it while I’m away,” said Poseidon.
“When he’s at home, too,” I said in a stage whisper. Beroe and Dionysus were amused, but the royals ignored me. “I lived at their court for awhile. You two remember that, don’t you? Before Galateia? Good times.”
Amphitrite gave me a soft smile and a subtle nod, but Poseidon didn’t even seem to notice I was talking. He kept his eye on Beroe and continued addressing Persephone, the only obstacle he was perceiving. “I think I heard you and Hades had a son a couple of years ago?” he said. “Allow me to offer belated congratulations.”
The ground trembled below the tent for a brief moment. If anyone outside our immediate vicinity felt it at all, they probably thought it was from the drums and the pounding feet and hooves on the dance floor. Persephone regained control and said, “Condolences would be more appropriate. Our son was a demigod, adopted, killed before he’d finished his growing year. But not before he left behind a child.” She turned to Beroe. “This, I suppose, is her?” she asked me.
“You’re Persephone,” Beroe answered for herself, her demeanor as cold as her grandmother’s. “Nice to finally meet you. You’re afraid of watching me die, like my father, aren’t you?” Well, that escalated quickly.
“I don’t know,” said Persephone. “Do you plan to get yourself killed the way your father did?”
“If you mean did I plan on becoming the center of a pansexual love dodecahedron, that was pretty low on my list of things to do, right after shoving rust splinters into my eyelids,” said Beroe.
Dionysus interjected, “Actually, that can be quite erotic after you’ve taken-”
“Stop talking,” said Beroe.
“Ah, so she’s your granddaughter,” said Poseidon. “I can see the resemblance in manner if not in looks. Are you her guardian?”
“Screw guardians,” said Beroe. “I’m a friggin’ adult. I belong to myself.”
“Then, legally, you belong to Zeus,” Poseidon surmised.
“Her mother is Aphrodite,” I spoke up.
“Aphrodite of the Seafoam?” said Poseidon. “Perhaps your destiny lies in your mother’s origin.”
“You have no idea,” said Beroe.
“Look,” said Dionysus, “I’ll thank you to stop harassing my future wife. Unless, my love, you’d like him to join us?”
“Your future wife? Are you insane?” said Beroe. “You just met me.”
“Your future wife?” Poseidon laughed. “I’m the King of the Ocean Realm, and you’re, what, Zeus’ fool? Courtesan? What could you offer for Beroe’s hand to compare with half my kingdom?”
“I’m Zeus’ fool,” I corrected His Royal Bitchiness, though he continued to ignore me.
“Here we go again,” Persephone facepalmed. She produced a small dagger and handed it to Beroe. “Take this and get it over with.”
“Tempting,” said Beroe. “Let’s get something completely, indisputably clear: I AM NOT MARRYING EITHER ONE OF YOU. You,” she said to Dionysus “are not making a great first impression, and you,” she said to Poseidon, “are already friggin’ married. To her. To that woman right next to you.”
“I’ll get a divorce,” said Poseidon.
“You can’t mean that!” Amphitrite spoke for the first time.
“I’d be more than happy to make it a foursome,” Dionysus offered.
“No!” said Beroe. “Not you and me, not him and me, not you and him and me, not you and me and him and her, not me and ANYONE! What part of this don’t you two get?”
“So you need a bit of time to think?” said Dionysus.
“Eros!” Beroe yelled.
Eros was there in a flash. “Everything ok here?” he asked as he hovered over our heads with his bow at the ready.
“These idiots need a little help figuring out I’m not interested,” said Beroe.
“Two lead arrows, coming right up,” he replied. Before either Poseidon or Dionysus could react, Eros fitted two lead arrows to his bow and put one in each god’s heart. They never took their eyes off Beroe. They should have lost interest immediately and gone on with their lives.
But both gods ripped the arrows out and seemed completely unaffected.
“Wow,” said Eros.
“Wow?” Beroe repeated. “That’s all you have to say?”
“Hang on,” said Eros. He took a deep breath and affected a look of what passed for concentration coming from him. “So, you guys,” he said, “how ’bout those Maenads? I’m telling you, if I weren’t an old married man-”
“Fly away before someone gets a flyswatter,” Poseidon brushed him off.
