I want to see Zeus in a tailored suit and shaggy beard, a
walking disparity of the loud, brash, post-graduate frat boy variety who can’t
pass a woman on the street without catcalls, who has more one-night stands than
he could possibly keep in his head, for whom adultery comes as naturally as the
weather he predicts on the Channel 4 News—with startlingly accuracy, and an
endless wealth of charisma.
I want to see Hera walking tall, six-inch heels and not a
wrinkle in her skirt, knowing her boyfriend is cheating, and knowing with equal
certainty that she is better, stronger, fiercer than he will ever be, a wedding
planner with an eye of steel, spotting vulnerability, slicing it open, teaching
every woman who crosses her path to value themselves over any mistake made in
the name of men and love.
I want to see Poseidon in Olympic prime, a gym rat who
skives off class to shatter backstroke records, who spends his summers
lifeguarding at the city pool, who keeps an ever-expanding aquarium in his
bedroom and coaxes all the pretty girls up to visit his fish, his charm as
impressive as the earth-rending temper he generally uses to fuel his competitive
I want to see Hades, big, hulking, quieter than his brothers
would ever think to be, who dresses in neat dark clothes, and polishes his
boots, and spends more time reading than fighting, who debates eventuality and
ethics, who stoically reminds everyone how enormous, how terrifying, how
inescapable a thing like silentinevitability can be.
I want to see Hermes in a beanie, with watercolor splashes
of tattoo crawling up his arms and holes in his Chucks, a bike messenger with
no helmet, no regard for the rules of the road, all cataclysmic laughter, lock-pick
tricks passed along to every kid who thinks to ask, thumbing through his iPhone
without a care in the world.
I want to see Athena with reading glasses pushed high on her
head, six books in her bag and a switchblade in her back pocket, her clothing
as neatly ordered as her mind is feverish, brilliance and temper clashing and
blending, doing her best to look dignified—even when her brain chemistry
rockets ahead of her well-intentioned plans.
I want to see Apollo splattered with acrylics, board shorts
and Monster headphones and a beautiful classic car, busking on street corners,
not because he has no choice, but because the sunlight catching on a
sticker-patterned acoustic is summer incarnate, because music is blood, because
the act of creation is the ultimate in sublime.
I want to see Artemis in ripped jeans and haphazard topknot,
star of the soccer team, the track team, the archery team, who rides a
motorcycle, and keeps a tribe of girls around her at all times, and does not
care for men, for expectation, for anything but volunteer hours down at the
local animal shelter and falling asleep under the stars.
I want to see Aphrodite in sundress and scarf, homemade
jewelry and lavish amounts of bright red lipstick, who is excellent at public
speaking, at theater auditions, at soothing bruised egos and sparking epic
fights, who kisses as easily as she breathes and scrawls poetry onto bathroom
I want to see Ares all but living in the boxing ring, cutoff
shirts and sweats, red-faced under a crew cut as he punches, punches, punches
until the noise in his head dims, a warrior with no war, all crude jokes and
blind fury, totally incapable of understanding what it is to sit, think, plan
before running screaming into the fray.
I want to see Demeter with the best garden you’ve seen in
your life, with a lawn care business she runs out of her garage, a teenage
prodigy grown into a joint-custody single mother, who teaches her carefree
daughter all she knows while scaring off the hopeful neighborhood boys with the
pet python draped across her shoulders.
I want to see Dionysus with a joint in one hand and a bottle
of wine in the other, baggy hoodies and three-week-old jeans, who brews his own
beer in his basement and greets all visitors with a fresh pack of Oreos and
half-stoned theories of the universe, of birth and death and partying mid-week,
because why not, man?
I want to see Hephaestus with a workshop taking up the
majority of his house, whose kitchen is overrun with blowtorches, whose bathrooms
are home to all manner of hodge-podge invention, who walks with a cane and
forgets his laundry for weeks at a time, and strings together the most
beautiful steampunk costumes at any convention at the drop of a hat.
I want to see wood nymphs fighting against climate change,
waving their signs and pushing for scientific progress. I want to see epic
heroes sitting down to Magic: The Gathering tournaments, poker brawls, Call of
Duty all-nighters with beer and snapbacks. I want to see Medusa working a women’s
shelter, want to see Achilles training for deployment, want to see Prometheus
serving endless community service stints for what he calls providing necessary welfare with stolen goods.
Give me modern mythology. I could play for hours in that
Zeus sits at the bar, he’ll buy a thousand and one drinks and the girls who he smiles at will raise their eyebrows and think of the pepper spray tucked into their sleeves.
Hera waits at home. She knows the numbers of all the girls and she has their facebooks open on the computer. Her hands hover over the keyboard., She wants to tell them that men will always lie. She wants to take her own advice. She never will.
Apollo and Artemis travel the world. They are chasing the sun. Chasing the moon. They will never catch up. Their hand are curled around each others hip bones. Never in public though. They look too similar for that now. Society has learned judgement and so they keep their caresses safe in the shadows.
Poseidon wanders the shore. He wears a plastic poncho and carries a bag of trash. His tears mix with the salt water. No one can tell the difference. A girl with hair that moves like serpents trails after him, retribution in her eyes.
Hades lies in bed, his wife curled around him. He smiles because people will always believe in death and finally, finally he has beaten his brothers at something.
Athena paces through college campuses, handing out pamphlets on architecture. She scoffs at professors who are simply going through the motions. She carries signs in her hands as she marches through the streets with the students, screaming about the newest problem. She laughs wild, these children, these fearless children are her people.
Hestia wants her family to come home. She waits in the doorway, arms outstretched and a smile like forgiveness waiting to embrace the siblings whom she knows will never return.
Demeter counts down the days until her daughter returns. She smiles when children cheer over the snow days she gives them. There was a time when she had a child like that.
Persephone kisses her husband and grins when people tremble. She is vengeful and wears flowers in her hair and she will make damn sure that the world will never forget her name.
Ares walks through the Middle East, picking his way around the ruins of an elementary school. He stopped understanding war a long time ago. This was not brave, this was not heroic. This was senseless.
Aphrodite narrows her eyes at boys in cars who yell obscene things. She’s long since stopped romanticizing love. She is gaunt and over worked but sometimes she sees a teenage girl handing her baby over to an older couple who had tried for years and she feels young again. Sometimes, she sees Ares from across the room as soldiers embrace their loved ones and they smile at each other.
Hephaestus limps through his shop, his hands are worn down, his back is still twisted but people don’t seem to notice anymore. He makes their furniture, their toys and trinkets and they thank him, they pay him.
Hermes runs through the streets of New York, Tokyo, London. He is young in this time, young and beautiful and slipping between business men, his hands finding their way into their pockets. He never stops laughing.
Dionysus mixes Zeus his drinks. He watches his family grin and cry and get sick in the back room of the bar. He holds back their hair and hands them another drink before they even ask. He’s been here a long time. He’s seen them drunk more often then he’s seen them sober. He is watching them flicker out and fade.
