“What in Tartarus are you all thinking?” Apollo demanded. We were in the common room in the Helicon Museum with the rest of what had become Team Beroe – Aphrodite, Aglaea, Euphrosyne, Eros, Psyche, Calliope, Artemis, and Athena.
“Poseidon wants a seat among the Twelve so he can keep an eye on Zeus,” said Athena. “Zeus felt like outright denying him a place in his court would imply that he does, in fact, see Poseidon as a threat.”
“So he’s counting on Dionysus to win this contest and send him home in defeat?” said Apollo. “Why not issue a general challenge to any of the Twelve who would answer? I’d have fought him for the sake of keeping Beroe out of this.”
“Any of us would have,” said Aphrodite, “but there’d still be the unrelated issue of both Poseidon and Dionysus wanting to marry her. Like Zeus said, this’ll solve both problems at once.”
“I don’t see how Beroe marrying Dionysus is a solution to anything,” said Apollo. “And that’s even assuming he wins.”
“It’s under control,” said Beroe. “I’m not some helpless pawn with no agency.” I believed her, but it struck me as odd that she was completely on board with this plan when, just a few hours earlier, she’d explicitly and emphatically stated that she didn’t want to marry anyone. And when, just a few minutes earlier, she’d met the announcement of this plan with a death glare that I’d totally bought. Was it just an act, then? I’d tried to give Beroe acting lessons when she was a kid. We never got very far because I don’t waste my time on people who blaspheme my sacred tradition. What if Beroe hating acting lessons was an act?
“It won’t be so bad if they get married,” Euphrosyne said to Apollo, her words snapping me out of my reverie. “Dionysus lives in the forest and Beroe likes the forest. She might not even have to live with him. He probably won’t notice.” This also struck me as odd. Seeing the best in everything was Euphrosyne’s shtick, but so was looking out for her kinda-sorta sister. Something was definitely off about all of this. There had to be more going on than we were being informed of, and I was sure Athena was behind it.
“Don’t even try it,” said Apollo, brushing Euphrosyne’s hand away. “I don’t want to be happy about this.”
“Add that to the mile-long list,” I said.
“And you,” Apollo said to Aphrodite. “How could you, for one second, entertain the thought of doing to your daughter what Zeus and Hera did to you?”
“That’s completely different.” said Aphrodite. “Dionysus and Poseidon are sooo much hotter than Hephaestus. Way better in bed, too.” Eros covered his ears and treated us to a few seconds of loud ululating.
“The difference,” Beroe said once he’d quieted down, “is that unlike my mother, I don’t need marriage to be about love. In fact, I prefer it that way. Yeah, I was turned off by all that mushy crap they were throwing at me at the party, but a power play? I’m all over that. I’ll tell whichever idiot I marry that that’s all it is and that they’d better deal with it.”
“Are we even related?” said Eros.
“We’re both children of Aphrodite,” said Beroe. “You got the romance, I got the inability to give a damn.”
“But what you’re suggesting,” said Aglaea, “that’s not what marriage is. Are you telling me you’d be okay with your husband having dozens, maybe hundreds, of lovers? Because that’s going to be the case either way.”
“Yeah, I will. Because I won’t be in love with him,” said Beroe. “And this is exactly what marriage is. A legally binding alliance. Love can have as little or as much to do with it as anyone wants it to.”
“All that aside,” said Apollo, “let’s get back to the part where we’re expecting Dionysus to win this tournament, which I imagine won’t consist of drinking contests and dance-offs.”
“He’s fought before,” said Aphrodite.
“Mortals,” said Apollo.
“Mortals whose deaths I remember,” said Beroe. “He does tend to rely more on shock and awe than on strategic martial arts, but then, I have these memories because he successfully killed these people.”
“Poseidon can’t die,” said Apollo. “He’s a true warrior, a son of the Titans, the Wielder of the Trident.”
“Why don’t you marry him?” Beroe smirked.
“I’m not into obsessive, controlling, cheating pricks,” said Apollo. I kept my thoughts on that statement to myself.
“They have their uses,” said Aphrodite.
“The blue hair’s kind of sexy,” said Euphrosyne. “Even if Beroe ended up losing to- ended up marrying Poseidon, it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world. She’s half sea goddess.”
“I’m not going to marry Poseidon,” said Beroe. “I want Dionysus to win, and he will. It’s that simple. Love deities can influence the Fates.”
