After Apollo had left me alone for a sufficient amount of time, I went back to Hephaestus’ workshop to get the thyrsus. “The specifications are exactly the same as the old one,” Hephaestus said, “except I added a failsafe.”
“Failsafe?” I said.
“Yeah, the original was made by the Cyclops,” said Hephaestus. “There’s this function where if you eat a grape, whoever controls the thyrsus controls your body for a short period of time. I don’t think Dionysus ever meant for it to be used with unwilling participants, but in the wrong hands I could see it becoming a magic date rape wand, so I added a spell that’ll neutralize the grapes’ properties if the person who eats it isn’t doing it of their own free will.”
“That…is…an excellent idea, and it’s unfortunate that you didn’t implement it any sooner,” I said.
“Never had the chance,” he said.
“Right. Anyway, I guess I’ll see you at the match tomorrow,” I said. I couldn’t remember whether or not I was supposed to know the match was being postponed.
“Oh, didn’t Hermes tell you?” said Hephaestus. “The next match is being postponed.”
“First I’ve heard of it,” I said. “I guess Hermes delivered the message while I was out. What’s holding it up?”
“Technical difficulties,” said Hephaestus.
“Is something taking longer to build than you anticipated?” I fished around.
“We’re trying to find the right location for the next match,” said Hephaestus. “It’s supposed to be the biggest one yet. Athena wants to grant victory to the tie-breaker.”
“I didn’t know she wanted to end the tournament that soon,” I said, totally meaning it. Or did she, I wondered? Was this her real plan, or a rumor she needed to spread?
“She didn’t say that part was a secret,” Hephaestus hastily disclaimed.
“No problem. I’m sure it was in Hermes’ message, which I haven’t heard yet,” I said. “Thanks for your help!”
“What help?” said Hephaestus.
“Got it,” I nodded. “Hey, if you don’t mind, I’m just going to teleport out from here. It’s been kind of a long day, and I don’t feel like running into anyone.”
“I think that’s a wise course of action,” said Hephaestus.
I materialized as close to the edge of Dionysus’ woods as I could manage. No one was around except for a satyr and a couple of Maenads strung out on a bed of moss and mushrooms. They appeared to be asleep. One Maenad opened her bloodshot eyes and gave me a dazed smile. Then she turned her attention to the satyr and licked the tip of his horn. I decided she was too high to be a problem, and put on my Helmet of Darkness. The Maenad didn’t notice.
I ventured further into the woods toward the lights and the music. An unrehearsed band on makeshift instruments was creating a bizarre, entrancing cacophony. A cloud of fireflies in a million colors flew around in non-patterns that made them look as high as the people they were illuminating.
“So that’s how you did it,” I heard Aphrodite’s crystal clear voice say a little ways behind me.
I turned around. It was the Maenad from the entrance. She still looked pretty doped up, but definitely lucid enough to understand what was going on and remember it later. “Come on, Thalia,” she coaxed, looking around as though she were playing hide-and-go-seek. “I know you’re around here somewhere.” She felt around in the air with her hands. “You’re not hard to follow. Come out or I’ll tell your little secret,” she taunted.
I had every reason to believe this person would tell my secret. I was not, however, completely convinced that it was Aphrodite. “How I did what?” I said, still invisible. I then floated around to the other side of her, careful not to brush against anything.
“You were the one who brought me the potion, weren’t you?” she said. “You were in the Underworld the whole time, hiding, watching. You know all about it.”
“All about what?” I said, somewhat more convinced but still uncertain.
The Maenad turned toward my voice. “This,” she said.
She transformed into a horrific creature that I might have identified as a Gorgon, except that I’d never heard of a Gorgon with bat wings. Her skin looked blackened and burned. Her eyes glowed red. A mass of snakes hissed and swayed from her head, slithered down her shoulders, and circled around her unmistakable breasts. I touched my face to make sure it still felt like flesh and not stone.
“Let’s talk,” I said, and took my helmet off.
Aphrodite shifted back to her usual form. “Come on,” she said. She grabbed my hand. I somehow had the presence of mind to drop the thyrsus the moment before we teleported away.