“Make yourself useful and summon your mother,” said Dionysus. “The sooner we can start the wedding arrangements, the better.”
“Dude, Beroe already said no,” said Eros. “There’s not going to be any wedding.”
“Thank you,” said Beroe. “Apparently the frequency of my voice can still be detected by male ears.”
“Name your sister’s bride price,” said Poseidon. “I’ll give anything, even half my kingdom.”
“Half?” Dionysus scoffed. “Beroe, my love, once you’re mine, all the vineyards and forests and Maenads and satyrs in all of Greece will be yours, not to mention my own vine and grapes.”
“I’m a teetotaler,” said Beroe. “Good grief, have you ever just had a normal conversation with a woman? With anyone?”
“Hey,” Eros said to Dionysus. “She. Said. No. And you,” he said to Poseidon, “can you and your wife look at each other for a second? Just one second.”
“What, so you can distract me with one of your golden arrows?” said Poseidon. “You’re welcome to try,” he turned toward Amphitrite, “but I’m afraid my heart has been inextricably given to your sister.”
“Give him time,” said Amphitrite, her eyes full of heartbreak. “His obsession will die as soon as yours appears.”
I had some doubts about the validity of this plan. If Beroe’s passive powers could negate the lead arrows, there was a chance she could overpower the gold arrows, too. But instead of a gold arrow, Eros fit another lead one to his bow. It was embedded in Amphitrite’s heart in the blink of an eye.
Amphitrite blinked. She swayed. I caught her and pulled the arrow out. “It’s okay,” I soothed her. “Take a moment.” In my experience, the lead arrows weren’t necessarily that disorienting, but Amphitrite was rumored to have been under a love spell for all the long centuries she and Poseidon had been together.
Eros took advantage of the distraction and grabbed Beroe’s hand. The two of them teleported away. Dionysus ran out of the tent, though I doubted he had any idea where he was going.
“Do you know your name?” I asked the goddess in my arms.
“Mm…,” she said slowly. “Megae- no, that’s not- Amphitrite? I don’t know.”
Persephone started at this. “You’ve had quite a shock,” she said, taking Amphitrite’s other side. “I think you should lie down. My quarters are nice and quiet. Why don’t you come with me?”
“Oh, Fates!” Amphitrite screamed. “Hera! Hera, please help me!”
Hera appeared. Thankfully, Zeus wasn’t with her. The Maenads must’ve had him pretty distracted. “What?” she said, in as pleasant a mood as one might imagine.
“Hera, My Lady,” Amphitrite fell at her feet in tears, “please, I beg you, release me from my vows. I did not swear to them of my own accord. Surely you won’t hold me to a covenant made under duress.”
“I officiated your wedding,” said Hera. “You didn’t seem particularly duressed to me.” She threw a quick, impatient glance at the exit.
“But I don’t love him!” Amphitrite wept. “And for the longest time, he hasn’t loved me either.”
“It’s true,” said Poseidon. “I have chosen a new queen. We beseech you, Hera, release us from our vows.”
“Why should I care how you two feel about each other?” Hera growled. “What does it matter what anyone feels about anything? Do you think I love my husband all the time? Does anyone in existence still believe he loves me any of the time? What does it matter? We never vowed to love each other. We vowed to take each other and to create a home and a family with honor, and that is what we have done, and what you have done. But evidently none of that means anything to anyone except me anymore!”
“Hera,” said Poseidon, “I will leave Amphitrite and take a new queen. All you’re deciding is whether I do so with honor.”
“Honor?” Hera repeated. “How can you look the Goddess of Marriage in the eye and say such a thing? How can there be any honor in pledging yourself to one person and leaving them for another?”
“If the Goddess of Marriage will be no help,” said Poseidon, “perhaps the Goddess of Love will.”
Aphrodite appeared on the scene. “This had better be important,” she said. “I wasn’t finished yet.”
“This is all your fault,” Hera snarled at her.
“Oh, no, trust me,” said Aphrodite, “it was your son’s fault.” I knew she meant Ares, but Hera’s mind wasn’t really in the moment, thus her reply.