The gods are dying. The gods are dead. The gods are us.
Friendly reminder that Patroclus should not be remember simply as “Achilles’ bitch”.
Friendly reminder that Patroclus was a little shit. He had the power, the looks and the skills, and he knew it. Not only he excelled at battle; he did it while taunting his enemies all the fucking time cause he was going to win and he knew it.
Friendly reminder that he was the one guy who got to call out on Achilles, something no one else dared to do. In fact, men went to ask him to call out on Achilles because everyone was scared of him. Except for Patroclus.
Friendly reminder that Patroclus had advanced medical knowledge, something extremly rare at the time. He healed many of his friends and comrades during battle. Hadn’t it been for him, many great warriors would have died.
Friendly reminder that Patroclus was loyal to a fault. He was always by Achilles’ side in battle. He never disobeyed Achilles orders. The one time he did, was the time he died.
Friendly reminder that Patroclus was kind and had a soft heart. He cried because while Achilles’ Rage lasted, he wouldn’t let any of his men enter battle, Patroclus included. And while Achilles’ troops were hiding in their ships, the rest of the Greek army got crushed. Patroclus felt so powerless and helpless because he couldn’t do nothing as he saw his comrades dying.
Friendly reminder that Patroclus had a character crisis. He had to decide whether obeying his Lord’s commands and abandoning his friends in battle, or going against his Lord’s wishes and engaging fight.
Friendly reminder that he refused to stay behind like a coward. He chose to enter battle, but since he was a honourable man he told Achilles about it. Friendly reminder that he managed to sway Achilles’ Rage. Friendly reminder that he managed to convince Achilles to let their troops rejoin the war, thus returning the victory to the Greeks.
Friendly reminder that Patroclus was flawed. He committed hubris. He got so battle drunk and was so excited by the prospect of finally ending the war, that he disobeyed Achilles’ direct command not to fight near the walls of Troy, and chased the Troyans back to the limits of the city. To the place Achilles had specifically told him not to go because it would be too dangerous. Friendly reminder that this one flaw is his downfall.
Friendly reminder that Patroclus doesn’t go down without giving one hell of a fight. Friendly reminder that Patroclus was so strong that Apollo (the God that protected Troy and Hector [Troy’s heir to the throne]) had to face him and repel him four times.Four times. A god. If that ain’t badass, then I don’t know what could be. In the fourth time, Apollo got inside Patroclus’ head and made him dizzy. Patroclus fell and Apollo removed him from his armour- Achilles’ armour. Patroclus ended up unprotected, vulnerable and dizzy in the middle of the battle field; so a random dude saw the opportunity and stabbed his back with a spear. But was that enough to make him go down? Oh heck no. The pain snapped him out of the dizziness. Patroclus realized he was in a very troublesome situation so he decided to fall back… but at that moment Hector engaged him in battle. And Patroclus wouldn’t retire from a direct combat, oh heck he wouldn’t. Even though he knew this was probably the way he would die, he fought with his all.
Friendly reminder that lacking his armor, tired from battle, with a spear wound on his back and only Achilles’ sword left as weapon, Patroclus faced Hector, Troy’s greatest warrior and didn’t fear.
Friendly reminder that when Hector sheathed his spear in Patroclos’ stomach, Patroclus thought about the love of his life.
Friendly reminder that with his last breath Patroclus smiled at Hector and told him “You are a dead man. This will be your downfall”. Friendly reminder that until his last moment, he was a little shit.
Friendly reminder that Patroclus is a flawed, well-rounded, badass character and that he deserves so much more than his current position as “Achilles’s love interest”.
His father told him: “Do not fly too high, because the sun will melt your wings, and you will fall. Do not fly too low because the salt water will soften the wax, and you will fall.”
He didn’t listen, because he never listened. He didn’t listen.
If he had - he would have realized. No matter what, he falls.
Apollo was very pretty. He kissed Icarus’s skin and called him a darling boy, and soon every time sunlight hit his skin it felt like a lover’s touch. He said come to me, come to me, and I will worship you, my days are full and busy and I will not have much time for you - but my nights are yours.
Who could refuse a god? Who could have god offer to worship them when they are nothing more than an aging inventor’s child, and say no?
If he’d listened to his father, he would have known - the sun never truly sets, there is no night, only places where the sun is absent.
Maybe if he’d listened to his father he could have refused Apollo, could have told the golden god of sunlight that he was happy where he was.
(He wasn’t, but if Apollo was going to lie to him it only seemed fair that Icarus did it in return.)
But he never listens.
So Icarus flies too high, leaving his father behind. He thinks if he can fly high enough fast enough then Apollo will be able to catch him, pluck him from the struggles of this mortal world.
But Apollo doesn’t come for him, and his wings melt. He goes crashing into the sea, and he doesn’t even have the time to tell his father he’s sorry.
He would have told his father that he was sorry.
He doesn’t die.
Poseidon is powerful and curious and considers Icarus to be a beautiful, curious thing.
Icarus did not know he was beautiful. Poseidon runs powerful hands over his hips, and Icarus doesn’t think Poseidon and Apollo know the same definition of beauty that he does.
When he thinks of beauty he thinks of his father’s machines, of stone walls that have been smoothed down so perfectly that they almost shine silver, of shadows dancing elegantly from a fire’s grasp.
He doesn’t think he’s any of these things. He doesn’t know what they mean when they call him beautiful, but he doesn’t think he likes it.
He is tired. Poseidon is very demanding, and every time the god comes to his bed Icarus feels likes he’s dying. It would be easier if Poseidon were a worse man, but he’s kind and thorough and Icarus always ends up having been satisfied but never really feeling satisfied.
He expects Poseidon’s wife to be angry with him, to hate him. He bumps into Amphitrite in the hall once. He bows low at the waist immediately, “I’m deeply sorry, my lady.” He wonders if she’ll kill him. He wonders if he’ll care.
She laughs, and it sounds like calm waves lapping at a shore. She presses two fingers underneath his chin and forces him to rise, then gently tilts his head to the side so she can see the trail of bite marks her husband has left down his neck. “Better you than me, my dear.” She pats his cheek twice and walks away.
What does that mean?
He doesn’t know how long he’s been here. Not more than a decade, he thinks, though he hasn’t aged.
Nothing ever changes. The bite marks never truly fade before Poseidon adds more.
Icarus waits for Poseidon to be slumbering beside him one night before wrapping the sheet around his hips and tip toeing out of the room. He doesn’t hesitate before stepping outside of the palace walls, and instantly he’s drowning. He’s so deep in the sea that it’s a toss up about what kills him first, the pressure on his tender organs or the lack of air in his lungs.
Not that it truly matters. No matter what, Icarus dies.
He wakes up. Again.
“My lady,” he greets, bowing before a goddess with skin the color of potting soil and hair the richest red, like rubies, or - “Pomegranates,” he finishes, and Persephone, queen of the underworld, smiles.
She says, “I’ve had my eye on you.”
