The tournament was about to begin. The “arena” was a wide swath of uninhabited sea coast in wine country. There were no walls, markers, or formal structures around. The spectators were seated on floating bleachers whose design was very much in keeping with Olympus’ cloud motif. There were four thrones in the front row at the back of a large, circular dais. Zeus sat in one of the middle seats with Athena at his right hand. That was interesting. It should have been Hera. Seats for Aphrodite and Beroe were reserved at his left.
The rest of the Twelve, minus Dionysus, of course, were in the row behind them. Ares and Hephaestus bookended the row with Hermes, Demeter, Hestia, Artemis, and Apollo between them. Yes, Hestia was there. I couldn’t think of the last time she’d attended an offsite event. Now that I thought of it, had she ever left Olympus for anything? I couldn’t even remember any stories about her visiting her own temples in person.
My sisters were seated in the third row in the usual order. All the rows behind that one were for the rest of the assorted miscellany of gods and goddesses, including Eros and Psyche.
I hoped I could join the spectators soon. In the meantime, I was on the ground in the lavish tent that was Beroe’s dressing room at her special mandate request. Aglaea and Euphrosyne were there, too. So were Aphrodite and, unbeknownst to anyone outside of the group, Dionysus. I still didn’t know who else was or wasn’t in on the secret. I did know that the dressing room currently held essential personnel only: the mom, the medic, the cheerleader, and the coach.
“Okay, both of you shift now,” I told Beroe and Dionysus. Beroe’s transformation was flawless. Her height was the only thing that hadn’t changed. Her legs were smooth, her hair was long and dark, her arms and shoulders were less muscular and more lithe, and her face was, well, Dionysus’. She wore makeup on it for once. Not drag makeup; more like a wilder version of Apollo’s guyliner look.
Dionysus’ transformation was somewhat inexact. The face and body were Beroe’s, but he’d grown out her hair in golden waves down to the waist, put her in a dress and makeup, and from what I could see, given her a full body wax. And there was one more slight alteration.
“Take those knockers down about five cup sizes or I’ll chop them off myself,” said Beroe, in Dionysus’ voice but with her own inflections.
“What’s the fun of being a woman if my chest is practically the same as before?” said Dionysus, in Beroe’s voice but with his own inflections.
“He has a point,” said Aphrodite.
“Beroe’s right,” I said, forcing myself not to encourage him with laughter since Euphrosyne had that covered. “That’s not going to fool anyone. Lose the boobage.”
Dionysus reluctantly obeyed. He cast a mournful look at his deflated rack. “There, there,” he said as he raised a comforting hand to his bosom. Beroe struck it down.
“If you touch yourself as me, I will throw this match on purpose,” she warned.
“That’s a little drastic,” I said. Then I told Dionysus, “If you touch yourself as her, I’ll tell Artemis and Apollo.”
“You know, that’s what I almost named them?” said Dionysus. “But I decided on Ares and Eris.” Call them what he would, he did keep his hands away from the twins.
“Let me try something with your hair,” I said.
“No!” Aphrodite cried. “It’s perfect!”
“It’s completely out of character,” I said. “No one is going to think Beroe did that to herself.”
“Beroe’s own hairstyle is a delight to look at,” said Dionysus, “but I couldn’t endure the boredom of wearing it.”
“Suck it up,” said Beroe. “And that dress isn’t me, either.”
“You’re a princess, and two princes are fighting for your hand in marriage!” said Aphrodite. “It’s supposed to be romantic.”
“Forget the princess thing, okay?” I said. “I’m the acting coach, and I say dressing Beroe up like Helen of Whatchacallit is way out of character. But this is a formal occasion, so it’s also going to look suspicious if we don’t at least try for princely.” I snapped up a simple silver dress chiton from Artemis’ wardrobe and held it by the shoulders. “Try this,” I said to Dionysus.
“I suppose that’ll do,” he said. He shifted his dress to match the chiton. I tossed the original aside and sent it back where it came from.
“Now let me try something for the hair,” I said.
“Nothing too froofy,” said Beroe.
“At least let me look pretty,” said Dionysus.
“Give me a second,” I said. “I have a style in mind that I think will be just right.” I snapped my fingers.
“Wow,” said Aglaea.
