3.6 Two Princes

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.

“Yes.”

“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.”

Oh.

Ohhhh.

Oh.

I sighed. “When do we leave?”

 

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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.”

 

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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.

“And?”

“And what?”

“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.

 

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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.”

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3.5 Shadows

I managed to catch the flap of the tent from Ixion’s entrance and sneak in after him. It was dark inside. A shadow from the Amphitheater wall kept the moonlight from revealing that the tent was occupied. Once my eyes adjusted to the darkness, though, I could see without a doubt that it was Hera who stood waiting for Ixion, and who had just told him, “I thought you weren’t coming.”

“Why?” Ixion replied with slightly nervous laughter. “One doesn’t turn down an audience with the Queen of Olympus.”

Hera’s face tightened. “It was an invitation, not an order,” she said. “You were free to refuse. I’ll gladly send you anywhere you’d rather be.”

“Forgive me, My Lady,” said Ixion. “I accepted your invitation because I don’t enjoy loud, cramped festivities, and I do enjoy the privilege of your company. I assumed you extended the invitation because you share these feelings.”

And by “company” did he mean…?

Hera softened. “You’re right,” she said. “The food and wine are always good, but beyond that, I hate these kinds of events. Ceremonial appearances are different, of course.”

“The ceremonies give you a script to follow,” Ixion nodded in sympathy, “and appearing before a crowd isn’t nearly as taxing as mingling among it.”

“Before I met you, I never would have expected a mortal to understand,” she said.

“Before I met you, I never would have expected a goddess to be so…”

“So what?” Hera asked, with a faint look of interest that almost resembled a smile.

“I’m afraid that what I mean as a compliment may sound like an insult,” said Ixion.

“Please, tell me; I want to know what you’re thinking. Whatever it is, I promise not to smite you for it.” That look- Was that- Holy Fates, was Hera flirting?

Ixion laughed and stood more at ease. “So human,” he said.

I dropped to the ground, curled into fetal position, and held my hands over my head.

But Hera only laughed with him. “Many gods would rather have a human than a goddess, it seems, so I suppose I must take that as a compliment.”

“I can’t imagine someone having you and ever wanting anyone else,” said Ixion.

“You’re very kind,” said Hera. “Dia was a fortunate woman.”

“I was a fortunate man while I had her,” said Ixion. “And I must still be charmed by the Fates to have the favor of the Lady Hera. Not to imply that your favor toward me is the same as Dia’s. Rather, the favor of a benevolent queen toward a humble and grateful subject.”

“Are those the only kinds?” said Hera. “Can’t it be the favor of a person who needed a friend and found one in an unlikely place?”

Oh, who in freakin’ Tartarus were they kidding?

“I’m honored to be called your friend, My Lady,” said Ixion.

“Would you call me one, I wonder?” Hera mused. “If you’d never known who I was? If I were just the woman you found beside your bride’s dead body?”

“If I’d still come to know you as I know you now, yes, I believe I would,” said Ixion.

And by “know,” did he mean…?

“Then, would you do something for me?” asked Hera.

“Anything, My Lady,” said Ixion.

“Stop calling me ‘My Lady’. Call me by my own name. At least when we’re alone.”

And how often did that happen, exactly?

“Hera.” Ixion spoke the name with both hesitation and resolve. The hesitation didn’t seem to be from fear so much as from the knowledge that he was doing something inappropriate and improper. I could see a crack appearing in the dam that held back his feelings. “Hera,” he said her name again, with both more and less ease this time, “what are we doing?”

“Meeting. Standing. Talking.” She forced a laugh. “Why, what do mortals call this?”

“A dangerous thing for an honorable man and a married woman.”

Hera’s burning austerity returned. “You and I have known each other for over a year,” she said. “In that time, have I ever offered you my body or asked for yours? I wouldn’t have to ask, you know. I could come to you in another form the way my husband did to your bride. I could put you in an enchanted sleep and have my way with you. Or if I wanted you to be awake, moving, feeling, moaning, crying my name, that could happen, too. Have I done any of this?”

“Of course not,” he said. “You wouldn’t.”

“Well, I wouldn’t betray my marriage, either,” she said. “Although I seem to be the only one in the Pantheon who possesses this rare mystical power, I am quite capable of keeping my loins girded.”

“As am I.”

“Well then, why even mention it?”

“I feel a man and a woman in our situation can’t be too careful, that’s all,” said Ixion.

“Do you know what my situation is?” said Hera. “My situation is that my husband won’t harm you because he’d lose face with Poseidon, but when you say a pleasant word to me, show me any kindness, even look approvingly in my general direction, he takes it out on me.”

“What do you mean?” Ixion asked, his voice full of the same concern that he’d shown the night they met.

“I mean you already know far more than you need to,” said Hera. “My point is that I take pleasure in your company, but if we were to keep company in the open, it would bring me more pain – literal, physical pain – than you could survive.”

“The more reason for us to be careful, then,” said Ixion.

“Which is what I’m doing,” said Hera. “And what I’m trying to explain to you. If we’re to keep company, we have to do it alone.”

“Wouldn’t it be safer for you if we didn’t keep company at all?” Ixion said, unhappy at the prospect but resolute in acting in Hera’s best interest.

“I’ve been denied the love of a husband longer than I care to remember,” said Hera. “I won’t be denied the love of a friend, too, as long as my friend is willing to give it.”

Ixion held his own hand in an obvious effort to keep it from reaching for Hera’s. “As long as I live,” he said, “whatever love I can give you with honor is yours.”

“How long do you want that to be?” she asked.

“No shorter than it has to be,” he said. “Is that a warning, a threat, or idle conversation?”

“An offer,” said Hera. “I can make you immortal. You’d always be as you are now. You’d never know old age or infirmity. You’d never have to leave anyone the way Dia left you. You don’t have to decide tonight, but please tell me you’ll consider it.”

“I’d be a fool not to consider it,” said Ixion, duly overwhelmed by Hera’s offer. “Does your husband know?”

“I don’t need his permission,” said Hera. “I’m a Daughter of the Titans. His equal in power and in rank. If I want to bestow blessings or curses upon my subjects, it’s my choice to make, not his.”

“What would I owe you in return?” he asked.

“Nothing at all.”

“I’ll give it some thought.”

“So,” Hera said with an unnatural nonchalance, “what did you think of the Games?”

“These were some of the best,” he said. “I’ve been to every one since I was a child. May I ask you something?”

“I may not answer, but I won’t punish you for asking,” she said.

“The origin story of the Pythian Games,” he said. “Is there more to it than we’ve heard?”

“You mean are there some extenuating circumstances that cast me as a maligned victim rather than a vindictive cuckold?” Hera said with a hint of bitter amusement. “There aren’t. Did you know Leto was Zeus’ first choice for queen?”

“I didn’t,” said Ixion. I hadn’t known that myself. I wondered if Apollo had kept this information from me by royal decree, or if he didn’t know, either.

“Few people do, and I prefer it that way,” said Hera. “She turned him down. Thought she was too good to be Queen of Olympus, but not too good to be the King’s whore after we were married. Leto did things for my husband that I never would, and I hated her for it. I still hate her children for being more loved by gods and mortals alike than mine. Since their earliest childhood, her twins have been so maddeningly beautiful. I don’t know whether I hate them more for looking like Leto or for looking like Zeus.

“I did, in fact, send a giant python after Leto. Because I could. She couldn’t be killed, of course, but I’d hoped to poison her at least, to cripple her somehow, something to make her less capable and less desirable. I couldn’t even accomplish that. Her goddamned son killed the Python before it ever reached her, and the mortals love him and hate me for the whole incident. That’s what really happened.”

After a moment of contemplative silence, Ixion said, “I think I can sympathize. Dia had these…fantasies? Desires? I don’t quite know what to call them.”

“Perversions?” said Hera.

“I wouldn’t say that,” said Ixion. “But whatever they were, I didn’t share them. I did my best to accommodate them because I wanted to please her, but I could only take it so far. I always wondered whether she was really satisfied with me. It’s my understanding that Zeus…when he…that he fully accommodated her. It’s beyond unfair to be jealous of any part of Zeus’ crimes against Dia, crimes that culminated in murder, but if I were to be perfectly honest, I’d have to say that jealousy is among the many and varied feelings I have over the whole scenario.”

“The murder was my crime,” said Hera.

“You don’t have to defend him,” said Ixion.

“I’m not,” said Hera. “If I hadn’t shown up, he’d have had his way with her and left. He may have come back, or he may have gotten bored with her and moved on to the next temptation. We’ll never know. In any case, it’s almost certain that, if I hadn’t come, Dia would now be your wife and you would be none the wiser.”

“I won’t let you blame yourself,” said Ixion. “Even if Zeus did kill her because you showed up, it was still his choice and his action.”

“Don’t do this,” said Hera. “Stop trying to make me better than I am. I killed Dia. Dia died by my hand. It is because of my actions that she is dead. Do you understand that? Do you care for the Hera that is, or for a paragon of virtue that exists only in your mind?”

“How am I supposed to know what happened if you’ve never told me?” said Ixion.

“You were in mourning,” said Hera. “I wanted to respect that.”

“It’s been long enough,” said Ixion. “Tell me.”

“I struck her,” said Hera. “My magic isn’t nearly as powerful as one of Zeus’ lightning bolts, but it’s strong enough to give a god injury and pain. I aimed a blow at him, he dodged, and Dia was left in the line of fire. She died instantly.”

“That’s not murder,” said Ixion.

“It was killing,” said Hera. “Intent doesn’t change the outcome. What else do you want to absolve me of? My son’s limp? I really did that, too. I threw my own baby off Mount Olympus. That happened. Of course I wasn’t trying to cripple him. I honestly can’t say what the intent was in that moment, or whether there was any intent or coherent thought at all. It was such an overwhelming, incoherent tangle of emotion. This visceral sense that I had to get that screaming, useless thing away from me or I’d go even more mad than I already was. I was nursing him on a balcony. There was no thought. No deliberation. I just threw him. And now he’ll be crippled for eternity. That medical genius he married can’t even fix him. My lack of intent won’t change that.”

“I never asked about your son’s injury,” said Ixion. “I don’t know what to say, except that it seems you’re trying your best to make me hate you, and it isn’t working. I doubt you asked me here to tell me all the reasons I should be terrified of you. Isn’t there anything else you’d rather speak of?”

“How about if we don’t speak?” said Hera.

“That would suit me,” he replied with calm sincerity.

Hera reached out for his hand. He gave it. They stood side by side, facing ahead rather than toward each other, keeping a reasonable width between them. The ensuing silence was comfortable and amiable for them, but boring for me.

Until suddenly, a wild Aphrodite appeared. “Hey, slut!” she grinned. Hera dropped Ixion’s hand like a hot coal. Aphrodite wrung her own hands in delight. Ixion clearly couldn’t see the second goddess.

“This is completely innocent,” said Hera.

“Of course it is,” Ixion said in a reassuring tone. Man, did that guy have a White Knight thing going on.

“If it were innocent, I wouldn’t be here,” Aphrodite exulted. “The sexual tension here was so high, I just had to see who was generating it and if I could help resolve it. You know what this means, don’t you? You are never allowed to call me a whore again,” she laughed.

“Excuse me for a moment. Please don’t leave,” Hera said to Ixion, after which I presume she went invisible to him. “I’ll call you whatever I happen to think is fitting,” she said to Aphrodite.

“Will you, now? Let’s look at your file and see what would be fitting for a married woman who can’t keep her mind and who knows what else off her husband’s honored guest.” Aphrodite waved her hand. A scroll the size of a small tree trunk hung in midair. Hera disintegrated it. “Good thing that was a decoy,” Aphrodite gloated. “That’s okay. You’ve told me everything I need to know.”

“I haven’t done anything,” said Hera.

“Ohhh, but you’ve thought it,” said Aphrodite. “You’re thinking it right now. So is he. The tension between you two is almost tangible to me. I could snap my fingers and you’d both instantly lose the silly reservations that are keeping you apart.”

Hera leapt forward and grabbed Aphrodite’s hands. “Don’t. Even. Think about it.”

“But it would be the greatest, most benevolent act of my entire career,” Aphrodite pouted. “Would you like to see my ‘Hera Needs To Get Laid’ petition? I’m not sure the Amphitheater’s long enough to unroll the whole thing, but you’d get the idea.”

“You will not cast any spells. You will not speak of this to anyone, including me, again. You will not, for any intents and purposes, remember any of this after you leave, which you will do now,” Hera ordered.

“And why will I not do or do any of that?”

Hera sighed. “What do you want?”

“I want you to give Amphitrite that divorce,” said Aphrodite.

“What does that matter to you?” said Hera. “You’re the one who made her fall in love with Poseidon in the first place.”

“He wouldn’t back off, the marriage seemed inevitable, and it felt like the least I could do,” said Aphrodite. “But now he wants to let her go, and I want you to let him.”

“That doesn’t make any sense,” said Hera. “Why didn’t you neutralize Poseidon’s desire in the first place?”

“She was a virgin,” said Aphrodite, “and I was getting sick of it. I knew from experience that Poseidon was great in bed. Especially underwater. You should try that sometime. Anyway, I thought she’d eventually fall in love with him for real or at least start liking sex for real. As it turned out, neither one of those happened. But let’s get back to you and your mortal boy toy. Would you like me to send you to a private seaside resort? I’ll keep Zeus distracted. He’ll never know you were gone.”

“You’ll do nothing of the kind,” said Hera.

“Suit yourself,” Aphrodite shrugged. “Keep playing the perfect marriage goddess with Zeus and being ‘friends’ with your little pet alone at night in the shadows of an abandoned theater. But if you want to keep that friendship a secret, there’s more that you’ll have to do.”

“Such as?”

“You’ll start being a lot nicer to me,” said Aphrodite. “You’ll STFU about me divorcing your son. You’ll stop freezing me out of your clique. You’ll never again call me any name that implies there’s anything wrong with the proud and noble profession of sex work. You’ll never again speak to me in a disparaging way of any kind. In short, you’ll be my bitch.”

“Hypocritical much?” said Hera.

“Take it or leave it,” said Aphrodite.

“I’ll take it,” Hera conceded in desperation as much as in anger. “Now, go. Tell Amphitrite that I’ve yet again authorized the blasphemy of my sacred institution.”

“Ah, ah, ah!”

“That was about her divorce, not yours,” said Hera. “Go.”

Aphrodite obeyed. Almost. She made a quick detour to stage-whisper in Ixion’s oblivious ear, “She wants to nail you.” Then she teleported away before Hera’s hand could collide with her face.

Hera made herself visible to Ixion again. “All taken care of,” she said. But she kept her hands to herself.

“What happened?” Ixion asked. “Is everything all right?”

“It will be in a moment,” said Hera. She waved her hand. She and Ixion morphed into a middle-aged human couple that bore no resemblance to their real forms. Ixion looked at his changed form with some discomfort. “I should have done this from the beginning,” said Hera. She brushed a stray lock of grey hair out of her face. “If anyone else finds us, there’s no way they’ll recognize us. I hate shapeshifting, though.”

“But Leto didn’t?” said Ixion. “That’s how the tale goes, anyway.”

“I don’t know whether she liked it. I can’t say I care either way,” said Hera. “The fact is, she did it.” Hera was silent for a moment. Then she laughed. “Quail,” she said. “Honestly…quail? Who does that? Who even thinks of that?”

“I can’t imagine,” Ixion said with an apprehensive laugh. “Then again, as I said, I never understood Dia’s horse fantasy, either.”