She says, “Amphitrite speaks well of you.”
She says, “I am gone six months out the year. My husband gets lonely.”
He’s dead. There’s nowhere else for him to go.
“Okay,” he says.
The snow begins to melt. Persephone leaves, and the underworld itself seems to mourn her absence. He waits tense in his room that first night, but no one comes.
Nor the second night.
Nor the third.
He can think of nothing more unpleasant than Persephone’s wrath, so on the fourth night he goes to Hades’s room. When the god answers he bows low and says, “Your wife the Lady Persephone sent me.”
Icarus doesn’t dare look up when Hades says, “My brother is quite cross with me. He came demanding you back. I was willing to hand you over, but my wife said she had use of you.”
He can’t return to Poseidon. It’s cold and dark and makes him feel worthless. Even if Hades is a harsh lover, he’s better than his brother. “She wishes me to provide you company. She says you get lonely.”
“Does she,” Hades drawls, and Icarus cringes. “Boy, look at me when I’m speaking to you.”
So Icarus does. Hades has nothing to the perfect symmetrical beauty of Apollo, nor the wild strength and power of Poseidon. Hades has skin like bleached wood and hair the color of machine oil, with dark, expressive eyes and a nose a little too strong for his face.
He looks like a person. Like Icarus’s father might have looked as a younger man. Like Icarus might have looked if he was allowed to grow old. He looks beautiful.
“Come with me,” he sighs, “if my wife wants you to keep me company, then you shall.”
He follows Hades around everyday. As he maintains the circles of the underworld, the lost souls, attends to the gods and other non-dead things that make their home in his domain.
Icarus starts helping. Hades is without his queen, and what he would normally do with her he now does alone. So Icarus looks over the passenger logs for ferry over the River Styx, addresses the complaints that are grave enough to filter their way through the palace, and when Hades looks particularly tense and lost Icarus brings him pomegranates.
Hades still doesn’t sleep with him.
Icarus doesn’t know if he’s disappointed by that or not, but he thinks he’s happy here.
“You know,” Hades says one day while they’re looking over reports, “they call you Thanatos.”
Death god. “Why?” he demands. He’s not afraid of Hades anymore. When Hades is upset he screams and yells, then he goes and sits in the garden Persephone made for him. He doesn’t lash out to hurt.
Hades smiles and doesn’t answer.
Icarus is there to help Persephone off of the ferry. “He’s missed you,” he says, holding out his arm for her to use as balance while she steps out of the boat.
She raises an eyebrow, “You know, they used to call me Kore.” She stands on her tiptoes to kiss his cheek, “Thank you, Thanatos.”
Two hundred years later, in the midst of summer, Icarus gathers his courage and kisses Hades while both their hands are stained with ink and another war has made the lower levels of the underworld smell like corpse rot.
Hades kisses him back.
In two months, Persephone will kiss him
for the first time
as he helps her out of the ferry. Sometimes when things get stressful or Hades is upset, Icarus will climb into his lap and kiss him slowly.
can’t get comfortable during her pregnancy. She’s always too hot, constantly
sweating whether she’s in the in the oppressive heat at the bottom of the
volcano, or in the icy air at the top of it. It makes no difference. No matter
where she goes or what she does, she can’t find any relief. Hephaestus hovers
over her, wringing his hands and leaning his head against her stomach. Her
distended skin is too warm to the touch, and both of them can’t help but worry
about their child that grows inside her.
beg help from Artemis, who has no help to give them. “The child is healthy,”
she tells them, mystified. “The mother is healthy, though pained. I can do
nothing for you because there is nothing to be done.”
passes. The child is born. They call him Eros.
warms in Artemis’s hands as she cleans him and Aphrodite eagerly waits to be
handed her son. Artemis cries out and has to put him down, blisters appearing
on his hands. Aphrodite moves to pick him up, and she can stand his heat for
longer, but after a few minutes he leaves a welt of burnt flesh against her
chest. Hephaestus tries next, and manages to hold his son for a whole quarter
of an hour before his skin is eaten away.
can do nothing. She insists there’s nothing wrong with him, it’s just how he
is. Hephaestus crafts gloves of flexible metal so they can care for him – the
babe’s fire reacts to the warmth of another person. Clothes and objects remain
unburned. They go to Hermes, to Apollo, to Hestia, and none can help them.
Hestia tries to hold the child. She is the keeper of celestial fire, which
burns hotter than anything, yet she too comes away burned. “The celestial fire
is of me, and so it cannot harm me,” she tells them regretfully, “Eros is not,
and so he can.”
can help them.
cries, constantly unhappy because he longs to be held and rocked, longs for the
warmth of his parents but they can only give him snatches of affections, stolen
moments before he burns them and they must retreat behind cool metal.
is desperate. She sneaks away to Mount Olympus, goes against her husband’s
wishes and goes to Hera. She’s crying as she speaks, and Hera watches her with
cool, impassive eyes. “There is nothing wrong with your son,” she says. “He is
as he was made to be. If you cannot provide the care he needs, find someone who
stares, betrayed. Hera has been kind to her in the past, was the one who helped
her choose her husband when all of Olympus sought her hand. Aphrodite is a
daughter of Zeus, but not of another woman, and so Hera hadn’t hated her.
loses some of her sternness. “I have given you the answer you need, if not the
one you wanted. Return to you child and husband.”
tells Hephaestus where she went, and instead of angry he becomes contemplative.
blood soaked and exhausted when his brother appears beside him in the middle of
a battlefield. “Hephaestus,” he greets, startled, “Is something wrong?”
your help,” says the man who had never once asked him for anything, “I know it
hurts to leave, but–”
shakes his head, “There will always be another war. What do you need?”
wield the lightning bolts of Zeus and he takes bathes in lava to soothe the
ache of his muscles. Ares is not bothered by heat or flame because it passes
through him, he manages to do these things because he absorbs their heat
instead of being harmed by it.
his brother’s bed, holding his nephew, and Eros gives him a gap-toothed little
grin from where he’s splaying out against his chest, skin against skin. “Cute
kid,” he yawns. Hephaestus is on one side of him, and Aphrodite on the other.
leeches most of the heat from Eros, so he’s cool enough to touch, so his
parents can pat his back and kiss his forehead. “Thank you,” Hephaestus says,
finally able to touch his son without consequence.
Ares says, eyes sliding shut.
his brother’s family curled around him, Ares finds enough calm to sleep.
Eros is older, he learns to control it. He always runs hot, but by the time
he’s gotten big enough that the cyclopses are constantly chasing him in fear of
him getting into something he shouldn’t, he’s learned to regulate his
temperature to the point he doesn’t burn anyone any more.
least, he doesn’t burn any gods anymore. No matter how hard he tries, he’s too
hot for any mortal to touch unharmed.
that, Ares spends every moment away from the battlefield with Eros that he can.