“That’s…it’s…I don’t know what to say,” Aphrodite swallowed a tear. “I noticed it before, of course, but never this much.”
“I don’t get it,” said Euphrosyne. “What are we seeing?”
Beroe extended a hand toward Dionysus. She gently brushed a short golden wave off his cheekbone. Her cheekbone. Reverting to her own voice, she said, “You wouldn’t remember. I look just like my dad.”
“Okay, don’t you guys dare kiss right now, because that’d be wayyyy too weird,” I said. “And Beroe, watch your voice. If that happens during the tournament, you’re dead. Literally. Now, if everyone’s happy with Dionysus-as-Beroe with Artemis’ chiton and Adonis’ hair, let’s go over Beroe-as-Dionysus’ fighting technique.”
“Sounds good,” Beroe said back in Dionysus’ voice, facing me and standing at attention. “Where are my props?”
“The thyrsus is no mere prop,” Dionysus protested as he produced said object. It was a long staff made from a stalk of giant fennel, wrapped with ivy and grape leaves and topped with a glorious pinecone. “It’s a symbol. A relic. A banner of hedonism, debauchery, and fertility.”
“It’s a prop,” Beroe said as she grabbed it from him. “What do I do with it? It seems like it’d break easy.”
“Well, if you’d give it back for a moment,” Dionysus said. He retrieved the thyrsus from Beroe. He held it upright and slightly pointed the tip toward her. Vines shot out from around the staff, surrounded Beroe, bound her arms to her side, and pulled her right next to Dionysus.
“Release,” she said. He obeyed. She grabbed the thyrsus from him again.
“Show me how you’re going to stand when you float into the arena,” I said.
Beroe stood tall, stark, with feet spread wide, head held high, and thyrsus firmly planted in the ground beside her. She looked every inch the proud, noble warrior that she was.
“No one’s going to buy that,” I said. “Remember, you’re impersonating Dionysus. I’ve shown you how to do impressions.”
“And I’ve told you I’m not a performer,” said Beroe. “I hate attention and I hate crowds.”
“Listen. I’m not a psychology goddess, but I am a Muse,” I said. “I know when someone has the heart of a performer. You don’t think you do because you identify with Artemis way more than Apollo, and for the most part, that’s pretty accurate.”
“Yeah, you’re not a psychology goddess,” Beroe cut me off, “so can we skip the therapy session?”
“I’m not saying this as a therapist,” I said. “I’m appealing to a much higher, grander, more ancient hierarchy. I am speaking to you as your director. And I’m telling you that this isn’t the same as meeting a roomful of strangers as yourself, as Beroe, and feeling them judging you and scrutinizing you and waiting for you to say the wrong thing while you’re at their mercy. It’s not the crowd itself that you hate. It’s the loss of control. But when you take that stage and step into that character, you are taking control of the audience. That’s why we describe an incredible performance as ‘captivating.’ You are taking the audience captive. You own them. You rule them, and they are your adoring subjects. They’re not going to see the real Beroe. She’ll be safely hidden behind a character who will make the audience forget she exists, because you will be giving the performance of a lifetime. As a theater goddess, I know that performance is inside of you, waiting to come out, and when you take the stage, you’ll know it, too.”
“Then I guess I don’t need to rehearse,” said Beroe.
I scowled. “Just give me one twirl of the thyrsus.”
Beroe gave me one very sarcastic rotation.
“Good enough,” I said. “Apollo’s summoning me to my seat, so we’d better get this show on the road.”
“You’d better get seated with your brother and Psyche,” Aglaea said to Euphrosyne. “I’ll just be a summons away in the medic tent. I have a viewing basin to keep an eye on things.” She placed an amulet around Beroe’s neck. “This will send your vital signs to me,” she said. “I’ll know if you’re in mortal danger. DO NOT lose it.”
Euphrosyne nodded in assent. “You’ll be great,” she said to Beroe. She and Aglaea disappeared together.
Aphrodite hugged Beroe-as-Dionysus tightly, then took Dionysus-as-Beroe’s hand. “Go,” she said to me. “We’ll see you.”
I teleported to my row. Before taking my seat, I tapped Apollo on the shoulder. “Here,” I said.
“What took so long?” he asked. “Beroe not cooperating with hair and makeup?”
“She was her usual agreeable self,” I said, “but I managed. Do us all a favor and try not to cry.”