“Is it really so dull for two people to come together as themselves?” said Hera. “No pretense, no artifice, no theatrics, just a husband and wife uniting their bodies to reflect the union of their souls?”

“Yes, when did that fall out of fashion?”

“I’m well over a thousand years old,” said Hera. “I don’t think it was ever in fashion. Even among my disciples.”

“I’ve worshiped at your altar since my youth,” said Ixion, “and for what little this is worth, it sounds perfect to me.”

Holy Fates, Hera, just take him already! I wanted to scream. But she didn’t, as I knew she wouldn’t.

Where was this thing headed? If they really believed they were just friends, they were shoveling more crap than the Augean stablehands, but I actually found it entirely plausible that they weren’t doing anything physical and that they both had the capacity to keep it that way. Would anyone else believe it? Aphrodite didn’t. And while Hera believed Aphrodite was the only one who knew, I knew she was wrong on at least one count. She had been pretty stupid to meet Ixion in her own form, even in such a secluded meeting place. How many other times had she been this stupid? With as many frenemies and enemies as Hera had at court, it was only a matter of time before this got back to Zeus. What would happen then? What if that was what Beroe saw? What if the thought of Hera cheating on him with a mortal would drive Zeus to create a new weapon that could actually kill her?

And if he had the power to kill a child of the Titans, what would that mean for the rest of us? What about the Furies? Could they fight back? Did they need all three for their powers to work? Would Amphitrite remember she was a Fury now that the love spell was broken? Could we resurrect Adonis without getting in too much trouble with Hades and Persephone? Good grief, was I actually wanting to bring back that little blond bitch?

The horror of this thought shocked me back into the present. Where I remembered a party was going on. A party to which I had been invited. A party with wine and dancing and wine and beautiful men and wine and food and wine. Screw court intrigue. Screw Hera. Screw the Furies. Screw Adonis. Screw anyone screwing Adonis. I had come to party, and that’s what I was going to do.

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3.4 I Wish To Go To The Festival

Like I said, for the next year, there just wasn’t anything exciting going on. No epic romances, no major conflict aside from the usual stuff, and best of all, no Fates. The Fates seemed to have forgotten about me as much as Athena seemed to have forgotten about her vow to strike against Zeus. Persephone came at the Spring Equinox and immediately announced plans to stay until the Autumnal Equinox. She didn’t make any effort to meet her granddaughter, who was still living at the Helicon Museum with Artemis and Athena. Aphrodite, who moved back to Olympus about a month after Persephone came, never made any effort to introduce them. I imagined a meeting at the Pythian Games would be inevitable.

Instead, the Pythian Games came and went completely without incident. Beroe didn’t attend at all, despite being crazy about sports. Polyhymnia won the Muse trophy, beating out a great showing by Eustachys & Co. in the comedy division. This year all the performances were actually composed without direct intervention from any of the gods or goddesses.

The closing ceremonies had a surprise guest appearance from Poseidon and Amphitrite. They had never come to the Games before. We all suspected this appearance had something to do with Zeus’ monologue at the last Games two years earlier. But Poseidon and Amphitrite were all smiles and congeniality with Zeus, Hera, and the rest of the Olympians. We made a last-minute adjustment to the ceremonies so they could appear to the mortals along with the Twelve. It went off without a hitch. The mortals were thrilled, the gods were satisfied, and none of us could wait to get the after-party started in Dionysus’ Tent.

I entered with Apollo and Calliope. The tent was filled with gods, goddesses, satyrs, nymphs, centaurs, and dozens of other inhuman creatures. Some were on the spacious dance floor reveling in the driving music and the flashing, colorful lights. Others were helping themselves at a fountain of wine, and still more were feasting from the buffet table. Here and there, circles of cushions were veiled by velvet curtains that hung from the ceiling. I noticed Artemis and Athena, who had been quietly celebrating their second anniversary all week, betake themselves to one of these secluded spots. I gave myself a mental high-five.

But no such hiding away for me tonight. I was here for the party.

Apollo, who must’ve read my mind, said, “Now, please remember that as the hosts of the Pythian Games, we have a certain-”

“No,” I cut him off. “We may be the hosts of the Games, but the Games are over. And for the first time in over four years, we got through the whole damn thing without a catastrophe of any kind. So I don’t know about you guys, but tonight Imma get my Dionysian on. The first person who says ‘Nothing in excess’ gets smacked upside his blond, laurel-crowned head.”

Apollo looked over at Calliope. “Nothing in excess,” Calliope said.

“Nothing in excess,” he repeated.

I smacked them both simultaneously.

Dionysus came to greet us with a Maenad at each arm. He was dressed in full drag – a slinky golden gown, a waist-length brunette hairdo that was making me envious, and bold, glittery makeup that amped his androgynous hawtness up to eleven. The two Maenads looked typical of their ranks. Their long hair, wild and bushy from the wind and sun in Dionysus’ woods, was strewn with bits of bracken. Tiny haphazard patches of leaves and leather blurred the lines of technical nudity. A primal, manic look in their eyes promised a contact high to anyone who accepted their embrace.

“Nothing in excess,” I said to Apollo in a teasing whisper. His secret Maenad fantasies were no secret to me. And why should I be bothered by these fantasies? Petty jealousy and angst over Apollo’s crushes were a thing of the past. Apollo was my friend. That was all he was and all he was ever going to be. If he was determined to live his life chasing one heartbreak after another for all eternity, why should I let that affect our friendship?

“It could be argued that complete abstinence is a form of excess,” Apollo whispered back, a little guilty and embarrassed but far from repulsed.

Dionysus addressed Apollo. “I see you’re letting the Muses out to play for once. Care for a trade?”

My indignation at basically being called Apollo’s property could not be overstated. However, as far as I’m concerned, indignation can always be overridden with lulz. So I said, “Of course he does. Apollo, don’t you want to play with the nice ladies?” One of the Maenads bared her pointed teeth and licked her lips. The other curled a sharp fingernail in a beckoning motion. Apollo’s face told me I wasn’t helping anything, which meant my mission was accomplished.

“Actually, we were just leaving,” Calliope said in her best Big Sister voice. She put an arm around Apollo and hurried him away toward the buffet table. I stood and laughed, still undecided as to what I wanted to do first.

Dionysus caught my hand. The Maenads were already gone in search of new prey. “Looks like we’ve both been deserted,” he mourned. “We’d best stick together. There’s nothing sadder than being alone at a party.”

“Sometimes it’s fun,” I said. “I do it on purpose.”

“And they say I’m crazy,” he laughed, the smell of alcohol already wafting from his breath. “Can I tell you a secret, darling? You were always my favorite Muse.”

“What’s my name?” I asked him, more amused than irritated since my new escort seemed harmless enough for the moment.

“Polyhymnia?” he guessed.

“Close enough.”

“Wait, never mind.” He dropped my hand. I was a bit insulted. Not at all surprised, though. Who stood a chance at being noticed once Aphrodite had entered the room?

I followed Dionysus. Ordinarily, an encounter between him and Aphrodite wouldn’t hold much interest to me. But, unexpectedly, Beroe had accompanied her. Yay! Keeping a headstrong demigoddess safe and alive was exactly how I’d planned to spend the night!

There was no opportunity to hope Beroe wouldn’t make a scene. She and Aphrodite were already fighting over her appearance. Beroe’s acetic, utilitarian hunter’s chiton revealed her muscular legs, which were flocked with downy golden hair. Aphrodite kept snapping her fingers to render Beroe’s legs smooth, and Beroe kept snapping hers to put the hair back. Aphrodite tried distracting Beroe by snapping her cropped, unkempt, platinum hair into a long, elaborate updo. Beroe snapped it back even shorter and messier. Beroe’s preferred aesthetic wasn’t my style, but it was definitely hers, and I had to love her insistence on rocking it.

Dionysus met them. I hoped Beroe would teleport out as soon as her mom was sufficiently distracted. Surely she wasn’t here of her own accord. Parties weren’t her thing.

“Hey,” Aphrodite briefly acknowledged Dionysus. “Ares is here somewhere, so you’ll have to get in line.”

“As it happens, dearest,” Dionysus said to Aphrodite, “you weren’t the list of my voyage. Won’t you introduce me to your lovely companion?” Yay! I could see now that he had that same stupid captivated look that everyone used to have around Adonis. Aphrodite tended to evoke the same thing, of course, but it wasn’t as noticeable since we were used to her. More to the point, Aphrodite was completely immortal, and Athena hadn’t tasked me with keeping her alive.

“Beroe,” said Aphrodite, “this is Dionysus. He’s really very handsome when he’s dressed as a man.”

“Hey, that’s the same thing the huntresses say about me,” said Beroe as she took Dionysus’ hand and gave it a firm shake. “We’ve probably met before, though, at Ixion’s feast?”

“Who?” said Dionysus.

“The mortal who’s been living at court for the last year?” Aphrodite reminded him. “He’s been at the Games all week.”

“There’s been a mortal at court?” said Dionysus.

“You were at the meeting where the Twelve decided what to do about him,” I said.

“Nope, not ringing a bell,” Dionysus said.

“Oh, there’s Ares,” said Aphrodite. “Keep an eye on Beroe, will you?” she said to me.

“Sure,” I said. Why not? I totally hadn’t come here to party. Why would I want to eat, dance, or get hammered when I could spend the whole night babysitting a fully-armed grown woman who could easily take me in a fight?

“I guess you don’t remember me, either, then,” Beroe was saying to Dionysus. “I was the baby who freaked everyone out.”

“Did you used to have wings?”

“That’d be my brother,” said Beroe. “Look, is there someplace we could talk?”

Wait, what? Dionysus was the last person I’d have expected Beroe to voluntarily interact with. Maybe she needed a babysitter after all.

“Of course, love,” said Dionysus. “If you’ll join me behind one of these curtains-”

“I get claustrophobic,” Beroe cut him off. “And I really meant ‘talk’.”

“I’m afraid the curtains are our best option for privacy here. Fancy a tryst in the woods?” Dionysus invited with a come-hither smolder.

“Do you understand that I don’t want to engage in sexual activity of any kind tonight, with you or anyone else?” said Beroe.

“Can’t say that I do,” said Dionysus. “Won’t you have a drink first?”

“Don’t take the drink,” I advised.

“Wasn’t planning on it,” Beroe sighed. “Forget it, you’re not lucid enough to have a serious conversation anyway.”

“I should hope not,” he laughed. “Serious conversations are the very worst kind.”

“Is he like this all the time?” Beroe asked me, thoroughly disgusted.

“You’ve caught him at one of his better moments,” I said.

A trumpet fanfare outside the tent interrupted our so-called conversation. We stepped aside and cleared the entrance. I guessed Zeus and Hera were coming.

The herald not only confirmed my guess, but announced Poseidon and Amphitrite as well. I moved to block Beroe from the two kings’ views. She was a little taller than me, so I snapped my hair a few inches higher just to be on the safe side. Zeus made it past us without noticing her. He was quickly distracted by a quartet of Maenads holding back a curtain and beckoning him thereunto.

But Beroe wasn’t one to stay hidden. “Will you cut it out?” she said as she shoved me aside. Have I mentioned Beroe was ridiculously strong? “I know what you’re doing, and I don’t need it. I’m not a goddamn kid anymore.”

“You certainly are not.”

Poseidon had noticed Beroe after all. There was That Look. That bizarre, unnatural obsession. And there was Amphitrite clinging to his arm, thinking how long it had been since he’d had the same obsession for her.

“Screw off,” said Beroe. “I don’t even know you.”

“I’d like to change that,” said Poseidon. He reached for Beroe’s hand. Then he cried out as Beroe quickly and cleanly broke his thumb.

“I said screw off,” she scowled.

“That’s going to be difficult now,” I said.

“What’s your name?” Poseidon asked.

“Sir,” said Dionysus, “The lady is with me. If you want her, you’ll have to take me, too.”

“Oh, go back to your wine cellar or your pole,” Poseidon dismissed him.

I ran through a mental list of people I could summon for help. Calliope? No, she was all brains and no brawn, and Poseidon wasn’t known for listening to reason. Athena? No, she and Poseidon were rivals from way back. He was convinced Athens should be his city-state since it was on the coast, and Athena had claimed it from its conception. He’d likely become even more determined in his advances just to spite her. Artemis? No, that’d turn into a full-blown fight in about half a second, and the last thing Artemis needed was another spectacle in which she might possibly be overpowered. Apollo? No. Just no. Beroe was practically his own daughter as far as he was concerned, and, no, no, no. Everyone I could think of was either not powerful enough or too likely to create a major inter-realm incident. I didn’t want to be indirectly responsible for a war between the Ocean Realm and Olympus.

Then I remembered. Someone at these Games, someone I hadn’t spent nearly enough time with this summer, wasn’t from Olympus.

Persephone appeared beside me in silent answer to my summons. Her chilling aura instantly created an arm’s-length circle of space all around her. “Well, how about that,” she said. “Rulers of the Three Realms all in the same place at the same time. Do you even remember the last time this happened?”

“Has Hades come with you this year, then?” Poseidon replied.

“Unfortunately, no,” said Persephone. “It must be nice to have so little work that both of you can leave your kingdom at the same time.”

“Our son Triton can handle it while I’m away,” said Poseidon.

“When he’s at home, too,” I said in a stage whisper. Beroe and Dionysus were amused, but the royals ignored me. “I lived at their court for awhile. You two remember that, don’t you? Before Galateia? Good times.”

Amphitrite gave me a soft smile and a subtle nod, but Poseidon didn’t even seem to notice I was talking. He kept his eye on Beroe and continued addressing Persephone, the only obstacle he was perceiving. “I think I heard you and Hades had a son a couple of years ago?” he said. “Allow me to offer belated congratulations.”

The ground trembled below the tent for a brief moment. If anyone outside our immediate vicinity felt it at all, they probably thought it was from the drums and the pounding feet and hooves on the dance floor. Persephone regained control and said, “Condolences would be more appropriate. Our son was a demigod, adopted, killed before he’d finished his growing year. But not before he left behind a child.” She turned to Beroe. “This, I suppose, is her?” she asked me.

“You’re Persephone,” Beroe answered for herself, her demeanor as cold as her grandmother’s. “Nice to finally meet you. You’re afraid of watching me die, like my father, aren’t you?” Well, that escalated quickly.

“I don’t know,” said Persephone. “Do you plan to get yourself killed the way your father did?”

“If you mean did I plan on becoming the center of a pansexual love dodecahedron, that was pretty low on my list of things to do, right after shoving rust splinters into my eyelids,” said Beroe.

Dionysus interjected, “Actually, that can be quite erotic after you’ve taken-”

“Stop talking,” said Beroe.

“Ah, so she’s your granddaughter,” said Poseidon. “I can see the resemblance in manner if not in looks. Are you her guardian?”

“Screw guardians,” said Beroe. “I’m a friggin’ adult. I belong to myself.”

“Then, legally, you belong to Zeus,” Poseidon surmised.

“Her mother is Aphrodite,” I spoke up.

“Aphrodite of the Seafoam?” said Poseidon. “Perhaps your destiny lies in your mother’s origin.”

“You have no idea,” said Beroe.

“Look,” said Dionysus, “I’ll thank you to stop harassing my future wife. Unless, my love, you’d like him to join us?”

“Your future wife? Are you insane?” said Beroe. “You just met me.”

Your future wife?” Poseidon laughed. “I’m the King of the Ocean Realm, and you’re, what, Zeus’ fool? Courtesan? What could you offer for Beroe’s hand to compare with half my kingdom?”

“I’m Zeus’ fool,” I corrected His Royal Bitchiness, though he continued to ignore me.