“Since when are you a love deity?” asked Eros.
“Mom is and Dad was,” said Beroe. “Why wouldn’t I be?”
“You don’t care about anyone else being in love,” said Eros.
“Maybe I’m the first love deity who knows how to mind my own damn business,” said Beroe.
“Guys, don’t fight,” said Euphrosyne. “There are lots of ways to be a love god.”
“It’s okay,” said Psyche. “Beroe really does feel at peace with all of this, and so does Athena. I think we should trust them.”
“Beroe doesn’t love either of them,” Eros persisted.
“Beroe knows that,” said Psyche. “It’s up to her what to do with that information.”
“Even if you’re okay with a marriage of convenience,” said Calliope, “how do you know Dionysus or Poseidon will be? If they decide they have a right to their wife’s body, very few gods outside this room would condemn them for it. The God of Law and his wife the Goddess of Marriage certainly wouldn’t.”
“I don’t have to worry about Poseidon because Dionysus will win,” said Beroe. “And Dionysus will agree to my terms. Trust me.”
“I think we’ve established that Beroe is making an informed decision,” said Athena.
“Yeah,” said Aphrodite. “Everyone who doesn’t live here can go home now.”
“You don’t live here anymore,” said Artemis.
“Right, and I want to go home,” said Aphrodite. She gave Beroe a tight hug and a kiss on the cheek. Beroe responded with an indifferent expression and a light pat on the back. She repeated this ritual with Eros and Psyche. I forced myself not to laugh at Beroe’s plight as a non-hugger in a family of love gods. The Olympians went home, and so did the Parnassans.
I went straight to my room, closed the door, flopped back on the bed, and snapped myself into a nightgown. And had a moment of complete panic as two figures emerged from behind the open doors of my wardrobe.
I calmed down a bit once I recognized the figures as Aglaea and Euphrosyne. They both held a finger to their lips. I silently motioned for them to have a seat on the bed.
“Do we need to have a talk about boundaries?” I whispered.
“The others can’t know we’re here,” said Aglaea. “Not even Calliope, and especially not Apollo.”
“I have a feeling I don’t want to know what this is about,” I said, only because I had a feeling this was pertinent to keeping Beroe safe and alive.
Euphrosyne took my hand. “What’s more fun than sharing a secret?” she said with a conspiratorial smile. “Come on, we’re the Graces!”
“You have a point,” I agreed. Of course sharing a secret with these two would be fun, I found myself thinking. Why had I ever thought otherwise? In fact, maybe I could convince them to stay for a sleepover and we could eat desserts and try on costumes and share secrets all night. “Okay, what’s the secret?”
“It’s about the tournament,” said Aglaea. “I don’t know why, and I don’t need to, but Athena was very clear that you needed to know the whole story.”
“Aw, that’s so nice of Athena,” I said in sincere bliss. “She knows I love stories.”
“Phrossie, dial it back a little bit,” said Aglaea.
“I’m trying,” said Euphrosyne. “She’s really receptive. Besides, I think she’s fun like this.”
“Story! Story!” I chanted. “Once upon a time…”
“Once upon a time,” said Euphrosyne, “a king and a prince fell in love with a warrior princess.”
“Were they handsome?” I grinned. Why was Aglaea facepalming? Didn’t she like stories?
“Very,” said Euphrosyne. “The king was broad and rugged and had long hair and a thick beard the color of the ocean. The prince was slender and earthy and looked beautiful dressed as a man or a woman or both. The warrior princess hated the king, and while she liked the prince, she didn’t love him. So she devised a plan. She would order the king and the prince to face each other in a tournament. Whoever won the tournament would be given the warrior princess’ hand in marriage.
“The warrior princess was crafty and clever. She and the prince both had the power to change their shape. So they disguised as each other. The prince watched the tournament at the princess’ mother’s side, dressed in dazzling gowns and sparkling coronets. The warrior princess fought the king in the tournament. Because she was so strong and smart and well-trained, the warrior princess defeated the king.
“The warrior princess and the prince changed back to their true forms right after the prize was awarded. The princess had won her own hand in marriage. She belonged to herself.”
“And she lived happily ever after,” I concluded with a happy sigh. “That was such a lovely story! Athena knows what I like. We’re very good friends, you know.”
“Thalia, the princess is Beroe,” said Aglaea. “You can’t tell anyone.”