“Your work is that bad?” he laughed.
I patted his laurel-wreathed head. “What have I told you about trying to be the funny one?” I said.
“As the God of the Performing Arts, I am considered moderately entertaining,” Apollo reminded me. “That’s why I got roped into announcing this debacle. I’m the only one who’s both an athlete and a theater god.”
This was news to me. “When did this happen?” I asked.
“This morning at breakfast,” he said. “You’d have known about it if you’d been on Parnassus like you were supposed to.”
“Meh, I had stuff to do, places to be,” I said.
“Do I want to know what you’re up to?” he asked.
“Strangely enough, you usually do,” I said. “But this time it’s pretty boring. I wanted to see how Amphitrite was settling in on Olympus. With everything going on, I figured she could use a friend.”
“That was very thoughtful of you,” said Apollo.
“Wasn’t it, though?”
“Now I know you’re up to something.”
“So’s your face.”
Apollo laughed. “You’d better get to your seat,” he said. “Aphrodite just got here.”
I laughed, too. “Okay. Good luck with your announcing gig.”
Aphrodite had indeed arrived on the dais. She remained standing. Zeus and Athena rose to meet her in unison. The crowd eased into silence as the three of them walked to the end of the dais together and turned to face the rest of us.
Zeus spoke. “This day, two gods battle for the hand of a fair maiden, and for her dowry, a seat among the Twelve Olympians. I present to you the first of these gods, Poseidon, Earthshaker, King of the Ocean Realm, God of Horses.”
There was a flash of blue smoke about a field’s length in front of us to stage left. A cloudy platform floated out of the smoke. On that platform was a giant conch shell turned chariot, “drawn” by a team of four immense war horses the color of the sea in a storm. In that chariot was Poseidon. He was girded with armor about the loins, and had only an abalone shield to protect his broad, bare torso. His blue hair fanned out in the wind like a banner, and his trident glared in the late afternoon sun.
“His rival,” said Zeus, “Dionysus, son of my beloved Semele who was slain by jealous Hera, the son delivered from death and mortality by my love, hidden safely in my own loins until he had grown to full infancy, hidden by me among his mother’s people until he had grown to manhood and I could welcome him to my court to take his rightful place as a Son of Zeus!” Hm. Seemed like that intro was missing something. Like maybe stuff that was actually about Dionysus and not about his father? But I didn’t give much thought to that. I held my breath until a flash of purple smoke heralded “Dionysus'” cloud at stage right.
The smoke faded. Beroe-as-Dionysus knelt on the platform with a leopard cape held over her head with her right arm, which also held the thyrsus. In one dramatic gesture, she threw back the cape, leapt to her feet, and sent the thyrsus high in the air. She caught it with a triumphant hand held high above her head. The ends burst into purple, red, and green flames. She sent it spinning in a circle before her, creating a wreath of flames. She twirled around, leaped backwards, did an aerial somersault through the wreath as her cloud passed under it, landed on the cloud on the other side, caught the thyrsus, and put out the flames as she swept it across her body and spun around to face her screaming audience in one fluid move. She knelt on one knee and spread her arms, fanning her cape out like wings. She graced the audience with slight nods and coy, cocky smiles that were all Adonis even though they came from Dionysus’ face. I laughed in triumph as she directed one particularly mocking smile straight at me. I could swear I heard Apollo mutter “Spotlight whore” under his breath as he scowled unflinchingly at the flawless doppelganger. I laughed even more.
Aphrodite proclaimed to the crowd, “And now, may I present to you the reason we’re all gathered here today: m-”
“Her daughter, Beroe,” Zeus cut her off, “the prize for which these adversaries will compete!”
A burst of white smoke midway between the other two clouds dissipated and revealed a third. Dionysus-as-Beroe stood on this one. His stance was modest and understated, but with a certain entitled confidence, and an aura that was at once both distinctly male and distinctly female, something that could be said of his own aura, yet somehow in a completely opposite way. In short, Dionysus was showing the audience the real Beroe far better than Beroe could’ve comfortably shown us herself. Maybe he’d observed and understood her on a deeper level than I’d given him credit for.