“Here we go again,” Persephone facepalmed. She produced a small dagger and handed it to Beroe. “Take this and get it over with.”

“Tempting,” said Beroe. “Let’s get something completely, indisputably clear: I AM NOT MARRYING EITHER ONE OF YOU. You,” she said to Dionysus “are not making a great first impression, and you,” she said to Poseidon, “are already friggin’ married. To her. To that woman right next to you.”

“I’ll get a divorce,” said Poseidon.

“You can’t mean that!” Amphitrite spoke for the first time.

“I’d be more than happy to make it a foursome,” Dionysus offered.

“No!” said Beroe. “Not you and me, not him and me, not you and him and me, not you and me and him and her, not me and ANYONE! What part of this don’t you two get?”

“So you need a bit of time to think?” said Dionysus.

“Eros!” Beroe yelled.

Eros was there in a flash. “Everything ok here?” he asked as he hovered over our heads with his bow at the ready.

“These idiots need a little help figuring out I’m not interested,” said Beroe.

“Two lead arrows, coming right up,” he replied. Before either Poseidon or Dionysus could react, Eros fitted two lead arrows to his bow and put one in each god’s heart. They never took their eyes off Beroe. They should have lost interest immediately and gone on with their lives.

But both gods ripped the arrows out and seemed completely unaffected.

“Wow,” said Eros.

“Wow?” Beroe repeated. “That’s all you have to say?”

“Hang on,” said Eros. He took a deep breath and affected a look of what passed for concentration coming from him. “So, you guys,” he said, “how ’bout those Maenads? I’m telling you, if I weren’t an old married man-”

“Fly away before someone gets a flyswatter,” Poseidon brushed him off.

“Make yourself useful and summon your mother,” said Dionysus. “The sooner we can start the wedding arrangements, the better.”

“Dude, Beroe already said no,” said Eros. “There’s not going to be any wedding.”

“Thank you,” said Beroe. “Apparently the frequency of my voice can still be detected by male ears.”

“Name your sister’s bride price,” said Poseidon. “I’ll give anything, even half my kingdom.”

“Half?” Dionysus scoffed. “Beroe, my love, once you’re mine, all the vineyards and forests and Maenads and satyrs in all of Greece will be yours, not to mention my own vine and grapes.”

“I’m a teetotaler,” said Beroe. “Good grief, have you ever just had a normal conversation with a woman? With anyone?”

“Hey,” Eros said to Dionysus. “She. Said. No. And you,” he said to Poseidon, “can you and your wife look at each other for a second? Just one second.”

“What, so you can distract me with one of your golden arrows?” said Poseidon. “You’re welcome to try,” he turned toward Amphitrite, “but I’m afraid my heart has been inextricably given to your sister.”

“Give him time,” said Amphitrite, her eyes full of heartbreak. “His obsession will die as soon as yours appears.”

I had some doubts about the validity of this plan. If Beroe’s passive powers could negate the lead arrows, there was a chance she could overpower the gold arrows, too. But instead of a gold arrow, Eros fit another lead one to his bow. It was embedded in Amphitrite’s heart in the blink of an eye.

Amphitrite blinked. She swayed. I caught her and pulled the arrow out. “It’s okay,” I soothed her. “Take a moment.” In my experience, the lead arrows weren’t necessarily that disorienting, but Amphitrite was rumored to have been under a love spell for all the long centuries she and Poseidon had been together.

Eros took advantage of the distraction and grabbed Beroe’s hand. The two of them teleported away. Dionysus ran out of the tent, though I doubted he had any idea where he was going.

“Do you know your name?” I asked the goddess in my arms.

“Mm…,” she said slowly. “Megae- no, that’s not- Amphitrite? I don’t know.”

Persephone started at this. “You’ve had quite a shock,” she said, taking Amphitrite’s other side. “I think you should lie down. My quarters are nice and quiet. Why don’t you come with me?”

“Oh, Fates!” Amphitrite screamed. “Hera! Hera, please help me!”

Hera appeared. Thankfully, Zeus wasn’t with her. The Maenads must’ve had him pretty distracted. “What?” she said, in as pleasant a mood as one might imagine.

“Hera, My Lady,” Amphitrite fell at her feet in tears, “please, I beg you, release me from my vows. I did not swear to them of my own accord. Surely you won’t hold me to a covenant made under duress.”

“I officiated your wedding,” said Hera. “You didn’t seem particularly duressed to me.” She threw a quick, impatient glance at the exit.

“But I don’t love him!” Amphitrite wept. “And for the longest time, he hasn’t loved me either.”

“It’s true,” said Poseidon. “I have chosen a new queen. We beseech you, Hera, release us from our vows.”

“Why should I care how you two feel about each other?” Hera growled. “What does it matter what anyone feels about anything? Do you think I love my husband all the time? Does anyone in existence still believe he loves me any of the time? What does it matter? We never vowed to love each other. We vowed to take each other and to create a home and a family with honor, and that is what we have done, and what you have done. But evidently none of that means anything to anyone except me anymore!”

“Hera,” said Poseidon, “I will leave Amphitrite and take a new queen. All you’re deciding is whether I do so with honor.”

“Honor?” Hera repeated. “How can you look the Goddess of Marriage in the eye and say such a thing? How can there be any honor in pledging yourself to one person and leaving them for another?”

“If the Goddess of Marriage will be no help,” said Poseidon, “perhaps the Goddess of Love will.”

Aphrodite appeared on the scene. “This had better be important,” she said. “I wasn’t finished yet.”

“This is all your fault,” Hera snarled at her.

“Oh, no, trust me,” said Aphrodite, “it was your son’s fault.” I knew she meant Ares, but Hera’s mind wasn’t really in the moment, thus her reply.

“My son did nothing but stand by his vows regardless of how you made him feel,” Hera said, “while you indulged your every fleeting lust. If you could’ve been faithful to him at all, if you could’ve at least let him pretend that you wanted him, even a little, maybe you two wouldn’t have set a precedent for even the gods themselves blaspheming my sacred rite!”

“Bitch, I meant the other son,” said Aphrodite. “And don’t hate on me for having enough sense to get out of a dead marriage just because you can’t.”

“A marriage doesn’t die until someone executes it,” said Hera. “I won’t let it happen again.”

“Can we get to the part that has anything to do with me?” said Aphrodite. “Or was I just summoned for a round of Yell About Crap That Happened Four Years Ago? Because, believe me, I’ve got some great moves for that one.”

“I want to marry your daughter,” said Poseidon.

“Beroe?” said Aphrodite. “Where is she?”

“Eros took her,” I said. “And Beroe already turned him down.”

“That settles it, then,” said Aphrodite. “My daughter isn’t marrying anyone she doesn’t love. Of course, it’s a little embarrassing that she’s almost a year and a half and she’s still a virgin, but she hasn’t wanted anyone yet, and I’m not going to change her mind for her.”

“Everyone knows you bewitched my first wife,” said Poseidon. “You did it once; you can do it again.”

“Don’t,” said Amphitrite. Aphrodite didn’t say a word, but I could tell she realized her love spell had been broken.

“I’ll catch you up later,” I whispered.

“I’m not casting any love spells on anyone tonight,” said Aphrodite, “and I will raze Olympus to the ground before I let what happened to me happen to my daughter!”

I snapped up a box of popcorn.

“What, marriage to a good, faithful man?” said Hera. “I could think of worse fates.”

You would battle Poseidon Earthshaker?” Poseidon laughed.

“I would exercise my right as Beroe’s guardian, and you would have no choice but to accept my judgment,” said Aphrodite.

“Keep in mind, you can only forbid me from marrying her,” said Poseidon. “I can still make her my wife in deed if not in name.”

“I’m the Goddess of Sex, you idiot,” said Aphrodite. “I can keep you from that, too; with Beroe or anyone else ever.”

Hera left in silent disgust and frustration at the whole scene. Persephone whispered something to Amphitrite, who whispered something back, and they teleported away together, too.

I decided it was best to keep everyone’s attention away from these disappearances. “Don’t forget, Dionysus put in a bid, too,” I reminded Poseidon. “You really want to risk eternity without sex or booze?”

“Dionysus?” said Aphrodite. “Does she like him? Please say yes. I would never want her to be with anyone she didn’t want, of course, but good grief, if she’s still a virgin by her second birthday, I’m going to slit my wrists.”

“You and Dionysus have a kid together,” I reminded her.

“That was literally ages ago, and you know I gave that baby up as soon he was born,” said Aphrodite. “If I ruled out every god I’d slept with, that’d pretty much just leave Apollo, and he doesn’t count because he thinks he’s the mother.” She laughed. “Could you imagine how pissed he’d be if Beroe ended up with Dionysus?”

I had to admit, it would be hilarious. Now that I thought of it, Beroe had seemed awfully intent on getting acquainted with Dionysus. And they had so much in common. They both liked dressing in drag, they both practically lived in the woods, they both…um…hm…well, time would tell. “I got the impression that Dionysus was the whole reason Beroe came to the party tonight,” I told Aphrodite. Hey, it was true. “She was really insistent on talking to him. She kept wanting to go somewhere they could be alone together, but Eros took her away before they got the chance. I think they’re at Helicon now.”

“Would you resign your daughter to be Chief Maenad when she could be Queen of the Oceans?” said Poseidon.

“I want my daughter to be with whoever pleases her most at any given moment,” said Aphrodite. “And I’m going to talk to her and find out who that is.”

“I’ll wait,” said Poseidon.

Aphrodite disappeared. I figured it wasn’t a great time to be left alone with Poseidon, so I took my popcorn and skittered off to the sidelines. What to do now? Go to Helicon and see what was up with the love gods? Look in on Persephone and Amphitrite? See where Dionysus or Hera had gotten to? I decided to go after the subject most likely to entertain me and least likely to put a curse on me or ask me to do anything.

I exited the tent in the general direction that Dionysus had taken his leave. I was well into the grounds before I saw him, now back in his regular clothes, leaning against the Amphitheater in conversation with Pan. Both of their backs were to me, so I quickly put on my Helmet of Darkness and got close enough to eavesdrop.

“If I were you,” Pan was saying to Dionysus, “I’d sleep on it and see if you’re still in love with her in the morning. Or if you even remember her, for that matter.”

“You have been me, and that’s not what you did, which is why I’ve consulted you,” said Dionysus. “You got Echo to move in with you. I’ve seen some bizarre things in my life, a few of which may not have been hallucinations, but a satyr and a nymph, living together in faithful domesticity, for years, has got to be the greatest oddity of them all. What’s the trick? How did you manage?”

“I asked her,” said Pan.

“I’ve done that,” said Dionysus. “Didn’t go so well. And now I have Poseidon for competition.”

“Well, that shouldn’t be difficult,” said Pan. “The arrogant, entitled guy is the one-night stand, not the soulmate. Poseidon believes he deserves Beroe. You, my friend, need to act like you don’t.”

“But I do.” You don’t, I thought.

“I’ve met her. You don’t,” said Pan. “Look, next time you approach her, make it all about her. Tell her you know you have no business even considering being matched with such perfection, but that her irresistible beauty compelled you to give it a shot anyway. Tell her she’s more beautiful than Hera, than the Graces, than Artemis and Athena, than her mother, even!” The Graces? WTF?

“She is,” said Dionysus. Meh, love goggles.

“Meh,” said Pan. “I prefer women who look like women, but to each his own.”

“Poseidon’s offering her half his kingdom,” said Dionysus. “What do I have in comparison? I offered her my forests, vineyards, and Maenads, but she didn’t care. You think if I taught the Maenads to hunt?” I genuinely couldn’t decide whether that was a terrible idea or an awesome idea.

Pan waved a dismissive hand. “If a man has to charm a woman with his wealth, it means he’s overcompensating for something. How often was Aphrodite in bed with one of us while Hephaestus was making yet another piece of jewelry for her? Of course, that was long before Echo, whom I’m constantly having to remind that I’m not a piece of meat. Face it. Women only want us for one thing.”

“And I’ve got that thing.”

“Don’t I know it. I’d take you over Poseidon any day.”

“If Beroe would join us, I’d take you up on that.”

“And as much as we want it,” said Pan, “women want it a hundred times more.” By this point I was using my sash to muffle my unstoppable laughter. I floated a bit off the ground so they wouldn’t feel me shaking. “You just have to let Beroe know you’re hers for the taking, body and soul,” Pan concluded.

“Don’t know how to flash my soul,” said Dionysus.

“Why do you think all satyrs are musicians?” said Pan. “Nothing like a love song to put a woman in the mood.”

“So, to reiterate, I don’t deserve her, she’s beautiful, my body is hers, love song,” said Dionysus.

“That’s it. Now, I’d better get back inside. Echo’s waiting for me. Later.” Pan disappeared.

Part of me felt a moral obligation to give Dionysus some more helpful advice like “She already wanted to talk to you, so try shutting up and listening to what she had to say.” Another part of me couldn’t stop thinking of the hilarity sure to ensue if I left him to his own devices. I went with the latter part.

I headed back toward Dionysus’ Tent just in time to see Ixion slip out through one of the minor entrances, clearly trying to avoid being noticed. I’d seen him here and there during the Games, always introduced as Zeus’ honored guest. Hadn’t seen him at all tonight, though. I followed him into the mostly-deserted grounds. Where was he going? Was he trying to escape his gilded cage while all the gods were distracted? If so, why was he going further into the grounds? Into the Amphitheater, past the rows and rows of seating, past the stage, toward the tent where the performers prepared for their acts? Could he be meeting an accomplice? Or was I entirely wrong about his motives, and was he just meeting someone for a hookup? In the year that he’d been living at court, I hadn’t seen or heard of him being involved with anyone. Which made sense considering he was a recent widower and a mere mortal, albeit a hot one if you’re into the ruggedly handsome type.

I watched him slip into this small, dark, silent tent as covertly as he’d slipped out of the one that housed the party I was missing. I froze when I heard a hesitant, reserved female voice say, “I thought you weren’t coming.”

It was Hera.

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3.3 Baby’s First Words

A feast there was. My sisters and I were all in attendance. So were all of the Twelve, as well as their spouses, lovers, and/or resident offspring. Calliope and I hadn’t told Apollo that this wouldn’t be my first time seeing Ixion. We’d decided it was better to keep my Helmet of Darkness a secret for awhile. Plus, Apollo would completely flip out if he knew how close I’d come to being involved in one of Zeus and Hera’s conflicts.

Aphrodite did bring Beroe as ordered. Beroe, now in the upper range of toddlerhood, still hadn’t spoken a word. We all hoped this trend would continue. Aphrodite had demanded and obtained her own table on the premise that this feast was to be Beroe’s big debut at court. The table was conveniently filled with people Beroe knew and liked. Eros and Euphrosyne were on either side of Aphrodite. Psyche sat by Eros, and Aglaea rounded out the circle between them. I couldn’t help noticing that this arrangement had Beroe surrounded by empaths, all of whom were capable of affecting others’ emotions as well as sensing them.

We Muses were on stage tuning our instruments. In the center of the banquet hall, Zeus sat at the head of a long table. Hera sat at his right. Their daughter Hebe stood, acting as her father’s cupbearer. To Hera’s right were Demeter, Hestia, Athena, and Artemis. To Zeus’ left was an empty seat. To its left were Ares, Apollo, Hephaestus, a blank seat reserved for Hermes, and Dionysus. Aphrodite’s table was to the right of this one. It was the same size as the other tables around the room, but hers was placed with a certain prominence that set it apart. Persephone had followed through on her compromise and gone home at Summer Solstice a few days earlier without ever having met her granddaughter.

