It was dawn-ish when I got to bed, and well past noon when I was up again. The same was true for Apollo and most of my sisters. Most. Some got home later.
Once I was fully awake, I staggered to Apollo’s laboratory in search of a hangover relief potion. Apollo had apparently gotten the same idea himself. I found him leaning over his worktable and tediously measuring out the very ingredients I wanted. He didn’t keep hangover potions on hand because, in his esteemed opinion, we shouldn’t be getting drunk on a regular basis anyway.
“I, uh, thought the rest of you might-“
“I won’t tell the others you’re as smashed as I am,” I said. “Just mix me a full dose.”
“Deal,” he said. “While I’m mixing, will you get a couple of salves? Just basic cuts and bruises.”
I surveyed the damage. “Can’t you heal those yourself?” I asked.
“Oh.” He waved a clumsy hand. His smooth skin was instantly restored to its usual state of perfection.
“Your night was that good, huh?” I said.
“Calliope was summoned away, and I found the Maenads again,” he said.
“You found them or they found you?” I laughed.
“A little of both,” he said with a guilty smile. “What about your night? I’m sure Dionysus was a perfect gentleman?” He inspected two vials of the mixture. Satisfied, he handed one to me and drank one himself.
“Dionysus lost interest as soon as Beroe came in,” I said. “One look, and he decided she is his future wife. And the weird thing was, she seemed kind of interested in him, too.”
When people get a shock while they’re in the middle of swallowing liquid, they don’t usually spray it out all over the place like the standard slapstick sight gag. They just choke. I came up behind Apollo and slipped my arms around his torso. “Arms up,” I calmly instructed. “Relax. Don’t force it, your body knows what to do,” I coaxed as I pumped right below his sternum.
I let go when he was breathing normally again and had regained enough dexterity to push my arms away like the ingrate that he is. Then I chugged down my own potion.
“Please tell me nothing happened between them,” Apollo said.
“They talked a little bit,” I said. “Sounded like they’ll probably talk some more.”
“Does she know who he is?”
“Yeah,” I said. “He wasn’t shapeshifted or anything. He was in drag like how you saw him, but he introduced himself, and several people confirmed his identity in her presence.”
“No, does she know who he is?” said Apollo. “What kind of person he is? As in, completely unsuitable for her?”
“You know she’s heard us talk about him,” I said. “And I don’t know about unsuitable. I mean, I know girls going after guys like their fathers is a stereotype, but most stereotypes exist for a reason. Or is ‘stereotypes exist for a reason’ a stereotype in and of itself? Stereoception…”
“Is everything a joke to you?” said Apollo.
“I’m the Muse of Comedy, so, pretty much, yeah,” I said.
“Maybe I should talk to her,” said Apollo.
“Okay, listen,” I said, laying my delightful jocularity aside for the moment. “Beroe is not your daughter.”
“I know,” said Apollo.
“She is Aphrodite’s daughter. Adonis made a baby with Aphrodite and not you. Aphrodite was not, like, your surrogate or something, she is the woman Adonis made a lovechild with because he was in love with her,” I reiterated. “Are you completely cognizant of all of this?”
“Are we talking about the same story?” said Apollo. “Because the Adonis I remember was murdered in cold blood before he could make a choice, and the mother of his ‘lovechild’ was back to sleeping with his murderer before said child was half grown.”
“Well, that ‘child’ is a fully grown woman now,” I said. “It’s her own business who she wants to get involved with, up to and including Zeus himself. Or Hera herself. I have no idea what she’s into.”
“Who knows,” said Apollo. “Maybe that’s what’ll provoke Zeus to finally kill her.”
“Don’t talk like that,” I said. “If Zeus can kill Hera, he can kill you.”
“I wouldn’t worry about it,” said Apollo. “Zeus swore he wouldn’t kill any of the people gathered in that room. Hera and I were both among them. Besides, Hera having an affair is slightly less likely to happen than Ares becoming a pacifist.”
I didn’t say a word.
“What?” said Apollo.