I glanced down at Apollo to see if my handiwork had brought him to tears like it had Aphrodite. That was how I first noticed a crucial flaw in our ruse. Something I couldn’t believe Athena hadn’t taken into consideration. Apollo wasn’t even looking at Dionysus-as-Beroe. No one was. Well, except Hestia and Artemis. Everyone’s eyes were still on the real Beroe. It wasn’t just her acrobatic skills that had enthralled them. It was that goddessdamn glamour obsession thing she’d inherited from both of her parents. Which wouldn’t even be a problem if it were only the audience. But even Poseidon couldn’t take his jealous, menacing, sea-green eyes off his opponent.
Dionysus-as-Beroe’s cloud reached the dais. He took Aphrodite’s hand and stepped onto the dais with her. Poseidon’s and Beroe-as-Dionysus’ clouds came closer.
Aphrodite spoke. “Do you come this day to fight for Beroe’s hand in marriage?” she asked the two contenders. From my end seat, I could see Dionysus bat an eye at the real Beroe. She ignored him. So did Poseidon, who was still scowling at her.
“We do,” the two contenders answered together.
“Do you swear before the Fates that you will accept the outcome of this tournament as determined by the three judges – myself, Athena, and Zeus? That, if you are defeated, you will concede Beroe’s hand to the victor?”
“We do,” they both swore.
“Then let us begin,” said Zeus. “If my daughter Athena, Goddess of Battle Strategy, will do the honor.”
“For the first round,” said Athena, “we’ve prepared an archery tournament.”
She waved her hand. On the ground below us, a herd of wild boars appeared. Rather hostile wild boars. There had to be around a hundred of them. I switched to spectator vision. The boars were over six feet at the shoulder, like the form Ares had taken when he’d killed Adonis. Was this an obstacle? Would they have to dodge the boars while they shot their targets? Judging by the look Beroe flashed Athena, I deduced she’d had no prior knowledge of this.
“Your platforms will take you to the arena below,” said Athena. “You will not begin shooting until your feet touch the ground. Once you’re on the ground, an invisible shield will keep both you and your targets contained for exactly one hour. Whichever one of you fells the most targets in that time wins the contest.”
Ohhh. I couldn’t help feeling bad about the poor innocent hulking killer boars. What did they ever do to deserve being slaughtered for entertainment? And how was Artemis okay with this? She was the Keeper of Wild Beasts. Sure, she and her girls enjoyed the thrill of the hunt, but they did it for food and self-defense.
Athena waved her hand and produced two bows and two quivers. One set was sea blue, and the other was grape reddish-purple. “These will be your only weapons,” she said. “The quivers are charmed to refill if you run out of arrows. You will now trade in all weapons you hold for these bows and quivers.”
Beroe and Poseidon respectively released their thyrsus and trident. Athena floated the weapons to her feet. “All weapons you hold,” Athena repeated. Poseidon gave up his shield. “All weapons you hold,” Athena repeated again. There was nothing. “All weapons currently on your person,” Athena said. Poseidon brought two knives out from under the skirt of his armor. He spun them forward. They landed in the ground on either side of Athena. Athena was not impressed. “All. Weapons,” she said again, quite strongly implying that this had better be the last time she had to say that. Poseidon released a garter dagger. Athena must have been satisfied, because she sent a bow and quiver floating toward each contestant.
“Special thanks to Artemis for providing the weapons, Pan for creating the targets, and Apollo for announcing,” said Athena. Ah, Pan. I understood now. The boars were only illusions. They had solid shape, but they couldn’t think or feel. It would be like shooting moving blocks of wood, only with way better visual effects.
“Now,” said Athena, “let the hunt begin.”
Both contestants leapt feet first the second their platforms started moving. Totally saw that one coming.
Which meant Athena probably had, too. But it seemed Apollo hadn’t. He hastily teleported to a floating announcer’s box halfway between our seats and the ground. “And the game has begun with a race to the arena!” he said in an amplified voice. “Dionysus has the clear advantage in aerodynamics, or at least he would if it weren’t for the wind resistance from that ridiculous ca-” Apollo paused his narrative to remove the ridiculous cape that had flown in his face when Beroe threw it off. “Dionysus has taken the lead, and he’s taken hold of a handful of arrows. His feet are on the ground! And there go five targets to Dionysus! Yes, five shot at once!