Zeus gave us a sign. We began our introductory music. I glanced at Aphrodite’s table. Beroe was still sleeping in her mother’s arms. Zeus rose from his seat. “My brethren; my children,” he said. “One whom I will not name has accused my faithful subject of treachery, betrayal, and murder.” Poseidon. He wasn’t naming Poseidon. We all knew he meant Poseidon. “I am a just and loving ruler. I will not let such slander stand against those in my service. Today it is my pleasure to present to you a man chief among mortals for his courage, integrity, and justice; one cruelly deprived of that which was promised him.” Was it my imagination, or was the last part a jab at Hera? Had I seen a brief flash of anger in Hera’s stoic face? Had anyone else? “Gods and Goddesses of Olympus, I present to you my good and faithful servant, Ixion, King of the Lapiths!”

Ixion appeared, accompanied by Hermes, as Zeus announced his name. We met his appearance with appropriate fanfare. Ixion knelt before Zeus. All the motions were right, but I got a good look at his face. There was no doubt what he was thinking. I wondered whether he was smart enough to keep his thoughts to himself.

“Rise,” said Zeus. “Sit with me at my table.”

“Thank you, my lord Zeus,” Ixion said as he stood. “It’s not every day that a man is honored by his bride’s murderer.”

Zeus gave us a sign again. We stopped playing. The room fell silent. I told myself it was a good thing I hadn’t gotten attached to the moron.

“My lord,” said Athena as she rose from her seat, shield in hand, “I beg you to bear in mind that you are honoring this mortal as a display of your justice over Poseidon’s petty vengeance. To strike him down now would make you look foolish, and Poseidon wise and temperate by comparison.”

“Athena, wisest of my children,” said Zeus. I love how we get all proper and courtly when there are mortals around. “Never forget that I am the source of your wisdom. I have no intention of striking this man down for drawing a false conclusion. But I will correct him. Ixion, my good and faithful servant, I know not who told you that I killed your bride, but you are mistaken. In fact, my wife Hera killed her because she was jealous of her beauty and her charm. I hope you will forgive her as I have. Can you blame her? It’s a hard enough trial to spend every day surrounded by goddesses of such rare beauty,” he said as he waved his hand around the room, a room full of goddesses he’d cheated with and the sons and daughters he’d conceived with them. “How much harder must it be to have her beauty matched, nearly eclipsed, by a mortal woman such as your late Princess? Especially a mortal with such a joyful, vibrant, lusty spirit, unmatched by Hera even in her youth.”

Ixion faced Zeus, steadfast, indignant, furious. “You betray your lust for my Dia. God or no, you will not speak of her again. And you should be ashamed to speak so of your wife in her presence, before her court, before her friends. How cruel are the Fates to take one from me whom I treated as a goddess, while they leave you a goddess whom you barely treat as human.”

Silence fell once again. Until, in the blink of an eye, Euphrosyne appeared between Zeus and Ixion. She placed a hand on each one of them and smiled one of her warmest, most mirthful smiles. Eros flew after her and hovered behind Zeus’ chair. Hephaestus sat tensed with his hand on his cane.

“My Lords, look around us,” said Euphrosyne. “Everyone worked so hard to get the banquet hall ready for this feast. See those streamers? Hestia spent hours getting them just the right shades to match the palette of the Lapithian landscape. And we have the Muses themselves here to provide entertainment. You’ll never hear more wonderful music in your life. And the food! It comes from Demeter’s gardens, Dionysus’ vineyards, and Artemis’ hunting grounds. Wouldn’t it be best to forget all this talk and start feasting already?”

Zeus laughed. He seemed to have completely forgotten that a mortal had just told him to STFU. “Muses, play on!” We obeyed. “Athena may be the wisest of my children,” said Zeus, “but I believe this lady is the wisest of our court. Ixion, this is Euphrosyne, Goddess of Mirth and Merriment, daughter of Hephaestus.”

“A pleasure, My Lady,” Ixion bowed his head. He was relaxing now, too. “And this is your father, with his cane?”

Hephaestus raised a hand in silent assent.

“Mortal tales do you no kindness, Lord Hephaestus,” Ixion bowed his head again. “You are far more handsome than our poets, playwrights, and priests would have us believe. Truly, both you and your daughter favor your mother, the Lady Hera. The Fates were most kind to you in that.”

“Are you making a play for my wife or her son?” Zeus laughed. “Come now, I can’t have a mortal make a cuckold of me right before my eyes.” That had to be Euphrosyne’s effect. If Zeus seriously thought Ixion was hitting on Hera, the feast would’ve come to a swift and violent end. Instead, he was treating the idea as so far-fetched that it could only be a joke. “Hera, my dear, why don’t you introduce our other guest of honor and take the head of her table? It won’t do to leave you where this mortal can flatter you all night.”

“Can a woman such as the Lady Hera escape flattery anywhere?” Ixion bowed toward her.

Hera was still silent, angry, mortified. Sending her away from the head table was a pretty big deal. Not to mention the fact that she and Aphrodite had a long-standing Alpha Bitch rivalry going on. Euphrosyne skittered over to Hera’s side of the table and took her hands. “You finally get to meet my little sister!” she said with delight. “Well, she’s not really my sister, but she’s Eros’ sister, so she’s kind of like my sister, and Aphrodite’s family to me anyway because she’s Eros’ mom.”

Euphrosyne’s magic was working on even Hera. Hera followed Euphrosyne back to her table. Eros followed them, too. He stood, or hovered, rather, so Hera could have his seat next to Aphrodite. “So this is the mysterious daughter you’ve been keeping from us,” Hera said, still standing, looking over the cherubic, tow-headed girl who still slept in Aphrodite’s arms. “Will you wake her up so I can give her a proper introduction?”

“Can’t you introduce her while she’s asleep?” Aphrodite hesitated.

“She’ll be fine,” said Euphrosyne as she laid a hand on Beroe’s chubby little arm.

“Wake up, honey,” Aphrodite whispered in her ear. “Wake up. There are some people who want to meet you. You need to be good and quiet for Mommy. Can you do that?”

Beroe opened her eyes. She saw Aphrodite, then Euphrosyne, then Eros, then Hera. Calliope must have seen the look of startled recognition with which Beroe was staring at Hera, because she deftly segued our music to Beroe’s favorite lullaby. We’d planned for that possibility in advance, of course.

“Gods and Goddesses of the Olympian Court,” said Hera. “As your Queen, it is my honor to introduce the newest of the Olympian goddesses. I present to you the daughter of Aphrodite and Adonis, granddaughter of Hades and Persephone, Beroe.”

The crowd responded with adoring applause. Beroe kept staring at Hera in silence. “Can you stand, my lovely?” Hera asked Beroe. “You should bow to the Court.”

Beroe slid off Aphrodite’s lap. She gave an awkward little bow. Then she climbed back into Aphrodite’s lap, still without a word. Her expression made it clear that she didn’t like the attention.

Hera took a seat, too. Everyone (except, of course, the musicians) got to the actual feasting part of the feast. I stayed focused on Aphrodite’s table as I went on with the show.

“Beroe, honey,” said Aphrodite as she cut up some food for her daughter, “do you know who this lady is?”

“Yes.”

A wave of panic rippled through the table and the band. Beroe’s first word. Could we be fortunate enough that it wouldn’t be followed by a second?

“Who am I, dear?” Hera asked in amusement.

Just say Hera, just say Hera, just say Hera, I thought. I tried to remember if we’d ever showed her images of Hera, or if her only knowledge of Hera was from the memories of people Hera had killed. I prepared for the worst in case it was the latter. So did everyone else at the table.

“I saw you die.”

None of us had prepared for that.

“Stop the music,” Hera ordered.  “Stop everything. Everyone, silence.” We all obeyed. “Now, dear, tell me again what you just said?”

Beroe looked at Hera. There was no fear in her eyes, eyes that looked too old for her face. Only a strange mix of curiosity and pity. She repeated, clear enough for the whole room to hear, “I saw you die.”

“Do you know what ‘die’ means?” Hera asked her.

“Yes,” she said. “Like my daddy. It means you can only live in Hades.”

“Beroe, why don’t we-” Euphrosyne tried to distract her, but Hera cut her off.

“How do you know you saw me die?” asked Hera.

“I know what dead feels like,” said Beroe. “You died. I saw you. He called you Hera.”

“Who called me Hera?”

“The man with the white hair and the lightning. How did you come back alive? Will my daddy come back alive, too?”

At this, Zeus turned to face her.

Beroe took one look at him and changed completely. Not in a shapeshifty way. Godlings don’t get those powers until they’re older. More in a freaked-out toddler meltdown way. “He did it!” she screamed. “She died and he killed her! He killed lots of them!” Euphrosyne and Psyche both rushed to comfort Beroe. Before long she fell asleep again.

“Well,” said Zeus, “it seems, Aphrodite, that you were right to wait until your daughter was older to bring her to court. In fact, I’m not sure she ever needs to be a part of our court. I’m giving you the next ten months for maternity leave. When your daughter’s growing year is done, she can go wherever she wants. Just not here.”

Aphrodite teleported away with Beroe in her arms. We couldn’t follow. We had to finish the set.

 

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The moment our set was done and we’d taken our final bows, we Muses left the party and met up with Aphrodite in our throne room on Parnassus. Apollo was there with us. So were Eros and Psyche, and, to our surprise, Artemis and Athena.

“We have an offer to make,” said Athena.

“Your Museum is full to capacity,” said Artemis, “and ours has eight empty rooms. It would probably be a lot easier on everyone if Aphrodite spent the rest of Beroe’s growing year on Helicon with us.”

“If you take the room at the end of the other wing, we’ll never even know you’re there,” said Athena. “I mean, you’ll never even know we’re there.”

“House rules?” asked Aphrodite. “How do you feel about visitors?”

“We’re not exactly celibate these days,” said Artemis. She acted annoyed at having to make this revelation, but no one had really asked for it. Especially not her brother. “No reason you should be.”

“Well, obviously,” said Aphrodite. “That’s non-negotiable. I just meant friends and family. I have friends and family, you know.”

“Yeah; Eros, Psyche, and Euphrosyne think they live here now, too,” I said.

“That’s fine, as long as Eros can keep his arrows off my huntresses,” said Artemis. “They already think that, since I’m sleeping with Athena, they can turn my camp into a dating service.”

“Fair enough,” said Aphrodite.

“And no love spells on me and Athena either,” said Artemis. “It’s not necessary. We’re already lovers.”

“All right, we get it!” said Apollo.

“Won’t be a problem,” said Aphrodite. “When can I move in?”

“Any time,” said Athena.

“We’ll help you move,” Calliope said to Aphrodite. “And if you need anything, please feel free to summon us.”

“Any of us,” said Apollo. To Artemis and Athena, he said, “Thank you. Things were getting a little crowded here.”

“I’m glad we could help,” said Athena. “Beroe’s a special little girl, and for now, a vulnerable one. It would be best if all of us direct our efforts toward keeping her safe and alive.”

I wondered if anyone else noticed the way Athena stared at me when she said that.

 

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But there was no time to find out. Athena, Artemis, and Apollo were summoned back to Olympus to discuss what would be done about Ixion. I didn’t want to miss that, so I got my Helmet of Darkness and followed.

All of the Twelve except for Aphrodite were seated in the Olympian throne room. Ixion knelt in the center, unable to hear or see his judges and jurors. I stood silently beside him, as invisible to the other gods and goddesses as they were to him.

“The solution looks simple enough to me,” said Demeter. “Give him a potion of Lethe water so that he forgets what he heard.”

“Nice try, but that won’t get Persephone to come back,” said Hermes. “She can always use me for a delivery boy. Plus, I think Apollo keeps diluted Lethe water on hand at Parnassus anyway.”

“Mortals are extremely sensitive to its effect,” said Apollo. “It’s difficult enough to mix a formula that will make a god completely forget a small, specific window of time. If we give it to Ixion, we risk making him forget the entire feast, which defeats the purpose of having the feast in the first place. One drop too much and he could forget years of his life. Can’t you just tell him Beroe isn’t a prophecy goddess, and that she was only a confused child?”

“How can you be certain she isn’t a prophecy goddess?” said Zeus.

“Are you saying you don’t know that you’re not going to kill your wife?” said Artemis.

“Don’t be ridiculous,” said Zeus.

“You can hardly blame her for asking,” said Athena. I got the impression that she wasn’t thrilled with Artemis’ timing, but that she was seizing the moment for her own agenda. “I don’t know what Beroe saw, or if she really saw anything, but it wouldn’t hurt to reassure your court that you don’t plan to kill any of us.”

“Will you listen to yourself?” said Zeus. “Each and every one of you is immortal. I couldn’t kill any of you even if I wanted.”

“Of course I thought of that,” said Athena, “but we can’t all be wisdom deities. First of all, Beroe’s definition of death was ‘you can only live in Hades.’ The Titans are immortal, but they’re eternally bound in Hades. It’s not unreasonable to fear that you could do the same to any of us; and out of the Twelve, Hera is the greatest potential threat to your power. Your lightning bolts are literally the only tactical advantage you have over her.”

“I have no intention of usurping my husband’s crown,” said Hera. “Why should I, when I have one of my own?”

“Of course, My Lady,” said Athena. “I’m only speaking theoretically. In reality, I doubt Zeus would be foolish enough to banish you. You’re too invaluable as an asset. He needs you as an ally in the event that any of the other gods ever rose against him, especially any other Children of the Titans. But what about the rest of us? Hermes and Dionysus only have full immortality because Zeus granted it to them. Their mothers are both long dead. Dionysus’ mother died before she’d carried him to term.” I noticed Athena chose to gloss over the details. Hermes’ mother had simply reached the end of a nymph’s long lifespan and faded into the forest, but Dionysus’ mother’s death was one of the many attributed to Hera’s jealousy. Another death that, now that I thought of it, had no witnesses aside from Hera and Zeus. “Why shouldn’t they worry that Zeus would take away their immortality if he decided they no longer deserved it?”

“If I may say so,” Dionysus interjected, “as long as you leave me my wine and my cock, I don’t care what else you take.”

“Your mouth and your hands?” said Hermes. The brothers shared a laugh. I forced myself not to join them. Damn it. Apollo was snickering, and I wouldn’t be able to mock him about it later.

“The coup begins as we speak,” Zeus rolled his eyes.

“And what about Hephaestus?” Athena continued. “He’s Hera’s son, not yours. If you depose his mother, what happens to him? And to his demigod wife, who was only granted full immortality by Hera’s grace?”

“Hephaestus would prefer to be left out of this,” he spoke for himself.

“Athena, my dear, your strategic thinking is incomparable, but not infallible,” said Zeus. “Hephaestus is safer than anyone. With the Cyclops gone, he’s my only source of weaponry. Others have tried to surpass Hephaestus’ skill over the centuries. None have even come close to matching it.”

“But the Cyclops didn’t leave Hephaestus the spell that makes you the sole wielder of the lightning bolts,” said Athena. “Once your supply runs out, they’re gone. Hephaestus will have to construct a replacement. The Cyclops kept your spell a secret, but would the Son of Hera keep it from his own mother?”

“What did I ever do to yo- Never mind,” said Hephaestus.

“Very well,” said Zeus. “Thanks to Athena’s overactive imagination, I suppose it’s necessary to make this announcement: I have no plans to strike against any of you, least of all Hera, and I certainly have neither the intent nor the means to kill any of you.”

“I think we’d all feel better if you swore to that,” said Athena.

“I swear I will never kill any of you,” said Zeus.