“I didn’t say a word,” I said.
“But you looked something,” he said. “You’re thinking something.”
“It’s nothing,” I insisted.
“You can tell me,” he said with a conspiratorial smile. “As long as they can’t hear you, there’s nothing you could say about either of Their Majesties that I’ll find inappropriate.”
“Oh, that’s a relief,” I said. “You know how much I hate it when you think something I’ve done or said is inappropriate. Seriously, it was nothing.”
“I don’t think it was,” said Apollo.
“Hey, look! Beroe’s making questionable choices!” I pointed in a random direction.
“Thalia,” said Apollo, becoming more serious, “you weren’t thinking of just a crude joke, were you?”
“Yes, that was all,” I said. “I called Hera a really bad name in my head and I feel bad about it now.”
“Is there something you know that I don’t?” Apollo persisted.
“That’s a pretty long list,” I said. “Do you have about half a millennium to spare?”
“I’m going to ask you a very direct question, and, as a friend, I would appreciate it very much if you would give me a direct answer,” said Apollo, dead serious now. “Is Hera having an affair?”
“As a friend,” I said, “I know that Hera is someone who has hurt you and your family. A lot. And as a friend, I would be very concerned that, if you had this kind of information on her, you’d use it as leverage to hurt her back. And that you’d want badly enough to hurt her that you’d use someone who’s hurt you even more to do it.”
“You mean Zeus,” he said.
“I wouldn’t use him as a hitman,” said Apollo. “Not when he could turn on me or my family at any second. If Hera’s having an affair, I just want the satisfaction of knowing. Do you know how many times I’ve had to listen to Hera call my mother a whore for letting herself be raped in her sister’s place? I just want to know the Pure and Holy Virtuous Goddess of Marriage is as much of an amoral hypocrite as anyone else at court.”
“You already know she torments children for the sins of their father,” I said. “Theoretically, if she were having an affair, would you really need that knowledge on top of it?”
“You have a point,” he accepted. He changed the subject. “I didn’t see much of Artemis or Athena all week, did you?”
“No, they kept to themselves most of the time,” I said. “I only ran into them once or twice. Seems like they were having a good anniversary.”
“I was thinking of visiting them at Helicon later today,” he said. “You and Calliope should come with me. Maybe you’ll have a chance to talk to Athena alone. I’m sure she misses you.”
“I’m sure Athena could go so very much longer than a week without missing me,” I said, thinking Apollo could use a stronger dose of his hangover potion.
“But so much happens during the Games,” said Apollo. “You’ll want to catch each other up.”
I sighed. “When do we leave?”
When the three of us got to Helicon late that afternoon, we were far from alone. Both Dionysus and Poseidon stood outside the Museum, each accompanied by a battalion of gift-bearing minions. A dozen Maenads were with Dionysus. They carried bushels of grapes, caskets of wine, and all kinds of offerings from the forest. One of the Maenads threw Apollo a leer of recognition. He blushed, seeming embarrassed at her attention and his pleasure therein. I barely noticed, because I was busy checking out the twelve ripped, shirtless, blue-haired soldiers behind Poseidon. Each one carried an open chest of gold, gems, and seashells. I knew a little something about the maritime economy from when I’d lived with Poseidon’s son. Those seashells were worth way more than the gems.
Aphrodite was standing out front listening to Poseidon and Dionysus talk over each other. Given the fact that neither god had skipped this formality and teleported inside, I deduced that one of the goddesses had placed some sort of invisible shield over the Museum.
“Thalia,” Apollo whispered to me, “is Poseidon here for the reason I think he is?”
“It depends on why you think he’s here,” I whispered back. “Here for the party? Here to kick ass and chew bubblegum? Here-“
“For the same reason Dionysus is here,” said Apollo.
“Did I forget to mention that Poseidon proposed to Beroe last night, too?” I said. “Don’t worry, she wasn’t interested.”
“Poseidon’s already married,” said Apollo.
“Not anymore,” said Calliope, her hushed volume matching ours. “I was with Persephone and Amphitrite when Aphrodite delivered the news.”