“Poseidon’s on the ground now,” said Apollo, which was unnecessary since we could see the shockwave from the landing. “Ten targets have fallen from the force of the landing, but that probably doesn’t- yes, Hermes has just brought word from Athena that all targets must be felled with an arrow to count toward a contestant’s score. And four of those targets have Dionysus’ arrows in them now. The other six are getting back on their feet just in time for Poseidon to fit an arrow to his bow. He’ll have to use rapid fire if he wants to catch Dionysus’ lead.
“Clean shot, target down. Oh, wait! The arrow has gone though the target and penetrated anoth- three- fo- Poseidon has taken down ten targets with one arrow! The arrow was only stopped by Athena’s invisible shield. But Dionysus hasn’t been idling. The score is now 14 – 10, Dionysus. No, make that 15-14, Poseidon. 17-15, Dionysus. 20 – 19, Dionysus. This is incredible. The way Dionysus is going after these boars, you’d think he’d had some personal vendetta against them. Could this be a pathetic attempt to impress a woman whose father was killed by a wild boar? Do you know what really impresses women? Integrity. Fidelity. Temperance. Not having a harem full of Maenads and satyrs.
“Audience feedback indicates you’d like me to skip the color commentary. But I have to say, ladies and gentlemen, I do not envy Aphrodite. Neither of these men are the type you want to bring home to your mother or father figure.”
It was as clear to me as to the rest of the crowd that Apollo was too emotionally invested to handle this gig. Without help from a more competent performer, anyway. I teleported to the announcer’s box and jerked him out of the way with my shepherd’s crook.
“For those of you interested in the actual tournament,” I announced, “the targets are thinning out. The herd looks about half the size as it was at the beginning.”
“It is exactly half the size,” said Apollo, “which anyone with a functioning attention span and basic powers of concentration would know. The score is 27 – 23, Dionysus.”
“You’re all probably just watching the action because keeping score is the announcer’s job,” I said. “And also the judges’. Speaking of action, the targets are really starting to scatter. I don’t think we’ll see any more pentakills today. Especially not from Poseidon. Dude, keep your eyes on your targets, not your opponent.”
“As much as it pains me to admit,” said Apollo, “it’s hard to keep one’s eyes off Dionysus with the moves he’s bringing today. He’s just fit five arrows to his bow, and he doesn’t even appear to be aiming at any particular target. He’s- Holy Fates, I know where this is going.”
We let Beroe’s actions speak for themselves as her five arrows fanned out, hit the domed invisible shield at an angle, and ricocheted back to fell five scattered targets.
“PENTAKILL!” we shouted together.
“That brings Dionysus’s score to 40, with Poseidon trailing behind at 35,” said Apollo. “Only 25 – make that 24, Poseidon has 36 now – remain standing. 41, Dionysus. Poseidon takes aim- I’d like to take this moment to remind the contestants that they will be disqualified if they shoot one anoth- Foul! That’s a foul!”
“Maybe, maybe not,” I said, holding Apollo back. “Poseidon has shot clean through Dionysus’ quiver strap and sent his arrows flying, but there’s not a mark on Dionysus.”
“Which doesn’t mean he wasn’t shot,” said Apollo. “He’s a fast healer, as any of his Maenads and satyrs can attest. Rumor has it that he sometimes commands them to rip him to shreds and regenerates within the hour. It’ll be up to the judges to determine-”
Apollo was interrupted by Hermes’ sudden appearance in the announcer’s booth. Hermes whispered something to Apollo and hastily returned to the bleachers. Apollo facepalmed. “Ladies and Gentlemen,” he said, “I’ve just received a message from the judges saying they’ve given Poseidon a three-point penalty, and one from Beroe claiming that the aforesaid rumors are one hundred percent true. I, for one, am torn between wanting to know how she acquired that knowledge and feeling that I can happily live the rest of my life without knowing.”
“I would like to take this moment,” I said, “to remind ‘Beroe’ that her secrets are her own, and that discretion is the better part of survival. For those who care about the actual game; penalty aside, Poseidon has gained some ground with his distraction. Dionysus still hasn’t recovered the quiver.” I couldn’t see it, otherwise I would’ve been tempted to accidentally broadcast its location.
“There were no loose arrows to scatter by the time the quiver was lost,” said Apollo. “And he can’t take arrows from his fallen targets. That’ll affect the final count. Poseidon could’ve won this match already if he weren’t constantly looking over his shoulder at his opponent’s progress, or lack thereof.”