“Any of who?” Athena asked.

“Any of you currently gathered in this room,” said Zeus.

“Fair enough,” Athena agreed. “Now that you’ve ruled out killing Ixion, let’s figure out what we are going to do with him.”

“You think you’re so clever, don’t you?” said Zeus. “I never had any intention of killing Ixion. How would it look if I were rewarding him one moment and ordering his death the next? Besides, Ixion has done no wrong. I am a just and gracious ruler, as you all know. It would be cruel to kill a man for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

“But we cannot let him tell the mortals what he heard,” said Hera. “No matter what we might do to discredit him, once the rumors start that there’s infighting among the Twelve, we can do nothing to stop them. Any divine retribution toward the accursed talebearers would only give credence to their tales.”

“So we can’t kill him, we can’t erase his memories, and we can’t let him go back to his kingdom and tell everyone what he heard,” said Athena.

“The answer, my dear,” said Zeus, “is quite simple. Perhaps too simple for one as given to overthinking as you are,” he laughed. “We keep Ixion here on Olympus for the time being. He has a good steward at his own court. His kingdom will do well in his absence. Hestia, see to it that guest quarters are prepared for him in the lower ring.”

“Yes, my lord.”

“Hermes, go to Ixion’s palace and tell his steward that the king is to be my personal guest for an indefinite time.”

“When you say your personal guest…?” said Hermes.

“Oh, no, I said ‘guest,’ not ‘cupbearer,'” said Zeus. “Boys like Ganymede only come along once an age.”

“I certainly hope you mean that,” said Hera. “I haven’t promised not to kill anyone.”

“You’ll keep such talk to yourself while our guest is with us,” Zeus warned. “Whenever we do send him back, we want him to go with tales of a unified, harmonious Olympus.”

“You being faithful to your own wife for the duration of his visit might go a long way toward creating that illusion,” said Hera.

“Nonsense,” said Zeus. “Poseidon has as many lovers as he pleases, and Amphitrite never speaks a cross word to him or about him. Is it really asking too much for you to be more agreeable?”

Demeter spoke up. “You’ve never heard my daughter, the Queen of Hades, speak a word against her husband except in jest. Hades is not the husband I would have chosen for my Persephone. If it were up to me, she never would have bound herself to one man for eternity at all. But I will say this in his favor: Persephone regards her husband with honor because he conducts himself honorably. If you’re so concerned about your good name, Zeus, I suggest you do likewise.”

Zeus responded with a mock slow clap. “It’s good to know that, after nearly a thousand years, you’ve finally become reconciled to your daughter defying you and marrying against your will,” he said. “And I might possibly be inclined to take your admonition the slightest bit seriously if I didn’t know you were one of Poseidon’s innumerable mistresses.”

“You take that back!” Demeter shouted. “You know as well as any of our brethren that Poseidon should have been mine! He was mine until he became obsessed with that simpering sea witch. He had as little use for marriage as I did until she came along. And she didn’t even want him! Who knows what kind of spell has kept her enthralled with him all this time, and how long she’d stay if it were lifted!”

“So is the mortal guy staying here or what?” said Ares, whose attention span had been taxed beyond its limits.

“He is,” said Zeus. “Let us reveal ourselves to him and proclaim his fate. Dionysus, that is not what I meant by ‘reveal ourselves,’ and you know it.”

Zeus rose and stood by his throne. The rest of the gods and goddesses did the same. Watching Ixion’s face, I could tell when he was able to see them.

“Ixion, my son,” said Zeus. “In one short day, you have proven such a blessing to our court that we wish to bless you in return. We invite you to be our guest here on Mount Olympus. Even now, Hermes is leaving to tell your court the news.”

Ixion still knelt, but his bearing was indomitable. He knew he was being played, and he knew the smartest thing he could do was play along. He shifted his glance toward Hera and said, “I accept your blessing with gratitude, My Lord and Lady. May I ever continue in your good graces.”

 

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So that was that. Ixion moved into the palace on Mount Olympus. Aphrodite and Beroe moved into the old Museum on Mount Helicon with Artemis and Athena. And oddly enough, nothing particularly eventful happened during Beroe’s growing year. Looked like keeping her “safe and alive” might not be such a challenge after all.

 

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Journal Entry 1, by Beroe, age 6 months

 

Psyche told me to start keeping a stupid journal last week, and since my next session is tomorrow, I guess I’d better start. I don’t get the point. It’s not like I’m going to let her read it. Don’t I tell her enough already??? I’m going to tell Artemis about this. Maybe Artemis can talk Psyche out of making me keep a stupid journal. If anyone can, she can. Artemis is like the most awesome goddess ever. No, the most awesome anything ever!!!!

My six-month birthday was today. Psyche says I’m like a teenager in human years now. I don’t know why she keeps bringing up human years, because I don’t know any humans. I guess it’s because she used to be one. I keep forgetting about that. It’s weird. Anyway, Mom had a big party for me. Artemis invited all the huntresses and most of them showed up, Aglaea and Hephaestus came with Eros, Psyche, and Euphrosyne, and Apollo and all the Muses came. It was cool seeing them. Calliope doesn’t come with Apollo and Thalia as much anymore. I don’t know why. I miss her. She was so cool. I liked that fountain she used to let me play with. Whatever. I guess that’s kid’s stuff. Anyway, I’ve pretty much lost Dad’s memories of Apollo (the weird ones anyway) so the brain bleach must be working. It’s like, I remember Dad liking him, but I don’t get flashbacks about making out with him or anything. I’ve lost most of his memories with Mom, too. Thank the Fates!!!!!!! Ugh, why are my parents so friggin’ obsessed with love and sex and all that stuff? So gross. I NEVER want a boyfriend. Or a girlfriend. Or an anything inbetween friend. I can’t wait til I’m old enough to join Artemis’ huntresses. Officially. I’m practically one of them now. But Artemis says I have to wait til I’m at least a year old before I join.

It’s not fair. I’m good enough to be a huntress now. I can keep up with any of them at running or shooting. I can even beat a few of them. I can beat Eros at shooting. I can probably beat Artemis and Apollo, too, but they won’t let me try. They’re probably scared of being beaten by a kid.

Artemis does want me to be a huntress, though. You know how I know? She gave me a hunting chiton for my half-birthday!!! I’ve been begging Mom for one for ages, but she wants me to dress like a girl. A couple weeks ago I chopped my hair off with a hunting knife, and Mom made it grow back. And then she put nail polish on my fingers AND my toes! WTF is wrong with her? Why can’t I just dress the way I want to dress!!?? It’s MY body! I think there should be a rule that a mom can’t tell her daughter what to do anymore once the daughter’s taller than the mom. Aglaea thinks I might get beauty goddess powers when I get older. When she told me that I said I hoped I wouldn’t because beauty goddess stuff is stupid. But it would be cool if I could just snap my fingers and

OMS!!!!! I just tried it and it totally worked that time!!!!! My hair’s all chopped off and if Mom tries to grow it back, I can just chop it off again! Man, she’s going to freak! This is awesome!

Stupid makeup off: check.

Fingers unpolished: check.

Toes unpolished: check.

Nails trimmed super short like Artemis’: check.

Awesome! I’m going to go shoot some stuff now.

Damn it! Why did the freakin’ storm have to start right now? I HATE thunderstorms. The lightning brings up too many memories. I’m still trying to figure out that one where I saw Hera die. Psyche’s showing me how to find different people in my head and go through their memories. And I know it’s a memory, not a prophesy. I don’t have prophesies. So weird. So, I know I’m seeing Hera. I can feel her thinking “I’m Hera.” Which is kind of weird since I don’t go around thinking “I’m Beroe,” but whatever. Anyway, I see her looking at herself in the freakin’ mirror in their bedroom. It’s definitely Hera. And then Zeus comes in, and he’s yelling at her, and he kills her. I know I feel her die. I feel all of them die. I know what it feels like.

Wait, I never noticed that before. The last thing she thinks is “The baby.” She’s pregnant. She’s thinking about a baby inside her. I can feel it. She’s afraid it’s going to die, too. Man, I never want to be pregnant. Clio says Hera was only pregnant like four times, so this narrows things down. Is this what really happened to Hephaestus? Eros told me the story about Hera dropping him off the mountain, but how does Eros know that’s what happened? He wasn’t there. And it’s not like Hephaestus could remember. How does he know he got the story right? Everyone in this stupid pantheon lies about everything.

Come on, Beroe. Breathe. Focus. Try to get further back into Dead Hera’s brain. But not so far back that you remember Zeus boning her (soooo gross!). Remember…remember…remember…

Who’s Semele?

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3.2 King Meets Queen

I never got to sleep that night. I was sure that, as soon as I did, I’d be called before the Fates, and Calliope would be right next to me. My own trials with the Fates had been relatively simple. The hypothesis was that, as the Muse of Comedy, my blessing could invoke a happy ending in real life the way my worshipers write happy endings for their plays. But how might the Fates test Calliope, the Muse of Epic Poetry? Calliope’s art is the stuff of wars, intrigue, usurpation, great heroics, great betrayals, and great tragedies. An epic isn’t guaranteed a happy ending.

But my worries were for nothing. The Fates didn’t summon me that night, or the next night, or the one after that. Persephone came to Olympus like Calliope said, so Demeter quit the drama. Persephone wouldn’t leave Demeter’s quarters or take visitors, though, so I didn’t get to see her. Nothing eventful in any way, shape, or form happened.

Except freakin’ Aphrodite and her freakin’ baby living in my freakin’ room.

Calliope spent as much of her spare time with the baby as possible. The official reason was that she had solid childcare experience and she wanted to give Aphrodite a break. I was the only one she told the real reason. Calliope was watching for Beroe to start talking. She wanted to see whether Beroe only had Adonis’ memories, or if, like the Corybantes, she had all the memories of the dead. If it was the latter, Orpheus’ memories were buried somewhere in Beroe’s mind, and Calliope would finally have a chance to learn the secret Zeus killed him to protect.

But it usually takes baby gods about a month to start babbling and at least two months to form full sentences, so I was bored. I had no choice but to seek diversion elsewhere.

 

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I’d been neglecting my mortal minions, so I decided to look in on Eustachys, one of my favorite playthings playwrights. Dude had come a long way from herding sheep. His entries at the last two Pythian Games had caught the attention of Ixion, King of the Lapiths. King Ixion had recently hired Eustachys to write, direct, and produce the entertainment for his impending nuptials with Princess Dia. Eustachys was given a suite in King Ixion’s palace and access to all the resources he needed to produce his biggest and best show ever. The wedding was only two months away. I figured if Eustachys was going to credit me in his production (which of course he was), I’d better start inspiring a performance worthy of my name.

I stayed invisible to Eustachys and the other mortals in the palace. It was more fun that way. I hung around his office, whispered an idea in his head every now and then, mocked the terrible ideas he came up with on his own. A good time was had by all.

In the interest of knowing my minion’s audience, I spent a lot of time exploring Ixion’s palace. Ixion himself wasn’t around much, but a person’s home can give you plenty of information about them. My main impressions were that he preferred simple comforts to grandiose opulence (borrring!), his servants were very well cared for (more boring!), his livestock was, too (awww!), and he was an extremely pious man (back to boredom). Okay, that last part was only boring since I wasn’t one of his household gods. He was all about Zeus and Hera.

Man, was he sucking up to Hera! Which made sense to me. If you’re about to get married, appeasing the Goddess of Marriage is a pretty good idea. His shrine to Hera was an amazing work of art for something human-made. His images of Hera had to have been made by people who attended her public appearances at the Games. They weren’t perfect replicas, since she never lets anyone see her up close, but you could tell that whoever made the images had put a lot of care and effort into making the best likeness possible. More than just the physical resemblance, they brought out the best of Hera’s spirit. The nobility, strength, and honor that was subsumed by jealousy, pettiness, and insecurity way too often in reality.

By the eve of the wedding, Eustachys had all the inspiration he needed for an awesome production. My work was done. I didn’t want to go back to Parnassus yet, so I decided to stick around the palace and spy on the almost-newlyweds themselves. King Ixion had returned to his palace. Princess Dia had just moved in, too. Under her parents’ supervision, of course, because we all know every virtuous mortal bride is a virgin on her wedding night, especially if she’s a princess.

When I located Ixion and Dia the night before their wedding, they were in an empty stall in the royal stable being good virtuous virgins. Um, not like I watched or anything. I just, you know, noticed. I kept my eyes averted as I maintained my vantage point in the hay loft.

I waited to really observe them until they were resting in the afterglow with a large, empty wine cask off to the side. They made a beautiful couple. Ixion was dark, broad, rugged, definitely more of an Ares than an Apollo. Dia had silky black hair, a complexion that spoke of summers at seaside, and a body in the prime of mortal womanhood. And…wow, she looked a lot like those images of Hera. So much so that I wondered if I’d gotten the inspiration wrong and Dia herself had been the model.

“This would be so much safer in my quarters, you know,” Ixion said as he regained his breath.

“How much fun would that be?” Dia laughed. “Besides, there’s just something about being in a stable, don’t you think? The dust catching the moonlight, the scent of the straw…the horses.” I was a little disturbed at how thoroughly aroused she seemed by the last part. The resemblance to the Hera images was shoved out of my mind.

“I don’t think I’ll ever be able to understand that,” Ixion sighed, perplexed but pleased.

“I know,” said Dia, “but it’s sweet that you try.”

“Should I be jealous of the stallion?” Ixion teased.

“We could raid the tack room,” Dia teased back. “See if there’s anything that could aid your imagination.”

“Maybe someday,” said Ixion. “For now you have enough imagination for both of us.” Drowsy with wine and euphoria, the lovers rolled into each other and fell asleep.

Ixion did, anyway. Dia began to stir again after awhile. Seeing her bridegroom’s sleeping form, she laughed the laugh of one whose mate cannot hold their liquor, stretched her arms, and got up.

She walked around the stable in a slow, quiet haze. Every so often she’d stop and stroke a horse’s nose. At the far end of the stable, she came to a magnificent, pure white war horse. He nickered to her. “Well, hello there,” she said as she took his head in hand. “Aren’t you a fine one? Ixion didn’t tell me he’d gotten a new stud.”

She was right. Ixion had, in fact, just referred to the stallion, indicating that there was only supposed to be one. I could see a second one, a chestnut, in a stall near the entrance. Quickly, I snapped up my Helmet of Darkness and put it on. If this stallion was a shapeshifter, I hoped he didn’t mean Dia any harm, and more than that, I hoped he hadn’t seen me.

My suspicions were heightened when the stallion curled his lip at Dia. She laughed. “What I wouldn’t give for the Necklace of Harmonia,” she said. “Legends say it gave the Goddess Harmonia and her mortal bridegroom the power to transform themselves to any creature they chose. They chose snakes. Can you imagine that?” she laughed again. “Snakes, when they could have known each other in a glorious form like yours?”

“My poor, sweet princess,” the stallion said in a voice I would know anywhere. “It can be as you wish.”

I stayed still and silent, though I was panicking inside. Now that I knew the stallion’s true identity, I hoped more than anything that he hadn’t seen me. He knew that I had his wife’s favor, and that I might report to her. I wouldn’t really do any such thing. I’d love to get Zeus in trouble, but knowing Hera, I knew Dia would be the one to pay for whatever was about to happen.

“What’s going on?” Dia faltered. “Who’s talking? Show yourself!” Suddenly, Dia was transformed into a blood bay mare, as impressive a war horse as the white stallion before her.