“You were with Amphitrite last night?” I said. “How long?”
“I’ll catch you up later,” said Calliope.
“Amphitrite must have been devastated,” said Apollo.
“Actually, she was relieved,” said Calliope. “She’s staying with Rhoda and Helios until she figures out a more permanent arrangement.”
“Poseidon left Amphitrite for Beroe, Amphitrite’s happy about it, and Beroe turned Poseidon down anyway?” Apollo reiterated.
“Yes,” I said. “Calliope, are you sure you don’t want to catch us up now?” I asked, not feeling particularly eager to carry out my errand on this visit. “How did you meet up with Persephone and Amphitrite last night? Did one of them summon you?”
“Persephone did,” Calliope said. “But this can wait.”
Calliope strode to the front of the line while we followed a couple paces behind. “My Lords,” she said. The two gods went silent and diverted their attention from Aphrodite and each other to her. “Aphrodite,” she greeted our hostess, the informality a token of friendship rather than irreverence. “What seems to be the trouble?” Seeing that she was clearly still addressing Aphrodite, the gods didn’t answer.
Aphrodite did. “They both want to marry my daughter, and I’m hearing their cases,” said Aphrodite. “It would be a lot easier if she’d COME OUT AND TALK TO THEM HERSELF,” she shouted in the direction of Beroe’s wing of the Museum.
“I said I’m not marrying anyone!” Beroe’s voice answered back from out of sight. “Is that Calliope?”
“And Thalia and Apollo,” I called.
“I’ll see them,” said Beroe. “But only them. Still not marrying anyone.”
“Go ahead,” Aphrodite nodded to us.
“Calliope,” said Dionysus. His eyes were clear and his voice was steady.
“Yes?” Calliope said, startled at the address.
“I don’t imagine I can expect a good word from you?”
Calliope’s face said everything her words couldn’t. “I can’t control how Beroe feels,” she said. “But you deserve a fair word, and that’s what I’ll give.”
We walked past Aphrodite with no problem. She must have charmed the barrier to let us through. Once we were through the columns of the empty open-air rotunda, we saw Beroe off to the side, just inside the entrance to the wing that housed her quarters. She motioned for us to follow. We silently went with her to her door.
Once she locked us all in the room, she asked Apollo, “Can we get a sun globe?”
Apollo complied. A small round globe of light materialized in the middle of the room near the ceiling. It was blinding at first, but once Beroe shuttered the windows, the lighting was the same as the pleasant sunshine outside. “There we go,” said Beroe. “Have a seat.” She motioned to some giant cushions strewn around the room. We all took one. She did, too.
“Are you being threatened?” Apollo asked.
“I’m being annoyed,” Beroe said. “Poseidon, I’m not worried about at all. Mom doesn’t want me to move to the Ocean Realm, so I’m safe there.”
“And what about Dionysus?” Apollo asked.
“That’s what I wanted to talk to you guys about,” Beroe said. “Now, I want to make it clear that I’m not interested in Dionysus romantically. At all.” I laughed a little at Apollo’s dramatic relief. Beroe continued, “He’s hot and everything, but I just don’t want a relationship with anyone right now, and a hookup with him would be too much drama.”
“Understood,” said Calliope. “But?”
“There is something I’ve been wanting to tell him, for a while now,” said Beroe. “That’s why I went to the after party last night. I knew he’d be there. I didn’t expect the idiot to propose to me right away. But I still really need to talk to him. I was wondering if you’d be willing to facilitate a meeting at the Parnassus museum. A secret meeting. I don’t want anyone to think I’m dating him, or make it out to be a bigger deal than it is in any way. Except it kind of is a big deal, which is why I don’t want anyone to know about it.”
“What do you want to tell him?” I asked.
“That’s my business,” Beroe said.
“Of course,” Calliope said, “but knowing more about what’s going on could help us help you.”