I held a pillow to my face to muffle my long, delighted giggles. “You mean Beroe is going to disguise as Dionysus and fight Poseidon? That is awesome! Oh, man, that is the funniest thing I ever heard! Right, we can’t tell Apollo, or Calliope. They’ll spoil the fun.”
“And you think the story has a happy ending?” said Aglaea. “Athena seemed to think that was pretty important.”
“It’s a comedy,” I rolled my eyes. “That’s the only way it could possibly end. Who’d end the story by killing the Warrior Princess? That’s just stupid.”
“So, Beroe lives happily ever after?” said Euphrosyne.
“Beroe lives happily ever after,” I repeated with a broad, contented smile. “Hey, do you guys want to have a sleepover? I’ve got these great new group costumes that only work with three people. I made them for me and the Twerps, but they won’t mind.”
“We have to get back to Olympus,” said Aglaea. “We’ll see you at the tournament tomorrow. Don’t forget, you’re taking Beroe to meet Dionysus tomorrow morning.”
“Okay, see you!” I said.
“Bye,” said Euphrosyne. She squeezed my hand. Then she and her mom disappeared.
Stupid Euphrosyne and her stupid living opioid powers. Beroe was…Dionysus was…Oh sure, let the demigoddess fight the Son of the Titans…Gotta tell Calliope…Can’t tell Calliope…Gotta tell Apollo…can’t tell Apollo…Athena, what the…Aglaea, what the…Aphrodite, what the…were all the people mad…W…T…F???????????????????????
Oh, I would be meeting Beroe in the morning, all right.
I wouldn’t have been surprised at all to hear from the Fates that night. But they’d been silent so long that I also wasn’t surprised when I didn’t hear a thing.
At dawn the next morning, I summoned Beroe to the stable. “Did you talk to Aglaea and Euphrosyne last night?” she asked.
“Yeah,” I said. “We’ll talk more when we get to our destination.” I mounted Pegasus. Beroe mounted him behind me.
“No need,” she said.
“Yes need,” I said. “Pegasus, let’s go to my hollow.”
Pegasus flew us to the secluded little hollow that I’d discovered four years earlier. It wasn’t entirely secret anymore, but less than a handful of people knew about it. It was the best place I could think of to facilitate a secret meeting.
We dismounted by the gazebo. Eros’ wind harp was still standing, and the large cushions on the gazebo floor looked like new. I suspected Eros and Psyche came here on their own from time to time. “So, let’s talk about your plans for the tournament,” I said.
“Let’s not,” said Beroe. “Go, but leave the horse.”
“Are you sure you know what you-”
I knew there was no persuading Beroe when she was like this, so I did the only sensible thing – floated away, snapped up my Helmet of Darkness as soon as I was behind a tree, put it on, and invisibly floated back just in time to see Dionysus answer Beroe’s summons.
He was wearing a leopard-skin one-shoulder chiton and sporting a wreath of grape leaves on his head. In his arms was a casket of wine. “You called, my love?”
“I need to talk to you about the tournament,” Beroe said.
“I will fight valiantly for your honor,” he declared. “Old Blue-Hair won’t know what hit him.”
“Yeah, that’s the idea,” said Beroe. “I would appreciate it if you would hear me out on this plan we’ve come up with.”
“Of course, my dearest. Shall we have a drink first?”
“We shall not,” said Beroe.
“As you wish. But could we at least sit down?”
“I guess so.”
They each took a cushion in the gazebo. Beroe gave a quick rundown of her shapeshifting plan. I wasn’t paying too close attention since I’d already heard it. I was mostly keeping a hawk-like eye Dionysus, ready to pounce and to summon Artemis if he made a nonconsensual move.
“So your plan is to win the tournament as me, and then I’ll marry you as me as you?” said Dionysus. “A bit vanilla for my tastes, but we can start out slow.”
“No,” said Beroe. “We change back to our real selves after I accept the prize. Then I have my own hand in marriage. Which means I belong to myself, and no one, not even my mom, can tell me who to marry.”
“Being married to your own hand?” said Dionysus. “I don’t think I’ve heard anything so depressing in my life.” He raised his wineskin to his mouth. Beroe jerked it away.
“Well, after that, I am going to marry you,” said Beroe, “IF you can agree to my terms.”
“Of course,” said Dionysus. He plucked a grape out of his headdress and popped it in his mouth. “Don’t know if you have a safeword in mind already, but my favorite is ‘kumquat’.”