“My son did nothing but stand by his vows regardless of how you made him feel,” Hera said, “while you indulged your every fleeting lust. If you could’ve been faithful to him at all, if you could’ve at least let him pretend that you wanted him, even a little, maybe you two wouldn’t have set a precedent for even the gods themselves blaspheming my sacred rite!”
“Bitch, I meant the other son,” said Aphrodite. “And don’t hate on me for having enough sense to get out of a dead marriage just because you can’t.”
“A marriage doesn’t die until someone executes it,” said Hera. “I won’t let it happen again.”
“Can we get to the part that has anything to do with me?” said Aphrodite. “Or was I just summoned for a round of Yell About Crap That Happened Four Years Ago? Because, believe me, I’ve got some great moves for that one.”
“I want to marry your daughter,” said Poseidon.
“Beroe?” said Aphrodite. “Where is she?”
“Eros took her,” I said. “And Beroe already turned him down.”
“That settles it, then,” said Aphrodite. “My daughter isn’t marrying anyone she doesn’t love. Of course, it’s a little embarrassing that she’s almost a year and a half and she’s still a virgin, but she hasn’t wanted anyone yet, and I’m not going to change her mind for her.”
“Everyone knows you bewitched my first wife,” said Poseidon. “You did it once; you can do it again.”
“Don’t,” said Amphitrite. Aphrodite didn’t say a word, but I could tell she realized her love spell had been broken.
“I’ll catch you up later,” I whispered.
“I’m not casting any love spells on anyone tonight,” said Aphrodite, “and I will raze Olympus to the ground before I let what happened to me happen to my daughter!”
I snapped up a box of popcorn.
“What, marriage to a good, faithful man?” said Hera. “I could think of worse fates.”
“You would battle Poseidon Earthshaker?” Poseidon laughed.
“I would exercise my right as Beroe’s guardian, and you would have no choice but to accept my judgment,” said Aphrodite.
“Keep in mind, you can only forbid me from marrying her,” said Poseidon. “I can still make her my wife in deed if not in name.”
“I’m the Goddess of Sex, you idiot,” said Aphrodite. “I can keep you from that, too; with Beroe or anyone else ever.”
Hera left in silent disgust and frustration at the whole scene. Persephone whispered something to Amphitrite, who whispered something back, and they teleported away together, too.
I decided it was best to keep everyone’s attention away from these disappearances. “Don’t forget, Dionysus put in a bid, too,” I reminded Poseidon. “You really want to risk eternity without sex or booze?”
“Dionysus?” said Aphrodite. “Does she like him? Please say yes. I would never want her to be with anyone she didn’t want, of course, but good grief, if she’s still a virgin by her second birthday, I’m going to slit my wrists.”
“You and Dionysus have a kid together,” I reminded her.
“That was literally ages ago, and you know I gave that baby up as soon he was born,” said Aphrodite. “If I ruled out every god I’d slept with, that’d pretty much just leave Apollo, and he doesn’t count because he thinks he’s the mother.” She laughed. “Could you imagine how pissed he’d be if Beroe ended up with Dionysus?”
I had to admit, it would be hilarious. Now that I thought of it, Beroe had seemed awfully intent on getting acquainted with Dionysus. And they had so much in common. They both liked dressing in drag, they both practically lived in the woods, they both…um…hm…well, time would tell. “I got the impression that Dionysus was the whole reason Beroe came to the party tonight,” I told Aphrodite. Hey, it was true. “She was really insistent on talking to him. She kept wanting to go somewhere they could be alone together, but Eros took her away before they got the chance. I think they’re at Helicon now.”
“Would you resign your daughter to be Chief Maenad when she could be Queen of the Oceans?” said Poseidon.
“I want my daughter to be with whoever pleases her most at any given moment,” said Aphrodite. “And I’m going to talk to her and find out who that is.”
“I’ll wait,” said Poseidon.
Aphrodite disappeared. I figured it wasn’t a great time to be left alone with Poseidon, so I took my popcorn and skittered off to the sidelines. What to do now? Go to Helicon and see what was up with the love gods? Look in on Persephone and Amphitrite? See where Dionysus or Hera had gotten to? I decided to go after the subject most likely to entertain me and least likely to put a curse on me or ask me to do anything.
