"Senseless." Hera lets that word be her curse.
Her husband is senseless, of course. His pursuit of women - nymphs - goddesses - is against all sense. Then again, there was little sense in their marriage.
This is the sense of their existence now. He thinks he hides what he does. She sees, and does all she can to preserve her honour. And others suffer. Especially the women.
She is goddess of birth. She doesn't know why Zeus thinks he can hide bastards and wenches from her.
At her side, the peacock spreads his tail. The hundred eyes of Argos look around. They are at peace.
All she can do is make the best of her senseless husband's doings.
There is only one in all of Hades's domain who never mourns.
The boy sits in the golden fields, under the sun-that-is-not. He dangles his feet in a stream. His toenails are still singed, like the ends of his blond hair.
He smiles. Sometimes, he laughs quietly at his own thoughts. A swan swims along the river, and when it passes the boy, it nips at his tunic. The boy smiles and throws it grains. When it hisses, he hisses back.
When others ask him why he never mourns, Phaeton looks surprised. After all, he did touch the sun.
It's only in stories that cities rise easily.
It takes three years for the walls to be finished. The dragon-soldiers take wives from local villages. The wives' brothers come to the city to help, and to shelter from the wars. They bring their wives, and their aging parents, and the villages follow.
Three years later, Cadmus stands on top of the tower. Around him, there is the city. Slaves are sweeping up the marketplace. The sun has set, only a red glow on the horizon.
"It's not fire," Athena says.
"I know it's not fire." He smiles. "You taught me how to recognise it, remember? And how to teach people to fight it."
She crosses her arms. The armour makes a dull sound, or maybe that's her snort of disbelief.
Cadmus offers the goddess his hand. "Thank you."
She takes his hand with a frown. It's a Tyrian custom, and he doesn't feel like losing it.
"It's not over," she says. "You will have a long life."
"Everyone does. Except the ones who die early." Cadmus smiles. "I'd rather thank you when I can. I'll do the formalities tomorrow. Would you like an ox or several goats?"
Athena's fingers squeeze his. She smiles, just a little.
The grass tears under the grasping fingers. One clump holds, and the fingers, hand, arm, pull the body attached to them out of the water.
Hermaphroditos shakes. The arm gives out. The fall to the ground is a shock that brings up water from abused lungs. He retches, water and bile.
When it stops, he pushes his tongue against his teeth to spit out the last of it. His teeth are smaller, closer together, and the shock of it makes him retch again.
It's harder to stop it this time. He lies on his side, looking at the grass.
He, he thinks. He can feel her, what used to be her, a languid heat at the base of his spine. If he stops thinking, he can be her. But he won't, he knows, because Hermaphroditos is the son of the Lady and the Messenger, and stronger than a nymph. Stronger than a nymph anywhere except in the lake and river she commands.
Hermaphroditos feels that his leg is still in the water. He knows he almost drowned. He used that last breath for his curse.
"Mother," he whispers. Inside him, something twists in fear. The nymph would fear his mother, but the nymph - part of him - is a woman, and women are his mother's domain. He forces out the prayer past too-narrow teeth.
Aphrodite does not come, but her peace descends on her son (son-daughter). He rolls to his back, feeling each grain of dirt and blade of grass.
The sun is blinding.
With his eyes closed, he moves his hands over his body. The chest is softer, and his exploring fingers stop at the hips, then return upwards. The shoulders are narrower now. There is a depression in the middle of the right collarbone. Did the nymph ever break hers? He knows the nymphs who serve his mother are often hunters, but his limbs are heavier now, softer.
Hermaphroditos wonders how his face looks like. He can feel a slimmer jaw, more flesh on the cheekbones. The hair is longer and that, more than anything, drives home the change. Like a woman, he cries.
The sun dries the tears. Hermaphroditos rises, arms spread for balance.
The lake is behind him (her). It's a slumbering presence at the back of the mind. A source of power.
Hermaphroditos opens hir mind, letting the power flow. It is hir lake now.
The crown is heavy on her head. The black of the robe makes her tanned skin sallow. With the silver earrings, her freckles look ridiculous.
Behind her, a curtain moves. The reflection of her husband appears next to her in the mirror.
"You are late," he says. His voice grates.
"It was a warm autumn," Kore says. She shrugs, in an imitation of her mother. "Do you know it's warm up there? There was corn and fruit to be gathered, and I had my friends to walk with me to the orchards. The air smelled of apples. We could bathe in the sea and stay out late and sing and dance and have fun."
Her voice is piercing, she knows. It always is. The underworld is cold and dreary and she doesn't fit here so much that it hurts.
He takes her hand, and she smiles.
The spiders are born by the hundreds. They scatter, tiny black many-legged pearls. They find their way to the highest trees and to the lowest cellars. And each of the spiders weaves a net in their own pattern. Each of the patterns hearkens back to the first.
Arachne has taught her craft to a nation. Her art will never be forgotten.