“Shut up and listen. Term number one: we don’t have sex with each other. Ever.”
“I’m out,” said Dionysus.
“No, hear me out before you decide,” said Beroe. “I want to marry you because you being in the Twelve is way better for the Pantheon than Poseidon being in the Twelve. I just don’t want to have any kind of relationship with you. You can still do whatever with whoever else. Just not with me.”
“What about you?”
“If I meet someone I’m actually interested in, I’m free to pursue them.”
“Can I pursue them, too?”
“Not once I’ve locked it down,” said Beroe. “And my final term is that we get a divorce as soon as things cool down with Zeus, and your seat at court isn’t in danger anymore.”
“I don’t like this plan,” said Dionysus.
“It’s a perfect arrangement,” said Beroe.
“The only part I like is where I can hook up with other people, and I can do that now,” said Dionysus. “And the more I see you, the less I want to.”
“Be realistic,” said Beroe. “Do you really think you could handle monogamy?”
“Of course not, but I’d want us to share.”
“How generous,” Beroe deadpanned. “What about keeping your seat on the Twelve? Don’t you care about that?”
“Never did,” said Dionysus. “Zeus only appointed me to piss off Hera. She killed my mother, you know. All I really do for the court is bring the wine whenever there’s a feast, and they’d still ask me to do that even if I wasn’t one of the Twelve. Like I said, I don’t see what I have to gain in your arrangement.”
“Well, you’ve answered the question I wanted to ask you at the after-party,” said Beroe.
“You wanted to talk to me just to find out how I feel about being part of the Twelve?” Dionysus laughed. “What, are you interning with Clio?”
“I wanted to ask if you believed Hera killed your mom,” said Beroe.
“It’s what happened,” Dionysus said with an unsurprising nonchalance. “Everyone knows that.”
“No one knows anything,” said Beroe. “Would you believe me if I said I had all your mom’s memories?”
“When you’ve had a mushroom salad for breakfast, you’ll believe anything,” said Dionysus.
“This is useless,” said Beroe. “Screw politics. I’m winning myself and that’s the end of it.”
“Don’t go,” said Dionysus, sobering up a little or at least trying. “What about my mother’s memories?”
“I know how she died,” said Beroe. “And it’s not the way you think. I know so many things about Hera, and Zeus, and you, and everyone. Too many things. If you’d agree to the rest of my terms, after our wedding I’d tell you how your mother really died.”
Dionysus was quiet. Contemplative, even. He absently reached for his wineskin. Beroe held it out of reach. He let it go. After a bit, he said, “All right. We marry in name only, and you tell me your secrets.”
“It’s a deal.” Beroe held out her hand to shake on it. Dionysus took her hand and kissed it.
“The tournament starts tonight,” said Dionysus. “We’d best practice our shapeshifting.”
As I floated back to the Museum, I tried not to think about what an insane plan this was, but I couldn’t help it. It did sound reasonable enough on the surface. Beroe was a natural fighter and had been mentored by Artemis, Athena, and Apollo all her life. But all her life was barely over a year. And she still had a distinct disadvantage in that SHE COULD FREAKIN’ DIE. Could Athena really be using Beroe as collateral damage in her gambit? She wouldn’t. Would she? I’d believe she could put her own feelings for Beroe aside in favor of what she considered the greater good, but could she dismiss Artemis’ feelings? Artemis loved Beroe like her own. Had since the day Beroe called Zeus a murderer and Hera a victim in front of the whole court. Artemis would be devastated if Beroe were taken from her. Which I supposed could be used as a revenge motive, but besides the fact that Artemis already had plenty of reasons to hate Zeus, she had to know Athena was running this plan. If it went wrong, she’d lash out at Athena, not Zeus. No, I concluded. Athena must have sufficient reason to believe Beroe would win. If only Beroe hadn’t inherited her parents’ combined obsession-inducing powers and this whole mess had never started in the first place.
Then I started pondering. Beroe wasn’t just the child of two glamour gods. She was the child of two Furies. Did that give her any kind of powers we didn’t know about? What were the Furies’ powers, anyway? I was still rather unclear on that. I hadn’t had the chance to find out. Adonis was a little inaccessible at the moment, and I couldn’t imagine Aphrodite would want to dish all the details to me.
But The Third One might.