He’s not always able to sleep, but he lies down with Eros on top him and with
Aphrodite and Hephaestus on either side.
run rampant, like they always do. People say Eros is the product of a union
between Ares and Aphrodite, they say that Aphrodite has been cheating on her
husband since the moment they married.
sorry,” Ares says, face pinched.
smiles, and Ares relaxes. “You are only doing what I’ve asked of you. There’s
nothing to apologize for.”
can’t help but feel guilty anyway.
grows, from a toddler to a man. He burns, a wide laughing mouth and eyes like
the sun. When he’s declared the god of passion, no one is surprised.
the best features of both his parents, and is devastatingly beautiful, with a
face that Helen herself would weep over. He is the son of the goddess of love
and the god of craftsmanship, and passion is necessary for both.
is many things. There is passion in love, and he goads many a shy couple into a
desperate embrace. There is passion in war, and when the battlefield grows
stilted and tired he joins his favorite uncle there and brings their energy to
the fore. There is passion in academia, and Eros encourages many scholars who
spend long nights seeking answers they may never find. There is passion in art,
and he blesses uninspired artists to create their heart’s desire.
is a quickening heartbeat, a want that must be sated, a determination to follow
through. It is burning until you are nothing more than ash simply
because the fire is too beautiful to put out.
a favorite among the gods, because so much of what he does benefits them. He
quickens the pulse of a people, and they use that energy to do great deeds in
the gods’ names.
beautiful and powerful and loved. He wants for nothing, until –
his mother sends him to help a village girl who has been praying to her for
sees Psyche, and instantly knows the weight of love in his chest.
knows this, it is the one thing about herself that she knows. All her life
people tell her this, when she’s a babbling baby and a little girl and a fully
grown woman, it’s what people say to her.
come to her seeking her hand, crossing borders and monsters to end up at her
door. “I have no dowry,” she tells them, “I cannot cook, I am a poor
seamstress, I have never cleaned a home.”
not care,” they all tell her, with their greedy eyes and their greedy hands,
“You are beautiful.”
mother and aunts shooed her from the kitchen as a child, saying the steam would
ruin her pretty hair, wouldn’t let her sew because the needles would harden her
soft hands, didn’t want her to spend hours cleaning because the she was too
lovely to mar with common dirt.
children wouldn’t play with her, including her sisters, and soon she ran from
all her tutors whose gazes made her shoulders itch. The first time someone lays
tribute at her feet, like she is some sort of goddess and not a simple village
girl, she runs away and locks herself in her room.
tributes and prayers don’t stop, and she hates them. She only wants to be like
everyone else, wants to read and cook and have friends. Every night she bundles
up the gifts and tributes people give her sneaks away to the temple of
Aphrodite. She lays these things where they belong, with the goddess of beauty
and love. “Please,” she begs, every night, “please make it all stop, revered
goddess. I can’t live this way.”
does this, for years and years, but her prayers are never answered. She sinks
lower and lower, feeling confined to her home like a prisoner since she can’t
leave it without flowers being thrown at her feet or someone remarking on her
figure and face. Her sisters will not speak to her, and her parents will not
listen to her. She eats less and spends days languishing in bed, growing weaker
and more tired by the day.
day, after turning away yet another suitor and being turned away yet again when she tries to help her mother in
the kitchen, she goes far out of the village, where no will find her, where no
one will be able to remark on the beauty of her corpse.
walks to the edge of a cliff, and takes a deep breath. “Lady Aphrodite,” she
whispers, “let me be ugly in my next life.”
sees her falling, and bids Zephyr to save her. She is caught gently by the
wind. However, she’s so weak and malnourished that the shock of not falling to
her death causes her to pass into unconsciousness. He wishes he could have save
her himself, that he could take her in his arms now and cradler her close to
touched her, he would harm her, so he will not.
her to my home,” he says, conflicted because he has no interest in growing into
either Zeus or Poseidon. But he cannot touch her, so it’s not the same. “I’ll
be along shortly.”
carries her away, far into the distance.
not what his mother intended when she sent him here, but he can’t leave Psyche
among the mortals. If she tried to kill herself once, she’ll do it again, and
then where will he be?
feels heavy with love, and he does not know this girl, he does not know how
this is possible unless it has been arranged by the Fates. Psyche is a beautiful
girl, but he is a god. He is the son of the goddess of beauty and every other
goddess he knows is comparable in the grace of their form and face. Beautiful
mortals do not tempt him.
other things to attend to, so he puts aside the problem of Psyche so he can go
convince a young noble lady to kiss the baker’s daughter.
wakes up, which she wasn’t expecting. What’s more, she’s not in pain. She’s
being carefully deposited on soft grass by a being she can’t see. “Where am I?”
she cries. She doesn’t think this is the afterlife. She’s on top of a large
mountain, and a large, gorgeous home with marble columns sits on the edge.
is an edge. She can still jump. She takes one hesitant step closer when a
strong gust of wind pushes her back and something like a voice says, This is the home of a god, do not desecrate this
place with your blood.
she says, a mixture of relief and fear clogging her throat, “Can I – can I go
inside? It’s cold out here.”
wind pushes her towards the home, so she takes that as permission.
all marble and gold and fur, perfectly decorated and with many rooms and
interesting things. But Psyche finds the bedroom, and in between the long
journey outside of her village and the adrenaline of being caught by the wind
and brought here, she’s exhausted. She climbs onto the soft bed without
thinking, and is asleep the moment her head touches the pillow.
moon is high in the sky by the time Eros returns home. He steps inside, and
doesn’t light any of the torches out of fear of startling the girl. He finds
her in his own bedroom, and only has a moment to stare at her silhouette
against his white blankets before she’s stirring, pushing herself up looking
around the room. Her eyes aren’t as good as his, so she can’t even see the
outlines of objects. To her, it is complete darkness. “Who’s there?” she
demands, voice scratchy from sleep, “What do you want?”
“I am a
friend,” he says, not saying his name. He knows the impression mortals have of
him, and the last thing she needs to hear is that he’s the god of passion while
she lies helpless before him in his bed. “The wind brought you here because you
threw yourself from the cliff face. Why would you do that?”
sits up and pulls her knees to her chest. “I don’t want to talk to about it.”
but doesn’t push. “I’m not here to make you do anything you don’t want to do.”
are you here to do?” she asks, “Why am I here?”
sounds sad, and scared, and he wishes he could touch her. He wishes he could
take her hands and kiss her forehead, but he can’t, not without hurting her. “I
think it would be best if you stayed with me, for a while. Until you no longer
find cliffs so tempting. I have a beautiful home, and am often gone while
attending to my duties, so feel free to make full use of it.”
do you get out of it?” she demands.
smiles, wry, and knows she cannot see it. “I suppose I could use a housekeeper.”
meant it as a joke, but she perks up at the words. “A housekeeper? Really?”
like,” he says, although there are nature sprites who tend to his home for him
if necessary. “I apologize, we’ve been speaking in the dark this whole time. I’ll
light the lanterns.”
moves to do so, a flicker of flame already appearing on his fingertips when she
screams, “NO! DON’T!”