“Shh, you’re dreaming,” said the stallion as he nuzzled the curve of her back. “You fell asleep after you made love to your bridegroom. He’s standing watch over you now, waiting for you to wake up so he can see you safely back to the palace.”

“This is only a dream?” Dia hesitated.

“Yes, my beauty. A parting gift from Poseidon, God of Horses, whose service you’ll leave as you leave your father’s household. Consider this dream a reward for remaining faithful to a bridegroom who doesn’t share your more imaginative desires. Come now, surely a dream can’t make you unfaithful?”

I wanted to scream. I wanted to wake Ixion. I wanted to run down to Dia and teleport her far away and hide her until I could gather my sisters and restore her form. But doing any of that would have alerted Zeus to my presence. I couldn’t risk making myself a target. Not when Calliope was still so terrified of him. The most I could do was stay put and see how I could help Dia once Zeus was done with her.

“It’s only a dream,” Dia repeated. She reared on her hind legs and shook her luxurious mane as she whinnied in triumph. She led the stallion on a chase out the stable door. I floated after them. Dia jumped the fence into an empty paddock. The stallion followed. Once inside the paddock, he cantered in circles around his delighted captive. I wracked my brain trying to think of who I could summon, but there was no one I could both trust and risk.

A giant flash of smoke in peacock blue, green, purple, and gold interrupted the scene and enveloped the two horses. When the smoke cleared, Dia lay dead in her human form and Hera stood over her.

Zeus reverted to his natural form. “You couldn’t have waited until we were finished?” he shouted.

“Oh, I’m so sorry! I suppose you’ll just have to find some other whore who shares your particular perversions now,” Hera shot back.

“Maybe I wouldn’t have to if my own wife wasn’t a frigid shrew,” said Zeus.

“Maybe your wife wouldn’t be so ‘frigid’ if you actually showed some interest in her natural body!” said Hera.

“I might if it didn’t come with a voice,” said Zeus. “It obviously didn’t come with a brain. Did you even consider the effect Dia’s death is going to have on the politics of this region? Her and Ixion’s marriage would have been to the advantage of both their kingdoms. As the God of Law and Government, I have to keep an eye on these things.”

“And you didn’t see any conflict of interest in jeopardizing their marriage before it had even begun?” said Hera. “Believe it or not, as Queen of the Gods, I’m not completely ignorant of the complexities of political science. And as Goddess of Marriage, I’ve been keeping my eye on Ixion and Dia as well. Dia might have been a pervert, but she was at least a faithful one until you came along and made a whore of her. She would have had my blessing. And Ixion, a far better man than she deserved, would have had my blessing a thousand times over. You destroyed this match and any good that would’ve come of it, not me.”

“That woman lies dead by my hand?” said Zeus. “Is that what you’re telling me?”

“It wouldn’t be the first time.”

Come to think of it, I hadn’t actually seen Hera strike the fatal blow. I went through a mental list of people Hera had allegedly cursed. How many did I have an eye witness report on? Callisto? Check. I had seen Hera order her death myself. Echo? Check. Her memories of being cursed by Hera were very detailed and particular. Io? Hm. I never did get the full story from her. She’d called being stuck in the form of a cow for three years “Hera’s curse,” but didn’t tell me if she’d actually seen Hera execute it. Artemis and Athena had said Hera turned Io into a cow, but neither of them had claimed to have seen it, either. In fact, the more I thought about it, I realized Callisto and Echo were my only two eyewitness confirmations. Two. Out of hundreds if not thousands.

“Why don’t we finish this conversation on Olympus?” said Zeus with a subtle but unmistakable threat in his tone.

“I’m not going there or anywhere else with you,” said Hera.

“Suit yourself,” said Zeus. He disappeared.

Hera stood alone with Dia’s corpse. I’d never seen Hera look so tired. So empty. Slowly, she looked around in all directions. I hoped beyond hope that she couldn’t detect me. She didn’t seem to. There was no recognition or focus in her eyes when she looked in my direction. Her whole demeanor begged the universe for something she could only get from herself: permission to cry.

She didn’t give or receive it.

Ixion came running from the direction of the stable. Hera stayed where she was. I assumed Ixion couldn’t see her. She had probably assumed that, too. But we were both wrong.

“Who are you?” he demanded. “What happened to my bride? If you’ve harmed her-”

“She’s dead,” said Hera. “I’ve guarded her body.”

“I awoke just now with a feeling, a premonition, that Dia was in danger,” said Ixion.

“Of course you did,” Hera sighed. I suspected Zeus was responsible for that. Hera probably did, too. I wondered if Zeus was also responsible for the fact that Ixion could see Hera.

“Who are you?” Ixion asked again. “You look like royalty, but I know every noblewoman in Thessaly.”

“I’m not from Thessaly,” said Hera. Technically, Olympus was inside the borders of Thessaly, but no mortal government would be stupid enough to claim ownership of it. Same with Parnassus, Helicon, and the rest of our sacred places.

“Since you won’t tell me who you are, will you at least tell me what happened to the Princess?” he pleaded.

“You wouldn’t believe me if I did.”

“Lady, are you in danger?” asked Ixion, concern for this strange, lone woman intruding on his distress.

“I am more dangerous than you could possibly imagine,” said Hera. “If you knew who I am, you would cower in fear. But I’ll not harm you. You were an honorable and faithful lover, even if your bride wasn’t. I’m sure you would have been a good husband.”

“What are you talking about? Dia loves – loved – me as much as I love her! There was never anyone else!” Ixion protested.

“She was with him tonight,” said Hera. “He left her for dead.”

“How would you know?” asked Ixion, distraught and overwhelmed, but still not directing any anger at his trespasser. “Was he your husband? Were you following him?”

“Why do you say that?” said Hera. “Do I look like a woman whose husband couldn’t be content with her?”

“Not a minute ago, you said I didn’t deserve Dia’s alleged infidelity and that I would have been a good husband,” said Ixion. “How you know anything about either of us, I still don’t understand, but why would that apply to me and not to you? Though, of course, I don’t know that it was your husband, or whether you even have one. I still don’t know anything about you, including why you’re standing over my bride’s corpse.”

“Don’t worry about who I am,” said Hera. “Just be grateful you were spared.”

“Spared from what?” asked Ixion. “Was I your husband’s target? Was Dia a hostage? None of this is making sense.”

“Spared from marriage,” said Hera. “It isn’t worth it.” She gave a bitter smile that couldn’t quite muster an accompanying laugh. “When I was young, and I learned what marriage was for the first time, I thought it was the most wonderful thing I had ever seen. A man and a woman pledging their lives to each other and to the children they would create together. Each dedicating themselves to the other’s care and keeping. Making a home together. Each being the other’s safety. Being able to share themselves with complete vulnerability, without fear of harm, judgment, or rejection. But it doesn’t exist. Any of it. It’s all a cruel illusion, and my life has been nothing but a futile attempt to protect that illusion.”

“Well, you’ve answered my first question about your husband,” said Ixion, his sympathy evident. “You are in danger. If you seek refuge within my walls, it’s yours.”

Hera doesn’t like sympathy. She turned away from Ixion and became the proud ice queen again. “I’m done here,” she said. “Unless you’d like me to stay and witness to your bride’s parents that you didn’t kill her.”

“Then he did?”

“Leave him out of this.”

“You won’t be a very useful witness if you won’t identify the real killer,” said Ixion. “Where will you go? Not back to your husband, I hope?”

“I have nowhere else to go. You offer me refuge only because you have no idea who I am and what I’m capable of,” said Hera.

“I believe you’re innocent,” said Ixion.

“Why?” Hera asked.

“Because you haven’t tried to convince me that you are,” he said. “And I fear that if I turn you away, your fate will be the same as Dia’s. I’m trying to help you. Please let me.”

“You? Help me?” Now Hera did laugh. “My dear, foolish creature. I’m one of the two most powerful beings on earth. I married the other one.”

The mysterious robed noblewoman disappeared before King Ixion’s eyes. He knew then that he’d been visited by Hera, Queen of the Gods.

I took off my helmet, approached Ixion, and made myself visible. He didn’t startle. He seemed too dazed and bewildered to be affected by trivial things like fear. “Ixion?” I said softly.

“Who are you?” he asked. “Hestia? Demeter? Persephone, come to take my Dia to the Underworld?”

“I’m sure she’s already there,” I said. “Hades is one of the most fair and honorable gods in the Pantheon. He decides where mortals spend eternity, not Zeus or Hera, and I just know Dia’s already resting peacefully in the Asphodel Meadows. And I wanted to make sure you knew that she didn’t cheat on you. Zeus shapeshifted, and he convinced her it was just a dream, and they didn’t even get to do it before Hera showed up. Dia loved you. There wasn’t anyone else.”

“Then you saw her die?” said Ixion. “How did it happen?”

“I saw her and Zeus, then I saw a huge cloud of smoke, then I saw Hera, and Dia was dead,” I said. “I didn’t see how it happened. I’m sorry.”

“Can you stay and tell Dia’s parents your story in the morning?” he asked.

“I wish I could,” I said, “but I can’t afford to get stuck in Zeus and Hera’s crossfire. I’m taking a huge risk just by having this conversation.”

“Thank you for taking it,” he said. “It means more than I can tell you. Is there some sacrifice I can thank you with?”

“Can you make sure Eustachys and his troupe still get paid? They’ve been working really hard. Dia would’ve loved the production he came up with,” I said with half a smile. “Lots of horses.”

Ixion looked down at the corpse in his arms. “So that’s why you couldn’t save her,” he said. “You’re only a Muse.”

 

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Having done everything I could, I went home and got some sleep. The next morning I told Calliope everything I’d seen. She was heartbroken over Ixion and Dia’s tragic ending. And, as I’d expected, she was pretty freaked out about my narrow escape with Zeus and Hera, though she was glad I hadn’t kept it from her. She was adamant that it must have been Zeus, not Hera, who’d actually killed Dia. I still didn’t know what to think about that.

Calliope had news for me, too. Big news. Beroe still wasn’t speaking in full sentences, which was a bit of a developmental delay at her age. But Calliope had found a way around that. Remember our Fountain of Imagination? Calliope had discovered that its water could be used as a projection screen for any image in the user’s mind. She’d been using a basin to entertain Beroe. Beroe had tried it a few times herself. She’d used it to project images of Calliope. At first Calliope thought Beroe was just projecting what she saw, but then Calliope’s long-dead lover, King Oegrus, started showing up in the images. He looked the way he had when their son Orpheus was Beroe’s size. Beroe was projecting Orpheus’ childhood memories.

“Does anyone else know?” I asked.

“Only Aphrodite and Apollo,” she said. “We’re keeping it a secret for now. We think it would be best for Beroe to stay here until the end of her growing year.”

“No kidding,” I said. “And she’s still not talking at all?”

“No,” said Calliope. “She doesn’t even babble.”

“Well, let’s hope she’s not saving up.”

 

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Hermes paid us a visit at breakfast the next morning. “Business or pleasure?” asked Aphrodite, who’d joined us in the dining hall as had become her custom.

“Business for now,” he said, lacking his usual jocularity. “You haven’t checked in at Court since the baby was born. Zeus and Hera are getting pretty ticked about it. They had a huge fight this morning, and now they’re ordering you to move back to Olympus and present the baby at a feast they’re throwing tomorrow.”

“I’ll check in all they want, but I’m not moving back, and I don’t want them throwing any feast for my baby,” Aphrodite replied.

“The feast isn’t for Beroe,” said Hermes. “They just want to kill two birds with one stone. See, there’s this mortal king, Ixion, who’s a pretty big deal right now. He was supposed to marry some princess named Dia, but she was found dead the night before the wedding. Her parents think Ixion had her killed to get out of their alliance. He’d promised them half the broodmares in his stables as a token. But he was really pissed off about them accusing him of murder and all that, so he said he wasn’t paying them anything. So Dia’s father got some of his soldiers to extract the horses from Ixion’s stables themselves. Ixion saw that coming. His guards were waiting for them. Dia’s father died in the fight.”

“Charming breakfast conversation,” said Apollo, “but what does this have to do with Aphrodite and Beroe?”

“Well, here’s where things get interesting,” said Hermes. “Poseidon is Dia’s father’s patron god.” Ah, yes, Poseidon. King of the Ocean Realm. As in Hades rules the Underworld, and Poseidon the Seas, because I in my wisdom allow it…I granted them their realms, and I could take them away in a moment if I chose. Thus spake Zeus in the infamous monologue he delivered at the previous year’s Pythian Games. The same monologue in which he’d declared himself Leader of the Fates. Neither Poseidon nor Hades had made any formal comment on it yet, but no one was naïve enough to think they’d disregarded it.

Hermes continued his story. “Right away, Poseidon demanded that Zeus punish Ixion for his ‘treachery’. Which, technically, legally, is not all that inaccurate an assessment of the situation. Ixion had signed an unbreakable contract with Dia’s father, and there was nothing in there about it being contingent on the bride living until the wedding.”

“Let me guess,” said Apollo. “Zeus would’ve punished Ixion anyway, but since Poseidon told Zeus to punish him, now Zeus has somehow come up with a reason to reward him instead?”

“I kid you not,” said Hermes, “Zeus is throwing a feast in this mortal’s honor on Mount Freakin’ Olympus. Tomorrow. And he wants the whole Olympian Court and the Nine Muses to be there, or else.”

3.1 Deep Waters

“Thalia?”

I blinked my eyes, which were extremely out of focus for some reason. I took a few seconds to reorient myself. I was in our throne room on Parnassus, propped up in my own throne. It was the middle of the day. Bright sunlight contributed to my visual complications. Too much light for the throne room. I was aware of people crowded around me, mostly sisters, maybe Aphrodite, too.

And Apollo. The voice was his. The hands on my shoulders, holding me upright in my throne, were his. The face full of both concern and relief was his.

“What happened?” I asked. My voice was groggy. My mouth was parched. Specific questions were coming to mind, but I stopped myself from asking them because I still wasn’t sure who all was present and how much they could know.

“Do you know where you are?” I recognized Calliope’s voice.

“Parnassus,” I said.

“Do you know who you are?” asked Apollo.

For the first time in almost a thousand years, I knew exactly who I was. But now wasn’t the time, so I simply said, “I’m Thalia. Calliope, do you remember, too?”

“Shhh, take it easy,” Calliope soothed as she stroked my shoulder. “You’ve had a rough couple of days.”

“Right, she’s had a rough couple of days.” The voice confirmed Aphrodite’s presence. My memories were still hazy. I tried to think why she, of all people, was present for what seemed like a minor family emergency.

My eyes began to adjust. The ruins of the Museum came into full view. I sunk back into my charred throne as the memories came flooding back. Man. Couple of days? Try couple of years.

 

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It was a rare day on Mount Parnassus. Apollo and all eight of my sisters were away. All of the Twelve had been summoned to Olympus on account of Persephone’s continued absence a month after the Spring Equinox. Calliope had gone to Hades on what we all knew was the same business, though officially she was just visiting Mom. The rest of my sisters had decided to spend their day off away from the Museum.

Most of us couldn’t blame Persephone for staying in the Underworld. She’d gone home early last fall after watching Ares murder her son, Adonis. Adonis’ corpse still lay preserved in Endymion’s Cave. His soul was in the Elysian Fields. I sometimes wondered if he remembered his short, tumultuous life in our realm. He’d drunk from the river Lethe like everyone else who goes to the Land of the Dead, but I’d smuggled him a vial of the water of Lake Mnemosyne, the memory-restoring antidote to Lethe’s water.