“It has to do with one of my memories,” said Beroe. “That’s all you need to know. My memories are mine, and I’m not obligated to share them with anyone. You know Psyche’ll back me up on that.” Beroe flicked her wrist and produced a familiar notarized document signed by Psyche and dated a little under a year ago. It read, Beroe’s memories belong to her. She is not obligated to share them with anyone.
Calliope’s self-restraint could almost be physically felt. “Was Dionysus in this memory?” she asked with an affected calm and pleasantness.
“I told you, it’s none of your business,” said Beroe. “It’s just something I feel like I need to let him know, if he doesn’t already.”
“I was just thinking it might be helpful to talk to someone else first,” said Calliope, keeping up the same restraint and affectation.
“It would not,” said Beroe.
Calliope’s restraint broke. “Look, I already know,” she said. “The Corybantes told me. Dionysus didn’t kill my son; Zeus did. Because of some secret he’d discovered.”
“No, that’s not it,” said Beroe.
“Beroe, please, don’t lie to me,” Calliope pleaded. “You know the secret, don’t you? My sons know it. My mother knows it. No one will tell me. Can’t you? Please? I just want to know what my son died for.”
“Wait, the Corybantes are your sons?” said Beroe.
“Way to go, Calliope,” I said.
“I thought you two had them together,” Beroe indicated me and Apollo. “So you really aren’t sleeping with Thalia? Dad never could figure out whether you were or not. Half the time you were with him, you couldn’t shut up about her.”
For the moment, Beroe became my favorite person in the known universe. “Hey,” I said, “your memories, your business. And if you want to talk to Dionysus in private, I know just the place. I’ll take you there tomorrow, and then you can summon him.”
“Thank you!” said Beroe. “Nice to know one of you respects me as an autonomous person.”
“Beroe-” Calliope started.
“Since apparently we owe each other all our secrets,” said Beroe, “who’s the Corybantes’ father? I doubt it’s Apollo. There’d be no reason for either of you to cover that up.”
“You’ve made your point,” said Calliope. “You’re right. It’s none of my business. Why should I need to know why my son was murdered?”
“You do know why,” said Beroe. “Partly, at least. And you know when, how, and by whom. That’s way more than a lot of people get. Thalia, you’ll pick me up tomorrow?”
“Right after lunch,” I said. “Or I can pack a picnic and make it high noon.”
“Make it dawn, before breakfast,” said Beroe. Why was I keeping this person alive again? “And you’ll leave us alone as soon as Dionysus answers my summons.”
“Of course,” I said. I crossed my fingers behind my back.
“I don’t think it’s a good idea for you to be completely alone with Dionysus in an isolated location,” said Apollo.
“I don’t care,” said Beroe.
“Your father didn’t care, either,” said Apollo.
“Thank you,” said Beroe. “You’d think I’d know that, with me inheriting Dad’s memories and having spent half my childhood reliving his death and everything. I’m so glad I have you to fill in the gaps.”
“I know you have his memories,” said Apollo. “I’m just saying, if you want one of us to be there-“
“You were there when Dad died,” said Beroe. “You couldn’t stop it. What’s going to happen is going to happen, and none of you can do anything about it.”
“Just be careful,” said Apollo.
“I’m not going unarmed,” said Beroe. “I can take him in a fight.”
“Summon one of us if there’s any trouble,” said Apollo. I inferred that “one of us” meant any of the elders in Beroe’s life, not just the three in the room.
“Sure,” Beroe said with careful carelessness. “If it’ll make you feel better, I’ll call you so you can watch me die, too.”
“Don’t talk like that,” said Calliope.
“Hey,” said Beroe, “I’m the only one here who has to deal with the possibility of being killed. I get to decide how I cope with that, not you.” She stood up. We did likewise. “Now, I don’t think you guys actually came here to see me. You should probably go take care of whatever you’re really here for. Artemis and Athena are out, but I’ll bet they’ll come back if you summon them.”
“I’ll see you tomorrow,” I said, contentedly matching her typical lack of ceremony. I liked Beroe’s lack of ceremony.
“Be careful,” said Apollo.