We materialized in exactly the middle of nowhere. “It’s safe to talk here,” said Aphrodite. “So, you know about the Furies, though I guess not everything, since I saw you checking your face for stone. FYI, I can turn living creatures to stone when I’m in that state if I want to. It’s active, not passive.”
“Good to know,” I said.
“What else do you know?” she asked. “Do you know how to resurrect Adonis?”
“Why do you think I would know that?” I said. “You’re a Daughter of the Titans. If you can’t do it, I sure can’t.”
“Maybe I can,” said Aphrodite. “I’ve only known I’m a Daughter of the Titans for a couple years. Who knows what I’m capable of. You’re a daughter of Mnemosyne and a citizen of Hades by birth. Apparently a very favored one if Hades and Persephone gave you a Helmet of Darkness. That’s pretty much like Poseidon giving you your own trident or Zeus giving you your own lightning bolt.”
“That is an accurate assessment,” I acknowledged.
“You and Persephone have always been friends,” said Aphrodite. “If she gave you a copy of her husband’s signature weapon, surely she’s told you if there’s a way to bring someone back from the dead.”
“I swear she’s never told me about anything like that,” I said, thankful I could give an honest answer. Not that I would’ve minded lying about this, but there was always a chance Aphrodite would get one of her empath kids to figure out it was a lie.
“Ask her,” said Aphrodite. “I would, but there’s no way she’ll tell me. She’s probably glad he’s dead so she can have her little boy all to herself and he’ll never ever try to grow up and leave Mommy again.”
“I can’t say that thought hasn’t occurred to me,” I admitted.
“So ask her,” said Aphrodite. “Or I’ll tell everyone you’ve been spying on them for years.”
I tossed the helmet in the air and snapped it back to the recesses of my prop collection at home. “Not a big fan of threats,” I said. “Also not a fan of wasting effort on stuff that’s guaranteed not to work. Sure, Persephone and I are friends, but I don’t have nearly the kind of influence with her that you seem to think I do. Besides, I have a better idea.”
“I really hope you’re not going to say ‘forget the whole thing,’ because that’s so not going to happen,” said Aphrodite.
“No kidding,” I said. “I was going to say ‘Have Beroe ask her’. You know, her granddaughter? Adonis’ little girl? Who pretty much looks like Adonis with boobs? Has that way of tugging on everyone’s heartstrings?”
“Is this one of your stupid so-called jokes?” said Aphrodite. “Persephone hardly acknowledges Beroe’s existence. I don’t think the fact that she’s Adonis’ daughter means a damn thing to her.”
“Persephone’s ignoring Beroe because she’s Adonis’ daughter, and you know it,” I said. “She’s distancing herself because she thinks Beroe’s going to get herself killed or something, too, and then she’ll go through that trauma all over again. If you could just get Persephone to bond with Beroe, problem solved.”
“Hello? It’s Beroe and Persephone,” said Aphrodite. “How am I supposed to make either of them bond with anyone?”
“How should I know?” I said. “You’re the love goddess.”
“I’m the goddess of romantic and sexual love,” said Aphrodite. “In case you haven’t noticed, family love has never exactly been my area of expertise.”
“You think Euphrosyne could do it?” I said, speaking the thought as it came to mind. “Or Psyche?”
“Neither of them need to know I’m trying to resurrect Adonis,” said Aphrodite. “You, apparently, already did, so you’re safe to ask.”
“They don’t need to know,” I said. “Both of them would do anything to make you happy, no matter how insane or far-fetched the reason was. Psyche went to Hades to get a freakin’ makeup compact for you, didn’t she?”
“It’s a really nice compact,” said Aphrodite. She waved an upturned hand. An open compact appeared in it.
“Oh, wow. That is nice. That’s, like, the most perfect shade of green eyeshadow I’ve seen in my life. Can I-”
Aphrodite snapped the compact shut and waved it away. “You have a point,” she acknowledged. “I’ll tell Psyche I want us to get…um…what did she call it…” she drummed her fingers as she thought about it, “Family counseling!” she snapped her fingers together. “That’s it! She’ll be elated.”
“Yeah. Do that,” I said.
“I will,” said Aphrodite. “Tomorrow.”
“Great idea,” I said.
