We return to Olympus. As we stand around, trying to make sense of what has happened, I am momentarily distracted from my hatred for my mother. It feels as if someone has grabbed my mind and is moving pieces around.
I see one of my siblings staring at me, lost in thought.
If my tone disturbs her, there is no sign of it. She seems calm and interested. “Wait a moment, Heph.”
I dropped my usual defences just as things calmed down. She used the opportunity to get into my head. It is extremely rude. “I will not wait! Stop intruding! You have no right!”
Moxie ignores me again. “There is something wrong here. Really wrong.”
My mother walks toward her. “What do you see?”
My mother can sometimes influence thoughts, but she has never been gifted at reading them. Moxie is another matter. She is more than capable of reading minds or, on occasion, assaulting people to extract information that interests her.
Moxie shakes her head. “This is weird. It’s like everything is turned up or something. And things are wrong. I can’t describe it.”
Hera marches toward me, staring into my eyes. “Hephaestus? Is something wrong?”
No, nothing is wrong. I have seen the truth, but the truth cannot be wrong. I shake my head in response.
Moxie continues to irritate me by interpreting for my mother. “Whoa! He hates you!”
My mother stares daggers at her.
Moxie shrugs in apology. “Sorry, but not like normal, sorry again. Like, rage. Murderous rage. Wow! What’s going on? He hates all of us.”
Nike looks worried, and for a moment I feel bad. She asks Moxie, “Does he hate me?”
I have had enough. “Moxie!”
She appears deaf to me. “Heph, think of something from when we were young. Think about when mother used to tell us bedtime stories.”
I find myself thinking about it. Them being read stories. Me being ignored as an embarrassment. They laughed together while I lay alone. I become angry again. Why is she taunting me like this? What can she hope to achieve?”
Moxie looks shocked. “Oh, wow.”
My mother is impatient, which is one of her default settings. “What?”
Moxie seems to be finding it hard to find the right words. “He’s seeing it wrong. He’s seeing things that didn’t happen.”
Nonsense. All I am seeing are things that they do not wish me to see. I will no longer be fooled by them.
Moxie keeps her eyes on me while addressing my mother. “Open your mind for me. Quickly.”
My mother is clearly reluctant. “Fine. But no tricks, Moxie. I am in no mood for jokes.” Her expression quickly changes to shock, presumably as Moxie passes something into her mind. “Hephaestus? That never happened. You were with the others. You were not excluded.”
More lies. Now that my memories have returned, I no longer have to listen to them.
My mother turns to Ares, her favourite. “Ares, get that little magician and bring him here.”
Ares happily drags Trismegistus over by his ankle and dumps him in front of her.
My mother waves a hand, and he wakes up. “You. You have travelled in time. You will take all of us back to a time of my choosing. You will show my son the truth.”
My father moves towards her and puts his hand on her arm. “Hera, we are not travelling in time. It is not appropriate.”
“Of course, you wouldn’t like that. You’d be too scared I’d see something you got away with.”
Trismegistus nervously tries to explain. “It is not easy to travel in time. I cannot just—”
My mother is in no mood to argue. “If you do not do it, I will kill you. Does that make it any easier for you?”
Trismegistus looks at me for help. I sigh. “Mother, it is one thing to drop one person off at a point in time. It is another to transport a whole family to observe themselves. It cannot be done.”
This answer does not satisfy her. “It will be done!”
Moxie interjects. “I have an idea. Why don’t I show him your memory and mine?”
My mother kicks Trismegistus in the ribs, eliciting a howl of pain as she pauses to think. She nods impatiently. “Very well.”
“Heph, wait a moment.”
More games. I feel Moxie place something in my head. I see myself as a child through her eyes. Our mother is reading to us. Others are also there. Ares is beside me. Then she places something else in my mind, and I see us all through my mother’s eyes. There are emotions this time. I feel love and joy. I love my children. I love Hephaestus. I worry about him. I need to keep him safe. I cannot let anything happen to him.
“Well, Heph? Do you see?”
“I see us together. But these memories could be false.”
My mother snorts. “There is nothing false about my memory.”
Moxie suddenly jerks in shock. “Something just happened. I don’t understand.”
My mother stares at me. “Tell me again what you see, Hephaestus.”