As soon as I got home, I put my helmet away and teleported straight to Olympus instead of going in for breakfast. I’d make up some excuse for skipping morning practice later.
When I knocked at Rhoda’s quarters, a naiad handmaid answered. She told me that Amphitrite was having breakfast in the dining hall. So I had the naiad escort me there. I looked around for Rhoda’s table, but instead, the naiad directed me toward Hera’s very exclusive table, where Amphitrite was seated next to Hestia. Aphrodite and Demeter were there, too. I assumed Persephone was enjoying some alone time. Artemis and Athena usually took their meals at their own place on Helicon these days.
The naiad left me at the entrance and approached the table. She spoke to Amphitrite. Everyone at the table turned to look at me. Hera looked pleased to see me, which likely meant I’d be stuck with the group for way longer than I’d planned. I put on a smile and answered the naiad’s beckoning.
“Amphitrite,” said Hera, “won’t you stand so Thalia can have a seat?”
“I think there’s plenty of room for another chair,” Aphrodite said with a big smile. “Don’t you?”
“It’ll be a little crowded, but I suppose we could make do,” Hera said, forcing a smile in turn.
“Thank you,” I curtsied. The naiad brought another chair and set it at the foot of the table, effectively next to Amphitrite. She was next to Hestia, who was at Hera’s left hand. I was also next to Demeter, who was next to Aphrodite at Hera’s right hand. I wondered if anyone else was speculating as to the reason for this seating arrangement. I didn’t have to.
“Were you this popular in your own court?” Hera asked Amphitrite. “First Aphrodite demands you-”
Aphrodite cleared her throat.
“First my friend Aphrodite insists on the pleasure of your company at my table,” Hera continued, “and then my favorite Muse, whose last visit to me I can’t remember, comes to my dining hall because you are seated in it.”
“Well, I’ve wanted to come, but you know how Apollo is,” I said. Hey, if he wanted to be Governor of the Muses, he could deal with being thrown under the chariot every now and then. “This morning I went ahead and ditched him. Sometimes you just have to do your own thing and damn the consequences, you know?”
“Have you ever done anything like that?” Aphrodite asked Hera. “I sure would if I was in your place.”
“You can’t possibly know that, because you’re not in my place,” said Hera. “You never have been, and you never will be.”
“No kidding,” said Aphrodite. “I’m not saying you are married to an unstable controlling psycho with criminal tendencies, but if you were, I’d think you’d find a way to have some fun without him. It’s the only way I survived my marriage.”
Hera joined in her merry laughter, then smiled, “You survived your marriage to my son because I couldn’t kill you.”
“He just wasn’t my type,” Aphrodite shrugged. “That goody-two-shoes white knight deal never did anything for me. But I know some women just can’t get enough of the excessively noble.” Aphrodite’s smile grew more threatening by the moment.
“I suppose you managed as well as you could’ve been expected to under the circumstances,” said Hera.
“Here’s to being happily divorced!” Aphrodite raised her glass in delight. Amphitrite, with a warm smile, raised hers as well. Demeter raised hers, her countenance a mixture of anger and triumph. And lastly, Hestia clinked her glass against Amphitrite’s. Hera bore her knife into the table until it snapped.
“So, I guess we can talk about the elephant in the room?” I said.
“I’m relieved someone brought it up,” said Amphitrite. “Demeter, you have my blessing. Poseidon should’ve been yours to begin with.” It was a sincere, contrite offering. Which, from Demeter’s perspective, only made it worse.
“He was mine to begin with,” Demeter said.
“Yeah, that wasn’t the elephant I meant,” I said. “I was thinking of the tournament.”
“Oh, that,” said Hera.
“I’m actually surprised you’re okay with it,” I said. “Isn’t it kind of making a mockery of your sacred institution? Reducing it to a prize in a game show?”
“I wasn’t consulted,” said Hera. “My feelings are, as usual, irrelevant to this court.”
“I think your feelings are very relevant,” said Aphrodite. “If you ask me, you don’t understand how relevant they are. You should try acting on them once in awhile. It’d be good for you. Might be even better for the rest of us.”
“Oh, you don’t want me to act on the feelings I have right now,” Hera laughed.
“I don’t understand why you can’t just disenchant the contestants,” Demeter said to Aphrodite. “It’d solve everyone’s problems.”