“But Dionysus would do well to look over his shoulder right about now,” I said urgently. “One of the boars is pawing the ground and looks ready to- he’s charging! Dionysus has turned around and seen the boar, but he appears to have forgotten that he can get out of the way!”
“Maybe he knows he’s going to lose, and he thinks getting gored would be a dramatic finish,” Apollo said bitterly. “Or some kind of sick irony.”
“Those of us who are making use of our Spectator Vision powers can see that he’s frozen in panic,” I said.
“MOVE!!!” Aphrodite’s amplified scream rained down from the stands just as the boar was almost upon his target. I saw something snap in Beroe’s eyes at the sound of her mother’s voice. At the last possible moment, she leaped ten feet in the air, did a backwards flip, and landed straddling the charging boar.
“And the crowd goes wild!” I yelled.
“Thank you for that very necessary statement of the obvi- Look, look, he’s steering the boar! He’s spotted the quiver, and he’s steering the boar toward it! Poseidon’s been distracted from another boar closing in on him. Dionysus charges toward the quiver. He’s hanging onto tufts of hair at the boar’s shoulder. He vaults off. He sticks the landing, grabs the quiver, pulls an arrow from it, and fells the boar he was just riding! He’s back in the game!”
“He’s standing on top of the fallen boar now, raining arrows all over the arena,” I said. “And…it’s over! There are no standing targets; I repeat, there are no standing targets!”
“Poseidon has 51 kills to Dionysus’ 49, but the three-point penalty makes it 49 – 48 Dionysus!” Apollo declared. “Let this be a lesson to us all that cheating may bring temporary gain, but ultimately-”
“Ultimately Poseidon got PWND!” I cheered with a double fist pump. “Homeboy for the win! O-LYMP-US! O-LYMP-US! O-LYMP-US!”
“Of course, we have to wait for our judges to deliver the final verdict,” said Apollo. “I see the three of them comparing notes. Beroe looks rather pleased with the conversation. Almost smug, one might say. One would certainly hope she’s not making poor decisions about her future for the sake of rebelling against her parents or any parental figures in her life.”
“One would also hope one wouldn’t have egomaniacal delusions about being a parent figure in anyone’s life,” I said. “The judges appear to have reached a verdict. Let’s hear what they have to say.”
“Round one goes to-” said Athena.
“Dionysus, Son of Zeus!” Zeus proclaimed. “The tournament is adjourned for today. You’re all invited back here tomorrow at high tide.”
“For tonight,” said Athena as the sun set before her, “Dionysus is graciously hosting an after-party in his forest to which we’re all invited. Tomorrow, Poseidon will host festivities at the seaside.”
Once again, the crowd went wild.
But I was already sick of being around people, so as soon as I could sneak away from the party unnoticed, I went home to the empty Museum. For awhile I just sat on the floor of the throne room and reveled in its emptiness. That got boring soon enough, so I went out to the stable to see Pegasus. I was mildly annoyed but not at all surprised when, before very long, Apollo joined us.
“The party too excessive for you?” I laughed as I tossed him a wing brush.
“One per season is more than enough for me,” he joined in my laughter. He went to work on Pegasus’ right wing while I stayed on the same side, untangling Pegasus’ long, silky tail with my fingers. “Athena liked our teamwork today. She wants us to plan on announcing the rest of the tournament together.”
“Sounds good to me,” I said.
“You’ll be awfully busy,” he said. “I didn’t mention this to Athena, of course, but I can’t be the only one who noticed that you weren’t the obvious choice for personal stylist.”
“Why am I not?” I said, feigning offense. “I gave Persephone that makeover before she and Hades were together. Who even remembers she’s a natural strawberry blonde anymore?”
“True,” said Apollo, “but Beroe’s mother is a beauty goddess. The beauty goddess. And if they specifically wanted a Muse, this whole affair is far more epic than comedic. I’d think Calliope would be the first choice, unless Beroe’s still upset with her.”
“I have a feeling this is about more than mocking my mad fashion skills,” I said.
“You’re helping in other ways, aren’t you?” he asked.
“Don’t you think if I were, Athena would’ve sworn me to secrecy?” I said.