“Aren’t I always?” Beroe said with a cheeky grin.
Calliope didn’t say anything.
Once we were closed out in the corridor, Apollo said, “Calliope, I guess we’d better summon Artemis; and Thalia, wasn’t there something you wanted to talk to Athena about?”
“Are you sure I said that?” I replied.
“I’m very sure,” he said.
“What were you going to talk to Athena about?” asked Calliope.
“I’ll catch you up later,” I said.
I closed myself in one of the uninhabited rooms and summoned Athena. She didn’t take long to appear. “Thalia,” Athena greeted me with a smile. Why was I freaked out by the fact that she was glad to see me? “Artemis got Apollo’s summons a couple minutes ago, so I figured someone would be calling me soon enough. What’s on your mind?”
“The Pythian Games went pretty good this year, huh?” I said. “Did you and Artemis have a good anniversary?”
“It was wonderful,” said Athena. “I even got Artemis to sit through the chess tournament.”
“That’s great,” I said.
“It was,” said Athena. “What do you really want?”
“Right. Okay. So, you know how you like to solve hypothetical scenarios?”
“I hate hypothetical scenarios.”
“Hypothetically, say I’d stumbled upon something that could lead to a major scandal that could mean huge trouble for an Olympian goddess of significant power. Would you want me to tell you about it?”
I half expected Athena to be annoyed, but she looked…amused? “Hypothetically,” she said, “suppose, for a number of complex strategic reasons, I needed a particular goddess to have an affair. Now, suppose I knew of a handsome, powerful mortal man who’d had a lifelong devotion to this goddess that went beyond mere worship, to the point that he fell in love with a woman who resembled the images of that goddess that adorned his home. Hypothetically, suppose he already had this goddess’ attention through the prayers and sacrifices he was offering for her blessing on his impending marriage. Hypothetically, suppose it would be a simple matter to bring this mortal’s bride to the goddess’ husband’s attention. Hypothetically, suppose I had the power to manipulate both cuckolded parties into not only meeting, but living under the same roof.”
“Whoa!” I said. “You got Dia killed?”
“Who’s Dia?” Athena said with an innocent shrug. “Hypothetically, let she who has never used a human as collateral damage cast the first stone. My point is, hypothetically, if a scandal like the one you’ve hypothesized was in the works, do you really think the Muse of Comedy would know about it before the Goddess of Wisdom and Strategy?”
“Hypothetically, bugging the Goddess of Wisdom and Strategy with this would be her idiot brother-in-law’s stupid idea,” I hastily disclaimed.
“I figured as much,” said Athena. “By the way, how are things between you and Apollo these days?”
“You know, I think I’d better be getting home.”
“It was nice to see you. Have a good evening.”
I went to Calliope’s room that evening after dinner. Once she’d closed the door behind us, I said, “Want to catch up?”
“Might as well,” she said. Obviously she was still upset about the way our talk with Beroe had gone.
“I’ll go first,” I offered. I told her all about Poseidon and Dionysus’ suit for Beroe, about Eros breaking Amphitrite’s age-long love spell, about Hera’s hostility to the very idea of a married couple divorcing for a silly reason like not loving each other. I told her about Dionysus going to his old friend Pan for relationship advice. I didn’t tell her about Hera and Ixion. It didn’t really have anything to do with her, and I’d already not-told too many people this story that wasn’t mine to tell. Besides, the story about Dionysus and Pan had her laughing, which I felt was the best way to end things. “So, let’s hear your story,” I concluded.
“Well,” she said, “I missed everything with Beroe and her suitors since I was at the other side of the tent by the wine fountain. I didn’t drink enough to completely lose control, just enough to relax. I remember the whole night.” I inferred from her broad smile that there were some good memories in there somewhere.