“It won’t send Poseidon home,” said Hera. “Not that he’s a threat to us, of course; things just run more smoothly when each king is in his own court. Having him among the Twelve would just be ludicrous. No offense meant, Amphitrite.”
“None taken,” said Amphitrite. “I have no more loyalty toward Poseidon. And, to tell the truth, I agree with you. Claiming a seat among the Twelve is only a power play. He’s been plotting it for the last two years.”
Hera suddenly became much less annoyed by Amphitrite’s presence. “You don’t say?” she remarked.
“I thought it was common knowledge,” said Amphitrite. “It’s why we came to the Games this year. He was originally going to challenge Hestia’s seat, but then Beroe happened, and Dionysus happened, and he decided Dionysus was as easy a target.”
“So, are you saying he doesn’t even love Beroe?” said Demeter. “That he’s just using her as a pawn?”
“Why do people always say ‘using them as a pawn’?” I asked. “Couldn’t you use someone as knight or a rook or something? Sounds more useful.”
“He definitely wants Beroe,” said Aphrodite. “It’s not his fault; she inherited the glamour from both me and Adonis.”
“In what way am I as easy a target as Dionysus?” said Hestia. There was a touch of anger in her eyes, but it was overwhelmed by hurt.
“I didn’t mean it as an insult,” Amphitrite apologized. She squeezed Hestia’s hand. Hestia pulled her hand away. “And it was Poseidon’s idea, not mine. He thought you’d be the one most likely to step down voluntarily if challenged. Your role isn’t very active or mobile. You can govern the realm of Hearth and Home without being one of the Twelve.”
“I’m a Daughter of the Titans,” said Hestia. “I was created by Cronus and Rhea, their King and Queen, the same as Zeus, Hera, Demeter, Hades, and Poseidon himself.”
“Of course,” said Amphitrite. “You deserve your place among the Twelve as much as any of your brethren.”
“You wouldn’t have let him,” Hestia pleaded with Hera, “would you?”
Hera placed a gentle hand on Hestia’s shoulder. “Darling, you are one of my oldest friends, and you know I would miss you if you weren’t here. You will always be in my circle, no matter what happens. But I can’t speak for my husband.”
Hestia didn’t shrug off Hera’s hand, but she didn’t look the least bit pacified. She turned toward Hera with a face full of pain and said softly, “Are you Queen or aren’t you?”
“Of course I am,” said Hera.
“Just now,” said Hestia, “you all but said that you’d have to abide by Zeus’ decision as to whether one of your oldest and dearest friends remained a member of your court, regardless of what you wanted. That doesn’t sound like a reigning Queen. I never thought I would see the day when Hera, most powerful of Rhea’s daughters, would be reduced to a mere consort. Though I suppose I should have seen it coming. We all should have.”
Hera withdrew her hand. “I am no consort,” she said. “Olympus is mine as much as it is Zeus’.”
“Marriage is being offered up as a token to be won in a game like a wreath of laurel leaves, and you weren’t even consulted,” said Hestia. “None of this is your fault. Like I said, I should have seen all of this coming. A court that cares so little for marriage will care as little for hearth and home.”
“Hestia, dear, you look tired,” said Hera. “Maybe you’d better go lie down.”
“I think you’re right,” said Hestia. She disappeared.
“If you’ll excuse me,” said Amphitrite, “I’ll see to her.” She got up and walked out of the room.
“I still need to talk to Amphitrite,” I excused myself. I made a quick bow, then took off for the hallway before anyone could stop me.
I saw Amphitrite a little ahead of me. “Wait,” I called as I ran to her.
She stopped. “Oh, that’s right,” she said. “There’s something you wanted to say to me?”
“Yeah,” I said, “and I didn’t want to bring it up in front of the others. This is kind of awkward, but I think I owe you thanks for something that happened ages ago. I would have thanked you then, but I’ve just very recently figured out it was probably you, and I’m still not totally sure.”
“You mean changing you back from a mermaid to your proper form after you concluded your relationship with my son,” Amphitrite smiled. “You needn’t worry. If I wanted praise for it, I’d have taken credit. As much as I loved the idea of having you for a daughter-in-law, I understood your reasons for breaking things off with Triton and returning to Zeus’ realm. I thought if you knew I’d reversed Hestia’s spell, you might feel beholden to me. To us. I didn’t want that.”
“I appreciate that,” I said, “because I would never be able to repay you.”