I exited the tent in the general direction that Dionysus had taken his leave. I was well into the grounds before I saw him, now back in his regular clothes, leaning against the Amphitheater in conversation with Pan. Both of their backs were to me, so I quickly put on my Helmet of Darkness and got close enough to eavesdrop.
“If I were you,” Pan was saying to Dionysus, “I’d sleep on it and see if you’re still in love with her in the morning. Or if you even remember her, for that matter.”
“You have been me, and that’s not what you did, which is why I’ve consulted you,” said Dionysus. “You got Echo to move in with you. I’ve seen some bizarre things in my life, a few of which may not have been hallucinations, but a satyr and a nymph, living together in faithful domesticity, for years, has got to be the greatest oddity of them all. What’s the trick? How did you manage?”
“I asked her,” said Pan.
“I’ve done that,” said Dionysus. “Didn’t go so well. And now I have Poseidon for competition.”
“Well, that shouldn’t be difficult,” said Pan. “The arrogant, entitled guy is the one-night stand, not the soulmate. Poseidon believes he deserves Beroe. You, my friend, need to act like you don’t.”
“But I do.” You don’t, I thought.
“I’ve met her. You don’t,” said Pan. “Look, next time you approach her, make it all about her. Tell her you know you have no business even considering being matched with such perfection, but that her irresistible beauty compelled you to give it a shot anyway. Tell her she’s more beautiful than Hera, than the Graces, than Artemis and Athena, than her mother, even!” The Graces? WTF?
“She is,” said Dionysus. Meh, love goggles.
“Meh,” said Pan. “I prefer women who look like women, but to each his own.”
“Poseidon’s offering her half his kingdom,” said Dionysus. “What do I have in comparison? I offered her my forests, vineyards, and Maenads, but she didn’t care. You think if I taught the Maenads to hunt?” I genuinely couldn’t decide whether that was a terrible idea or an awesome idea.
Pan waved a dismissive hand. “If a man has to charm a woman with his wealth, it means he’s overcompensating for something. How often was Aphrodite in bed with one of us while Hephaestus was making yet another piece of jewelry for her? Of course, that was long before Echo, whom I’m constantly having to remind that I’m not a piece of meat. Face it. Women only want us for one thing.”
“And I’ve got that thing.”
“Don’t I know it. I’d take you over Poseidon any day.”
“If Beroe would join us, I’d take you up on that.”
“And as much as we want it,” said Pan, “women want it a hundred times more.” By this point I was using my sash to muffle my unstoppable laughter. I floated a bit off the ground so they wouldn’t feel me shaking. “You just have to let Beroe know you’re hers for the taking, body and soul,” Pan concluded.
“Don’t know how to flash my soul,” said Dionysus.
“Why do you think all satyrs are musicians?” said Pan. “Nothing like a love song to put a woman in the mood.”
“So, to reiterate, I don’t deserve her, she’s beautiful, my body is hers, love song,” said Dionysus.
“That’s it. Now, I’d better get back inside. Echo’s waiting for me. Later.” Pan disappeared.
Part of me felt a moral obligation to give Dionysus some more helpful advice like “She already wanted to talk to you, so try shutting up and listening to what she had to say.” Another part of me couldn’t stop thinking of the hilarity sure to ensue if I left him to his own devices. I went with the latter part.
I headed back toward Dionysus’ Tent just in time to see Ixion slip out through one of the minor entrances, clearly trying to avoid being noticed. I’d seen him here and there during the Games, always introduced as Zeus’ honored guest. Hadn’t seen him at all tonight, though. I followed him into the mostly-deserted grounds. Where was he going? Was he trying to escape his gilded cage while all the gods were distracted? If so, why was he going further into the grounds? Into the Amphitheater, past the rows and rows of seating, past the stage, toward the tent where the performers prepared for their acts? Could he be meeting an accomplice? Or was I entirely wrong about his motives, and was he just meeting someone for a hookup? In the year that he’d been living at court, I hadn’t seen or heard of him being involved with anyone. Which made sense considering he was a recent widower and a mere mortal, albeit a hot one if you’re into the ruggedly handsome type.
I watched him slip into this small, dark, silent tent as covertly as he’d slipped out of the one that housed the party I was missing. I froze when I heard a hesitant, reserved female voice say, “I thought you weren’t coming.”
It was Hera.