“I’d already had a few dances and turned down propositions from a few handsome immortals I didn’t recognize when I got a summons from Persephone,” she went on. “I joined her in her room in Demeter’s quarters on Olympus. Aphrodite was with her. Amphitrite was lying on her bed in a drugged stupor, twisting and mumbling. At first I thought she was sick. I asked if they’d summoned Aglaea. Persephone said she hadn’t, and there was a reason she’d summoned me instead. Do you know how Eros’ lead arrows work as a love spell antidote?” she asked.
“I know that they do,” I said. “I never gave much thought as to the how.”
“I hadn’t either,” Calliope said. “Aphrodite told me last night. The gold arrows, as you know, cause infatuation. All you can see is a person’s best qualities. If they don’t have any good qualities, your mind invents some and ascribes them to the object of your infatuation. The lead arrows, the antidote, neutralize the infatuation by making you remember the person’s worst qualities and everything about them that’s unappealing to you. It resets your mind to its pre-infatuation state.”
“So you’re saying the lead arrows are actually a memory spell?” I said. I had an idea of where this was going.
“Exactly,” said Calliope. “Aphrodite had already told Persephone that she remembered our encounter at Adonis’ passage into Hades. The Furies, the Titans’ relocation, all of it. Persephone wasn’t happy about it, but she knew she’d have to go back to Hades to get more Lethe water, and she’s almost made it through an entire season without a tantrum from Demeter. Besides, she now had an answer to something she’d been wondering about for almost two years, or so she thought.”
“Let me guess. Adonis did drink the vial I gave him?” I said. “And somewhere along the line, he told his parents?”
“She knows; Hades doesn’t,” said Calliope. “They visit the Elysian Fields from time to time, you know. Surveying their kingdom. Communing with their most honored subjects. The first time Persephone saw Adonis there, she completely broke down. I guess Adonis felt sorry for her, because the next time she came alone, he told her the truth. He said he didn’t know who gave him the vial, though. Persephone’s asked Mom, who’s denied knowing anything about it. Aphrodite told Persephone about her and me waking up with the same vials next to our beds. Persephone wanted to know if I had any idea of where they came from. I told her I didn’t. I have a hard time believing she doesn’t suspect, since she’s the one who gave you the Helmet of Darkness in the first place, but I figured I should play along.”
“Was that the only reason she called you?” I asked.
“No,” said Calliope. “Do you remember Amphitrite started to say a different name after she was shot?”
“I thought she was just mumbling,” I said.
“She wasn’t. She started to say Megaera,” said Calliope. “After she was in Persephone’s room, she did say it, all the way. Persephone gave her a mild sleeping potion before she called us.
“Adonis and Persephone have had a lot of time to talk since he- she- Adonis hasn’t decided on pronouns, so I’m going to keep saying he- died. Persephone’s learned a lot about the Furies, including their original names. Adonis’ name was Tisiphone. Aphrodite’s was Alecto. The third one was Megaera.”
“Did Aphrodite remember all that, too?” I asked.
“She confirmed it,” said Calliope. “They were like the first children of the Titans. Not sisters the way we are, just a set of creatures made by the same creators. The Titans made one for each kingdom. Alecto, the most powerful, was for Zeus. She was the only one who could challenge him. Tisiphone, the most alluring, was for Hades. She was the only one who could charm her way into his household. Megaera, the third one, was for Poseidon’s. She was kind of an afterthought. When the Titans were first imprisoned, they thought Zeus and Hades would divide the world between the two of them. They split Megaera off from Alecto at the last minute when they learned Poseidon would rule a third realm.”
“Wow. I really hope Amphitrite was still asleep when they told that story,” I said.
“She was,” said Calliope.
“And I’m still a little unclear on why they called you,” I said. “Did they just want to compare notes?”
“Persephone was trying to figure out what to do about Amphitrite, and she felt like I’d be more help than Aphrodite,” Calliope said. “The news of Amphitrite’s divorce made things even more complicated.”
“So what did you guys decide?” I asked.
“When the sleeping potion wore off, we gave her a chance to get her bearings,” said Calliope. “Persephone and I confirmed her new memories. Aphrodite told her Hera had granted the divorce. Amphitrite was ecstatic at this news. Apparently, before she was enchanted, sex in general just wasn’t that appealing to her. That sent Aphrodite into a panic. Now she’s worried Beroe’s the same way.”