“I suppose,” he acknowledged. “What I don’t understand, though, is how you’re helping. Or how you would be helping if you were, which of course you’re not. I don’t see how either possible outcome of this tournament could be a happy ending for Beroe.”
“She told us which ending she wanted,” I said. “Would you feel better if I told you Dionysus has already agreed to her terms?”
“Not really,” said Apollo.
“He swore,” I said. “I heard it. The Fates will make him uphold it even if he changes his mind.”
“I suppose,” he said.
“Ah, I see,” I said. “You’re worried she’ll change her mind.”
“I just don’t want her to get hurt,” he said.
“None of us do,” I said. “But I really don’t think she’s in love with him. She’s Aphrodite and Adonis’ daughter, remember? Both of them can be pretty mercenary – could be, in Adonis’ case – when it comes to love and sex.”
“Please don’t say ‘sex,'” said Apollo.
“You know she’s older than Adonis was when you were trying to bang him and eventually succeeded, right?”
“And look how well that turned out for everyone involved,” said Apollo.
“Beroe happened,” I said. “She’s turned out pretty well. Remarkably well, actually, all things considered. Look, I know how much you care about her. And even though I never slept with either of her parents and don’t feel any kind of unfounded parental claim on her, I think she’s pretty special, too. I don’t want to see her get hurt any more than you do.”
“I know,” he said, though he didn’t sound convinced.
“Apollo,” I said, “Seriously, what do you think would’ve happened if Adonis had lived? You really think you two would still be together to this day and Beroe would be your stepdaughter?”
“Maybe,” said Apollo. “A single act of infidelity can be forgiven.”
“What about all the other acts of dishonesty?” I said.
“He didn’t owe me anything,” said Apollo. “We weren’t technically together.”
“So technically you’re basing this fantasy on a relationship that existed for less than a week,” I said.
“That’s hardly fair,” said Apollo. “It ended because he died.”
“It ended because he went back to his primary lover who was allowing him to have a fling with you before he settled down with her,” I said.
“You don’t know that,” he said.
“Yes, I do. I heard them. You heard them,” I corrected myself, hoping he’d think I meant the fight right before Adonis died, not the conversation I’d secretly overheard several days before that. “If you’re so sure he would’ve picked you over Aphrodite, why haven’t you resurrected him yet?”
“Right, that’s the only possible reason,” said Apollo. “It couldn’t be because I’m trying to avoid Hades and Persephone’s attention or anything.”
“So why not do it while only one of them is home?” I said. “You have a few more weeks. Do it this week while everyone’s attention is on the tournament.”
“This isn’t just some random nymph,” said Apollo. “This is Hades and Persephone’s son. You don’t think they’ll notice when they go to visit him in the Elysian Fields one day and he isn’t there?”
“Do it now and you’ve got a few weeks before Persephone visits him, at least.” I said.
“It would mean letting Aphrodite in on Asclepius’ secret potion,” said Apollo. “You know she’d use that as leverage in the future.”
“Or you could leave her out of it and get someone who already knows,” I said.
“The only children of the Titans who know are Zeus and Hades, and they aren’t the most reliable allies,” said Apollo.
“We don’t need a child of the Titans,” I said. “Asclepius actually died, right? Like, he was physically killed? He was dead and his soul was in Hades, and then Zeus resurrected him before anyone could ask questions about why he was executed?”
“Yes,” said Apollo. “That sequence of events is rather hard to forget.”
“But apparently it is easy to forget that you know someone who has the memories of the dead and who carries Endymion’s blood,” I said.
“Are you serious?”
“Are you?” I said. “Or would you rather let Adonis stay dead so you don’t have to face the reality of your relationship with him? That reality being that he was too immature to know what he wanted from anyone, and you wanted a monogamous partnership with a fantasy version of him that only existed in your head?”
“I’m God of both the Sciences and the Arts,” he said. “I have one of the most brilliant minds in the Pantheon. Do you really think I’m so dense that I can’t discern how someone else feels about me? Or what I want from someone else?”
I was silent. For what felt like a decade, we were still except for a few blinks that were much farther apart than they should have been. I want to say that what happened next was some outside force overwhelming my better judgment, but I’d be lying. Grabbing Apollo’s face and fusing it with mine was possibly the most conscious, deliberate choice I had ever made in my life.