“It was the decent thing to do,” Amphitrite said. “Besides, it all worked out for the best. Triton and Galataeia are very happy together.” Of course they were. “I hope I can still visit the Ocean Realm to see my granddaughters,” she sighed. “Poseidon became indifferent toward me a long time ago, but still, he can be so spiteful.”
“If all else fails, they can visit you in the Springs of Helicon,” I said.
“That’s kind of you,” said Amphitrite. “If I may ask, what made you suspect me after all these centuries?”
“I’d rather tell you somewhere more private,” I said.
I could tell she understood. “Wait for me in Rhoda’s quarters,” she said. “I’ll be there as soon as I know Hestia’s all right.”
“I think I know what you want to tell me,” said Amphitrite as soon as we were alone together, seated on a long chaise in Rhoda’s ante chamber. “Your sister told you, didn’t she? It’s all right; she wasn’t sworn to secrecy.”
I nodded, grateful that she’d offered me this excuse for my knowledge. Whether or not she believed it as much as she appeared to, she was willing to accept it, and that was enough. “I know about you and Alecto and Tisiphone,” I said.
“I’m glad Calliope told you,” she said. “I’d hoped you and I might be friends again now that I’m living here, and it’ll be a relief to have a friend who already knows about my past.”
“You’re welcome to talk about it as much as you want,” I said, trying not to sound too eager. “I can keep a secret.”
“Well, as I’m sure Calliope told you, my name was Megaera,” she said. “Alecto was released first because she was the leader. She was supposed to infiltrate Zeus’ court and bring back information to us. Then Tisiphone and I would be released, infiltrate Hades’ and Poseidon’s courts, and stage a coup for the Titans’ release. But before the Titans could retrieve Alecto, Hades made plans to move their prison from Tartarus to a star built just to contain them. My release was quite rushed. Tisiphone was supposed to be released at the same time. I don’t know what happened. I suppose they were moved to the star too soon. I don’t know if she was ever released.”
Okay. Well, I was glad she said that before I assumed too much shared knowledge. The story explained a lot. We had speculated about Amphitrite being Aphrodite’s sister for ages because her appearance was basically a less impressive version of Aphrodite’s. The Titans had probably taken the proper time to build Aphrodite’s façade, but in the rush to complete Amphitrite’s, had just run off a quick copy. They’d probably had a harder time releasing Adonis from their new prison and had had to resort to reincarnation, hence his resemblance to his actual Olympian blood ancestors, Selene and Endymion.
“What about Alecto?” I asked. “Do you know what happened to her?”
“I don’t,” Amphitrite said sadly. “I’ve been trying to find out. I suspect she’s Athena, and that maybe that’s why Zeus was supposedly able to create her ‘from nothing’. I haven’t had a chance to talk to her, though. How would one even broach a subject like that?”
“I wouldn’t begin to guess,” I said. “If I were you, though, I’d give it a try.”
“I appreciate the encouragement,” she smiled.
“And Tisiphone,” I said. “You don’t even know if she was ever released?”
“It seems unlikely,” she laughed. “If Tisiphone was in Hades, I don’t think we’d have to wonder. I don’t know what the Titans’ plan was for getting her past Persephone. Persephone wasn’t even born yet when we were created, you know. That’s what I meant when I said they waited too long for Tisiphone’s release. Persephone threw off their whole timetable. I was supposed to be the third one, but they were waiting for Hades to tire of Persephone and be receptive to a mistress.” She sighed wistfully. “It never happened.”
“This might be a really strange question,” I said, “but, my nephew, Orpheus?”
“Calliope’s son? The one Dionysus killed?”
“Yeah, that one. Do you know if there’s any way he could have known about any of this?”
“How funny,” said Amphitrite. “Calliope asked me the same question. I never met Orpheus, so I don’t know what to tell you.”
The door opened. It was Rhoda. “Hey, Thalia,” she briefly acknowledged me. “Mom, you still want to go for a swim? I know my pool isn’t the same as the ocean, but Hephaestus says it’s as big as one can possibly be in this palace. People are already using ‘Olympic-sized’ as a standard for giant swimming pools.”
“Of course,” said Amphitrite. “I’ll be with you in a moment.” Rhoda went out to the pool. Amphitrite said to me, “It was lovely visiting with you. Please come by again, maybe when I’m not surrounded by courtiers,” she laughed. “And maybe I’ll see you at the tournament this evening?”
“I’ll be there,” I said.