It wasn’t a great idea, I contemplated after Aphrodite had returned me home and I was securely in my bed. Beroe’s main knowledge of Persephone was through Adonis’ rather complicated memories of her. Persephone, I imagined, would be far less elated by the prospect of family counseling than Psyche would. But I’d seen Psyche’s empathic manipulation powers do some incredible things. And my very favorite part of this plan was the “leaving Thalia out of it” aspect.
It wasn’t that I was opposed to the idea. I was actually kind of disappointed that Persephone and Beroe hadn’t gotten to know each other, because it seemed like they’d get along pretty well if they did. Beroe reminded me more of Persephone than of anyone else in her family tree. It was more the fact that I did not want to get involved in asking Persephone to resurrect someone. She might start wondering if I’d done it before. Which I had.
I’d been thinking about Echo a lot since Adonis’ death. Why hadn’t Persephone, or Hades, for that matter, said anything to us about it? They were the ones who’d tipped Zeus off to Asclepius’ cure for death in the first place. I doubted they’d intended to get anyone in that much trouble. They’d noticed that some of their people had gone missing and asked Zeus if he knew anything about it. I’d always figured they weren’t happy about Asclepius’ execution, given how easily they cooperated with his resurrection, and in the cover-up regarding his ever having been dead. And cooperated they had. Like Echo’s, it was as though Asclepius’ death had never happened in the first place.
As though it had been erased from their memories.
I got up, went down the hall, and knocked on Calliope’s door. After a moment of hearing linens rustling, Calliope let me in. “Is anything wrong?” she asked once the door was safely shut behind her.
“Do you think Mom can cast memory spells with her mind?” I asked quietly. “Like, without water or any kind of object?”
“I don’t know why this is even a question,” said Calliope.
“You’ve seen her do it?” I asked, surprised and indignant at such knowledge being granted to my sister but not to me.
“I can’t think of any particular instance, but I always just assumed,” said Calliope. “She is the Goddess of Memory, after all.”
“Do you think she’s ever done it to Hades and Persephone?” I asked.
“Why would she?” said Calliope.
“I think she had to have done it with Echo,” I said. “I mean, why else would they not notice the thing with Echo? It didn’t happen that long after Asclepius.”
“I always figured Charon didn’t bother registering her because she never made it far enough down the Styx,” said Calliope.
It was a reasonable hypothesis, but I was too far down this rabbit hole to climb out. “What if Mom does this a lot?” I said. “This could literally be the millionth time we’ve had this conversation.”
“Mom doesn’t know we’re having this conversation,” said Calliope.
“Or does she?” I said. “Maybe one of us reports to her every time we talk about her behind her back, and then she makes us forget we did it.”
“Thalia, you’re…making more sense than I wish you were,” said Calliope.
“There’s got to be a ton of stuff that we know that we don’t know we know,” I said. “But how do we find out?” I drew a sharp breath. “Calliope!”
“You were in Hades for a long time after Orpheus died. What if you already know what his secret was, and Mom made you forget it? All you need is the right spell to remember it again!”
“No,” said Calliope. “I wouldn’t put anything past Mom at this point, but Orpheus wouldn’t have told me if he had reason to believe it would put me in danger.”
“Or maybe he would’ve told you because he knew Mom would keep you safe,” I said. “He knew he was only a demigod. He knew he could die. If he had a secret big enough that Zeus would kill him and frame Dionysus for murder to cover it up, wouldn’t he do something to protect it? Like tell it to someone who couldn’t die?”
“I suppose it makes sense,” said Calliope. “Maybe he thought Mom would give the memory back to me when I needed it.”
“Or maybe he thought we could get it back ourselves,” I suggested. Calliope didn’t say anything, so I elaborated. “We’re Mnemosyne’s daughters. I told you about what Mom said to me when you had the Corybantes. That I’m starting to remember. What if Mom hid some dangerous memories from us and gave us a mechanism to retrieve them?”
“Which, if you’re right, she thinks you’ve already triggered,” Calliope reasoned. “How, though?”
“I don’t know,” I said. “It couldn’t be as simple as drinking from the Lake. We’ve been back there lots of times.”
“Maybe she erased our memories every time except for that one,” said Calliope.
“There has to be a way to test this,” I said.
“What about the potion Apollo keeps in his store room?” said Calliope.