I’d also smuggled vials to Calliope and Aphrodite so they wouldn’t forget what we’d learned when we followed Adonis to Hades. That Adonis and Aphrodite were really two of three Furies, creatures the Titans had created in their captivity to take revenge on their children, the Olympians, who had imprisoned them. I hadn’t figured out exactly how that was supposed to work since both Aphrodite and Adonis were definitely lovers, not fighters. This was even more true for the goddess we assumed was the third Fury: Amphitrite, wife and consort of Poseidon, King of the Ocean Realm.

Autumn and winter had passed without Calliope or I mentioning any of this to each other. It was looking like spring would, too. I’d been tempted to go along with Calliope on her visit to Hades and see what I could find out about Adonis and his fate. But in the end, I chose not to. Adonis and his unending drama had consumed my whole summer last year, and now he was indirectly ruining my spring thanks to Demeter’s temper tantrums. I was really sick to death of thinking about his existence. So I decided to take a day to myself and spend some time with friends. I invited my goddaughter Aglaea and her daughter Euphrosyne over for a Graces’ day out.

The “Graces” thing was a joke between the three of us. See, when Aglaea was little, I’d tried my best to train her in the art of musical comedy so that she might follow in my illustrious footsteps. Alas, the kid decided to become a physician instead. But I did succeed in teaching her a few routines, including a comic dance that we titled “Dance of the Felled Trees.” Apollo had joked that we should call our duo The Graces. All these centuries later, it remained one of Aglaea’s favorite childhood memories. So as soon as Euphrosyne could walk, we revived the act and included her in it. The family had been referring to the three of us collectively as The Graces ever since.

Euphrosyne was growing up. She was in late adolescence, about the same age as her brother and sister-in-law, Eros and Psyche. I never would’ve imagined that a girl could look so much like Hephaestus, yet still so feminine and pretty. Nor would I have imagined that Hephaestus could beget the Goddess of Mirth and Merriment.

“I’m so happy you invited us!” Euphrosyne squealed as she dove onto the chaise next to me and threw her gangly arms around my neck. We’d wanted to do a picnic on the dancing lawn, but the weather was so perilously unpredictable that I’d moved the party to my quarters. “I think I’ve gotten taller since the last time you saw me. Don’t you think I’m taller? Hey, can I show you something?”

“Sure,” I said. “Hi, Aglaea,” I waved to her mom. “Have a seat.”

Aglaea joined us on the chaise, observing Euphrosyne’s exuberance in quiet amusement.

“Can I show you the thing now?” Euphrosyne asked again.

“Go ahead,” I said. Euphrosyne took my hands, closed her eyes, and scrunched her face in intense concentration.

Suddenly, everything around me looked a little bit brighter. Out my window, the grass was greener and the grey sky turned to shimmering silver. The clouds sparkled like a herd of glitter-bombed sheep. I noticed flowers and birds that I hadn’t before. The corners of my mouth spread involuntarily. In that moment, I felt nothing but pure, absolute happiness.

Euphrosyne’s concentration broke. The feeling left as quickly as it had come. But instead of feeling let down, I felt content. Satiated. Like I’d just swallowed one perfect bite of a decadent dessert far too rich to possibly take two, and I was now savoring the lingering taste left behind on my tongue.

“That’s incredible,” I said. We’d figured out a long time ago that Euphrosyne’s presence supernaturally increased people’s happiness, but a phenomenon this focused and intense was something new.

“Eros and Psyche are teaching me,” said Euphrosyne. “It was their idea. Eros wanted to see if we could invent happiness arrows, but you know I’m not into archery. So we’ve been trying it this way. I started practicing on them and Aphrodite. They’re easier since they’re empaths. I don’t have to do all the work. But I’ve been trying it on Mom and Dad, and it’s going really well. You’re the first person outside the family that I’ve tried it on.”

“Really?” I teased her. “Aphrodite’s family, but I’m not? Good to know where I stand around here.”

“Well, yeah, you’re family, too, but you’re different because you don’t live on Olympus like the rest of us so I don’t see you as often. And Aphrodite’s family to me because she’s my brother’s mom and she’s Mom’s best friend.”

There was some question as to the accuracy of Euphrosyne’s last statement. Aphrodite’s lovers are innumerable, but after her divorce, she realized for the first time that she didn’t really have any friends. So she randomly selected Aglaea, the newest goddess on Olympus, as her BFF. Aglaea also happened to be Aphrodite’s ex-husband’s fiancée and eventually his wife and the mother of his child. If Aphrodite has ever been aware of any possible conflict of interest in this friendship, she hasn’t shown it.

“How are Artemis and Athena?” Aglaea asked. “I don’t think I’ve seen them since Cronia.”

“Pretty good,” I said. “Did you hear Athena finally got Artemis to move the huntresses out of the Museum?”

“How did that happen?” Aglaea laughed.

“She said it was her house, too, so if Artemis’ subjects could live there, so could hers.”

“Oh dear,” said Aglaea

“Yeah,” I said. “She had some demigod soldiers, a few Amazons, a handful of priestesses; it was insane.”

“Which had the huntresses more distracted? The soldiers or the Amazons?” Aglaea asked.

“It was pretty much split down the middle,” I said. “After about a month of this, Artemis agreed that the only people living at the Museum would be her and Athena. She moved the huntresses back to their old camp on the riverbank, and Athena sent all her people back where they came from.” I paused, noticing a change in Aglaea’s expression. “Are you okay?” I asked.

“Oh, it’s nothing,” Aglaea assured me. “Aphrodite was summoning me. She’s had false contractions six times in the last week and a half.”

“She’s got to be about ready to pop,” I said. “Are you sure you don’t need to go take care of that?”

“Say for the sake of argument these are real contractions,” said Aglaea. “She probably still has awhile before her water breaks, and possibly hours before the baby comes. All her births have been unremarkable from a medical point of view. I’m not worried.”

“Hey, is that the fountain Dad just put in?” Euphrosyne asked as she looked out my window.

“Yeah, sometime you should come over and see it in the sunlight,” I said. It wasn’t raining, but the sky was getting blacker by the second, and there was thunder and lightning in the distance. “We call it the Fountain of Imagination.”

“Does it have any powers?” asked Euphrosyne.

“No idea,” I said. “We just thought the name sounded cool.”

“Can I experiment with the water?” asked Euphrosyne.

“Go ahead,” I said. “You know where Apollo’s lab equipment is.”

Euphrosyne waved her hands. A large pitcher and basin and a few beakers and vials appeared. She arranged them on the floor. She snapped her fingers, and the pitcher filled with water from the fountain.

My attention was called away by a knock at my window. Hermes was hovering outside, held aloft by the little white wings growing out of his ankles. “What is it?” I asked.

“Is that Aglaea?” he asked me.

“Yeah,” I said. “Do you have a message for her?”

“No,” he said.

A moment later, both he and Aphrodite appeared in the middle of my room. Aphrodite was collapsed in Hermes’ arms, whimpering in agony. The skirt of her dress was soaked.

“Okay, your water broke,” said Aglaea. “Let’s get you back to my clinic.”

“No!” Aphrodite moaned. “I don’t want to go back to Olympus. It’s crazy there.”

“Things are getting intense on Olympus right now,” said Hermes. “Demeter’s totally losing it. She put up a thorn hedge around the throne room. Aphrodite and I got out right before it closed, but once it did, Zeus ordered that no one else can teleport in or out until things are resolved. So the court is basically being held hostage until Persephone comes.”

“Where’s Hephaestus?” asked Aglaea.

“He’d already gone back to the forge when the craziness started,” Hermes assured her. “But Eros and Psyche are on the inside.”

“Need I ask what side of the hedge Apollo’s on?” I asked with an attempt at nonchalance, hoping my physician goddaughter didn’t notice the spike in my heart rate and adrenaline level. She didn’t seem to. She was probably too busy pondering what I was pondering. That Zeus’ order was a cover for the fact that even he couldn’t teleport out of Demeter’s hedge. Sure, he could probably burn through it with his lightning bolts, but that’d still be revealing a weakness. All of which meant that everyone trapped inside the hedge really was trapped.

“I tried to get him to leave with me when things took a turn for the worst,” said Hermes, “but you know what an idiot he is. He just had to stay and see if he could talk Demeter down.”  “Naturally,” I nodded. “Come on, let’s get Aphrodite to Apollo’s laboratory. There’s a cot in there.”

Aphrodite clung to the corner post of my bed with speechless whimpers.

“You’re not going to make her give birth in the lab, are you?” Euphrosyne protested. “It’s so cold and sterile!”

Aphrodite nodded piteously. Euphrosyne put a supporting arm around Aphrodite and stared at me with such reproach, such judgment, such pure disappointment.

“Oh, fine,” I relented. “Wait a second.” I removed my favorite comforter, snapped up five layers of towels, and arranged them on the bed. I said a silent requiem for my beautiful, fluffy mattress, which I doubted was long for this world.

“Thalia, help me get her situated,” said Aglaea. “Phrossie, can you boil some of that water?” she requested.

“Sure,” said Euphrosyne. She held her hands over the stone basin. It turned bright red. There would be a charred ring on the marble floor later, but I knew getting Hephaestus to fix it would be no problem. Phrossie had had him wrapped around her finger from day one.

“Is there anything I can do?” Hermes asked.

“Do you have any experience with midwifery?” Aglaea asked.

“I’ve attended one birth,” he said.

“Was it your own?” she asked. “Thalia, if he says yes, slap him.”

“With pleasure,” I said, rubbing my palms together.

“I choose not to answer,” said Hermes. “Please, I really don’t want to go back to Olympus right now.” A loud thunder crack punctuated his plea.

“Alright, you can stay as long as you help,” said Aglaea. “Get in my way and I throw you out.”

“Haven’t you been there for any of your own kids’ births?” Euphrosyne asked.

“Usually by the time they’re born, their moms don’t want me around anymore,” he said. “Or the moms’ husbands don’t.”

“You tried to come for Eros,” Aphrodite panted, somewhat verbal now that she was resting comfortably. “Ares didn’t.”

“He probably knew Hephaestus would’ve ripped his head off,” Hermes laughed as he smoothed Aphrodite’s hair away from her damp forehead.

“It would’ve reattached,” said Aphrodite. “Besides, Hephaestus is all talk. Athena can beat him up.”

“Baby, Athena can beat up any of us,” said Hermes.

“Hephaestus had no business being there for any – OW! – any of my births,” said Aphrodite. “They weren’t his.”

“I know,” said Hermes. “And I know this one isn’t mine. But I should’ve been there for the ones that were, and I’m here for this one.”

Aglaea quietly went about her work, her face clearly saying, Don’t mind me; go ahead and keep having this conversation about my husband and how you were married to him for centuries and cheating on him the whole time; this isn’t weird for me at all.

Out of nowhere, Euphrosyne said, “You’re so beautiful.”

“Of course I am,” Aphrodite said with a faint laugh, but it was obvious that she was touched by the compliment.

“I mean it,” said Euphrosyne. “I never imagined a woman could be so beautiful while she was in labor. You must be so strong. Your daughter’s going to love you.”

“You never know,” said Aphrodite. “Pushing someone out of your birth canal doesn’t – OW! – doesn’t seem to have much effect on how they feel about you.”

“Thalia, get some painkilling potions,” Aglaea interjected. I snapped some up and handed them over. Aglaea double-checked the vials to make sure I’d gotten the right ones. Some of Apollo’s potions could knock a full-blooded god out for hours or even days.

“But you’re the Goddess of Love,” said Euphrosyne, still focused on Aphrodite. “Anyone would love you. We all do, don’t we?” Forced murmurs of assent echoed throughout the room.

“You’re too sweet,” said Aphrodite. “I hope my daughter turns out to be as charitable as you are.”

“I don’t remember her father,” said Euphrosyne, “but if she’s anything like her mother, she’ll be wonderful.”

 

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The daughter of Aphrodite and Adonis was born that night. It was the weirdest thing; the moment she was born, the sky cleared and the thunder stopped. A beam of moonlight shone through the window, illuminating mother and child. Pegasus, our flying horse, showed up at the window. That didn’t surprise me. The latch on his stall is just a formality.

But Pegasus was only the first in a parade. Birds, rabbits, squirrels, deer, wildcats, bears, animals I had never seen around the Parnassus Museum before all passed by the window as if they were paying homage. And the baby looked each one of them in the eye. She was as aware of them as they were of her. She smiled, almost beckoning. She reached out her hand and a bird flew to her wrist.

Then a wild boar came to the window.

The baby shrieked and beat her little pink fists in the air. She grasped one of my throw pillows and tried to aim it at the window. She screamed inconsolably, her face turning red and blue. The boar bowed his head in solemn apology and crept back into the woods. The baby kept crying. I heard Aphrodite whisper, “It’s okay, he’s fine now. He isn’t hurt anymore. He got better.” Euphrosyne came and touched the baby’s cheek. That calmed and quieted her.

“I wonder if she’s a telepath,” said Aglaea. “The boar made you think of Adonis’ death, and she saw it in your mind?”

“I’m sure that was it,” said Aphrodite. But I wasn’t sure, and I doubted she was, either.

There was a knock at my door. Apollo, Calliope, and Clio were there. At a nod from Aglaea, I let them in.

“Persephone’s here,” was all Calliope said. A look she shared with Aphrodite suggested there would be more later.

“Can I see the baby?” Apollo asked timidly.

“Might as well,” Aphrodite allowed. Apollo approached them. When the baby saw him, she gave him an uncanny smile of recognition. She held out her uncoordinated little arms in his general direction. “Go ahead, pick her up,” said Aphrodite. She didn’t look happy.

Apollo picked the baby up. He held her perfectly, naturally. She cooed as she waved her arms toward his face.

“Oh, sure,” Hermes teased, “I help deliver the kid and it doesn’t even notice I exist; you come in when everything’s done and you’re the star attraction.”

“Might help if you didn’t call her an ‘it’,” Apollo smirked at him. To Aphrodite, he said, “I told Adonis I’d be here for the baby if he wanted me to. Regardless of how things ended between us, I still mean that.” Though I couldn’t blame this innocent baby for the sins of her father, it still bugged me that Apollo had any affection at all for Adonis after the way he’d lied and cheated.

“I’m keeping her,” Aphrodite said with an edge in her voice.

“Of course,” said Apollo, gently returning the baby back to her mother, “but parenting alone is hard, as I know from experience. I don’t know how I would’ve managed without the Muses and Chiron. If there’s anything at all that I can do for your daughter, or for you, please ask.”

“I’ll see,” was all Aphrodite could say.

“What’s her name?” asked Clio.

“Beroe,” said Aphrodite.

“Ber-o-e, daughter of Aphrodite and Adonis,” Clio recorded.

“That’s such a pretty name,” said Euphrosyne. “I’ve never heard it before. What does it mean?”

“I don’t know, I just liked it,” Aphrodite said.

“It’s an ancient word,” said Clio. I knew the answer, too, though I guessed the significance was unknown to anyone except Aphrodite, Calliope, and me. I also guessed Aphrodite wanted to keep it that way for awhile. “It means ‘from the underground waters’.”

“Hm. How funny,” said Aphrodite. But I didn’t believe for a second that her choice was as random as she wanted us to think.

 

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Apollo and Clio soon left mother and child to rest. Once Aglaea determined both of her patients were stable, she gave Aphrodite a few instructions and asked Calliope if it was alright for Aphrodite and the baby to stay here for a few days. Calliope agreed they could stay as long as they needed to. No one bothered to get the permission of the person whose room they were staying in for this alarmingly unspecific amount of time, but, whatever. Aglaea and Euphrosyne went home to Olympus. Hermes followed. It was down to me, Calliope, Aphrodite, and Wrinklefacething.