I can tell her, but she must know already. “The same thing as before. I see everyone through Moxie’s eyes. All except me. I see me come in to ask to join you. I see you send me away, time and time again! I see it through your eyes. I feel your contempt, your hatred. I feel your desire that I had never been born! Why would you show me this?”
My mother seems to be shocked. Did she think it would not work? That Moxie would not be able to show me the truth?
Moxie’s hand goes to her mouth, and she takes a step back. “What just happened? Something changed.”
Moxie is making no sense, nothing has changed. My mother is not ashamed, of course. When was she ever? She seems angry. No doubt she is irritated that I can see who she really is. “His memory changed? Someone has done this. Someone has altered his mind.”
They are insane. They always have been.
Ares puts his hand on Moxie’s shoulder. “Show him my memories.”
What trickery is this? My brother cares deeply for his privacy, with good reason. Why would he show me his memories?
She shakes her head. “I really don’t think that’s a good idea. I would have to find the correct memories and—”
Ares becomes irritated, as always. “Do it. Do it now! Show him all of it.”
Moxie closes her eyes, and I see something else. So much more this time. I see myself again as a child. I have to protect my brother. He is always so lost. I see others taunt him. They laugh at him and his leg. I feel anger, and I punish them. I feel love. Love that is never returned. But that doesn’t matter to me. We are read stories by our mother, and we play. I almost always let him win. For years I pursue him. I long for a relationship with my brother, but he pulls away. Always. I feel pain. Everyone becomes older. My brother marries the woman I love. I hurt again. I lie with her. I feel shame. I am sorry. I cannot fix things. I do not know how.
I see it all for the first time.
They stare at me, expecting me to say something. “What?”
Ares looks expectantly at me. “Did you see it, Brother?”
Moxie puts her hand to her forehead as if in pain. “I need to stop. There’s something going on that I don’t understand.”
Did I see it? Of course. “I saw it all, Ares. I saw you taunting me. I saw your hate, your contempt. I saw how amusing you found me when I struggled. I saw you with Aphrodite. I saw you laughing at me. You never needed me. You took every opportunity to demonstrate that. Just as I always knew.”
Ares looks confused. It is not an unusual occurrence. “What? Who has done this? What sorcery is this?” He looks at my mother. He is unusually intense and thoughtful, speaking slowly. “Mother, I will find who has done this, and I will kill them. All of them.” He stops and thinks for a moment. “Eventually.”
I do not know why they continue with this subterfuge.
My mother seems to be thinking. “Take the conjurer away. We will find out what he knows, but I suspect he has been used by someone else. Moxie, can you calm Hephaestus down sufficiently that he remains in control of his senses?”
Moxie seems unsure. “I can try, but you’ve seen what happens. It could be like throwing a handful of snow onto a raging fire.”
“Try. We need someone who understands these things. Zeus, bring me Circe.”
My father frowns, his displeasure clear. “Circe? Why Circe? You know she is confined.”
“Then release her. I need her. Hephaestus has been enchanted, and we need someone with the appropriate knowledge. It must be undone.”
“But why her? There are others who are better suited.”
Now it is my mother’s turn to look displeased. She looks at me, then at my father. “Because I need someone who can get along with him. And she knows him least well.”
I see Ares smirk and turn away. I should be outraged but, I must confess that there is some sense in what my mother says. I have not always made friends easily.
My father sighs. “You don’t think we might be solving a problem by creating a bigger problem?”
“There is no bigger problem than my son being in danger. And if Hypnos is somehow behind this, then we need to know.”
I appear to only be an observer in this situation. I do not feel enchanted. I do not understand what the issue is.
My father reluctantly agrees with my mother. “I will make the necessary arrangements, but she may not agree to help.”
“Then I may not agree to have her head remain on her shoulders.”
My mother makes a compelling argument, as usual.
I do not know Circe, although I have heard stories. I imagine everyone has. I see that Ares appears unsure. He says, “Didn’t she turn men into pigs?”
My mother waves her hand at him and looks at my father. “Well, is that really such an impressive transformation?”
My father glares at her but decides to say nothing. As he turns away to do my mother’s bidding, Moxie enters my mind again. I have a feeling this may all become interesting.