“I think you mean ‘brain bleach’ and ‘laboratory’,” I said. “Brain bleach isn’t strong enough for this, though. It removes the picture from your mind’s eye, but you still know the thing happened.”
“Don’t you think he’d have some raw materials on hand, though?” said Calliope.
“He always mixes it all at once so he doesn’t have undiluted Lethe water lying around,” I said. “I’m surprised you didn’t know that.”
“Apollo and I don’t talk much about his scientific work,” said Calliope. “I don’t suppose you’d know how to dilute ‘brain bleach’ down to its original potency?”
“If someone were to describe the process, I would probably be able to recognize it as a description of that process,” I said.
“So, no,” said Calliope.
“That is a technically accurate statement.”
“Well, then,” said Calliope. “I guess we’ll have to bring Apollo in on this.”
“No, we don’t,” I said.
“The only other alternative is Aglaea,” said Calliope. “Don’t you think Hephaestus would be suspicious if he woke up in the middle of the night and his wife wasn’t there?”
I answered her with silence.
“Good point,” she conceded. “But, look, Apollo’s already involved in all of this. There’d be so much less to explain and to keep secret.”
“He doesn’t know about the Furies,” I said.
“He doesn’t have to,” said Calliope. “He was there when we found out about Orpheus’ secret. That’s what all this is really about.”
“True.” Right. Orpheus’ secret. Not resurrecting Adonis or getting revenge on Zeus for…everything. It was getting so hard to keep track.
Hours later, the three of us stood together in the lab. Calliope and I stood with our backs to Apollo, who was working at some complicated chemistry set thing that resembled a still.
“Are you sure we shouldn’t get Aglaea in here?” I said.
“I’d like her to stay as uninvolved as possible,” said Apollo. “If you know a secret dangerous enough that Mnemosyne hid the memory from you, I certainly don’t want Aglaea to know it.”
“She’s my goddaughter, remember?” I said. “I care about her, too. I was just thinking that if you had an assistant, you could make the test a double-blind instead of a single-blind.”
“I think single-blind is fine for this experiment,” said Calliope. “I don’t see how Apollo has any stake in which of us gets the Lethe water and which of us gets plain water.”
“Even if I did, which I definitely do not,” said Apollo, “I’m the God of Science. I can be objective enough not to let my own interests influence my methods.”
Now Calliope was suspicious. “But you definitely do not?” she said.
“Of course,” said Apollo.
“Nothing happened,” I said.
“Everything is fine between me and Thalia,” said Apollo.
“Better than fine,” I said.
“I think we’ve been working together very well the last couple of days,” said Apollo.
“Things totally haven’t been weird between us,” I said. “Zero weirdness.”
“I see that,” said Calliope.
“How about this,” said Apollo, sensing she still wasn’t buying it. “I don’t decide who gets which drink. I’ll make note of which is which, set them out, and let the two of you choose your own.”
“How are you going to tell the drinks apart?” I asked.
“I’ll pour them in different colored cups,” he said.
“You might use a color I like better for the one you want me to drink,” I said.
“Look,” said Apollo, “there are a lot of things less than ideal about this experiment. We have a pathetically small sample size, I don’t know of any way to control for differing powers, and all three of us are completely aware of what we’re testing for. You can have an imperfect experiment or no experiment. Take it or leave it.”
“We could expand the sample size to the rest of our sisters as blind subjects,” I said, “and you could bring in Aglaea or any of your other grandkids as blind observers. Alas, I know Calliope won’t allow the first suggestion and you won’t allow the second one, so carry on with your tainted science.”
“I’ll tell you what,” said Apollo. “There’s a box with some cups on the shelf in the corner to your right. Go pick out two cups that you find equally appealing. We’ll use those for the experiment.”
I went to the designated shelving unit. The lowest shelf had five boxes, each in a different boring neutral color. I opened the box closest to me, a red one. I could’ve just asked Apollo which box the cups were in, I suppose, but I didn’t see the need when I could lift the lid and see for myself. Yep, this was the right box. I picked out a chalice with a picture of a palace, and another vessel with a picture of a pestle. After putting the lid back on the box, I said, “Got ’em.”
“Good,” said Apollo. “Leave them on the shelf, and I’ll come get them.”