“Thalia,” said Calliope, “you can share my room for now. Why don’t you get yourself situated while I see if Aphrodite needs anything else?”

“Sure,” I accepted with grace and compliance. I know when people are trying to get rid of me. I’m not one to stick around where I’m not wanted.

Not without my Helmet of Darkness, anyway. The second I closed myself in the hallway, I summoned the helmet, put it on, and teleported my invisible self back into my room.

Aphrodite was telling Calliope all about Beroe’s reaction to the wild boar. Calliope and Aphrodite both shared my assessment of the cause. “I saw how she reacted to Apollo,” said Calliope. “The level of recognition in her face was unnatural for a newborn. I tried to dismiss it as Apollo being good with children, but after hearing about the boar…”

“Do you think she just has Adonis’ memories, or do you think she has all the memories of the dead, like your sons and your mom do?” asked Aphrodite. She held her baby a little closer.

“Good question,” said Calliope. “We probably won’t know until she starts talking.”

“Depending on the answer, I don’t want her to learn to talk around the Olympian Court,” said Aphrodite. “Like, what happens if she sees Zeus and freaks out because she remembers everyone he’s ever killed? Or Hera, or Ares, or any of them?”

“Hopefully it won’t come to that,” said Calliope. “After all, Apollo’s killed plenty of people, and Beroe was all affection and happiness with him.” Then she cringed. “Do you think she has all of Adonis’ memories?”

“I don’t see the big deal if she does,” said Aphrodite. “Eros walked in on me plenty of times when he was little, and he turned out fine.”

“I suppose so,” said Calliope. “If Beroe does have her father’s memories, and if any of them are traumatic or disturbing for her, we have the Goddess of Psychology on call and brain bleach on hand. As to whether she has more than just her father’s memories, I agree that it would be safer if she isn’t around the Olympian Court until she’s mature enough to process and control her reactions. Like I told Aglaea, you’re welcome to stay here as long as you need to.”

Um…did Calliope just loan out my room for the next six months to a year? It certainly sounded that way.

“Oh, that’s wonderful, thank you,” Aphrodite gushed. “These quarters aren’t much compared to mine on Olympus, but my baby’s safety comes first. We’re tough, aren’t we?” she cooed to  the baby. “We can rough it for awhile, can’t we? Oh, yes, we can.”

 

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When Calliope got back to her room, I was on her couch under a blanket, pretending to be asleep. “Thalia,” I heard her say. I didn’t move. “Thalia, I know you can hear me,” she said. “There’s no way you’ve gone to sleep yet. We need to talk.”

“Yeah, there’s no way I could’ve fallen asleep already.” I opened my eyes. “It’s not like I assisted a birth today or anything.”

“I thought providing a room and staying in it to make sure it wasn’t messed up too badly was the extent of your assistance,” said my cruel, unfeeling sister. “Come on, I need to talk to you.”

“About?” The fact that she’d just loaned out my room without asking me, maybe?

Calliope sat down on the end of the couch. “You and I haven’t really talked about Adonis’ death since it happened,” she said.

“What happened with Persephone today?” I sat upright, interested at last.

“I’ll get to that,” said Calliope. “I want to talk about Adonis’ ‘funeral rites,’ if we can call them that.”

“Let’s do call them that,” I agreed.

“You woke me up that day when you summoned me to Endymion’s Cave. I remembered Ares killing Adonis, and Persephone going back to Hades, but nothing after that. I couldn’t remember when or how I’d gotten back in my bed. But on my nightstand, there was a small crystal vial of water. The words ‘Drink when you’re alone’ were etched on it. When I drank it, the gap in my memory was restored. It must have been water from Lake Mnemosyne.”

“Wow. That’s some story,” I said. The truth was that I had followed Calliope to Hades aided by my Helmet of Darkness, and Mom had shown me where she keeps the vials. But I wasn’t sure how much of this I should tell her. Mom had known I was in Hades even though I was invisible. She didn’t reveal me to anyone. There was probably a good reason.

“Well, here’s the funny thing,” said Calliope.

“I like funny things.”

“Remember I summoned Aphrodite as soon as I got to the Cave?”

“Yeah.”

“Later, when I talked to her, she told me exactly the same story. She woke up in her own bed, remembered Adonis’ death but nothing after it, found a vial on her nightstand, drank the contents, and had her memory restored. We showed each other our vials. They were identical.”

“Did you ask Mom about it?”

“No,” said Calliope. This didn’t really surprise me since Mom had ordered Calliope’s memory wiped in the first place. Honey, you have no idea how sorry I am, I remembered Mom saying, but your choices are to drink this yourself or to have it poured down your throat while the guards restrain you. Of course, Mom knew I was secretly watching and could give Calliope the antidote later, but Calliope didn’t know that.

“What about Persephone?” I asked. “Did you ask her?”

“I didn’t.” Again, no surprise. It was pretty obvious that Mom had ordered the temporary memory wipe to protect Calliope from Persephone and Hades. “Other than Aphrodite,” said Calliope, “the only person I’ve talked to about this is Apollo. I left out most of the details of what happened while we were in Hades.” So he didn’t know about the Furies. Good to know. “And, though he wouldn’t say why, he thought I should talk to you.”

Damn it. How did Apollo always know when I was up to something? He rarely knew what, but somehow he always knew.

“Apollo blames me for all kinds of stuff I have nothing to do with,” I brushed her off. “He’s paranoid and delusional.”

“So you’re a psychology goddess now, too?” Calliope laughed.

“I think we all knew Apollo was mentally ill way before Psyche existed.”

“You’re not going to tell me anything, are you?” said Calliope.

I was silent for awhile. I wanted to be inside the circle. I wanted Calliope to know that we shared this secret. But Mom hadn’t told her. It seemed Mom was pretending the whole thing had never happened. What if there was some reason it was safer for Calliope not to know that I knew?

Besides, I really didn’t want Calliope to know about my Helmet of Darkness. She’d spoil all my fun.

“I can tell you that Mom gave me the potions,” I said at last, hoping that would reassure her that Mom had never intended for her memory loss to be permanent. “But I can’t tell you how.”

“Mom gave you the potions,” Calliope repeated. “Mom, whom I just got back from visiting? Who didn’t say a single word to me about the entire incident? Who still won’t tell me why my own son died? Who knew that Zeus, not Dionysus, killed him, but decided I didn’t need to know that? I hated Dionysus. I went without wine for two hundred years to spite him, Thalia. Wine. Two hundred years. For nothing.”

“You never liked him all that much to begin with,” I reminded her in a clumsy attempt at comfort. As the God of Wine and Revelry, Dionysus is the ultimate party boy. He’s an even bigger whore than Ares, though to be fair, all the Maenads do enter his thralls of their own free will. He and Apollo have been at odds ever since he joined the Twelve. Dionysus is everything Apollo’s spent his life trying to prove he isn’t. And, well, Apollo’s always been like family to us, so we tend to take his side in this ongoing rivalry. Though I’ve always secretly felt Apollo could learn a few things from his wilder, less-inhibited counterpart. Who, in turn, could stand a little inhibition.

“There’s a big difference between passive dislike and active hatred,” said Calliope. “I reserve the latter for people who do things like murder my children.”

“Dionysus did make out with his hammered half-brother that one time,” I reminded her. “Apollo acted like it was hyperbole when he called the memory ‘traumatic,’ but I think he was pretty traumatized.”

“That’s different,” said Calliope. “That’s a thing Dionysus really did. I still feel guilty for hating him so long over something he didn’t do. And he never even tried to defend himself.”

By this point, I knew any further attempts at comfort would be pointless, but I really wanted to point out that Dionysus’ most likely reason for ignoring Calliope’s centuries of hatred was that he’d never noticed. I wasn’t sure whether he’d had a moment of complete sobriety and lucidity in his adult life. But I decided to keep my mouth shut and let Calliope rant. She’d learned the truth about her son Orpheus’ death two years ago, and this was the first time since that she’d brought it up. To me, at least.

“And you know what the worst part of all of this is?” she said. “I still don’t know why Orpheus died. All I know is that Zeus killed him because he discovered ‘a great secret.’ Mom knows the secret. The Corybantes know the secret. None of them will tell me. My own mother and sons. Orpheus’ grandmother and brothers. I’d hoped Adonis could learn the secret for me when he went to the Elysian Fields, but his memories are as lost as Orpheus’ now. I’ve thought about trying to investigate on my own, but I wouldn’t even know where to start, or how to go about it without arousing suspicion.”

Calliope’s countenance was brave and strong as always, but I could see subtle tears of frustration and shame forming. “I can’t tell you how much I hate to admit this, but Zeus scares me. He scares me so much. I feel physically ill every time we have to go to Olympus. I haven’t even been able to consider being intimate with anyone since he…you know. After centuries of mourning Orpheus’ father, Hades rest his soul, I was finally ready for love again. Or at least sex. And Zeus took that from me. He used the form of someone I knew, cared for, and trusted. How can I know he won’t do it again? How can I trust anyone again? Not just about this, about everything. Who can I trust if my own mother, my own sons, my own sister, apparently have no problem hiding things about my own life from me?”

I threw my arms around her. We held each other in silence for the longest time. Once I felt like the silence had run its course, I said, “You can trust me, okay? I’ll tell you everything.”

 

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For the first time, I did tell Calliope everything. I told her about the Fates believing I’d helped raise Echo from the dead by demanding a happy ending to her story. I left off the part about Apollo giving Echo an illicit “cure for death” invented by his son. That was his secret to keep or reveal. But the business with the Fates was my secret, and I felt like Calliope needed me to share it with her.

So I told her about the Fates testing me. About how it was possibly because of my blessing that Hephaestus finally gave Aphrodite the divorce she’d wanted and they’d both needed for ages; and that both of them went on to find happiness in their new lives, Hephaestus with Aglaea, and Aphrodite with whomever she wanted at any given moment. I told Calliope about how, after Zeus raped and impregnated her in Apollo’s body, I’d called on the Fates to let her and her children live “happily ever after.” How the Fates had summoned me after the Corybantes’ birth and told me that their conception had been fated. How the Fates also suspected that Calliope, as the Muse of Epic Poetry, had unconsciously influenced the Corybantes’ part in the scene the Fates had been weaving ever since we’d moved in with Apollo.

“They wanted to test you, too,” I told her. “I told them to leave you and the rest of our sisters out of it.”

“And that was it? You told the Fates to leave us alone, and they did?” said Calliope.

“Oh, of course. They’re totes wrapped around my finger,” I said, my sarcasm matching her incredulity. Then I got serious again and told her about their next test: Athena and Artemis. How I didn’t realize this until it was all over, but that the Fates wanted me to bring the two virgin goddesses together so that Artemis would tell Athena just how much abuse she’d suffered while Zeus raised her, and Athena would seek revenge. I didn’t go into details about Artemis’ history since, again, it was her secret to keep or tell. I only knew it in the first place because of my Helmet of Darkness. The Fates likely didn’t give a damn about how Zeus treated his children, but they did care when a god claimed before all and sundry that he was “ZEUS, LEADER OF THE FATES.” They wanted to use a vengeful Athena, Goddess of Wisdom and Battle Strategy, as their hitman.

In conclusion, I told Calliope that Adonis’ death had been fated from the beginning, as had Aphrodite’s and Apollo’s love for him. The Fates needed Aphrodite to follow Adonis to Hades so they could both remember their true origins as two of the three Furies. And I did tell Calliope why and how I secretly followed them to Hades and saw the whole thing. I told her that Mom gave me an antidote for Adonis. I’d slipped it to him while he was on the barge to the Elysian Fields. So, for all we knew, he could have all his memories of both incarnations now.

“Did the Fates say why they needed Apollo to fall in love with Adonis?” Calliope asked.

“No.” This was true, though I had a theory. Apollo had chosen not to use his Cure for Death on Adonis because raising Hades and Persephone’s son from the dead would definitely have gotten their attention, and not in a good way. But Apollo had helped Aphrodite preserve Adonis’ body. The corpse now lay untouched and undisturbed in Endymion’s Cave. Surely Apollo was biding his time, waiting until it was safe to reunite Adonis’ soul with his body. Like I said, though, I didn’t want to tell Calliope about Apollo’s cure for death, so I kept my theory to myself.

“You want to know what I think?” said Calliope.

“Sure.”

“I think the Fates used Apollo to get to you,” she said. “To call Adonis ‘captivating’ would be a great understatement. I always had a nagging feeling that there was more to him than we could see, and not necessarily in a good way, but I was still quite taken with him. We all were. You have to admit that at times you were, too. But seeing Apollo with him would always snap you out of it. And then you’d hate him.”

“I hate it when people lie to and cheat on my friends,” I said.

“Alright, if you want to pretend that’s all it was, I don’t feel like trying to reason with you right now,” said Calliope. “But the point is, you hated Adonis. Truly hated him, the way I hated Dionysus for so many centuries.”

“So you’re going to blame me for Adonis’ death?” I said. “I’ve hated plenty of people who have had long and disgustingly successful lives. And if my alleged powers mean I’m not allowed to have normal feelings because people might die, then screw everything.”

“No, that’s not what I’m saying at all,” said Calliope. “You said yourself that the Fates had planned for Adonis to die before the end of summer no matter what. I don’t believe for a second that you made that happen. However. I think if Adonis had had your favor, which he likely would’ve if he hadn’t stolen the man you’re not in love with, the Fates wouldn’t have been able to give his story the tragic ending they’d written for him. Even as is, I don’t think Adonis’ story has actually ended. I think there’s more left for him, and that’s likely because of you. You said Apollo begged you to wish Adonis well the night before he died. Maybe without your blessing, we’d have burned Adonis’ body on a funeral pyre and left no hope of resurrection.”

“I’d never thought of it like that,” I said. I truly hadn’t.

“Have you talked to Mom about this business with the Fates?” asked Calliope.

“No,” I said. “Apollo, Athena, and now you are the only ones who know. Although, Mom kind of brought it up to me once.”

“When? What did she say?”

“Remember when Apollo was delivering your babies, he told me, ‘You know what you can do; I believe you can do it’?”

“Not really. I was having seven babies delivered by Asclepian section at the time.”

“Right. Anyway, after he said that, Mom went into telepathy mode and said ‘So you are learning.’ She told me to not be afraid as I begin to remember the powers she’s given me, but to be extremely careful. I tried to ask her about it, but she said she’d told me too much already and that it wasn’t a good time to talk. You were in surgery, remember? I never got a chance to bring it up again.”

“I don’t know what in Tartarus is going on with Mom, but I think we can assume any attempt to get information from her will be futile,” said Calliope. “But I’m so glad you told me all of this. If the Fates call on you again, do tell me. I can face it if they want to drag me into their trials.”

“Please don’t say things like that.”

“I mean it.”

“Calliope.”

“Apparently they’ve been toying with me all along anyway,” said Calliope. “You know what laying low and staying out of it got me? Getting raped and impregnated with septuplets that I didn’t get to raise because I would’ve had to live in constant fear of my rapist stealing them from me, or his wife punishing me for something that was not my fault. I’ve always been the good daughter, the Leader of the Muses, the one who kept the family together after we left the Underworld, and how does Mom reward me? Forcing me to wipe my memory who knows how many times, and  keeping secrets about my own life for centuries. And I am tired of it. I won’t put up with any of it any more. I have run out of damns to give. Don’t try to protect me. Protecting me has not done a goddamn thing. Please. No more secrets.”

I couldn’t really argue with that. So I didn’t.

“No more secrets.”

 

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