can’t look at me,” she says desperately, “Please. Not – not ever. If you saw
me, you wouldn’t be so nice to me. I – I want you to be nice to me. Don’t light
he asks, and he’s already seen her from afar, he knows what she looks like. But
it sounds as if she’s seconds away from away from crying, and it seems like it
would only be a cruelty to tell her this now.
she says, “please. Please.”
away from home during the day is a small thing, what with his parent’s volcano
always open to him, and he can see well enough in the darkness that he’s not in
any danger of tripping over his own feet. “Very well, Psyche. If that’s what
you want. We will only meet in darkness, and I shall never see your face.”
takes his offhand comment about housekeeping seriously. She’s never cleaned
before, but she’s seen it done, it’s simple if not easy. The first time her
hands blister and crack she can’t stop smiling for the rest of the day. She
spends her days cleaning, and at first that takes up all her time. She’s
unpracticed, and slow, and she falls into the same bed utterly exhausted. It
leaves her no time to dwell on the life she left behind, or the hollow ache
below her breastbone.
hard work, and it leaves her ravenous. Before, she ate almost nothing and slept
most of the day away. She doesn’t do that here, can’t, has more of an appetite
than she’s had since she was a child. Nymphs bring food to the home, fruits and
vegetables, bread and cheese and meat. At first she makes only simple meals,
but as the cleaning takes less and less time she finds herself trying more
things. Cooking is harder to get the hang of than cleaning.
friend comes to her at night, slipping into her room. She always knows when he’s
there, even if she’s deep in sleep, and will wake up to speak to him. Psyche
never leaves the bed, and he never comes from across the room. She sits up and
listens to his voice, of the people he saw and things he did. She tells him the
same, even though at first she thinks he does not care. But he does, because he
asks her questions and compliments her on polishing the floors until they
shine. One night after a particularly bad failure, the first thing he does is
ask, “Did you try and burn down my kitchen, Psyche?”
laughing, so she throws a pillow at him, and is satisfied by the dull thud of
it hitting true and his laughter growing louder. “If I had tried I would have succeeded, and you would have come home
to an ash pile.”
pleased by your restraint,” he says, and she scowls at him even though he can’t
see it. “What was that horrible smell supposed to me?”
she says, sighing. “I don’t think I’m a very good cook.”
not. Why don’t you try doing something else? What else do you enjoy?” he asks.
sits cross legged on the bed and frowns. “I don’t know,” she says finally, “I’m
a poor artist and a worse singer. I have no eye for needlework. I like knowing
things, but I’m not a fan of learning. I – I like cleaning. I like using my
what you like. Try to do some things with your hands. The garden could use some
looking after,” he suggests.
have to eat,” she points out, “I might as well learn to cook.”
snorts. “Spare both yourself and my kitchen. Don’t worry about that. Worry
about the mint that’s taking over the rose bushes.”
doesn’t know what he means until she gets up the next morning and finds a day’s
worth of food waiting for her, already made and much tastier than anything she’s
managed. Next to it is a book on gardening.
she has a knack for. It is a god’s garden, so it has always been beautiful, but
under her hands it becomes even more so, flourishing and vibrant under her attentions.
She plants flowers that bloom and glow at night, so that her friend may walk
through the garden and be greeted by something that doesn’t slumber.
hands are calloused and hard, and dirt gets stuck under fingernails. Her hair
is a sweaty mess and breaking at the ends, and her skin is tanned in patches,
her arms and the back of neck darker than her stomach and thighs. Freckles pop
up in unexpected places, on her wrists and shoulders, a single one slightly off
center of her sternum.
never felt more beautiful.
is stronger now, food and hard work having thickened her waist and brightened
her eyes. She does not fall asleep exhausted each night, but instead sits up
waiting for her friend to visit her, eagerly listening to his adventures of the
day and telling him of all the things she did, of the new plants she’s trying
to grow and how the shrubbery is stubbornly growing in uneven heightd.
hands are all rough,” she tells him one night, like it’s a secret.
doesn’t understand. “Have you tried rubbing olive oil in them?”
laughs, and gets to her feet, confident she knows the room well enough that she
won’t stumble or fall and walking towards his voice. “No, it’s a good thing, it’s
never happened before. See?”
reaches out and he shouts, “No! Don’t touch me–”
too late, her hand has already blindly grabbed onto his arm. She lets go, “I’m
sorry! I didn’t know–”
have to get you to Hermes, before the burns get too bad,” he says urgently.
the one who doesn’t understand. “What burns?”
“You’re not hurt?”
flexes her hand, mystified. “No. Should I be?”
everyone else always was,” he says.
not everyone else,” she says confidently, and takes another step closer. She
grabs onto his arm again, fumbling until she can hold his hand in hers. He
flinches, but doesn’t pull away from her. “See, I’m fine.”
and oh so slowly, he curls an arm around her waist and pulls her forward until
she’s flush against his chest and full lips press against her forehead. “I’m –
not just talking about her not being burned. She feels such a surge of
affection for him in this moment, and being held in his arms she realizes
something. She loves him, this man she’s never seen and doesn’t truly know. He’s
kind and funny and has given her back a life she hadn’t known she’d lost. He’s
never touched her or coveted her, and even now in his arms there’s nothing lecherous
or uncomfortable about his touch.
might change, if he saw her. If he knew how she looked, he might forget about
the rest of her, and to lose his affection and regard now would kill her as
surely as that fall from the cliff would have.
does not need to see her to touch her.
shifts enough so that he raises his head, and gathers her courage. She presses
their lips together, lightly at first, then less lightly when he returns it. “Come
to bed,” she says, when they part, dizzy with emotions she’s never had before.
you sure?” he asks, voice rough.
never been more sure of anything in her life.
her life now, her days filled with cleaning and gardening and her nights with
her friend, her now lover. He’s never told her his name, and she doesn’t want
to ask. He doesn’t see her and she doesn’t know his name. It seems better that
way, more fair. She falls asleep in his arms every night, and he’s gone by the
time she wakes, gone before the first ray of sunlight creeps through the
loves her. It’s obvious, so incredibly obvious that she’s ashamed she didn’t
notice before. He let her sleep in his bed even before they were sleeping
together, gave over his home to her and requested nothing in return, listens to
her and laughs with her. He loves her, and she loves him, and it’s time she
wide awake when he comes to her, greeting her with a kiss. He notices her
stiffness and pulls back. “Is something wrong?”
think it’s time you saw my face,” she’s shaking, and she can’t stop it. She
loves him and is terrified his love for her will change when he sees her.
sits up in bed, and he kneels in front of her on the floor, holding her hands
in his. “Psyche, you don’t have to if you don’t want to. It’s okay.”
her head, “No. I love you, and – and we should be together in the light of day,
our love is too big to fit in this room anymore.”
kisses her wrist and says, “Whatever you like.”
will she live without this love? Hopefully she won’t have to find out. She
reaches for a lantern and sets it in her lap, lighting it with careful fingers.