“Hence her determination to get Beroe hooked up with one of her suitors,” I deduced.
“Likely,” said Calliope. “Anyway, Aphrodite left, and we summoned Rhoda, who, thankfully, was sober enough to have a serious conversation. She was more than happy to put Amphitrite up in her own quarters. She always knew her parents’ marriage was an unhappy one, and she’s looking forward to helping her mom get a new start.
“Once that was taken care of, I went back to the after party and stayed there the rest of the night,” Calliope concluded.
“Oh, come on,” I said. “The way you’re smiling, there’s got to be more. I don’t think I’ve seen you smile like that since…oh my goddess, you didn’t!”
“Yeah,” Calliope blushed. “I hadn’t planned on it, but Ares was there, Aphrodite was done with him for the night, and, well, one thing led to another. Don’t worry, I remembered the contraception spell.”
“That’s awesome!” I said.
“It was a ridiculous thing to do,” said Calliope, “and I doubt I’ll repeat it. I don’t love Ares. I can’t even honestly say I like him. But I know him, and he knows my body, and I needed this. I don’t know how else to explain it.”
“You don’t have to explain anything,” I assured her. “I really am happy for you.” I was. As much as I disliked Ares, I knew what a big step this was for her.
“What about you?” she asked.
“Nothing exciting,” I said. “After eavesdropping, I just got hammered and danced a lot. I think I was swinging from a tent pole at one point.”
“You never ran into Apollo or anyone?”
“Nope. I guess the Maenads kept him busy.”
“Well, good for him,” said Calliope. But she seemed a little disappointed.
Suddenly, I was distracted. “Athena’s summoning me to the Olympian Court,” I said.
“Persephone’s summoning me,” said Calliope.
“I’ll meet you there,” I said.
Calliope and I materialized in the center of the throne room alongside Beroe and Persephone. Beroe stood at attention, armed with her bow, quiver, and hunting knife. She flashed me a brief look of grateful acknowledgment. She ignored Calliope. The Twelve were all seated in their thrones, except Zeus, Aphrodite, and Dionysus, who each stood before theirs. Poseidon stood beside Zeus.
“It seems my interests and Aphrodite’s have intersected,” said Zeus. “Poseidon has petitioned me for a seat in my court. There is power in a circle of twelve, and misfortune in thirteen. Expanding my court by one more is out of the question, as is simply dismissing one of the Twelve without just cause.
“Aphrodite tells me that Poseidon and my son, Dionysus, are rivals for the hand of her daughter, Beroe. Aphrodite is unwilling to give her daughter to the Ocean Realm, but has not ruled out giving her to its King.”
Beroe tensed her arms, ready to reach for her knife or her bow. What was the gambit here? To say Aphrodite had resented being matched with Hephaestus against her will was the ultimate understatement. So was saying she hadn’t been thrilled about her son getting married, period. Surely she wouldn’t do the same thing to her daughter.
“In my wisdom and justice,” said Zeus, “I have decided to solve both conflicts with one resolution. Aphrodite?”
“You both make a good case,” Aphrodite said. “I’d be pleased to see my daughter hook up with either one of you.” How could she be so glib about this. So…happy? If the next words out of her mouth weren’t But she doesn’t want to, I was going to scream. “So I’m going to give you two a chance to prove which of you is the superior suitor. I’ve commissioned Athena, the Goddess of Battle Strategy, to design a series of trials in which Poseidon and Dionysus will compete against one another. The winner of the tournament will be given Beroe’s hand in marriage. You have my word.”
I was tensed to run for cover. I was seriously afraid Beroe would shoot us all in the head and blow up the palace. But she just gripped her knife harder and kept her eyes on Aphrodite. Her ominous, deep, hate-filled eyes. Her eyes of fury.
“And you have my word,” said Zeus, “that whichever of these two gods marries Beroe will be numbered among the Twelve.”