A soft glow fills the room, and she squeezes her eyes shut, waiting.
finger touches a spot on her sternum, then her shoulders, her neck, her cheeks,
then the tip of her nose. “You have freckles,” he says, “I like them.”
opens her eyes. Her lover is smiling at her, and he’s gorgeous, every bit as
pretty as she is with dark eyes and even darker skin. Most importantly, he’s looking
at her like a person, with love and affection. Not with something blank and
othering like so many people have looked at her before, not like she’s an
object or an art piece.
tidal wave of relief is so great that she’s weak with it. She realizes her
mistake a second later when the lantern slips out of her hands, spilling hot
lover reacts faster than any mortal man could, pushing her out of the way and
catching the lantern at an awkward angle, so most of the burning oil spills
down his arms and chest. “No!” Psyche cries.
looks down at his blistering skin with fascination, “That’s never happened
before.” He winces, and clenches his hands as the burns spread along his body,
as his skin cracks and bleeds.
down!” Psyche cries, grabbing the sheets and trying to mop up the oil, trying
to stop it from spreading. “What were you thinking? You should have let it fall
burning more than hot oil should, and she’s sobbing as tries to stop it. “Don’t
be ridiculous,” he says, voice slurring as his eyes slide shut. “I would never
let anything hurt you.”
she grabs his shoulders and shakes him, “Wake up! You have to wake up!”
doesn’t respond. Psyche thinks back, frantic, to when he thought he had burned
her when they first touched, to the person he said they needed. “HERMES!” she
screams, “HERMES! A GOD NEEDS YOU!”
a flash of light, and the messenger god of healing and is in front of them. “Eros,”
he says, dropping down beside him and not looking at Psyche at all. “What
happened to you?”
touches his chest, and then they’re both gone.
is left alone crying next to an oil soaked sheet.
takes Eros to his parents, both of whom drop everything to come to his side. “What
happened?” Hephaestus demands.
concentrates on containing the burns before they can spread any further. He can
worry about healing them alter. “He dropped oil on himself.”
god,” Aphrodite snaps, “no oil can harm him. Even if it could, it wouldn’t be
able to do this.”
shoots them both a grin, “It seems like your boy’s fallen in love. Only true
love could cool him enough to burn him, only true love could hurt him like
that moment that Eros gasps awake. He reaches out, and Aphrodite takes his
hand. “Mom,” he says, eye wide, “please, go to my house, there’s a girl there–”
she do this to you?” she asks dangerously.
an accident. I pushed her out of the way, I didn’t know I would burn,” he moans
in pain, then grits his teeth against it. “Mom, please. Please go to her.”
looks to Hermes, who’s busy mixing a salve. He doesn’t look up at her as he
says, “Your son will be fine. I’ll take care of the burns.”
meets her gaze and gives a sharp nod. “Go, I’ll stay with him.”
doesn’t want to leave him, but gives in and does as her son asks of her.
shows up just in time to stop the mortal girl from hurling herself from the
mountain side. “What do you think you’re doing?” she snaps, and takes a moment
to register that it’s the village girl she sent Eros to help so long ago. This
wasn’t what she’d had in mind.
eyes and tear soaked face does more to sooth Aphrodite’s temper than any
excuses she could have given. “He’s dead,” she sobs, “I love him, and he’s
gone, and there’s no reason for me to live any longer. Please, let me die.”
sees the glow of love on her, and knows the girl’s affection for her son is
true. “He is not dead,” she hesitates and adds, “yet.”
love has started wars and left all involved nothing but dust and regret. Her
son deserved more than that. A love must not only be true – it must be pure.
wish for him to live, you must help me,” she says.
prostrates herself before her, “Anything! I’ll do anything!”
moves them to warehouse full of mixed grains. “You must sort these before dawn.
Barley is necessary for a poultice that will heal my son. Hurry.”
looks at all of them and despairs. But her lover needs her. Eros needs her.
gets to work.
night is halfway gone and she’s not even a tenth of the way complete. There’s
no hope, her love will die, and there’s nothing she can do to stop it. She
gives in, and is sobbing in the middle of the warehouse when she feels a tickling
sensation on her hand. She looks down to see a small ant. “Why are you crying?”
the ant asks.
to sort all these grains, and I cannot do it,” she says, sniffling. “My lover
needs the barely to heal.”
considers this. “I will help you,” it declares, “and in return you must allow
me to take all the beans from this store.”
are not mine to give,” Psyche says regretfully, “so I cannot accept your help.”
your lover will die,” the ant says callously, and leaves.
looks at the unsorted pile of grains. Not if she can help it.
shoves up her sleeves and gets back to work.
shows up, and Psyche is still working. She’s gotten through three quarters of
the grains, and Aphrodite is impressed. She did not think she would manage to
get through even half. The girl clearly hasn’t slept, and even now doesn’t
pause in her work. “Lady,” she says, “I’m not done yet.”
is enough,” Aphrodite says, looking at the sizable pile of barley. She produces
a glass bottle and puts it in front of her. “To stave of death while we make
the poultice, we need water from the river Styx. There is a spout on top of my
son’s mountain. You must collect this water and return it to me.”
shoulder’s slump, but she doesn’t hesitate when she takes the glass bottle. “I
will do it.”
calls for the wind, begging it to take her to the top of the mountain. If the lady wishes, it says. She’s
lifted into the air, and brought there. She’s freezing, and it’s hard to breath
in the cold air. Dragons sit on either side of the spout, snapping their jaws
at her. “Please!” she calls out, “I need the water of the river Styx! I act in
the name of Aphrodite.”
hiss and spit fire at her, and she clings to the side, trying to avoid the
flames. “We are not commanded by the Lady Aphrodite,” a child’s voice says, and
Psyche looks up to see a girl with black skin and grey hair looking down at her
from the back of one of the dragons.
Psyche says, “Lady Styx, grant me some of your river. Eros need it to live.”
frowns, and says, “This is not a water which brings life.”
she repeats, “I swear no harm will be done in your name, I swear my intentions
child goddess sighs and says, “Come and get it then. If my dragons’ flames pass
through you, then you speak the truth, and may have some of my river. If you
lie, then I shall see you again in the underworld.”
nods and walks forward, not breaking eye contact with the child goddess. The
dragons screech and flame roars towards her and then – it goes through her. She
reaches the top of the mountain safely. She holds out the glass bottle.
laughs and fill it for her. “Happy travels,” she says, right before pushing her
off the mountain. Zephyr catches her halfway down, and it takes several seconds
for Psyche to stop screaming.
deposits her back on the ground, and Aphrodite appears before her. Psyche hands
over the bottle.
undoes it and pours the water out, and the grass dies wherever it falls. “It’s
too late,” she says, and Psyche’s heart is in her throat, “the only thing left
to do is to go to Persephone and beg a spark of life from her.” She slashes her
hand down, and opening into the underworld appears. “Persephone will not grant
any request of mine. You must go.”
barely finished speaking when Psyche throws herself through the portal.
stares at the place where the girl stood, stunned. Hermes appears beside her. “Your
son is well and only sleeps,” he says, “Isn’t this a bit unnecessary?”
has a heart that will never stray. She must prove herself worthy of it,”
stares, “You will petition Zeus for her?”
proves herself worthy,” she says, then looks at the place where she poured out
the incalculably dangerous water of the river Styx. “She’s doing quite well, so
stumbles as she goes through the portal and falls on her knees. This ends up
being rather lucky, as it’s taken her to the throne room of the palace of the
underworld. Not only is Persephone there, but so is Hades and a god she thinks
might be Thanatos. Both Persephone and Thanatos throw Hades narrow eyed looks,
which he ignores. “Miss Psyche,” he says, “we’ve been expecting you.”
we,” Persephone says dryly.
shuffles forward until she’s kneeling in front of Persephone and presses her
forehead to the cool obsidian floor. “Lady Goddess,” she says, “I beg a spark
of life from you.”
rises from her throne, and circles her with slow measured steps, her face blank
and cold. “I’ve seen you garden,” she says finally, “you have quite a talent
you, Lady,” she says.
crouches and grabs her chin, jerking up her chin to get a good look at her. “Well,
aren’t you a pretty little thing,” she murmurs. “I will give you a spark of
life. In return, you must give me your beauty.”
it,” Psyche begs, elated the price is so small, “I don’t want it, I’ve never
wanted it. All I want is Eros.”
coldness melts away, and the goddess of life and death shakes her head, a small
smile curled around the corner of her lips. “He chose well,” she says.
doesn’t understand until there’s another rip in the air, and her lover steps
through. He looks healthy, alive and well. “Eros!” she cries, forgetting her
place and standing in the presence of the king and queen of the dead. Before
she can kneel once more, Eros runs to her and picks her up in his arms, raising
her into the air and spinning her.
so worried about you,” he says, kissing her, then kissing her tears away.
you were dying!” she says, running her hands over his chest and shoulders and
nearly falling in relief when the skin there is whole and unburned.
winces and kisses her once more, “My mother – I asked her to help you, not test
you. I’m sorry.”
should be grateful,” Hades says, and they both turn to face him. “Psyche has
proven herself, and Aphrodite intends to contest Zeus so that she may stay by
your side for eternity.” He smiles, “If Aphrodite is unsuccessful, come to me.
I will do what I can.”
both bow to him, and then are gone in the next moment.
goes to Hephaestus, “You are his son, Zeus would want the request to come from
are his daughter,” he shoots back, even as he paces.
“I was born of his blood and sea foam. It is not the same, and you know it.”
gives a grudging nod. Neither of them are favorites among Olympus, so he goes
to someone who is.
looks at him consideringly. “You should ask Mom yourself. Father will do as she
hates me,” Hephaestus snaps. “She will reject my son’s request if I’m the one
to present it.”
the back of his brother’s neck, pulling them together until their foreheads
touch. Some tension gradually bleeds out of Hephaestus. “Try, for me,” Ares
says. “If she denies you, I will ask her, and she will not deny me.”
goes to Mount Olympus when Zeus is gone and kneels before Hera. He looks up,
and can’t help but think that Ares is right – they have her eyes. Eros has her
eyes too. “My son has fallen in love with a mortal girl whom he wishes to marry.
I petition you to allow her to become immortal.”
braced for anything, shoulders hunched. Her laughter, her scorn, for her to
throw him from Mount Olympus like she did when he was freshly born. “Would this
make you happy?” she asks.
blinks, mouth open. Is this some other cruel trick, to force him to admit it’s something
he wants only so she can take greater pleasure in denying him? “Yes,” he says,
because it’s true. It will make Eros happy, and when his son is happy, he is
well,” Hera says coolly. “We will have the wedding on Mount Olympus, and once
they exchange vows she will become like us.”
stares, frozen in shock. He didn’t expect it to be that easy. He’s never heard
of anyone requesting anything from Hera and just getting it besides Ares.
there anything else?” she asks.
Hephaestus shakes his head, “No, my queen. Thank you.”
He’s gone before she has a chance to respond, before she has a chance
to change her mind.
Eros and Psyche’s marriage is the event of the century. Gods great
and small show up for it, even Hades is convinced to leave his realm to attend.
They pledge their lives to each other, and Hera officiates as the
goddess of marriage. Once they swear their loyalty to one another, she takes a
small square of ambrosia and hand feeds it to Psyche. She swallows it in two
bites, and when she’s finished she glows with her new status as an immortal.
Eros grabs Psyche and dips her.
When he kisses her, the gods’ cheering is loud enough that it
causes thunder storms all across earth.
And I thought I was the team’s sharpshooter,but I guess no one else thinks that. Maybe I don’t have a thing.They wouldn’t keep me on the team if I didn’t contribute in some way, would they? Maybe I’m just a fifth wheel… seventh if you count Coran and Allura.That’s a horrible wheel to be.
how incredibly Rad would it be if voltron had an episode featuring siren-like creatures??? that could show the paladins their greatest hopes/desires?? it’d be such a great opportunity for background/character development and also have room for a Lot of angst
Your greek mythology fics are absolutely beautiful, I'm speechless. Your writing captures the like dark/horror-esque tone of old fairytales and then blends in something more modern? It's brilliant and incredible and I love it. If you have the time/inspiration, could you write another? Preferably with lesbians and/or Artemis but literally anything at all is totally cool I just want so many more of these
Artemis is born first. She’s a babe for only moments, springing into gangly-limbed childhood between one breath and the next.
Her mother is red
faced and sobbing, prostrate on the ground and reaching for her. “He’s
too big,” she sobs, “He won’t come out – I’ve failed! Hera has won and I
There’s blood, too
much blood, blood that she herself is still slick with. “No,” she says
firmly, kneeling in between her mother’s legs, “We have not failed.”
It takes too long, too much blood and screaming, but hours later Leto sleeps, exhausted and pained but alive.
Her brother does not
grow as she did, and she cleans him and swaddles him and hold him
against her chest. There is too much intelligence for a freshly
born-babe in his eyes. She pets the soft golden curls on top of his
She looks to Leto,
bloody and torn and nearly forced to die with her son inside of her, and
decides that her mother’s fate will never be her own.
The only man she’ll ever love is the one currently in her arms.
Apollo grows, faster
than he should but slower than her until they match, until they are
not-quite adults, beautiful adolescents in a godly package.
Her brother worries her; sometimes he reminds her too much of their father and she fears for him. She’s never afraid of
him, her golden twin brother, but in that regard she thinks she may be
alone. He’s too smart and not careful and feels as if every beautiful
thing is his to possess.
The first time he
forces himself on a mortal woman, she shoots a silver arrow through his
shoulder. It bleeds, an arrow shot by her, more than it would if any
other goddess had done it. “They are mine,” she declares, standing in
front of the scared girl with her torn clothes, “You will not touch what
“Very well, sister,” slick with blood, and she wants to go to him, to heal him
and take care of him as she has their whole lives, but she stands her
ground. In this she will not be moved.
He leaves, and when she turns to comfort the girl she’s already gone.
Her brother doesn’t
touch any other unwilling women after that, although there are still
plenty of willing women. And why shouldn’t there be? Apollo is gorgeous
and strong, brave and just when he forgets to be selfish and petty.
There are men,
however, whom are not always so willing. Nothing so harsh as that first
time with that girl, nothing that dramatic – but enough that it pains
her to see the callous way her brother treats them. Artemis stays silent
on that. She is not the patron god of all of humanity, and she can’t
hoard them all.
Her brother is a
warrior and a poet and harnesses his chariot to the sun so that he may
bring light to all the world. She loves him, but sometimes – sometimes
she hates him. She is a huntress and a midwife, a bringer of life and a
taker of it, and there is something terrible in her power. She thinks
this is what Persephone must feel like, as the goddess of spring and
queen of the underworld. It’s intoxicating. But it is a quiet sort of
power, a harder one.
He is the sun and
she is the moon, and there are times she fears that is all she is – a
reflection of her younger brother’s brightness, cursed to be nothing
more than a poor imitation.
She’s fully grown the first time it happens, older than many cities and twice as beautiful as her brother’s sunrises.
She’s sweat soaked
and blood covered, but the mother and her sons sleep soundly and safely
after the difficult birth. If she were to tell the other gods this they
would not believe her, but being the goddess of childbirth is her
hardest job by far.
“Come,” the sister of the mother says, a pretty young thing with large eyes and a wide mouth, “Let’s get you cleaned up.”
Artemis could clean
herself up just fine, but allows the young woman to lead her to her
room, to remove her blood stained clothes and run a warm cloth over
limbs that are sticky with dried sweat. The woman goes to her knees
before Artemis, running the cloth over her legs, and then the woman
touches a place no one has ever touched.
Artemis jerks with
surprise, looking down, her mouth agape. “My lady goddess,” the woman
murmurs, parting her wide mouth and licking her lips, “I would thank you
for aiding my sister, if you be willing.”
There’s a low
curling heat in the pit of her stomach and something fluttering high in
her chest. It’s something she hasn’t experienced before. “I am to remain
a virgin,” she says, blank, because many men have looked at her like
this woman and she was revolted by all of them. She’s not revolted now.
“Virginity is a
man’s invention and a man’s concern, my lady,” the woman says
dismissively, beginning to move her hands in way that makes Artemis
flush all over, “There are no men here.”
That’s the last bit of talking they do until morning.
Artemis has many
more eager women coming to her, offering to worship her. She accepts,
again and again, and there’s never anything more than temporary sparks
of desire, yet she enjoys all the women who seek her out, is delighted
by them and seeks to delight them in return.
She is bathing in a
lake one evening, golden hair having grown longer than she usually keeps
it and brushing past her shoulders. She’ll have to cut it soon. She
ducks beneath the serene, smooth lake, and when she pops her head up
there’s the sound of rustling and footsteps, then clothing being shed.
There’s a man dipping his toes into the lake, and Artemis rises, ready to kill him for his insolence.
Then she meets his
scared eyes, and she’s done nothing to provoke his fear, not yet. Then
she has to look again, eyes raking over his naked body, and this person
certainly looks like a man. Yet –
“Who are you?” she demands, hands on her hips.
the person says, and bends to pick up the discarded clothes. “Apologies,
I did not expect anyone to be here. I’ll go.”
“Why?” Artemis asks, taking a guess, “There’s plenty of water for two women to share.”
She knows she’s
guessed right when Sipriotes’s mouth parts in surprise, and then widens
in a pleased grin. “Thank you, lady,” she says, dropping her dress back
at the lake’s edge and stepping into the water.
“Your hair is a mess,” she observes, looking at the tangled bun on top of Sipriotes’s head, “Let me help you with that.”
“It’s okay, miss,” she says politely.
Somehow this woman
hasn’t figured out she’s a goddess yet. Artemis is in no rush to tell
her – she’s scared enough of her as it is. “I insist,” she says,
swimming over and twisting Sipriotes around so her back is to Artemis.
The woman’s muscles are tense, and Artemis runs light fingers over the
pale, criss crossed lashing scares. Artemis is smart, so she doesn’t
ask the obvious, stupid question and undoes the woman’s bun. Her tangled long
black hair tumbles down to her hips. “What a mess,” she says quietly,
not explaining whether she talking about her hair or her back.
Sipriotes relaxes, tilting her head forward as Artemis gently untangles her hair until it lies smooth.
Artemis tries, but
she can’t get the woman from the lake out of her head. She lives alone
at the edge of the village, doesn’t bathe with the other women because
they don’t welcome her. They don’t shun her, but they don’t wash her
hair or her back and it makes Artemis’s blood boil.
She expects better from those she has claimed as her own.
The sun’s just
setting when her brother appears at her side, watching her watch
Sipriotes gather water from the well. “He’s not your usual type, is he?”
he asks, leaning against her and tangling his fingers in hers.
“Yes,” Artemis says, “she is.”
For the first time in her life Artemis feels uncertain, but kicks at the door anyway.
It opens. The wariness on Sipriotes’s face is replaced by confusion. “Hi,” Artemis says, “Do you like bear?”
The creature is
slung over her shoulders. She’d just killed it, and it occurs to her too
late that a normal woman wouldn’t be able to casually hold a bear
across her back. “I like you,” Sipriotes says, stepping aside to let her in, “you can bring the bear if you like.”
She offers Artemis
warm wine and insists she sit as she skins the bear, sticking chunks of
it on a spit and salting the rest of it. This time she keeps up a steady
stream of conversation, eyes warm and smile soft, and Artemis wishes
she could blame the wine for the heat on her cheeks.
“I like your shoulders,” Artemis says, watching her finish up preparing the bear meat.
Sipriotes pauses and
turns to Artemis, eyebrow raised. Her dress is stained red with the
bear’s blood and her silky black hair is braided to the side. Artemis
wants to run her fingers through it. “You do?”
She stands, moves
slowly in case this isn’t what Sipriotes wants, and presses her hands to
her back the same way she had in the lake. “Yes, they’re broad. Strong.
Sipriotes turns, and
Artemis trails her hands from her shoulders to her face, pressing her
thumb against Sipriotes’s bottom lip. “The bear will burn,” she says,
“I’ll bring you
another one,” Artemis says, walking her backward until they reach the
bed, until Sipriotes’s knees hit the edge of it and she falls back,
until Artemis can climb on top of her and straddle her waist.
Sipriotes holds up a
hand, and Artemis captures it in her own and turns it so she can leave a
butterfly kiss on each knuckle. “I know who you are, Artemis,” she
whispers, “Are you – are you sure? No man can touch you.”
Artemis leans down, pressing more kisses across Sipriotes’s collar bone, and says, “There are no men here.”
That’s the last bit of talking they do until morning.